Sally - Part I
Note: All characters have been fictionalized to protect their identities.
September 12, 2022
Writings from the Nuthouse, Redux
When they brought me up in the elevator to the long-term unit, which I didn’t know was the long-term unit yet, my roommate, who I didn’t know was my roommate yet, came out in the hall.
“Hi! How are you?” I asked enthusiastically. I was manic beyond manic from all the stimulation from the transport. I’d been in restraints. I’ll save that lovely story for later.
“I’m fine. How are you?” she asked, expressionless, her dark eyes boring into me from behind a frozen face.
“Well, not very good! I’m in a psych hospital!” I quipped.
They got me off the gurney and took me down to intake where I was interviewed and in-taken.
When I returned to the unit, a very young mental health tech named Lyle walked me into my room and introduced me to Sally. He quickly retreated to safe harbor behind the counter barricade that protects Them from the crazies.
Sally sat on her bed across from me and continued with the stare down. My bed separated us, but I had no idea what to expect. I was agitated. I was scared. Mostly, I was furious.
“So, what can you tell me about this place?” I asked, smiling, trying my damndest to appear light and confident.
“Let’s not play this game,” Sally snarled, still expressionless. “I know who you are.”
“What? I don’t understand.”
“I know who you are. Let’s not pretend to be friends. You tried to kill me when I was little. I know you’re Mary. You come looking like different people, but I know who you are.”
“Well, I’m not Mary,” I said, shaking my head and rolling my eyes as I firmed up my stance, bracing for an attack.
“If you come over to my side of the room, touch any of my things, or touch me, I’ll kill you,” Sally said.
“Wonderful,” I said over my shoulder as I turned and strode out of the room.
I went and stood at the counter barricade, waiting for Them to acknowledge me. A woman with a badge that read “Patty, Counselor” dropped her chin and looked at me over her reading glasses.
“Yes, Coco. What do you need?” Patty asked, clearly annoyed.
“My roommate just threatened to kill me,” I said. “I want a different bed.”
“No No No!” the woman on Patty’s right implored in a heavy German accent. I dropped my head to read her badge. “Margit, RN”.
“She’s a nice girl! She won’t hurt you!” Margit said excitedly.
“I don’t feel safe. I want another bed,” I responded, firmly, loudly.
“There are no other beds. I will talk to her. She is a nice girl! Sally won’t hurt you!” Margit said.
I turned away from Them. Feeling defeated, beaten flat by the system, I went and sat at the large table in the common area, directly in Their line of sight.
She’s a nice girl? What, did I just hallucinate her threat? No. I didn’t. I’m not one of the really crazy crazies. Fuck.
I stared out the window for a while. Although it was late August and still warm, it was a typical grey day; no rain, no sun. The kind of days I hate.
I remembered fall was less than a month away and I shook my head resignedly, staring at the trees I knew would soon be bare. I pictured them there, tall thin black sticks in sharp relief against the grey sky. Death is the word that came to mind. I pondered on that for a bit.
I remembered what my niece said when I told her my counselor had died.
“No one gets out of here alive.”
At first, I thought she was making light of what I’d told her. After a second, I registered from her tone she wasn’t. She’s a hospice nurse. She was serious. I pondered on that for a bit.
After a time, a breathless Margit slid into the chair across from me. I turned my head and stared at her blankly.
“I talked to Sally. She promises she won’t hurt you. She is a good girl. She won’t hurt you,” Margit said excitedly.
“Did you not hear what I told you, Margit? She threatened to kill me! I want another bed!” I said angrily, all the while beginning to really own the truth: my request was futile.
Margit left me to dart behind the counter barricade and commenced a frenzied whispered discussion with Them.
I turned my head back to the window and stared at the leaves that would soon lay on the ground dead; wet, black, rotten.
“No one gets out of here alive,” I whispered to the leaves. “No one.”