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Not Feeling Real

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February 9, 2015; Los Angeles, California.


Spencer looked down at the card and then up at Rochelle. “ Dr. Savage ? That's can't be a real name.”


“Well, it is. And she's good at what she does,” Rochelle said. They weren't talking about why Spencer needed a therapist. There were a lot of reasons, and they all hit too close to home for Rochelle. Spencer didn't want to remind her that her best friend was one drunken day away from becoming her dad.


Spencer nodded. “Okay. I guess I can get an appointment.”


Rochelle leaned over and pulled Spencer into a hug. He was shaking again. He'd been doing that a lot lately. He didn't feel like he was in his own body most of the time. He felt like he'd already died, and leaving Panic to get better was all just part of a fever dream.


Spencer closed his eyes and let himself be held. He didn't think about how Rochelle had had to do this with her own dad, and now she was doing it for him. She didn't deserve this. Spencer didn't care if he was ever good enough to stay in the band. He couldn't hurt Rochelle like this.


He swallowed thickly, surprised by how close he was to crying. “I'm sorry.”


“Not your fault,” she said.


Spencer squeezed his eyes tighter. “Not for that. For making you go through this again.”


Rochelle pushed Spencer back and glared him down. It wasn't an angry glare. It was a defiant glare. The kind he was used to her giving people who came up with transphobic bullshit or tried to tell Rochelle she couldn't do something she knew she could. She tightened her grip on Spencer's shoulders, her fingers digging into the fabric of his shirt. “You're not dying like my dad was. We're going to keep it that way.”



February 12, 2015; Los Angeles, California.


Spencer called Mikey before his appointment. It was late enough in the day that he knew Mikey would be awake, even if he wasn't sober. It felt like the two of them took turns being clean. When Spencer was sober, Mikey was on something, and when Mikey was sober, Spencer was drinking or on pain meds again.


He didn't know if they were a good influence on each other or not. He just knew that Mikey would understand things the way none of his friends could.


“Spencer?” Mikey's voice rumbled over the phone. He sounded like he had just woken up. “Why are you calling me?”


“I'm seeing a therapist today,” Spencer said. He felt dumb, sitting outside of the office in his car. He was surprised anyone had let him drive, but he wasn't complaining. He liked the independence. He'd never drive drunk, either. He knew better.


“Isn't that a good thing?” Mikey asked.


Spencer let out a deep breath. He'd forgotten that he needed to breathe. The car was getting warm but he didn't want to get out. He felt real in here, and he knew that would stop when he left the car. It was like there was a magnet pulling him back against the car seat. The car was safe. Spencer didn't have to talk about things with strangers in the car.


“Spencer?” Mikey said after a moment. “You still there?”


“Yeah,” Spencer said. “I don't think I can get out of my car. I don't want this to be real. It doesn't feel like it can be.”


“Welcome to recovery,” Mikey said. “It sucks every time.”


“What if the doctor thinks I'm ridiculous?” Spencer said. He didn't have a reason to be an alcoholic. His parents were still married and they'd never made him feel unwelcome in his own home. He had friends who cared about him and even though he was single his last relationship (Dallon) had ended on relatively okay terms. Spencer was in love with them, and with Brendon, but he'd made his peace with the fact that he could never have them and that both of his exes had moved on. That happened.


Spencer rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I mean, shit, what the hell do I even have to drink about?”


“A lot of things,” Mikey said drily. “Most of which you told me during four AM drunk dials or hookups. So maybe if you fuck your therapist they'll be able to get to the root of your issues.”


“Don't be a smart ass,” Spencer said. He didn't want to talk about his issues. They all seemed trivial. He was an alcoholic because some guy hadn’t been cool with him being trans, and that was the stupidest reason anyone could choose to ruin their life over. Spencer didn’t hate himself in the depression way. He hated himself in the “you’re ridiculous and no one should have to deal with you” way.


“One of us has to be,” Mikey said. He sighed over the phone. “Now go in there and cry on a couch for an hour. I’ll buy you coffee if you do it.”


“Why coffee?” Spencer asked.


“Because it’s two in the afternoon and we’re both supposed to be clean and sober and all that fun stuff,” Mikey said. “Go be therapised, Spence.”


“Yeah, alright. It better be a good coffee,” Spencer said, and hung up. He and Mikey weren’t sappy. They didn’t have anything to be sappy about.


Spencer took a deep breath and then got out of the car. He found Dr. Savage’s office and let himself in. There was a man behind the counter who handed him a check-in sheet, which Spencer filled out before putting his sunglasses up on his forehead and sitting down in one of the grandma chairs in the waiting room. Spencer didn’t like keeping his sunglasses on indoors. It made him feel like he was hungover even when he wasn’t, or that he was a celebrity.


