The Diary of Dakota Hammell

Dakota Hammell was an ordinary teenager until he ran away from home at the age of sixteen, but after being brutally beaten, raped and left for dead, there seems to be little hope in his life—that is, until a man claiming to be a psychologist walks into the alleyway he’s lying near-dead in and offers him a second chance at life. John tells Dakota he can stay with him as long as he wants, but there’s a catch: For each day he stays, he has to write a journal entry about his life, his problems, and his potential future. With little choice, Dakota agrees, but is wary of the situation, as past experience with strangers has shown to have negative effects. But when things with John begin to work out and life becomes nothing out of the ordinary, his heart finally begins to open and his journey can finally be told. A story of hope, of healing, and ultimately, of friendship, The Diary of Dakota Hammell offers a brief glimpse into a life of fractured teenager who has lost everything but his abili


2. Days 11 - 21

Day 11

John’s not going to be here for the next three days. He said he has to go on a business trip and that I’ll be here alone. When I asked if he was all right with me staying here, he said that yes, it was fine, that just because he’s going on a business trip doesn’t mean he’s going to kick me out of the house.

“Keep writing,” he said, “because I’ll be looking forward to your entries when I get back.”

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do while he’s gone, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out. He’s got a library full of books and a catalogue’s worth of DVDs on a shelf under the entertainment center. He also said he’s got some free movie-on-demand thing that he can show me how to use before the night is over.

At least I won’t be bored while he’s gone.

At least, I hope not.

Day 12

I spent the better part of the morning wandering around the house. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for almost two weeks and still haven’t seen most of it, but I guess I can’t blame myself, seeing as how I haven’t been able to walk very well. It seems like my ankle’s almost healed and my ribs are hurting less and less every day, so I decided to use my newfound strength to explore my surroundings.

I’ll get this out of the way right now, John—I went in your office. I won’t lie and say I didn’t touch anything, because I did, but I didn’t take anything. I’m not much of a thief anyway, seeing as how I have a guilty conscience, and even if I was, I don’t think I’d take anything from your office. Not that I’m saying I’d know if I would or not, because I can’t know because I’m not a klepto, but I didn’t take anything.

For personal recollection’s sake, I’ll start at the beginning: At about nine-thirty this morning, I wandered into the kitchen and went through the cupboards. Cans, medicine and other essentials filled most of them, but I found some pots and pans on the lower shelves (which killed me to bend over to open. That moment pretty much killed any relief I’d had in my chest.) They’ll come in handy if I want to try and cook anything while John’s gone, but I doubt I’ll be doing it, seeing as how I’m still in my awkward injury phase. The discovery of the pots and pans isn’t really essential though, so I’ll keep going, less I bore myself and John. I wandered through the kitchen for a little while afterward, looking at knickknacks and other personal objects, before leaving the kitchen to walk down the long hall that my room is in. The door after my room (the second in the hall) holds a guest bedroom. I didn’t bother to go in there because there didn’t seem to be anything of interest, and mostly because I knew from the lack of presence that no one usually slept in there. I then proceeded to walk down the hall to the third and fourth door, the third of which John sleeps in, the fourth of which is the office, positioned directly at the end of the hall.

I’ll tell you, John—when I first looked at the doorway, I felt like a kid going to Narnia. When I opened it, I felt the exact same way.

There’s a giant desk in John’s room. Atop it are a varying assortment of objects, the most prominent in particular being the Chinese dragon that spans the entire front edge of it. I was immediately gravitated toward it the moment I set foot in the room. I ran my hand over its intricate head, its scaly back, its rough legs and its sharp claws. His red scales and his hypnotic, golden eyes were so beautiful that I could have spent the next hour awing over him, but I eventually pulled myself away and looked around the rest of the office. I briefly saw the library when I watched him open the door one night while going to bed, but until this morning, I hadn’t realized that the whole western wall was one complete shelf. Most of it is covered in psych books, but the bottom half holds a world of fiction, completely alphabetized by author and, in some cases, by the individual date of each edition’s release. I found it funny that the first book that I laid eyes on was the Narnia collection, seeing as how I’d felt just like those kids when they opened the wardrobe upon stepping up to the office door, but I didn’t dwell on it. I seated myself in the office chair and spun around the room, taking in everything—the wood paneling, the shelf on the wall opposite the books which holds rows upon rows of intricate sculptures and pictures, the cupboards just below that shelf, which I didn’t dare open. Just sitting in there made me feel so important, so special, so honorable. To think that a man of such stature would open his home to me, a runaway, and trust me with his personal belongings was such an amazing feeling. There’s been few times in my life that I’ve felt truly special. Right now is one of them.

