“I’ve been doing this a long time – manipulating people to get my way. That’s why you think you love me. Because I’ve broken you down and built you back up to believe it. It wasn’t an accident. Once you leave this behind…you’ll see that.” – Caleb
Sunday, Aug 30, 2009
Vivisected. It’s the only word I can think of to describe how I’m feeling – vivisected. As though someone has cut me open with a scalpel, the pain not sinking in until the flesh begins to separate and my blood bubbles out. I can hear the crack as my ribs are flayed open. Slowly, my organs, wet and sticky, are pulled out of me one at a time. Until I am hollow. Hollow and yet, in excruciating pain – still alive. Still. Alive.
Above me, there are sterile and industrial fluorescent lights. One of the bulbs is threatening to go out and it flickers, buzzes, and struggles to stay alive. I’ve been transfixed by its Morse code for the last hour. On-off-buzz-buzz-on-off. My eyes hurt. I keep staring. Following along with my own Morse code: Don’t think about him. Don’t think about him. Caleb. Don’t think about him.
Somewhere, I’m being watched. There’s always someone here. There’s someone to tug on my various cables. One to watch my heart, another my breathing, one to keep me numb. Don’t think about him. Cables. They extend from my hand, where I receive my liquids and my drugs. They wind from my chest to monitor the beating of my heart. Sometimes I hold my breath, just to see if it will stop. Instead, it beats harder and faster in my chest and I gasp for breath. Buzzzzz-on-off.
There’s someone who tries to feed me. She tells me her name, but I don’t care. She doesn’t matter. No one does. Nothing really matters. She asks me my name as though her kindness and gentleness will move me to speak. I never answer. I never eat.
My name is Kitten and my master is gone. What could possibly be more important?
In the corner of my mind, I see him, watching me in the shadows. “Do you really think begging is going to work?” asks Ghost Caleb. He smiles.
I cry. Loud, horrible, sounds come out of me, so violent they shake my whole body. I can’t make it stop. I want Caleb. I get drugs instead. The food comes through a tube while I sleep.
There’s always someone watching.
I want to leave this place. There’s nothing wrong with me. If Caleb were here, I’d walk out of this place, happy, smiling and complete. But he’s gone. And they won’t let me grieve for him in peace.
I close my eyes and open them slowly. Caleb is standing over me. My heart races and tears of pure joy flood my eyes. He’s finally here. He’s finally come for me. His face is warm, his smile broad. There is a familiar tilt to his lips and I know he’s thinking something naughty.
A familiar tingle spreads throughout my belly and creeps down toward my pussy making it swell and throb. I haven’t had an orgasm in days and I’ve become very accustomed to them.
“Should I let you go? You look so sexy when you’re tied down,” he says through a smile.
“I missed you,” I try to say. My mouth is unbelievably dry. My tongue feels heavy and dead in my mouth. My lips seem to have fared no better. They are chapped and when I scrape my tongue over my bottom lip, I can’t help but think of sandpaper.
The tube they have been using to feed me is crammed up my left nostril and fed down the back of my throat. It itches. I can’t scratch it. It hurts. I can’t shake it free. I feel it every time I swallow and it tastes of antiseptic.
“I’m sorry,” Caleb says.
“For what?” I whisper. I want him to tell me he’s sorry for not telling me sooner…that he loves me.
“For the restraints,” he says.
I frown. He loves restraints.
“As soon as we can be sure of your mental state, we can remove them.”
This is wrong. Really wrong.
It’s the drugs.
“Do you know why you’re here, Olivia?” a woman asks, softly.
I am not Olivia. I’m not that girl anymore.
“I’m Dr. Janice Sloan. I’m a forensic social worker for the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” she says, “The police were able to identify you from your missing person’s report. Your friend Nicole reported your abduction. We’ve been looking for you. Your mother has been very worried.”
I’m tempted to speak, so I can tell her to shut the fuck up. I can practically feel my skin crawling. Stop! Stop talking to me. But she won’t. There will be more questions, the same questions, and this time I might have to answer them. I know it’s the only way they’ll let me go. They keep me strapped down and pumped full of drugs; they say I tried to hurt my nurse. I tell them they tried to hurt me first. I never asked to be brought to the hospital. The blood wasn’t mine and the original owner wouldn’t miss it. I was fairly certain he was dead. I should know – I killed him.
