Franco was sketching abstract shapes. He turned to the canvas when he didn’t know how or to whom to express himself. He had been seeing Kevin for months, but but things were changing. Less than a year ago, Kevin was helping him find confidence in who he really was. Kevin had championed him as a good person who had survived some very bad things and done some bad things based on indisputable medical issues.
Something was different now. He didn’t know what he had done, but Kevin was questioning his motives. He kept asking Franco to describe every memory of Jim Harvey’s abuse. Kevin told him he had to express what happened to let it go. Franco wasn’t comfortable expressing everything. He was starting to feel like his childhood was being turned into a script for an episode of Law and Order: SVU.
He didn’t like how he felt when Kevin pressured him to talk about Jim. He would ask if they could talk about something else, like how he was settling into married life, or how he felt about being a stepfather now. But Kevin kept going back to Jim, kept telling him talking was the only way to free himself of the past. If Franco looked at it objectively, or at least tried to, it seemed like Kevin was taking pleasure in hearing how the man had used him. He felt sick and like he had been violated again after every session.
On rare occasions when Kevin dropped the subject of Jim Harvey, he wanted Franco to discuss his murderous past, the one he wanted to forget, to move on from. It didn’t feel right. Kevin was too interested in the details that he was trying to forget.
His alarm on his phone chimed. It was time for therapy. He turned off the alarm and decided he would just skip today. He felt much safer here in the art therapy room where no one was picking through the darkest parts of his mind.
Within five minutes, Kevin was at his door. “You’re late,” he pronounced.
Franco looked up at the man he used to trust. “I meant to text you. I can’t make it today.”
“We both know that’s a lie,” Kevin said. He closed the door and sat at the table with Franco. “May I?” he asked, reaching for the sketch.
Hesitantly, Franco allowed Kevin take the paper. His impulse was to leave.
“There’s a lot going on here,” Kevin said. “Confusion, pain, anger, doubt.”
Franco exhaled. “Doodles.”
“I don’t think so,” Kevin said. “There’s conflict. The pieces are at war with each other like the pieces of your fragmented mind.”
“My mind isn’t fragmented,” Franco said timidly. Who was he to argue with a doctor?
“What do you think we’ve been working on for the last year?” Kevin asked.
Franco looked down and swallowed. He felt like there was a lump in his throat. He couldn’t defend himself.
Kevin pointed to one of the figures, “You have unexpressed darkness in you.”
“This is how I express it.”
“For how long?” Kevin asked.
“What do you mean?”
“How long will paint and charcoal be enough? How long until you have to find a living canvas to make a true masterpiece?”
Franco shook his head. “I don’t need that. I don’t want that. That’s not who I am.”
Kevin sighed. “People rarely change for the better.”
“Well, I am one of those people,” Franco said. “You told me that yourself. You said you believed in me. You said I was a good person who had been through extraordinary circumstances.”
“Look how upset you are,” Kevin said. “Do you want to hurt me right now?”
“No. I just want you to shut up.”
“How would you shut me up?” Kevin goaded him.
Franco felt like he was spiraling. “I - I- I’ll leave. I don’t want to talk to you anymore.” But he remained frozen in place, too overwhelmed by what Kevin was saying.
“I’ve been studying cases like yours. Many serial killers were sexually abused as children. They suffered the way you did and turned their darkness on other people because they learned to not trust anyone. They learned to hate and to hurt others.”
“That’s not me,” Franco argued quietly.
“One day, you’ll snap and you’ll go back to hurting people to deal with your pain.”
“I thought I was talking to you to deal with my pain.”
“You’ve been through too much. I can’t really help you. The only person who can stop you is you.” Kevin dropped the last words like a bomb and left.
Franco felt like he couldn’t breathe, like his world was collapsing. Kevin was his doctor, the person who made him believe that the person he wanted to be, that the person Elizabeth saw, was who he really was.
He wiped his brow, trying to think of what he had done to change Kevin’s opinion. His mind was racing, as was his heartbeat. What if Kevin was right? What if he was going to snap and turn on someone, maybe even someone he loved?
Since Kevin had been coercing him to talk more and more about details from his past, he felt more and more trapped within them. He found that certain things would trigger memories that he couldn’t express to anyone else. He couldn’t play video games with the boys because of the violence. He couldn’t watch crime shows or murder mysteries with Elizabeth.
Kevin was right. He was drowning. He was fractured. He was a danger to his loved ones. It was just a matter of time.
He stared at the abstract drawings. There was conflict and sadness and rage. It was creeping into his being again. He knew he had to stop it. He had to stop it before he hurt someone he cared about.
He grabbed another blank sheet of paper and scribbled a quick note.
“Elizabeth, I’m sorry. I love you with all my heart. I love the boys and Kiki. But Kevin thinks I’m going to become what I was again and I can’t do that to you or anyone else. I have to die to keep you safe. I wanted forever for us. Kevin said that considering what Jim Harvey did and the tumor, he no longer believes I can stay on this path. I’m going to get sick again. I have to save you and I can only do that by drastic measures. I love you forever, Franco.”
In places, the ink was running mixed with his teardrops, but he folded the paper and wrote Elizabeth’s name on it. He had to act fast. He couldn’t become who he was.
He quickly surveyed the supplies in the room. He saw exactly what he needed. One of the tools of the trade was a razor with the protective handle that could be used to remove spills from hard surfaces. He always kept his tools clean, not that it really mattered. What, was he going to get an infection? Not if he did it the right way.
He held the tool in his right hand and looked at his left arm. He stroked his wrist. Most people would try to make a crossways slit. That was woefully ineffective.
He pressed the edge of the blade to the center of his wrist. A bit of light sparkled off his wedding band. He had vowed to protect Elizabeth and this was what he had to do. He took a deep breath, clinched his first, sunk the blade into the center of his wrist and methodically moved it toward his elbow. Blood was spurting from his arm with in seconds.
It was more difficult to control the blade with his left hand when his arm was spilling the life out of him. With the shaking hand, he brought the blade to his right wrist and found what strength he could to force it into his flesh. He was lightheaded. He was unable to make a proper long cut on his arm before he dropped the blade in weakness in the world went dark.