Hopefully I didn’t overstep my boundaries.

If I did, I’m sorry.

Day 13

Day 2 of John being gone. I can already feel the pressure of being here all alone. I’m not used to not hearing him in the morning, getting up to take a shower or cursing the coffee maker. I’m not used to hearing his footsteps in the hallway. I’m not even used to the door not being cracked open every morning before he leaves so he can check on me.

It’s scary.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this. I never used to be so dependent on someone. Before, I used to just sit under a bridge and stick my thumb up in the air to make my way around or stand on a street corner to make a few extra bucks. It’s so—different, having someone who cares about you and is willing to help you do whatever you need to do. In a way, I like it, but in another I’m wondering if I’m just using it to my advantage because I’ve always had to do everything for myself. I don’t think I am, but it’s not hard to wonder, especially when I’m still worried about my guard falling down and personal feelings getting in the way of better personal judgment.

(To John—sorry about this again. I’m just being honest.)

John’s only going to be gone for one more day. Come Saturday, he’ll be back in the house and here for a three-day weekend. Maybe I’ll ask him to take me somewhere, maybe a movie or a bookstore. A movie might be easier, since I’m still having trouble walking, and at least in a darkened theater no one will be able to see just what my face looks like.

It’ll heal.

For now, though, I’d just rather no one see me if they didn’t have to.

Day 14

John’s going to be home tomorrow. I can’t even begin to describe how happy that makes me feel, especially since I just spent the last few hours combing the house for Tylenol. I discovered I was out this morning and panicked because my face was throbbing. It only made it worse when I had to scour the house for it. Thankfully I found some in John’s room, but now I’m sore everywhere and feeling miserable as hell.

Thankfully he’s going to be home tomorrow.

I hate having to depend on him for everything. The past three days have been a wreck, both physically and emotionally. It’s even worse that I have to admit it because John’s going to be reading it here shortly. I don’t want him to feel like he has to do everything for me, but right now, that’s pretty much the circumstance I’m in. I had to have him help me use the bathroom when I first got here, I had to have him help me shower, he has to cook for me and, up until recently, he had to bring me my drugs. The fact that I’ve been walking around is a miracle unto itself.

I don’t know.

Before, all I had to do was stick my thumb in the air if I had to get somewhere or stand on the side of the street to make a few extra bucks. Considering I lived off fast food for nearly three years, I’m surprised I’m not heavier than I am. Then again, I’ve always been rail thin. Dad used to joke that I’d grow up to be just like Mom when I was younger—rail-thin and with a pretty face. He got the rail-thin part right, and even though I didn’t grow up to have a ‘pretty face,’ I must have grown up to have something, considering it was so easy to get a hookup.

He’ll be home tomorrow. I won’t have to worry about anything then. 

Day 15

John’s home. He pulled into the driveway about three hours ago and has been lazing about the house ever since. He hasn’t read my journal yet, but I don’t expect him to, especially after seeing the look on his face. The first thing he did when he came in was collapse on the couch beside me, but he said he was all right, regardless of the fact that he looked exhausted and that he could hardly keep his eyes open.

“The pollen up there is bad,” he’d said, upon noticing me staring at his bloodshot eyes. “Don’t worry—I’ll be fine.”

Three hours later, he’s sitting in a recliner with a binder in his lap and a cup of coffee at his side.

Coffee at five in the evening—that’s unheard of. Then again, I don’t really blame him, considering the way his face looks.

(Nothing of real importance, but he just looked up at me after I finished writing that sentence. A bit awkward, but funny at the same time.)

He says he’s going to have me put some cold compresses on my face, particularly over my eye. He thought the swelling would have gone down over the weekend and just told me that the doctor wanted me to come back in if my eye didn’t get better within the next two weeks. Well, it’s been twelve days, which means that by tomorrow morning, I’ll most likely be sitting in a doctor’s office waiting for Dr. Bishop to look at my face.

Oh well.

I just want my face to heal up and the bruising to go away.

Day 16

Dr. Bishop prescribed cold compresses three times a day and Tylenol until the swelling goes down.

“It shouldn’t take too much longer. It’s already healing.”

