“The conservatorship papers were filed yesterday.” Helen responds.
I feel betrayed. “And you know this because you provided one of the affidavits.” I not bothering to hide my disappointment.
“She said I needed to do it, to keep you safe, and so that she could handle your affairs. I panicked. I’ve never seen you like this.”
“Tina, darling, I’m so glad you are awake. I asked them to give me a call the moment you were conscious”
“No games mother, just tell me what I need to do to get my life back.”
“I’ve lost one daughter; I’m not losing you too…”
My mom now has control over my life. It seemed like a long time coming. Parents want the best for their children; right?
"I've been here before and have made my way out, I didn't try to hurt myself. Not like the last time. So how do I get out?"
"Oh? and what am I choosing between? Tim or Tina? Boy or girl? Son or Daughter?"
"You choose to accept help and move forward with your life or you choose to stay stuck in whatever limbo you've been for the last 14 years."
"That's it?" I say skeptically.
"Do you think I'm... crazy?"
"I think that you have been stuck between Tim and Tina so long that it's become 'normal' for you."
"So this IS a choice between Tim and Tina."
"You're holding on to one for the sake of the other."
"Tell me mother, which way gets me out of here and I'll do that."
"I said the choice was between seeking help or not. I hope you find peace as one or the other, but you've never sought help for why you need both."
"I have all my faculties; I can challenge the conservatorship in court."
"You can fight me. I have control over your finances. Helen is one of the people that signed the affidavit and you have no one else close enough to you to champion your cause."
Checkmate. My mother has me over a barrel. I sit smoldering at my lack of viable options.
"My request is simple and very reasonable."
I look at her trying to find anything I can use to change her mind.
"I've already lost Tammy."
"How do you know you haven't already lost me too?"
"I don't, I've taught you to deal with the consequences of your actions. Losing you may be a consequence of my actions. The reality is that while Tammy was taken from me; it would be your decision to walk away from me."
I look over at Helen. She's sobbing either from losing Tammy or what has transpired with me; perhaps both.
I lay back in bed staring that the ceiling. "Thank you, Mrs. Sterling, I'll consider your offer. I'd like to be alone now." I close my eyes, and listen for the footsteps to leave the room.
Over the next few hours, I stew like a spoil child who decided that the tantrum didn't work and that the silent treatment would be the next best thing.
A smell of roses enters the room. A bouquet. I imagine they are from Helen. I haven't look to see whose footsteps entered the room. Then the sound of a vase being place on the nightstand. She must have got permission. They generally don't allow vases in the room. Then her voice. "Please talk to me." Helen pleads. It must be hard on her, missing Tammy. The thought did cross my mind to respond with an impression of Tammy. I'm sure the pain of that would drive her from the room. I look over. The bouquet of pink and yellow roses brings a smile to my face. "They're lovely, thank you." I draw in the fragrance hoping it, for a moment, would mask the sterile smell of the hospital.
"How are you feeling?" she asks.
I want to say that I feel betrayed and alone. I want to say how much her siding with my mother hurts. I want to say how I miss my sister. I want to say how much I miss our friendship even more. All I can manage is a curt, "Fine."
"Okay", the disappointment in her voice is almost unbearable.
Whatever mood altering medication they have me on is beginning to wear off. I feel my emotions coming back. I feel less... Well, I feel more, anyway.
"Morgan and the girls say 'hi', they haven't seen you in a while. I told them that you were in the middle of a few projects and would be by to see them when you could."
"Thank you for not telling them I'm in here."
"How about we have a girl’s night out when I get out of here. You know, clubs, champagne, dancing?"
"I can't, I can barely cover the rent on the apartment by myself. I'm probably going to find another place to live. It hurts too much being there. All of her stuff..." She breaks down again. "I'm sorry, it's just been so hard. God! and you still look so much like her."
It's hard seeing her like this.
"Lucy!" my Ricky Ricardo impression, "maybe you should see a physio-chi-o-trix?"
She looks at me. "What?"
"A physio-chi-o-trix? You know a head doctor?"
The episode enters her head and she begins to smile. "But, Ricky!!! I don't wanna see a physio-chi-o-trix!"
We both laugh... "You know, if you keep this up you can have a bed right next to mine!"
