Jess’s earliest memory was of a swimming pool. You know the type, blue hard plastic with daisies, bought at K-mart. She remembered sitting inside, happily splashing. She was two maybe three years old.
A Bumble bee fell into the water, buzzing in circles along the surface, searching for escape.
She knew enough to be afraid, but not enough to get out of the water. Instead she moved around the inside, trying to avoid the bee. Of course this only caused it to chase her, current swirling as she moved, bee carried along after her.
She screamed a call for help, unheard. She was alone. In a panic, she swam faster. She remembered her heart pounding, fear experienced for the first time. A memory now engrained. She could not escape. The bee’s sticky legs latched onto her back, crawling upwards toward her hair.
And that was it, all she remembered. Did the bee sting her? Probably. Did someone come to help? Probably not.
An ominous first memory, a foreshadowing of her life to come, too bad she had been only two, maybe three.
Sixteen Years Later
I handed the paper to Dr. Emery then went to sit in the overstuffed chair. All the chairs in her office were overstuffed. I figured it was a shrink thing. She looked at the small essay and began to read, out loud.
The coffins sat next to each other, in death as in life. Their lids closed, two months submerged in the water preventing an open casket.
Jess stood at the back of the funeral parlor, the long aisle stretching before her. The seats were full, her parents not lacking for associates. The only child, she was compelled to walk forward, say something, anything. Unfortunately her feet remained frozen in place, mind a-jumble, filling with seemingly incoherent, unconnected thoughts. The knowledge of what the people in the seats must be thinking filled her.
“The poor girl”
“They think she had something to do with it”
“I heard there was a break-in a few months before. It was probably connected.”
“At least she has the life insurance.”
“She was always on odd child, wouldn’t surprise me if she was involved.”
“At least she’s eighteen, won’t have to go into the system.”
Jess started shaking, unable to stand under the scrutiny. She dropped to her knees, curled into a ball and allowed herself to descend into the darkness of silent wracking sobs.
Dr. Emery looked up from the paper. “We’ve talked about this, Jess. You need to stop referring to yourself in the third person.”
It had been a year since my parents’ disappearance. Ten months since their bodies had broken free of the rope and weights holding them submerged in the Willamette River. A couple of fisherman finding them bloated in the weeds. I thought I was doing fairly well, all things considered. The police had released me, unable to find any evidence of my involvement. I knew I was still a suspect, phone most likely tapped, house under surveillance; a break-in a few months earlier the only other lead. My parents weren’t the type of people to have enemies, no one wanted them dead, and the only one who benefitted was me, to the tune of five hundred thousand in life insurance, a home in Oregon City, and a slightly beat-up pickup truck. I thought I was entitled to a little dissociative disorder. “At least I don’t talk about myself in the third person anymore.”
Dr. Emery picked up her pen, making notations in my file. God only knew what was in there. She’d been my shrink since I was a little girl, normal stuff, ADHD and depression, until a year ago. What my file contained didn’t really matter as long as she kept refilling my prescription. A nervous breakdown during the middle of a funeral warranted happy pills. Thank God because they seemed to be the only thing that kept the voices at bay. Voices I definitely wasn’t telling her about, she already thought I was crazy, well severely depressed, same diff’.
“You asked me to write about my nightmares, they’re kind of in the third person.” Well they were, damn it.
“Yes, I can understand that.” Dr Emery said pouring me a cup of the herbal tea she swore by, before continuing her documentations of my disorders.
I sipped the warm bitter-sweet tea, a hallmark of my weekly visits. I hated the ‘I can understand that’ it was usually followed by the ‘but…..’ typical psychiatrist sandwiching. Hmm, maybe not just therapists, used car salesmen said similar things. Something like, ‘I can understand how you want a sports car but this compact gets much better mileage’.
Dr. Emery sat her pen down. “Jess, if you’re ever going to move past this you need to start to accept it. You can’t do that if you continue to see it as happening to someone else.”
Ooh, she used ‘however’ instead of ‘but’ this time. “I know Doctor, I’m trying, really.”
And I was. I hardly ever thought of myself in the third person anymore; only two, maybe three times a day. And I never spoke to myself or referred to myself as Jess out loud, not above a whisper anyway. She didn’t know any of that though. It was progress as far as I was concerned. No one could recognize my particular brand of crazy if I hid it well. Not too well, I still needed those meds. So no complete recovery for this psycho, at least as far as the good Doctor was concerned.
The pen was back in her hand, she said, “Last session we discussed your dream driven insomnia and how it was affecting your depression. I asked you to keep a log of your nightmares. The paper I just read contains just one dream description, are you sleeping better?”
My dreams would give Satan nightmares. They were not ‘sharing’ material, unless I craved white padded walls, three squares eaten with blunt utensils, and a nice new close fitting wrap around jacket. Shaking my head I said, “No, I have the same dream night after night.” Omission and lying? Not the same thing.
Dr. Emery’s pen flew across the paper making an annoying scratching sound. “Interesting, is the dream exactly the same or do some details change?”
