The next week passed quickly, and it was group day again. This time there was no waiting–the door was open and several members had already found their places. There was no assigned seating, of course, but members appeared to prefer claiming and re-claiming their own space. Rob had already arrived, and Amber found the seat next to him vacant. He beamed at her and gave her an awkward sideways hug. He seemed really glad to see him, maybe as glad as she was to see him. She had not been in the presence of such a warm, affectionate man before-not one that wasn’t interested in sex with her. She fleetingly wondered why she had never thought of gay men as a source of mutual friendship.
The distance from the bean bag chair to the floor was minimal, and Amber ran her fingers nervously through the lush magenta carpet. The color of blood, she noted. Hopefully there wouldn’t be any bloodletting today! Rob leaned towards her and half-whispered, “Nervous?” When she didn’t immediately answer he added, “I am.” Amber sent him a grateful little smile.
At that moment Ed and Jackie arrived, occupying the bean bags which had been left vacant for them. After a brief period of silence, Ed began, “We usually begin group by taking a moment to get centered, and then to share how we’re feeling right now. For myself, I feel energized by our new members Rob and Amber, and regretful that Kelly had to call and cancel today because her daughter Becky is running a high fever. And my back is a little sore from moving furniture at home.”
And so it went. One member felt sad and guilty because she had needed to put her cat down that morning. She burst out, “Which is a euphemism for killing my cat! She trusted me!” A box of Kleenex was passed to her.
Another feared he was going to be fired soon because his boss had been increasingly short-tempered with him. He was also looking forward to a visit from his brother who lives in California. As the circular sharing grew closer to Amber, she began anxiously trying to think of something to say. This sudden withdrawing into herself was a familiar experience for her. Her high school counselor called it dissociation, a not uncommon psychological defense of survivors.
Her mind then went to memories of Miss Catherine Patterson, whom everyone referred to as ‘Miss Cat Pat.’ Neither she nor the counselor had uttered the word “incest,” and Amber later learned it was because of the new reporting laws. Instead of having to report to authorities and her dad getting charged and all the bad stuff that would have followed, Miss Cat Pat had just quietly pulled some strings and Amber went to live with her mother’s sister Betty, who lived across the city. Her father’s alcoholism was the excuse given. And it was a pretty good excuse, she reflected grimly. Amber was so inwardly focussed that she missed Rob’s sharing, and then the group was staring at her, expectantly. She was back in the room again and stammered, “Sorry, I guess I was just wool-gathering. ” The group was patiently waiting. Her throat tightened, all the way up to her ears, and sat therre unable to speak.
“No rush,” from Jackie, the female co-leader. Still everyone was eyeing Amber curiously.
Oh, what could she make up? School? That was it. Amber avoided the eyes that she felt upon her and replied, “I’m worried about an exam next week in my social studies class.” No good. Everyone was still silent, in anticipation. Waiting. Amber felt like a century passed before she broke down.
Jackie said gently, “And being afraid of men?….And your father? How often did he get drunk and how did he act then?”
Timid Amber flared up. “You just keep on and on, don’t you!”
Ed spoke. “You’d rather wait a year or two to get what you want from the group?” He was speaking softly also. Amber glared at him, then glared around at the group members.
“You just want me to say it, don’t you! That I was molested by my drunken father who kept warning me that men only want one thing!”
Jackie said, “You also said you hated your mother.”
“She slapped my face and said I had a dirty mind.” Amber finally appreciated the silence in the room which continued until they moved on to other matters.
The group hug felt good again, but Amber begged off on the dinner. “I’m just not hungry,” she said.
“I’m not either,” Rob said, and offered her a ride back to her dorm. He looked over at her in the passenger seat and added, “I hope you don’t mind taking a little side trip along the way.” A grin from Amber was his answer. “I just want to see how my grandfather is doing.” After a short drive Rob turned his Toyota up an incline by a circular drive and stopped at the front steps of a sprawling two-story brick house surrounded by a carefully tended lawn. Amber recognized a smattering of tulips with alternating colors in a bed along the front of the house, larkspur, zinnias, and a host of other flowers she was unfamiliar with.
Rob popped out of the car and opened the door for Amber, who was gazing appreciatively at the grounds. “This is where your grandfather lives?”
“This is where my grandfather and I live,” he amended.
“Will he be awake?”
“I believe he will be. “Let’s see.”