“Zoe?” – it’s Elk – he’s only spoken one word and I can tell he’s trying to keep his voice under control – modulated.
“Hi there – um. So, what happened? Are you OK?”
“I’m…yeah. I’m OK. I got a very bad idea in my head involving a razor, but I’m OK. I’m still around, anyway. Still trying to figure out if that’s a good or bad thing.”
“…Zoe, it’s definitely a good thing. At least from my very selfish perspective, anyway. And that’s all that matters, you know – my needs. Didn’t you know that?”
I laugh, tears coming at the same time – it’s a weird sensation. As we talk, a man walks up next to me and picks up the other phone and begins shouting into it – “Yes I’m tryin’ to get the police, I been locked up in here, and what they don’t know is the government wants me to be hid away because in 1970, I was stationed in the jungle, I was held by the secret police..”
Somewhere down the hall, someone else is crying, loudly, wailing over and over “Where are my meds, where are my FUCKING meds?”
“What the Hell is going on in there, anyway?”
“I’m in a psych ward, Elk. The people here are all fucking crazy. Not suicidal crazy, but eating varnish off the furniture crazy.”
“Jesus Christ. Can you get visitors this evening?”
“I think so. The hours are posted on the wall – yeah, you can come at 7:30.”
“Ok, well can I come? Are you up for it?”
“I guess so, only…please don’t tell anyone about this, OK? I don’t want anyone to know…”
“…Ok, I understand, of course. Only, Graff was right next to me when the hospital called, so he knows…but I made sure to tell him not to broadcast it to the whole damn world, ok? He’s just worried about making sure Hunter has someplace to go when he gets out of Rehab, if you’re still there…”
“Yes – oh God, oh God, i’m such a waste – how am i going to tell him? What the Hell am i doing?”
“It’s OK – you hear me? It’s OK. You didn’t go through with it – you’re still here and you made the responsible decision – you’re a good person, Zoe. You just had…a really bad day, OK? And look -Betty is going to call you soon, she said she’ll take him until you’re out, and feeling better, ok?”
“Ok…” Tears again. “Thank you…thank you for calling me, Elk.”
I hang up the phone, leaning my head against the wall. The raving man next to me has been replaced by another patient – this one with a food-stained beard and unkempt afro. He is staring at me, a thin line of drool running down his chin. He smiles at me, leering.
“So – what are you doing here?”
I roll my head in the other direction. Taking a breath, blinking the tears back, I push myself out of the chair and go to my room and lie down. Just as I feel myself drifting off, the same blank-faced man who shoved the thermometer in my mouth that morning enters without bothering to knock and looks down at me -
“Come on, the doctor is ready to see you.”
The little blank-faced man leads me to a line of patients, all crowded around a closed door. I try and decipher some order as to who is next in line, but the little man saves me the trouble by escorting me in when the door opens and one of my room-mates comes out. I am taken aback to see a whole panel of people sitting at a big table, all staring at me. I thought i was just seeing a doctor? An Indian woman sitting in the center of the long table motions me to sit. I notice the chair she points to has a towel on it. I perch on the edge, trying not to touch the seat. The woman in front of me introduces herself as Dr. P – i nod, looking around the room. Standing behind me is a large man, arms crossed. I guess he’s there to restrain me in case i decide to lunge at the doctor’s throat with a pencil or something. I look back at the doctor.
“So, Ms…uh, Zoe. Can you tell me what happened – what brings you here?”
I decide that i am tired of answering that question. But i answer her as best i can – telling her only about the physical act that led to the moment when the cops came. I can’t articulate the rest. Not yet.
“I took a razor in my hand and held it to my wrist – i stood there for a long time, trying to get up the courage to just do it. It was like – sort of like i was almost dreaming. Like being in a determined sort of trance; i pressed down…then stopped…i banged my wrist into the wall till the pain snapped me out of it long enough to call for help. The cops brought me to Lakeshore hospital, and then an ambulance brought me here.”
“I see. So the police brought you here because your neighbors called the police.”
I stare at her a moment, wondering if she’s fucking with me.
“No, that’s not what i said at all…i said,”
“Tell me, Zoe – did you do anything else to hurt yourself that day?”
“…well, i banged my wrist against the wall a few times – to sort of wake myself up, i guess.”
“I see. Is this the first time you’ve done something like this?”
“I guess not – although it’s been a long time. I was a kid the first time i actually tried it.”
“And why did you do that?”
“My family-life was abusive. I wanted it to stop. So i tried to hang myself. It didn’t work, obviously”
Doctor P. stares at me a moment and writes something in a book. Everyone else is writing, too – except for the guy standing behind me.
“Alright, Zoe. I am going to put you on an anti-psychotic, along with your anti-seizure meds and the medicine you take for your migraines. It’s just going to help you to relax, help you rest, ok?”
“Is that standard procedure? I’m not a psychotic. I don’t hear voices and i’m not delusional. I’m just…depressed.”
“Yes, we give it to everyone who has a history of suicide attempts. Don’t worry. It’s a low dose – it won’t do anything to hurt you….”
Short story, part 3.