True—the purple part of the bruise has nearly dissipated and the skin is mostly just red and puffy, but I still can’t open my eye. Dr. Bishop forced it open at the clinic and I could still see out of it (though not very well, given the fact that he had to physically pry my top lid open,) so I shouldn’t have any problem with that regard.

Afterward, John took us for ice cream. It was a guilty pleasure of his, he said, and while we were sitting in the parking lot, he with his vanilla, I with my chocolate, he looked over at me and offered a small, unprovoked smile. When I asked what that was for, he simply shook his head and picked a piece of cookie out of his shake with his spoon.

John, I’d said.

“What?” he’d replied.

What was that for?

“Does it have to be for anything?”

Up until then, I’d always thought that there had to be a reason to smile. Smiling is what you do when you’re happy, or when you see someone you love or when you laugh at something you think is funny. I’ve never known anyone to smile out of natural impulse, especially unprovoked, so when John looked over at me and smiled, it scared me.

Whenever someone’s smiled at me in the past, it’s always been because they had something to gain.

I know I didn’t talk about it earlier, John, and I know that this is probably an awkward and inappropriate way to go about explaining it, but I can’t remember if anyone’s ever smiled at me like the way you did. I mean, I know my mother smiled at me at one point, and I know my dad used to do the same before he lost his mind to drugs, but I always thought that your parents smiled at you because they were supposed to, because they loved you and it was their job to make you feel wanted. Strangers smile sometimes, sure, but it’s out of awkward impulse, and sometimes someone who likes you smiles, but only because they’re unsure how to directly approach you.

Smiling has always been a strange thing for me.

I’m glad to know that when you smile at me, it isn’t for some personal gain.

It means a lot.

Day 17

The cold compresses are making my face hurt. This probably won’t be a long entry, but I just wanted to say that after going to bed early and waking up early, I have a bit of a better understanding about why John smiled at me other the day—‘for no reason at all,’ like I put it.

He cares about me.

It’s a simple realization, but I don’t think it’s a bad one. I’ve used the word ‘care’ a few times throughout the entirety of this journal, but I don’t know if I’ve ever really meant it as more than a passing glance, a word to write down when I wasn’t sure what exactly to say. It’s always weird to come to a realization about something you should have known all along, but were afraid to truly understand for fear of it somehow destroying you.

I’m not sure what else to say.

John’s going to be home here in a minute. He said he didn’t feel like cooking, so he went to pick up hamburgers from the place around the corner.

“It’s close enough to walk,” he said. “I won’t be long.”

The car just pulled into the driveway.

I’ll stop.

Day 18

John placed a bottle of Saint John’s Wort in front of me last night. He asked if I’d ever had any problems with my mood and if at times felt anxious for no reason. “Judging from your recent journal entries,” he’d said, “you might have a mood disorder.”

I wasn’t sure what to think. I’m still not.

John offered to take me in for psychological testing, but I’m still not sure if I want to do it. I mean, he’d be paying for it, so it wouldn’t be a penny out of my pocket, but I’m not necessarily sure I like the idea of knowing if something’s wrong with me if something really is.

Funny, isn’t it? We’re obsessed with knowing whether or not we’re sick, but whenever someone poses the question and thinks you might be, you get scared. Is that because we’re all secretly afraid of having something wrong with us, or is it because we’ll know that something is wrong? I’m not sure, but both questions are running through my head at this very instance and have been since last night.

I haven’t decided if I want to go in for the testing. John said it’d be a combination of Q and A and some blood work. When I asked about talking to a psychologist, he simply smiled and said, “I am a psychologist, Dakota.”

It’s no wonder he’s always carrying that binder around. He’s probably got a book on me and I’ve only been here for eighteen days.

Oh well.

I’ll talk to John about it a little more tonight. Maybe he can ease some of my insecurities and convince me that going to the doctor won’t be the worst thing in the world.

Day 19

I asked him to wait until the three-week mark on the psychological testing. I never was able to figure out why I’m so scared about going (whether it’s me worrying if something’s wrong with me or me being afraid to definitely know something is wrong with me,) but regardless, the extra time will help me get my head in order and help me decide what exactly I’m going to do.

Last night, after I finished writing my journal entry, I sat John down to ask him some questions about what he thought I could have. It basically went like this:

“Do you hear voices?”—No.

“Do you go from being suddenly happy to being suddenly depressed for no reason at all?”—No.

