03 – Determinations

 Continued from A (not so) Little Fall of Rain


“One cannot spend forever sitting and solving the mysteries of one’s history,”

Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid, Lemony Snicket


You know it’s funny how the things we fear will define us, don’t, while the ones we never thought to imagine, do.

I spent the better part of my life treating work like that. Like it was everything. Not just my whole life, but all of me.

Looking for validation in inappropriate places indeed.

But it sure beat the alternative.

It was bad enough growing up as the girl whose mother murdered her father. The looks, all those whispers, the murmurs I wasn’t supposed to hear, but did. Foster care wasn’t exactly a picnic either. So yeah, I took the first chance I got to leave that life far behind me.

I suppose, too, that part of me believed that if I could keep it secret, safe under lock and key, it would be like it never happened. Or at least it didn’t matter, didn’t have to matter. The past would be the past, gone, done, over. I didn’t have to be that girl anymore.

Besides, it wasn’t as if I hadn’t spent my whole life living with secrets and lies anyway. What was one more? No one need ever know.

So I told no one really until you. Not the errant boyfriend, the rare friend, not even those I’ve had the privilege to work with now for the better part of a decade. That chat with Julian Santiago last month is probably as close as I’ve ever come to talking about any of it at the lab.

Rational or not, I guess I fear even now after all these years, all we’ve seen and done and experienced together, it will change things, them knowing. That I will suddenly be seen differently, treated differently. Thought of as weak and damaged and broken, needing to be handled with all the kid glove care of the well intentioned yet personally uninitiated. To be tiptoed around, pitied. Labeled and treated as a victim.

I never wanted that. I still don’t.

And I’ve never really liked that word: victim. Yet that’s what we call them, even me, the people we meet at crime scenes, the ones splayed open on autopsy tables, the ones horrible things happen to. The victim as if that is what ultimately defines them.

I don’t want to be thought of like that.

I’m a survivor. I survived it.

The schizophrenic mother. The abusive alcoholic father. The yelling. The screaming. The trips to the emergency room. That night. The group homes and foster care shuffle. I survived it. Not entirely unscathed. But I did.

And nobody gets to take that away from me.

Not when I came too close not to.

Brass was right, there are far more problems than solutions to be found at the bottom of a bottle. Drinking was never the answer, but it was pretty good at helping you forget the question, if only for a little while. And forgetting was definitely something I wanted to do. To no longer have to feel the thousand pricks and pulls of memory. To not have to face all my own unanswered and unanswerable questions.

Okay, so much for always choosing hope over fear. But then as you have more than once sagely maintained, we are all works in progress.

Except I should know better. Yes, things changed after I told you. But not as I’d feared or worried or even expected. Not in big ways or even ways I can put a finger on. But they changed.

But god, did it feel good to finally tell someone. To tell you.

And there was no judgment. No recoil. Quite the opposite in fact.

You didn’t say much. But then even for a man of many words, I knew even in those days that your silences frequently spoke louder, deeper than any words ever could, even if you later confessed as to wanting them that day. You didn’t.

You reached out, literally reached out. Which on its own was so rare a thing back then. That simple touch, its silent reassurance that you were there, it meant more than all the trite, well-worn platitudes I’d heard during my years in the system.

I doubt you knew, know, just how much a difference that day made. How close I’d really been then on the brink of destroying not just my career, but my life.

You came and stayed. And dared to love me anyway. Scars and fears and all. The past, too.

Good thing as the past can’t be undone, remade. Nor can it just be set aside or forgotten or made to disappear.

Like I told Ray, we don’t always get to decide what happens to us. But what we do with it, that we do. We get to choose that.

And it really did take too long, cost too much, nearly cost a whole lot more, before I learned the truth in that.

Before I’d finally been able to face the mirror all the scars on show and know that they are a part of me, but only a part, not all of me. That ultimately we are far more than just the sum of our broken parts.

Ernest Hemmingway may have been a bore as well as a brash, habitually self-important sexist pig, who often didn’t know shit, but he was right in this: “We are all a little stronger in our broken places.”

And I’ve been lucky. So very lucky. Though I suppose most people wouldn’t regard me as such if they knew everything I’ve tried to keep inside. But I am.

As a CSI I’ve seen so much. What wrong choices really cost. What pain and loss mean. That the world can be hard, cold, harsh, full of pain. But —

I am startled out of this reverie by the sudden rapid staccato outside.

The storm seems rather to be gaining than waning.

I shiver. Though the momentary surge of panic, is just that, momentary. More and more the whirl of memory, the flash of old sensations are only that, brief not lasting, thankfully too like the lightning, which doth cease to be/Ere one can say ‘It lightens.’

Still there is the soft sound, the murmur of Sara and your grasp tightens even more, reminding me that I am not the only one to be worried by storms and the nightmares they bring.

I sigh, cover your hand with mine and settle deeper into you and you into me.

And before long, peace and calmness come again. But then I never feel as safe as I do when I’m with you.

The French have this expression: bien dans sa peau. Which literally means well in one’s own skin. And I feel that now, like I haven’t before. It’s a strange yet welcome development. Much like most of my life these days.

Not that you will ever — and I mean ever — get me to actually admit it, but I really don’t mind all that much that no matter how often you introduce me as Sara Sidle, your French colleagues still insist on calling me Mme Grissom.

Or perhaps it is more that I rather like being your wife. Surprising as that seems. And still seems to strike everyone else for some reason or other.

But then even only a few years ago, I never would have imagined it: marriage, being a wife.

For we may not get much say in the families we are born into. It’s little more than an accident of genetics. But the families we make along the way, they are another story entirely. And you and I are for better or worse, family in our own perhaps strange way.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And no matter how rare an occurrence it frequently proves to be of late, it’s certainly far easier not to be afraid with you in the bed beside me, softly snoring, as you are often wont to do. But then I’ve always slept easier, rested easier, breathed easier with you.

So I do.


 Have a question or want to leave a comment or concern and don’t have a wordpress account? Please feel free to email me at kadhmercer@gmail.com

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