P.54

           Sabrina was 19. She lived in LA with only her mother, who was also in the final stage of a very rare form of cancer, and had just lost her ability to even walk. Sabrina and her brother were the only ones really around to take care of her, but her brother didn’t live there so the weight of the responsibility fell on her, and had been so for the last couple years; leaving her with no time, energy, or will to properly take care of herself. She doodled nervously in the sketchbook in her lap  discussing the details of how all these things had affected her and had brought her to now being clearly far older than her age. She had been in the day program for some months to no avail before sent here after collapsing there. She didn’t really see any people or have any relationships other than one a couple years ago, the nature of which garnered too much disapproval to last. She felt extreme guilt about being in treatment instead of at home taking care of her mother, who had only a few months left to live; blaming herself for being selfish and not simply “just eating” so she could be well enough to make up for the help they could not afford not having insurance, barely able to even afford medications to ease the suffering of her mother’s slow passing. 

        But regardless, Sabrina was still the most animated and entertaining of us, often going off on long rants about the enormity of the universe and how much that freaked her out. I can recall only a couple other people whom I have come across in my life who could actually make me laugh so much. But like all of us, when she was dark, she was very dark; and it was reflected all throughout her sketchbook, which once looking through was every corner full of brilliant macabre sketches very similar to Shawn Coss.

        It was a particularly sobering hour of hearing her account, but her story and the soul with which it was relayed stood out to me more than most others’, particularly the love that was evident between her and her mother; in the way she looked and how she spoke about her mother, and the pictures I later saw- Though also because I personally did not understand the type of connection. 

***

       Shawna slowly paged through the weighty photo album I reluctantly had sent from home, acting as though she was legitimately interested or intrigued by remnants of my seemingly irrelevant childhood photos. 

“What do you see Kat?”

           “A little kid….” 

“Yeah, but it’s you.”

          “No shit Shawna.”

“Hm.Do you remember this?” she pointed to a picture of me with my parents when I was about 6. 

        “Nope. Should I? That’s too young to remember.”

“Actually, it’s really not for most people. How about this? Any of it?”

      “Nope. But it’s obviously right there, so I don’t really need to remember.”

“Hm.” she continued through each page, as though looking for something. “Interesting.”

             “Interesting? Looks to me about as boring as it gets. Just an All American Family.”

“Perhaps it would appear so, but in over twenty years of doing this with clients I’ve never seen this kind of dynamic before that I’m seeing in most of these pictures. ”

         “like what? Like the energy or reading eyes or something?”

“Huh? No I mean in every picture, all the way back to as a baby, you look not only terrified, but are either trying to get away from your mother or look like an entirely independent entity from the rest of the family- you only look present when you’re with your brother, and even here he looks a bit stand-offish and detached as well. Look, here and in every picture you’re faced away from your mother, ever when she’s holding you.” she turned another few pages. “But it almost looks like you’re trying to avoid eye contact, which is particularly interesting considering the significant role eye contact with the mother plays in the development of the prefrontal cortex and limbic system. Furthermore, and even more interesting is how those parts of the brain are implicated in mood and thought  regulation, interpretation of reality, and general will to live. 

          I laughed. “Well that would explain a lot. But if there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that when it comes to parents, you get what you need and then get the fuck out. I don’t think she scared me so much as maybe just disgusted me and constantly made me feel like she was gonna give me an ulcer or something like that. But now that I’m an adult- and not even a functional one at that- I understand now why parents are always in a bad mood, yelling and stressed out.”

“Not all parents are like that.”

         “But it’s not a family if you’re not throwing shit at eachother,” I laughed facetiously. “OK, so maybe I learned that not ever family is like that in my early twenties. But when I first started dating Caden and spending time at his house, I eventually said to him that he and his family could stop pretending to be nice and like eachother just for my sake. He claimed that that was how they actually were most of the time, and I didn’t believe him until a year or two later when I never saw otherwise. Like they would sit around and watch tv, and talk to eachother and laugh, or even play lame- ass board games or video games, and looked like they actually enjoyed each other’s company. Needless to say, I started spending a lot of time there. But it felt foreign, because it felt safe.”

