Witch Black & Baby BlueOctober 29th, 2009
THE COLD DARK HILLS OF TENNESSEE-
Chaos everywhere in the five county area and by the time I creep into the last ER I’ve had more than my fill of manic-depressives and opiate suicides gone awry. I drop my gear and sift through the patient fridge for a Gatorade G2.
“No Grape?” I ask Jody, the nurse.
Swiping her name tag, she ducks into the doctor’s lounge and returns with a purple drink.
“Thanks,” I say, twisting off the top. “So what you got?”
“Well,” she sighs, puffing bangs from her eyes. “By the time she got here she’d already shucked off all her clothes and throwed them out the cop car window. Then when they dragged her through the double doors she stripped off the sheet they wrapped her in and shouted “I AM THE ARK OF THE COVENANT - do not touch meeeeeeeeeeee….” Jody claws up her fists and screeches the last line.
“Alright then,” I respond, pulling deeply against the grape.
“Bed nine,” she grunts, tossing over the chart. “Took six of us but she’s in four-point restraints and a hospital gown. For now.”
I knock against nine’s wall and pull the curtain back. The girl is mid-twenties maybe, with witch black hair, baby blue eyeshadow, and a face ravaged by acne scars. She’s upright in bed, latched at the wrists and ankles and scowling me down with the cackle of the damned.
Jody’s on my tail. “I wanna see this,” she clucks.
I stride forth and offer my hand. She flinches back and pulls against the straps. “I do not shake hands with the devil’s son,” she says with disgust.
Jody lets out a short whoop and leaves the room.
I pull a stool over and sit by the bed. The patient turns her head slowly towards me, as if rotated by gears. “You,” she commands. “Look into mine eyes and know what it is to be loved.”
I slide in. We lock eyes. “OK. Sure.”
She stares intently, like trying to bend metal with her mind. God’s love, I think, Try not to smirk. Monster be nice.
A minute seems endless when you are staring into the eyes of a stranger. The monster is me, I consider, toying with those acutely psychotic. Love of God, I recall. Be nice, be kind, do no harm.
Time crawls and two minutes pass slowly as the waters beneath the Silver Creek Bridge. She moves closer. Her breath is hot and faintly smells of SweetTarts. Peace of God. Mercy, I pray. Lord, let the straps hold.
Three minutes, four. Somebody’s baby, somebody’s sister, somebody’s friend. Silence, save for the soft hum of florescents and sirens far away. Closer still, she comes, until our faces nearly touch. Leave. Go. The emerald of her iris flickers in the light. Stay.
Stop the melodrama. There is a sadness. Unprofessional hack. I cannot fathom. The darkest heart hopes for magic still.
I long for magic and sometimes feel certain there is none and just about the last dying point magic appears.
Or is it simply magical thinking? I don’t know.
Maybe I’m tired or just over-emotional but somehow, without her saying, I see a glimpse of the hell she has been through. Terrible things have been done and said and I understand that at some point you give in and it’s easier to pretend than to fight.
I want to tell her I cannot understand but yet hey, we are all so damaged but I don’t have any words and I don’t know if there are any words and it is a helpless feeling that hurts my heart and makes me want to run away but I cannot seem to help and I cannot seem to leave and I am again stuck with no words yet the need for something to say or do. That forced words are worse than no words at all.
“Anna, c’mon.” I say softly. Me too.
She looks away, as if staring through windows only she can see. “You can go now.”
Imprints of the buckles and leather mark her arms. The gown is falling off her shoulder. I stand to leave. “Is there anything I can do?”
She shakes her head.
“Want something to drink?”
“Juice,” she says quietly.
She shrinks into herself and in a tiny voice asks: “Do you have any extra underwear?”
There is no rush to speak in jails and emergency rooms. Words can breathe. Questions linger. It’s never awkward.
“Juice. Underwear. See what I can do.” I turn to go. At the door she calls out to me.
“So. Do you feel any more loved now?”
Sometimes the job is a blessing, other times a curse. Sometimes it’s sport, other times all too serious. Sometimes I know why I’m here, other times I don’t have the first damn clue.
“Yes ma’am,” I reply. “I do.”