“I know this can’t be easy for you. What you’ve been through…” I hear her swallow. “I can’t imagine it,” she continues. It reeks of pity and I don’t want it. Not from her. She reaches her hand out to touch mine and I instantly recoil. The harsh clang of my hands smacking against the railing of my bed is like a threat of violence. I am more than willing to inflict violence if she tries to touch me again.
She holds up both her hands and steps away. My breathing begins to settle and the black ring surrounding my vision dissipates, until the world is once again in high definition, color. Now that she has drawn my attention, I notice she isn’t alone. There is a man with her. He cocks his head and stares at me like I am a riddle he wants to solve. The look is heartbreakingly familiar.
I roll my head toward the window, staring at the light filtering through the horizontal blinds. My stomach clenches. Caleb. His name whispers through my mind. He used to look at me that way. I wonder why, since he seemed so capable of reading my mind. My body aches. I miss him. I miss him so much. I feel tears again, sliding down the corners of my eyes.
Dr. Sloan, doesn’t relent, “How are you feeling? I’ve been briefed by the social worker who was present during your initial exam, as well as the events witnessed by the Laredo Police Department.”
I swallow hard. Memories assault me, but I fight them. This is exactly what I didn’t want.
“I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I’m here to help you. You’re being held on charges of assault against federal border patrol officers, possession of a weapon, resisting arrest, and suspicion of felony murder. I’m here to determine your competency, but also to assist you. I’m sure you have your reasons for what happened, but I can’t help you if you won’t talk to me. Please, Olivia. Let me help you,” Dr. Sloan says.
My panic is rising. Already my chest is heaving and the world is black around the edges. Tears choke me around the tube in my throat. The fucking pain of the post-Caleb world is endless. I knew it would be.
“Your mother is trying to find someone to take care of your brothers and sisters, so she can come see you,” she says.
NO! Stay away.
“She should be here in the next day or two. You can talk to her on the phone if you’d like.”
I am whimpering. I want her to stop. I want them all to go away – this woman, the man in the corner, my mother, my siblings, even Nicole. I don’t want to hear them. I don’t want to see them. Go away, go away, go away.
I scream bloody fucking murder. I won’t go back!
“Caleb!” I scream. “Help me!” My body wants to curl in on itself but can’t. I am bound, like a caged animal on display. They want to know what’s wrong, but they will never, and can never understand. I can never tell them. This pain is mine to keep.
I scream and scream and scream until someone rushes in and presses all my magic buttons.
The drugs take over.
I’m fully aware I am in the psych ward of the hospital. I’ve been told many times. I can’t help but laugh inwardly at the irony. They will let me go once I’m able to tell them to release me. But I won’t speak. I am literally holding myself hostage. Maybe I am crazy. Maybe I belong here.
The bruises on my wrists and ankles are an angry shade of purple. I suppose I fought pretty hard. I miss the restraints. In a way, they allowed me the freedom to writhe and flail. They gave me something and someone to fight against. Without them…I feel like a traitor. No longer a prisoner, I seem to be allowing them to keep me here.
I eat when they bring me food, to keep me from having that fucking tube in my nose. I shower when they say I must. I get back in my bed like a good little girl. I float away with the drugs. Oh, how I love the drugs.
But, they never leave me alone. There is always someone here, watching me like I’m a lab experiment. Whenever the fog of the drugs lifts, they are here: Dr. Sloan, or her ‘associate’, Agent Reed. He likes to stare at me. I stare back.
The first one to look away is the loser.
Often, it’s me. His glare is unnerving.
In Reed’s eyes I see a familiar determination and a cunning I have never been a match for.
“Are you hungry?” he asked, soft and low.
I feel as though he is telling me I have no choice but to break. Eventually, he’ll get what he wants from me. I taunt him with my silence. Sometimes he smirks at me. And then, Caleb’s specter seems much more pronounced.
When I failed to respond, the fingers of his right hand trailed across the underside of my right breast.
On this particular day, he looks away from me first and returns his attention to the laptop in front of him. He types, and then scrolls through information I can’t see.
I took a sharp breath and leaned away from his touch, forcing my tightly shut eyes into the skin of my upraised arm.
Slowly he reaches for his briefcase on the ground, next to his chair and pulls out a few brown folders. He opens one and makes some notes while furrowing his brow.
