here in this very beautiful feng shui inspired space she feels slowed down. her days go by so quickly it’s usually evening before she’s had her morning coffee. the lovely purple hues and gray yet not dreary decor matches her moods. if the sound machine were a tad bit louder and the blanket on her shoulders just a touch bit longer she would curl up on this couch and drift off into a much needed nap. as it stands he sits besides her ranting and raving about something she has long since lost interest in and the therapist across from them is nodding and note-taking. so celeste stares at the tapestry hug behind the therapist’s chair. the intricate pattern though reminiscent of a navajo weave she knew had its origins in aztec patterns. she lost herself in the maze design, mentally tracing a trail from one end of it to the next and back again.
the therapist was speaking, “so what i hear you saying roderick is that you have trouble controlling your temper when it seems celeste is daydreaming?”
he starts talking so celeste goes back to the task of tracing lines with her mind. she is almost successful getting across the field when their attention again returns to her. “celeste, do you daydream?”
he attempts to answer for her but the therapist stops him. and he is quiet. for a moment.
celeste considers this question. she doesn’t know if she dreams least of all if she does it during the day. she knows for certain she fantasizes but doesn’t see how that is relevant. wanting to appear interested, she chooses to play it safe, “what do you mean daydream?”
“like now, are you focused on this conversation or is your mind elsewhere?” celeste feels sorry for this woman. she and he have been to so many of these sessions over the years. court ordered, pastor recommended, mother threatened. they have seen therapists after therapists after therapists. she no longer even takes the time to learn their names least of all participate in the treatment planning. but she does show up. to every appointment with or without him she makes it to the appointments. anything for her children, right?
“my mind is my own.” celeste tells them. roderick begins yelling. she does not hear anything he is saying. his huffing and jerking back and forward makes the sofa shake. if she had the energy to move celeste would just get up and lay across the bean chair in the other corner. but she doesn’t have the energy so she sits staring at the tapestry above the therapist head and not listening to his temper tantrum.
he jumps up off the couch and the therapist is immediately on her feet. celeste doesn’t even notice that he is standing over her, shouting and apparently swearing. by the looks on the therapist’s face she is sure he is threatening her. he is always threatening her. celeste takes a deep breath and closes her eyes.
she hears the therapist say, “roderick if you don’t calm down i will have to contact security. can you calm yourself? can you calm yourself?”
it is always about him calming himself. it is always about how angry he gets. all these meetings. all these sessions. year after year after year. the first time the police were called because he had put his fist through a wall and thrown the kitchen table out the window of their 3 story apartment they were told that therapy would help. so they went. at the time celeste was 22 and pregnant with their second child. she figured she loved him and wanted the family to work so why not. they were 15 years into his tantrums and her children hiding from their father because of his anger. celeste had been protecting her kids, raising her kids, keeping a roof over their heads and being a good wife. her mother told her time and time again that good wives are a covering for their husbands. good wives are virtuous. celeste had heard so many good wives lectures over the years she was ready to scream. so she did.
“shuuuuuuuut uuuuuuup!” roderick and the therapist were both surprised. celeste never raised her voice. not. ever. he stopped shouting and huffing and starred at celeste. without looking at him, celeste said, “sit down.”
and he did. like a child being sent to time-out he slumped onto the couch beside celeste. the therapist composed herself and picked up her clipboard to ask her next question.
celeste decided to share, “when he has these temper tantrums…yelling…screaming…cursing…threatening…punching walls…breaking furniture…tearing doors off hedges…” celeste doesn’t look directly at the therapist. she continues to focus on the tapestry above her. losing herself in the lines while continuing to share in a soothing monotone. she speaks in a pattern most mothers use to soothe colicky infants. it is the only tone of voice he and their children have ever heard her use. the therapist listens and does not take notes. she has never heard celeste speak at all although this is their fifth session in this office.
“when he is doing all those things…scaring the children…making my daddy and brothers mad cause they think he crazy. and he’s been doing this now since before charley was born. all the way back to when we were just teenagers messing around…” celeste takes a breath and rubs her face with her hands. “when he’s doing all that what i’m thinking is…i’d really like to punch him in his throat till that bobbing adam’s apple is still and he stops breathing.”
the therapist’s mouth gaps open. her eyes bulge and celeste knows she is wondering if she should call the police on her. celeste wishes she were a raging a maniac. she wishes that she had the energy to scream and huff and break things but after working a 9 hour day and mentally running through the list of things she needs including pick up the baby, text charley about his voter’s registration card, get clara a new pair of tights, cook dinner, take the last load out of the dryer cause he doesn’t have anymore work shirts, pack lunches and get that bathroom cleaned up she doesn’t have the strength left to just act a fool. so speaking softly she looks the therapist directly in the eye not wanting her to miss any of her meaning.
“i sometimes fantasize about pushing him down the stairs and then stepping over him so that i can get on with my day. once when he was yelling and spitting in my face i grabbed a pillow to keep myself from reaching over and slamming his head against the corner of our nightstand. he drives me crazy and i believe that in the 22 years i’ve been with him i’ve thought about killing him with my bare hands more than 1,000 times.”
swallowing loudly, the therapist asks,”why haven’t you?”
shrugging, celeste tells her, “i love him. i love our children.”
“love doesn’t require that you live with abuse.”
abuse. celeste considers that word and then answers, “love is not some fluffy marshmallow thing. love is action. love is everyday details that ground you and let you know you’re home. love is a choice. everyday i choose love. i choose it over the urge to knock him out. i choose it over leaving him and having my children come from a broken home. and listen i’ve heard ever lecture there is about not staying with a man who is bat shit crazy and he is bat shit crazy. but i don’t leave because this bat shit crazy man would walk through fire just to get me a glass of water. i know it. he knows it. our kids know it. just like i chose to love him, he choses to love me and together we raise our kids.”
“you were court ordered to come here,” the therapist tells her. “you have to complete the sessions or you would risk losing your children. now you’re telling me that you fantasize about killing your husband. i’m not sure what i should write in my report to the judge.”
celeste is amused. she almost smiles. she looks over at him and he stands up. holding out his hand he helps his wife steady herself. before they leave, celeste informs the therapist, “we’ll see you next week.”
opening the door for his wife, roderick adds, “same time. same place.”