“It all seems surreal. You know what I mean?”
Maya paced back and forth in front of the couch in the counselors office.
“Until recently, I feel like I have been walking around in some sort of hyper aware state. Never being able to relax, all five senses set to maximum and always walking around in a state of fight or flight. Almost like I was half in my body, half out. I don’t know how to explain it and I don’t know if any of this is making any sense.”
The counselor nodded her head and indicated for Maya to continue.
“Then there is Ian and Jin. I never thought about having a husband or a child. Seriously, after my experience with men, why would I ever want to be placed in a position to be sub-servant to anyone ever again!”
“How does the prospect make you feel now?” the counselor asked.
“Terrified. Panicked.” Maya turned and flopped down onto the couch and leaned her head back over the top of the couch. She covered her eyes with the heels of her palms.
“Okay. Let’s look at it this way. Do you still feel that same fear when you think of Ian?”
Maya smiled. “Well, no. Ian is, he’s, well-most girls dream come true. He’s handsome, sweet and kind. Plus he is an excellent father. Considering all that, this should be an easy decision. Right?”
“I can’t tell you that. Only you know the answer to that.”
Maya growled low in her throat in frustration, and resumed her pacing about the room.
“It’s just that I never wanted to be THAT GIRL! The girl who would be so heartless as to leave her husband and child. It nearly broke me to to do it, but I couldn’t stay. To stay meant letting go of that lifelong dream and even then I knew I never would have been happy. It took getting away from Ian, and being in the real world to see what I couldn’t see before. I needed to see how things in the real world worked. I needed to learn to feel safe.”
“But if I give up this opportunity to study in Paris with Megan Lightell, then I become THAT GIRL! The girl who gives up all her dreams to be a wife and stay at home mom. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, ” she clarified. “Being a stay at home mom is a really hard job to do. It’s just that if I do that, then I will never know.”
“Oh? Know what exactly?” the counselor asked.
“To know if I was good enough to make it in the art world and make a name for myself.”
“Maya. You already know that. Just the fact that out of so many possible people, Megan Lightell chose you. I doubt she would waste her time on someone who wasn’t potentially good enough.”
Maya sat back down in the chair. “I guess. Still, not as good as Megan Lightell if she thinks I still have things to learn.”
The counselor looked at Maya quizzically, then placed down her notebook. “This isn’t something I should be asking you since I work for the university, but I feel it is necessary in this case. If you were to rate your improvement in art skills as a percentage, what percentage would you say is attributed to things you have been taught by the school?”
Maya just stared at her for a moment while she considered the question. “I don’t know. Maybe twenty percent?”
“So you are telling me that in the two terms you have been here, your skills have increased eighty percent without school assistance? How do you think that happened?”
Maya thought back to her texting conversation with Ian and said “Practice. Lots and lots of practice.”
“So if you go home to your husband, is he going to expect you to give up your painting?”
“No. Not at all. Ian encourages me to paint. But how am I to get inspiration to paint, being stuck on a small pimple of an island with nothing but sky and water for a view?”
“I’m not an artist. You tell me.”
She looked at the counselor to see her smiling, which made Maya laugh, and she relaxed back into her chair. She began to stare off across the room, twirling her hair around her fingers while she thought about the situation. The counselor quietly watched as emotions crossed Maya’s face while thoughts came and went from her mind. After some time had passed, the counselor asked “What is bouncing around in that brain of yours?”
“Hmmmm? Oh, I was thinking about Eddy actually.”
“Wow! I did not see that coming at all.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” Maya said. “Nothing has changed. It’s just that now that the anger has passed, I kind of feel bad for him. I see him around campus and he just looks so lost. Almost like he lost his place in the world and he is stumbling.”
Maya shifted on the chair to stretch out her legs. “He calls me constantly, and approaches me on the street, begging me to take him back. It’s like he has lost the light of hope within him and all that is left is this desperation.”
“Interesting,” the counselor replied.
Maya looked at her confused. “Now what is bouncing around in that head of yours?” she asked jokingly, turning the words back around.
The counselor just smiled and shook her head.
“So only you get to ask the questions then?” Maya asked. “You do a lot of that smiling at your clients don’t you?”
“Only when I think they may be onto something, or on the right line of thinking.”
“So I said something to that effect then?” Maya asked.
Once again the counselor just smiled.
“You know, if I was seeing you long term, that smiling thing could get really annoying,” Maya said.
The counselor laughed out loud this time. “Listen our time is nearly up, but I want you to head back to your dorm and think about some of the things we have talked about here today. Maybe come see me tomorrow after class, and tell me then what you have come up with.”