Sometimes my father spoke to me, his voice emanating from the coffin, another fact likely to get me committed. Was it possible for a dream to reoccur night after night exactly the same? Damn, I should have Googled that. Err on the side of caution, Jess. “Nothing major, just small things, clothes, stuff like that.”
Dr. Emery’s head dipped in acceptance as she finished her notations. “Alright, I would like you to continue the dream journal, make notes on the small changes, and record any new dreams.”
“I understand our next meeting won’t be for three weeks. You’re going forward with the vacation in Mexico?”
The life insurance money had come in, not wanting to blow through it since I didn’t have a job, but needing a change of scenery I opted for Mexico. Not just to get away from the investigation, but the dreary Portland winter. A grey sky with constant drizzle was not great for depression. Mexico was sunny and warm, not to mention cheap. Gangs of drug dealers bent on murder tended to deter tourists, making the resorts desperate. The discounts were amazing, and if you stayed in your gated all-inclusive, you were usually okay. Overall I felt pretty good about the choice.
My passport, previously confiscated by the Portland PD, had been given back with instructions to keep them ‘apprised of my whereabouts.’ I’d told them I was Mexico bound, although I’m sure they already knew. The unmarked cruiser down the street from my house a dead giveaway they were keeping tabs, for my own safety of course. They were still looking for suspects or connections with that break-in.
My flight left in the morning, not soon enough. “Yes, I’m leaving tomorrow and need my prescription refilled.”
Dr. Emery sat the notebook down and picked up her prescription pad instead. She was so old school, no computer in her office, just pens, paper and an old oriental tea pot. She handed me the new prescription. I scanned it, five refills. I was ‘voice’ free for the next few months. “Thanks Doc.”
“I still think this trip is a bad idea. You’re starting to make progress. I’d hate to see you experience a setback.”
I’m sure a setback in my treatment would break her heart. Maybe even as much as the money she was going to lose while I was gone. Once a week times whatever the insurance paid her, plus my twenty dollar co-pay, equaled ‘don’t go to Mexico Jess’. Oh Dr. Emery was nice enough, but we all have our best interests at heart, don’t we?
“I need to get away for a while. I thought you said it would be good?” She had, until I mentioned being gone three weeks. She thought one was enough, and somewhere stateside, not Mexico. I’d ruled that out, too expensive and not far enough away.
“Yes, as long as you use it to refresh and regroup, not run away from your problems. Three weeks is a long time. As we’ve discussed, you need to focus on taking your life back. Find a job, go back to college, make connections in the community, things you can’t do alone in Mexico. Your increased isolation concerns me.”
And just who should I take with me? My parents’ death and the ensuing investigation had pretty much driven away all my so-called friends; shallow much? “I know and I will, when I get back. I need this Doc.” I had every intention of getting a part-time job and going back to Portland Community College, after I drank my weight in tequila. That was the other reason I’d chosen Mexico, the drinking age was eighteen.
With a grimace and a nod Dr. Emery started scribbling something on a sheet of paper, handing it to me. “Here, you’ll need this to take your meds into Mexico.”
It was a note on Dr. Emery’s stationary saying she had prescribed the anti-psychotic drugs to me and to call her if any questions arose. “Thanks.”
“For the record, I still think this is a bad idea.” Dr. Emery said as she stood, ushering me out of her office with a flutter of hands.
I guess my time was up.
The line through security at PDX stretched out into the baggage check area, damn those terrorist. I slogged forward, rolling my small carry-on behind me, thoughts of the warm tropical Yucatan peninsula sustaining me.
Finally I reached the front and handed the TSA officer my passport. He glanced between the picture and my face, verified the name on my boarding pass then handed them both back to me, waving me onward.
I took off my shoes, putting them in a basket on the conveyer in front of my carry-on. They rolled down the line to be x-rayed. I then stepped over to the metal detector and full body scanner, waiting my turn at humiliation. I contained no metal or prohibited items in any of my body cavities, so walked through without incident, continuing over to retrieve my foot wear and bag.
My shoes came through unmolested, my bag did not.
“Ma’am, is this your item?” A burly TSA agent stood, my bag hanging from his meaty hand.
“Yes, is there a problem?”
He shook his head in the negative, “I just need to have you step over here, answer a few questions.”
Now suspicious I asked, “About what?”
Motioning to a door behind him he said, “It’s of a sensitive nature, let’s discus it in the private room.”
Damn, it was probably my prescription. The bottle was in my carry-on, but I’d forgotten the note from Dr. Emery at home. I followed the TSA agent into the room, the door shut with a click.
Four Portland police officers surrounded me. A plain clothes detective stepped forward, “We found a chunk of rope, matched it to the one used to weigh down your parents.”
I just stood there shocked, temporally unable to speak. Finally I rattled out a hoarse, “Where?”
“In the trunk of Dr. Emery’s car.”
I knew not to trust shrinks, but this? “I don’t understand.”
The detective motioned to a chair. I sat down. “Seems she’s been drugging her patients, doing it for years. That’s how she kept them coming back. Your parents found out, were going to go public and Dr Emery…” he shifted from foot to foot “Well, what we haven’t figured out yet is how she dosed her clients.” Tongue suddenly tingling with bitter-sweetness I said, “It’s the tea.”