Christina C. Franklin | James Brown
I started collecting secrets when I was just six years old. It was on a clear sunny day with unencumbered skies when it had suddenly dawned on me that this was both in the literal and figurative senses. This realization came to me as I sat on a couch in a New York City high-rise, telling my story to a graying and slightly harried, Dr. Helpher. Today was my third session.
“Go on Cathy.” He urged, snapping me out of my self-imposed trance. I could see the concern etched in the wrinkles that spread across his face like a topographical map as he waited for me to continue. I fiddled with my earrings for a moment as he stared at me. I could feel his gaze prodding me forward. Well, I thought to myself, I might as well get on with it if I don’t want my pocketbook to suffer the consequences of my fear and procrastination. I took a deep breath and unnecessarily adjusted the sleeve on my sweater before continuing.
“Well, it was an urge I could not control.” I started.
How was I to explain to him that the scent allured me much like the beautiful smiling models in the TV ad did? It had nothing to do with foul body odor at all. No, I wanted to be just like those mesmerizing TV people who looked so happy. And so I set about collecting all the Secrets I could get my hands on. I had been convinced that this would be my salvation.
You see, my mother bought them whenever they were on sale, so our supply closet was usually stocked well, and between my mother and four older sisters, well, it was easy enough to collect as many as I could get my hands on. But occasionally I would listen from my bedroom as I heard my sisters fighting over who took the last Secret deodorant without telling our mother we were out so that she could replenish our supply. Mother was always mystified at their swift disappearance, but reluctantly concluded that teenage raging hormones must be the culprit in our Secret famine. Forgotten about and never suspected due to my young age, I would smile to myself as I stared in the direction of my closet which contained the shoebox holding the collection of my Secrets.
“Why does this make you happy?” the good doctor continued. He had noticed the unconscious grin that tiptoed quietly across my face as I twisted a strand of blond hair between my fingers.
I looked up and saw my doctor shift in his seat waiting for me to speak. Behind him, in the floor to ceiling windows that framed him, I could see the approaching clouds that threatened to mar the pristine blue sky. The room had darkened mirroring my now somber mood.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I just wanted to take them. I wanted them all to be mine. And it felt good.”
“Is that how you feel about your latest supply of can cat food? Does it make you feel good?”
“What do you mean? That’s not about me. My kitty needs to eat!” I spouted back offended by his implied accusation.
“Cathy,” he said gently. “You have over 160 cans in your pantry. Think about it. How much cat food does one little cat need?”
“But the labels are so, pretty … and enticing. How can that be my fault? Besides, my kitty needs to have a variety.” I waved off with a flick of my hand.
The elderly doctor shook his head and scratched his beard before replying.
“And what about the Reveal mops, Cathy?” he asked.
“Um.” I paused, hesitating and biting down on my lower lip. “I like a clean floor?” Trying to convince myself as much as the doctor, my statement came out sounding like a question.
“Okay, but eight mops? Was that really necessary?”
“Well I have eight rooms!”
He sighed and tilted his head to the side as I felt him studying me.
Oh geez, I thought as I stared at my shoes thinking now about the 280 shoe boxes stuffed in the attic that I hadn’t yet told him about. Maybe I do have a slight problem.
I took a pronounced gulp as I prepared myself for my next unveiling. Then, like the proverbial flood gates springing free, my collection confessions poured forth with unstoppable force. I ignored the suppressed shock on the doctor’s face, which he was attempting to hide behind a strategically placed hand, as I told him about all of my collections — the shoes, the lip gloss, the hairbrushes, the scarves and even the pretty matchboxes. I told him all of it. He quietly nodded in response, and pulling his calendar out, he silently flipped through the pages searching for empty slots for me to fill. Dr. Helpher smiled at me and told me not to worry.
“We have a lot of work to do Cathy, but you are going to be okay.”
And although scared, I felt hope as the sun’s rays shone through the windows spilling light into the once darkened room.
I guess it was finally out. My Secrets had been revealed.