My therapist told me that participating in the annual Purge would be healthy for me, but I wasn’t so sure. I had made a lot of progress, but I was still waking up screaming several nights a week, and I hadn’t yet had the creative breakthrough I hoped his services would provide. I was haunted by a recurring nightmare in which a group of men held me down and removed my chastity belt in a Game of Thrones-style reality, but that was neither here nor there. His encouragement to purge was surprising. We had often discussed my anxieties about Purge Night.
“It’s your right,” he reminded me. I gazed at the bad art in his office, a poster of an ominous wooded path that I had stared at so many mornings. To be honest, I hated it. I mistrusted his choice to display it so prominently, and resented the attempt to conjure spooky feelings in me.
I rattled the ice around in my iced coffee. “I don’t know if I’m ready to take a human life,” I said.
“It is a big decision,” he nodded.
I sniffled a little and looked out the window. The Purge would commence in just six hours.
“I had the dream again.”
“Unfortunately that’s all the time we have,” he replied, setting down his legal pad. He smiled at me sympathetically and stood to open the door. “Same time next week?”
“If I survive the night,” I said, sullen now, and rose to toss my iced coffee in the trash.
After therapy I liked to carry the tissues I had balled up in my fists with me to the frozen yogurt place down the street. Once, I ran into my shrink in the parking lot of his office and it disturbed me to see him on the outside. From then on I would walk purposefully through his waiting room, down the stairs, and straight across the pleasant, tree-lined Pasadena streets to my faithful Menchies froyo franchise. It was air-conditioned and acrylic, and the employees never minded my tear stained face, or that I sometimes would call my mother and pick fights with her about how she had ruined my life.
I liked to self-serve myself a combo of taro and original tart yogurt with mochi and graham cracker dust, eating it slowly while staring at my phone and processing the day’s session. As I approached Menchies that day I felt a mysterious unease, a painful feeling affirmed by a laminated sign that read:
“CLOSED TODAY 🙂 HAPPY PURGING — Menchies Mgmt”
Just then I saw my reflection in the glass door of the darkened frozen yogurt store and felt disembodied, confronted with the sad and tired face of a girl I didn’t recognize.
When I got home I was starving, but didn’t feel like eating. My roommate was in the living room packing a Navajo print weekender bag. She had plans to Lock Down with her boyfriend in Ojai at a luxury yurt the two of them had found on Airbnb. She was a real stupid bitch.
“Hey girl,” I heard her voice say. She had opened the door to my room without knocking, and was leaning against the doorframe.
“Hi, Chantal”, I replied from my twin-sized bed, about to unpack a Korean collagen sheet mask.
“Where are you Locking Down tonight?”
“Oh, um. I’m actually not sure.” The mask was wet and fleshy in my fingers.
“How do you not know?” she continued. “I mean, what are you gonna do?”
“I guess I didn’t really think about it.” I unfolded the mask, searching for the eye holes.
“I mean you can’t stay here. You’ll get totally raped and decapitated like that girl last year.”
“I didn’t say I was going to stay here.” I looked at her as I smoothed the mask over my face. “Can I borrow your bulletproof vest?”
“Just in case.”
“You’re not Purging, are you?” She folded her arms in judgment as I lied down and closed my eyes. “You’re serious? You’re Purging?!” She sounded so annoying now.
“Listen, I don’t know. I might—I’ve been thinking about it—”
“You’ll never survive the night! You’re like the weakest person I’ve ever met, and no offense but I mean that psychologically and physically. You don’t even run fast and so many people hate you, if they find out you’re not Locking Down….”
“Chantal, you’re gonna hit Purge traffic and then you’ll be the one getting dismembered so why don’t you just shut the fuck up and go get my vest?”
“I’m gonna be so fucking pissed if I have to get a new roommate,” she said, slamming the door behind her.
