first elyse, who takes your insurance whosits & whatsits over the phone.  you say deductible, co-pay, & she says, wednesday.  you find the office tucked between a parking garage & a building spilling tables of fresh produce into the street.  the office is clean, a muted green.  she says, this is, like, a safe place for you.  absolutely.  she photocopies your insurance card; you sign privacy statement; she hands you a sheet detailing what psychotherapy is.  absolutely.  you spill your guts, let your wet, mucousy entrails vine: chair leg, vase of artificial cattails, bookshelf.  she says, at first you might need to see me a few times a week.  just to talk.  it won’t be easy.  she hands you the courage to heal & walks you to the door.  the following week, a handful of hours before your next appointment, she leaves a voicemail: i know that, like, you have financial concerns, & actually i’m not covered under your insurance, so you cancel the appointment — absolutely — & a week later, receive a bill for $100 in the mail.

second melinda, who scribbles notes about you in a packet of papers.  as you talk, she writes, & you look hard, snatching up the words your eyes can make out: alcohol abuse — denies — mother’s boyfriend — she asks, how long were you a cutter? & the question pierces you, twists your face into a hesitant question mark.  you ask, did i write that somewhere? & she clips, matter-of-factly, no.  at the end of the appointment, she challenges you to think about two things: one, quitting your job & moving back across the state to live with your boyfriend in a city where there are no jobs for you; & two, antidepressants.  you say, i’m not depressed; i took pills when i was a kid & i didn’t like the way they made me feel, & she says, you’re an adult now.  depression doesn’t mean crying & being sad all the time.  you say, okay.  i’ll consider it.  you cancel your second appointment with her the following day.

third, a hallelujah.  janet sits close, arms on her knees, listening.  she asks, honey, were you sexually abused as a child? & doesn’t tell you that, despite your non-memories, you are a liar.  she says, if it walks like a duck & talks like a duck, we call it a duck.  you’re carrying the aftermath.  she uses words like brave & resilient, asks–curious, interested–to see the taser you carry inside your mother’s house.  you tell her, i want to be bad, your voice carrying a laughter that wears a pitchfork & horns, & she asks, well, how are you going to be bad?  you shrug, smile, say, i don’t know; i just want to be bad, & together you laugh–not laughter that is polite, a courtesy, but loud, from the belly, heads tilted & tipped.  your homework, she says, think about your thoughts.  pay attention to those.  let’s get you feeling safe, & when you leave her office & are swept into the wind battering leaves, you think, this is it.  now we’re entering the big leagues, & you are up to bat, muscles flexed, ready to swing.