I'm Not Crazy

November 10, 2011
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Chapter One

“Do you know why we’re here?” A quiet whisper reaches my ear. I turn to see Lucille, her blonde hair slicked back into a ponytail, wearing the provided scrub uniform we all wore, leaning back in her chair with a cigarette supported between bony fingers. When I look at her with my usual empty expression, she drops her chair back to the white tiled floor, bangs her fist on the metal table in front of her, spewing ashes everywhere, and screams, “Because of the communists! They will never stop, you see? Do you see it?!” By now she has come around the table and is continuing her lecture inches from my face. Her crazed eyes stare deep into mine, hoping that somehow this will help me better understand. But I do understand, and because of this, I know what comes next. Lucille grabs my shirt, clamping it in a fist, emphasizing the urgency of what she is trying to tell me.

“We have to get out,” she says slowly and seriously, pronouncing each word as if it were a matter of life and death. It’s times like these that make me wonder if Lucille is really talking about the communists. Though her eyes looked dangerous and her grip was lethal, I was not scared. This was not nearly my first encounter with this woman, nor would it be my last. All I had to do was wait. Seeing Lucille’s hold on me, two men came running swiftly towards her from their position in front of the door, just as they did every time. I watched Lucille’s eyes dart away from mine and grow to the size of saucers as the bulky figures dressed in blue grew closer. Her grip on my shirt loosened as she tried to make a break for it. Dropping her cigarette to the floor, she took off at a sprint in the opposite direction. The uniform slippers caused her feet to slide across the tile and she got no more than ten feet before the guards took her to the ground. Leaning down, I calmly picked up her still burning cigarette and took a long puff. I watched, silently composed as the men sat on her flailing body, attempting to control her wild limbs. Her deafening warnings echoed off the white walls. Why is everything white?

“The communists! They’ll kill us all! They’ll kill us all!” Over and Over again until finally one of the men was able to successfully give the shot to subdue her, after which they carried her unconscious body, one by the arms, and one by the legs, back to her room. I watched them to the end of the hall, Lucille’s head lolling and her bleached ponytail flopping the entire way.
Coolly, I turned and flicked some ashes into the tray on the table where this had all started. Glancing around me, I saw that no one else in the room is even fazed by the scene that was just displayed. Here, these outbursts were normal, even expected.
Morning sunlight streamed through the barred windows, revealing the faces of my comrades, and each one was expressionless, like stone. We were all in our own little worlds, every one of us lost in dreams, wishes, thoughts, memories. But we were trapped. All of us. In this white walled hell. No escape. Our memories and thoughts were all that kept us sane, for the few of us that remain that way. But that is rare, for if you came here sane, you weren’t bound to leave that way.

Chapter Two

It was the summer of 1969, June 26, the day after my 17th birthday. I remember it like it was yesterday. The first sight that met my eyes as I stepped out of the Pontiac was the towering silver gate lined with barbed wire, encrypted RHODE ISLAND HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE, shining in the setting sun. Escorted by five men in suits, of which I knew, and loathed, only one. I walked under the gate and up the cement steps through a set of giant oak doors to enter the large, white bricked building in front of me. As the door banged shut behind me, I thought I had walked onto the sun.
The far wall was covered in barred windows that stretched from ceiling to floor, letting in the blinding rays of light, which reverberated off the sparkling white tiles and white walls. The metal tables and chairs spread throughout the room were the only visible things that weren’t white, but even they shined in the sunlight. Squinting, I threw my hand up over my eyes, stumbling backwards, but the army of men surrounding me steered me left by the elbows.
There a woman sat at a desk behind a gate. Of the group of men with me, the one I knew seemed to be in charge. He wore a black thin- brimmed hat and had thick framed glasses. Matching his hat was a long swaying trench coat and unbelievably shiny black shoes. They didn’t have a spot on them and they shone spectacularly in this sparkling room.
How I hated those shoes. And those glasses. And that hat. He was the reason I was here, away from the rest of the world. He had convinced her to put me here. My mother. He said it would be best for me. All because I didn’t like to answer stupid questions. I’m not crazy, I’m quiet. But thanks to shiny shoes, the world thinks otherwise. I stared at him with hate filled eyes, watching as he and the receptionist exchanged papers and smiles until I heard, “So this is Jessie?” in a sing song voice come from the receptionist.
I snapped my lethal gaze from him to her and she was taken aback by such an evil stare. She looked away from me, scared, toward shiny shoes for an answer.
He merely said, “She doesn’t like to talk, but if you give her a pen and paper, she’ll communicate.” With that, the woman nodded and hit a red button on the desk. Immediately three male workers dressed in blue scrubs with keys jingling at their sides entered the common area from a hallway to the right.

