Late in the evening Isela got a text message from Jamie.
He’s going to rehab. We’ll get you the info later tonight. We love you, Isela.
Oh my god. How do I deal with this at work? They look at me to do the pieces on him. I can’t do it. It’s going to be too hard. Her phone buzzed again.
He’s really going to take time off for ‘exhaustion.’
She looked down at the phone deciding what to text back. Before she could start to type the phone rang. His manager was on the other end.
“Isela….he’s going to the Meadows. And that’s all anyone needs to know..for a month.”
“Okay….and that’s all I know? Or what? I don’t know how to deal with this.”
“I know. I know. The girls are writing everything out. It will be brief and no one else needs to know. I mean…”
“No. I know. Thank you.”
“Get in here, Isela!” she heard the executive director and writer were sitting at a table early in the morning. She peered into the office to talk to them. “What the hell is going on? Do you know what is going on?” they asked.
“I know. But it’s his life. And that statement is all that we’re getting.” Isela said dryly.
“Okay….” the director nodded her head. She got up and closed the door. Isela looked at them starting to feel herself get emotional. I can’t cry in front of them. There’s no reason for that. I’ll go outside and get myself together. “We can get Becca to do all the stories. You can take her stories. How do the movies sound for a while?”
“That’s fine. I just know that I don’t want to talk about it. Here or there.” she said standing up to walk out of the office. She didn’t stop walking until she got to the steps where she and Bruno argued in October. She put her head down into her hands and started to cry.
“Isela? What’s wrong?” she heard Belen come up behind her to sit down. Isela shook her head.
“I don’t want to talk about it. Actually, I can’t talk about it.” she said between her tears. Elizabeth, another co-anchor sat down on the other side of her.
“Oh sweetie. It’ll be okay. It’s just a month.”
‘Wait, what is going on?” Belen asked. Elizabeth shot her a dirty look from above Isela who was still a ball of tears.
“He’s…he’s…I want to tell him I’m sorry. But I can’t. I can’t talk to him. I won’t be able to see him, hear him….for a month….and that’s if he’s okay…if he makes it…” Isela started.
“Oh I knew it was more than that, Selly. You don’t have to tell us. But know we aren’t co-workers, we’re friends.
“Rehab….” she said quietly. “Rehab…” she repeated. Even though Elizabeth knew what she was talking about it was still shocking to hear. Belen gasped.
“Isela! Oh my goodness..when did this happen?” Becca asked.
“Saturday morning…well Friday night…but yeah. And we’ve been living this horrible drug filled lie since we got back together…and I can’t decide if I’m going to forgive him like I always do or if I’m going to just…just…stop. Stop trying. I knew it was going to be too hard. I should have stopped myself. “
Later that evening Isela went into her room after a trip to the gym. Yuli and Ben went out for dinner and she had made plans the week before to be with Bruno. She tried to get it out of her head, even resorting to turning off her cell phone and deciding to stay away from the internet. Then, she looked at her unmade bed with one of his jackets laying on it. He had given it to her when they went out in June. She said she was cold, and of course he gave it to her. She was going to give it back to him during his stay this time around, but had forgotten to put it in her bag. He wouldn’t miss it – was her thought. She picked it up smelling it falling into her bed in tears. I can’t do this. I don’t know what I’m doing. This is too much. She laid in the bed sobbing. She heard her front door open with Yuli and Ben laughing.
“Isela’s here..we should tell her. That was way too funny. I can’t believe that happened….” Ben said walking past Isela’s bedroom. “Sel? What’s wrong?” he asked her peaking into the bedroom.
Yuli ran into the room wrapping her arms around her sister. “Benny- I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
“Umm..okay…” he said turning around out the door.
“I don’t know what I’m doing, Yuliana. I can’t even talk to him to see if he’s okay. I can’t hear his voice. I can’t see his face. I can’t touch him. I didn’t even tell him I was sorry. I love him so much. I need Bruno…I need him like I need mom.”
The stories were out of control. She felt as though she needed to run away from everything. Maybe she could climb in a cupboard at her grandmother’s house. That would have been the best option. No one would be able to find her.
“Sel…we’re going to see him tomorrow you have to come with us…” Jamie spoke to Isela on the phone several days later.
“I don’t know if I can. I’ll cry too much. I don’t want him to feel like he has to take care of me if he sees me…”
“I’m coming to get you tomorrow. If we have to get you in there kicking and screaming. You have to talk to him.” Jamie told her.
“Come here Isela…I have something I want you to listen to…” Bruno watched her walk out of his kitchen with a banana in her hand. She started to unpeel it taking a bite out of it. “God. Stop eating that banana for a second and sit down next to me. You’ll like this one…”
She sat down next to him looking on his computer screen. He had a picture of them with his nephews as a background picture. What a girl. She thought as she watched his fingers go over the touch pad to press play.
“Are you playing that?” she asked him hearing a slow drum intro.
“Yeah, of course I’m playing it! Shh. Listen.”
“Oh my god! You are so out of it!” she said listening to Dancing in the Mirror for the first time.
“But you do that!” he smiled at her.
“Well you don’t need to go telling the whole world about my morning routine…”
Isela walked into the room with his family. Tahiti was holding one of her hands and his mother hand was on her other wrist.
“You’re going to be okay, honey.” Bernie reassured her.
“I hope so.”
She watched his every move as they walked in together. It was a big group. Isela was always comforted by their large family. It gave her the warm fuzzies. The counselor welcomed all of them as they sat down together. His siblings, mother and father were all there. She sat near the end of the group. Even though she was part of their family in some way, she still wasn’t all there. The counselor, a Vietnamese woman in her mid thirties named Jenny Tang welcomed all of them and asked them to start out the session by describing their feelings in one word.
