By Lea Anne Stoughton
Rain had settled in. These were the nights she liked best and feared most, the dark and cold and wet. Nights like these, most kids stayed home.
She moved among the machines. Light from the flashing displays made a ghostly twin of Charlie’s FunTime Arcade on the plate glass windows.
Charlie himself sat behind the prize counter. (Or maybe his name was Joe? She knew once. Her memory was becoming . . . eccentric.) He flipped through a wrinkled girlie magazine and occasionally scratched his beard. The beard sickened her, thin and patchy, like a disease crawling up his face.
She circled back through the aisles, past Dirt Bike 5000 and Galaxia and Kombat King—but turning before she got as far as Buttercup Garden. That had been Amy’s favorite. (Amy or Abby? Names were so slippery.)
She passed the prize counter again. Charlie (Joe?) was obscured from the waist down by key rings, plastic whistles, decks of cards, jumping frogs, paper yo-yos, and stale off-brand chocolate bars. She knew there was a stack of fresh, full-size Hershey bars under the counter as well, hidden behind the display of inflatable swords. She didn’t like to think about that stack but she did anyway. There were worse things she could think about.
Dirt Bike 5000, Galaxia, Kombat King.
A shadow hesitated outside. A girl, maybe 12 or 13, pressed her face to the window. Charlie-or-Joe put down his magazine, ran a dry tongue over his lips, and reached down to touch the stack of Hersheys. She became aware of the chafing on her throat. The knot pressed into the side of her neck, under her ear.
A woman touched the girl’s shoulder and the face disappeared. The chafing subsided.
Dirt Bike 5000, Galaxia, Kombat King.
She wondered if it was almost time for him to close. (She had lost the ability to keep track of time, another of those worrying eccentricities.)
Dirt Bike 5000, Galaxia--
Charlie? folded the magazine and slid it into his back pocket. She hovered by the counter as he stood up and stretched, scratched his sickening beard, and shuffled to the door, keys jangling. He flipped a row of switches and the overhead lights went dark. She followed him through the “Employees Only” door, right next to Buttercup Garden. The chafing returned, sharp and hot, and she fingered the knot under her ear as the door swung shut.
The short corridor ended with another door, this one marked “Office.” Whoever he is locked it behind him and jiggled the knob before slumping into the chair. Her breath choked when she saw him unbutton his pants and reach for the drawer. He pulled out the shoebox and raw, burning heat squeezed her neck.
Inside the box was the detritus of girls: hair clips, earrings, a rubber bracelet. And Hershey wrappers. One still had some candy inside, with small, even teeth marks along one edge.
He sifted through the box with one hand while she clawed at her throat, grabbing the knot, trying to loosen the rope that only grew tighter. When he pulled out the purple headband, Amy’s or Abby’s headband, HER DAUGHTER’S HEADBAND, something shifted. Her eyes bulged and a scream broke through her crushed windpipe. She flew at him in a fury of teeth and nails and fists. She gouged his eyes with her thumbs, raked at his throat with her teeth, peeled the beard from his face, buried her hands in his steaming guts, driven by all the hurt and guilt and anger and sorrow and VENGEANCE, oh VENGEANCE!
Joe Turner, owner of Charlie’s FunTime Arcade, mumbled to himself about all the goddamn drafts in this shithole, and continued masturbating.
I found you.
It was the middle of the night, early October. The 12th, 6 years ago, almost to the day. I was afraid. For no reason other than nerves because I hadn't heard from you.
The kitchen lights were off. I walked in the side door; calling your name. Your truck was in the drive so I knew you were home. I walked through the kitchen to the dining room, quickly, my anxiety peaking. I stopped at the entrance to the hallway...
You were there, but you were gone. Hanging from a rope in the attic staircase.
Even now, when I'm calm and I conjure the image in my mind I cannot seem to remember the details. Not your clothes, not the rope... if there was one. It could have been anything. I don't remember if the dishes were done or if the laundry was still on the floor. I only see your face. It was pale and your jaw was slack. Your eyes were closed. I remember that much.
My heart stopped at that moment. Maybe I died at that moment. Panic set in. What I did next surprised even me.