“Do you get anxious for no reason?”—I’d mentioned this before in a journal, and to him specifically, but I said no.

“Do you have any overwhelming fears that keep you up at night?”—Not particularly. I told him I worried about being here and how I might be a burden on him, but I said I never had any overwhelming fears about him kicking me out.

“Do you have trouble interacting with people?”—No. If I had trouble interacting with people, I would’ve never been able to hitchhike or serve as a travelling prostitute.

After he finished quizzing me on the brief, off-the-top-of-his-head conditions, he told me what they were in the order he asked them in—schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder (for questions three and four,) and social anxiety disorder for the fifth. He also asked if I had issues with my body (a big red flag for body dysmorphic disorder) and if ever had problems with headaches, heart palpitations or nausea (for increased blood pressure,) but I answered no to all three. With his questions asked and my answers given, he simply stared at me for a moment, then let out a deep breath.

He asked a question I didn’t expect.

“Do you think you have Autism?”

Most people think of someone suffering with Autism in one way—a stupid, mentally-impaired person who lacks conversational skills or the ability to do the most simple of tasks: in essence, a retard. Up until that point, I had had the same idea about the condition, but John explained a variation of Autism that most people aren’t even aware of until later in their lives.

“It’s called Aspergers,” he said. “People with the condition are known to have trouble interacting with people and to have repetitive behavioral patterns and interests.”

He said the one thing that might set me apart from the normal spectrum, if indeed I had it, would be my innate ability to write. He asked if I’d ever been taught formal writing and I said yes, in school, but no one teacher had ever taught a class on how to compose a journal or write a story. When he asked how I’d gotten so good at it, I said one thing—practice. All of my old writing is at home, hidden under the loose floorboard under the bed in a binder inside a shoebox. I’ll probably never see it again. I guess it doesn’t really matter. None of it was ever of any real importance to me. None of it means anything.

Nothing meant anything until now.

This book—this journal—means something.

Day 20

I ended up taking some of the Saint John’s last night. After laying in bed for nearly three hours without any hope of falling asleep, I ended up crawling out of bed, going into the kitchen and popping one of the little green pills.

I was out an hour later.

They look like little seeds, the insides of the pills, plants squished to the point of dust. I’m not sure if it’s meant to look reassuring, but I guess I can’t help but feel that it does, at least to me. Maybe I just have a defeatist mentality. Regardless, though, I ended up falling asleep at around one in the morning.

I just woke up. My writing’s probably a bit disjointed and I already know I look like a mess, but it doesn’t matter. John’s been at work for three hours and won’t be home for lunch for at least two. He won’t stay long—he never does. I think he only comes home to check on me, seeing as how he never really eats anything when he gets here. “I’ll pick up a scone on the way back,” he says, but never tosses a receipt in the trash when he gets home. It’s a bit worrying, thinking that he foregoes eating in order to come check on me, but I guess I can’t obsess over it.

I should probably stop writing.

I’ve got the rest of the day to think about whether or not I want to go in for psychological testing.

Let’s see how this works.

Day 21

We just got home.

It’s three in the afternoon.

I’m mentally exhausted.

For nearly four hours, I sat in a hospital alternating between both a doctor’s and a psychologist’s office. The doctor drew blood, asked about symptoms, drew some more blood, asked about hereditary illness in the family, questioned me about my eating habits, to which I replied I’d only just gotten on a substantially-healthy diet, that I’d only been eating well for the past three weeks.

When the man asked why I wasn’t eating well before that, I shrugged and said I was homeless.

The doctor had frowned, then looked down at my arms. He seemed disappointed when he saw nothing other than fading bruises.

“Drug use?” he’d asked.

No, I’d replied. My family kicked me out.

He asked about the rape and if I’d been tested for STDs. I said yes. He pulled up my record and said that everything should be fine, disease-wise, then checked my face (which is still partially swollen up,) my ribs (which still hurt, but not to the point of agony) and my ankle (which has since stopped hurting entirely, though I still walk in favor of my left side.)

“Do you have any questions?” the doctor had asked.

No, I’d said. But thank you.

He directed me down the hall and said to wait in the chair by the door marked ‘Dr. Anderson.’ I thought of only two things before I left the office—a buxom-blonde with big tits and a silver fox on the six o’clock news.

I waited for at least a half-hour before the door to Dr. Anderson’s office and the man himself ushered me into the room.

