Monday, January 5, 2015
Today's muse: Standing on a crowded train platform. Too many people, too much noise, too many smells. I had a brief flash and to suppress the panic that I was sure was about to swamp me, I spun the image into a piece of prose. I am so thankful I have my writing for therapy.
* * *
He thrust out his hand. “I’m David.”
His smile was genuine, showing straight, white teeth.
“Erica.” She slipped her hand in his, gave a slight pump, then let go. In what seemed like a casual gesture, Erica transferred her drink to her right hand, took a sip. Five years of intense therapy allowed her to perform the ritual without trembling or breaking out in a sweat.
Prior to meeting the wonderful Doctor Gibson, Erica would have stayed home in the dark, rather than attend any social function. Within a year of working with Dr. G, she was able to go to a movie by herself. Of course, if anyone sat next to her, she rushed off to the bathroom to vomit. But the fact that she was out and socializing was an enormous leap.
“How do you know Andrew?” David asked.
“We took some classes together.” Art therapy, but David didn’t need to know that.
Erica nodded. “He has a brilliant eye.” He had taken pictures of her while she set up her own shot. Had printed them in black and white. They were sad and somehow hopeful. She had framed a couple, hung them in her apartment.
They were different from the other pictures taken of her.
“I’ve never seen you at Andrew’s parties.”
“No. This is the first one I’ve been able to attend.” Not because of her schedule, but because it had taken Andrew this long to convince her to come.
She didn’t like strangers encroaching her personal space; didn’t even like people she knew invading it. Erica didn’t like to be touched. She no longer cringed if someone did—she had suppressed that reaction a few years ago—but she didn’t like anyone touching her. Especially men.
Men had touched her before. Doctors, police. And, of course, him.
He had kissed her, rough and angry. Had pinched her nipples until she’d cried out in pain. And when she turned twelve, he told her it was time to be a woman.
“How do you know Andrew?” She forced a smile, just to be polite, pleased that she was keeping up her end of the conversation.
“We went to Boy Scouts together.”
David only smiled. “I see Doctor G, too.”
Erica smiled back, and this time it reached her eyes.
David gestured with his glass. “Do you want to sit? Maybe talk?”
It was the first time that Erica had ever felt relaxed around a stranger. More important, it was the first time she’d felt relaxed around a strange man.
She noted that he was careful not to touch her when they sat. She wasn’t sure if that was for her or him. Either way, she was grateful.
David sipped his drink, sat back in his chair. “Andrew and I reconnected in university. We had Spanish together.”
“Hmmm. I’m afraid my Spanish is rather limited. I can ask where the bathroom is.”
David raised his glass in a toast. “A very important phrase to know.”
Erica laughed. “Indeed.”
She bumped her glass against his and their fingers brushed. It was unexpected and she jolted back.
“I’m sorry.” Ashamed, she stared over David’s shoulder, unable to look at him.
Her gazed shifted to his and it was then that she noticed he hadn’t moved his hand. It was still raised in mid-air, as if he waited for her to tap his tumbler again.
And it trembled.
He lowered his hand. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t like to be touched.”
He nodded and Erica sucked in a shaky breath. He set his glass on the table, gestured for her to do the same.
“Let’s start over,” he suggested.
Relieved, she smiled at him and nodded.
He held out his hand. It trembled, but he held it out. “Hi. My name is David.”
She hesitated for only a moment, then slipped her hand into his. It was warm and dry. She wanted to pull away and sensed he felt the same. Instead, she wrapped her fingers around his and he squeezed back.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Erica.” He didn’t let go of her hand, kept his eyes on hers, his smile natural and full.
No, Erica thought, the pleasure is all mine.