Just an outtake from the series. The depression during lockdown has been real for Molly. Fuck this shit.
Numb. No feeling. Just blank. Nothingness. Dark. Silent.
My phone stayed on Do Not Disturb though several banners of ignored text messages and emails waited for my attention. I tried to clear the notifications daily — usually it was just my patients checking in to ask when I’d be back at virtual therapy. Never! I wanted to respond, but instead copied the same message to them all: Still taking care of family matters. Will update you asap.
I would have expected the tall figure to barge into my space had I checked my notifications that day. So far I’d kept my circle of friends out of the loop with the funk I’d been in — Toby was too busy, Gabe too cold, Izaak too busy and too cold. Violet and Chloe were too annoying and had been entertained with each other, making it easier for me to hide in the shadows.
But there was one person I’d forgotten about: Vic. Being stuck in California with an opposite schedule made it more difficult for him to stay in touch, but we knew each other better than anyone else. If I’d seen the three text messages and two missed called, I would’ve known he’d do something stupid like send someone to check on me.
“Did you get bitten by a vampire? Why is it so dark in here?” Gabe asked, flipping on the light.
I moved my head slightly to bury my face more into the pillow, disturbed by the brightened atmosphere, but apathetic. The door clicked shut and Gabe’s footsteps became louder.
“Hey, wake up… it’s almost 4:20. You wouldn’t want to miss that,” he said with sarcastic humor.
“I’m awake. I never miss 4:20.” My tone was flat, almost bored-sounding. It must have taken Gabe at least slightly by surprise — I was usually able to keep my depressive episodes hidden from him.
“What’s up with you? Why haven’t you been working?”
I finally mustered up enough energy to turn my head towards him, prying my eyes open. “How do you know?”
“Answer my questions first.”
Instead of obliging him, I just shrugged and hid my face again, eyes gently shut, ready to doze off.
Gabe’s sigh was probably accompanied by him shaking his head. Then I heard him fiddling with something on the nightstand. “Did you smoke all of these?” And then he pulled out the half-opened drawer, exposing all the other empty oil cartridges.
“These are all since you started working from home?”
He grumbled in frustration. “Look at me!” Now his tone was a bit sharper, but it didn’t affect me. My heart didn’t start racing like normal. My tummy stayed rested and calm. No desire to move my head.
More noises next to me, but I stayed calm, numb, resting. My hairbrush was in there — a plastic one, nothing too heavy. Legit used for brushing hair (even though I hadn’t done that in a while). But Gabe wouldn’t be using it for that…
As expected, within seconds there was a loud CLAP! as the plastic smacked against my pajama-clad bottom. In theory, there was pain. In reality, I felt nothing. There was no reaction. Nothing. Not even a plea to leave me alone.
I sensed his face drop with concern. “Molly?” Now he spoke softer, a hint of confusion. The brush dropped back onto the nightstand and Gabe sat at my side. “Now I’m getting worried…” he admitted, placing a hand on my back.
It felt weird being touched by another person. The nearly-four months in lockdown, I’d not had another human being so close to me. His hand was warm, inviting. My body began to soften and I took a deep breath, finding the strength to turn my head towards him again. “I’m fine.” I opened my eyes again, squinting at him.
“No, you’re not.”
“I am.” Letting my eyes fall shut….
“When was the last time you worked?”
“I don’t remember.”
He paused, now brushing loose strands of oily hair out of my face. “Try to remember.” His voice a little firmer now.
“I dunno. Like a month. Maybe more.”
“You can’t be serious.”
I gave a slight nod.
“Find out for sure. I need to know the exact date.”
“No energy to check.”
As his hand moved away from my body, I peeled half an eye open to check what he was doing: grabbing my phone. “Where would it be? In your emails? What’s your passcode?”
“Okay, fine, the last day I went was cinco de mayo.”
“What???? That was almost two months ago!”
I shrugged again.
He thrust himself up from the bed, heavy angry steps walking away for a moment. Then from across the room, Gabe muttered, “no wonder Toby wanted me to check up on you.”
“It wasn’t Vic?”
“Him too. And your roommates. Everyone thought you were just busy… then Toby finds out you haven’t seen patients the last couple of weeks… What happened? Why aren’t you talking to us?”
“Just wanna… sleep…” I took a deep breath and sank back into the bed with Gabe’s silence, enjoying the comfort of Vic’s expensive pillow. I focused on the low hum of the air conditioner, letting it almost lure me to sleep.
Seconds away from drifting, my thoughts were interrupted. “I’m in unfamiliar territory, kid. How can I get you out of this?”
“I won’t accept that as an answer. Either you give me an idea, or I’ll go with my original plan.”
He hesitated. “Are you sure?”
Without missing a beat, I replied, “I trust you.”
When Gabe exited the room for a moment, I reached for my vape pen, sucking in a lung-full of oil vapor, exhaling through my nose. It didn’t burn like normal.
Numb was so much better than feeling things. But impossible to get out of.
