16 year old Sophia Brooks has just lost her father. She's in therapy for depression and doesn't talk to her mom anymore since her dad's death. But when she leaves her notebook in class after having an emotional breakdown everything changes. Her boyfriend Derek distances himself from her and a mysterious boy dubbing himself "A.Q." writes back to her in her journal. Will Sophia get over her depression? Will she find out A.Q.'s true identity? Will love blossom between the two?


7. Entry Seven


September 28th, 2013 {Sophia}

I never get to respond to A.Q. I never get to go to the library and retrieve that journal filled with his weird ramblings. I never get to catch the glimpses into what would be his diagnosis and explain his upward and downward spirals. I’m in a hospital instead—I’m in this place called Willow’s Creek. It’s a towering building with multiple floors and ivy creeping up the brick wall like spindly fingers. The walls are covered in dust and scratch marks. The beds have metal and belted restraints on them to hold patients down if they become psychotic. I’d read about places like this in my spare time—right when you had left this world, right when we’d gotten the phone call … I don’t like to think about it.

Even now, even in this place I don’t like to think about you going. Yours hurts the most because we could’ve stopped it. We could’ve screamed for you to stop—mom and I could’ve rewound you from taking those pills, could’ve rewound you from putting them in your mouth and chasing them down with copious amounts of liquor. We could've rewound you from leaving the house and telling us you’d be “back in a bit” because we would've known you wouldn't have been “back in a bit,” that you wouldn't have been back at all.

 I sleep very little and eat very little. I’m taken there on a stretcher early in the morning. The nurses check up on me for vitals. They give me extra flat pillows without feathery down. They give me extra blankets and check me to see if I’m okay. They ask me if I’m hungry or thirsty. They ask me for the TV remote so I can stop watching Courage the Cowardly Dog reruns and I ask why and one of them say because they used to have multiple remotes until one of the earlier patients here flung one at the TV before they had the glass casing and broke the remote. And they said how everyone on the unit followed suit. They said how it caused a disturbance, especially for young teenagers like myself getting evaluated who weren't psychotic, who were just “a little depressed.” I said hmm and gave back the remote and ran my fingers through my curly fringe of hair. It got stuck because I hadn't brushed it in a while and it was in tangles.

I’m taken on a stretcher. They give me breakfast: a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich but it makes me think of you and I puke it up on my plate and they check my vitals again. The nurse says that’s a shame and that it’s okay and that I’m probably just stressed because my heart rate went up a little bit.

I think of mom. I think of how she’s handling cases and stressing out over them. I think of how she misses you and trails into your bedroom. How she handles your clothing and touches your shirts and unworn sweaters and trails her hands over the bedposts of your canopy bed. How she trails her hands over the Christmas lights you hung up from January, strung them around the bedposts before it was a cool thing girls did on Tumblr.

I think about McDonald’s and how I never talked to any of the employees there and I just did my job and went home. How I got oil splattered on me and didn’t care. How I might get fired and I don’t care. How I handled customers and just had this general sense of apathy because god dammit Edith everything dies when you lose two people. Everything dies.

So they carry me out on this stretcher. EMTs come and take me and it’s like last time—last time when I had slit my wrists and painted them red and had dragged lines like ribbons across my skin. Splattering my blood like paint, numbing myself to the hurt, to the sad, to the anger, to everything, to the guilt, to you and Dad, to the death and the lowering of the caskets twice.

The EMTs are a man and a woman: a brunette and a blonde respectively. They’re young, the brunette man has a ton of piercings and tattoos and he reminds me of a male version of you. I don’t think I was supposed to but I smelled Hennessy and a mixture of Jack Daniel’s on his breath. Early mornings. He asks me if I’m okay and I lie and say yes. Every day I lie and say I’m okay but I’m never quite okay.

Well most days I am. It’s not every day it’s just most days. Most days I can manage and get out of bed and not look at my box of sharp things. Most days I can make myself some cereal and venture out in the rain or snow or pile of autumnal leaves and collect the mail and rummage through it. Most days I can think or you and dad fondly but most days it hurts. Most days it stings like a paper cut and my heart wrenches like all the water had been wrung out of it like you would a dirty dishtowel.

