I was the 17 year old who didn’t want to leave home. Who loved working with her uncle as his “girl Friday” as I had been since age 2. Veterinarian, my future dream, as I held aside cows’ tails, twitched horses, stayed up late assisting him as we tried to save a pregnant dog. Even though he called me “the girl” he threw every job at me, gas-passer for surgeries, taught me injection, how to work the autoclave, to develop xrays.
I was fearless. Happy.
He saw me as equal.
He saw me.
My parents did not and so with nausea in the back of my throat I left that magical summer behind.
Going away to college. Period.
My mother often emphasized with that word.
A year and a half later, collapsed, a ‘nervous breakdown’ whatever that strange term means, home. Shuttled into the city 5 days a week to a psychiatrist, medicated, so much Thorazine I drooled, vision blurred. I started to cut myself.
My uncle said, “Come work for me again.” One day we went on barn calls together, me riding shotgun, stunned stupid, studying the baby photo of me he kept pinned to the visor.
As we pulled onto my street, he slowed the car, looked over at me and said, “Nothing wrong with you. You don’t need a psychiatrist.”
He saw me.
Over a decade after that lost, the shrinks, drugs that made me act crazy. Diagnoses as mixed as tossed salad. Hospitals, the stuff of nightmares, staff blasting in my room, locking the bathroom because I had used the toilet unsupervised. I checked myself out AMA after 3 days. One girl ran away; they called it “eloping.”
The final shrink, a poetry-lover
so many years later. Helped me off the chemical stew, stood by me for months as my brain and body continued thrashing in the residues. He said, “Your brain was marinated in chemicals.” Yes. It forgot how to sleep. I graduated therapy.
He said, “You were never mentally ill.”
He saw me.
We met for a year, once a month for coffee and poetry in a nearby Starbucks.
I lost everything because I was a girl so interrupted that 25 years passed, a quarter of a century, my chance for children, my young womanhood vanished in bitter smoke.
I found my memories.
I found my poetry.
Body disabled by do-gooders and family too blind to see. Before the days of autism or Aspergers, before people talked about the spectrum. That’s all it was. I figured this out not that long ago. My doctor concurred.
Such a relief.
For years, I needed the anger to keep me moving through the wreckage,
but anger eats the holder just like fire. Nobody was going to pay. Nobody cared but me. After all it is my life.
Mine alone to make or break.
I stood up, shook off and gathered the threads. Knotting with care
so nothing unravels.
My uncle long gone, these Sundays
I watch a veterinarian on cable, quirky older man, and as the episodes pass, my heart slows. I relax. Feeling connected to that stolen girl
who has reclaimed herself.
Who wastes no bitterness
on what might’ve,
what should’ve been.
Maybe she needed to learn
to fight for herself.
Maybe she had to demand
to be who she is.
Before the story could continue.
And so I did.
Rachael Ikins is a 2016/18 Pushcart, 2013/18 CNY Book Award, 2018 Independent Book Award winner, prize-winning author/artist with 9 books. Syracuse University grad, member CNY branch NLAPW, and Associate Editor of Clare Songbirds Publishing House, Auburn, NY. Her new memoir Eating the Sun a love story narrative punctuated by poetry and garden recipes available 4/2019 at Clare Songbirds Publishing House.