I was able to get another hit off the vape pen before Gabe came back, though he saw the white cloud when I exhaled, and his concern turned into annoyance. “Do we need to have an intervention with you like we did with Violet?” he grumbled, pushing the door shut and coming towards me.
Now I saw what he’d brought back: the heavy wooden bathbrush. Usually it made me squirm with anticipation. Instead I said, “turn off the light. Too bright.”
He didn’t respond so I buried my face back into the pillow. Next, I felt my thin pajama shorts sliding down my hips, idly wondering what panties I was wearing. The last few weeks had passed in a daze, blending together. Did I even have panties on?
It didn’t matter. Within seconds Gabe had managed to bare my bottom, pjs (and maybe panties) bunched at my knees. I felt the cool air tickle my exposed backside. Gabe half-knelt on the bed, pulling me closer to him, finally resting the bathbrush against my skin. His arm circled my waist.
I expected him to give me another opportunity to talk, since that’s normally how he was with me. But maybe I’d fucked up too much this time, or he saw no use, because next thing I knew the bathbrush slapped down against my bum with a loud POP!
A grunt escaped my lips, but I didn’t flinch. So the next swat came down, this time on the other cheek.
“That barely hurts,” I said evenly as if daring him to swing harder.
“I didn’t ask for your feedback, Young Lady.” His tone was stern but tender. The next swats fell quicker, closer to my sit spots, still not as hard as he spanked Violet.
Doms always feel sorry for me. They go easy, thinking I’m too sweet and kind, that I don’t deserve the rough treatment like the others. I’ve got them fooled into thinking I’m a good person. But in a depressive state, my filter is gone and my true colors are revealed. “I’m giving it to you anyway.”
There was a slight hesitation then the next swats came down harder and faster. I still laid there motionless, sometimes groaning at the discomfort, mostly silent. “The physical isn’t going to be enough.” He said it matter-of-factly, but it felt like a question.
“Not if you’re hoping for tears.”
“Is that what you need?”
“What I need is to die.” See what I mean about no filter?
Gabe didn’t like that response because another barrage of heavy swats landed. Finally I was starting to feel a little pain. “Don’t say shit like that. What kind of reaction are you trying to provoke?”
“Whatever fucking reaction you want to give.” My tone was still flat, but as close to Violet as I can act. I didn’t even say it loudly, kind of mumbling into the pillow, though I placed special emphasis on a certain f-word.
Ah… that means my anger is coming to the surface.
Another hesitation from Gabe. He had treaded lightly so far, but if I pushed the right buttons, he’d figure out how to deal with me. Acting out what my guilty conscience had been telling me I deserved for the last few weeks. Maybe Gabe could even be as harsh on me as my self-hatred.
“The fucking reaction I want to give,” he began, now in the tone he used with Violet, “is to tell you off for this bullshit.”
Before I could speak he popped the bathbrush against my thigh, then the other, so that my words were caught in my throat and came out instead as a whine. I actually felt those loud and clear.
“What the hell were you thinking? You just stopped working, not a word to anyone, laying around getting high all day?” The bathbrush cracked against my bottom as he spoke. “I’m willing to bet you’ve burned through half your savings. You’re obviously not taking care of yourself. And we have an agreement about you smoking that shit around me, or did you forget?” He punctuated his last question with an extra hard swat in the middle of my bottom and finally I yelped.
“No, I didn’t fucking forget.” I craved more of the verbal lashing… the psychological punishment… feeling like I was really getting what I deserved.
“Excuse me?” he scolded with another painful swat in the same spot as before. And when I didn’t correct myself, he landed another, harder. “You’ve also forgotten how to address me.”
“I can address you however I want.” There was definitely a tantrum that wanted to come out, but numbness kept my voice bland, like a robot.
Gabe stood suddenly, making the bed bounce with his movement. Heat radiated from my backside — and ouch, my thighs! The pounding of his brisk footsteps made my heart flutter a little, a sign that numbness was getting ready to leave.
I peeled an eye open to see he was gathering pillows from Vic’s closet. I took advantage of the fact that he wasn’t looking and reached for my vape pen. I have no idea what I was thinking… it was all impulsive. Of course he would catch me… but the way my heart pounded made me feel alive again… my fingers trembled as I reached for the silver cylinder…
Vaping right now was not a good idea. I even said it to myself as the cold metal pressed against my lips. As soon as I clicked the button and sucked in, Gabe turned around, pillows in hand.
I didn’t actually see the look on his face, but I felt it. The second feeling since numbness had taken over. It was in my tummy… a pinch and twist that set off a few butterflies. My fingers were still shaking a little when I placed my pen back in its spot and exhaled, closing my eyes again without looking at Gabe. Avoidance made it easier to stay numb.
“Raise your hips,” he ordered, and I felt a pillow brush up against my tummy. He didn’t wait for me to follow his directions (which is a good thing because I wasn’t going to), lifting me up to thrust the pillows under, then molded me into the position he wanted. “Open your eyes!”
