It was a clumsy shower, as there were no shelves on which to place my soaps. When I finished, there were still no towels.
Mom and I talked for a little bit before going for a walk up and down the hallway. The tech never returned, so we stopped another girl in the hall and asked if I could shower. The petit girl with large glasses looked very tired. She nodded and directed me to the shower, which was only blocked off from the hall with a shower curtain, no door. I asked for a towel. The girl looked around as if surprised there weren’t any towels conveniently floating nearby. She left to go get one. I showered, enjoying my dear friend, Hygiene. It was a clumsy shower, as there were no shelves on which to place my soaps. When I finished, there were still no towels. So, I used my dirty scrubs to pat myself dry before putting on the clean clothes Mom had brought. When I returned to my room, I asked Mom if the tech ever brought the razor. She had not. We asked another tech—a young man—if he could bring one. He did (of course it would have to be the guy), and he waited outside the bathroom door while I performed my grooming. Ah, smooth upper lip…
After some time had passed, one of the techs yelled down the hall, “Open gym time! Come on, everybody! Time for exercise!”
“Hey, we should go!” Mom said, excitedly curious. “Let’s see what they have for you to do. Plus, the more they see you out and about, the more likely they’ll consider releasing you sooner.” I agreed.
The gym was a small room with purple walls and a high ceiling. Several male patients violently threw balls at the two basketball hoops, missing the target 90% of the time. These men had silly expressions on their faces. They were friendly, but clearly a little off their rocker. (But who am I to talk?) I wondered what they were in for. The Bill Cosby doppelganger took his basketball playing very seriously it seemed. If the ball bounced away from him, he wanted it back immediately. His teammate—a very tall patient—smiled at me and Mom with his toothless grin.
Mom and I stood off to the side, out of the way of ferocious basketball play. We found a football in a box of gym toys in the corner of the tiny gym space and began a game of catch with each other. It had been years since I had seen Mom play any kind of sport. Was it kickball or volleyball at a family vacation? Hockey in the driveway? In any case, it was nice (and amusing) to see Mom laughing as she tossed a failed spiral. It was comforting, in a way.
After losing our football to a hyperactive Bill Cosby, Mom and I strolled back down the hallway to the community lounge area. The ancient old man was sleeping in a chair against the wall, identical to his sleeping posture at breakfast—hands on his walker, legs spread apart and all as if someone had copied and pasted him there. Rhonda sat at one of the two tables, sipping a tiny juice box and taking up two chairs with her enormous backside. Mom and I sat at the other table, opting to put together a 1,000-piece puzzle from one of the bookshelves. We were two pieces short when we finished.
My then-18-year-old sister joined up with us a tad later, taking a shift so Mom could get back to the other seven kids. We talked for a while about my sister’s boyfriend. It was another welcome distraction from the fact that I just really wanted to see Charlie.
Charlie didn’t come to visit until the next day. He didn’t come until the evening, but he did bring me a Wendy’s Baconator, so it was almost forgivable. He didn’t seem very concerned about my situation at all or even excited to see me. I had been anxiously awaiting his visit, counting the hours (mentally, as there was no clock) until his visit, hoping he would surprise me at any moment. I wanted nothing more than to be held by him; to have my hair stroked. To cry in his arms and have him tell me he loved me and that he missed me. That he would do anything to help me.
But he did no such thing. Maybe it was because of my unruly appearance. (I shaved and showered for you!) Or maybe he was just biding his time until he could break free from his psycho girlfriend.
Charlie predicted that they would make me stay a full week before releasing me. I hated that idea. I won’t make it that long. “Thanks for the load of confidence,” I remarked sarcastically. Charlie shrugged. “Just sayin’.” I hate when he says that. That, and “It is what it is.” Pointless phrases that only fill space when you don’t care enough to fill it with anything more substantial.
“Carolyn called me yesterday,” I told him. “She said you haven’t been keeping her up-to-date like I had asked.” I directed a playfully annoyed face at him.
Charlie shrugged. “I gave her the phone number.”
But it was important to me that you keep my best friend updated. I’m obviously not high on your priority list. Why? What do I have to do? I would do anything that I knew was important to you, whether you asked me to do it or not. I would go out of my way to help you. But maybe it’s unfair of me to expect you to do the same.
“I should go.” Charlie stood up to leave. But it’s only been an hour…
“It’s going to be okay.” He reverted to a childlike voice when trying to be serious. No, it isn’t. Because you don’t want to be with me. “I’ll call you tomorrow,” he said, giving my shoulder a gentle squeeze.
I nodded, biting my tongue. And then he was gone.
The next day was very much the same as the last, although sleep had become much easier with the new medication. I wished the techs and nurses would let me sleep in late, but they came in constantly to check my vitals and make sure I wasn’t dead. The psychiatrist popped in around 11:00 a.m. (I estimated, as I still had no damn clock), and told me I could go home tomorrow. I exhaled a sigh of relief. Thank God. Another day or two and I would‘ve ended up staring at the ceiling like the patient next door. I thanked him profusely. He nodded with a pert smile and left me to my day.
I never saw that psychiatrist again.