Isela ended with “Broken.”
“And how about you, Bruno? How do you feel with everyone here to help you?” Jenny asked him.
“I don’t think I can do it in one word.” he said looking at each of them.
“I know you are probably feeling overwhelmed with everyone here, Bru. But please remember all the things we’ve talked about. We’ll get to the point where you can talk to all of them. But help me with this, first.” Jenny validated his feelings.
“Lost.” he responded. Isela wanted to reach over to comfort him, but she couldn’t do anything. All she could do was listen to what was coming. Bruno looked at her and mouthed “I’m sorry.” She shook her head still not sure what was going to happen.
“Now, I’d like to talk about all of these words together…” Jenny went on asking everyone to clarify why they were feeling that particular word. Of course, Isela was last. All the girls were in tears and Isela wasn’t sure if she could talk about being broken. “Isela, your word was broken. I sense that you are feeling broken because Bruno isn’t there for you. “
Isela searched her thoughts to figure out if that was why she was feeling broken. “I think I said broken because I can’t put anything or any of this together. I don’t understand why or how the people around Bruno didn’t see any changes. And then, and then…he lied. “
“Isela….” he broke into her thoughts. “I didn’t do it to hurt you, baby. I didn’t do any of this to hurt anyone…”
“But you did hurt me. You hurt me again. And again. And again. “ she said wiping the tears off of her face.
Jenny spent time with Bruno and several family members separately after meeting with the whole family. Bruno had asked to speak to Isela last. She wasn’t sure why he wanted to talk to her last, but she didn’t question it.
“Isela…” Bruno’s dad started to talk to her.
“It’s your turn…” she snapped out of whatever she was thinking about to walk toward the room.
Jenny stood at the door waiting for her. “Come in, Ms. Ortiz…” she motioned for her to walk through the door. Isela saw him standing up in jeans, a t-shirt and a plaid shirt watching her. He held out his hand to her.
I don’t know what to do…what do I do? Do I take his hand or do I ignore it just sitting down. She put her hand out to him not even realizing it was happening. He grabbed her and hugged her. She buried her head in his shirt crying. Jenny left the room with the door open. I don’t know about these two…Jenny thought to herself.
“I am so sorry, Isela. I am so sorry. Thank you for coming. I don’t know what I would have done if you didn’t come…” he ran his fingers through her hair smelling her. She was still crying. He picked up her chin looking into her eyes. He wiped off the tears on her cheek, but he couldn’t keep up with the new ones streaming from her eyes. “You’re going to make me cry, Sel. I can’t cry anymore. They’re all gone.”
“Bruno…” she asked him pulling away.
“It made everything better….” Jenny walked into the room asking them to sit down.
“Go ahead and tell her.” Jenny encouraged Bruno to tell her everything.
“It made everything better. I was so busy, and it was good. I liked the way it made me feel…no one could stop me. “
Isela started to open her mouth, but Jenny started to talk. Shit. Does she have to say something every single time? We could have done this without her.
“But you had everything! You have everything! What were you missing?” Isela asked.
“I was missing…I was missing you.” he finished.
“Don’t lie! I bet you said that to every one of us.” Isela confronted him.
“No. I didn’t say that to everyone.”
“So are you telling me that all of this is my fault? You started doing this because you didn’t have me?”
“Isela, you feel completely confused by this don’t you?” Jenny asked.
“Well, yeah. I mean…it’s just like one minute I feel like I need to be with him to support him because he’s always, always, I mean, really always, been there for me. And then the next I feel totally betrayed by all of this because it started when he started dating. I don’t feel like any of this past relationship is real. But I can’t be without you, Bruno. I can’t. It’s like one of those girls that goes back to her abusive boyfriend. You make me who I am. I always turn around for you…”
“Selly…I don’t know what to say. I said I was sorry. I’m here..I’m fixing it. But to fix it all I need you…”
“I don’t know…I don’t know what to do, Jenny.” Isela looked to the therapist for help.
“What do you want?” Jenny asked her.
“I want the old Bruno back. I want the one that sits on the couch with me and watches Selena with me, the one that writes dumb songs about me. The one that can just look at me and make my heart melt. The one that just…just…is right…and I know that Bruno isn’t here. What happened? You’re a stranger.”
Bruno looked at her taking a hold of her hand. “I’m finding him again…if you’ll let me.”
“I don’t know. I know that’s all I keep saying. I’m just so..”
“What I’m hearing from both of you is that you need each other in your lives. You both know relationships are a lot of work. And from what Bruno has told me you two have a past that didn’t start just six months ago. Let me ask you both a question…what is the one thing in your past that makes you the most upset?”
“Grenade.” Isela blurted out.
“Him.” Bruno answered. Jenny looked at them both deciding where to take the session next.
“So let’s talk about this. Isela you go first…”
“I thought we were over it. I thought you understood we were both in different places. You didn’t have the time for me…and I needed...someone who had the time for me. And he had the time.”
“That’s shit, Isela. He wasn’t there. When was the first time he slept with another girl? I never, ever…ever…even would have thought of that.”
“Like a month…” she said under her breath.
“When was this?” Jenny asked.
“2007.” they said in unison. They looked at each other both angry at where the conversation was going.
“And, Isela..if it was 2011 and this was going on what would have done? If you were feeling like he wasn’t there enough…”
“I’d probably do the same thing. Yell and scream and tell him I’m leaving and then come back…”
“And you Bruno? What would you do…if this happened right now. If there was another person trying to get with Isela and she was headed in that direction?”
“I would fight for her. I wouldn’t let her go. Like right now. I’m not letting you go, Isela. No. It’s not going to happen again. We are not going to screw it up.”