A few minutes later, the door opened and a woman in her late 40’s leaned out. There were two other people in the waiting room aside from Spencer. She looked at him and raised her eyebrows. “Spencer?”


“Hi,” Spencer said, because he didn’t know what else to say to therapists.


“I’m Dr. Savage,” she said. She opened the door further. “Follow me?”


Spencer nodded and walked across the room. He could feel the other people staring at him. He ground his teeth together and wished he was here for a real reason. There were people out there who felt like they had no purpose, and people with emotions going in every directions, and Spencer was stealing an hour from them all because he couldn’t stay fucking sober.


The walls felt too close. Spencer wanted to wrap himself up in his jacket and hide somewhere. He felt the magnet in his chest again, pulling him back away from Dr. Savage and towards his car. He could run, if he wanted to. Dr. Savage wasn’t looking at him as she lead him down the hall. Spencer could just turn around, leave the office, and go home. He didn’t have to do any of this. He could just leech off of Linda and live in her guest room forever.


Dr. Savage opened the door. “Here we are. Make yourself comfortable, and I’ll grab your file.”


Spencer frowned. “You have a file about me?”


“I have a file about all of my patients, Spencer,” she said. She looked like a mom. A cool mom, who probably let her kids colour their hair and go to rock shows, but still. A mom. Spencer was going to cry on a couch to a mom.


“Right,” Spencer said, and sat on the far end of the couch. His throat felt like it was closing up.


There was a picture on her desk of her and four other people, who Spencer assumed were her kids. Sure enough, they all had weird hair and were dressed somewhat like Alyx. Spencer missed Alyx. She was a great kid, and he hoped her new band was working out better than the last one.


Spencer motioned to the picture. “Are those your kids?”


“Yes,” Dr. Savage said. “The oldest’s taking a gap year and my youngest just had their fourteenth birthday.”


Spencer frowned. “Their?”


“They identify as non-binary,” she said. She pulled out a manila folder and opened it. She clicked her pen on and tucked her hair back behind her ears. “It took me a few years to understand, but I came around. They’re part of why I decided to change my clients to more trans and LGBT people. My two youngest kids are both part of the community, and they’ve spent enough time helping me. I decided to pay it forward and help other people like them.”


Spencer nodded. “Explains why Ry recommended you.”


“Is Ry one of your friends?” Dr. Savage asked.


Spencer nodded again. He had a feeling he’d be doing a lot of that. “Yeah. She’d my best friend, actually. We’ve known each other since I was five.”


“She sounds like a strong friend, then,” Dr. Savage said. “Does she know what you’re going through?”


“I’m not going through much.”


Dr. Savage frowned. “Alcohol addiction is much .”


“I know,” Spencer said. He knew. Rochelle’s dad had fucking died from it, and Mikey almost had. Spencer was well aware of what he’d been doing to himself. He just didn’t have a reason why he’d been doing it. “But I shouldn’t have a problem. I mean, I’m not… my parents gave me top surgery for my eighteenth birthday. The last time I had to deal with homophobic or transphobic bullshit was when I was in high school .”


That was a lie. Spencer wasn’t ready to share the truth, though.


Dr. Savage seemed to notice. She was looking at him the same way Spencer’s mom looked at him when he tried to tell her that he wasn’t sleeping with Dallon or Brendon. “Spencer, you don’t have to keep things from me. I’m here to help you, not be your friend. You don’t have to worry about what I’ll think about you.”


Spencer sighed. He didn’t want to talk about Gavin. He didn’t want to even think about Gavin, because thinking about Gavin meant thinking about the split and all of the shit that had led up to Gavin doing… that . And Spencer didn’t want to think about how that had fucked him up. Mikey didn’t know about that . Rochelle didn’t know about that . Linda only knew the basic outline of that . Spencer was the only one with the details, and he planned on keeping it that way.


He swallowed. “Okay. So. I was… it happened after high school, too. But I don’t want to talk about it.”


“That’s okay,” Dr. Savage said. Spencer’s head shot up. That was okay? He could just keep some things to himself? He’d thought therapy was about spilling all the beans, not just some of them. Dr. Savage gave him a warm smile. “We’ve just met. I don’t expect to figure you out in one meeting, and you shouldn’t expect to be better after only one meeting either. This takes time.”


“Really?” Spencer asked. He swallowed. “So… what do I talk to you about?”


“Whatever you need to,” she said. “I’m here to help you, in whatever terms you need.”



