“Time for breakfast,” the chipper nurse’s pleasant words wailed through my snug oblivion.
Waking up, I found myself in a different world. “Why am I here?”
Sunlight poured through the window, transforming the walls into a screaming white which, to my hungover mind, felt like a jackhammer pummeling my eye-sockets. A murmur of drowsy morning voices and the smell of egg-white entrails filtered through the open door.
I struggled up from bed, and donned my anti-septic scented in-patient wardrobe—the loose-fitting, off-white shirt, pants, and slippers built for both comfort and cognitive ease (The last thing you wanna see when you’re having an episode are bright colors and fancy floral patterns).
The pants didn’t have any pockets, and the slippers had soft bottoms. Everything about the ward was designed to 1) not trigger you, and 2) prevent you from offing yourself. Even the walls were so thin that just sneezing on them would cause a complete structural collapse.
The only weapon was the floor, which was so slick underfoot that it was safer just to somersault from A to B than walk there. And it was pea green, the only source of color in the whole place.
If you weren’t suicidal before admitting yourself, you sure would be after staring at that floor for a few minutes. “What sort of monster would do such a thing?! Life truly isn’t worth living.”
My room was almost as far from the common area as you could get. I can still remember the route: A left, two rights, and another left. I was in room 106. It was important to keep track of this because everything looked the same.
I was used to that, though. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cornfields and dusty back roads with catchy names like N 4050 and E 13. 13 is so irreverent that it eventually dead-ends in a field, as if at one point it thought, “Wait, I’m not even road, what am I doing?”
I came to that world from another, much more chaotic one endowed with street names like Farnsworth, Terracotta, Telma, and Indian Trail. You were never more than spitting distance from a McDonald’s, Jewel-Osco, head shop or scattered gunfire.
I never felt at home in the city; I never felt at home in the country. Not North Central Illinois country, anyway—this weird ass place where the same guys who drive duallies and listen to Garth Brooks also wear flat-billed fitted caps and sing, “My name is, what? My name, who? My name is chica chica… Slim Shady.”
Why am I here?
My lowest mood, my lowest station, my lowest locale. Placeless, I’d always wandered with my mind. Seeking solace in the cerebral. But when you do that, you put all your hopes and dreams in the shaky hands of biology. What do you do when the very thing you find comfort in betrays you?
You lose your mind, that’s what you fuckin’ do.
“What’s the point?” I sat there, waiting for the strength to get up and explore this new white-washed world. “What’s the point of any of it?”
With my bloodshot eyes adjusted to the day, I look up and out. I was given a room with a view. I stood back up and shuffled toward the gigantic window. Outside, the Illinois flowed carelessly onward with the morning sun reverently caressing her ample curves.
The riverside park shone golden-green, so much life! A few joggers tortured themselves along the trails. Like me, they were waging private battles against their own flesh. How much suffering did it take to get them off the couch and onto those paths? How much desire for something better, to be someone better?
Eyes sensuously turning back toward the river, my narratives evaporated and I flowed along with her.
“Time for breakfast.”