“These men will show you to your room, Jessie.” Two of the men grasped my elbows and steered me toward the hall they had just come from, and the third man followed slowly behind. I looked over my shoulder at the desk to see the five men who had escorted me in making their way to the door, all except for shiny shoes. He stood staring directly at me, watching as these men led me to my new home. I passed no other patients in the hall and one of the workers explained why in four quick words as he unlocked my cell door. “At dusk, lights out.” With the click of the thick metal lock, they pushed me in my room and threw me two pairs of white scrubs that were to be my entire wardrobe from now on.
After they slammed the wide door, a small ray of light entered through the undersized window in the door by which I was able to see enough to change into my new clothes and take in my surroundings. A small metal bedspring was in one corner and in the opposite corner was a toilet. This tiny, windowless brick room was where I was to spend my time, and for what? Being quiet? This punishment was not justified. I’m not crazy. Thinking this to myself would do nothing, I knew. I would have to prove it to the world. With this goal in mind, I slowly got into bed, the springs squeaking. I realized just how tired I was as I lay my aching body on the thin mattress. Within seconds of closing my eyes on that first night, I was fast asleep, lost in my dreams.

I walked into the small kitchen, the dark paneled walls coming into view. The horrible green lamp hanging from the ceiling casted shadows in odd spots on the walls as it swayed from the movement of the inhabitants in the apartment above. The shag carpet tickled my feet as I inched closer. Under the light was a woman sitting at a small square table. She wore a pink bathrobe and was comfortably smoking a cigarette. Her dark hair rested on her shoulders as she casually looked my way. That face. So familiar, yet so distant. The long dark eyelashes flashing in front of dark blue eyes. Her defined jaw line flexed as she removed the cigarette from her lipstick stained mouth. “Jessie.” She spoke in a raspy whisper, smoke leaving her lips delicately with her words. I moved closer, urging her to go on. “Why, Jessie?” she asked, her eyes filling with tears.
What was she talking about? Why was she crying? I began looking around for answers. I felt something in my hand, a pen. But the pen, along with my hand, was covered in blood. The red liquid dripped onto the floor as I raised the pen to my eyes, examining it. I did not understand. The woman watched me from her seat with earnest eyes. Then seeing that she had my attention, she slid a piece of paper across the table towards me, compelling me to read it. I moved forward, blood continuing to drip, leaving a trail.
I was close enough to read it now, but I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the woman’s face. She pushed the paper even closer, insisting that I look. Her dark eyebrows raised in curiosity. Finally, I turned toward the white sheet; it had only one sentence at the top. I began to decipher the words and BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!!

“Get up! Let’s go!” An orderly pounded on the door to my cell. I woke, startled and confused. What did that dream mean? Had that been blood on that pen? But the more I tried to remember the details, the more they slipped away.
Chapter Three

As I leave my room, anticipating the struggles I’ll experience in my new home, I see other inhabitants exiting into the hall also. I wonder if they were told I’m here, I think, and immediately my question is answered. Almost instantly three women that were closest to me see that there is an unfamiliar face in their presence. Without hesitating, the blonde approaches me. I didn’t like the sneer on her face or the shine in her eyes. She looked dangerously excited.

“What’s your name?” she asks me quietly.

“Jessie,” I say, timidly, unsure of where this conversation is heading.

“Why are you here, Jessie?” she asks. I look at her blankly, unwilling to answer. Why are we all here? The world thinks we’re crazy. I’m not crazy.

“It’s the communists, Jessie,” the blonde says. “That’s why you’re here.”
By now all the other patients had exited their rooms and were casually walking by. One of the three women that had originally approached me said, “Lucille, cut it out. You’re scaring her.” This woman had auburn hair pulled back into a loose bun. She had a tight, serious face and her mouth barely moved when she talked. The blonde named Lucille just smiled and walked on, as if our conversation she just had consisted of happy memories instead of dreary warnings. The woman with her hair in a bun said, “Don’t worry about her, she’s fine once you get to know her… most times.”

“Thanks,” I said, wondering why this woman was here. Maybe I had found someone who was put here by mistake like me. Maybe she’s not crazy. I learned her name was Angela and we walked together back to the common room with the metal chairs and tables and the lady behind the gate. Angela talked most of the time about her family and her twin brother. “Oh, and this is Cindy,” Angela said, introducing the third woman that had been at her side since the start of the morning. Cindy didn’t look up from the ground when her name was said. She continued to stare at her feet, her brown thin hair draped in front of her face like curtains.