I ran out of our house and got in my car. I backed out of the driveway screaming. I parked on the road and called for help. That's all I remeber. After that moment it's all black.
I don't remember the 911 call. I don't remember the police or the coroner or your body in a black bag on a stretcher. I know they took you because the detective took me inside to get some of my things and you were gone. I don't remember how I drove home. I remember the song that was on the radio because to this day every time I hear it my heart breaks into a million pieces all over again.
The days after are still a blur. There was no funeral. You were cremated. Your family wouldn't allow me to see you at the morgue because they blame your death on me. They said they didn't want me to see you like that, but that never made sense given that I found you.
I'm not angry. They were hurt. Blame needed to be placed somewhere in their minds. I just wanted to be sure you were gone. Feel that your skin was cold...know this wasn't a dream.
The last time I saw you, I ran. I'm ashamed of that now. I should have checked to see if you were breathing. I should have gotten you down. I wish I had kissed your cheeks, touched your hand, let my tears fall on your chest. I wish I hadn't been afraid. But I was.
I have taught myself over the years not to question your decision. I have reminded myself of the demons you fought every day. I remind myself that I loved you fiercely and that kind of love must be enough to save a soul. Maybe not your life, but I have to believe it was enough to save your soul.
I go to sleep every night and I'm one day closer to seeing you again. I dream each night of my head on your chest. I walk down the soap aisle and I always stop to smell the Irish Spring. I close my eyes and I can still feel my lips against my favorite spot on your cheeks to kiss. Sometimes when I wake in the middle of the night, your name is a ghost on my lips. I miss you more than you could ever know. On bad days I hope you aren't near when I cry.
The hurt never goes away and the story never gets easier to tell. It is a piece of my life I have learned to live with and bottle away. I don't know if I ever want to love someone that much again because the pain of losing you has been so intense. I made it out the other side, I survived. How much of me, I can't say. It changed me on a deep level. So much so that I don't remember who that girl was anymore. I think she died with you that night.
Happy trails to you.
Until we meet again.
By Nicole Cater
Alright, I admit, this has been the hardest volume to write. Everyone wants out. From the second the vapor lock doors whisper shut behind us, all we can think about it release date. It comes up in every conversation. No one wants to be here. And yet…there’s a strangely soothing quality. You don’t have to make decisions. It becomes routine. Wake up, breakfast, group, lunch, nap, group, dinner. And since I’m being honest, as I always am, a whole lot of those people make you feel so much better than yourself. But it’s safe, it’s cozy, why do we want to leave. We know we have lives out there to live, but those are all screwed up anyway, so who wants to go back to that hot mess.
The doctors come in before breakfast. And then the whispers start. Furtively, over foul oatmeal, you bet on who’s getting paroled today. Blondie went first. She was in for an eating disorder. She went through those doors like she was being shot out of cannon. Cellie #1 went second, although I think she just got released because she was a pain in the ass.
And then, while trying to make my French toast palatable, I get the call. The doc is springing me. It’s a good thing to be sprung. Who really likes spending a week with crazy people? I mean, I’m only half-crazy, on my father’s side, I think. But then again, it’s safe in there. Okay, yes there are people wrestled to the ground and streakers and such, but the nurses care. They get we’re doing the best we can. And it’s scary to go out into a world that doesn’t understand that.
So will I be back? Yes, already have. Because no matter how bad it stinks to be in a maximum security prison, it sure as hell beats starting up the car and forgetting to open the garage door. And I’ve promised way too many people I wouldn’t do that. And I keep my promises. So I chug along, good days and bad, knowing I can go back if I need to. And that’s the most comforting of all.
By Nicole Cater
So you’re in the pen. There’s really about five million things going on in your head… Like “Dude, I really just did this?” or “When’s lunch?” or “Um, how do I brush my hair?” You’ve got a lot of concerns. Many concerns are automatically addressed. Here, you can have a tiny bottle of baby shampoo and a comb, circa 1952. Really? Did you nurses look at my hair? Do you know it’s going to take an hour just for me to comb it with that stupid back-pocket greaser comb? Other concerns have more of a delicate nature; such as going to the bathroom your first morning in the stir and finding a very unpleasant surprise.
I’ll make this clear because:
A. I do so much dumb crap I no longer have a sense of shame
B. I have a clear medical necessity. I have an IUD, an intrauterine device that blocks any fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall. Why do I have a birth control device when I don’t have any chance of getting laid? Well, because my Rheumatologist wouldn’t give me my spine-saving Enbrel unless I was on a serious form of birth control, back when I was married. Condoms were not acceptable. So, my lady doc, being the awesome progressive doc that understands that I’m not a simple cut and dry patient, allowed me this form of birth control, that usually (in the US) you have to have children before obtaining. But I’m cool, so I get one. And then I get my Enbrel. And I’m sorry, but divorce is no cause to start ripping things out of your uterus, it’s just not.
The point, and I do have one, I swear, is that many women, including me, with IUDs do not get periods. Yeah bitches, go ahead and get jealous! But stress on the body is still stress and nothing in this life is certain but death and taxes. So there you are, in the bathroom, cramping and freaked that you’re going to bleed all over your medically issued jim-jams. This is a mind boggling situation for someone who hasn’t dealt with a period in six years. Seriously? Now?
Also, because I’m in a digressing mood, I should explain the bathroom in my cell. You can open the door and walk fully in. Then you have three options for shutting the door. You can climb behind the toilet, you can get in the shower, or you can sit on the sink. I have a five-foot wing span. I know this for fact because I just measured, so there. I can still touch both walls. So yeah, this bathroom is small. A five-foot cube with a toilet, a sink, and a shower. Oh, and an unbreakable mirror. This is not a lot of room to accommodate your necessary transactions, let alone a mild freak out because of an unexpected one. And I feel like pacing while I think over this new situation. But that’s no good, because there’s no room to pace in the bathroom. And I can’t pace in my room because gravity happens and it would be a bit odd for a check tech to pop in while I’m pacing with no unders on. That’d be a bonus week add-on guaranteed.
So I make the furtive trip across the hall to the nurses’ desk. Miss Karen, don’t fail me now. And there are supplies for this situation, there are, after all, a number of crazy women. But the supplies are kept at the other desk, on the other side of the line. Huh? So just go down there and ask. Ummmm…
Now this is my own personal issue. At a junior high sleep over, I was scarred for life when a stain was discovered on my jim-jams. I have never been comfortable with what the Victorians termed ‘crushing a flea in my petticoats’ ever since. So this is just a very awesome situation that I have to walk to the other side of the ward and beg supplies from foreign nurses in hushed tones so as few people as possible will suspect that I, as a woman, actually menstruate. In response, I am handed a draconian looking absorbent object roughly the size of a cinderblock and appears as if it may have been able to save the Titanic.
Having procured my one, count it, one, pad, I try not to waddle back to my room. I also try and figure out the ways a tampon could be used to commit murder or suicide. I come up blank on that. But I don’t make the rules here; I just have to suffer them. But I’ve only gotten the one, and it’s quite apparent I’m not going home this afternoon, so we’ve got trouble people, with a capital T that rhymes with P that stands for Period.
But aha! The joint has these fabulous robes. They are a baby blue that clashes horrendously with the sea green of the jim-jams in a way that I find aesthetically disturbing to my psyche. But they DO have nice big, deep pockets. I must get a robe! This turns out to be much easier than getting my diaper. The linen closet is right next to my room, and they have to give you clothes. Because they won’t let you leave to get your own. Adorned in my new robe, I set off to cross the deadline to procure more cinderblocks. Because who knows how long this fresh hell is going to last.
By Nicole Cater
You may not be taking a fun-filled excursion to Vegas for a weekend of debauchery, but believe me, this rule is important. Very important. It’s extremely important for overly empathetic Bipolars to remember when faced with a nice guy who would dearly love to tap that… but is also suicidal with anger management issues… and a fiancé.
I took an interest in John Doe because his issues reminded me of one of my oldest friends. Minus the suicide, Michael is way too vain for that. But he was angry because he thought his opinions were always right, and that he was always right and it would make him mad when people disagreed with him or could not comprehend his point of view. Well, turns out I’ve been running around this same block for 20-some years, so I spoke up and offered my opinion. You see things your way, they see things their way, and guess what, you can both be right, one doesn’t have to invalidate the other. You can’t be mad at other people having opinions unless you are willing to let them be mad at you for having yours. Mr. Group Counselor was impressed by my insights. Yep, I’ve got mad psychology skillz, raise the roof.
After that, John Doe would seek me out. He felt that I was someone he could talk to. Yeah, they always feel that way. We would sit in the community room or walk the halls and talk about his problems. By nature, I usually don’t like to talk about my inner brain matter, because, well, I’m crazy. But we would talk about his and how it related to his life…blah blah blah.
Somewhere along the line, shortly before his imminent discharge, he confesses that he is highly attracted to me. Of course he is, I’m a hottie, duh. Of course, he also thought I was 23, so I guess that doesn’t say much for his skills of perception. But here’s the deal. I’m screwed up. He’s screwed up. We’re in a freakin’ mental institution. This does not a love story make. And did I mention the fiancé?
Being no stranger to unwanted attention of creepers, and also quite capable of letting them down so they don’t feel let down, I explained that I was very flattered he thought so highly of me, but I really wasn’t in a place for a relationship. And he had a fiancé.
Now, here’s where the rule comes into play. Sure, there’s a whole slew of Nicole Caters out there. I enjoy conversing with them frequently. But only one lives in Rock Island and has pink hair. Crap! Freakin’ Facebook! Stupid, idiotic me for allowing the friend request. But John Does still needs to talk, so I guess it’s harmless to listen as he does his instant message bitching. I might even be able to help the guy out. The guy with the fiancé.
This is fine, I can handle this. It’s a stupid move. But lord knows I’ve made stupider ones. Is stupider even a word? But now I sort of live in fear of getting on Facebook. Because John Doe is always on. And he always wants advice. Mostly about his fiancé. And what exactly do I consider cheating, because he thinks he needs a friend with benefits. Oh…….kay! Update status to in a relationship. Sorry, John Doe, we can IM, but we can’t talk on the phone and we can’t hang, it wouldn’t be proper in “new” relationship.
Now some of John Doe’s problems are non-problems caused by him just being jerk. So, by all means, I feel free to tell him what the hell he’s doing wrong, and maybe try and fix that. Other problems are just weird. Like do I think he’s a bad person because he just needs a FWB because his fiancé doesn’t put out? Now, as I have no intention of getting involved in this drama whatsoever, I tell him he’s an adult, he makes his own choices, and I don’t judge. Why the hell do I care who John Doe wants to sleep with?
Well, because he wants to sleep with me. Um, can I get a hell no? First off, I do not find anything about John Doe attractive in the least. He’s 10 years younger than me, and that just kind of makes me feel icky. And I may be going through one hell of a dry spell, but he’s not who I want to jump back into the action with. At all. No. Nada.
Except how do you respond to an IM that asks if you want to be gone down on? Personally, I said I was going out for pizza and would have to talk later.
By Nicole Cater
So, we all know how it went with Cellie #1. I sort of wondered if I would continue to get a private room when I walked in one afternoon (don’t ask me when, days are irrelevant), and there was Cellie #2. She seemed, well, about to kill herself. Which was altogether much easier to handle than some uppity trash-talking gender bender. As soon as the nurses got her settled in, I introduced myself. She introduced herself as Barbie. That’s not her real name, but you’ll figure out why in a second. Barbie seemed quite okay, but stuck in some sort of permanent fugue. I was a little chatty, plus Barbie was an unusual name. So I engaged in conversation.
I was trying to tell her the ins, the outs, the what have yous of the ward. Oh no, Barbie’s been around the ward a time or three. Um, okaaaay, that doesn’t sound promising. Turns out, Barbie’s a nurse, and she’s telling me about the ward, the doctors, the medications, and the whole nine. Part of me is awed at her knowledge. Part of me is scared at being stuck with a repeat offender.
