It happened on a Thursday afternoon in October. The sun had been absent and a grey veil dulled the tequila sunrise foliage of autumn. There had been a steady stream of customers-making payments, handing in documents, advising of changes of circumstance. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary. Before she’d had a chance to gauge his situation fully, he’d thrown himself over the counter, pinned her to the ground and beat her around the head and face with the telephone. Before security had been able to drag him unceremoniously off of her she had sustained lacerations in need of stitching, a fractured cheekbone and dislocated jaw.
For weeks afterwards she remained cocooned at home. If she heard a noise outside she would peek through a crack in the curtains, her heart racing. She communicated less with loved ones-they wanted her to feel better and to put it all behind her. She knew that they meant well but it didn’t stop her thinking of ways to hurt them. She wanted them to stand in her shoes and feel them pinch and rub until their skin fell away leaving them exposed and sore.
Work had appeared supportive-she couldn’t help thinking that much of their attention was about damage limitation. They’d provided a counsellor for her to meet with weekly. Her sessions had been surprising. She’d had a lot to talk about and not all of it about the assault. She had uncovered a glowing ball of anger buried far deeper than her visible scars. During one session the counsellor had described a coping mechanism involving mentally locking uncomfortable or unpleasant thoughts in a box and storing them away in an attic or cupboard until she felt ready to retrieve them.
At those times when it felt like the whole world was able to sleep and while her brain raced with too many thoughts, she would lock herself in the spare room and start to make a new box. Months ago she’d cleared the room of furniture and built shelves on every wall. She’d then reintroduced a desk, the drawers of which she filled with card, glue, scissors, pens and sticky labels. Every night she would sit in the room for hours writing thoughts on pieces of paper and then constructing small boxes. One thought per box. On the nights when she didn’t want to make boxes she would sit quietly at her desk. She could hear the boxes vibrating with the effort to keep their contents locked inside. A low steady hum blocking out the noise of the needle voices. She’d burn the fucking lot of them before she’d ever let them out.