This One Time, 87

This one time I was facing the wall of a cell, trying to see if I could see through it into any kind of future worth inhabiting. Unpainted brick, grooves worn in the mortar from the gropings of previous residents, both temporary and long-term. I wasn’t sure which I was yet, but I was wondering how much of that decision was my own choice.

My living conditions had gotten worse since my arrival. Originally I had cheap and worn (but not too badly vandalized) wood furniture, a lamp and an alarm clock, walls with somewhat scarred wallpaper, a light switch that actually did something, a dresser with three out of four drawers, and a door with a knob on the inside.

This was the sort of accommodations you earn when the police pick you up for vagrancy and you are convincing when you tell them you can’t tell them who you are. Also it helps for them to look over your hands, and when they ask you what the hell happened to them, you say, “I think I did that myself.”

So after that they follow the blood trail back as far as it goes to make sure its all yours, and in the meanwhile, you get a 72-hour evaluation in the brand-spanking-new mental health facility that, charmingly enough, advertizes its services as a clinic for rehabilitation and also a specialty in depression and anxiety, with rooms for people who need inpatient treatment. It’s maybe six months old, and yet it already looks a bit like a twenty-year-old junior high school on the inside, from wear and surreptitious graffiti, and it’s a toss-up whether that has more to say about mental health facility inmates or how we treat our schoolchildren. But I digress.

Skin and nails, even with a bit of charring, grow back pretty quickly on fingers and hands. For the purposes we usually put those things to, we go through skin on our hands quickly anyway. There wasn’t any tendon damage or much nerve damage, so two weeks of bandages and another week of disposable cotton gloves later, they merely looked horrible but mostly felt fine. But also the 72 hours had gone by with a number of interviews that had yet to turn up a name that checked out or any grasp of where I was or how I got there that made any sense to them — and then there was the fact that I had mentioned that I was in the neighborhood to spy on and follow a particular individual for money, but couldn’t produce any license information or ID of any kind, and  refused to name the individual, or produce any sort of information that could be verified by interested parties.

Also I had apparently vandalized a streetcorner mail drop, but there was some evidence that someone had locked me inside first and I was merely trying to get out. They were withholding federal charges until they could nail down who else might be involved.

I tried to tell them that I remembered going in through the mail slot, but they refused to listen. Can’t blame them. They showed me pictures of the mailbox. I couldn’t have fit through the package slot without being folded at least twice.

And since I hadn’t been too annoying as a patient and was possibly suffering from symptoms they couldn’t rule out as head trauma, even with MRIs and CAT scans, they were taking it easy on the medications for me, maybe a light antipsychotic, maybe a mild sedative around bedtime that I barely felt. The antipsychotic made me a little tired, but it quieted down all of the noise in my head I had to struggle to think through sometimes, constant internal distractions, but I worried that it had silenced a voice I needed to hear to sort things out.

Things had kind of gone downhill, though. I had decided a couple nights ago that I could probably get a better grip on what was going on if I was allowed to participate in my own investigation. I was just going to, you know, leave, seeing as I had earlier that day failed to get the doctor managing my case to agree to release me, especially seeing as no one knew who to bill yet and I didn’t have a usable identity, per se. So that evening I had tried to open my window, plexiglass, bolted shut, by trying to pry the frame out of the wall. I’m not sure I remember what I thought I was prying with. Maybe I was a bit groggy from the sedatives. But the window frame shot sparks while I was straining to get it to move and caught fire a little, and when they came in with the extinguisher I was sitting on the bed staring at my singed fingertips, answering questions as well as I could about why I didn’t have a lighter and trying to get my own answers about whether they knew about the loose wire in the wall or whether they just electrified the frames on purpose.

As things wound down, I was reminded about how badly scorched my hands were when I was first picked up, and how the interior of the mail drop box thingy had showed some signs of heating around the access panel and the interior lock mechanism. My doctor was unhappy about being awake, but took it well enough. When he recommended a room with less in it that I could destroy, and that maybe the staff should check me over carefully to make sure they’d removed my lighter, I really couldn’t come up with coherent objections.

So in my new room I had concrete floor with a drain hole, a small window with bars on the inside of it, a foam pad for a mattress and a blankie and a pillow and a robe and a pair of slippers. I remembered jails and prisons that were substantially worse, and that was cheery until I realized I had that knowledge firsthand. And I remembered thinking that as soon as I had fingerprints again, we’d have a good shot at finding out who I am.

When I went back to the mattress pad I lifted it up, because you never know. And under it was a plain old table knife, like from a school cafeteria. Obviously left by a previous resident who failed at the attempt to get up to no good, or perhaps lost the motivation.

I took it to the wall and dragged it around a brick a couple of times, but it was damned loud. And obvious. I could try to muffle it with the pillow or blanket, but even so I’d be at it for a week and it would be noticeable the whole time.

So I took two steps back, used the knife to cut a burning hole in the air instead, and walked through that. That seemed to work just fine, except now I was lost in the woods in a robe and slippers, with no sign of the hospital anywhere behind me. Oh, and I had a fresh burn from the handle of the knife on the palm of my hand, and that was no fun at all.


March 28, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


Leave a Reply