The ride is bumpy and the guy with all the tattoos and piercings who reminds me of you asks me even more questions. He asks me where I’m from and I tell him I’m from New York. He asks me if I grew up there and I said yeah and he said he’s from Winchester but he lives in River Brook which is in Holden County.

The female EMT is driving the truck. I’m reminded of the last ride I went on in an ambulance. There had been IVs and the EMTs had asked me a whole battery of questions and mom had followed me to the hospital and I had received the card from A.Q. there. Devin doesn't even text me in anymore. I clutched my phone and it vibrated a sonorous ringtone.

There was a message from 732-629-0777. It asks if I’m okay. I respond back that I am and my phone clatters to the ground and the male EMT picks it up and asks if it’s my boyfriend. I tell him sure I guess. His eyebrow raises at that and an hour later or so I guess we’re there. The EMTs wheel me inside from up a ramp. It had been raining and I couldn't help but feel how that echoed my feelings, the tenuous spaces inside my soul, the vapid parts of my mind that were without memories of you and dad, or that were heavy with the memories of you.

And here I am. Processed after signing waivers and documents and reading through official contracts with seals and insignias.

Here I am after being stripped by a Latina woman with curly hair who’s called Marissa. She rambles a lot about what to expect in the program that I’m in Because here I am in this place and I cannot leave and no matter how much I say I want to go home I cannot. All of my immediate belongings: my Metallica shirt, my cell phone and jeans and Chuck Taylors are thrown in a plastic bag by Marissa and locked away out of my reach.

She sorted my other belongings by “harmful materials” and marks them off in a separate plastic bag and then she rolled up my underwear and T-shirts and night gowns and sleeping pants and regular pants and placed them back in the bags my mom had packed for me. And every time she unpacked something it was punctuated by a scream and I tensed then because you know I’m not used to that at all. It was a woman screaming about fetuses and she ran down the hallways and she screamed and screamed and howled and eventually what I assumed to be nurses or something charged down the hallway and found her and dragged her off consolingly to her room. Or what I surmised and hoped to be her room.

 I couldn't be calm sis. How could you be? You’re in a place full of people that are mentally insane and suddenly I’m hyper aware of every problem I've ever had and I break down and I’m angry and I’m sad and I’m upset and I want to go home but I can’t. I tell her I want to go home and she tries to calm me down during my my sniffling and crying and body wracking sobbing. I tell her how I miss my therapist Marilyn and she looks at me like I two shots too much of caffeine.

Because who is Marilyn? Why do I miss her? And she must be wondering if it’s the stress and I wonder who and what this girl is and why would she ever want to be in a place like this? You must understand it’s so hard for me to not be judgmental when people ramble about babies and fetuses and ripped out flesh and barrel down the hallways with their feet slapping bare against the tiling. I remember how you’re not here to comfort me and that makes me break down even harder.

And my shoulders are shaking and I’m in this stupid flimsy hospital gown and I’m cold as hell and this beautiful woman Marissa is rubbing my shoulders and looking into my eyes and telling me everything is going to be okay and she’s steering me out of the room, past the desk where I’d first seen her, past the lockers where she locked my clothes, past the nursing station where I feel the glances of the curious nurses on me and I want to flip them off and simultaneously hug them and beg them for medication to calm me down.

Because I know this is probably like One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I’ll be sedated for the duration of my  stay. And she just starts talking and I can’t interrupt because I’m steadily calming down with all of my sixteen year old sobs and tears and sadness and hurt and pent up anger erupting. And I know that I’ll erupt more because it is sixteen years of holding this in, and I feel like I’m older than sixteen with the amount of death I’ve tasted all metallic and bloody on my tongue sis. It felt like forever since we found you and …

She says they’ll be talking about different topics on a daily basis. She says everyone here is sick. She says everyone has a problem and is struggling to get better and I only need remember that. So when I go outside in my flimsy hospital nightgown which I seem to be more accustomed to now than I do jeans and T-shirts, I try to. I try to remember to be mindful of where I am but beyond the hollering and the screaming and the cursing and the ramblings of maddened speaking it’s hard for me to.

