Ebb Tide

Back in the Spring of 2010, my short story "Ebb Tide" won 3rd place in WOW! Women on Writing's Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest. Although I've always had it linked on my Short Fiction page, I've never actually posted it here. But I needed another "rerun" post for today, so I'm sharing it now!

Dear Diary,

Dr. Zimmer says I have to keep this journal as part of my therapy; he promised no one would read it. He thinks I have trust issues along with my “fascinating emotional complex.” Duh. I tried to tell him what happens when another person touches me, but he didn’t believe me.

I’ll try again here. Even the lightest brush of another person’s skin opens me up to their deepest sadness. It hits me like a tidal wave before seeping into my every tissue. Then their heartbreak is a part of me as much as it is a part of them, and I can't get rid of it. It’s like a sorrowful osmosis.

I used that word, osmosis, and Dr. Zimmer looked surprised. He’d probably read in my file about the low IQ I’d been saddled with early on, after all the tests ruled out a physical reason for my screaming and thrashing whenever anyone came near me. The autistic diagnosis came later, and I thrived under it, mostly because those therapists respected my physical boundaries as long as I made cognitive progress. And of course I made progress, there was nothing wrong with my brain, other than being cluttered with other people’s regrets.

Although I couldn’t really understand yet, by the time I was three I knew about my Gran’s first child, the one she gave up and didn’t tell her other children about. I saw that my mom had never gotten over her first love, even when he’d married another woman. And that my father knew about the whole thing, but he loved my mother so much he was willing to live with this shadow man lingering in her heart.

By fourteen, I learned to live with these backstories inside me—as long as nobody touched me and introduced new ones. I was doing so well that I got mainstreamed into high school, and that’s when it hit the fan.

Last week, this boy Gerome cornered me and held me down, while his friends gleefully took turns poking me with a finger. It left me raging (I broke Gerome’s nose and some of those poking fingers) and then catatonic, until I woke up in this facility.

Dr. Zimmer let my mom come see me today, and to take away the power of my “delusion,” he encouraged my mom to give me a hug.

She offered me her hand instead. Under Dr. Zimmer’s gaze, I knew I would have to touch her, and it wouldn’t be so bad since I already knew about her lost love.

But that’s not what rushed into me; instead it was her pain that she had this smart, beautiful, funny daughter, and she’d never been able to hold her. I gasped with the shock of it, and Mom let go, apologizing. But I was already stepping forward to put my arms around her, and after a moment’s hesitation, she hugged me back and our shared sorrow flowed away. Out of both of us.

WOW currently has their Spring contest open, btw, until May 31. There's a $10 entry fee if you're thinking of sending something in.


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