Honestly, I think had my mom been the one who took me to therapy that day, everything would have been a lot different. I mean, it wouldn’t have changed what they therapist did, but she would not have handled it the way my brother did. I wouldn’t have gone through all of that humiliation later at least.
The therapy session started out about the same as the previous ones. I was being treated for low self-esteem brought on by a severe body image crisis. I remember the room being dimly lit and the therapist speaking in her monotone voice she always used when starting a hypnosis session.
“Just relax, Annie. Let your mind rest on a single thought.” Dr. Bough told me.
It is hard to make your mind relax. The best I could do was use a meditation exercise I read about on the internet. I focused on a single word and repeated it in my mind over and over, chasing away all other words. We’d done this many times and it was always the same.
She kept talking in that same tone with the same request. After several minutes of “relaxing” she said, “Now I want you to close your eyes.”
I complied, just like always. And just like always, after a few seconds she would tell me to open them again and it was done. It was the weirdest thing. Well, not the weirdest, because this time was different in one respect.
I don’t remember her telling me to open my eyes. I mean, they were only closed for a couple of seconds but when I opened them she was on the other side of the room talking on the phone. She looked flustered as she left me alone in the dimly lit room.
I waited for another 15 minutes before deciding that she must have left for some reason. She just freaking left me there by myself. Finally, I got up, grabbed my purse and headed back to meet my brother in the waiting room.
He was talking on his phone when I walked out and didn’t notice me at first. I startled him when I tapped him on the shoulder and snapped, “Craig, it’s time to go.”
He must have been startled because his eyes popped out of his head like he had never seen his own sister before.
He looked around the room frantically, but we were the only ones in the waiting room.
“What are you doing?” he demanded.
“She left, so I guess we should to.” I told him confused.
“But… what about your things?” He asked confused.
I subconsciously squeezed my purse with my left hand and declared, “Yes, this is everything! Can we go please?”
Craig shook his head and said, “If you say so. Is this part of your therapy or something?”
Realizing my sharp tone wasn’t about my stupid brother, but for the fact that my therapist had abandoned me like that, I simply told him, “Yes, this is part of my therapy to build my self-confidence.”
Craig nodded, as if accepting that as an excuse for me to snap at him like that. Finally I added, “I’m sorry for my harsh tone with you. I was just a bit annoyed at the situation.”
“I can understand that.” He said softly as we walked out of the office. I did feel as if I had forgotten something, but I could not think of what it might have been. Maybe because the therapist left before we had a chance to pay her…
I had been a late bloomer. Puberty had been rough and it had wrecked my confidence in myself. That was what these sessions were supposed to address. I have never had a boyfriend or even a first kiss.
Walking out of therapy that day did feel different. I noticed people looking at me admiringly. That had never happened before. Well, the men we passed were admiring me, the women looked taken aback, but nobody said anything as we passed.
We got to his car in the parking garage and Craig said, “I need to pick up Jimmy and Scott before I drop you off.”
“What? Why?” I asked, this time my annoyance was directed at him for real.
“We are taking the ferry to Catalina this afternoon, and I don’t want to have to circle back to get them later.
“Fine” I told him and got into the back seat. He would have expected me to get back there when we got to his friend’s house anyway.
Craig’s friends rarely paid much attention to me, so I figured if I just sat there quietly and waited to get home I could do so in silence from them.
Instead, when we got to Scott’s house, Jimmy and Scott met us in the driveway. They were shooting a basketball at a rim mounted to the side of Scott’s dad’s garage and came out to meet us as soon as we pulled in.
They clearly didn’t expect to see me sitting in the back seat as their eyes about jumped out of their heads at the site of me. I tried to ignore them at first, pretending that I was texting with a friend. But when they almost came to blows to decide who got to sit in the front and who got to sit in the back, I was offended. They may not have paid attention to me, but I am not a leper!
Oddly, the guy who I was sure had won the fight ended up crawling into the back seat next to me and the other one looked downright sullen at sitting in the front.
Scott leaned over toward me and said, “You look really good today, Annie.”
Craig shot him a look that I was sure was about to lead to violence and said, “Scott, if you lay a finger on her I won’t slow the car down when I toss you out of it.”
Craig was easily big enough to follow through on that threat. All three were on the football team, but Craig was a lineman. I’d seen him lift up the back of his car with his bare hands, just to prove that he could.
Scott took the threat seriously and immediately shifted his stance as far away from me as he could. But for me, this was the first time that one of his friends had even noticed me, let alone complimented me.
“Don’t be such a jerk Craig. He was just being nice.” I told him.
“Suit yourself.” Craig said to me, but shot another glare at Scott letting him know that the threat was real.
“I just need to drop Annie off at the house and we can head to the peer.” Craig said as the car lurched forward.
Jimmy chimed in, “Annie, why don’t you come with us?”
This was another surprise. Both of his friends wanted me to hang out with them today. I was flattered, but instead said, “Wish I could, but…” I shook my purse, “No money.”
The two of them looked at each other a knowing glance before Scott offered, “We’ll cover you.”
“Yes!” Jimmy agreed eagerly.
“I don’t think she wants to hang out with a bunch of guys all day, especially today.” Craig offered in a sympathetic voice.
“I can speak for myself, Craig.” I said.
“I’m just saying that maybe another day would be better.” Craig told me calmly.
I hesitated to respond when Jimmy asked Craig, “What is up with her today anyway?”
“She is going to therapy to improve her self-confidence.” Craig responded.
“It’s working.” Scott said.
