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Authors: Laurie Gray

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BOOK: Maybe I Will
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“That's what I thought.”

Everyone was already lined up on the mat and clapping in unison as Shanika and I bowed and entered the testing area. I took
my place at the back of the class with the other white belts and Shanika stood beside her father at the front of the class.

Mr. Washington bowed us all in and then explained how we would proceed, from white belts all the way up to red belts. There wouldn't be anyone testing for black belt, because you had to do that at a formal testing with several high-ranking black belts as judges. Once you got up to camo belt, the testing included sparring, and once you got up to brown belt, you had to do board breaking, too.

Even though all of the forms and everything got more difficult as you advanced, Mr. Washington said that white belt testing was the hardest because it was the first time you had everyone watching you with the pressure of performing each move accurately. “Once you have earned your orange belt, you have the confidence of knowing for certain that you can do this, one step at a time. Your instructor would not allow you to test if you weren't ready.”

I was glad white belt testing came first. I was done in no time and able to watch all of the higher ranks without having to worry about forgetting my own form. And I'll admit, the person I watched most closely was Hector. He had his orange belt and was testing for his yellow belt.

Hector seemed to get lost at one point in the middle of his form. He just stood there for a moment, and I thought maybe he would give up or have to start over, but he didn't. Even when everyone else had finished, and the whole place was waiting on him, he didn't let it rattle him. I could tell he was mentally going through all of the moves in his mind and then when he caught up again with where he had stopped, he continued. And when he finished, the whole place applauded. Not just for him, but for all of the orange
belts that were on the floor. But Hector was smiling like it was all just for him.

He did all of his one-step sparring segments with confidence. I looked around the room and wondered if anyone else knew he'd been assaulted.
Probably not. You wouldn't know if Shanika hadn't told you, and Shanika wouldn't even know if she hadn't overheard it.
No one except Shanika knew that I'd been assaulted.
Aaron knows what he did. Yeah, well, not like he's going to tell anyone.
No one except Shanika knew that I was a thief and a drunk.
Except maybe the people at the store. And maybe the police. Would they turn the videos over to the police?

By the time testing was finished and we were reciting the honor, integrity and self-control pledge at the end, I was kind of glad that I was going to see a therapist. I thought about the way Shanika had said it.
Psycho therapist. Maybe if the woman is totally psycho, she'll at least understand how I feel.

17

To be, or not to be—that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep—

—Hamlet
, Act III, Scene i, Lines 58-60

S
HANIKA DROVE ME
home after the testing, and we had a chance to talk. I really wanted to ask her what she was doing this weekend and see if maybe we could just hang out sometime, but I was kind of afraid to ask, and she didn't offer.

“Thanks for the ride,” I said as I got out of the car.

“See you Monday,” she called back to me, and drove away.

So long, Shanika. So long, spring break.
I stood there waving quite a bit longer than I should have. Definitely longer than I would have if Mom or Dad had been home. But they wouldn't be home from work for several hours yet. Which left me with nothing to do, except work on my AP World History assignment: What is character?

I pondered this question as I pulled out the three vodka bottles I had hidden in my closet, one full, one mostly full and one empty. Just looking at them made my mouth water and my stomach tighten.
To drink or not to drink—THAT is the real question.
On the one hand, I really wanted a drink to help me relax and get the creative juices flowing. On the other hand, I didn't know how long this vodka needed to last. My days of just walking out of a store with a bottle were over.

And what about character? Does character allow me to take a drink or no? What about the character I'm playing? Does the character I'm playing take a drink? What is character really?

I pulled out my phone and searched the internet for “character.” Turns out the dictionary had more than a dozen definitions. I read through all of them. The only thing that spoke to me was the phrase “out of character.”
That's me. Out of character. My character is gone. Drinking and stealing and feeling totally defeated . . . none of that is me. Where did it come from? Who am I becoming?

I wasn't getting any closer to writing anything down for my assignment. Back to my real question of the moment: To drink or not to drink? Is it nobler to suffer all of the slings and arrows of my outrageous fortune or should I pick up the bottle and calm my sea of troubles?

I'm not a drunk. I don't have to drink. Except for last night, I haven't had hardly anything to drink all this whole week. But I'm feeling really thirsty now. Just don't think about it. Think about something else.

I started thinking about talking to Dr. McMann. What would I tell her? Where would I start? Who was she, anyway? I looked her up on the internet. The address popped up first. Her office was downtown, close to where my mom worked. I clicked on the link to her web page. This is what I saw: D
R
. E
RIN
M
C
M
ANN
, P
SY
D, HSPP, ABPP across the top of the page. Underneath that was a headshot of Dr. McMann and underneath that were the words: P
SYCHOLOGIST
— T
HERAPIST
.

First I focused on her name. Erin. Then the word T
HERAPIST
jumped out at me.
Oh, my God, I don't believe it. I really don't believe it.

I opened the mostly full bottle of vodka and took three swallows straight down. I stopped at three because I wasn't actually sure that last one was going down. My eyes watered and my nose burned. I coughed and gagged and looked at the web page again. Unbelievable. I turned the phone off and threw it on my bed.

I picked up my spiral notebook and turned to a clean page. I wrote “Erin” and “Therapist” across the top. I poured some vodka in a glass and took a drink. I don't know how long I sat there staring at the words. Finally, beneath them I wrote: “Erin” and “The rapist.”
Of all the counselors in the world, my parents are sending me to Erin TheRapist.

I had to get out of there before my parents came home. I carefully filled a water bottle with vodka to take with me and hid the rest. After much thought, I turned to a clean page in my notebook and wrote, “Meeting Hector at the library to work on history assignment.” I signed my name, tore the page out of my notebook, put the notebook and bottle of vodka in my backpack, and left the note on the kitchen counter on my way out.