“Hi Cindy,” I said, attempting to see her face. Her left foot twitched in the slippers at the mention of her name, but other than that, she didn’t acknowledge my greeting in the slightest. Angela just continued walking and talking as if this was normal. We sat down at one of the tables. It was like sitting on a giant ice cube, the chair was so cold. Two packs of cigarettes sat waiting on each table. I grabbed one and beat the bottom of the pack, taking a stick out with my teeth. I searched around for a lighter but didn’t see one. I looked at Angela to see if she had one, but she had left the table and was walking towards an orderly across the room. I saw the man pull a lighter from his pocket and apply it to Angela’s cigarette. We can’t even light our own smokes here? I thought, incredulous. I threw the stick from my mouth, losing the motivation to crave what I needed permission for. Angela moved through the other tables and patients back to her seat.

“Pathetic, right?” she said on seeing my face. Just then, a bell rang in the distance. Angela and Cindy stood up robotically, along with the rest of the people in the room. A line began to form in front of the gated receptionist and I followed pursuit.

“What are we doing?” I asked Angela as the line moved forward.

“It’s herding time,” she said sarcastically with a smile. I didn’t know what she meant, but I found out as the line died down. With each patient, I heard the receptionist say “Good morning,” as she was handed something through the gate. Angela was in front of me, along with Cindy, and I watched eagerly to see what was happening.
“Good morning!” Her bright smile gleamed white, like everything else. Her small pale hand was reaching through the gated opening holding two pills, waiting for me to take them from her. I look back and forth between her hand and face, contemplating the possible consequences of not taking them. Seeing my hesitation, her smile began to falter and her hand lying on the desk inched slightly closer to the red button that I knew now called the guards.
So I took the small caplets and the receptionist nodded approvingly. She waited, watching cautiously while I popped them in my mouth. “Say ahh,” she requested as if I were a child. I opened my mouth wide. No pills. Her smile returned and she looked past me saying, “Next!” I shuffled out of line, removing the medicine from under my tongue and spitting it in my hand. Taking a seat at a table, I casually slip the pills into my right slipper, acting as if my foot itched. They’re not going to drug me, I’m not crazy. Angela and Cindy sat next to me. I see that their hands are empty, they have taken the pills. I don’t know what to think of it. They don’t seem any different.
‘Do you want to play ping pong?” Angela asks, bored. I nod and we go towards the game table in front of the wall of windows. Cindy stands in the shadows, watching the ball go back and forth, back and forth. Some of the patients roaming in the common room heard the soft pinging as the game got going and became interested.
Soon a small crowd had gathered around us. Angela looks up, a small smile travels across her face. She decides to liven the place up by entertaining her jaded companions for a while. We began hitting crazy shots, doing all we could just to earn a point. Ping! I slide to the left, skidding across the floor, barely reaching Angela’s corner shot. Pong! The ball zooms over the net, past Angela’s paddle, my point! The crowd of crazies claps and cheers. I had never seen so many smiles. Their eyes all shone with excitement, this is the most action they’ve seen in months it seemed. The score was now 7-6, Angela was up and it was her serve. She bounces the ball, spins, and thwacks it towards me, too quick to hit; ace. Ooo’s and ahh’s erupted from the fans, amazed by her trick shot.
Angela and I can’t stop laughing, just as entertained by their joy as they are by our game. I’m bouncing back and forth in my stance, ready to hit it this time, exciting the crowd even further when all of the sudden someone snatches the paddle from my hand.
“You think we can play games while they are out there?” It was Lucille, and she looked angry. The mood immediately changed: fear filled the air and all the patients scuttled backwards away from the table. It was clear Lucille usually ran the show.

“While who is out there?” I asked nervously. Why was she so mad at me?

“The Communists! Are you stupid?!” she screams at me. Her right hand raises and I feel the paddle soar right past my head. It hits one of the windows and the banging off the glass echoes as loud as church bells. A couple patients scream, some grab their ears in an attempt to keep out the loud noises. I back away from Lucille, terrified. I see the receptionist leave the safe gated desk to observe the commotion, but then retreat to find more workers, sliding across the floor away from the potentially dangerous situation.
My back hits the wall of windows and Lucille pounces forward, reaching for me. She has a hold of my white scrubs, I try pulling away but her grip is too strong. She pushes and slams me against the wall. Her face is nearly an inch from mine. I smell cigarettes on her breath as she quietly says, “You think it’s okay to play games? They are dying, we are dying. Death, dead, death.” Her blue gray eyes are wide and foggy, like she’s looking past me.
Then, she stumbles backwards away from me as a worker grabs the collar of her shirt and pulls her to the ground. Too surprised to fight back, she is immediately subdued with a syringe. The receptionist goes to calm down some other patients, while Lucille is carried back to her room.
I am frozen where I stand, my heart racing. What just happened? I look around for Angela. She is in the corner, squatting by Cindy who is tugging on her own hair, rocking back and forth, crying hysterically. A ping pong game led to this?
After calming most of the patients down, the receptionist announced to the entire room that the ping pong table would be taken out of the hospital that very day. Disappointment covered the face of each patient. I remembered the happiness that little bit of fun brought these trapped souls; it was heartbreaking. But eventually, they all went back to their usual routines.
Some would sit and after waiting 10 seconds, they would get up, pace a few feet, and sit again. Others would stare out the windows for endless hours. Some would have full conversations with themselves. All of them, however, had one thing in common: living and doing the same thing day in and day out in this white world. All white. It was enough to drive anyone crazy.
Chapter Four

