Katie Fall 2002
“There are no real victims in life. Just by the simple means of survival, overcoming and learning to turn the page leads you into your future. Just by breathing into the next morning helps you start a new chapter of your life.”
“Be not defined by your past, but embrace it and make it become yours. “
“Not here. Not now. Not in my house.”
There was a stillness in the air, and the silence of the day brought a sense of calm to Katie Crawford. During the past eleven years she had graduated from high school, recuperated from her physical injuries and was just beginning to feel comfortable in her own skin again. Through several years of therapy, both emotional and physical, she had come to rediscover her sense of self.
Her father died one year after her incident, right after the insanity plea agreement for James Carl had been decided. Katie had given a statement. She had known Jimmy since grade school. It was the familiarity of seeing someone each day and growing up with them in the same neighborhood. He was quiet and a loner even through high school. She had been kind to him, and seemed to have a protective side whenever anyone tried to tease or make fun of him She never noticed he had developed this incredible crush on her that was first protective, then controlling and finally violent. But he never threatened to hurt her. He was always threatening to kill himself if he could not have her. Even this threat, although not against her person, was intended to cause fear, guilt and thereby her surrender to him.
The first time this happened was just a week ago. But she didn’t let it creep in as fear. She had simply said to him, “Jimmy, I’m sorry you feel that way and I hope you don’t. But you have to do what you have to do.”
It took her several months to recover physically and because she had only been fifteen at the time, she worked hard to put this entire incident behind her. She knew of Jimmy’s home life. She was aware that his father was mean and when he was drunk, he a monster. His mother, although extremely passive when it came to her husband, and extremely shy when around others. But she loved her son with all her heart. Somehow, one knew that if her son was ever in danger, she would summon the courage to do whatever had to be done to keep him safe.
She had sensed in her sophomore year that their friendship since grade school had slowly been changing. His personality change was unnerving her. As she kindly tried to avoid him, he became increasingly controlling. He began showing up outside her part time job at the local pharmacy. When dance team practice was over, she would see his car in the parking lot.
But it had been when she had left school to walk the few blocks to her home that things escalated and she became afraid. He had followed her in his car and pulled up to the wrong side of the street so he could talk to her from the driver’s side. She was trying to be as nice as she could, but kept walking quickly, telling him she had to get home. He stepped out of the car and moved towards her, hands out towards her.
“Katie, stop. I just want to talk….”
It was then that he grabbed her wrist, turned her towards him and tightly squeezed her hand. Pain immediately shot up her arm and when she looked at him, he had tears in his eyes. She snatched her hand from him just as he was releasing her wrist and she stepped back a few feet, pressing that hand down, looking at him.
“Jimmy, go home. “
“I’m sorry, Katie. I didn’t mean to do that. I’m sorry. I just want you to be my friend. I feel you are pulling away from me…”
“No, it’s just that you are always there. Go home now, and I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”
She had waited until he got back in the car and she noticed him shaking, and as he looked up at her like a frightened animal, her heart sank. Her fear and anger gave way to empathy. He was a very sad young man.
She told her parents when she got home, and her father insisted they take out a restraining order. She wasn’t sure, but she agreed. She trusted her father more than her empathy for Jimmy. So they went the next day and the restraining order had been served to Jimmy that night.
He wasn’t at school for two days and it was on the evening of the third day that “the incident” happened. She had learned over the past years to refer to what happened to her as” the incident.” It was her way to remain distant to the memories and to overcome the unwarranted guilt she fell into feeling that somehow, through her long friendship with him, and then slow detachment from him, this had somehow been her fault. Eleven years later, she knew it was not.
She was still living at home with her mom, but planned on moving in with her brother and his wife and family to help care for his children. It would be a temporary plan that would give her a place to live while completing her masters in sociology, specifically the dysfunctional brain. She knew one day she would have to know what it’s like to live by herself, but right now, that’s the one thing she could not do. Not yet.
Katie looked at her watch and realized she had been sitting in her car for over ten minutes. She reached for her purse, and flipped down the visor to glance at herself before stepping out of the car. She ran her fingers along the sides of her face, taming the loose strands that had broken free during the drive there. She saw the scar along the right side of her temple and brushed forward some of her hair to cover up the jagged line. She took a deep breath and stepped from the car, moving to the back seat to retrieve her tote bag with all her research and notes inside’ and began to walk down the sidewalk towards one of the red bricked buildings that loomed in the growing sunset. She always made sure she was inside wherever she was going before the sun set. If not, she would temporarily be frozen in time, her heart racing. This was another thing she found hard to do. Fear of nighttime and the unknown. This had been a result of the incident, one she never had experienced before.
