"Where am I." Said a little girl as she looked around the big white room. Her cheeks still had an appropriate amount of chubbiness as she frowned, utterly confused. Her pony-tailed hair was askew and falling out of the pink sparkly bunches. Her little dress provided her with no padding
"You're home." Said a man. He didn't look very nice, the girl thought, she was right. His skin was sickly pale and his smile was fake. He almost had the appearance of a ghost, a shell with no soul.
"Where’s my mummy?" The little girl asked. As she did so a tear rolled down her rounded cheek and her lip wobbled. She was confused and everything seemed to hurt, like the feeling of hitting a bruise. To the little girl everything seemed bruised, her body, her mind. Not even hot chocolate and her blanket could take this pain away though.
"Mummy's gone." The tears began pouring like rain when the heavens open. And boy did they open. A puddle practically formed under the girl.
The man was saying something but the girl couldn't hear him over her sobs she was screaming and she didn't even know why, her five year old mind couldn't take it, any of it. Then there was a voice strong and calm, the first break of blue after a storm. It told her to run. Run.
I sat in my room on the bed cradling my knees, this is what I do most days in my room. I let my imagination carry me away. I think of animals, especially tigers and lions and big cats. I read a book about them once, I think they're beautiful but people say they're dangerous. They say that about me too. That's why I don’t leave my room, I’m not allowed because I’m a danger to myself and others, but I don't think I am, dangerous that is. When I told the doctor that, he said it was my medication that kept me in balance, it made sure I didn't hurt anybody, I was confused, how could I tiny blue pill do that. I guess I didn't mind this place if it means I won't hurt anybody, people don't deserve to be hurt.
My room is square. Ten feet by ten feet, and when I say feet I mean the things on the end of your legs. My room is bare, the walls and floor are white and there are no windows, just a single light bulb that hangs from the white ceiling. There is a bed, that's bolted to the floor, a bedside table that's bolted to the floor and a chair, which isn't bolted to the door but is too heavy for me to lift let alone attack anybody with. There's a door, with a little door inside of it, like a cat flap for 'isolation' purposes and then there's the assistance button which nurses press for, well, for assistance. Like my room I am bare too. I don't know precisely what I look like now but I know I’m pale because of the lack of light and I have long tangled blonde hair which falls to my ribs. I wear a regulation white hospital gown that is washed once a week, under that I have the regulation undergarments but I don't care about them. My nails are cut twice a week, I am washed by the nurses every other day and my hair is cut every other month. I get fed twice a day by nurses who usually leave me to eat by myself. I have three nurses; Jessica, Bertha and Margaret. There is also another white door that leads to my bathroom but it is locked until I am permitted to use it. Which is to go to the toilet twice a day and to shower every other day. There is no mirror in there.
“Morning honey.” Said Jessica as she opened the door, pulling a cart of silver hats into my room, my food was under there.
“Morning Jessica.” I said getting up quickly from the bed, happy to see somebody.
“Ow.” I said as my body connected with the white floor. I hadn't gotten up in a long time. Jessica rushed over to me and helped me back onto the bed, she touched my shoulders with her soft hands, my gown fell off my shoulder and I look at the sunset purple bruise that had begun to form.
“You okay?” She asked, staring at me her eyes filled with worry.
“Uh-huh. I bruise easily.” I said, smiling. I liked Jessica, she's nice and pretty too. She talked to me sometimes and brought me books. I like reading it keeps me sane, well as sane as I can be. The doctor didn't permit it though because he said that I’d deliberately try and hurt myself. But I wouldn't I promised. I didn't like blood, not after the last time.
I was sat eating my dinner happily, it was one of my favourite meals; rice, chicken and peas. I like it because of the colours, the peas are really bright. When I was cutting the chicken though, the knife slipped and it cut my finger. It wasn't on purpose, I would never do it on purpose, I knew that was a stupid thing to do. I watched the blood gather into a blob for a second before I stuck it in my mouth. I had read a medical book once and it said that saliva helped the blood clot. Then there was this voice, oddly familiar and it told me to paint a picture. I told the voice I had no paint and they said to use my blood. I told them I didn't want to because that would be disgusting and I don't like red, I like green, like the peas. The voice shouted at me, screamed at me, told me I was stupid, that I was scum that I deserved to die. I tried to cover my ears but it got louder and louder and they said things. They told me I killed my parents, that I was evil, but I didn't and I wasn't. To appease them I did what they said. I smeared the blood on the walls. It was disgusting and it smelt funny. When a nurse came in she screamed and pressed the assistance button. I tried to carry on so the voices wouldn't start again but more nurses came in and they pushed me onto the floor. It hurt and I still have a bruise on my back from it. I have a lot of bruises.