Added Jimmy, “I’ve never seen her as confident as she is today. Keep it up!”
That was it… this was too good an opportunity to pass up. “If you guys really want to treat me, I will be happy to spend the day with you.”
With that we headed to the pier. Craig simply stopped trying to dissuade me and accepted that my therapy was working after all.
The ferry ride took about half an hour to get to the island. They went over the plan, we would spend a couple of hours at the beach, have lunch and then hike around the island before heading back.
Thinking back, this was probably as much fun as I have ever had doing anything with my brother. We played volleyball for like two hours. Now these guys may be bigtime athletes on the football field, but volley ball is my game.
The first match, I took the match by spiking over Craig’s head. Jimmy was so excited he actually hugged me. It felt really weird having his bare chest pressed up against me like that, but his shoulders were wide and he has a tight ass, so I definitely approved of the extra attention.
Another argument broke out as to who would get to play on my team next. Craig finally conceded that each guy would rotate to be my team mate.
Scott was next and we won again. This celebratory hug lasted even longer than Jimmy’s. Not that I minded.
When Craig and I won, I tried to hug him too, but he pulled away like I had an infection or something. I didn’t let him get away though. I eventually caught him and hugged him tighter than the other two. And I made it last longer. For some reason, this made the Scott and Jimmy about fall on the ground laughing.
After a couple hours of playing, we took a break. I had set purse down near where we had been playing. I checked my phone and noticed that I had missed a call from Dr. Bough. There was a follow up text message marked as urgent that said “Call me immediately”
That was weird. I called her back.
“Hello, this is Dr. Bough.” She answered.
“Hi Dr. Bough, this is Annie. You asked me to call you?” I said.
“Annie, where are you now?” She asked.
“I’m at the beach with my brother.” I said.
“I need you to go someplace private, right now.” She told me calmly.
“Private? Nobody can hear us.” I told her.
“I’m serious, you are going to want to be alone for what I am about to tell you.” She said firmly.
I took about 30 steps away from everyone and told her, “Okay, I am alone. Now why did you abandon me? I never even got to pay you for today’s session.”
“I’m sorry. I had a family emergency to deal with. This is all my fault. You won’t be charged for today.” Dr. Bough said. “You are completely alone, right?”
“Yes.” I assured her.
“Okay, I need you to close your eyes like before.” She told me.
I complied and said, “Okay.”
“Now we are waking up. When I count to three, you will remember everything and it will all be as it was. Do you understand?” She asked.
I can remember hearing myself tell her, “I understand.”
Just like that, everything had changed. A flood of memories came back to me. Each session I had with her, suddenly I had memories of all of them. First she would have me calm down, then she would repeat several droning sentences until I was about to fall asleep. Then she would ask me to remove all of my clothing. Everything! Even my bra and panties!
After that we would simply talk about normal things, boys, sports, school etc. Finally at some point she would tell me to get dressed. Then she would tell me not to remember anything and then would wake me up.
Suddenly I looked down. I realized what I had done, but needed to sure.
I screamed into the phone, “I’m NAKED!”
Everyone on the beach looked over at me. Well, most of them had probably already been staring at me, but now that I was screaming about it, the rest looked.
In a harsh whisper I asked, “Why am I naked?”
“This is your therapy.” She told me.
“Who gave you the right to…” I was at a loss for words.
“Your mom signed the waiver allowing this type of therapy.” She assured me.
“My MOM? What about me?” I demanded.
“It doesn’t work if you are aware of the process. You need to learn to be comfortable in your skin at a subconscious level.” Dr. Bough explained.
“What do I do now?” I asked.
“Well, for one thing I would suggest you come back here and pick up your clothes.” She said calmly.
Again, my eyes shot down to confirm that I was still standing out on a public sidewalk with God and everyone staring at my naked body.
I did the only thing I could think of in that moment. I bolted straight into the water and kept going until I was covered from the shoulders down.
Every once in a while a big wave would roll in and lift me up and when it put me down there would be a few seconds when my boobs would be exposed, but it was better than nothing.
Craig had seen me run into the water. After a minute or so, he stripped down to his swimming trunks and followed me in.
“Don’t come any closer!” I warned him, just as another big way blasted through leaving me exposed from my thigh up. I tried covering myself but what was the use? Everyone had been looking at me like this all day, why cover up now?
I needed to think. I remember him protesting when I came out of the therapist office and I scolded him that this WAS my therapy. He even repeated that to his friends, so they all bought into this lie that I was naked on purpose! If I tell them the truth NOW they all think I’m a crazy person.
“What’s the matter with you?” he asked.
“I…” Now I really didn’t know what else to say. “I just want to go home now.” I finally blurted out.
“Home? We haven’t eaten lunch and we are all supposed to go hiking after.” Craig said angrily. “I told you not to come!”
“I know, I know… You guys can stay here, I will get an Uber when I get back to the pier.” I concluded.
“Is that your phone?” he asked me, pointing at my right hand.
“Oh fuck!” I said. Sure enough, it was dead.
“Why would you go swimming with your phone?” He asked incredulously.
“I didn’t even think…” I managed to get out. All of the memories flooding back into my head at once and now I can’t even think straight.
“Dad’s gonna be pissed!” he told me.
No chance in taking an Uber without a phone.
“Hey, you guys ready for lunch?” Scott yelled out to us from the shore.
“Just a minute.” Craig yelled back. Then to me he asked, “You think you can make it the rest of the day?”
I began to shutter in the water, but nodded after a bit.