The next few days consisted of the same things: waking up, hiding the pills, and roaming aimlessly. I took up smoking again to help pass the time. There were occasional outbursts among the patients, especially Lucille, but they had become ordinary. The days were all running together. I lost track of how long I had been there; weeks, months, years even, I had no idea. I picked up a new habit of longingly watching as the trees swayed in the breeze, the green leaves twitching on their branches. It was almost painful how badly I wanted to be out with them, how badly I wanted to see color again. One day, while staring out the barred windows, I heard my name called in a deep echoing voice, “Jessie Brown.” I turned away from the window and saw two men in suits, one of them wearing shiny shoes. Hate tore at the pit of my stomach, like a monster dying to get out and rip him to shreds. I maintained my composure and approached the men.

“Hello, I’m Doctor Hawthorne.” A small man with golden rimmed glasses and a clipboard extended his hand in greeting. He explained that he was here to ask me a few questions and led me out a door to the left of the receptionist’s desk.

We walked down a white hallway, the sound of the men’s steps ricocheting off the tiles. There was one door at the end of the hallway that we walked through; the light flickered on as we entered. It was a small room with a metal table, just like the others. Two chairs sat on either side of it, facing each other.
“Have a seat, Jessie.” I sat down at his request, my heart beating loud with anticipation. What was going on? Shiny shoes stood in a corner of the room, watching me, his black eyes never leaving mine. I cocked my head to look straight back at him, glowering. Hawthorne sat in the other chair, taking his pen and clipboard out and setting them on the table. I noticed the hand on the clock behind him ticking away.
“Okay Jessie, we are just going to ask you a few questions; get to know each other, sound good?” I slouched back against the chair, making myself comfortable, allowing him to continue. “Okay, it is September 17. Do you remember what day you came here?”
“June 26,” I said without hesitation.
“Good, good,” he mumbles quietly, jotting notes on his clipboard. “And do you know why you were brought here that day?”
I sat silently, staring at the doctor. Why is he asking me stupid questions? He waited for a reply and after watching the clock for a full three minutes in silence, he sighed and offered me a cigarette from his pocket. I took it and to repay his kindness, I decided to answer his question… sort of. As I put the cigarette to my lips, I pointed at shiny shoes in the corner with my empty hand.
“What? What about him?” asked the confused doctor.
“He is why I’m here,” I said impatiently. Shiny shoes shifted his weight to his other foot at this remark, his face covered in shadow.
“Why is he the reason you are here?”
I took a long puff on my cigarette, and then said, “He told her it would be better if I lived with other people like me, said I’d fit in better. I’m not crazy.” I said those last three words very sternly, staring deep into Hawthorne’s eyes, dying to show him that I don’t belong here. He didn’t seem to get my point though, as he quickly broke my gaze and looked back to his clipboard. He lifted the first paper on the clipboard and slid something out from under it. After glancing at it himself, he pushed it across the table to me. I trapped the cigarette between my teeth freeing both hands and observe the paper.

It was a photograph. My heart dropped to my stomach and my pulse hesitated, skipping a beat. My hands shook and my breathing was soon coming in gasps. It was a photo of a crime scene. In it, a woman lay crumpled on the floor, her limbs bent at awkward angles. Looking closer, I knew that face, and that kitchen, and that bathrobe. It was the woman from my dreams. She was dead. Those blank, foggy eyes seemed to be looking straight back into mine. The bathrobe was stained with blood. Beside her was the chair she had been sitting on in all my dreams. Near her hand on the floor was a cigarette. Her hair was fanned out around her face, stiff in spots, caked with blood. I soon felt nauseous and had to set the photo down. Looking away from it, I saw Hawthorne intensely observing me through the process, like it was some kind of sick test.

“Who is she?” I asked him, intent on finding out why this stranger continued to pop up in my life.

“You’re telling me you don’t know?” he asked.

“If I knew who she was, I wouldn’t have asked you.” I replied, irritated. I just wanted answers. I put my cigarette out in the ash tray, excited at the thought of finding out who this woman was. The doctor seemed strangely disappointed at my answer. He sighed, looked back at shiny shoes and merely shook his head.

“This went well, Jessie,” he said with a half hearted smile, gathering his things and standing up.

“Wait, who is she?!” I inquire loudly, standing with him.

“We will meet again soon,” he said, failing to look me in the face. He exited through the door, leaving just me and shiny shoes. Shiny shoes remained in the corner for a moment, and then slowly walked around the table towards the door, not saying a word. For reasons I can’t explain, his silence brought about that roaring anger again. I wanted to tear him apart. As he reached for the door handle, I screamed, “It’s your fault! It’s your entire fault! I don’t belong here! I’m not crazy! Why did you do this to me?!”

He stopped, turned around, and gave me a look of complete pity, sincere sorrow and anxiety covering every feature of his face. Then he continued out of the room, leaving me alone with my thoughts. How did they know this woman? Who was she? How’d she die? Does Shiny Shoes feel bad for me? How could he, when he put me here in the first place? None of it made any sense. I paced the small white cell, hoping some of my questions would be miraculously answered, while an orderly waited right outside the door to escort me. When I realized I could solve nothing, I returned to the common room. When I entered the room, it was glowing orange from the setting sun outside. We were immediately shuffled to our rooms for the night. Another day gone, wasted, and yet I had nothing solved. The closer I got to answering my questions, more were made-up. I don’t know what to think of it. All I know is that I am not crazy. I would prove that to Hawthorne and Shiny Shoes soon enough.

Chapter Five

Waking up, I couldn’t wait to explain all the events of the previous day to Angela to see what she thought. She was the only sane person besides me within a mile. In the common room, I searched quickly for that red hair in a loose bun. I finally found her sitting at a corner table by the windows smoking with Cindy. “I’ve got so much to tell you,” I said quietly, sitting down next to her.

“’Bout what?” she asked, interested at my excitement. So I sat down and took the next five minutes to explain everything to her. “Wait, wait, wait,” she interrupted, confused by my rapid speech, “so the broad in your dreams is real? But she’s dead?”

“Yeah, but I don’t know who she is,” I said, my words drenched in disappointment.

“Why are you talking so loudly?” Angela asked suddenly, her face serious and angry.

“I’m not?” I said with a question in my voice. Angela’s forehead was scrunched and her eyes were squinted in grave concentration.

“Do you hear that?” she asked me, spinning in her chair to look about.

“Hear what? What are you talking about, Angela?”

“It’s so loud! Make it stop! No, quiet, Angela! You are being very bad, always misbehaving. Don’t make me have them take you away. But it’s so loud!” she was ranting, having a conversation with herself, grabbing and pulling on her hair. She began screaming, wailing as loudly as humanly possible. I stood up, backing away from the table, unsure of what to do or what caused this.
I ran towards the receptionist calling for help. Some orderlies answered my call and tried consoling her, but she continued screaming, pushing them away. “Make it stop!” Her cries made the other patients worry, especially Cindy. Angela sounded as if she were in unbelievable pain. Finally the workers resorted to subduing her with a shot, and her screams gradually slowed and quieted. They took her, not to her usual room, but to the isolated padded room that was provided for extreme cases at the end of the living quarters hallway. I had no idea what to think. She was so normal; I was completely convinced of it. But she was crazy, that’s why she was here. I am alone in my sanity. That night, I hugged my pillow close, looking for any sort of comfort. I had never felt so alone in my whole life. I missed my home. I missed my mom. I missed living with normal people… I missed living at all.
Chapter Six

Angela was allowed back into the company of other patients a few days later. She was still jumpy, her bloodshot eyes constantly darting from one object to another. The cigarette always sandwiched between her fingers shook nonstop. I found that it was better to leave her alone with her thoughts. She was never the same Angela that I met on my second day.