“Your family didn’t play games together? What about watching TV?”

         “Hell no games. And watching TV was used as a punishment for me because I thought it was absolutely mindless, boring, and I just didn’t want to be in the family room. I don’t know why. But not that I’m complaining, but my brother and I realized when we were in our twenties that not only did our family not get along, but mom didn’t play with either of us once our entire childhoods- even with my spotty memory, it’s consistent with his. But dad played with us often, but then mom would get mad and we’d have to stop because we were loud or roughhousing.”

“Seriously? Well I know what you guys are going to be doing next family visit then, playing a board game.” Shawna had made at least family visits essentially mandatory for me, because I didn’t care to see anyone.

        “Oh God no Shawna! That sounds awful…      But really it wasn’t just the not wanting to be around mom though, or her being all business- she really was legitimately busy, I think like most adults. She started and ran her own company from when she was my age, a “Forever Florals” bouquet preservation business, it was hugely successful and she did work for all kinds of celebrities who would come over. So we spent every weekend and many weeknights in the back seat of the car, begrudgingly dragged to wedding after wedding. I remember there was never anything to eat those nights but Ritz crackers and granola bars, so I never ate one again. But then she blew out her back  when I was maybe 10 and was in bed for nearly a year, wearing this gnarly back brace and sometimes walking with a walker. She had to sell the business not long after that, and retired when I was 11.”

“Oh wow- is she OK now? I mean, she looked OK.”

        “Well you of all people should know that looking OK means little to nothing. But yeah, she’s been fine for almost a decade. It took a bunch of doctors who all couldn’t figure out why she was in so much pain until a Dr. Grossman noticed that she had no vertebral disks at all in various places- just a minor detail for so many doctors to somehow fail to notice. But she had a double or triple spinal fusion and after recovery, her back is good.”

“OK, I’m glad to hear that. So, what is the first memory you do have?”

         “Easy. I was seven and I was being wheeled into the operating room, because I had to have double abdominal hernia surgery. My brother had just given me a plush ladybug he had gotten from the hospital store. I can see the oxygen mask on my face, administration of the bubblegum- flavored anesthesia, and looking up at the surgeons wondering how long it would be until I would be asleep. But I guess the red ladybug was the first thing I remember in life.”

“Two hernias at only seven?? What in the world from?”

         “I don’t know. They said probably congenital; but maybe from always carrying things that were too heavy for me.  I haven’t as much as thought about it since then. But then I got another hernia when I was an adult, a different kind though. I’ve had a couple practitioners suggest that perhaps something with my digestive system got messed up with the procedure, but I think that’s unlikely. ”

“I’ll bet. What seven year old carries things that heavy? But you had the two from in womb.”

       “I guess.”

“Funny, five minutes ago you said you always felt like she was going to give you an ulcer or something.”

….

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P.53

      “OK. Hi, I’m Leo” he waved, facetiously emulating AA. “I’m 28. I grew up in Inglewood with my mom and two siblings. I’ve had depression, anxiety, anorexia,  and bulimia since I was 17. I moved a few years ago to Washington; I live with my fiance Phil. I attend a university there where I’m obtaining my Master’s in Law, and hoping to run for Senate in the next 5-10 years.” he was speaking a bit slow today- perhaps on an anti- anxiety med. He continued to fidget with his eyebrow ring, as he did when he was thinking. “My fiance felt that my eating disorder and depression had become unmanageable when I started collapsing at work. I was manager at the GAP, until I passed out, hitting my head, getting a terrible concussion that I dealt with for the next two years and have suffered a series of seizures. My insurance didn’t cover anywhere in state that wasn’t shitty, I had read about this place, and I figured I could see my family again for a while: but Phil said he was going to leave me if I didn’t go through treatment and try to get help because it’s hindering our life. I’m not sure if I want to get better or if I can, it’s been so long I don’t think it will ever go away.” he looked down at his boots. 

         “Thank you Leo.” Shawna looked to Melisa.

“I’m 27. I live in Washington on SSI with my mother. She is dying of end- stage lung cancer. My older sister Tisa lives there at times, but it’s stressful because she’s in and out of rehab for heroin, as well as other law- involving affairs. I came here after being in the hospital for a while because I had not eaten or drank for 5 days. I was on a feeding tube there, until I decided I couldn’t handle that anymore and when I was strong enough came out here to get far away from my mother and Tisa. I felt taken advantage of. That’s all I have to say.” 

       “Kat.”she skipped back to the window. “please join the group on the couch.” 

      I jumped over the back of the couch and thought for a moment what to say. 

“I’m 24. I live with my parents just half hour from here, I’ve had depression, anxiety, and anorexia since I was 14. I have not regularly attended any schools or colleges. I’ve never held a consistent job and have been entirely unable to work since 21. I have had long hospitalizations before, but the eating disorder I juggled with my life until it became unmanageable when I was diagnosed with evidently untreatable hypothyroid at 21. After reaching a “normal” weight,  I’ve mostly been starving myself for the last three years just to not gain more weight. I got tired enough of that and always feeling like sh- crap,  and generally hate every part of life; so I first began seriously  considering, planning, and a few half-assed attempts at suicide over the last couple years, until I almost hung myself a couple months ago. My therapist recently had reason to believe I was on the verge of succeeding in my attempts, as well as still eating so little, that she 5150’d me. I was at BHC Alhambra psych ward before this. I agree with Leo, it’s all been so long and gotten so bad that I don’t believe it will ever go away, or get better with all the treatment in the world. But I guess you guys are my babysitters anyway.”

     “Thank you. Amberlyn?”

She didn’t say anything. 

       “Amber.”

“I’m here because my parents put me here and I’m not old enough to sign myself the hell out of here.” she seethed. 

     “A little more…”

“I’ve had anorexia practically since I was born. Such a shame… The being born part I mean.”

 Lizzy interjected, “Just let her be, she obviously doesn’t feel well. I mean that’s practically already half of what would be my college thesis right there.”

       “Alright, Lizzy?

“I’m 19. Canadian. Anorexia, bulimia, drugs.  My parents kicked me out. No I’m not a citizen yet but I am going to. I’ve been im treatment nearly nonstop for over a year; partly because I don’t have anywhere to live. I’ve been to BHC- that place is awful. Tried overdosing a couple times on Oxy. Don’t do it. Stomach pumping is not fun…One year clean of heroin and one year sober. Yeeaah! Andre made me a purple cupcake for it! Yep. That’s about it. Oh and don’t do heroin, like ever.” 

       “OK and Sabrina, the rest is all your time.”

“Oh I’m going to drag this out as much as I can to pay you all back for fucking- I mean messing with my bunny slippers…” Sabrina asserted. 

P.41

…Sparing you a long rant, I’m pretty good with dealing with external hurts and problems- because most things seem like nothing when normal emotional responses are usually drowned out by constant inner battle. Of course I tried and wish the best for Uly.. But I have enough guilt in my life that I can’t afford to bear that too. I guess talking about it for the first time though, it sounds more sad than I had thought it would. But I think that back then- that was six or seven years ago- a part of my heart was alive and well intact that I think I lost somewhere in the last few years. Like no thing or no one can even touch me anymore, in any way. Life has always been hard, as it is for everyone; but I never could have imagined it being as impossible as it has become, or that I would fail entirely. What’s that song… ‘Now in the morning I sleep alone, and sweep the streets I used to own.’ So I confess to often being numb to things that should upset me, or would most people- as I’ve often been told or observed in others.”

      “I think that part of your heart is still there, just temporarily frozen or hiding.” 

“Oh the eternal optimist- but we’ll compliment eachother. Or that part was murdered. Probably by me. There weren’t enough resources to go around.” 

“What else did you read that stood out to you?” She suddenly focused past me out at the creeping oak. “Uh oh, it’s an omen Kat…” she laughed.

       A murder of crows, nearly a hundred strong had crowded together in the boughs of the oak closest to the window. 

“I’m actually legitimately freaked out….”she added. But that was usually an easy thing to do.

  “They don’t usually do that?” 

          “I’ve never seen it before.”

    After that day, it became a regular occurrence. 

       “Oh your last question…” I said, still turned about in the armchair observing the rowdy crows. “I suppose I was actually surprised to realize just how much of my life I’ve spent alone- in the literal sense, not just the feeling. I guess by bad luck or prohibition as a kid, not really being liked as a teen- or visa versa, and half choice/half circumstance as an adult.  I realized I’ve always been one to go months without seeing or hardly talking to anyone. Given, I was forcibly homeschooled after 12, and the little time I managed to spend in schooling systems afterward, I remained unspoken about how foolish and shallow I felt most of my peers were- and they were evidently afraid of me, that I was going to sacrifice their cat to Satan or something; so other than the time spent with Caden- which was a major adjustment for me- most all of the interaction I’ve had with people in my life has been over chat on the computer, whether I ever met them in person or not. But then again as a teen, I always got my ass grounded for months, so then I didn’t talk to anyone. But it became very clear reading through all that old stuff that I didn’t seem to proceed by any semblance of a normal child to adult progression or events of growing up. ”

“That’s becoming more common in this age, unfortunately- the virtual communication part. Did you purposely avoid people? There are other things you could have done to meet people.”

     “Not always. As a kid I usually played with my brother or beat the neighborhood boys- not because I had a crush though, probably to prove that female wasn’t the weaker sex- as I’d long been taught and treated, ” I laughed. “Up until about 15 I really enjoyed being with some people- I read all about that. But it’s kind of sad looking back now with a bit more discernment and realizing that I wasted my childhood and teenage years on people that left me out and treated me like shit. I guess I didn’t know anything else to know better.”

      “What changed at 15?”

   “Oh, that was when I was hospitalized for the first time. The day before, I tried to get the group together one last time- infrequently as I saw them anyway. I didn’t tell them where I was going, as I was testing them- and they had ditched me by the time I got to the meet spot. So I left for nearly four months in UCLA neuropsychiatric hospital, where I wrote each of the five of them letters saying that I was finally done with them, that all the years were enough for me to finally see that things would never change and I was fooling myself to think that I ever had any place with them. Only one ever responded to their letter, of which then nothing changed. I concluded that they were perhaps too young to understand courtesy, reciprocation, or honesty; and they were all too caught up in whoever they were dating and I was left out or the spare wheel. So that was when I started only spending time with people significantly older than myself- of which my parents condemned until some years later when they realized they couldn’t stop me.”

P.38

    “All the vitamins- easy, we agree on one thing. Now- ah, where did it go…” He retrieved a couple vials and syringe of mine from behind his briefcase and placed it on the small table between us. “Why are you taking this- and more curiously, where did you even get it from?”

    “I’m single, I can sleep with whoever I want, remember?  Kidding, kidding… I got it from Dr. Seyer in Moorpark- whom I’ve seen for seven or eight years. Now all our appointments are is him asking me how I’m doing, I say shitty and ask him if he’s picked up the guitar yet that’s been sitting in the corner for the last three years, he says no and gives me a couple refills, and I’m set for a month. Reason being, I was the first guinea pig for his Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation therapy , and tried enough drugs that he’s usually open to anything outside the box.  What I’ve been taking had actually been suggested by another psychiatrist when I was a minor- but my parents were too closed- minded. I will confess however that I recently just started buying it under the table from an Australian pharmacy; because the insurance company was getting squirrelly- and after that they banned its use entirely.”

“OK, I’ve heard of him- he’s a very good psychiatrist…You actually talked him into prescribing you this? You know, there’s quite a bit of controversy as to if it’s even safe- insurance could have easily had Seyer’s license.”

    “I didn’t know about the insurance policy then– and I’m sure he didn’t either. As far as risk- I’ve been on it for over a year now, and its the only thing that’s ever helped even a tiny bit. Sure it’s no miracle- but I didn’t even hardly leave my room until I started with the injections and then suddenly I was not only leaving my room, but the house, sometimes even the city. It almost completely eliminated the panic attacks I’d had nearly everyday for years. My mind became sharper, my body stronger, and even a running injury I’d struggled with for over six years finally healed; amongst many other benefits. Perhaps it’s partly placebo, but it’s one hell of a placebo then; but if you’re skeptical- I can provide medical contacts who can vouch that it’s the only help I’ve ever found.” 

“Interesting… I’d never even considered it’s use. I can see you’re just as dead set on doing what you will in these matters. As long as you understand the risks- though I’m going to have you sign a release of liability- I’m surprised to be saying that I’ll approve it. But that’s a very high dose- I’ll give you 5mg.”

   “Ten,” I countered reflexively. 

        He looked almost taken aback for a split second, as though unaccustomed to his generosity being challenged. 

“Seven milligrams a day,” he replied. “beginning this evening,” to my relief, he handed me one of the vials and syringe. 

“Deal.” I drew some, sunk the needle into the side of my thigh, stopping at the second measurement line – “And how about full dose for compliant behavior in the future?” 

     “We’ll see,” he said, taking a large guzzle of his coffee. 

            Just when I thought that Shapiro was going to throw me out then for my obstinance, we ended up taking until almost 2am; simply about anything. He had a way of adding a very intriguing slant to everything;  proposing more specific and insightful questions than anyone I knew- and since I had always been the one asking people questions, it was a welcome change. Over the months I did notice that I was always called last; but I had grown to enjoy the late night conversations with an intellectually adept individual. I did eventually ask directly as to why I always had to stay up into the morning hours- when I was expected up at 5:30- to which he replied that he simply liked talking to me. Which was surprisingly nice to hear because I had thought I’d lost the ability to socialize, or was simply a boring conversationalist. 

           Within the hour after I had begun to feel a bit more like myself than I had in the last month, and with a second wind I returned to my couch, opened my red book and began to write another short note beneath the last request- of which I figured God wasn’t gonna go for anyways, as  I’d already asked for that one likely somewhere around 1,095 times; but what Shapiro was trying to get at was still bothering me. 

   “Dear God, please show me if I can even feel physically attracted to someone. I’m starting to think I’m just asexual. I don’t think I can do a relationship, but if you will, show me what that feeling is that makes people turn so instantaneously stupid- infatuation I think. I want that. Bring someone to replace and surpass the little bit of feelings I had for Caden- if there’s really anything more out there.” 

I set the now bleeding pen on top of the alarm clock and fell into a vivid sleep. 

P.37 the Last Letters

       Dr. Shapiro was in that evening, meeting individually with each resident in Shawna’s office- as he was hired from outside and not affiliated with the clinic. I fell asleep on my couch waiting to be called, of which to my surprise was not until nearly midnight; I was dead (tired) last because I was a new intake, as to allow for all the time necessary.

         Dr. Shapiro occupied the armchair, so I found a sunken-in part of the couch with a couple pillows to spend the next couple hours. He appeared roughly three and a half decades of age, with darker skin that suggested a middle-eastern ethnicity, with a surname of Hindi origin. He wore sophisticated black glasses and I never once saw him wearing anything but a flannel button up with a perpetual five o’clock shadow. He always had a blue can of Monster Energy drink or a Grande Starbucks drip in his hand; of which continually tormented my then somnolent self. He had a very calm, equable temperament- just appropriately intimidating, speaking a bit on the slow side, as though he were incredibly carefully assessing every word he used. 

        He first asked me essentially all of the same questions that Shawna had the day before, to gain a baseline understanding of a very long, convoluted history of medications, hospitalizations, and general mental health status. Yet he was abnormally thorough from any psychiatrist I had met before, then asking the most random and seemingly unrelated questions, before moving on to questions about relationships and sex life. For whatever reason, he seemed the most intrigued by my having been single for the past nearly four years, without dating or any apparent intention for change- as though it were so unheard of. After briefly explaining the one relationship and why I thought it turned out for the best, the conversation somehow took an unexpected turn.

         “You’re implying that you were together for three years, and never slept together,” he said incredulously.

“It wasn’t just me being a prude- it was both of our upbringings.”

    “That’s hardly ever stopped anyone else….so you’re how old-” he glanced down at the paper to his side, “24- and you’ve been just fine remaining single, no casual encounters or the types of things.”

         “Correct.” 

“So- and just continue to humor me for a minute, it’s not my intention to make you uncomfortable- if you see a good-looking guy with his shirt off or something, you don’t feel at all aroused?”

“Hm.” I conveyed my continuing skepticism as to the relevance. “I guess not; no- it doesn’t do anything for me in that regard. Is that so strange?”

     “Less so for women- I’ll give you that- but I talk to a lot of people and generally, that’s how most people operate. They get hungry, they get horny, instinct makes all of those things rather…simple.” he paused as though failing to think of a more fitting word. 

“That’s because people are generally simple. That’s how the human race goes on.”  I knew I sounded like an arrogant  asshole. “but attraction is far more complex than just a body or a face.”

       “Do you like women?”

     “Oh god- Not you too…” Now I saw where all of this was going. “No, it’s not like that at all!”

“Would you even allow yourself to really ask the question- with your upbringing and all? Because you  seem to exude a rather masculine type of presence, in addition to your former responses. I just want you to be honest with yourself- there’s nothing or shameful with if you were of such orientation.” 

    I laughed, rather  irritated. “As though ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are mutually exclusive; You’re mistaking my personality for being a lesbian- a personality that’s the product of a life spent fighting for and against most everything; a life spent alone for the most part- apart from again both fighting and coalescing with the enemy for momentary security. You mistake my anger, my bitterness, my inner revulsion and disillusionment; and you mistake my being fucking tired of being undermined by being pushed around: told what to do and disarmed so that I couldn’t fight back; told what to wear, where to go, who to talk to or not talk to, what to want, who and how to love; always feeling wrong, always being told what’s best for me and that I didn’t know it myself- because I was just a girl. Well guess what? I’m fucking done with that, now I’m going to fuck things up myself, with no one to blame but me because this ship’s going down anyways. They can all hate me here for bending the rules, for not taking your stupid fucking  antipsychotics, or for truly believing I know how to take care of me better than they do- but I just don’t give a shit anymore.” I took a breath, wringing the throw pillow in my grip.

       “Touchy. Will that be all?” He sat legs crossed, fingertips touched lightly to his chin, looking all the part of the cliche, contemplative psychotherapist; but with a  disquieted look of evident curiosity.  

“No.  That’s not even mentioning the kind of pain I’ve lived with everyday for years- do you think I have anything in common with anyone my age? Much less any half retarded 25 year old male with only enough blood to operate one brain at a time. I’m not looking for any goddamn pity or a metal for martyrdom- but most people don’t know anything but the trivial, garden variety kind of struggles that we most all face.       You want to know why I chose to stay alone? Because I’ve been sick for years and years, and it has been getting worse every year it would seem. It had begun to become unmanageable around when Caden left; Physically and emotionally- so intimately intertwined that there’s seemingly no escaping it or breaking the self- perpetuating cycle; and I don’t really want anyone to see me, because I don’t think that they’d understand. 

 Sure, the residents here may know what it’s like to deal with the additionally indescribable torture of an eating  disorder, or a few of them drugs; but most people don’t or just can’t fucking understand what it’s like to wake up in pain, push through every crawling hour in pain, and then try to fall asleep in it; or what it’s like to lose the choice or freedom of doing what you want to, or going where you want to; to not be able to drive because the pain and the sick feeling in every bone fucks up your head so bad; or what it’s like to wish so fucking badly you had the guts to pull the trigger of the barrel in your mouth. No, there’s absolutely nothing left for anything else- not for dating, or seeing people- much less meaningless sexual escapades with people who are gonna leave your ass when they find a newer one anyways. Besides, I’d be more like a tripolar house cat than a girlfriend.

     So. I know I’m self destructing, I know my coping mechanisms aren’t  sustainable, and I don’t give a fuck because I’m on my way down anyways- and I’m not gonna drag someone else down with me- And if you think I’m trying to act tough and callous, it’s because I’m probably weaker and more afraid inside than anyone; and I’ll get aggressive in whatever manner necessary to save- or at least help- my ass. So fuck this, fuck that, and you see that fucking thing over there-” I lobbed the pillow across the room, knocking a picture frame on the wall off center, “fuck that thing too.”

 “I see…”smiling nearly imperceptibly. “Well. while I still think that you perhaps protest too much regarding the original topic, I’ll put that one away for now. “I’d take a guess that you’re not going to want to take anything I suggest. What do you believe will actually be of help to you, within my power?”

     He was right that he likely wasn’t going to be able to persuade me to risk any more meds- I had already tried most antidepressants at least once, usually gaining only the side effects- of which I eventually stopped reading entirely; which did nothing to appease such disappointing results. Additionally, I confessed a propensity for eventually not following doctors order- much less regarding taking medications as prescribed; admittedly a result of being forced to take numerous medications as a minor- always to my detriment, or cornered into taking them as an adult; but it was with good intentions so that made it OK, they said. I never wished to be forced to do or take anything from anyone- ever again. Anti psychotics were more than off the table for me- even if it was a requirement of everyone’s treatment plan to take a “mood stabilizing” drug- aka Risperdal, Abilify, Lithium, etc. I as pleasantly as possible told him he could think me arrogant, or a know-it-all, or “non-compliant” as my chart read- but that after years of trial and error, I had concluded that my body hated 99% of psychiatric drugs, and I merely sought to get him to approve my vitamins and only one of the prescriptions.

     He looked over the long list of vitamins I had been taking and the couple prescriptions that I had decided to try and push through. “Yes, so I had been rather curious to discuss this last one with you…

P.36 the Last Letters

       I couldn’t bring myself to write a single word of the autobiography that day, but spent an inordinate amount of time lying there staring at a blank page. I really just didn’t give a shit about my past, and I was pretty damn sure no one else did either. Therapists always thought the problem was in your childhood- that you had been abused or something- and I’d had a perfectly fine childhood from what I remembered- though admittedly, that wasn’t much before my early teenage years.                                   The moment I decided to just blow it off for the day, I remembered the lucid words of the woman in the wheelchair in the Alhambra ward basketball court cage: that I would need to write for me– that I was the one who needed to read it, to see it- and that people would take or leave the truth whether I censor myself or try to entertain or not. Perhaps she was right- that despite how painfully difficult it was for me to drag myself through writing something that I don’t believe would be of any consequence to anyone- that writers were writers because they wrote what burned inside of them; no matter how presumptuous, egocentric, ill- paced, vapid, or tedious their tangible expressions may seem to the reader.                   

“So You Want to Be A Writer…”  I muttered, rolling over with an exasperated sigh. I only had to share it with the house residents- I didn’t need to impress anyone, It was just that I hated doing anything half-assed, and would take me a lot longer than three days to avoid neglecting details that would never stop nagging at me.                                                    

“God if you think I should write this worthless autobiography I need some kind of motivation, muse, or sign that I should waste all my time digging up things that I’m fairly certain don’t matter anymore. Because I think this is stupid and you know how hard it is for me to write things I don’t give a shit about,” I said aloud, burying my face in the pillow.                                             In my mind I saw the old man in that chapel in Oxnard who had given me the last journal and told me to “write down everything that happens.” I shifted again, spacing out somewhere in the boughs of the oak tree at the window, continuing to watch the blurred memory in my mind. Only then did I recall anything else the man had said, of which he again looked at me very seriously and said that in the future I would doubt, but that I needed to “not doubt that God really does talk to you.” Perhaps he was simply out of his head, speaking nonsense like the nonsensical thoughts tirelessly running through my own head.

“I don’t know if I even really know me- how is anyone else supposed to?” An inordinately large hummingbird zoomed up to the window, beak all but scraping the glass. He hovered there for perhaps somewhere around five seconds or so- then with a sideways motion that made me think he would have asked me what I was doing, the light caught his ruby- feathered chest. 

“Sorry buddy, not in the mood,” I said as though he could hear or  understand, as he zipped off. 

      I suppose I had indeed been given a lemon or two- and without much delay; my dumb sign I had asked for, and was always asking for because I tended to be really dense in regards to believing in anything positive- what I had written in this book had also happened. So I guess God was still listening. Maybe even in a generous mood. 

I turned to a few lines below the request for a lemon, first pausing to go back and write a small “thank you” beneath it. 

  I wrote, “Dear God, please let me die- very, very soon- or as soon as possible. I’m tired. I want to go home, but not home where I grew up- that doesn’t feel like home either. Nowhere does. Never has. I need to go somewhere far, far away from myself, everyone, and everything – but I can never get far enough away from the things that torment me day in and out; but you already knew that. But I know we made a deal, and though I confess I regret now that you spared a life that only went on to become entirely worthless and burdensome to me- give me the strength, the will, and the direction to fulfill my purpose here; but please bring it swiftly and after, do not forget my heart’s desire and request for rest and home.” 

      I took a safety pin from the inner lining of my grey jacket- just like I did that day 11 years ago- and drawing a few drops of blood, retraced over the word home. 

P.33

   “WAKE UP CALL, EVERYBODY UP… VITALS! …COME ON, UP AND AT EM! RUNNING LATE TODAY SORRY…” the voice added politely.

   I heard what sounded like a young girl, yelling across the entryway and then down the hallway.  I moved the pillow I had placed in front of the digital clock’s obnoxiously bright red numbers. 5:54

   The bearer of the voice, Marla, was an exceedingly dainty dark-haired woman with chic square-rimmed glasses- whom you could have easily mistaken for a 14 year old; but she was the night shift RN. Every morning she had the pleasure of trying to wake us all up to take our blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen sat, etc and then tossing you a gown to go get lined up for weigh-in. Being a night owl, 5:30- 6 am was not something I ever got used to- especially without coffee, and breakfast wasn’t for another three hours- even with those at home, my brain didn’t usually wake up until 5pm- and that was only sometimes.

“Oh my god.. how does she even…” I saw Leo come from down the hallway in the same terrible hospital gown, and lean against the door frame of the weigh in room. I surmised that was where we were supposed to go, so I went to stand over there as well. If I had been a shy person I would likely have felt very awkward with just a thin open- backed gown for clothing.

“So… newcomer, welcome to the fanciest hell you’ll ever find yourself in. I’m Leo- but you probably already figured that out.”

“Kat.”

“Sorry, I was in an awful mood last night. I could have at least waved or something I guess. I know I was so goddamn unnerved the day I got here. But that entire group was just awful- you’re lucky you came here when you did. Where are you from?”

“Practically down the street,  or just over the hill. Pretty much where I’ve been all my life. You?”

“I flew in from Washington DC. I grew up and lived in LA until I was 23 and then my fiance and I moved to DC for his work. Yes, I’m gay- so let’s just get that fucking annoying, unnecessary conversation out of the way. I mean people are people are people…” he continued without hardly even taking a breath, as though he were reciting something he was used to saying in his defense on the regular. “It’s like people expect you to be wearing a fucking rainbow gay pride pin or something.” he paused. ” I thought I saw you praying or something last night when you were sitting there with Brendan at the little table. You’re not one of those Christians are you? They always hate gay people; I swear, they’re the worst.” He said it as though he were handling something disgusting.

“I’m sorry if that’s been your experience. But yes, I guess if I had to put a denomination label on it, I’m a Christian; but I don’t think those people you may have had negative experiences with were of any genuine faith. And even if I were a hypocrit- I’m standing here in rehab, half- ass naked- I don’t think I’m necessarily in any position to be throwing stones.”

“Yeah, well we’ll see,” he said, next up into the room. 

A very drowsy Liz and Sabrina – who were typically inseparable- appeared from down the other hallway. 

     The moment Leo said the word “rainbow”, I suddenly recalled the dreams that I had had that night. After all the morning routine I went back to write them down.