“That’s it? You aren’t going to give me a hint at all or a nudge in the right direction?” Maya asked.
“You’re a smart girl. I’m sure you will have no trouble at all.” She waved goodbye to Maya and closed the door. Standing there at that moment, Maya was sure the counselor had more faith in her, than she had for herself.
For the rest of the night Maya went about her business with half a mind, while the other half was busy thinking about her situation. No matter which way she looked, she only saw frustration and sadness. She was so fearful of making the wrong choice, she wished an angel would appear in front of her and tell her the future, so would choose the right path. When no angel appeared, she wished for something simpler, like a magic eight ball. For even though it was a just a toy, she felt at least with that in her hand, she would feel like she was doing something towards making a choice for her future.
Exhausted, she crawled into bed with the covers up over her head and went to sleep.
Maya found herself on a dark street, with loud and unfamiliar night sounds all around her. She turned this way and that, trying to get her bearings, but she could not determine where she was, or remember how she had gotten there. She took a few steps and listened. “Hello,” she said softly and then again a little more loudly. Her voice echoed back to her. Once again she turned this way and that, squinting her eyes, trying to make out clearer pictures of the shapes all around her. Her heart was beating loudly in her ears and thumped almost painfully in her chest, which made taking deep breaths nearly impossible.
What was that? A sound not to far off ahead of her like a person dragging them self across the ground. Her eyes were beginning to adjust to the dark and to her right, she could make out the figure of a person kneeling on the ground. As she walked towards him, he reached out his hands and called to her.
“Maya. Help me!”
She walked cautiously to him, but when she reached him, he raised his head and she was frightened by what she saw. There on the ground was Eddy, clothing torn and filthy from head to toe. His hands groped for her in desperation, and when she finally came to him, she saw black holes where eyes should be and blood dripping from one side of his mouth. He moaned guttural sounds and she jumped back in fear. She turned and began to run down the street.
Frightening noises of all kinds surrounded her from all sides. As the noises grew louder, she could feel something pulling at her clothes that hindered her from running. Sounds of people screaming had joined the set of noises, and she feared the screams were coming from whatever was pulling her back. So she summoned all her strength, broke free from the forces and set her path in the direction of a single street light at the end of the street. The closer she got to the streetlight, the louder the noises became and pains began to shoot through her head. She crouched down and covered her head, trying to block her ears from the sounds. That is when she saw her.
Huddled in a dark corner, was a small female child. The moment Maya saw her, the noises began to fade in intensity and that is when Maya heard the child whimpering. She approached the child carefully, not wanted to scare her.
“Don’t be frightened, I won’t hurt you. What is your name?”
“Hope. My name is Hope.”
“Well Hope. I think we need to get out of here. Do you know where we are?”
“I’m lost,” and she began to cry.
“Hope. Listen to me. I promise we will get out of here. Take my hand.”
Together they began to run down the street towards the lit streetlight, when suddenly behind and beyond, a dark black shadow began to appear. Maya stopped, frozen in fear and the shadow grew. True terror rose up from the depths of her soul as she watched the shadow grow until it towered over them. She looked down to find Hope was gone and she began screaming her name over and over. That fear gave her motivation to move and she began frantically searching for her while screaming her name. Realizing she was nowhere to be found, total and utter despair overwhelmed her, as the world faded to black.
Maya bolted awake, panting heavily and holding her chest, as tears ran down her cheeks. Paris came bursting into her room.
“Maya! What happened? You were screaming!”
Maya began to push the blankets off, and swung her legs over the side of the bed.
“I get it. I get it now. I know what the counselor meant!” She leapt out of the bed and began frantically searching for her clothes.
“I can’t believe it. I was so stupid. It’s been staring me down right here!” Maya indicated by waving her hand in front of her own face.
“Maya, you need to slow down. I’m not following you.”
Maya continued to whirl about as she finished getting dressed and brushed her hair, throwing it up into a hasty ponytail. She went into the bathroom and came out with a tooth brush in her mouth, while still talking
“My whole life I had it so wrong. Don’t you get it?”
“No, not at all. Where are you going? It’s seven in the morning,” Paris asked.
“I have to go tell her!”
“Tell who, what?” Paris yelled after her, as Maya raced out the door. She ran down the stairs, out the door and jumped into her car. She raced over to the student union building, went inside and knocked on the counselor’s door.
The counselor opened the door, crossed her arms and smiled.
Maya smiled back and said, “I understand now and you know what?”
“I am THAT GIRL!”