I’m lying on a cheap spring mattress, the kind that’s so unforgiving I don’t know why I didn’t just lie down on the floor. I remembered it was because they come in every 15 minutes, shining their flashlights right in your face and I would get written up for abnormal behavior if I were found on the ground or walking the hall to vainly attempt distraction from the invisible terror that had kept me awake for the last six days straight. And if I get written up again, it’s at least three more days I’d be held before the smug doctor would again send for me to sit and be assessed for a tentative release -though just a transfer for me– date. The office was unbearably small, like a broom closet, and he seemed like one of those deeply twisted yet inexplicably attractive characters from a mind fuck film; but if I’d ever had to act, it was now. I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve and to mask those things makes me ever-increasingly ill. I broke down last time because I couldn’t hide how stressed, terrified, and hopeless I was- but if it kills me, this time I’ll get it right and I’ll answer all his questions exactly how he wants to hear. I couldn’t stay here any longer or I was truly was going lose my grip on the remainder of my mind and be stuck even longer; with dwindling fortitude to hold back my storms that could destroy anything and everything.
Why is everything so fucking hard to me?
Everyone gets in and out of these places just fine and I still find myself here on this bed, unable to block out the screaming in my head, delirium tearing at my mind, or shadowed hands gripping at the edge of the bed. When I was a kid I would tuck the blanket around me- foolishly, as though that kept the shadows from looming at my bedside- but I didn’t even have a blanket to cover the chills in this place, permeating beyond even skin and bone. The girl across the room began to mutter something unintelligibly and then proceeded to snore as an impending omen of my seventh night without sleep.
The massive wooden door opened with a loud click and in came the night shift worker who made no attempt at not waking me for the twentieth time- shining the flashlight on my face and then chest to verify that I was still breathing. I feigned that I was asleep. She left and I exasperatedly turned over to stare out the warped window and past the bars to the empty parking lot with a single dim, yellow streetlight. It wasn’t like the view last time, 105 days and nights spent gazing down at the Fox Tower through bars; wondering what my new life ahead held for me- all the things I wanted to do, see, experience for once. I guess I found out what the future held, and the view wasn’t the only major downgrade.
Focusing again on the lonely kindred streetlight, I wanted nothing in the world more than to get out of this place forever, run – run away and never stop. But I always had to stop eventually, and that’s what ends me up in these places. I get tired too quickly, in every way. Every second since has been so heavy, every breath so labored and unpromised, and my chest just won’t seem to open back up again to take In the oxygen I see everyone around me breathing. Every second here is like being deep in the middle of enemy territory; on edge, where there is no love, promise, care, compassion, nor peace. Every second here is threatening the beginning of a deeper torment, ever so precariously waiting to strike- leaving me perpetually paranoid and maddeningly inconsolable. But I never seem to get out of here; or I haven’t found a way in years- I guess I haven’t yet been able to cut deep enough to get it out of my skin, or loosen it’s iron grip on the back of my neck.
I don’t *really* know anyone here, nor am I known by any one of them. I can neither seem to form or keep any connection with any of the residents. I have one person I tended to stick with throughout my days- the guy who scares everyone, with the teardrop tattoos, as well as ink on every other inch of his skin- apparently a transfer from California’s Pelican Bay. We swapped cigarettes and he protected me from the men who look at us smaller ladies with ill intention. Some were not so lucky. But that’s all it usually is to me- a way to survive and he’s in his own little world, as I too am confessedly most often. I feel no less alone in his presence. All I could see is that his eyes are as empty as I feel. I could never figure out how to right this familiar predicament, or bridge the seemingly impassable chasm between any two beings of torment.
My parents regularly come to visit, of which I deeply appreciated to have some food and familiar faces, yet It didn’t take much any time to feel far removed from being a member of a family I never felt belonging with. I particularly felt like a third wheel at this point in my having been an “adult” for some time now, and never having even figured out how to uncripple my wings to leave the nest like my sibling. 30 years they’d made all of this stuff work, and they say they don’t feel alone, why would I? I can’t manage to explain any of my why’s to them. I don’t often try to explain anymore, to anyone.
I hated showering, but I would often take refuge in the shower- I had fifteen minutes with no supervision. It was the closest thing to a dark, rainy night and I could sit in the corner of the dull red tile and try to scrub off the crawling feeling I wear in my skin. The cold water ever sharpened my mind and calmed my feverish body. I would dream up my escape from this place- from my own personalized hell.
I could never long push away the incessant, violently intrusive thoughts of the many ways I could here try to again end my life. I just want to never feel this again; to wake up to do this day one more time-my own Groundhog Day that I can never manage to change the outcome of in this place; I never want to again feel the constant awareness of the distance separating me from everything that is dogmatically heralded to be the key to meaning, fulfillment, or even “happiness”. Anything to no longer feel the torture residing inside that has brought me here. Anything to no longer feel the gap between myself and everyone else even inches from my skin.
I turned again, the mattress giving a loud squeek and digging into my hip. I wondered how the fuck anyone managed to reach well enough to scrawl the phallic symbols and endearing profanity decorating the ceiling, cast in the grim light of that dying street lamp. I’d honestly never seen such a shitty facility; the movies had nothing on this god forsaken establishment and its powers. I felt more like a head of cattle than a person in spiritual/psychological distress. I could feel the sleep deprivation induced psychosis and if I wasn’t crazy before, this place had now made me.
“One day the sun will shine in my window, and in my head again.”
And I will lie still the remainder of the darker hours, telling myself this again and again until I reluctantly drift off into nightmare.
Yet little did I know then, That I would never get out.