I don’t speak, and her eyes look up at me through the glass. “Amelia…”
Her lips quiver and I know that face. It’s the face saying, “I can’t hold back these tears that I’ve been trying to hold back for too long and I’m scared of letting out all of these emotions.” I’ve seen it hundreds of times. Students who have been abused. Teachers who are burned out. Divorcees.
I rush over and embrace her. “It’s ok,” I say, “don’t talk now. Just cry for a minute.”
It’s strange how people need permission to cry.
She sobs into my shoulder, and I let her. I can tell she’s been waiting for this – a literal shoulder to cry on. The weight of her head is familiar, comfortable. Like my shoulder was made for holding up weary heads and making them feel less tired.
When her crying has reached a natural end, she straightens up and pushes her hair off of her wet cheek.
Still, I don’t speak. I can see her mind pick through the settling whirlwind of thoughts, trying to find where to start. Her eyes dance around the floor until finally slowing to a stop.
“Amelia, I can’t do this anymore. It’s too much. It’s just all too much! I’ve only been back at work for three weeks and my boss hates me and I keep screwing up simple things and then I get home and I have to deal with Ellie and dinner and… and I just can’t anymore.” She heaves a deep breath outward, emboldened by her own voice. “And then there’s Ethan, who, when he’s not finding some excuse to not have to feed or bathe, our daughter is pawing at me like a rutting deer!” Her voice is louder now. “And then, after feeling insufficient at work and with my kid and with my husband, I have to come here and meet up with my best friends in the whole world and still feel insufficient! I’m drowning! I’m failing! I’m –”
Her breath is coming in gasps now as the whirlwind starts up again. I can see her getting swept up in the thoughts, so I grab her hands and speak quietly.
“Jenna, it’s ok. It’s going to be ok.”
“But – it’s not! I – can’t –” Her breath is heaving, and her eyes are wide. I gently lower her to the ground as her legs wobble.
“Jenna, what can you see?”
She looks at me in a bewildered panic.
“Just look around and tell me something you can see.”
“The…sink,” she pants.
“Good. What else?”
We continue through 5-4-3-2-1, and by the time she says she can taste the margarita mix on her tongue her breathing has returned to normal, and she is ready to stand.
My therapy brain switches off, and I land on college-friend brain. “You’re not insufficient, by the way. Your family loves you. We all love you. And you’re doing amazing! If anyone should feel inadequate in our group, it’s me. And I do, actually. I am the lowly non-mom, you know.” I roll my eyes, waiting for her to agree that, yes, I am the deficient one who has nothing to worry about. Instead, she grabs me by both shoulders.
“Ames, are you kidding?” She seems genuinely confused.
“Amelia Kathleen Rose – no, scratch that – Doctor Amelia Kathleen Rose – you are the most successful one out of all of us! You’re out there living the dream! A great job, no kids, no husband, and a freaking title – if we knew what we were getting into before we did, I think we’d all have followed your lead.”
I look away, sure that she is simply trying to placate me. I wouldn’t be tricked so easily.
“But Ames,” she continues, “we’re just jealous. You know that, right? I mean, yes, we all love our kids more than anything and would throw ourselves in front of a moving vehicle for them, yadda yadda yadda. It’s true…but we didn’t really realize we had a choice, you know?”
“Yet you guys act like I do nothing but drink wine every evening and travel all summer. Do you know I worked over twelve hours today? And the same yesterday? And that I’m on campus two Saturdays a month? And that I have trainings all summer?”
I’m getting too heated and pull back a bit.
“Look, Jen, I know my life would be more difficult if I had kids like you guys, but it’s hard as it is. And I think it’s ok for you guys to recognize that sometimes. You’re not the only ones who get tired you know. I almost said no to coming out tonight.”
Jenna squeezes my shoulder reassuringly. “I’m sorry, Amelia. Really. We don’t think you have it easier. It’s just…you know, the grass is always greener. But if your work includes deescalating panic attacks like you had to with me tonight – but with teenagers – I can imagine you have your work cut out for you! I was some wreck!”
We laugh and turn to the mirror, wiping away our respective mascara smears.
“Seriously, though,” says Jenna, “thanks for that…whatever it was. It really helped me calm down. It’s just been so difficult lately. I’d been holding it all in for quite a while now.”
I smile. “Anytime.”
When I get home, I’m exhausted – a good exhausted. I brush my teeth and crawl into bed, opening a folder on my lap.
He’s coming back to my office tomorrow for a longer talk, and I wonder if I’ll know what to say or how to help. There’s always doubt, but not tonight. After Jenna’s panic attack and our bathroom chat, I feel somehow surer of myself. It was ridiculous of Jenna to think that she was out of her depth or incompetent. Is it so crazy to think that my insecurity was also unfounded?
I decide that it isn’t.
I write out some thoughts and ideas for my meeting with Alex the next morning, gathering resources and support group information. The ever-present self-doubt seems to have disappeared – but that could just be the margaritas.
I am awake before my alarm, and I am pleased to note the lack of nausea and headache. I must have drunk enough water last night. Grateful for my foresight, I get ready for work and head out. I’m early as usual, and there are only a few students milling about outside. I greet them and walk my bike into the building towards my office.
The clacking of the gears echoes through the empty hallway, and when I turn the corner, I am surprised to see a figure sitting on the floor at my door.
I gasp as the figure – a boy – turns his face upward to me. “Dr. Rose?”
“Alex! My word, what happened?”
He is crying, a deep purple bruise glowing around one eye. I pull him to his feet and together we walk into my office. We sit on the sofa, and as he looks at me with that look – before the screaming whirlwind of thoughts begins – I brace myself for the storm.
“Alex, tell me five things you can see.”
Series – Evanescent
January: If Something Can Go Wrong…It Will – Jonay Quintero Hernández (Spain)
February: The Planet of Pleasure – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)
March: Evening with Jackie Chan – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)
April: Vuvuzelas, Walkie-Talkies and Madiba Magic – Sarah-Leah Pimentel (South Africa)
May: Remembering – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)
June: 5-4-3-2-1 – Talia Stotts (America)
July: Getting Ready for Newborns – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)
August: Regrets – Kate Korneeva (Russia)
September: A Hollow Pursuit – Diana Haidar (Syria)
October: The Test – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)
November: A Life Rekindled – Lauren Voaden (United Kingdom)
December: Translation Perfect – Zhang Lu (China)
Special: Catching Water III – Javier Gomez (Argentina)
Background – Context
Transadaptation Volume 2: Conceived – Childhood Transadapted, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2021)
Transadaptation Volume 1: In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)
Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)
L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)
From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)
Emblems and stories on the international community
Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world
Cover photo: Independence Creek, Texas, America – The setting sun – Sam C Chen (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed