This doctor’s office is so white that it makes my head hurt a little; there isn’t even a drawing from one of his patients on the wall. Instead on his desk are an array of figurines of clowns, which I am sure is supposed to be cheery but instead will give me nightmares for days.
“I understand you have some family problems? That your mother committed suicide?” he said. What an ice breaker! The man had the conversational skills of a goldfish.
“Yup,” I said.
“How much quality sleep have you been getting?”
“I am sleeping some,” I say. Which is a little bit of a lie, I sleep a couple times a night mostly plagued by dreams of my mother. He looked at me in a way that he could see through me, which I am sure he could, because that is what you study in psychology, how to spot the lies.
“Okay not as much as you or I would like, but some.”
“Is there anything you want to get off your chest?” He says. I think for a minute, my life is seriously screwed up, but it’s not something I want to talk to this unfamiliar psychiatrist about.
I remember leaving the note by my pillow and decided that I would go on an adventure. They would probably want to know where I was going on this adventure, but not even I knew for sure where that was. I swallowed again and again, each one tasting acidic and bitter. Little pieces of me were floating away. Soon I began to realize that this adventure was taking a turn for the worse, and everything went south from there. My mind spun and I began to remember bits and pieces of her, of the weeks leading up to her death. It is something like a dream, like the world had ended in an apocalypse and only I was left. There was a humming in my head that just would not go away. Maybe I was in some cosmic blast: kablooy! No that wasn’t it. I looked down and there was a hand there, it looked 80 years old from the liver spots but it actually belonged to my 55 year old mother. Someone told me, but the buzzing had made me forget, that the liver spots were due to dehydration as her body shut down after taking too much insulin and sleeping pills, putting her in a diabetic coma. This memory became clear to me as I swallowed again and again, and I felt like maybe next time I swallowed the memory would go away and I could be at peace again.
My dreams bring me back to days with her, times that were good and sweet. We are biking through mother’s day, a 42 mile trek that at my young age I fear will kill me. Sunny skies are gathered for us as we gallop across the paved yellow brick road. Birds sing us songs and grass waves in the luscious breeze. It couldn’t be a more perfect spring day. However by the time we get to Redwing, our destination, the skies are starting to frown. First the baby blue is swept away by rolling clouds. A little farther and the sky is as dark as the inside of a basement, and soft splatters of rain are falling. We pedal faster, partly due to the incoming storm, partly because the rain feels so good against our sun warmed backs. She laughs and challenges us to go faster, leading us home. We are soaked, our shirts sticking to our backs and the thunder is after us like a crazed giant. We bike almost 20 miles in a pounding storm and end up at a K-Mart. She and I wander the aisles looking for sweat pants and socks to calm the chills of 20 miles.
Well I was right, everything went south from the moment I tried to take that adventure, and now I’ve ended up here, where I said I would never go back to…the psych ward. The walls are the wrong color, the rooms are always too hot or too cold, like a God damned nursing home or something. The nurses are just a little too cheery for a nut house, and here I am again. No roommate this time, thank God. The last one ate crayons all day. The only good thing about her was that she tried to share the orange one with me; I might have taken it if it was a purple one.
I perk up a little, I can hear a bubbly voice around the corner, the kind that makes you smile all over no matter what the circumstances. She came in holding up her pants in one hand and cradling a Tupperware container in the other.
“They took my frickin belt. I have no ass, what the hell am I supposed to do without a belt?” I glanced over at one of my fellow patients sitting at the same table. He was staring off into space, but I could only imagine what he would do if he got his hands on that belt.
My lovely friend sat across from me, hitching up her pants like an old man.
“I brought you diabetic puppy chow.”
“Diabetic puppy chow?”
“You know, so sugary it could put you into a diabetic coma. It has twice the peanut butter, twice the chocolate, and twice the powdered sugar.”
I stuck my hand in and retrieved a small square, it melted on my tongue but she was right, it was so rich it made me feel all jumpy inside. Suddenly Ann punches me in the arm, hard.
“Don’t ever do that to me again,” she sits back in her chair and crosses her arms, doing her best to give me a glower, but on that sweet face it is hard to believe. “Promise me.”
“I-I’m sorry,” I look down at the table and wipe up a small sugary bit that my hands have left behind, “I don’t know what I was doing.”
That was all that was ever said about my attempt and for days I could still feel her punch but it made me remember that there was someone out there who cared enough to make me a bushel of puppy chow, which to a girl is true love.
I go back into my now too cold room, and lay down in my too hard bed. The only adornment on the wall is a crucifix with blood dripping from his hands and feet. It creeps me out so much that I look away. I lay awake for an hour, then two until suddenly sleep finds me, like a trickster in the dark and without knowing it I am shoved deep into a memory that only my subconscious remembered.
She and I are shopping, loaded with bag after weighty bag. People pass us in a rush, as we shuffle through the parking lot. Stranger after stranger stand before us. White strangers, yellow strangers, quiet strangers, loud strangers. None of these, however, is out trusty Jeep. We search amongst the masses, our freezing hands nearly crying for the warmth of the heater. We stop at each row desperately exploring, but coming up empty handed. Fairly soon an hour has past and we stand, with snow pressing its frosty lips to the sides of our cheeks, and no car to be found. I start to cry, the salt mixing with the snow like the streets after a big snow storm. She looks at me and starts to laugh. Big valiant sounds pour out of her and we both are laughing now. As I dry my tears, we look over together and there is a red fender peeking out from a monster, its left light cracked open from where my dad backed into it.