We start talking about our lives outside the clink; which is always tons of fun, because this is where you get to up the ante. “Some days I can’t out of bed.” “One time I cut myself.” “I hate my doctor and have to be dragged to appointments.” It’s like keeping up with the Joneses, fruitcake style. Then Barbie drops the bomb. “I’ve been in and out of hospitals and had so many health problems, I’m pretty sure my husband is going to divorce me. He won’t even take my calls right now.” Okay, winner, winner, chicken dinner, I’m not even going to try to compete with that one.
That’s when Miss Julissa wanders in pulling Med Droid #1 and performs the Med Ritual. Miss Julissa scans the bracelet, and makes Barbie recite her past, yea, to the fifth generation… And that when I hear Barbie’s last name, Jingleheimershmidt. If there aren’t a lot of people named Barbie, there sure as hell aren’t a lot of people named Barbie Jingleheimerschmidt. Why do I know this? Because I am good friends with Ken Jingleheimerschmidt. I have just been schnookered into a world of careful diplomacy that I am so totally unprepared for. Oh shit!
I’ll admit, since I’m going through what Barbie is going through, my first inclination is to be really royally pissed at Ken. But then again, I also know that medical problems, both physical and mental, have been going on for years, and some people just aren’t up to the challenge. They aren’t made that way. And it’s hard to work ‘til death do you part when love has turned to resentment and damn near hate. I should know, that’s what my marriage was filled with, and we both had to give up.
But diplomacy, that shit ain’t easy when you’re stuck in a loony bin and your perspectives are all out of skew. I like Barbie immensely. I even shared my contraband e-cig with her. But at the end of the day, I knew who my friend was. My friend was Ken. Not this woman I barely knew who by happenstance was sharing a room with me for a couple of days. But isn’t that the way with friends? You owe your loyalty to them; you’ve taken some sort of unspoken friendship oath that says “I will do my best to understand your perspective first.”
In the end, when I got out, after thinking about it, I told him that Barbie knew their marriage was over, it was okay for him to pull the plug. I felt a little bad about this, as if I was a betrayer. But he told me he had already done the pulling, so I didn’t feel too bad. When you lead a life of intermittent misery, you need cheerleaders who sign on for the job and willingly go through the bad periods. What you don’t need is to drown and have someone hate you because you just drowned them too.
By Nicole Cater
Apart from sounding like two of the most illiterate inbred country bumpkins, DonRoy and Clayton were two of the coolest guys in the shack. And trust me, cool people are at a premium when you’re talking about Crazy Town, aka, your local mental health facility lockdown.
The first thing I noticed about DonRoy was his hair. Ironic, because that’s the first thing he noticed about me. But seriously, it was hard to miss DonRoy’s hair. It was about shoulder length, had the texture and appearance of steel wool, and was immaculately kept. It didn’t so much fall down to his shoulders as it billowed out around his head to shoulder length. The man had his own built in head-gear. Anyway, I also noticed that DonRoy was not really a “joiner,” as he was never in group sharing his deepest darkest feelings about who he really was.
One night, as I wandered into the community room, with my big baking book, I saw DonRoy in the comfy chairs waving me down like a 747 puling into a jet way. I’ll admit my first thought was “Oh good lord, what have we here?” But I went and sat down next to him and after introductions, DonRoy said, “I just have to say it, I love your hair.” Not what the Pinkster was expecting at all. But we sat for a good hour or so, going through my book, talking about our favorite desserts and the merits of pie over cake. After a while, DonRoy got brave enough to ask me what happened to my book, the front cover was a little split. Considering all the postie notes, did I just really use this one a lot?
Well, I had to be honest with him. This was about an hour before the whole cellie restraint book demolishing debacle, so why was my second best book ripped up? See, it turns out that Bipolar Disorder is not just Manic or Depressive, it can also be ferociously angry too! And I was ferociously angry. At me, at you, at life, at everything, really. So I threw my own book across the room. If I’d had better aim, I would’ve smashed to bits the mirror I was hurling at. Alas, I throw like a girl. But I ripped the corner of my book just the same. I didn’t know it till my mom brought it to me at first visiting hours. It wasn’t so much that I needed the book. It was that I needed her to bring me the physical reminder of why I had gotten into my car at 9:00 on a Friday night and committed myself. Things like that are important.
