Mom was going to counseling a lot, or some type of meetings. It was all hush-hush and grown-up talk but I had surmised that much. And that it had something to do with her parents. One day she took me with her.
The therapist was named Diana and she was really friendly. They always were. This was not my first therapy rodeo. I knew all the tricks, how to charm them the way I charmed Mom sometimes by pretending to agree with her, or maybe temporarily really agreeing with her on the way home from that visit to Mrs. Domaracki the day before school.
I knew how to pretend to be good. Talk about bad things other kids do, even if you’re really the one who does them more than anyone else. Use logic. Be interesting. Maybe mention quirky things like the flagrant love you had for the blood red octagons of stop signs as a three-year-old. If they can tell you’re smart, that you read a lot, that you think and feel deeply, they’re less likely to blame you. If you can infuse some Dad into your voice, speak with his bland cheerful optimism about topics like the weather, then maybe they’ll think you’re normal, let you draw pictures or play games. You have to not show all your smarts though, so then you can beat them in Battleship.
At every indiscretion—a not perfect grade on a test, talking in class when I wasn’t supposed to, not coming in from the playground in a timely manner after recess, not doing my homework completely or on time (a bad habit I’d quickly slid back into), reading during lunch instead of socializing with kids who made fun of me—Mrs. Domaracki called my mom. Even if it was just one thing in a day, it always counted for two warnings.
Night after night, several nights a week, I was sent to bed at seven. I lay in bed, watching the sky still light out outside my windows. Sometimes I’d stare at the tree out my east-facing window by my bed. Or stand at the south-facing window across the room with no big trees outside it but way more sky. I listened to the fire siren as its moan ebbed and flowed. In my head, I talked to my Care Bears on the white shelves near the south-facing window, telling them why it, whatever it was that day, wasn’t my fault. Sometimes they believed me. Sometimes they sided with Mom and Mrs. Domaracki.