Cindy was absolutely lost without Angela as her backbone. She no longer mingled with people, too scared to associate herself with them. Every morning, Cindy would stand in the far corner of the room, looking at her feet, exactly as I had met her. She would continue standing there until dusk, when she was put back in her room. I tried numerous times to talk to her, encouraging her to sit with me, showing her that I was capable of being her friend too, but she wouldn’t budge. I soon gave up and let her be, leaving her on her own in her corner. Everyone was used to her being there after a while. They merely walked passed, not even glancing at the sad soul standing in solitude. It was as if she were part of the room, her white scrubs blending into the wall, built in to remain forever.
One day when I woke, expecting to see her slim figure where it always was, but she wasn’t there. I searched the whole hospital and couldn’t find her anywhere. Later, I found out Cindy had died in her sleep, curled in a tight ball, her hair covering her lifeless face, as always. She was 25 years old. When the news got around, Angela wasn’t fazed by the death of her closest friend; I don’t even think she noticed. She spent her time, staring wide eyed into space, not talking to a single person. I was convinced she had fully lost her mind. From that point on, my only purpose in life was to prove that I wasn’t crazy in those meetings with Shiny Shoes and Hawthorne.
We met about once every week. It was the same every time, sitting in that white box of a room, I would immediately ask, “Who is she?”
“You don’t know?” Hawthorne would pose, already knowing the answer.
“No! Why won’t you just tell me?” I asked angrily.
“What do you know about her?” He inquires, Shiny Shoes lurking in the back the entire time.
“I know nothing except for the fact that she haunts my dreams.” Seemingly interested at this, he asks, “And what are these dreams about?”
“I don’t remember. I know she’s in them and umm….” I say, straining to remember details. “The kitchen, there’s a kitchen… and maybe blood? I think there is, or maybe I’m remembering the photo. I don’t remember. Just give me some answers please!” I beg.
“This was an eye opening experience Jessie.” He says, readying to leave again, brushing off my requests that he do otherwise. Then they leave, Shiny Shoes always glancing at me with the same sad look. I couldn’t stand it. I wanted answers.
One morning, when I woke, I felt strangely different. I couldn’t explain the feeling. It was as if something was looming in the future, like I was preparing myself for something disastrous. It made me nervous. With hopes that it would help calm me down, I stood at the windows, watching the bare trees. The cold turned the trees into naked skeletons, doing some kind of jive in the wind. It was always windy, making the trees move. It was as if they were mocking me, swaying freely out in the open while I was stuck in here, unsure of whether I’d ever feel that breeze again. It was pouring rain outside; the sky was a blanket of gray, all one sheet with no clouds separating the pieces of heaven. The rain pelted the windows with a muffled pitter patter. I rested my head against the window. The cool glass and the constant rhythm of the rain were effective in calming my shaky nerves. What was I even nervous about? It didn’t make sense.

I stood there for so long that I dozed off. There she was. She looked at me with those deep, sad eyes. I still couldn’t put a name to that face. It was the same dream as always.

“Why Jessie?” The blood, the pen, the paper. I still didn’t understand. “Jessie!” I hear, why is she yelling? This is different than usual. “Jessie!” I am shaken awake. It wasn’t the woman shouting my name, it was Hawthorne. It was time for another meeting. Every day; the same, but today would be different, I could feel it.
Chapter Seven

I follow Hawthorne and Shiny Shoes to the white interrogation room, my steps synchronized with the pelting rain. My heartbeat was uneven and my knees shook as I sat down in the usual metal chair across from Hawthorne. Shiny Shoes took his typical spot, perched in the corner of the room, like a vulture waiting for me to drop dead, to give up. I wouldn’t. I stared at his silhouette, refusing to back down at his intimidation attempts.

“Okay, Jessie, who is this woman?” Hawthorne began, sliding the picture of the dead woman across the table to me.

