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Kelsey Taylor

2001 (Age 8)

    “We’re getting her help.” I hear mom say to someone on the phone. My bedroom door is cracked, slightly. I know eavesdropping gets me in trouble, but what’s a couple more secrets at this point?
            Getting who help.
            “We can’t deal with her attitude anymore. Any small thing sets her off and I just can’t handle it. She has a therapist appointment tomorrow, she doesn’t know about it, though.”
            She stops talking. The silence makes my body tingle. 
            Is she getting up? 
            I silently twist my door handle, closing the gap I’d created and shutting out the rest of her conversation. 

           She must have been talking about me, but what’s therapy? And why am I suddenly such a big problem?


            We are squished on a small leather sofa. Mom sits on my right gazing out the window; she looks tired, but she’s dressed nicer than usual in a pair of jeans and unwrinkled, but still baggy, men’s t-shirt.  While my dad (mom’s word not mine)  sits on my left and watches the therapist as he settles into his chair. 
             What is this some kind of doctor’s office?

            I look around the room for some explanation as to what I’m doing here, but the papers on the wall make no sense to me.
            “So, Kelsey. Want to tell me what your favorite thing to do is,” the therapist asked. His hair is  slicked back with a little too much gel, and his slacks are much too short for his long legs.
            I can see your socks; that means your pants are too small.
            Why am I supposed to talk to him? I don’t even know him.

I fold my arms across my chest and look at the wall just beyond his head.
            “Are you going to talk,” he asks..
            I shake my head no.
   Mom holds her breath beside me. Silent. 
            “You’re gonna have to talk to me or I’m gonna make you sit on the floor and face the wall for time out.”
            I look at my mom. You have got to be kidding me. Time out?
            “One last chance. What’s your favorite thing to do?”

           I say nothing. I push my teeth against each other hard. Place my hand over my mouth. 
            He sets his notepad down on his chair as he stands up. “Come here please.”
            I shake my head no, and glance at my mom.
Aren’t you going to stop this? 
She looks at me, once, as if I disappoint her and finds interest in the bland, brick buildings that were visible from the window.
            I stand up, my legs slightly shaking beneath my jeans. I wipe the palms of my hands on the rough material, hoping no one will notice how nervous I am. He points to a spot off to the side.    
           “Sit here and face the wall,” he says. The wall is a bright white, the kind you find under the fluorescent lights of hospitals, the kind that always makes me feel uncomfortable. I stare at all the grooves in the paint, trying to block out their conversation.
            “So tell me when did the problems with her begin,” the therapist asks.
            Problems? What problems? I unfold my legs and bring them in towards my chest.
            I don’t want to hear this, why are they acting like I’m not here?
            I turn around and look at my mom again.
            “Turn back around and face the wall, unless you’re ready to come back and talk,” the guy says.
            I don’t respond. I don’t turn back around either. Instead I rock back and forth glancing between my mother and the guy with the overly gelled hair.
            “This is your last chance. Turn back around or come join us and talk.”
            I shake my head no.
            You’re not my parent. I don’t have to listen to you.
            He gets out of his chair. Grabs my shoulders. Turns me back towards the wall.  And sits back in his seat.
            My breath gets caught in my chest. Startled. 
            What is facing the wall supposed to do? 
I turn back around with a small smirk on my face.
            He gets up and turns me around, again.
            We can do this all day. I’m not staring at a wall.
            Again and again.
            The guy with the overly gelled hair lets out a sigh.
            “I’m going to try a different approach,” he says to my mom.
            He waits for her response, but there’s just silence..
            He stands up and grabs my arms, placing them behind my back.
            My hands become slick with sweat. 
            “Let go,” I say and yank my arms free.
            His hairy hand reaches for me, and this time I kick him.
             I shouldn’t have done that.
             I glance at my parents.
             His hands clasp around my wrists, his body pressing me into the floor.
            The weight of him on my back was crushing. 
            “I can’t breathe,” I say. 
             Mom sobs and leaves the room. Her husband follows behind her.
             Why am I all alone?
            “Get off. I really can’t breathe,” I say. The words come out choked, wheezy. 
            He doesn’t move.
            “I have asthma. I need my inhaler.”
            He doesn’t move. 
            “I’ll get up when you stop fighting me. No more hitting.”
            My eyes burn. 
            Maybe I’d stop fighting you if you didn’t keep touching me.
            I stop moving. Stop trying to get my arms free and I stop trying to kick him.
            “See, that's not so bad. Now if I let you go do you promise you won’t hit me again?”
            “Yes,” I say as a stray tear escapes from my eye.
              His hands let me go. He stands up.
            I ran out into the hallway. Mom is sobbing her face rests in her hands. Her husband kneels in front of her, comforting her.
            “It’s going to be okay,” he says. “This is what’s best for her.”
             Yeah not being able to breathe is what’s best for me.
            Having someone press me into the carpet for over three minutes while you do nothing is what’s best for me.

            “I need my inhaler,” I say.
             Mom digs through her purse, barely even looking at me as she hands it over.


            “I’m sorry if this session has upset you,” the therapist says.

Kelsey Taylor is a former figure skater with a fear of falling who has traded in her figure skates for poetry slams and leotards for leather jackets. 2001 is an excerpt from her untitled hybrid memoir project based around her experiences of growing up with an alcoholic family member. She currently splits her time between Marysville, WA and Portland OR. Sometimes the Silence Kills Me, her second poetry collection was released during the pandemic with the help of her cat Olivia, who loves to assist by laying on the keyboard. 

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