I know a freed Kristine will explore any overlooked areas by herself later. She’s curious as a cat and will wander. Certain doors will be discovered and not remain closed to her inquiring mind. The nasty truth shouldn't be discovered alone.
Like I had.
There’s a prettier spot to take her first. Somewhere restful. A haven preserved for calm reflection. A perfect place of light to counter a dark discussion. Maybe that’s why I saved both till last.
The architecture of the Detention building is based around a central void, an internal courtyard utilised for low-risk visitations. Two thousand square metres of grass surrounded by towering levels of imposing, tinted windows. It had all the charm of a football field. The austere space allowed natural light and warmth into internal offices and cells but otherwise was underwhelming.
I had remade it, deciding its primary purpose should be palliative. Native trees and shrubs grow in garden beds redesigned to soften stark glass and concrete walls. Young Willows and fast growing hedges line winding paths of crushed volcanic rock. Concrete combination benches, originally bunched together in rows for ease of monitoring visitor-inmate interaction, are scattered.
We enter through a security check point. Offensive detectors of metal items beep irately as forbidden items pass into ‘Sam’s Safe Zone’. The words are painted sloppily across the glass sliding doors that trundle open for us. I don't remember when I did that. I sense Kristine’s dossier on me fatten on the small detail. These facts she collects may not accurately sum me up when the time comes to review that file.
I am pleased to see the gardens are presentable. Several weeks of neglect and dry weather have had minimal impact on the low maintenance design. I fret about parts of the lawn that have burned but I know a shower or too will put that right. After it rains I’d get rolling drunk and roar around on a ride-on mower to keep everything trim. Power gardening is one type of work I can get into.
Kristine doesn’t nitpick these small imperfections. She’s delighted to be stepping on grass and feeling the breeze and sunshine on her skin. Abject fear wrings the enjoyment out of these simple pleasures. I imagine her feelings are similar to mine. Being outside is to be alert for Creepy’s and Crawly’s. This place has no need for such vigilance. It is special, isolated, safe.
We find a shady spot to sit on a bench and kick off our boots. She wriggles toes in cool grass. The play of dappled sunlight on her face lifts a corner of her mouth in lopsided satisfaction. I stare at her profile until she turns to face me. I look away and mess about removing armour and clothing down to a sweat damped shirt, then lie on the warm concrete table.
“This place is awesome, Sam. How beautiful. I could spend all day here. I get pretty low when I’m closed in.”
“I know. Well, I know now. I haven’t given much thought to your needs. Sorry.”
The apology slips out. She deserves a better act of contrition. What that should consist of I fail to investigate.
“I noticed,” Kristine says dryly. “You’re hardly there at all most of the time. Want to talk about it? Does a person good to unburden. I try to imagine how scared I’d be in your place. You should learn to open up your feelings.”
A deep and meaningful conversation is not what I had in mind. I heave myself up, breaking in before any more psycho-analytical drivel can be spouted.
“No! Firstly, I don't need a grief management session. I never planned to unload that story before, and you already know how deep my fear is every time you dream of a Crawley on your face. Secondly, I’ll never be that new age guy who’s in touch with his emotions. I’ve always said that ‘unburdening of pain’ and ‘freeing of your soul’ stuff is last year’s metro-sexual’s way of getting laid. And lastly, I shut shit out. That’s my way of dealing with stuff. Whatever does get in stays in, no matter what any of that psycho-babble you believe in says. Problem is, you’re afraid. You don't trust me and you don't know what to do about it.”
Kristine shades her eyes with one hand to peer into me.
“Can I trust you Sam?”
Should have known she’d turn that last bit back on me. Shit, why can’t I stop talking so much? Side-effect of a sympathetic ear attached to a beautiful listener. She draws feelings out like a lance in a puss filled wound? Brutal bitch.
She’d struck a vein this time. One that yields honesty.
“I don’t know, sometimes I think so. I hope so. Not filling you with confidence am I? Make up your own mind. For what it’s worth, I want you to stay even if your being here complicates something I’ve already gotten worked out.”
“I know what you’ve got worked out. Depression and fear can make it seem the only course of action, Sam, but we can talk through these feelings. Don't keep it all inside. You men are allowed to have feelings you know.”
I’ve read the same books. She’s pretty good at using the techniques though. I swim against her current, floating on real life experience.
“I don't know what I feel. So how can I talk about it. Sharing only doubles the pain. The things that have happened will never go away. Talking about it only makes it worse. It’s all still in here.”
I punch my chest hard.
“It’s set up shop and is fucking every other disaster I collect. I’m so filled with cross breeds I don't even know what my nightmares are about anymore. I only know they scare the shit out of me.”
Shut up, shut up!
“I can control myself with these drugs.”
I dig out the trusty tin and rattle it in her face.
“You can put up with Calm and Stupid. I don't think you want to meet Frightened and Confused.”
I’m heating up with a smouldering, hot anger. The hard edged emotion is easier to grip than misery. There’s nothing more to add.
Kristine shakes her head unhappily and I see her thinking deeply for a long time. Does she regret her assertiveness, stimulated by possession of keys to this castle? Does she remind herself I could snatch them away in a second?
The long silence is interrupted by a respectful tapping from an unusually subservient conscience. I unsnap the container of capsules and move them about with a forefinger. Two crack open in my palm and I lick the bitter, powdered peace.
“Ohhh, yeah. There’s something else you should know. If you’re going to stay. If not I’ll keep it to myself.”
I cryptically fish for a clue of her future plans. Also I’m unsure if this digression will break her heart. I give her every chance to back out.
“Don’t tell me, you’re gay too.”
It’s a reactive answer from buttons pushed. Her flippancy covers an unease my weighty words have dredged up. The gravity of my expression wipes away traces of pretend jocularity. Her heels drum divots in the grass.
“Sorry Sammy. You’re so miserable it scares me. Tell me whatever you have to. Get it off your chest. We’re in your safe place. I’m listening to you.”
Are my scrawlings supposed to be a mantra I can use to help me relate an unforgivable sin? Well, what happened here was unforgivable but, thankfully, it wasn't my doing. I’d like to think it’s beyond me to do anything so cruel.
The cruelty I am capable of is goaded by Kristine’s lofty aspirations as chief head-shrinker. Her imitation of their baby-talk promotes a vicious reply. Criticisms I’m able to contain within.
Amateur hour is over little girl. I’ve already been exposed to this repellent vision. Once shared, this picture won’t be so easily rationalised away with insights from psychiatry handbooks. Your nights are about to receive an agistment of new dark mares.
My icy face reflects studious thought like an executioner sizing up the condemned.
Kristine shrinks from me, defensively clasping her biceps. She shivers in the warm sunlight.