She liked the fact that these seminars were being held in one of the conference rooms just inside the Fairfax County Judicial Complex. She felt safe along the well-lit walkways and followed the one that went around in back and down a flight of stairs that led to one of the conference rooms. It was one of the original buildings that were built over 60 years ago and where most of the basement rooms were accessed through a stairway that led below ground and opened directly into one of the rooms.
This particular room was always well lit. There were two windows at the ground level, side by side overseeing the stairwell. The room inside was simple yet pleasant. She walked over to the long table on the left side of the room. There was a large cabinet where someone had put on a pot of coffee and the aroma a fresh beans filled the air. She set down her tote bag, took out her notebook and note cards, said hello to several people as they entered the room and poured herself a cup of coffee. Adding a little bit of cream, and no more, she returned to her seat at the long table, and from a sheet of labels, she started to pass around the names of the people who had signed up for this seminar.
When a strong voice boomed that it was seven o’clock, asking people to get their snacks and drinks and take their seats, she smiled. She looked up at Skipper Thomas, one of the fellows at George Mason University to arrange the syllabus, organized the speakers, passed out all information. He was one of her professors and mentors that helped guide her through the process of becoming one again. She had known him for over eight years. He had learned of her story and was fascinated by how she was able to overcome what had happened, and he had studied her through various questions and observations. He came to believe she really had reclaimed her life and became the strong, confident young lady she had been in her teens. She had a few phobias and little quirks when it came to her professional life, yet she was easy to talk to and made people feel comfortable. Which was very important to him and to the students attending this seminar.
She caught his eye and he smiled and winked, calling everyone together as he took his seat. She sat next to him and arranged some papers before her, adjusting her reading glasses. She looked over at him and nodded, and he began.
“Welcome to our forum. We are glad you are here. I am Prof. Thomas, “Dr. Skip” if you prefer, and next to me is my associate, Ms. Katherine Crawford.”
In the back corner of the room, near the door, a large man seemed startled as he looked up to see the people behind the table. His mind raced with a thousand thoughts, trying to make sense of something that seemed impossible. He glanced to his sponsor on his left and his therapist to his right, and tried to stay calm. His heart began to race and he knew he had to calm down or he would be noticed. He knew he should say something, it was the right thing to do. As his conscience told him yes, the secret rumblings said to wait. He had to sort all this out. He was aware that this could happen one day, and they had practiced what he should do. He should turn and walk away and tell one of them immediately. But to Jimmy right now, it seemed the improbable just happened. Because he had a new interest in a Higher Power through his years of counseling and support groups, he knew he had to tell at least his sponsor.
“Is everything alright, Jimmy?” It was his therapist whispering in his ear. “ Do we need to go?
They always let him make the decision first, to check on the progress of his recovery. So far, out amongst “Normal” people, he had been okay. He had managed to be the person he wanted to be all along.
But in this moment, this time, he shook his head and said, “Just a little anxious, that’s all. It’ hard to hear what happened to all these people, is all. But I think it helps.”
He rolled his lips, and his body relaxed as he realized the intense emotions were not what he feared they would be. It had been over ten years, and he was tremendously sorry. He wasn’t sure what had caused this sudden flight feeling. He knew he would have to mention it to them at some point. But not now. Not when this room created a miracle.
He placed folded his hands on his lap, then fumbled with the pamphlet they had been given. He mind quieted as he said a little prayer. He wanted to stay calm, and not feel those old feelings. He wanted this to be his chance at amends. It would begin with this meeting and he would strive to be better having had this chance. He thanked his Higher Power for this opportunity and promised to be a better man when all this was over.
As the meeting began, and “Dr. Skip” began to speak, his mind settled into a soft drifting sleep, able to hear the words, embrace them, but keep any emotions down. He had to do this if he was to continue to get better. He knew he had to stay on all the medications and the structure of his life. He knew just one change, one deviation from all that he was doing to keep himself “normal” in the months since his release, could send him into a tailspin, spiraling down and out of control. He knew it only because they told him. He believed it because he knew it was the truth.
So he sat there calmly, his hands slat on the paper, his eyes never leaving her face, his heart now as calm as can be. This is how he has to behave, if he was to have any chance of making amends to her at all.
Standing before him, was a miracle. He hadn’t seen her since his sentencing and he tried not to focus on her face, just let her words wash over him. Katie Crawford was in the same room with him, and after so many years, that had to be enough for him.