The sound of frustration followed by an expletive greeted Keesha as she walked down the hallway to her office. Throwing caution to the wind, she lightly tapped on the door and without waiting for a response, pushed it open.
As Keesha walked through the door, she discovered a sight which didn’t surprise her. Gina stood with her back to the door in front of the filing cabinet. She was bent slightly forward as her hand massaged her nylon covered foot.
“Was the filing cabinet misbehaving again?” Keesha asked, laughing softly at her own joke.
“Keesha!” Gina turned abruptly, hitting her elbow on the cabinet. “Ow!”
“I didn’t mean to scare you,” Keesha said, as she closed the door behind her as she moved further into the office. “Maybe you should sit down before you injure yourself more.”
“I think you’re right,” Gina said as she pulled her chair to her. She carefully sat down and rolled herself back over to her desk.
“So, does Gail know how you abuse the office furniture when she’s not around?” Keesha asked, moving to sit in front of Gina’s desk.
“I hope not,” Gina said with a tight smile.
“You were like this yesterday. Is everything okay? If you want, we can talk. My boss is away for the conference, too. I won’t be missed if we chatted for a while.”
Gina considered Keesha’s kind offer. She wanted to talk. She longed to get everything off her chest, but she wasn’t sure if she was ready to hear the words spoken out loud. It’s one thing to dream about it every night, but it’s quite another to voice those dreams. And quite another to actually listen to yourself voice the thoughts which wouldn’t go away.
Keesha watched Gina closely. In her social work, she had gained invaluable insights into human behavior. She didn’t like to use her psychology training on her friends, but if it could help, she didn’t see how it could hurt. Using a softer tone, she continued, “Gina, I’m serious. Anything you tell me won’t go beyond these four walls, but if you’d prefer to talk to Gail…”
“No, it’s not that. I…” Gina began, but couldn’t go on. She didn’t know where to begin or how to begin. The only thing she knew was that she wanted it all to end. The nightmares. The insecure feelings. The inappropriate thoughts of Tommy which wouldn’t leave her alone. She just wanted it all to disappear and to leave her. She wanted to be normal again.
“Well, what it is?” Keesha asked, growing more concerned by the minute. What could be the cause of the turmoil she saw clouding Gina’s eyes?
“I almost stabbed Tommy the other morning,” Gina blurted out. When she saw a look of shock cross Keesha’s face, she wished she could take the words back. She lowered her eyes to her hands which lay linked in her lap.
“Is he okay?” Keesha asked. After Gina nodded, she continued, “Why?”
“I had a nightmare and when he woke me up, I was poised for attack,” Gina said, slowly raising her eyes to Keesha. When her hazel eyes held Keesha’s brown ones, they glistened with tears as she added, “When will it go away? When will the memories stop? Gail said that it would happen, but every time I think I’ve made progress, something else happens which sends me reeling again.”
“I wish I had the answers, Gina,” Keesha said, reaching for the box of Kleenex to hand to Gina. “I was only with you for a few days, and the nightmares have continued to plague me. You were there for years… I don’t know what to tell you. I wish I did.”
Gina nodded at Keesha’s heartfelt sentiment. As she dabbed her eyes, she listened quietly as Keesha continued.
“Did something happen? Like I said before, I won’t say a word to anyone. Promise,” Keesha said, hoping that Gina would trust her enough to open up. Gina was open, but she kept more bottled up inside of her than she released. She needed to learn to lean on others, too, Keesha thought. The burden Gina carried was a heavy one, but she didn’t have to carry it alone.
“I promised Tommy… Do you really promise not to say anything? Tommy doesn’t trust easily and if he knows, I betrayed him…”
“He’ll never know from me,” Keesha said softly.
Gina nodded. She believed Keesha and knew she would be true to her word. “The other night, Tommy was almost raped in an alley.”
“Oh my God!” Keesha said, in surprise. “Is he okay? What happened? Where was he?”
“He’s okay. Now. He wasn’t then. If I hadn’t shown up…” Gina stopped speaking to catch her breath. The memory of seeing Tommy hurt in the way she, Simone and the other women had been hurt on countless of occasions made a fresh of tears cloud her vision and reopened old hurts which she was positive would never really go away.
“You stopped it?” Keesha asked quietly.
“Yes. I was looking for him. When I saw him go off with that man behind an alley… I tried to get his attention, but I was too far away. Instead, I jumped out of my car and followed them. I pulled a blade on the pervert and he ran. Part of me wishes he hadn’t. I would have loved to twist my blade inside his chest,” Gina said, biting the words out viciously. She wasn’t a violent person. Correction. She wasn’t a violent before, but now in the after, she knew that if anyone ever tried to hurt her or someone she loved, she would have no problem putting an end to his existence. No problem at all.
“Oh, Gina. I’m sure that’s what brought your nightmare on. I’m so sorry,” Keesha said, reaching to take Gina’s hand. “Are you sure Tommy’s okay? I’m sure it must have been traumatic for him.”
“He’s okay, I think. He has other things on his mind.” Gina paused briefly as she considered her next words. She had told Keesha so much since they’d become very good friends. Should she tell her about the other thing that bothered her so? Gina admitted to herself that she had to tell someone. She couldn’t keep it to herself. Maybe talking would Keesha could help her put some things into perspective. “What do you think about Tommy?”
“I think he’s a nice young man. He’s quiet. Stubborn. But on the other hand he loves deeply and has a good heart. I also think he doesn’t realize his worth,” Keesha said, watching Gina as she voiced her opinion. As Gina’s eyes drifted to a far away place, Keesha wondered what Gina’s description would be.
“I think you’re right.”
“Why did you ask?” Keesha asked, her curiosity getting the best of her.
“No reason. Just curious.”
Keesha slowly nodded her head as Gina began to make busy movements, signaling an end to their conversation. The more Gina moved, the more Keesha became convinced that there was more to Gina’s innocently asked question than she was willing to admit. Gina will have to answer the questions of her own heart one day, Keesha thought as she said her good-byes and then left the office.