“Have you got any more books?” I asked eagerly. Jessica pulled the book from under her dress. I thanked her and took it quickly, stuffing it under my pillow, so no-one would take it. I looked at Jessica and then gave her a hug. I liked hugs, the feel of somebody covering you, shielding you from harms way. Jessica put her hands on my face and looked into my eyes as if she was checking for something, a soul perhaps. There was something different though. Something cold. I pulled my face away and looked at Jessica's hands. There was a ring on one, simple and pretty.
“It's a ring.” Jessica said smiling. “My partner gave it to me, it's a sign of love.”
“Can I give you a ring? You’re the nicest nurse, I don't like Margaret she's always mad at me and Bertha thinks I’m possessed .” Jessica laughed and I frowned. Wait, I'd read something about rings. “Oh it's between a man and a woman isn't it.” I said.
Jessica stopped laughing but her smile didn't fade. “Not always, it can be between a man and a woman, or a woman and a woman or a man and a man. It's up to you. Just remember love is love.” I had a feeling this was one of Jessica's life lessons.
“Ok.” I paused. “Do you love me, Jessica?”
“Yes.” She said kissing my head.
“Where's my ring then.” I laughed, I was trying to be funny, I remembered the thing about love, there were four types; Storge, which is love within family, Phileo which is between friends, Eros which is romance and Agape which is like the love of God. I wasn't sure which type Jessica and I would come under. Storge or Phileo. I remembered that in Eros people get married, my mum and dad were married, they'd had it before I was born.
“Can I come to your marriage?” I asked, hopefully. People wore pretty dresses to marriages.
“It's called a wedding honey and you're not allowed to come, I’m sorry.” I frowned slightly , then smiled, I didn't want her to think I was upset.
“Oh it's fine, I might hurt somebody.” I said quickly. It wasn't fine though, I wanted to go her wedding, I wanted to wear a dress. I smiled, she wouldn't notice my upset if I smiled. Jessica kissed my head and then got up from the bed.
“I'll come back and collect your plate in an hour, enjoy your meal.” As she left I noticed her voice had changed, it sounded heavy and slightly crackly. I hoped I hadn't upset her, I didn't want to upset Jessica, she was nice.
I pulled the plate closer to me and began to eat. It was spaghetti bolognese, not my favourite, the colours are boring. As I ate, twisting the spaghetti around my fork and leaving the mince, I pulled the book from under my pillow. I opened the bright orange front cover and started reading, taking bites as I did.
I am a nobody, but you already know that don't you, you're the girl that made me a nobody. You call me socio, when you know my name is Katherine.
Name, her name was Katherine. I thought carefully until an idea struck me, as though it were lightening, if her name was Katherine then what was my name? I pushed the food tray aside and dove under the bed. There was a hole there and in the hole I kept my books, there were sixteen in total, all of them different. My favourite was Alice in Wonderland. Even she had a name, she was Alice. I pulled the books out and looked through them frantically. 'I'm Colin'
'Call me Ishmael'
'Lolita, light of my life...'
If they had names then what was mine, I had to have a name, everybody had a name. I grabbed the dictionary, ripping the cover slightly and flicked through the pages;
Noun: A word or set of words by which a person, animal, place, or thing is known, addressed, or referred to.
Jessica called me 'Honey' maybe that was my name. I flicked backwards through the dictionary.
1. A sweet, sticky, yellowish-brown fluid made by bees and other insects from nectar collected from flowers.
2. A commonly used term of endearment
I had heard of terms of endearment but I couldn't remember what they were, I knew what a term was, but endearment?