In any event, I promised I would make DonRoy a Chocolate Lava Cake.
Then there was poor little Clayton. Clayton was a sweetheart of a kid who just took a left when everyone else went right. He had a great sense of humor, and we could chat at length about different books. The problem was that Clayton didn’t have any visitors. And that meant Clayton didn’t get any books. None on the ward, we might paper cut ourselves to death. So every once in a while, Clayton would stop and ask what I was reading. Well, the answer varied from cake books to a study on the Salem Witch Trials. Was that it? Yep, sorry, you want me to have my mom bring you something? Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh, no, that’s okay. What can I say? I wasn’t bringing my whole library into the ward with me. But are you sure, just cake and witch books? Yep, ‘fraid so. Clayton was supposed to go from our loony bin side to the drug rehab side. But lo and behold, he saw a good doctor, and they figured out he had been misdiagnosed! He was going to be taking new meds! His parents were giving him another shot! Good for Clayton, he needed it.
And then I had a visit from mom. I suggested sitting in the comfy seats because the other seats hurt my ass like no other. As we were sitting there talking, I saw the woman next to me was crying. So I did what anyone else would do, I asked what she needed, went to get her water and Kleenex, and then she took a phone call. In this time, Clayton and DonRoy, having no visitors of their own, had bogarted my mom. I think they were trying to put her at ease while I had walked away, but since the guys are cool, you know, conversations happen. Anyway, I come back in time to hear Clayton tell mom that I have the most awesome daughter ever. Mom responds, to Clayton’s total glee, “I know.” Lord, my parents! And then he proceeds to tell her that that was the most brilliant answer ever. So much cooler than a typical mom “Thank you.” Right, like my parents need any encouragement. Just to make it official and let her know that she’s not dealing with a Barb or Roger, I make proper introductions.
As she was leaving, mom made the comment that we had quite the little community going. I told her only among the cool kids mom, only among the cool kids!
By Nicole Cater
Yep, you read that right, coloring. As previously mentioned, there are not a lot of interesting things to do in the clink. Coloring is certainly not a bad option. There are plenty of coloring books, crayons, markers and colored pencils. Art is healing. Except that all of the coloring instruments are blunter than a wooden spoon. God forbid Barb goes streaking and pokes someone’s eye out with a sharp crayon! We can’t have that happening on the ward.
So you color the best you can with these horribly used implements. If you’re brave, you can ask a nurse to sharpen a pencil for you. Which she will only do half way. We’re still crazy, remember. But I like to color. It’s soothing. I also liked to tape my art to my door. Considering my door was right across from their desk, and it gave them something to look at, my nurses were more than happy to give me all the tape I wanted. It was MoMA a la Nut Hut.
But seriously, I prefer the light touch method anyway, so the fact that most of the colored pencils weren’t sharp didn’t bother me too much. Pinkie Confession Time: I actually keep a huge box of colored pencils and a few coloring books on hand at home anyway. Like I said, it’s soothing. Staying within the lines, choosing the perfect color scheme for the picture, this stuff is important. Don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s not. Plus, we’re talking tangible benefits here, people. You can actually see your product as you finish it. Coloring is cool.
But it’s especially important to look cool while doing it. Not really for the sake of the population of the Nut Hutters. It’s because one of your besties from high school to your mid-20s just walked up to say hi. She works for the Nut Hut. And you so obviously don’t. Here’s how the conversation* went:
“Nikki, what are you doing here?”
“Oh, you know, just chillin’. Heard the food was good here. How are you doing Sophie?”
“Fine, fine, are you going okay?” Um, now call me crazy (please), but is this the right question to ask someone trapped in a mental health facility?
“Well, you know, some things got a little…” When encountered by a situation you are not, and could never be prepared for, my favorite mode of conversation is obfuscation.
“Don’t worry, you’re in the right place!”
“So I’ve heard. You wanna switch outfits? Mine’s more comfy, I swear!” This was not a joke, she was wearing the cutest black with pink pinstripe pants and pink cardi with a fabulous giant flower barrette. It was CUTE!!