“Game time!” she was the one we hated because she had the perkiness of a four year old on too much sugar, and when someone is depressed it doesn’t help to send in the clowns. Sigh. Again with the games, those goddamned games they love to play here. I shuffle my way to the end of the hall in my plastic grippered hospital socks and peer into the room. Sigh again. I hate life right now, I am about to play Scrabble with Joel, a real savant, not just a really smart person but someone who can name pretty much every word in the dictionary. He is small and mousey, his hair forever in spikes because he runs his hands through it so much, a nervous tick I guess. Joel is a high functioning savant; he only has these nervous ticks like running his fingers through his hair. He also has a thing for drugs, which led him here in the first place. Soon I am so frustrated I want to take his Scrabble pieces and throw them against the wall. I have come up with ‘horse’, while he has ‘suqs’ on a triple word score. I ask him what it means and he says “an open market in an Arab city” without looking at me. My vocabulary isn’t as limited as horse, but it reminds me of the times I flew, when the air was pure and sweet and I was far away from the crazies and the Joels of the world. I had a red horse named Roy, a sorrel to be more exact. He was a quarter horse, but man when he stood with his head turned he looked like a million dollar thoroughbred. He and I used to breath together we were so close, he knew me so well I simply had to shift in the saddle and off we would go. Of course naturally when I think of Roy, I think of those times when I would show him, and then she pops into my head far more easily than makes me comfortable.
It is my horse show, the first one and I am writhing inside. My horse is prancing , my boots are shining, but there is one small problem. She is huddled under the backside of my horse, cringing against the possibilities that could be emitted. She is trying desperately to braid my horse’s tail, however the thick black strands I had found so splendid before, are proving impossible for her. She is turning and twisting, coaxing obedience from the unmanageable tail. Little by little she gathers it together and after a half hour she has a magnificent masterpiece of art. She sits against the stall door, beaming at me, knowing whatever happens nothing could be as bad as that tail.
“Hey dumb ass it’s your turn,” Joel spins the board around so I can see that he has scored about a bazillion points and I have about five.
“Go suck it Joel,” I was beyond frustrated at that point but I noticed that I had a z and a couple of oo’s so I spell ‘zoology’ and grin at him. He just spun the board around and without even a pause put down ‘ixia’.
“I call bulls**t,” I say.
“Look it up,” he hands me the worn out dictionary that someone has written “Nurse Herman is a c**k sucker” in. While I agree with those sentiments I don’t think she is bad enough to defile a book. I am about to look up the word (which is an African Corn Flower by the way), when Miss Perky Herman herself walks in and taps me on the shoulder. She is wearing garish Tweety Bird scrubs that are so out of place she might as well have been from outer space.
“Dr. Zopher would like a word with you,” as she said it she grabbed my shoulder a little more firmly. I shrugged it off as she lead me out of the chair. “Sorry Joel, I guess the two of you can play again some other time.”
“She was losing badly anyway, she has the vocabulary of a horse, “he said. I knew that it was a joke between us, but Miss Perky just glared at him as we walked away.
Dr. Zoloft, as we called him on the ward, had a cramped office off of the game room. The walls were as white as the other doctor’s but this time instead of the clowns on the desk there was a giant velvet worked picture of Jesus on the wall. This scared me more then the clowns and I did not feel comfortable sitting with him behind me.
“Why did you take those pills? Did you want to end up like your mother?” Wow bombshell, this guy doesn’t come out softly.
“I don’t know,” I mumble. I look down at my hands, my dad always said that they looked exactly like my mother’s hands.
“Why don’t you tell me about her.” He said.
“Because I don’t know her anymore.” I choke back a sob, which is odd because I never cry. Must be that stupid Jesus picture behind me.
“She was a nurse, someone who would care for a patient one minute and stand up to a doctor for them the next. I wanted to be a nurse too when I was little, because to me she was perfect. I don’t remember her being unhappy. I don’t remember times when things were bad. I just remember now and the anger and sadness and guilt and betrayal.” Geez this was unlike me, these were things I wouldn’t tell anyone, least of all stupid old Dr. Zoloft. I don’t remember much of the days leading up to it, but I can remember every fucking second of the days and weeks after.
I came home from school that day, and was a little worried by the fact that she was home from a job that usually kept her till 6pm or later. She was alone more and more, mentally gone to a world she had created for herself. She had become severely depressed, but extremely good at covering it up. Of course my mind always went to the worst in these situations. I didn’t know that in as little as two weeks I would be holding that mottled hand that looked like it was 80 years old, that I would be hearing that humming in my head. Her body shut down quickly after we made the decision to pull the plug on her food and water that she was getting through an IV. Those were the things I remembered, the way the quilt that someone had stitched for her laid over her body or the way my dad cried silently, as if he couldn’t be seen with tears there on his cheeks. His hands were old looking, just like hers, only his from working day in and day out in a demanding job. Her eyes were open the slightest amount and I tried to push them shut with my hand. As always the movies lie and I could not close her eyes. I remembered those things then, not the cheerful moments of fun we had, not the horses or bike rides.
“I just can’t stop thinking about what she did to my family, to me. How she probably screwed me up for the rest of my life.”
“If you know all that, why did you try to commit suicide?” He said.
“I guess I just lost all hope.” I said.
“Then maybe she did too.”