This was an old story I somehow never put on this site. When I wrote it, I couldn’t own it—perhaps that was why. It’s the story of something that happened to me decades ago. It took 20 years to put it to rest. I did but I paid a price. Even then, predation was quite acceptable among professions.
She was sixteen, and she was cold. Her lavender coat was more for contrast against spring, rather than a defense against winter’s bite. She ducked around banks of dirty snow tilted against the sidewalks.
It was a mile-or-more walk to North shore Guidance from her home, but she had started out from the Beverly High School and that had added two miles. The worst part of the walk was across the Beverly-Salem Bridge. Wind cut off the water and rippled straight through to her bones, but the need to find the adult companionship and guidance that didn’t exist in her home drove her. She barely felt the wind.
The switch from Children’s Friend and Family Services to North shore Guidance had added another mile to her trek for sanity. She had been going to therapy for over a year this time. Her home life left much to be desired. Sarah had dreams, and her parents weren’t much for encouragement.
Sarah had wanted to become a geneticist since she was thirteen, watching the PBS specials on the exploration of the double helix with fascination, and studying on her own. Bar Harbor was the place to be as far as she was concerned. But her parents were like rubber mallets when it came to accomplishing this.
Every time she spoke of her dreams they had some new obstacle for her to overcome, and she knew she had to go elsewhere if she was to receive encouragement.
Something about this man bothered her. Miss Gingold had chosen him – this Tobias Friedman. He was a child psychiatrist, but he was more a mentor for her. There was a sense of quirky excitement about him Sarah couldn’t put her finger on. It didn’t feel right.
With Miss Gingold, there had been a “slow and easy wait” for Sarah to come to her in the room. She was in no hurry for Sarah to trust her. But Dr. Friedman was like a boy waiting in line to jump off the rock into quarry waters. There was a sense of urgency about him. It made her nervous.
Sarah was thirteen when she started walking to therapy – to the very building she was walking towards now on 1 Cambridge Street in Salem. It was a dusky gray building that fit poorly on a corner with stairs cutting up to the second floor at an impossible angle. A younger Sarah had had to hold on to the railing to keep from falling backward.
It was old building – old enough to sport a historical plaque. She had been frightened the first time she had gone there. But the toys and the children’s books soon comforted her. There had been safety in the rooms.
Mrs. Lincoln had been her first contact at Northshore Guidance. Her father had called at her insistence. He had tried to sabotage the connection she wanted to make, but Sarah told the Mrs. Lincoln that it was she who had asked him to call. Mrs. Lincoln had called her school and talked to her school counselor to get some records on her, and had come to the conclusion she was capable of making such a request.
The school counselor had told Mrs. Lincoln how they had taken the girl out of the academic setting to test her under the guise of helping out one of her teachers. They had suspected Sarah had skills, but nothing like what they had discovered. Sarah did nothing in school, but testing had shown she was capable of becoming whatever she desired. They were anxious for her to get the guidance she requested. It was just as obvious to school personnel that she would receive no help at home.
Mrs. Lincoln had decided to place her into group therapy after three visits, and when Sarah had walked in the door to be introduced to the group, three of friends were there. They were her only buffer from complete isolation and together, they weren’t the best of crowds. It was the last place she wanted to discuss her dreams of becoming a geneticist. It was the last time she saw the place until these last few weeks.
Sarah had hooked up with Barbara Gingold at Children’s Friend and Family Service Society in January of 1968. She walked there once a week or so for thirteen months. The 60’s were in full swing. Vietnam hit the airwaves every night with bloodied bodies decorating the news. President Nixon had been elected, and the Kent State massacre was just a few years away. It was a time of turmoil for the country. It was an even worse time to have an unstable family.
By the time Sarah met Miss Gingold, she and her friends spent their weekends high on LSD and speed, roaming around The Boston Common and Beacon Hill. Her schoolwork had trailed down to nothing. She was barely making grades enough to pass each year. She was sickly thin – a byproduct of too many drugs and too little food.
Sarah was no longer having fun on these weekend escapades. She was lost, and she knew it. The size four pants hugging her hips worried her. She was barely making it to school; her dreams were all but gone. Her parents were at each other’s throats, and there was nothing she could do to stop them. It was as if they lived for it. She wanted to die, but she didn’t have the courage to end it. She was fifteen years old.
Barbara Gingold’s patience changed all that for her. There were times she waited for Sarah to speak and times she filled the void with things about herself. The larger rooms in the old brick building were warm and inviting. Sometimes they met in a smaller room, but all were cozy and most covered with oriental or braided rugs, filled with toys, and had huge windows with ornamental drapes.
There were times during winter when the rooms were chilly, but warmth emanated from the woman; so, Sarah never really felt the chill. Sarah slowly embraced the woman as an older sister and started to embrace life along with her.
The final factor came from, of all things, a Navaho junkie who went by the name of Rocky. Sarah had tried heroin on her sixteenth birthday. She hadn’t particularly liked it, but she had a crush on Rocky. Her last trip to Joy Street on Beacon Hill, Boston she proudly bared her arm for Rocky to see and told him of her birthday fare.
Rocky had unrolled both his pockmarked arms and said to her,
“Is this what you want your arms to look like?”
Sarah never saw Rocky again. The next weekend Sarah stayed home, and the apartment on Joy Street was busted. She heard Rocky went off to Deer Island – a jail facility for the City of Boston. But she never forgot his message. She went straight.
