by Phoenix James
Semaj stood looking out the towering window over the limitless city in her office. The hustle and bustle of the slaving street below was the perfect diversion, her mind drifting from one thought to the next. Her ten-minute appointment warning alarm went off. Semaj had to prepare for her 4 o’clock client. She placed a few drops of rosemary essential oil in the oil diffuser and made sure the room temperature was at a precise 72 degrees. The final touch was extra pillows on the session sofa.
Her Thursday client arrived 4pm on the dot. Without any greeting, the woman charged into the room, plopping her small frame on the brown suede pillow style sofa. She rapidly launched her words of frustration and self-hatred. Her eyes were filled with tears, her mouth tightened and her hand shaking. It brought back memories of a deep scar in Semaj, one created by someone Semaj thought of as a sister…Rayne. Semaj handed the client a box of tissue.
“I understand your pain all too well. You can’t blame yourself for other people’s actions.”
The woman spoke through gritted teeth. “How can you know how I feel!?… I was raped!…That can never be undone!… Never!” Her mascara ran down her light rose-colored blush cheeks, leaving black spots on her white blouse.
Semaj sat in her high-back soft cushion chair across from the woman. She took a deep breath and began her story. Semaj thought of it as bearing her scars therapy. Most clients let down their walls once they realized Semaj had walked a few miles in their shoes.
“You know they say hindsight is 20/20, and sometimes it is. I feel so foolish for all the red flags I ignored. Rayne was the first person I’d ever gotten close to. We met after my parents split up and we had to move to the project. Rayne lived across the hall from us. From the moment they met my, mother didn’t like her. My mother said she was too fast and had no home training, but I hung out with her anyway. I spent my afternoons after school and weekends at her apartment. We remained friends even after we graduated school.”
Semaj took another deep breath as she continued her story. “I had buried the pain and thought I had moved on. I graduated high school and worked my way up in a small locally owned counseling center. I started out as the receptionist, worked my way up to intake specialist in a matter of a few months. We assisted people with transitions in their lives, they were either recently released from prison, former prostitutes, or young runaways. I enjoyed my job it, was therapy for me. I used the fact that I was helping other to ignore my own wounds that had not fully healed.
“Despite our many conflicts in high school I remained friends with Rayne. I would stop by her place to hang out sometimes after work. One afternoon I stopped by and she opens the door with a big smile and blurts out ‘I’m getting married.’”
“I was confused, so I asked ‘To whom?’ I never knew her to be serious with any guy. Like a bubbly school girl, she handed me the phone. I had a crazy look on my face because I don’t know who I am speaking to or why. ‘Who is on the phone?’ I whispered. She giggled, “My fiancé”.
“I still didn’t understand…why she was handing me the phone. “Girl just say… ‘hey’!” I slowly placed the phone to my ear “Hello?” The sound of this deep baritone male voice sent chills down my spine and rage in my eyes. The band aid I used to cover up how I was feeling came flying off with an ocean of pain behind it. I take note that Rayne is oblivious to my reaction.
“Girl! Doc asked me to marry him!…” My ears started to burn, and my face turned red. I tried to wrap my mind around the words she just said.
“‘Semaj…I know what you’re thinking he got 20 years for dope and that kidnapping charge but I’m working on getting a lawyer to get him out.’ I could have smacked her with the phone but instead I sat on the couch dumbfounded. I looked at Rayne, praying to God I heard her wrong. So I asked her just to make sure.
“That’s Doc from the hood?” I searched her face, hoping to hear her say no. Instead she rolled her eyes and popped an attitude. ‘Look Semaj…I know he raped in high school but he’s over that now and wants to take care of me and my kids. You should be happy for me!’ My body went numb. She actually said he’s over it.
“That night, the night I tried to forget, came rushing back. We were in high school. Rayne’s mother was working 3rd shift so we had the house to ourselves. Rayne called her boyfriend Doughboy over, who brought his friend Doc. I kind of knew the guy from school and he seemed cool. Rayne left me alone with Doc while she went in the other room with her Doughboy. I didn’t think much of it. I had gotten used to being her look out or the distraction.
“He wanted to kiss, and since I didn’t know him like that so I said no. He smelled of cheap weed and beer. The more I said no, the more pissed he got. He threw me to the floor, and things went fast from there. I remember him choking me, ripping my clothes. I screamed and tried to fight him off, but couldn’t he had me by at least 30 pounds. Rayne and Doughboy walked into the living room as he finished. Rayne ignored my ripped clothes and tears. I felt alone and ashamed. I tried my best to forget that night ever happened. To this day I hate the smell of weed and beer.
“Now she stood in my face seven years later grinning like a cheshire cat like it was no big deal. I had to leave the apartment before I did or said anything in front of her kids I would regret later. I got in my car and drove home. My heart was broken from what felt like her ultimate betrayal and my stupidity for believing she was my friend. I hated myself for a long time.
“I slipped into major depression. I even quit my job and moved back in with my mother. After months of lying in bed I got up and dragged myself to the bathroom.
“‘Bout time you get up and do something.’ I ignored my mother’s mouth and continued to walk in the bathroom.
“I turned on the light but I did not recognize who was staring back at me in the mirror. I looked horrible. My once long wavy hair was now uncombed and matted to my head. My eyes were puffy and swollen with dark rings around them. I was pissed off at myself.
Really we’re going to let this break you!? We friend people and expect them to act the way we want them to. We are not God we did not create anyone. We can’t change people but we are letting them change us! What don’t kill you makes you stronger and what hurts you makes you wiser. God blessed up with the gift of the counselor, please don’t let the devil take it. This was out test to use in our testimony to help other. Now we are going to get out of that bed take those life coaching classes and do what we were but here to do. The Lord’s work. Getting raped was not our fault. Rayne was born a snake, and we can’t change that! I took in a deep breath. I needed that heart to heart with myself.”
The woman’s stone face began to soften. Semaj noticed the woman had taken her heels off and sat with her feet tucked under her. The client’s wall was down, she realized Semaj could relate to her. “Thank you.” For the first time since their session the woman smiled as held one of the sofa cushions close to her chest.
Through tearful sobes the woman spoke “To look at you Semaj, in your big office, with nice clothes, nice hair and your flawless makeup…. I never would have thought you had gone through anything like this” Semaj gave her client a hug. “This office and all you see are examples of what prayer can do!”
Semaja helped the woman wipe the mascara from her face. “We all have scars… it’s ok… I turned the bricks that were thrown at me into stepping stones. Don’t let what he did break you. I know it hurts and it takes time to heal but don’t give up on life. Focus on the people that love and support you.”