“This is the Work for Now”

Dialogue between Jenny of now and Jenny in the hospital.  I was afraid the hospital Jenny would be uncomfortable with her much older self, and even with almost any adult.  I decided to be a “Great Aunt,” and couldn’t find the right name for her.

Jenny sitting on hospital bed, writing in her journal.  Older woman comes to the door.

Great Aunt: “May I come in?”

Jenny: “Sure” a little uncertainly.  GA sits on chair near the bed.

J  “Why are you here?”

GA   “I’m your great aunt.  I heard from your Aunt Carolyn that you had some kind of breakdown and were in the hospital.  I’ve had a couple of breakdowns myself, so I know something about it.  I came to see if there was anything I could do — and maybe just wanting to be with somebody who knows what it’s like.”

J  (not quite knowing what to make of her) “Oh.”

(long silence)

J  “Are you -like –  a psychiatrist?”

GA  “No, I’m just a person with some experience.  I’m actually an artist.  I paint.  Painting helped me get through my breakdown.”  (pause)  “It looks like writing might help you the same way.”

J  “Yes, I’ve been writing a lot in my journal.”


GA  “Would you be willing to tell me what happened?”

J  (after a pause)  “I met this guy.  He was a graduate student in anthropology and we had some great conversations.”  (pause)  “We talked about living together.  I went away for Christmas, and when I got back he didn’t seem eager to see me.”  (pause)  “He didn’t answer my phone calls.  I went to his office to confront him and there was another girl there with him.  I freaked out and drove my car on the back roads and yelled and screamed.”  (pause)  “Finally I decided I needed to make a life for myself.  I bought a door, to make a desk, and I went to his house to borrow his van to move the door.  He was there with another girl and wouldn’t answer the door.  So I went to my car, and got the jack, and started smashing his windows.”  (silence.  Jenny has been staring straight ahead while talking.  She takes a peek at GA’s face to see how she reacts.)

GA  (with a commiserating smile)  “Sounds like you were having a pretty rough time.”

J  (cries)  “I’m sorry.”

GA  “Don’t be sorry, it’s OK to cry.”

J  (cries some more until it stops on its own.)

GA  “How did you get into the hospital?”

J  “Turned myself in.  I felt like I was exploding.  I needed help to close back down.”  (pause)  “It was comforting that the doors were locked and the nurses are here.”

GA  “Yes.  When you’re falling apart, you need some kind of container, something to help hold all the emotions that have broken out.”

J  (deep sigh.)

GA  “In traditional cultures, when someone has broken down, the tribe and the medicine people help the person contain and process what’s happened to them.  They do this through ritual and dancing.”

J  “David told me about something called a ‘vision quest.’”

GA  “Yes, that’s when  person is transitioning from child to adult.  They go out alone into the wilderness and spend some time fasting and praying and asking for some sign to let them know who they will be now.  Sometimes it’s a totem animal or a name.”  (pause)  “Do you have any totems to get you through this time?”

J  (pause, a little uncertain.  This is part of her deep private life that she’s never shared.)  “Well, there’s my guitar.  And the Bambara Oryx I bought in Paris.  I have a black stone too, that I keep in my pocket.”  (She is silent, thinking about the words written in blood “Who if I cried out would hear me amid the hosts of angels”)  “There’s also the Persian Vase that I bought at Gump’s.  It’s tiny and hand blown and I think about 900 years old.  It’s translucent with iridescent patches.

(long silence)

GA  “I’m glad you have those.  Do you have a therapist?”

J  “Dr. Burgess is here in the hospital, and Dr. Asher in Woodland.  I drive up to see him every week.”

GA  “Are they helpful?”

J  (pause)  I think so.

This is where the dialogue ended.  I imagine Great Aunt saying some thing like “that’s enough for now.  I’ll come back if it’s OK, or we might go out and have lunch,”  and Jenny saying “that’s OK.”

Bambara Oryx 15_TchiWaraBambaraMali

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