The journal stared at her from the coffee table. Taunting her.
Nicole was sitting on the kitchen countertop. Her right foot up on the edge of the black surface and her chin resting on her knee. Dangling down in front of the cabinet, her left foot jittered. The leather notebook made her nervous. She lifted her head slightly to take another sip of wine. The Merlot was smooth. It tasted nice and full. She picked up the bottle after her therapy session this afternoon. It was a bit more expensive than what she’d usually get. But this day would either end in some sort of celebration. Or in complete misery. Whichever scenario would unfold, she deserved this little gift to herself.
She felt exhausted and a little light-headed from the hot bath she took earlier. Heat was still radiating from her skin and the wine didn’t really help either. She ran her fingers through her damp hair and briefly massaged her temples. Both the slightly oversized tank-top and the grey sweatpants had random water stains. Nicole could never be bothered with drying herself off properly. Although she also hated how her clothes would stick to her body when putting them on. It was never easy, was it? It would never be easy.
Across the room, on her little coffee table, lay the journal. Mocking her. Daring her to close the distance between them. She took another sip.
The day had pretty much started out as another lame-ass Friday. After the daily stand-up Nicole decided to lock herself into her little work-bubble. Putting on her headphones and focus on finishing up the designs for an email campaign. Although she wasn’t particularly happy with her job, it was at least a decent company to work for. The pay was reasonable and her co-workers didn’t annoy her too much. They were pretty understanding towards her therapy as well and gave her plenty of room to go to the bi-weekly sessions. This week however her therapist asked her to do a double session, so she had taken the entire afternoon off. Nicole left the office just before lunch. The need for socialising with colleagues wasn’t particularly strong today. When was it ever? Leaving early did however provide her with enough time to make the walk from her office to Christine’s practice instead of taking the bus.
It was late September, but the weather was still nice. The sun made an effort to give the world one last burst of warmth before retracting all its love for the following months. Tis the season to be depressed and miserable, falalalala lala lala. It was an enjoyable walk across town. Nicole arrived at her therapist roughly 45 minutes later. A little warm and sweaty, but with a smile on her face.
‘What?’ Nicole was surprised by the harshness in her own voice. She wasn’t the only one apparently as Christine raised her right eyebrow and looked at her curiously.
‘Really, Nicole? You sit here for two hours on auto-pilot. Tiptoeing around every subject that feels even remotely confrontational and you’re not giving me anything to work with at all. And then when I ask you if you ever had a journal, that’s when you get all worked up?’ she said slightly annoyed.
Nicole cringed. It wasn’t her intention at all. But somehow she just couldn’t help it. These sessions were getting very hard to do, emotionally. The more they seemed to get to the center of things, the more she started to pull out of it. Effectively feeding Christine just enough to keep up the suggestion of progress. At the same time carefully avoiding anything major. Looking at Christine made her feel like a little girl that got caught doing something she shouldn’t have. She started to blush.
‘I’m sorry. Just tired, I guess. It’s been a rough couple of nights with little sleep. Anyway, no. Never had a journal. I’m not that big on self-reflection and sharing all the mushy, mushy, feely, feely stuff. You know that. Even if it is just on a piece of paper.’ still a bit flustered she refused to look at Christine. Instead she just stared at her hands as they lay in her lap.
‘Are you having nightmares again?’ the therapist didn’t wait for an answer before continuing. ‘Look, I really think you should start journaling. I think you could really benefit from writing down your thoughts and emotions. It seems to me you are in your head a little too much. Overthinking things and making it bigger than it should be. Putting things in writing will help you with that. It may give you a bit of distance and maybe even provide you with a different perspective. So, that’s your assignment for our next session. I want you to go and buy a journal and write a least one meaningful entry. Do you think you can do that?’
‘Nicole, please! I won’t ask you to let me read it. I’ll trust you enough to give me an honest answer when I ask you about it. But I’m really having a hard time seeing you distance yourself so much from everything. I’m really sorry if this sounds unprofessional or too personal. But I care about you Nicole. I really do. You’ve been coming here for over two years now and I…’ Christine paused briefly.