His lips caressed the shell of my ear…
I know Caleb is not here. I’m fucked in the head. Factually, I take stock of the fact Agent Reed is a very good-looking man. Not as handsome as Caleb. Still, he strikes me as equally intense. His pitch black hair seems a little too long for his profession, but he keeps it impeccably groomed. He wears the A-typical, movie G-man outfit: white shirt, black suit, dark-colored tie. He makes it look good though, like he’d be wearing it even if it weren’t a requirement. I wonder what he’d look like without it on—
Caleb has made me into this. He admitted it. I am everything he wanted me to be. And in the end, what did I get in return?
I knew he smiled, though I couldn’t see it. A shiver, so strong my body nearly jerked toward his, ran down my spine.
“You’re mother should be here today,” says Agent Reed. His tone is detached, but he keeps glancing at me sidelong. He’s eager for my reaction.
My heart stutters, but the jolt is over quickly and once again I simply feel…nothing. She is my mother; I am her daughter. It’s inevitable. Eventually, I will have to see her. I know I’ll have to say the words when I do. I’ll have to tell her I don’t want to go back with her. I’ll have to tell her to forget all about me.
I’ve been grateful for the reprieve, but really – it’s taken her five days to get here? Perhaps telling her to leave me alone will be easier than I thought. My feelings are ambiguous on the subject.
“Tell me about where you’ve been for almost four months. Tell me where you got the gun and the money, and I’ll see to it your mom walks you out of here today.” Reed says. His tone is salacious, as though he wants me to buy what he’s selling.
No thanks. They know about the money – it didn’t take them long. I look at him with confused eyes and an innocent head tilt. Money? He stares at me for a second, then looks down at his folders and writes something mysterious. Agent Reed isn’t buying my bullshit. He isn’t impressed. At least he isn’t a complete fool.
His lips caressed the shell of my ear, “Are you going to answer? Or must I force you again?”
Tick-tock – I can’t hide behind my silence forever. There are some pretty serious charges against me. I guess one does not simply walk into the U.S. from Mexico. I know I should cooperate, tell him the story and get him on my side, but I just can’t do it. If I break my silence, I will never be able to leave this behind. My entire life will forever be overshadowed by the last four months. More than that, I don’t know what the fuck to say! What can I say? For the hundredth time today, I miss, Caleb.
Something drips onto my neck and I realize I’m crying. I wonder how long Agent Reed has been watching me, waiting for me to break down and give in. I feel lost and his flicker of concern suddenly seems like a lifeline. It’s hard not to see Caleb, in his stead.
“Yes,” I stammered, “I’m hungry.”
It is a few long, tense, seconds before he breaks the unending silence. “You may not believe me, but I have your best interests in mind. If you won’t try to help us, help you, things will get out of your control. And quickly.” He pauses. “I need information. If you’re afraid, we can protect you, but you have to give us a sign of good faith. Every day you say nothing, your window of opportunity shrinks.” He stares at me, and I can feel him willing me with his powerful, dark eyes, to give him the answers he is looking for. For a moment, I want to believe he really does want to help me. Could I afford to trust a stranger?
What did he want from me that he couldn’t just take?
My mouth opens, words are crouched on the tip of my tongue. He’ll hurt him if you tell. My mouth slams shut.
Agent Reed looks frustrated. As well he should be, I suppose. He takes another deep breath and delivers me a look that says, ‘Okay, you asked for it.’ He reaches down and grabs one of the brown folders he was looking at earlier. He opens it, stares at it, then at me.
He leaned forward and held the delicious smelling morsel to my lips.
For a moment he looks unsure, but then determined. He removes a sheet from the file and walks toward me, the paper held loosely in one hand. I almost don’t want to see what it is, but I can’t help it. I have to see. My heart lurches! Every fiber of my being is suddenly singing. Tears sting my eyes and a sound mimicking both sorrow and joy bubbles out my mouth before I can keep it in check.
It’s a picture of Caleb! It’s a picture of his beautiful, scolding face. I want it so badly I reach for it, fingers stretching to get closer to his image.
With an almost unabashed relief I opened my mouth, but he snatched it away.
“You know this man?” Agent Reed says, but his tone makes it obvious he knows I do. This is his game. It’s a good one. Through choked sobs, I reach for the photo again. Agent Reed keeps the photo just out of my reach.
“You son of a bitch,” I whisper hoarsely, staring at that one piece of paper. If I blink, would it disappear?
He offered again.