She’s a woman in her mid-sixties and still dresses exclusively in bright neon colors. She cries before she talks. She knows she has come here to discuss her husband’s death. As she wipes her tears I notice her tattoos, so many—so loud. Then I wonder who has more, her or me? Now she sniffs a little and explains she is all cried out. We both know she is lying.
I ask her about her life with her husband and she tells story after story that makes me realize we are so different and yet the same. Drug abuse, suicide attempts, and repeated sexual violence-- which she explains led to her PTSD and her on-going quest to recover who she used to be. She carries so much with her every day.
I notice track marks on her arms and ask about them, gently. She replies “coping is coping.” We explore that idea together. As she talks, I think to myself “outside of my counseling office we wouldn’t be friends.” Then I ask myself why? It is clear she loves her husband as deeply as I love my wife. The more we talk the less I care what she looks like. We are both broken.
Her hair is pink, mine brown. Her tattoos are loud and colorful and unhide-able, mine under my clothes—memorials of my children. She copes with heroin, me with alcohol. I try to fit in--- and I’m jealous that she doesn’t feel the need to.
We might as well be twins. I put away my stuff and her soul shines.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR--------------------------------------
Jonathan Elmer earned his B.A. from St. Norbert College in Religious Studies and Philosophy and his M.A. in Counseling from Lakeland College. He has worked as a grief counselor for the past 6 years and serves on the Medical Ethics Committee at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center Appleton & Neenah/Children’s Hospital of WI-FV. Jonathan lives in Appleton, WI with his wife, Sarah, and two children, Jonah and Evelyn.