No one spoke to me for the hour or so I remained there merely observing while adrift in thought, and occasionally switching over to sit in front of the window. It was a minor shock to digest the reality of not only so suddenly going from the life of isolation I had chosen and maintained for years to being around people- but being around people 24/7 for the next year. People always made me even more exhausted for some reason I could never identify, as though company somehow invisibly drained some kind of life force from me, or imposed their unspoken burdens upon me- even without the expectation of conversation or entertainment. Yet the extreme few humans I had met in my life- which I could easily count on one hand- who gave energy instead of taking, had a tendency to move across the country or disappear altogether. As irrational as I realized this inexplicable feeling and aversion to be- I knew I had better get used to it. But I never did; I guess pushing a flightless bird out of the nest doesn’t always teach it to fly.
After the supervised consumption of my designated Dinner – which to my reluctance was a quesadilla- I went out onto the back porch for some fresh air. Reflexively I reached in my sweatshirt pocket, then remembered they had of course confiscated my lighter and cigarettes, to keep them in the lockboxes in the locked nurse station. The patio was a decent size from what I could see on a moonless night, illuminated by one lamp by the doorway and the light through the living room window. There was a garden of Rose bushes lining the rod iron railing that gave way to a marked drop to what looked like an extremely miniature golf course below, and just beyond that, another massive oak tree. Beneath the single lamp were four square wooden chairs surrounding a tiny wooden table beside a clearly unused empty spa.
It was only a few minutes I had to look around before Jacqueline stuck her head out the door to inform me that Shawna had instructed I be in “line of sight” at all times- which meant I couldn’t go outside, much less at night when it would have been of most appeal to me. To my frustration, I was the only one on the unit who remained on this status for the entirety of my stay- as opposed to the typical 1-2 weeks- no matter how much I tried to behave and color inside the lines; So I eventually exchanged the fruitless charades of normalcy for going wherever and doing whatever I felt so inclined. Perhaps Amberlyn- the veteran of the clinic- had it right from the beginning: that the only effort that ultimately makes a difference is not getting caught- in life I suppose. But either it was my conscience or my upbringing that had still always kept me on a fairly short leash- one that I had been working to chew through for the time of late.
I grabbed the red book from Shawna’s office and retired early to the observation room, where I would also be sleeping- aka a smaller version of Shawna’s office with the same oak tree’s arms against the window. My couch was visible across the main entryway from the open doors of the staff office, of which was occupied by the night shift staff. I scanned through some of what was written those years ago and was surprised to find the pages riddled with words and wishes I had long forgotten, with random angsty poems and entries from well over a decade ago. I guess that much hadn’t changed. I turned to the last pages of the book, contemplating what terribly irrelevant thing I could write to see if God was still listening.
“Dear God, if you’re still listening, and if you care, please have someone give me a lemon. Yes- a lemon. I’m aiming high in life,” I scrawled.
I already felt awkward. I still always had my doubts- why would God care about me anyways when there are a billion people on this planet, and most of them have *real* problems. What did it really matter if I was miserable and wanted to die?
I was unaware that I was growing sleepy until finding in the morning that I had used the book as a pillow, and it was the first night of sleep I’d had in weeks.