20-30 minutes later I gently peeled the mask off and carefully patted the excess moisturizer into my skin. I looked at myself in the mirror and appeared shiny and resolved as I considered what it would be like to Purge. I called out for Chantal, but she had already left. I thought of her and her boyfriend getting shot in the head in some roadside ditch. I walked across the hall to her room where she left her vest for me and slipped it on over my black turtleneck. I felt kind of amazing and hot. I looked through Chantal’s drawers and found a small stun gun and a pair of black Celine sunglasses. I put them on and stood around the kitchen for a while.
There were a couple hours to kill until the Purge.
I put on a pot of coffee. I didn’t have a real gun, so I checked the kitchen knives to select the sharpest one. That uneasy feeling returned. My reflection in the stainless steel blade again looked wholly unfamiliar to me. My chest began to hurt, and I dropped the knife, sitting down on the tile floor. I was surprised to realize I was crying. How long had tears been streaming down my face? I took off Chantal’s sunglasses and loosened the vest to draw deeper breaths. My face was burning as the panic of Purging set in. I couldn’t stay in my apartment. It dawned on me how long twelve hours actually were. I was utterly out of my depth; I couldn’t even bring myself to kill a homeless or sick person. I couldn’t Purge! I couldn’t even get out of bed most days. I steadied myself against the counter and grabbed my phone. The dial tone on the other end ran exactly once.
“I DON’T WANT TO PURGE,” I sobbed.
To my surprise there was someone listening. “Oh my god! Oh no, where are you?” the voice said.
“I just can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t stop crying I can’t…”
“Just try and breathe. You don’t have to. Stop crying and tell me where you are.”
“It’s too late I can’t do it and I’m so fucked.”
“Listen to me, you’re in shock and you need to get somewhere safe.”
“I don’t have anywhere to go, and a dumb skater is going to cut my head off and—”
“Come to my house. I haven’t Locked Down yet. I live in Silverlake.”
I arrived just thirty minutes before the Purge alarms sounded. My therapist answered the door dressed head to toe in heather grey loungewear. I was still wearing the vest with my hair in a messy ponytail. I trembled and cried as he hugged me hello. I thought his house would be dusty and cramped, but it turned out to be minimal and spacious.
“Come in quick,” he said, pulling me through the door by my weak arms. “We have to Lock Down.”
“Thank you so much, Doctor,” I said, wiping my eyes.
He punched a code into his expensive security system and joined me on a tweed modernist couch.
“Take this off.” He smiled and unstrapped my bulletproof vest. “You’re shaking.” I blinked at him through tears as he kissed me. His beard was soft and I felt his barrel chest and hairy arms press into me.
“Your face is so soft,” he whispered, up against me now. I whimpered as he laid me across the couch and ran his hands over my shoulders, down my arms and around my waist.
I struggled to sit up under his weight, leaning back on my forearms. “Doctor, I think maybe—”
“I’m sorry,” he interrupted, shaking his head. “I’ve wanted this for so long.”
“I don’t know, I guess I can’t say it hasn’t occurred to me. Are you married?”
“I’m divorced.” He moved to kiss me again and I let him. His mouth was wet and eager. He grabbed my wrists.
“Isn’t this, like, criminal? Or at the very least, frowned upon,” I suggested. I was at a loss for words.
“Not tonight.” He put his hands around my waist again and his face gave way to a perverted smile. Then I let him pull off my turtleneck. I felt how hard he was through his cashmere-blend sweatpants.
I knew it was dusk, even though it was almost completely dark inside. The large windows were blocked by interlocking steel blinds. I could hear the Purge siren sounding outside as my therapist pushed himself inside of me. It felt like it lasted forever. I tried to focus on the sound of the siren reverberating through the neighborhood. Being penetrated by my shrink was unpleasant but not painful, and in retrospect couldn’t have lasted more than five minutes.
But it felt like hours before I noticed that he was sweating profusely. He had already come, and was idling on top of me.
“Did you cum inside me?” I asked, in horror.
“I’m sterile,” he said with a confusing wink. “Do you want to go to bed?”
“It’s only 7 p.m.”
He shrugged at that and disappeared down a darkened hallway, leaving me in the foyer. I considered bludgeoning him to death while he slept, but we had an appointment scheduled for next week.