Wherever her thoughts had been moments before, Nicole was all here now. Her mind racing to process what was unfolding before her. She really liked Christine. It was probably the only reason she still came to therapy. It certainly stopped being about the mess in her head months ago. Sitting across the little table Nicole could clearly see the ice-blue color of Christine’s eyes and imagined her mind vigorously searching for the words to finish that sentence. Nicole suddenly noticed her cheeks getting warm.
‘…I really want to help you, help yourself.’
‘Ha.’ Nicole’s snark was barely audible. A slight hint of disappointment seeping through. ‘So not-professional, Doc. I’ll think about it. No promises though.’
‘That’s good enough for me Nicole.’ Christine replied. Nicole noticed the warm smile that she’d seen a few times before. Not often, but often enough. It made sitting through these tedious sessions a little easier.
‘You’re just paper.’ She whispered to the notebook and took another sip of wine. The journal lay motionless and without response. It made her nervous. The muscles in her neck and shoulders were tense. With a sigh, she let herself slide down from the countertop and moved to the living area of her apartment. After setting her glass and bottle down and letting herself fall back on the sofa, she carefully picked up the diary. Her fingers touched the leather and she took a moment to just sit there. Wondering if the world would really end if she decided to start writing. What’s the worst that could happen? She reached for the pen, but paused halfway. Her mind fired constant what-ifs into her anxious heart.
‘What if you start writing and it all wants to come out, all at once? What if it doesn’t stop pouring out and you can’t make it stop either? What if you start writing and you discover there’s a whole new level of fucked-up shit you need to deal with? What if… What if… What if…’ The thoughts crushed her. Taking up space in her chest and preventing her to breath normally. She started to gasp, but quickly closed her eyes and started to focus on her breathing. Taking in a deep breath through her nose. And then letting the air flow out again. She repeated this for a few minutes and finally the tension eased up a bit.
‘Shit. I’m so not about to start hyperventilating over a fucking journal.’
With a single gulp she finished what was left of her wine and reached for the pen again. With determination she opened the journal and started to write.
I’m not really sure where to begin if I’m honest. God, this feels so weird and uncomfortable. How does this even work? Do I just start writing down everything that comes to mind? Hoping it will end up being something coherent? Something that actually makes sense? Why did I decide to do this again?
Oh, I do think I should mention that the bottle of Merlot is already half-empty :p
Yeah, let’s not do emojis in handwriting.
‘God, I’m stupid.’ Nicole chuckled and shook her head as she looked at the emoji. She poured herself another glass and continued to write. Trying her best to be serious about it.
You know, I saw Christine The Rapist today. It was an okay session, I guess. She thought it would be a good idea for me to start a journal. Said I have a tendency to get into my head too much. I guess there’s a truth there. She thinks if I start writing shit down it might give me a better understanding of my thoughts and emotions. A chance at a different perspective on whatever I have going on. And I do need a different perspective Kev. Can I call you Kev? A different perspective. Because from where I’m standing right now, it all just looks like a really big, fucked-up pile of crap.
I’ve never written a journal before. I guess that makes you my first, Kev. Does that freak you out? Does that make you nervous? Does that make you not wanting me? Kev? Kevin? KEVIN!!! He he he…
‘Maybe I should try this with a little less wine.’ she thought. Feeling a little embarrassed about what she had written. This was proving to be a lot harder than she thought. ‘It’s fun though. Sitting here, talking to myself like I’m an idiot.’
It was hard for Nicole to keep a straight face about this. She wasn’t the type of person to open up easily. There were all sorts of defence mechanism in place to keep the emotions from surfacing. They were hard even for her to break through.
So Kevin, maybe you’re wondering what’s with the name? Or not. Seeing that I’ll probably end up sharing my deepest and darkest with you at some point (I’m trying), it would seem fair to give you a name. You see, I can’t see myself opening up completely to someone named Journal or Diary. Not really at least. I’m weird like that. Kevin feels safe. I don’t know anybody named Kevin, so it isn’t tainted yet. It’s a blank slate and I can mould you into anyone I want. I like that. Need a guy that I can train. Or a girl.
She put down the pen for a moment. Whether it was because of the wine, or because she actually wanted to make an effort. But something shifted, ever so slightly. Her eyes suddenly became more focussed, her expression resolute.
