A story about someone who finds irony in life and death.
Lumpy animal-shaped clouds littered the sky with the perfect shade of light blue as the backdrop. The bright glaring sun blinded my eyes but the sky was so beautiful I couldn’t look away. So this is how it is - this is how the moments before death feel - I thought. My body was moving through space so rapidly - it suddenly felt unjust that wind could not support a human body. How differently my life would be right now if wind could support a human body. To my right, I could see the ridge I was standing on just moments before. Agnes and Derek were peered over the edge with the most horrified look on their faces. They were screaming something. Unless there was a 300 ft rope or parachute attached to those words, it didn’t really matter. Any moment now…
The place reeked of urine and bleach. The walls were white, the linens were white, and everyone’s outfit was white. Disorder is really easy to hide behind white.
“Morning Elizabeth,” Carla said as I entered the dining hall. She was holding my plate of oatmeal with a side of a dixie-cup-filled anti-depressant pills.
“Good morning Carla.”
I grabbed my plate and sat by Charles, a middle aged man who tried to hang himself after his company went bankrupt and his wife left him for their neighbor, who had money and abs. When he tried to hang himself, the rope became loose under his weight because it wasn’t tied correctly. He lied on the floor sobbing for three days before his cousin drove him here. Everyone in that room was a failure at suicide.
“Sleep well last night, Charles?”
“Yea, and you?”
His disheveled appearance spoke otherwise; directing the answer away from him confirmed it.
We ate in silence. Normal people don’t like silence but, for this environment, it was safety. The ten of us had to sit in a circle three times a week and share their stories, fears, goals and incessant ramblings with complete strangers who were similarly miserable. Silence was a welcome bliss here.
After breakfast it was time for my one-on-one with Dr. Shelve. He was the psychologist who over saw Queen’s Behavioral Health Hospital. He liked sweater vests, tea, inspirational wall posters, pretentious words, and crossword puzzles.
“Good Morning Elizabeth? How are you doing this morning?”
“No more pills.”
“Well, we’ve talked about this. These pills will help you. I’m sure you’ve felt the difference already. They make you feel better, don’t they?”
“Don’t you think it’s a little ironic that the very thing that was supposed to end my life is also supposed to save it?” I said it with accusation and as much attitude as I could muster up.
He hates confrontation like this because his parents used to argue a lot when he was a kid. I like confrontation like this because he hates it.
He likes to talk about his parents’ divorce because “vulnerability is the key to happiness”. He shares his story every week but he isn’t happier. I’m a firm believer that he learned how to psychologically help others so he can psychologically help himself. But all we know for certain is he likes to help himself to the scotch he pours in his “tea” for psychological reasons.
He put down his clipboard stacked with papers, a half-finished crossword puzzle in the forefront.
“Elizabeth, I have a lot of hope for you. You’ve come so long in the three months that you’ve been here and I am so proud of you.”
He paused a moment, possibly waiting for my reply but I just stared at him.
“I’ll make a deal with you, I’ll lower the dosage the more you participate in our outdoor activities.”
I hated outdoor activities… or any kind of activity. I really liked not engaging in anything more than the remote control and food with saturated fats. I also hated pills. One time, I took a lot of them and - long story short - I ended up here.
“Deal.” Haggling with a drug dealer brought me back to my oxycodone days.
I wasn’t particularly thrilled but I just needed 4 more activity points and a persuasive performance of lively hood before I could be free from this prison draped in white. We could earn only 1 activity point a week but were encouraged to participate in the daily activities that ranged from sunset walks to macaroni art. I was really skilled at doing the bare minimum so I never participated in more than one activity a week.
“I’ll see you at noon then.” He said.
Most productive one-on-one ever. I didn’t even have to fabricate a lie to avoid the truth.
At noon, I walked to the yard where a lonely basketball sat in a deserted wasteland of grass. Four other people were there. Julia was a short brunette with a high pitched voice; she was also a resident at Queen’s Behavioral Health. She was super happy and super excited about everything, super all the time. She also won for the highest dosage of happy-pills prescribed.
“It’s so great to see you Elizabeth!”, Julia welcomed me with a hug. She hugged everyone ever day. I tried not showering for 5 days and she still hugged me, every single one of those days.
“Hi Elizabeth,” Agnes said - another resident in this hell hole. Unlike all the others, Agnes was my age and normal. She was institutionalized here after a stint with a car, and alcohol, and a cliff. She meant to steer the car off the cliff but - due to heavy intoxication - forgot which way to steer the car and veered into the side of a mountain instead. This saved her life and cost her two broken ribs. Everyone thought she meant to drive into the mountain side; only Group knew about her misguided sense of direction while drunk and how alcohol basically saved her life. She thought it was hilarious when she was sharing it. I did too. No one else in Group laughed. That’s how our friendship started.
More to come.