In February of 1969, Barbara Gingold told Sarah she was being transferred to Plymouth. Sarah needed to move on, too. She had been frightened at first, but she had tried to feel hopeful. Miss Gingold had given her reason to hope she had a future, and Sarah knew she wouldn’t leave her without guidance. So Sarah moved on when Miss Gingold moved on, and here she was making her way the extra mile to see Dr. Friedman.
Sarah opened the heavy gray door to 1 Cambridge Street, her frosty breath following her inside. She climbed the steep stairs, a few minutes late. Friedman heard her and came out of his office.
“Sarah. Come right in.”
His office was at the top of the stairs just off to the left.
Sarah wandered into his office and let him help her off with her coat. She didn’t like his touch. It reminded her of her father. There was a hidden leer about him.
Stop it. Her mind screamed. He isn’t the same.
“It’s cold out there,” Sarah said.
“Did you walk?” Dr. Friedman asked
“Yea. No bus money today.”
“You should wear a warmer coat.”
“Yea, well – I should do a lot of things, but I don’t”
Sarah heard the edge creep into her tone. This was her third week – her third appointment. She was still uncomfortable with this man.
Dr. Friedman sat down behind his desk, waiting for Sarah to take her chair across from his on the other side.
“How did Spanish go this week, Sarah?”
“I’m not sure… I’m not sure the hypnosis helped much. Maybe a little…”
“Well, how about another go at it this week. If we keep it up, maybe we’ll see improvement over the long term.”
“Sure. I’m game.” Sarah said,
but she wasn’t really. There was something in his tone she didn’t trust. Sarah could swear he was trembling a little. He looked like a kitten getting ready to pounce on a string dragging across the floor.
‘Shake it off, Sarah. Don’t be ridiculous. He’s a doctor.’
Dr. Friedman rose from his chair and made his way around the mountainous desk. Sarah was sure of it now. He was trembling. An alarm rang through her body, causing it to stiffen. Years of physical abuse had trained her, and she did this without sending any outward signs. Signaling an abuser often made them angrier – caused the penalties to become more profound. Sarah had had years of experience with her mother, and she put all that experience into play now.
“Now Sarah, I’m going to count backwards from twenty, and you’ll go into a light sleep. Twenty, nineteen, eighteen…”
No, I won’t…. Her mind whispered the words internally…
“Fifteen, fourteen, thirteen. Your eyes are closing…”
‘No, I won’t.’ Her mind was desperate to keep him from control. She played along, letting him think it was working.
“ten. Your eyes are closed. I’m going to put my finger in and out of your mouth, and you will taste candy.”
Sarah was fully aware. She was in a panic, but she dared not move. She parted her lips to allow Dr. Friedman to insert his finger in and out of her mouth.
“Now I’m going to move you into a smaller chair, Sarah.” Dr. Friedman moved the girl from the chair across from his desk to a small child’s chair near a child’s table set, scattered with toys. “I’m going to count from backwards from ten and put you into a deep sleep. Nine, eight, seven…”
‘Oh God, no. I won’t go to sleep.’ Her mind was screaming silently now. She knew something was terribly wrong.
“Five, four, three, two, one. You are in a deep sleep now, Sarah. Deeply sleeping now.”
She heard a noise near her face. She didn’t know what it was…
“Sarah – you will now want a piece of cherry licorice.”
Sarah opened her eyes, not believing what she was seeing. Dr. Friedman covered the flesh protruding from his pants as Sarah pulled away. The only other place she had ever seen such a thing was when her older cousin, Donna, had played a trick on her and led her to a section of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC two years earlier. She had told her to look close and then skittered away giggling. Sarah had viewed the disembodied penises in their pickle jars as she read the display labels and then screamed. She had not felt nauseous then, but she did now. And there was more–there was fear.
He’s going to kill me. I know what he is. He must be going to kill me.
Though Sarah’s mind was sixteen, she still thought with the mind of a child. She could not see any way past what he must do to keep her quiet, but she could not see why he could not do that either. Sarah sat locked in her trance of fear – unable to move away from the small chair that bit into her hips.
“I’m going to move you back to the other chair, Sarah. I will count down from twenty as I do so, and you will start awakening.”
Sarah felt his hands on her: She heard his words telling her she would forget.
‘I will not forget.’ She vowed.
She held on to the words as if every time he repeated his own, he would strip her memory from her.
“…fifteen. You will forget what you have seen. Fourteen, thirteen, twelve, eleven. You will forget.”
“I am now going to wake you up from your sleep, Sarah. You will forget everything that has happened here today. I’m going to count down from ten, and you will awaken.”
‘I will never forget I will never forget I will never forget…’
The words played over and over again in her mind as she listened to him command her otherwise. But she was terrified of what was going to happen when she was finally sitting across from him – awake.
Her heart clenched in her chest, and she fought to keep her breathing under control. Every muscle in her body screamed for her to run. But she was like a deer caught in car headlights in the night. She couldn’t move.
“…five, four, three, two, one – Sarah, open your eyes.”
But she couldn’t. Her eyes were slammed shut. They had been locked down ever since she opened them just moments before.
“Sarah, OPEN YOUR EYES.” His tone was angry and demanding, leaving her no choice.
Sarah’s eyes opened. There was a glazed look about them, or maybe it was more like waking with the sun streaming in one’s eyes. Sarah was just this side of shock, and if Dr. Friedman didn’t do something soon, she would slip deeper. He began to talk calmly to her, waiting for her to respond. Sarah blinked, shaking her head as if she was clearing the sleep from her mind.
Tobias Friedman spent the next twenty minutes talking in low tones to the girl. He was sure she knew.
Sarah knew indeed, but she also knew the life she had hoped for was gone.
Copyright 2017 Joyce Bowen
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