“Ha ha, that robe does look killer on you though! And look, you kept your own socks. Argyle is so in, you fashion icon!” This is why old friends can be good friends, they get you.
Hugs were given all around, even though there is a strict “No Touching” policy, no one was going to stop Sophie from damn near breaking my spine. She gave me her number, again, I already had it. To say it was humiliating is maybe going a step too far. But it was a strong Def-Con Embarrassing Four, for sure. But damn, at least I looked cool while I was coloring.
*As you may have noticed, those who knew me prior to running off to college call me Nikki. I don’t like it, I try and discourage it, but it somehow never goes away. Nikki is the booger I can never fling off my finger.
By Nicole Cater
Okay, quick tip: Just in case you don’t now, a med is a medicine you currently take. A script is a med that has been prescribed, but you haven’t had it yet. Just clearing this shit up, I mean, truthfully, I could add a whole glossary section. But I won’t, because that’s boring.
So first let me disabuse you of the image that Hollywood, that perpetual do-gooder, has instilled into your brain of people lining up at a window or a couple of overly prepared nurses with trays handing out meds. You are not required to open your mouth and wiggle your tongue around to verify you swallowed the meds. HA! Okay, okay, I’m sure that happens. Somewhere. At least I’m not comfortable saying it NEVER does but….
Your first day on the ward, you get an approximate idea of your med time if you happen to wander by and ask your nurse (Miss Julissa, nice, but not tough as nails), if it’s okay that maybe you can have some of your Tramadol because your back hurts. Goodness yes! You also need your Prozac, Lamictal, Valtrex, Topomax, and Xanax. But you can’t have your Xanax now because you have to wait for the pharmacy to bring it up. Codes are entered, drawers fly open, cubbies holding pills pop up, it’s all very sci-fi. The barcodes on the back of the meds are scanned, your wrist band, which is so tight it’s cutting off circulation, is scanned, and holy shit, things start matching up! There is the little cup with pills and the little cup with water, Tinsel Town got that right. So every hour or so, you drift toward the nurses desk and ask if the Xanax has arrived. Your 9:00 a.m. med arrives at noon.
But there is no line. There is no tray. No one specifically asks for meds. In the morning, the patients spend between about 6:30 and 8:30 trying to decipher The Great and Mighty Board. And eating breakfast, but that only takes like 10 minutes. So, having figured enough about The Board to see who you’re assigned to (Day two, Miss Karen, she’s obviously started requesting me), you must see about getting your meds. That is, if you’re not Barb or Roger. They don’t see about doing anything. Because Barb doesn’t really see anything real anymore, and Roger, newly hatched, can’t figure out what the hell this place is that he’s infiltrated.
Round about 9ish (There’s a couple of clocks on the ward, but they’re only good for meal, med and visiting time), you start to wander around the nurse’s station. You move in and out of your nurse’s line of sight in the hopes that she will see you and realize its med time. Considering the number of loons milling about expectantly doing nothing, most get the picture quickly. Should 9:30 roll around and your nurse has been too busy jibber-jabbering about life on the outside, you may have to make direct contact. Not to give the impression that nurses don’t care. Well, I mean, they don’t on the other side of the line, I think I got lucky there. But there’s a lot going on in this thing called life, and we’re really not a part of it, so we’re easy to forget.
Night meds are a different animal. Some do the passive milling about trick again. But it’s night, and by that time, you’ve either fallen asleep, become engaged in a book, game or movie, or completely forgotten there’s a clock and something called time altogether. So you’re hunted down. Turns out, this is the droid you’re looking for. It’s five feet high, on wheels, and has its own scanner. This is something like the new-fangled tray idea. With a scanner. So if you haven’t passively aggressively shown up at the desk by 9:30, they wheel the droid around, looking for you. Having had your meds dispensed, you are allowed to return to your scheduled program of nothing. Until tomorrow, when it starts all over again.
This is our new Wicked Short Stories page with submissions from various Authors. Please look for bio-snippets about the Author at the bottom of the various pieces. Enjoy!