Friday, January 9, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 2

The next chapter opens with Michelle coming in for another therapy session. Also another trite attempt to imbue the story with extra drama:

She could not seem to get comfortable at first, but finally she propped one of the pillows behind her back. That seemed to be better. It was as if she needed to have her back protected.

I have a pillow propped behind my back as I write this. Know why? Because it's comfy. Stop hanging unnecessary significance on every little detail, book. A trained psychotherapist of all people ought to recognize that sometimes a pillow is just a pillow. I don't think a pillow would offer much protection from Michelle's fantasy Satanists in any case. Besides being able to summon Satan in the flesh, they have daggers (which I imagine look something like this).

We then get some more standard (and dull) therapy stuff. Michelle talks about gaining lots of weight recently, and how this is similar to her childhood when she suddenly put on lots of weight in grade 2 despite being very skinny the year before. Dr. Pazder decides that the weight gain is probably due to something awful happening in her life during this time because it's not like people's metabolisms sometimes just naturally fluctuate or anything. I think I'll have to give him a pass on this one, though, since it was the 1970's and we didn't have a lot of the health/nutrition knowledge we do now and people do occasionally overeat as a response to stress.

After establishing that she has a memory "in bits and pieces" that she's trying to put back together, Michelle spontaneously regresses to her child-self and starts screaming and pulling up fragments of this memory. And here's where we get to another problem with this book.

Michelle's descriptions of her memories--as well as a lot of the dialogue--are all taken verbatim from transcripts of her therapy sessions. I understand why the authors made that choice, but the problem is that the words of people just talking in their everyday lives are rarely as clear and concise as carefully crafted character dialogue in a novel. I'm sure that they thought it would feel more honest and intimate for us to hear Michelle's real words instead of a "fake" version that was edited and sanitized for publication. Sometimes that kind of thing works, and can produce a significant emotional impact.

Here, though, it often just leaves me with no idea what the hell is going on.

In her distraught state, Michelle is not very coherent:

It'''s all black. Black. It's black! It's all black[...]I'm on this bed...I'm in the air. I'm in the air, and I'm upside down...There's this man and he's turning me around and around!

"This man" is Malachi, by the way. He's one of Michelle's main fictional tormentors, and we will run into him again. More on him (and believe me, there's plenty) in a later post.

He says he's pointing me...He says, "North...west..." and he points me real hard. He turns me over and grabs my neck and points me. I don't want to be all pointy. It hurts. Why is he hurting me?

I'm having a devil of a time* picturing what's going on here. I'm pretty sure that it involves Malachi beating her up and throwing her around before (apparently) performing some sort of ritual that involves forcing her to face the cardinal directions, but the finer details of the scene are fuzzy at best.

It was black and I could see my teddy bear...First he was really far away...down...he was in a tunnel...I could see him coming closer, and the closer the bear got...the more I floated...   

I've omitted the rest of the roughly three pages' worth of this rant. It goes on like this, for what seems like forever, interspersed with endless repetitive interjections of "help me" and "I hurt" without ever making things any clearer. Damn it, book, editors are your friend. Dialogue cribbed from a disturbed woman's therapy sessions is not.

Michelle comes out of her fit and, interestingly, confesses that at least part of her "memory" is false: her teddy bear, which she supposedly clung to for comfort during her abuse, was a figment of her imagination. She asks Dr. Pazder if he thinks she's crazy. Here's his response:

"...Crazy would be if you believed you had turned into a bear and went around thinking other people were crazy because they didn't know you were a bear."

...which seems a rather arbitrary place to draw the crazy line. I wonder what Dr. Pazder would make of Otherkin.

We conclude with a note that the session has lasted four and a half hours, which makes me feel a lot better about the 20 minutes I spent slogging through this chapter.

*tee hee, puns. When you're stuck reading a book this shitty, you make your own fun.

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