Clair* walks into my office this morning as she does every week. She sits downs and looks up. “I’ve got nothing to say today,” she tells me. Sometimes, I say nothing. I just sit and wait. Something will come. The unconscious mind can often be counted on to send something forward into the silence. But sometimes I feel the need to help things along. “Well,” I say, “What’s most on your mind?”

Clair has been with me for a little over a year. We’ve sorted through some muck together. I’m not her first therapist. There’s been a lot for her to talk about over the years. With me, it was mostly empty nest syndrome, peeling back yet again the layers of her abusive childhood and her loving, but sexually dormant marriage. We’ve been over the sadness, the joy, the poignancy. We have been talking about making her sex life better. She is interested in this, only mildly. Seems like in these more senior years they are both okay with a collectively lower libido and comfortable companionship.

So today there is nothing pressing. We make small talk. The weather. The upcoming holidays. Less small: the anniversary of her mother’s death. A little more silence. We have an easy connection. Just sitting together is healing in its own way.

So we sit in quiet comfort for a minute or two.

“Did I ever tell you about the time I was gang raped?” She says.

I shake my head.

“I was sixteen. You know in the projects there was a lot of that.”

I nod.

“Funny. I remember it like it was yesterday. Don’t think I’ve ever talked about it to anyone before.”

“Hmm.” (me)

“There were six of them. All colors. Was like the United Nations. I was walking home from school, under an underpass. You could pretty much not be seen in there. Up closer to the bridge. It was a big underpass. One held me down. One was a look out. They took turns. ”


“I wonder if that has anything to do with the nightmares I always have. You know, that one where I feel something holding me down. The one where I think someone’s hand is on my throat. I’ve have that one so many times. I guess I never put it together.”


“Nah. Never mind. I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s something else.”



“Well. That was a long time ago. Funny. Hey, do you know that George (husband) wants to take everyone on a Disney Cruise for Christmas this year? I think the grandkids will love it. But I don’t know. The last one we went on was so crowded. The food was good. You ever been on a Disney Cruise?”



“I told my mother. She didn’t believe me. Told me to stop being so selfish, always trying to get attention. Well, she was drunk anyway. Time up?”

Shake. Gently.

“They had good Karaoke on the last cruise. George loves it. Of course he put on ten pounds.”


“I should never have walked home that way. My eye was black for two weeks. I don’t even remember that part happening. Just my mother yelling at me for getting into trouble. I told her, ‘Ma, I was not fighting. I told you. I got jumped. They raped me.’ But she didn’t want to hear it.”

Nod. Slight. Gentle.

Say something Melissa. I am telling myself. Say something. Go ahead. There is so much to say. There is everything to say. There is this: Oh My God! All these years! And how did you manage? And how did you cope? And how alone you must have felt! And all those feelings! And by yourself! And your mother! And why now? And can you say more? And. And. And Oh my God. And Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh baby.

I know. I don’t think that it would have quite come out that way. If I spoke. If the words would come. But I don’t have the words. I have the feelings. I have the thoughts. I have the quiet safety of my office.

I am just here. Just with her in the story. I am back in 1966 under an overpass in the projects watching a sixteen year old girl get gang raped. And for now, just for now, I have nothing to say.

*Names and dates have been changed.

File under: A Day in the Life of a Therapist