Something Wicked - By Lesley Anne Cowan


I am “sexually promiscuous.”

The words are written down in my file. I can’t escape it. It goes along with all my other labels: ADD, learning disability, irritability, and impulsivity. Once someone writes a label down, it’s like a big fat bread crumb leading the counsellor down the care and treatment plan. You see, it’s the person who holds the pen who matters; this is who can ruin your life. The one who takes every mistake you’ve made and every blurted-out word and etches it into your future with the stroke of a pen. Of course, the past shapes everyone’s future, but with counsellors, the past is the future. The past is never, ever forgotten. You are forced to live it every day. And soon, it becomes who you are.

“Sexually promiscuous,” I slowly read aloud, staring at the opened file on the table. “That’s a new one. So you’re saying I’m a slut?”

Eric, my counsellor, quickly covers up the papers. “No. It means you are perhaps more liberal in your sexual relations than adults feel is appropriate for your age group.”

“So?” I challenge. “Does it matter?”

“It can.”

“Well. It doesn’t make a difference to me. Sex is not a big deal. It doesn’t damage me or anything.”

Eric shrugs and raises a brow, the way he does when I say something loaded and he’s thinking whether or not to get into it with me. He knows, if it’s the wrong time, I’ll just argue and not listen, so he waits, like a predator in the grass, for a vulnerable moment when his attack is more likely to yield a good kill.

“I know the difference between fucking around and love,” I add, because I don’t want him thinking I’m a total idiot.

“I hope you do,” Eric says casually.

I eye him with suspicion. I have slipped up. I shouldn’t be telling him about all the guys I’m with. Even though he’s a good counsellor, he’s still from an old generation of people who think sex matters. It’s just not a big deal anymore, and so I’ve divulged too much, as usual. Old habits die young. That’s why teenagers are so exciting in therapy. We haven’t yet learned that you aren’t supposed to confess everything. We don’t know that there are two languages: the one you keep in your head and the other you share with everyone else.

If you only knew. If you only really knew the truth about what I really do, I think, moving my gaze to the fishbowl.“So you still want me to name it?” I ask, trying to change the topic before he uses it as a window to further discussion. Eric has a goldfish that he always offers his clients to name. He pretends it’s the same one, but from time to time I notice a slight change—a different brownish mark on the belly, a slightly thinner fin. It’s been almost a year, and I’ve refused to do it.


I reconsider. “But isn’t it a little schizophrenic for the little thing, all those names? It’s a good thing you’re a shrink.”

Eric raises his hand to his reddish beard and pulls at the short hairs on his chin. “I’m not a psychiatrist. I’m a counsellor,” he corrects me. He is so serious sometimes. “So, any ideas?”

“No.” I lie, not wanting to give him the satisfaction. But I know exactly what I’d call it. And I actually don’t think having more than one name is such a bad idea.

I have more than one name for myself. I also call myself Echo. It’s sort of like a tag name, but I use it only for adults. I always like to introduce myself to strangers as this. Some of them stare at me like they know I’m bullshitting, but most either don’t care or are too self-absorbed to care, and just don’t question the name.

Eric has a hard time calling me this, though. I don’t think he’s ever said it, despite my insistence. So I’m not about to name his stupid fish. But if I did, I’d call her Amphitrite, because she was the goddess queen of the sea.

I am into myths. We study them in English class and my mother gave me a book on them last Christmas. It’s the only book she’s ever given me, despite the fact I love reading. She says myths contain more wisdom than the Bible, and more insight than a Dr. Phil episode. I just like them because the women sometimes kick ass and there’s tons of crazy, heartless jealousy