Wednesday, September 26, 2007

We Are All Connected


Gina sat on her bed. Scrunched up. Studying. There were creases in her forehead from extreme concentration. She was stressed out. She had an exam next week in Dr. Mead's class; "Jungian Theory and the Collective Unconscious."

Gina really liked Dr. Mead, she really wanted to impress her. But, she just wasn't getting it. She had been over her notes a dozen times, to the point where she could hear Dr. Mead's Yankee accent droning on in her sleep. She had read the chapters involved over and over. It wasn't for a lack of studious effort. She just wasn't getting it.

Gina had been so excited about this course. It was her first 400 level class for her major. She had bought the text books during the summer to get ahead: "Introduction to Jung's Psychology" by Frieda Fordham and "The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious" (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol 9 Part 1). Gina was really into this stuff. It thrilled her, like some people were thrilled by music or video games. Not today not this month, Gina just wasn't getting it.
There were reasons of course. There always were.

Gina was in her third year at NYU, and felt blessed to be living in one of The City's "Ant Farms". That is what Gina called these high rise apartments in down town Manhattan. Coming from NC she was used to living in a house. There her closest neighbor was at least a hundred steps away, well out of hearing range. At first she thought that it was strange that New Yorkers never made eye contact. Now she knew. With someone right up in your space like that, it was easier to dwell within your own bubble of safety and precaution. Denying the reality that a stranger could probably hear you snore at night, knew what you were having for dinner, what you watched on TV, what kind of music you liked; and without a doubt, knew if you had guests.
In NC, or the small town of Salisbury to be exact, Gina had known her neighbors. It wasn't even just about borrowing a cup of was about sharing a meal together, picking up each others mail while one or the other vacationed, sharing books...sharing LIFE! Here in this ant farm, Gina did not know anybody. Her friends were from school or work. She had a life, it just did not bleed into her neighbors' lives. There were plenty of people in this fine city who understood and appreciated Gina's passion for books and knowledge, but they didn't live in this building.

Tonight, like most Tuesday evenings, Gina was studying. Studying Jungian theory. Trying to make the finer rudiments sink into her brain. Dr. Mead was, after all, a stickler for the finer points, the small things.

The neighbors were at it again. Hollering and screaming to beat the band. Gina heard a loud crash, furniture or something breaking. She felt the lump in her throat and the pit in her stomach that she had grown accustomed to, growing. She wanted to scream and cry herself. Instead she just turned up her music. She was listening to Norah Jones' first album. She considered getting out Tracy Chapman's "Behind the Wall" and let art imitate life a little. But she didn't.

Never being one to listen to music while studying, she preferred Norah's soothing voice. Gina tried to pay attention to Jung as he droned on in "Psychological Aspects of the Mother Archetype." She scrunched further under the covers.

She hated to hear this. She was almost inclined to go over there and break it up herself. Maybe the Tae Bo classes would pay off after all. But, Gina was frozen in place and in her thoughts. She had spent sixteen years watching her father beat her mother black and blue. There had been at least three occasions when Gina and her little brother Greg were sure there mother was going to die. But she didn't. She always justified the abuse by saying, "He's never hurt my children. If he did I would leave. They are my first concern."

Finally, she did leave; after spending two weeks in the hospital during Gina's sophomore year. Greg was in the eighth grade then. They all agreed that that was the scariest fourteen months of all. The months that they were hiding and running. Always afraid he would catch up with them. Until finally they could breath deep again. Gina's Mom's best friend, Renee, sent his obituary to them in East Tawas, Michigan. Bill had finally drunk himself to death. Not one of them shed a tear.

Gina, in her final semester of her Senior year, was more than happy to pack up one more time and go home. They moved back to Salisbury, back to North Rowan High School. They didn't cry. Bill was not mourned.

Renee was the trustworthy type. She was the only one that knew where the three of them were each time they moved. Ran. Gina was sure that Bill had pestered her for information, but Renee had a big burly husband, a gun, and was more than capable of fighting her own battles. Most of the time Bill was probably more afraid of her.

The screaming next door continued, louder and louder. Then a chilling silence. Gina began to cry. She put her books away, turned her music off and sobbed. She pressed her ear against the wall, searching for any signs of life. Gina knew she wouldn't sleep. She didn't even try. She brewed herself some tea and sat staring at the wall for hours.

Her mom never seemed to understand the lasting effects that Bill had on Gina and Greg. Gina barely ever dated. She was afraid, skittish, bitter. She wasn't even sure if she believed in love at all. Greg was different. He dated anyone with legs. He drank too much. He met a new girl each week. Broke hearts like it was his job. Greg was angry. Gina worried for him. But honestly, she worried more for the girls that fell for his charms. His curly hair, long lashes and dimple. His uproarious laugh.

The sun finally rose. A little bit of hopeful light poking through Gina's window. She got up and got ready for class. As she headed out her door and down the hall, her eyes downcast, something caught her attention. Her neighbor was sitting in a chair in her doorway as if she was waiting for Gina. As if she knew that Gina left early for class each morning. Gina looked at her, as if for the first time. She was beautiful; long dark full hair, brown eyes, creamy pale skin. She looked sort of Irish. She was black and blue. Beaten senseless. In truth she looked awful. She could barely open her eyes.

She looked at Gina pleadingly. She tried to stand. Gina tried to wave, give a small smile and keep moving. But, she couldn't. This lady wasn't much older than Gina. Desperate. Gina stepped closer and whispered, "Do you need some help?" The pretty lady, beaten senseless, nodded slightly. Gina looked behind her. There was a man passed out on the floor.

Gina whispered, "Do you want to go somewhere?" Again the lady seemed to nod yes. She was barely able to move at all. "Do you need to get anything?" The lady reached over and picked up two small grocery bags. Gina helped her to her feet, and helped her down the hall to the elevator. They left the door standing open, and the chair sitting there.

Gina had no idea where to take her. She thought food might be good, so she took her to a diner a few blocks away and bought her breakfast. They talked. Gina asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital. She started to cry. "I can't. I don't have any money. He'll find me."

Gina pulled out her laptop and found a shelter for women. She took the woman there in a cab. Gina never went to class that day, and she never asked the lady her name. She figured that without a name it would be easier for her to lie to the man if he asked where "his girl" was.
The loud voices behind the wall stopped. It was easier for Gina to concentrate. Her studies made sense to her again. They thrilled her, like some people are thrilled by music or video games.

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