And Edith I’m so sorry I did this, I’m so sorry I did this to you and dad and to mom. I just want you both back that’s all. I just want my stupid fucking notebook back, the one I stabbed into and that’s marked with my blood and the trailing of salt and water. My notebook is a saltwater room sis.

                Marissa informs me that a nurse will come to see me and she’ll give me the rundown of medications and what I can do if I want to change them and such and that nurses are staffed 24 hours and change shifts halfway through the day so there’s always someone available if something goes wrong. She says that there are people around my age here and that she’ll hope whatever I’m struggling with gets better. She says I look like I have an old soul lingering in me and I tell her maybe I do because I lost both you and dad and I had to watch you both die and it was the hardest thing ever.

How do you communicate what death looks like to someone who’s never experienced it firsthand? How do you tell someone that “hey I watched my sister convulse and choke on her own blood and spit and die right in front of me”? How do you say that not to move them but to give them the harsh realities of why it poisoned and permeated through every fiber of you and hummed through every muscle and bone?

                There is a woman who shuffles in my room when I walk in and sit cross legged on the bed, who intrudes my space when I cry and sob and think of my box of sharp things. I think of how this is driving me to want to cut. I bury my nails in my palm and let the pain course through me and prick my skin until it bleeds. It numbs me and for a while I can drown out the sound of the screaming and I can stop imagining a tranquilizer being given to soothe and calm down the frenetic behavior of this woman.

I imagine her wild-eyed and her hair a matted mess and when she passes by my room I see that she is and she’s only in a bra and her chest stands out and I avert my eyes and I try to think of what you would do and so I quiet myself and think of you singing. I think of you singing Beyoncé Edith or Elton John or The Beatles and it calms me down. I think of you singing “I am the Walrus” and “Imagine” and I think of you belting out “Halo.”

                The woman’s hair is in tight curls and for the duration of my weeklong stay it will always be like that.

She rambles on in broken Polish and points her fingers at me and says quite clearly, “There’s a girl in my room, I don’t know where she come from but she in my room. Get her out! Get her out!” in broken English. And she’s suddenly screaming in Polish and I start crying again and thinking of you singing doesn't help and my nails drag down my arm and I rip into flesh and I leave the room and try to cover the fresh scrapes but luckily they don’t bleed much.

I just pass by the nursing station and when the nurse comes to check my vitals and see if I’m okay the lady is gone. I try to do some deep breathing exercises (one … two … three … four … five … six) and I try to mentally count to ten and then a boy is talking to me and a group of girls are surrounding me and I don’t know how to react because I’ve never quite been accepted anywhere or fit in anywhere, even more so since you left Edith. It’s gotten harder to connect to anyone since you’ve left.

                But here are these girls and this boy and they’re not quite Nick or Amaya or even A.Q. and they’re surrounding me. And wait … one of the boys looks half Korean. His hair is shorn to the scalp and his dark brown hair that remains flops to the side in a half-Mohawk. He looks at me with hazel eyes and smiles and murmurs something about me being all right and they invite me to sit with them and I do and they ask me if I’m okay.

And it’s weird because everyone generally asks you that—it’s like this odd normative thing even though they clearly can see you’re not okay and it’s something I’ve grown to hate. So I roll my eyes and say no very quietly and one of the girls says it’s hopeless. She has bubble gum pink hair and the boy with the beautiful eyes has an assortment of piercings and tattoos snaking up and down his biceps and exposed bit of ankle. He’s wearing khaki pants and a grungy tank that looks like he got it from a thrift shop what with its faded stripes.

                I don’t get to confirm whether he’s A.Q. or get to stay with the four girls long enough because my nurse with her dark brown hair and freckled nose comes in to debrief me about everything. But I swear I hear among the whooping cries and joyous hollering of the four girls and the mysterious boy the name “Aidan…”


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