Helen stops laughing and stares at me.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that.”
“I had lunch with my contact at Brownstone yesterday. Apparently, you made an impression on one of their junior executives.”
“Oh really? I can’t imagine what you are talking about.” I say coyly. My blush betrays me though.
“Really? So you don’t remember a dark haired fellow with a chiseled jaw and just a hint of stubble?”
“Nope, no recollection at all.” I shake my head
She holds her phone up to me with his photo and number on her contact list.
My eyes widen.
“Since he REALLY didn’t make THAT much of an impression on you, I should delete his number then.” She says as she swipes the display on her phone to ‘delete contact?’
“Don’t you dare!” I grimace immediately after saying it.
“So… Scott Ward… huh?” She says with a grin.
I sigh and let my guard down. “You’ve seen him. I’d be crazy not to.”
“Well, you’re in the right place for it! Oh sorry! I…”
“I deserved that.”
“So are you ready to get out of here?”
“Mom put you up to this didn’t she?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about at all.” She says with a grin.
“Fine! You win…”
I had thought I had put the past behind me. Then clues start to come together. My sister's concern and how she wanted to make sure I didn't cut off mom completely. How Helen seemed to watch over me and how close we had become. They must have had the same doubt my mother had over how I handled my life. None of them could really have a say while I still paid my bills, kept my life stable, and they could keep an eye on me.
The drastic change in my appearance, the odd plan that was hatched which culminated in the loss of my shot at working for Grant Systems. That brought me to the edge. The possibility that my sister could be dead? That was enough of a nudge to send me off the cliff. Now to find my sister is dead and my mother is in control of my life... Splat!
I've climbed that edifice before, and in my youth it was Tim who reached the peak. I'm determined to climb it again. Can Tina do the same? The climb from the depths of insanity to the plateau of "normal"? That was Tim carrying Tina. It was Tina who pushed Tim into the pit in the first place. Not many six-year-olds would think to take a knife to their genitals. Even fewer tried and still survived.
So yes, the psychiatric ward was familiar. In the psych ward, I learned that Tim was stronger than Tina. Tim emerged, and Tina stayed hidden. So much for ‘modern therapy’ at the time. As time moved forward, Tim receded, and Tina re-emerged. A glacial pace, but progress none the less. "The insane" have no such clarity, or perhaps they are the only ones that do.
That was the past haunting me.
I was released from the hospital after two more days there. My mother visited with me every day in the hospital just as she continues to visit to this day. Every time she walks in I could hear her choke back tears and calm herself before entering with a smile. Over the months my hair returned to normal; the rosewood replacing the chestnut. I look less and less like Tammy. I think that makes Mom sad. It's like watching your daughter’s ghost slowly fade away. Eventually, all that's left is me.
Mom paid for counseling for Helen to help deal with Tammy's death. After all, Helen didn't have me to talk to. They wanted for me to handle my own issues first.
As part of my treatment, I had to attend counseling as well. The counseling regimen is simple. I go to sessions twice weekly. Very little changed in my life at the time, except that counseling required me to take an active role. I couldn't be passive, or the treatments would become more 'invasive’. As I opened up more, I could feel the weight of Tim slowly cast off. The weight of a ‘life’ that I thought kept me safe from another trip to the psychiatric ward since I was six.
I spent a lot of time as Tina, at first just so that I could look in the mirror and see Tammy. I miss her so much. For me, even as the lightness of my hair grew out; I found myself opting for Tina's life instead. As I spent more time as Tina, my appreciation for much of the simpler things that Tammy loved began to weave their way into my life.
I began to simplify my life. The Cartier watches gave way to Fitbits. The Louis gave way to simple shoulder bags. My condo gave way to a nice home in the suburbs and a hefty return on the sale of the condo.
All my life, I dreamed of a future where I’d have the world in my hands. Tim and Tina having their share of an extravagant life. Two years would pass, and I would complete what started so long ago. My mother finally relinquished the conservatorship. I finally had everything I never dreamed I wanted. A simple life, Tina’s simple life.
A knock on the front door. An unexpected guest. A man looking for a ‘Tammy’, who wasn’t. His eyes shine like the day I met him. But that’s a story for another time.
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