February 15, 2015; Los Angeles, California.


Mikey and Spencer were at Starbucks, outside. Mikey was smoking, and Spencer was trying not to. He knew it was better than his other options, but he didn’t want to trade one health disaster for another. He was trying to be smart about this.


Mikey sipped from his coffee and tapped his cigarette against the edge of the table. “So. How was it?”


“Her name’s Dr. Savage,” Spencer said. “She doesn’t seem real. I don’t seem real.”


“Therapy does that,” Mikey said. “It’s like when you pull the skin off of a blister and you realise how sensitive everything is. Not a fun time.”


“I think I’m going to go back,” Spencer said. He looked down at his own coffee. “She’s cool with trans stuff, so that’s good. I don’t want to explain how I am who I am.”


“You don’t have to,” Mikey said.


Spencer frowned. Mikey didn’t know. Mikey didn’t get that none of this would be happening if Spencer had been born a man. “I really do.”


Mikey narrowed his eyes at Spencer. Spencer could barely see them through his sunglasses, but he knew. He’s figured out how to read Mikey. The guy wasn’t as closed off as he tried to be. “You’ll have to explain that one to me.”


“I can’t,” Spencer said. He’d started showering in the dark again. He hadn’t done that since he came back from England. Spencer hadn’t even showered in the dark when he was pre everything. He wasn’t supposed to be dysphoric now, but he was, and it was making everything worse. “But if I’m going to do the therapy thing, the doctor has to know that I’m trans. It’s… it’s part of everything.”


Mikey made a face. “It always is.”


Spencer nodded.


Mikey took a long drag from his cigarette and breathed smoke into the air. It was five in the afternoon. The sun was struggling to stay up in the sky. Mikey looked like a tortured artist. “I relapsed, by the way.”


“Are you still relapsing?” Spencer asked, which was their way of asking if the other was still on something.


Mikey shrugged. “Not really. I was when you called me, but you made me feel like a dumbass for it, so I called Ray and we got rid of everything again. For real this time.”


Spencer nodded. “That’s good.”


“It doesn’t feel good,” Mikey said. “There’s a reason I made you face the sun.”


“I thought it was because you liked how it looked on my skin,” Spencer said. He remembered saying the same thing to Gavin, and then Gavin--Spencer shook his head. Nope. Bad path. Not going down that. He took a drink from his coffee and let it burn his tongue. “Are you going to try therapy?”


“I’m in therapy, dude,” Mikey said. He frowned. “Did you forget that?”


Spencer shrugged. “I guess. There’s a lot going on in my life.”


“Brendon getting married isn’t a lot going on,” Mikey said. “You’ve known about that for months. You also rejected my offer to be your date so that you wouldn’t have to face your exes alone, but I’m not dwelling on that.”


“The fact that you brought it up says otherwise,” Spencer said. He sighed. “Should I tell my therapist I’m in love with my bandmate and he’s getting married in a month?”


“Obviously,” Mikey said. “Who else would you tell?”


“Good point,” Spencer said, and made a note of it on his phone. He’d decided to make a list of things to talk about at therapy. It was easier than going in blind and potentially talking about Gavin. Spencer liked having plans. They made things easier, even if they didn’t fix things.


He laughed, remembering something. “Hey, Mikes.”


“What?” Mikey said.


“Guess what her first name is.”


“Who’s first name?” Mikey asked.


Spencer rolled his eyes. Mikey was now banned from calling Spencer out on being a clueless dumbass. He crossed his ankles. “My therapist. Dr. Savage. Guess her first name.”


“Righteous?” Mikey offered. “I don’t know.”


“It’s Carol,” Spencer said. Of course his therapist had the most tumblr-post sounding first name, and the most unrealistic last name.


Mikey lowered his sunglasses for a moment. “You’re shitting me.”


Spencer shook his head. “I’m not.”


“Shit, dude,” Mikey said. “There’s no way she’s real.”


“I’ll introduce you two,” Spencer said.


Mikey grinned. “Better idea. Have her be your date to the wedding.”


Spencer threw his stirrer across the table. “No. Fuck off.”


“It’s me or Carol,” Mikey said. “You have to choose.”


“I’m not taking my therapist to anyone’s wedding. Especially not Brendon’s. She’ll probably diagnose him with something and then derail the wedding completely,” Spencer said.


Mikey raised his eyebrow. “That’s not the worst that could happen.”


“I know,” Spencer said. “But it’s not how I’d introduce Brendon to my therapist.”


Mikey shrugged. “Your loss.”


Spencer shrugged back. Maybe it was. But so what? He was doing his best, and that was all the world could really ask of him.