Maybe I will go to the library.
My parents wouldn't worry if they thought I was at the library studying with someone. They knew my only assignment over spring break was a history assignment. They knew Shanika, Troy and Cassie weren't in my AP World History class, but all they knew about Hector is that we were in the same grade and that we both did the taekwondo rank advancement camp this week. They didn't know he wasn't actually in my AP World History class, but they also didn't know his parents well enough to just call them if they had a question like they might with Cassie's
mom or Troy's dad. Plus, there are a dozen libraries in town. I could go to any one of them.

All I really wanted to do was walk. Just keep walking someplace where no one would notice me. Away from the university where my dad was. Away from downtown where my mom was.
And where Erin TheRapist has her office.
Without really meaning to I found myself walking back to the taekwondo place.

The studio was closed, so I just went around back to the picnic table. I set my backpack on the table, pulled out my water bottle and took another drink. Only I didn't really feel any relief. In fact, I think I actually felt worse. I screwed the top back on and set the bottle on the table next to my backpack. Then I started doing my white belt form. When I was done, I started all over. I did it again and again until I realized it was getting dark and also starting to cool down. I dug a sweatshirt out of my backpack and pulled it on.

I sat on the table in the dusk with my notebook and started to write.

I am everything.
I am nothing.
I could be anyone
Or no one at all.

I once had everything.
Now I have nothing.
I'm trapped in the darkness
Behind a brick wall.

What happened to everything?
I laugh and think nothing.
I'm not turning back.
I'm not willing to crawl.

Where is everybody?
Now that I'm nobody
All of my friends
Are just bricks in the wall.

I shoved my notebook back into my backpack. I needed a plan. A plan to get through the night and the weekend. A plan to get through my first session with Erin TheRapist. Mom's voice:
Well, the first thing you can do is stop calling her that. Her name is Dr. McMann.
I needed a plan to get through my first session with Dr. McMann or to find another therapist.
The Rapist.
Counselor. I needed to find another counselor. I lay down across the top of the table and using my backpack as a pillow closed my eyes and went to sleep.

When I woke up it was dark, and there was someone shaking me.

“No!” I shouted, struggling to get up and away.

“Sandy, it's okay.” My eyes focused on Mr. Washington standing barefoot in his taekwondo uniform. “What are you doing here?”

I stood up, but I couldn't think of anything to say. “I just . . . “ I started. Mr. Washington waited. “I don't know,” I admitted. “I was just looking for a place where I could think.”

“Well, it's a little too cold and a little too dark for me to just leave you out here thinking all night long. Come inside with me.” He motioned for me to follow him in the back door. We walked through the same storage room I'd been in this morning, but it seemed a lot darker and more ominous at night.

“I didn't think anyone was here,” I said. I rubbed the green rubber dummy's six-pack abs for good luck as we walked past and into the dimly lit studio.

“I came back for a private lesson and was closing up shop for the weekend,” he said. “I didn't think anyone else was here, either.”

It felt weird being in the studio all alone with Mr. Washington. I wasn't afraid really, but I didn't feel like I belonged there anymore.

“Just have a seat over there while I finish up.” Mr. Washington motioned to some stools by the counter. He erased the weekly white board calendar on the wall and wrote in the stuff for next week. “You got a car?” he asked when he was through.

“No, sir,” I replied. Taekwondo was all about calling people “sir” and “ma'am.” It seemed funny at first, especially calling Shanika “ma'am,” but now I said it without thinking.

“So you want to tell me what you were thinking about?” Mr. Washington asked this kindly. He wasn't pressuring me, but I knew I couldn't tell him what I was really thinking about. So I decided to talk about the assignment.

“I have to do a paper on character,” I said. “Due Monday.”

“Well, I'm flattered that you came here.” He smiled as he shuffled some papers into several stacks by the cash register. “So did you figure out what to write?”

I shook my head. “I ended up thinking more about honesty and integrity.”
And self-control, only I don't want to say that out loud.

“Maybe those have something to do with character,” he said.

I nodded. “Do you ever talk to your taekwondo students about character?”

“Everything I teach my students is about character,” he replied.

“So what would you say character is?” I asked.

“Oh, I'm better at just living what I think than I am at putting my thoughts into words.” He came over beside me, pulled out another stool and sat down. “Did you ever hear of a guy called Wild Goose Jack?”

I shook my head.

“I didn't think so. I only heard of him because my grandmamma loved geese, especially the Canadian ones. Anyway, she told me Wild Goose Jack said that ‘a man's reputation is what other people think of him; his character is what he really is.' I don't know if it's true, but it sounds good, and it's always stuck with me.” He put his hand on my shoulder. “Come on, Sandy. I'll drive you home.”

18

Be this the whetstone of your sword. Let grief
Convert to anger, blunt not the heart, enrage it.

—Macbeth
, Act IV, Scene iii, Lines 228-229

M
OM AND
D
AD
were NOT happy when I walked in around 8:30 Friday night.

They both started talking at once. “We've been calling and texting for the past two hours!” “Who is this Hector? We don't want you driving around with people we haven't even met.”

I slipped my backpack off and tried to calm them down. “Whoa, Mom. Dad. Didn't you get my note?”

“We got the note,” Mom said.

“But we don't know anything at all about Hector,” Dad cut in.

“And we would have liked to talk with you on the phone about it,” Mom added.

“Where's your phone?” Dad asked.

I rummaged through my backpack. “I must have left it in my room. I'll go get it.” I made a mad dash to get my backpack and vodka-filled water bottle as far from them as possible. I grabbed the phone off my bed and kicked my backpack under the bed and
out of sight. Then I walked calmly back into the living room where they were arguing with each other.
Wow. I don't think I've ever heard them argue like this before.

BOOK: Maybe I Will
5.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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