artwork by Francesca Strange
Notes from the Shrink’s Chair: Jimmy/Antonia
Dedicated to C.J., my heroine and a true bastion for bravery
OPEN SCENE: Right of frame, gloomy lighting. Dr. Strange sits at his oakwood desk, large and reclining, as he peruses his patients’ files. He furrows his brows, thick, under a mop of greying, greasy hair; he rubs his hands through it, a habit he has curated over the twenty years in his profession. A tell, if anything. He is clearly frustrated, stupefied, as to how he should proceed in his current state. A file, new, sits at the forefront of his desk; after a moment’s hesitation, he leafs through it.
STRANGE – takes out a voice recorder from his suit pocket. Turns it on.
Seventh of September, 2014. Patient James Connington, otherwise known as Jimmy to his family and friends. Fifteen years old. Heavily depressed, suffering from acute body dysmorphia. Tendencies towards self-inflicted bodily harm. Burns on forearms, bruising found on upper thoracic region and extending limbs. Heavily injured due to unreported reasons.
Latest diary entry, as follows.
CUT TO: A boy, sitting at a desk, on the opposite end of the frame. Scruffy-looking, wearing a football uniform scored with grass-stains and tussle. He kicks his football cleats off, spreading mud and dirt all over an otherwise clean, white carpet. He scribbles into an old exercise book, biting his lips as he struggles with his work. He hears his siblings playing behind him, and as a reflex, covers his notebook with his arm, protectively. Once he is sure that he is alone, he begins writing again.
Momma caught her today, just as she was about to leave the house. She had that beautiful necklace I picked out for her, the one that matches her eyes at it catches the sun. And that soft, suede lipstick, the one she wears with that dress I like. The pink one. She looked so beautiful in it, as she always does. So light and airy, like one of those story-book elves as she danced around my room. Enchanting, how free she can be. As if none of life’s rules applied to her. Like gravity; she didn’t agree with it, so she never let it buckle her down.
Anyway, we were about to go to church. Momma saw her sneaking out of my window, as she always does when she stays the night. She hates going to church, (it makes her feel like a phoney), so she never goes with the family. Anyway, Momma. Momma screamed hellfire when she saw her. She looked possessed, almost demonic with rage. I never heard her use words like that. Especially not on a Sunday. Next thing, Momma pushes her out the window. Just like that. It didn’t take much of a shove, she’s so light. There’s nothing to her. And from my room, you could see her lying on the grass. Strewn all over it, all of her spread across the lawn. Like a china doll. Pieces everywhere. The necklace crushed by the fall.
I didn’t linger. I had to go back upstairs, brush myself down, get ready for church, and pack my things for football. There’s a big game next weekend, and coach has been riding my ass about it for weeks. Saying things like: ‘Boys, it takes one to dismantle a team. Just one. And it is only men, men who can play this game. Because men know better than to pussy out when it hurts. Men know better than to stop, because men keep on going. When no one expects them to, when all odds are against them, only true men will cross that final line and take home the gold’. Coach never knows when to stop, when enough is enough. Never with her.
They were in the locker rooms, both of them. Coach and her. After football practice. I usually get changed there, on Sundays after practice. There’s this bar on the other side of town that only opens on Sundays. It’s called Antonia’s, by the way. The bar. Poppa drives past it when he goes to work, and sneers at it every day: ‘That fag bar, always full of goddamn fruitcakes. Goddamn scum, what fucking animals’. She doesn’t care about what Poppa says, she loves them all. It’s her favourite bar, because everyone there is just as outrageous as she is. And she’s friends with all the busboys, the kings and queens – And she dances with everyone: complete strangers, both men and women. She doesn’t care who they are, what they’ve done to get them there, at that bar. Because to her, it’s home. Antonia’s.
JIMMY (voice faltering)
She was slipping on her stilettos, as coach brushed himself up behind her. I saw him in the mirror behind me. I was packing up her things, her makeup, her kit. She was roaring to go, fired up as she always is. But I turned cold.
JIMMY (hysterical, sobbing as he recounts the rest)
His hands were wrapped around her throat, I couldn’t breathe. He pushed me to the ground, and pressed my cheek to the tiled floor with his muddy cleats. ‘This is what you were made for’, he hissed, as he stroked my back, ‘men like me take, women like you give. Make your choice, boy. What would you rather do? Would you rather give or, would you rather take?’. I lay there, silently. It wasn’t the first time, I thought, and it wouldn’t be the last. Unless I did something about it.
CUT TO: Dr. Strange, sitting emotionless. He pauses the recorder, sighs, and takes a sip out a hip flask. He continues:
Seventh of September, 2014. Coroner’s report – patient James Connington. Adolescent Male, Caucasian, mid-teens. Cause of death: asphyxia, constricting force applied to the ligature on the upper occipital region. Compressive narrowing of laryngeal and tracheal lumina observed. Ligature mark on neck is deeply impressed; it’s composition: superficial abrasions across the front and nape of neck, indicates the implementation of a thickly textured material. Most likely a rope. Will compare fibres to those found in the Connington family’s workshop. Severe Internal haemorrhaging in lower torso and abdominal area indicate heavy assault. Lipstick stains across his cheeks, across his face. Prominent bruising on face and forehead under thick cosmetic foundation. Also indicating a struggle. No fingerprints or biological fibres, or any forensic clues found on subject. Perpetrator, still at large.
CUT TO: Black.
END. Continue reading