Noun: A word or phrase expressing love or affection: 'a term of endearment'
So it wasn't my name, I didn't have a name. I'm sure everyone was given a name. I thought carefully. So I didn't have a name, I didn't know my age, I didn't even know what I looked like anymore. Everything had been taken away from me. I had heard of human rights but this 'place' made me feel as though I was non-human. Tears began rushing down my face and I felt like that little girl all over again, being told her mummy was gone and so was my daddy and now my name, my age, my life. Jessica had a name, Margaret had a name, so where was mine. I was crying hard, tears where falling and bouncing off my dictionary leaving circular water stains. I pushed it away in anger and it slid under my bedside cabinet. The door opened and the nurses began to flood in. I turned to them and began screaming. Maybe I was crazy after all. What was my name? How old was I? Who was I? I could read but that was all I knew about myself. I hadn't even looked in a mirror for how ever long I had been here. How long had I been here? Someone's arms we're around mine and I was being yanked away from the floor, away from my treasured books. I kicked them away from me trying to get them under my bed. When I kicked, I suppose they thought I was trying to kick them and they grabbed my legs too.
“Stop it.” I screamed over and over, this was a misunderstanding, I just wanted to know who I was. I didn't want to hurt anybody, why didn't they get that. Why did they think I wanted to hurt people? I was so tired, tired of fighting, of crying, of not knowing. Was this really the existence I was condemned to. I stopped fighting, what was the point anyway. They were going to put me in 'isolation' no matter what I did. I thought it was normal for teenagers (if I am one of those, but truth is I don't know I’ve been here for what seems a lifetime) to have emotional 'breakdowns'. The nurses pinned me down, even though my body was completely lax and I had stopped caring. A needle prick and calming words sent me to sleep.
I spent two weeks in isolation. For those two weeks I was on my own, I didn't see or speak to anyone. During isolation only liquid food is permitted, it gets pushed through the cat flap in the door in the morning and evening. When they knock I push the bowl back out. I was lucky though because as my bed was built into the room they couldn't reach under it, which meant they couldn't get to the hole to get my books. I managed to save 'Alice in Wonderland', my dictionary and 'Moby Dick' but the rest were gone, the saddest of all being the new one Jessica had bought me.
I hated isolation. It's not a nice experience, not talking or seeing anybody and I tried to avoid as best as possible. I had completed it three times, that incident, the incident with the blood painting and the one in between which was by far the worst. Everyday I had spent in isolation I had cried.
I had just finished reading a book about a boy who after witnessing a murder was extremely paranoid. For safety he kept a knife under his pillow. For some reason I thought this was a good idea and plotted to do the same. I lay prostrate on my bed waiting for the day to go by so I could fall asleep at night and try and escape this existence. The doctors had said I was going through a depressive stage, which basically earn't me more meds. The door opened and I didn't look up.
“Hello there.” I didn't recognise the voice and in curiosity looked up. The incident hadn't been long ago, judging on the days that had gone by, probably a year or two. When I looked up I was greeted by a man. The only man I had seen in the time that I had been here was the doctor and I didn't like him. But this man he seemed nice. He was young with milky skin, sculptured cheek bones and a nice smile. “You're not Jessica?”
“No, I'm Spencer, I started a few weeks ago.” He came closer and pushed the tray of food between us. When I didn't move, he pulled off the cover and I just stared at it. Porridge again.
“You don’t like porridge then.” He said with a laugh.
“Let me go see if I can you get you something else then.” He walked out the room leaving the food behind. It was true I didn't like porridge but he'd left me alone and there was a knife. I slipped it from the tray and tucked it under the mattress. A little fire was ignited in me, this was the worst thing i'd done all by myself and I felt proud, was that a bad thing? The door opened and I jumped as Spencer walked in.
“I'm sorry, I couldn't get them to change it.”
“Oh. I'll just have to hold my nose then.” I stuck a mouthful of porridge in my mouth and tried hard not to make a face, it had gone cold.
“That horrible eh?” He asked sitting on the wooden chair in my room. He leant his arms on his thighs and watched me. I nodded and swallowed. I finished quickly leaving a little bit and Spencer and I talked. I learned he liked music, especially a band called 'The Sex Pistols'. He wanted to study Psychology so came here for experience. The time came for him to leave and as he did so he looked down at the plate.
“Was there a knife on here?” He asked. I kept a straight face and tried to look confused when all I wanted to do was laugh. If he was training to be a psychologist shouldn't he of learnt to notice the small things?
“No, I didn't see one.”
“Oh, okay.” He gave me a smile and walked out the door taking the tray with him. I tore the knife from the mattress and held it in my hands. It glinted in the light of the bulb above me and I smiled. I was dangerous but safe. It wasn't very sharp but still I was proud of myself. I stored it with my books in the hole under my bed.