“Are we really going through this again?” I ask, not even bothering to look at the photo, I had it memorized by now.
Hawthorne sat for a while thinking hard, deep crevices forming on his aged face. He pushed the gold rimmed glasses further up his nose, took a deep breath and said, “I don’t know what else I can do Jessie.” He roughly grabbed the picture, his voice rising in frustration as he pointed at it saying, “Who did this to her?”
“How am I supposed to know that?” I ask, sincerely confused at why he was frustrated. I should be the one who is angry, he was the one keeping answers from me.
“You know the answer, Jessie! Think!” He was yelling now, leaning towards me over the table, shoving the picture in my face. Shiny Shoes moved slightly forward in the corner, ready for action. “Who did this?!”
“I don’t know!” I screamed back at him.
“But you do know!”
“How the hell would I know that?!” I yelled, standing and throwing my chair behind me in anger. Hawthorne wasn’t fazed by my temper, his being equally matched. He stood also, his chair tipping over, banging on the tiled floors. Taking deep breaths, Hawthorne looked up from the table slowly, removed his glasses and cleaned them with his shirt. He put them back on and looked towards me with worn, ringed eyes. Quietly he said, “Because you did it.”
It took a while for his words’ meaning to hit me. When they did, it felt as if a bowling ball had dropped into the pit of my stomach. My legs felt weak and I moved to the table for support. Breathing in short gasps, I managed to whisper, “What do you mean?” in a barely audible voice.
“You killed her. Do you know who she is?” he said, harsh and stern without a hint of compassion.
“No, I don’t,” I said, but as soon as the words left my mouth, I knew they were a lie. I could feel it in my heart. I knew who she was now. It was all coming back; I just didn’t want it to. It couldn’t be true, I wouldn’t let it.
“She is your mother,” Hawthorne said in the same monotone. He was watching my every move with those hawk- like eyes, studying me. Tears were streaming down my face, I couldn’t stop them. All the memories were pouring in. I closed my eyes, allowing them to finally play in my mind.
I saw the woman. Her smiling face. The dark hair blowing in the wind as she ran towards me, extending her arms to push my knees. I swung backwards, up, up, up high above her. Freedom. Then I came back, the wooden swing creaking beneath me, and there she was, laughing, pushing me again.
Then I saw her, sitting on a cushioned bench in front of a mirror, brushing her dark locks. She was smiling. Next to her, a little girl mimicked every flawless move she made, using her own tiny hairbrush and focusing hard. The girl was me.
I opened my eyes in the white cell, breathing out a small whimper and falling to my knees. I hid my face as I bawled. I couldn’t stop the stream of memories now. I saw what I had been blocking out for so long, what I had convinced myself wasn’t reality.
Walking into the tiny kitchen, I set down my back pack; my mom was sitting at the table in her pink bathrobe a cigarette drooping from her lips. She was reading from a stack of papers in front of her and she didn’t look up as I entered the room. I walked towards her to examine what it was she was looking at. They were drawings, my drawings.
“Why do you have those?” I asked defensively, angry that she took them from my room. She kept staring at them and when she finally looked up, I saw that her eyes were wet and puffy. She took the cigarette from her mouth and said, “Who are these pictures of?”
“I don’t know, whoever I want them to be,” I answered, frustrated at her questioning me.
“Why are they so violent?” she asked, her voice shaking with sorrow.
I didn’t answer her. I didn’t know how.
“Why, Jessie?” she said, looking at me full on, rivers of tears weaving a path through the pale powder on her face. She reached across the table and grabbed a pamphlet that was lying among the papers. “I think you should look at this,” she said, handing me the pamphlet and wiping her face.
Taking the paper from her, I read “Rhode Island Specialized Hospital of Care.” There were pictures of people of all ages watching the television or playing board games. None of them looked truly happy.
“You think I need to go to a hospital?” I asked, incredulously.
“I think you’ll like it Jessie,” she said, letting more tears spill over, “you’ll be with people more like you, you’ll fit in better. Wouldn’t you like that? Wouldn’t you like to have friends Jessie? To not be angry all the time?” She continued her desperate speech, her voice pleading for me to understand, “You don’t talk to anyone, Jessie. I think this will help you.”
My entire body shook with rage. I was different. I didn’t like talking. I didn’t like people. So what? I’m not crazy! I found myself screaming this at my mom.
I grabbed the papers on the table and threw them all around the room. My head was spinning, my body was numb, I couldn’t think. “I’m not crazy!” Hate, rage, anger built up. I needed to get rid of it. I needed to do something. So many thoughts, my mind was racing. How could she say that about me? I’m not crazy, I’m not crazy. I hate her, I hate her! I grabbed a pen from the table and before she could react, I lunged myself at her, knocking her to the floor. “I’m not crazy!” I screech over and over with each stab. I feel the pen pierce her skin. She screams, but I don’t stop. I can’t. I stab her again and again and again. Her screams begin to die down and eventually stop. Warm blood has soaked my clothes. I feel spots of it splattered on my face. My chest heaves up and down with raspy, heavy gasps. I glance down at my shaking hands. They looked as if I’ve dunked them in a pool of blood; the pen is barely visible through it… I’m not crazy.
I step over the mangled body on the floor and walk towards the table. Glancing behind me, I see the still burning cigarette nearly an inch from my mother’s pale hand and think of how badly I could use one right now. Then, I reach down and grab one of the papers lying on the floor. Using the same pen in my hand, I write those three words.
Blood is smeared around the ink on the white sheet from my hand. Taking a step back, I observe my work and almost trip over the body lying on the floor. I smile, proud of the message I got across. I’m not crazy; the paper says so. I sit down on the small kitchen chair and light a cigarette, still smiling. I am calm. I am at home. I hear the ticking of the clock on the wall. Time passes slowly, I smoke an entire cigarette. Then I hear the knocking on the door. “Police! Open Up!” Someone must’ve called them. I knew I should’ve stopped her from screaming so loud. But the noises are distant. I don’t move. It must be at the neighbor’s door, it is so quiet. Then I see the apartment door bash against the wall.
A man with extremely shiny shoes leads the other policemen through the door, introducing himself as Detective Perry. His eyes travel across the tiny kitchen, taking in the scene of blood stained papers blanketing a distorted corpse. His mouth opens slightly and his eyes widen, unable to hide his shock. Removing his hat, he looks towards me, making eye contact. I smile. His eyebrows ascend in disbelief. He then sees the paper on the table.
“We have to take her in,” he says to the men taking pictures of the crime scene.
Chapter Eight
I remember traveling in the police car to the station where I was interrogated. This is where I decided to lie. To lie so intensely that even I believed it myself. But Shiny Shoes knew the truth behind that smile. He still does. In the white cell in the hospital, the Doctor continued reminding me of the truths that I could no longer hide.
“You killed your mother. Detective Perry discovered you on the scene. This is why you have developed hatred towards him, not because he told your mother to put you here. You belong here, Jessie. You committed a crime as a result of your illness. You’ve been here for five years.”
I felt another blow to the stomach. Five years? For five years I’ve convinced myself of this lie? How? How could I do this?
“You have been living this charade for five years. We tried going along with it, playing your innocence, but nothing has changed. I feel the best thing, now, is for you to admit the truth. Face up to your guilt. Don’t you want this weight off your shoulders, Jessie? Wouldn’t it be nice to be free of it?”
To be free: I wanted it so badly, but this monster was still inside me, I could feel it. The small part of me that wanted to believe Hawthorne’s words was being attacked by the monster. The burning, raging creature living in my belly was moving, inhabiting the rest of my body. It was the lie. The lie was winning again, eating away the courageous slivers of truth making themselves visible for the first time in five years. I couldn’t stop it. Then the monster made its way to my mouth, voicing its position.
“I’m not crazy,” I heard these familiar words. I said them. That was me. Part of me was listening, silently begging the monster inside me to finally give up, to be quiet.
“You belong here, Jessie,” Hawthorne said again. The tears were never ending. The rage inside me grew, the monster was fuming. The tiny part of me that accepted the truth was cornered. It sat hushed like a coward. Then the monster devoured it. It was gone. The tears stopped.
“I’m not crazy,” I say in a calm voice. Hawthorne moved closer, seeing my abrupt change. “He put me here,” I said in my lethal tone, staring at Shiny Shoes.
“Jessie, it’s time to face the tr..” Hawthorne starts, putting his hand on my shoulder. But before he could finish, the monster that had been controlling me was released at the touch of his hand. In one quick motion, I bit the chunky fingers on my shoulder and jumped to my feet. Hawthorne stumbled backwards in pain, and before Shiny Shoes had time to react, I bolted to the cell door. Unlocked, yes! I let out a loud, frenzied laugh at my luck and sprinted out the door.