Ughh… more feelings were coming out. Numbness tried to fight, but it didn’t work. Gabe’s booming voice was kind of scary. Now he was definitely talking to me like he would Violet. My tummy did not like it. Eyes stayed closed.
So he grabbed my chin and gave it a little shake until I glared at him. He was closer to me than allowed with social distancing measures, and I was about to tell him that, but he didn’t give me time. “Do you remember the penalty?” His fingers were tight around my chin to make sure that I could see the disappointment in his eyes as he spoke.
“I was a kid when we set up that rule, still a noob in the scene. I’m not scared anymore.” My limit had been the cane… the scariest implement I could think of. My mind always went back to third grade when a teacher explained judicial canings… it still gave me a bad feeling in my tummy, even though I’d seen enough canings to know they weren’t as scary as my childhood self thought it’d be.
“It’s going to hurt just as much as that kid thought it would, I can guarantee that. She would be really disappointed in your behavior.”
“No she wouldn’t. She expected this to happen.”
“Do you even remember the reason we made that rule, or is your brain too fried with that shit?”
Ouch, that kind of hurt and normally would’ve made me cry. But numbness took over again and responded with, “whatever,” and I closed my eyes, trying to bury my face back into the pillow.
Gabe let go of my chin, but I heard a sharp exhale that told me he was frustrated. Then the door creaked open and he stormed out. He didn’t bother closing it, which left me exposed and my heart began pounding again. I’d never talked to him in this way… never had the courage to talk to anybody like this really, not even the douchebags that deserved it, like my abusive ex or my shitty mother. In a better headspace, I would’ve analyzed that, but instead I just focused on my pounding heart, feeling alive, but wanting to go back to sleep.
A squeal from the living room echoed down the hallway. It was Violet, because right afterwards I heard her shout “fuck off!” And a few seconds later, Gabe’s footsteps coming towards me.
The door slammed shut and then I heard the woosh of the stingy implement. It sent a chill down my spine.
“I brought this for Violet. The thought of using it on you never crossed my mind.”
I wanted the numbness to stay but noticed it fading as the stick rested on my bare bottom. A tiny whimper escaped from my lips.
“Do you have anything to say for yourself, Young Lady?”
He wanted me to apologize, but I didn’t feel remorse. “I didn’t do anything wrong. Life is meaningless, work is stupid, being sober is painful.”
In a flash, the cane lifted and wooshed again, then bit into my skin. I didn’t feel anything at first, but then a sting spread across my butt in a straight line. Ouch! “If the bathbrush doesn’t get through to you, maybe this will.” Then the next woosh and bite.
I flinched at the pain. Yup, I was starting to feel it loud and clear.
“Do you really think it’s okay to test me like that?”
“It’s not testing.”
“Then what the hell is it?” he asked, landing the next lash across my sit spots.
He gave me a few seconds to respond, but I didn’t, trying to breathe and bring the numbness back. Having feelings sucks. It’s too overwhelming. The emotions take over and I get too involved in others’ lives, empathy affecting me to the core. I fucking hate it.
“Answer me.” The cane descended again, and that time I finally squeaked a little.
“I just wanted to smoke more.”
“That’s more important than the agreement we made?”
Another irritated exhale, then the cane landed not once, nor twice, but three times right after another. Quick and stingy. It was enough to make me wiggle in discomfort. “Be still,” he commanded before giving me three more at the same force and intensity, this time on my thighs. “You wanted to act like a tough girl earlier, so now accept the punishment that those little ‘badasses’ get.” Three more.
I had to bite into the pillow to prevent myself from crying out too much, then when he paused said, “I am a tough girl.”
I think I heard a chuckle, but it was short lived because I got distracted by the cane again, followed by words that were punctuated with swats (or whatever) every so often. “So now you’re a tough girl, huh? Is that why you’ve been holed up in here for two months, stoned out of your mind, blowing off work? Because you’re so tough?”
There wasn’t really an answer to that and I was biting onto the pillow again, still not ready to give into the tears.
“Why are you doing this shit?”
I expected another stroke with the cane, but he had paused so I could respond. But I was finally at the stage where I knew my answers would piss him off, and was somewhat trying to avoid it. What a weird headspace to be in. So I just didn’t say anything… until he whacked me on the thighs and demanded that I answer. The words that spilled out: “Because I suck.”
As predicted, he didn’t approve, and I was met with the hardest blow so far, which caused me to yelp and reach back. “Hands in front of you, tough girl.” And when I didn’t move fast enough, he poked at my hand with the cane. “We won’t be finished here until I see tears, so I suggest you let your guard down or find something to hold onto, because you definitely don’t want me to accidentally cane your hand.”
Squirming, I moved my hands out of the way, tucking them under the pillow and squeezing them together. Then I muttered, “I don’t wanna cry.”
But of course, at that moment his mind was set on making it happen, and though time currently had no meaning, it didn’t take long for me to start bawling.