For the next few weeks or so, he came to visit me. With him and Jessica I almost felt happier. I envisaged them being together and they were my young parents. They would protect me from the doctor and Margaret. With them and my knife which lay safely hidden I could imagine a happier life.
I grew accustomed to my talks with Spencer, he was nice, he called him self a geek;
1. An unfashionable of socially inept person
2. A person with an eccentric devotion to a particular interest.
Sometimes we would just sit in my room in silence. I sat on the bed and he sat on the chair, he told me I was interesting and I liked learning about him too. I often doubted whether what were doing was normal. It wasn't as though I liked him (like that) or anything, his company just felt... comforting.
One day though everything went wrong. He had bought in my dinner and I had taken a knife again behind his back. It was stupid but I just felt safer knowing I had a knife even if they were made to cut butter and taking them invoked some sort of feeling in me and I needed that, I lacked any sense of anything and the silver sleek skin of a knife made my numb senses tingle. As I had done previously I tucked it under the mattress and I planned to move it to the hole when Spencer had gone. Several weeks later I had been looking for the definition of Klaxon, when I found Kleptomaniac:
Noun: Someone with an irrational urge to steal in the absence of an economic motive.
I wondered if that's what I was, a kleptomaniac. It wasn't that that set him off though. I had told him something I had told nobody, I trusted him. I didn't even tell Jessica. See, I thought we were similar. I thought he would understand.
“Can I tell you something?” I said facing him. As usual I was on the bed and he on the wooden chair. He had bought in my dinner but I hadn't touched it. I had been aching to say it.
I looked around, as though someone might overhear us. “I don't think I’m crazy.” I paused waiting for him to say something. “but they won't let me out.” His face stiffened a little.
“Uh, I have to go, are you finished?” He said getting up and not waiting for my answer he took the tray away, even though the food was untouched. I was hungry, I had wanted it.
“Spencer, wait!” I said, getting up from the bed. He looked down at the tray and then looked up at me. “Where's the knife?”
“What knife.” I lied.
He grabbed my arm. “Give me knife!” I had never seen this side of Spencer before. His emotions were like a storm in the summer. Calm and warm at one point and then thunder and lightening the next.
“I haven't touched the knife.” I shouted. He pushed me out the way and I fell to the floor, hitting my cheek against the wood. I sat up slowly and watched as he started searching frantically, tearing sheets from the bed.
“Stop it!” I screamed at him. He turned to me, his face contorted with anger. I had never seen someone change so quickly before my eyes. The nurses usually kept straight faced.
“Where are you hiding it?” He shouted grabbing my shoulders. I stuttered and he started pulling at the regulation hospital gown I was wearing searching for it as though I had hidden it in my underwear. Realising I didn't have anything on me he stopped. The knife remained safe under my mattress. Spencer paced up and down the room stroking his chin as if that would help. I moved closer to him, feeling that I somehow understood what was running through his head. He might be fired for it and I didn't want him to lose his job but I couldn't give up the knife.
“I have to go get the doctor.” He said sternly and I moved back, hurt. Why did everything result in the doctor. I wasn't the one who had gone crazy he had.
“You don't have to get the doctor. I haven't done anything.” I protested. He grabbed my shoulders and shook me. I hadn't realised until I was beneath how tall he was. His hands could of broken me so easily. I was like paper, a paper doll, screwed up and ripped and crumpled. It wouldn't be long until I broke.
“Where's the knife, tell me and I wont get the doctor.” His voice was somewhat calmer but still was loud. I jerked away from him.
“Get off me. I don't have it.” I stumbled back from him. I walked back slowly until I hit the wall. I turned to it and rested my head on the wall . I refused to look at him. I stared at the wall, the white paint. Well, the white paint had gone a grey and there were flecks of dirt all over it. It was disgusting.
“Sorry.” He muttered. I turned around and found him sitting on the other side of the room staring at me. He was weird, the weirdest person I had ever met. Maybe he was the crazy one. Maybe all the nurses were crazy and I was actually trying to heal them as they were me. No... that was stupid.
“Do you think I’m crazy?” I asked, sliding down the wall until I mirrored his stance. Apparently that made people feel at ease.
