“I accidentally discharged 31,” I hear her say behind a closed curtain, “but she’s not ready to go yet.”
I wasn’t ready to go anywhere yet, but here I am.
I am wearing paper clothes like a doll. And like a doll, I feel nothing. It is cold in paper clothes, but they give you warm socks. It reminds me of my childhood. When I was released, I kept the socks. I wore them for days.
They ask me a series of questions that I don’t know how to answer. I am exhausted, so I tell the truth. “Amazing,” I think. “No tears. Not one tear.”
I hear the other numbers. 21 is complaining about the food. 25 is speaking to a woman. A nurse, I suspect.
“I’m leaving,” he tells her.
“You said you wanted to stab your roommate…” she says to him.
“I don’t remember saying that.”
“So we can’t let you leave.”
“Yes, you can.”
“No, I can’t.” The nurse seems annoyed.
I hear footsteps coming towards my room. It is not a number. The socks keep our transitions silent. I find this odd.
It’s the frustrated nurse. She enters and sits next to me with a clipboard. She looks at me suspiciously. She thinks I am a waste of her time, a princess in a dramatic play who got a bad role on a bad day.
“You’ll like it here. But unfortunately, we don’t have tanning beds.” Her eyes roll over. “The others will love you,” the nurse adds, “not many pretty girls for them to look at around here.”
I don’t think she likes me at all. 27 likes me. I see him stare at me from across the hall. I start to feel like a shell now. I don’t like his eyes…
The nurse begins to inform me of the lunch menu like a waitress in a restaurant. Her words start to echo; It sounds like she is speaking in a cave.
I am in a cave…
I think of his eyes. How they looked when he said, “I don’t love you.” Gray-blue, almost violet. Full of life, deep with attention and concern. I wanted to care, but I was a shell again. His words seemed to fade. Each one became progressively softer. I ignored his mouth and focused on the sounds filling the bar; laughter, melodies, drinks being poured, video game bells, tones, shuffling feet, moving chairs and the conversations of those much happier than I am now...
“I don’t want to be here.” I think aloud. The nurse overheard me.
“Then why are you here…?”
(excerpt from a work in progress, short story fiction)