“Hello,” he’d said. “My name is Doctor Anderson. You must be Mr. Hammel?”

Yes sir, I’d said, trying not to stare at his face. He had a scar running down from his hairline and over one eye, like he’d been in a war and had a piece of shrapnel glance off his skull, and hair so white it looked as though he’d been born from the depths of the frigid snow. He wasn’t bad looking—not in the least—but he wasn’t extraordinarily handsome like John. Maybe that’s what happens when you have scars on your face—you instantly become less attractive, at least physically.

I was only able to pull my gaze away when he started laughing.

Sorry, I’d said.

To which he replied, “Don’t worry about it. Sit down. Let’s talk.”

And talk we did, for nearly three hours. He asked me to tell him my story. Much of it was abbreviated—I told him little about my childhood, nothing about the experience at the lake, and nothing about my past as a prostitute. It might be wrong of me to say this, John, but I didn’t tell him a whole lot of anything. I said my father kicked me out three years ago because he was going out of his mind and I’d been living on the road ever since. You know how it is, telling people about your story when you’re not sure how they’ll react. With you I’m an open book (which is rather ironic considering,) but with others—

I don’t know. I guess I’m like a sleeve that’s torn off pieces at a time, but with the threads left intact.

I should probably stop going on about sleeves and threads and open books and get to the point.

He ran a few minimal tests on me. He started with a general Q and A, much like the doctor before him had, but asked me things I hadn’t expected. He asked me what my favorite color was (red) and to explain what I thought it meant (passion, like blood when it’s spilling out on the highway.) He wrote this down, then asked me what my favorite animal was. It took me a while to think about it, but I finally told him the stag, a beautiful creature with a strong posture and with a head always hung high.

He asked why the stag was my favorite animal. I told him because it was the strongest image of perseverance I’d ever seen.

Doctor Anderson looked at me for a moment, as though examining my features for the slightest flaw, then asked me if I’d ever killed one of them.

No, I said. I would never kill something just to take its life away.

He asked if I was vegan. I said no. He nodded, shrugged, then wrote something down on his clipboard. I caught sympathetic and thoughtfully caring before he set his hands back in front of him and continued to watch me. He waited several long moments before he smiled, leaned to his right, then pulled a folder from a compartment on his desk.

“Do you know what a Rorschach test is?” he’d asked. I’d immediately nodded. “Would you like to take one?”

I asked him if I had any choice. He said that I was here for my treatment, not his, and that I could choose to do whatever I wanted to.

I told him yes.

He said he was going to show me five ink blots and to tell me what I saw in them.

I saw a castle and two knights in the first one.

I saw a heart with wings in the second.

I saw a cat sitting on a hill in the third.

I couldn’t tell what was in the fourth. There was no consistency to the ink, just splashes of color in a strange, nonsensical pattern, like someone had simply tipped a vial of paint over in the attempt to make something out of nothing. I stared at it for a long time before I finally told him that I saw nothing other than ink.

“You’re sure?” he asked.

I’m sure, I said.

“Look closer. See if you can see something inside it.”

I looked closer, expecting to see something else. The way Anderson asked me to look at it a second time made me second-guess myself, so I tried to find anything I could that I’d possibly missed the first time around. I expected to see grey ink, or at least specs of white interlaced throughout, but I couldn’t see anything.

Just as he was about to put it away, I held up my hand and told him to stop.

I leaned back in my seat.

Further away, I could see small spots of white, like bubbles floating up from the bottom of the sea. I could also tell that the ink had been applied in layers, splashed in ways still nonsensical, but resembling actual patterns.

I told him that I saw volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean, producing bubbles instead of ash.

He nodded, smiled, then held up the fifth and last image.

I told him it was a deer.

“Everyone says that,” Anderson had laughed. “Even I see it.”

Afterward, we continued on with the Q and A, made small talk about certain things when they came up in conversation, and played a ‘what comes to mind when you hear this word’ game. We first played it with similar, then with opposites. By the time John knocked on the door, I had been in the office for a little more than three hours.

“You ready to go?” John had asked.

I nodded, stood, then shook Doctor Anderson’s hand.

He told me not to worry, that everything would be fine and that he would get the results back to me within a week or two.

To you, John—I know you won’t read this until later, and I know you’ll be disappointed with me for not sharing more than I did with him, but I want you to know that you’re the only person I trust in my life.

Thanks for helping me.

You mean more to me than you could ever imagine.

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