Turning the corner sharply, I slid in the routine slippers, hitting the ground, but I was up again in a flash. I wouldn’t be stopped. I was not crazy.

I came into the common room; all the other crazies were sitting at the tables or roaming aimlessly. What a pity, this poor ailing community, I thought to myself. It would be horrible to be crazy. Then I released the same high pitched, uncontrolled laugh. All the inhabitants looked towards the source of the laughter, some unknowingly chuckling along. My head was pounding. Everything was fuzzy. Everything was white, so much white. Always white!
Someone was screaming. The screams are echoing in my skull, reverberating off the bone, bouncing around like a basketball. I grabbed at it, trying to make it stop. “Why Jessie?” I heard it again. I bent over, doubled up, wrenching my hair, ripping it from its roots. Stop, stop, stop! I’m not crazy, I’m not crazy!
“I’m not crazy!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. My throat was burning. White. I couldn’t take it anymore. White. I heard quick footsteps behind me. I picked up a metal chair threateningly, turning around to face Shiny Shoes and Hawthorne. They stopped their approach at my warning and put their hands up. Hawthorne cautiously said, “Jessie, we can help you.”
Laughing, I say, “Help? I don’t need your help. I’m not crazy,” Then spinning around, I run with the chair towards the silent wall of windows. With all my strength, I smashed the chair against one of the towering windows, breaking the glass. I threw the chair aside and grasped the bars on the outside of the window; they were like ice from the cold. Yes, just enough, I thought to myself. I took one last look at Shiny Shoes; his eyes amplified as he realized my plan. “No!” I heard him yell, those shiny shoes striding forward helplessly.
Then, I leapt. I heard that same frantic laughing coming from my mouth. I was falling. I saw the trees waving at me. The breeze. Oh, that breeze! It was brushing my cheeks like a soft kiss. Then I saw her face. She’s bending down and kisses me on both cheeks, leaving lipstick behind. “I love you, Jessie.” I smile as I fall. She’s with me, everything is alright. The sky is cloudless. White. Pure white.

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