There was a moments hesitation, but then he tilted his head and said. “Aren't all teenagers.”
I crawled over to him, until we were face to face. I looked at him, there was something different about him, in the last few days I had seen him, he had changed, been more on edge. I just wanted the normal Spencer back. This place had stolen his soul, like it had mine. I took a deep breath and then asked.
“Can you get me out of here?” It wasn't as though I’d ask the meaning of life or anything yet he acted as though I had just accused him of murder. He stared into my eyes and I stared right back, trying to stay calm, trying not to cry.
“Why? You said it yourself. I'm not crazy.”
He got up and I sat back. “You know full well I didn't say that.” He made his way to the door and I made a grab for him. I wrapped my tiny arms around his middle. “Spencer please.” I was practically half his height.
“Let go.” He said calmly.
“Spencer, I know I’m not crazy. Please get me out of here. I can't be stuck here for any longer, I haven't seen the light of day for God knows how long.” I gripped harder. He untangled himself from me, and turned round to face me.
“I can't.” I blinked in disbelief and a tear rolled down my cheek. Those two words instantly destroyed any hope I had. In anger I pushed him away from me and ran over to my bed.
“What are you doing?” He asked.
“Here.” I chucked the knife across the floor. It glinted. Spencer bent down to pick it and sighed heavily. “You said you didn't have it.” He looked disappointed.
“I wanted it for safety.” I shouted. “You don't understand what it's like here. I'm so tired of trying, I’m not crazy but this place is making me.” I ran over to him and grabbed his hands desperately. “Get me out of here Spencer please.” I cried. I clutched his hands.
“Get me out of here.” I screamed, pleading, crying, whatever it would take. I wouldn't let go. I didn't expect him to break free and slam his hand on the red button. Within seconds nurses flooded through the door trying to tear me away from him. I scratched and bit and kicked and screamed. It took seven off them to get me away from him. He stared at me, his blue eyes filled with tears as I thrashed to get away from them. Quietly he slipped through the door as the held me down and a needle pricked my leg.
Two weeks after my isolation I hadn't seen Jessica. I worried that when the nurses had seen the books, she had been blamed and fired. This didn't upset me though, I wouldn't let it. Instead I focused on myself. In the books I had read particularly the most recently published ones, the girls had exercised in order to get stronger. I began to exercise too. I paced up and down my room after my morning meal until my evening meal. It helped greatly. I felt stronger, if a little more hungry, and it helped me sleep at night. Instead of lying for hours on end trying to will a dream from my mind, now as soon as my head hit a pillow I was out, in the blissful unawareness of dreamland.
In dreamland I made a new life for myself. I told myself I was eighteen that I had big green eyes, a short nose and plump red lips. I searched for a name yet nothing ever felt right. Jessica was nice too but I didn't want to think of her. I routinely asked Margaret what her favourite names were but she wouldn't say anything and every time I tried to speak to Bertha she thrust her wooden crucifix at me. I wondered why she was a mental health nurse.
Since the isolation I had grown more aware of time and everyday using my knife I would carve a one into the floor underneath the bed. Sixteen days had passed since my isolation. I felt myself getting stronger and my calf muscles went in a little when I tensed. Margaret told me off for exercising so much but I didn't care. I didn't even care when the doctor came into my room and told me to lay off. When walking got easier I began doing sit ups. At first I could do about five at a time but after twelve days I could do twenty five. My mind felt cleared and I felt more awake.
I also stopped taking my medication. It sounded awful and it took a lot for me to hide them in my pillow everyday but if I thought I wasn't crazy then I had to prove it to myself. To be honest I didn't feel different, if a little less tired all the time. I wondered what the medication actually did.
I was polite too. I thanked the nurses for the food and only occasionally asked questions. I didn't get into trouble and if the voices ever started I promised myself I wouldn't react. I smiled more because smiling releases hormones and hormones were meant to be better than drugs. Every now and then I would catch Margaret staring at me as though she suspected something. Catching her off guard I asked. "What's my name?" She stared at me for a total of four seconds, I counted. I couldn't read her expression but it was a mix between confusion and anger and then when she spoke... I didn't know.
"You don't have a name." She left quickly after that and didn't serve me dinner that day. At night before the lights were turned off I skimmed through my dictionary until I found what I was looking for;
Noun: Feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune.
So she felt sorry for me, I never knew she cared.