‘I owe you at least a decent shot at this, Christine. If not for anything but for putting up with my shit all the time.’ she said out loud.
Maybe there is something I can share. Something not so difficult, something I’ve shared before with others. I’m not sure it’ll still count, but I need something to break the ice. So to speak. I don’t trust strangers all that easily Kev. You seem like a nice guy, but a girl can never be too careful. So without further ado:
I miss my dad. Like, I really, really miss him.
Nicole stared at the page for a moment. She could feel the weight of these words increasing every second. Feel it on her shoulders. In her head. In her heart. Something twisted in her stomach and tears started to fill her eyes. She sat in silence for a few minutes, letting the emotions come and go. The last bit of hurt was swallowed down with the final drop of wine. For now at least.
And there you have it Kev. Look what you made me do. Now I’m all emotional with tears and everything. Shit. I think I may have had a moment there though. It’s strange. I’ve said those words about a million times in my head. Sometimes even out loud to Christine or Nova. Hell, I may have even said them to my mother. But this feels different somehow. I wrote them and stared at them for a couple of minutes. And then I felt my stomach do a backflip and I teared up.
It’s true though. I really miss him. Like a lot-lot. When I was younger I always laughed when people said that the relationship between a father and daughter was special. Our was very special indeed. Especially none-existing. My dad’s from Italy. He and my mom met when she was on holiday there in ’82, I think. They dated for a bit after that, with her flying over to Italy every chance she had. I think he came over here about two or three times as well. But it was mostly her going over there. Anyway, in the end she got pregnant with me. About a year after the first met, I reckon. Long story short, he got scared or something when I was two and then he disappeared. Mom raised me by herself. She’s got a family, they helped us where they could. I didn’t have a bad childhood. Not at all. Just never had a father around. Now I see you wondering. You just said he left, how can you miss him? Well, I looked him up.
After the whole shit-show with… Err. Fuck. No, no… Sorry Kev, not going there mate. Not today. Maybe not for a long time. This is nowhere near first-date material. A girl’s gotta have secrets and I’m not nearly drunk enough to spill the beans by accident.
‘Not today, not today.’ She stood up and ran her finger through her hair nervously. Her eyes raced across the room looking for something to give her comfort. They focused on a picture of her and Nova that she kept on the cabinet next to the television. It was taken during a spontaneous weekend trip to Paris that she and her best friend did last year. If only Nova was here now. Her soft voice always had a way to calm Nicole down. She walked to the kitchen and got herself a glass of water. The rain was creating a chaotic rhythm against the windows of her apartment. It was all a bit surreal. After finishing her drink she placed the glass in the sink and went back to the sofa.
Had to get a bit of a breather. I’m back now. Like I said, it’s messy. So I did go look for him at some point. Travelled through Italy for a few weeks and tracked him down eventually. That was by far the most nerve wrecking lunch I ever had. But it turned out he wasn’t all that bad. Of course my mother had her own version of their history, fed by her own guilt and frustrations. Turns out my dad had quite an interesting story to tell of his own. Hang around long enough Kev and I’m pretty sure I’ll let you in on that at some point.
In the end though, we got along. We got along really well and I suppose I take a lot more after my dad then I do after my mother. He turned out to be this decent guy and I’m really glad I got the opportunity to get to know him a bit. And then he passed away about 8 years ago. One moment he was there, getting to learn all about this fantastic daughter he had, the next moment he was gone. Just like that. Didn’t get an invite to his funeral from his family, but I went anyway. They couldn’t keep me away even if they tried. And they tried. But yeah…
There’s a whole lot more to this story. But like I said, I’ll keep that for another time. When I’m in a better place.
You’re an alright dude Kev, you know that. I think we might be getting along after all. Just have a little patience with me. I’m somewhat broken you see. And I don’t like sharing. Never have. Always want everything for myself 😉
Gotta stop doing the emojis…
I looked in the kitchen and there’s no more wine. I’m tired and my eyes hurt. I’m off to bed.
Even though her eyes were red and tears ran down her cheeks, she smiled. She carefully read the text again. It needed to get better. It needed time. Lots of time and lots of writing before she could even begin to address the true issues. But Christine might be right, this could actually work.