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Vomit green, I remember, was the color of the walls that made the wide pasty and chipped hallways that I walked through with my small hand placed in larger adult hand. As my eyes scanned the room, I decided that room more closely resembled a house than a hospital.
I was eight, or at least around that age. It must have been a Saturday or something because I don’t remember having to go to school that day. I was spending the day with Kisha, my twenty-four year old cousin, while she was working .Even though Kisha was so much older than me; I loved her most out of all my cousins. Even the relatives that were closest to my age weren’t as cool as Kisha. Anyways, after lots of begging-my mother has always been the most stern and strict parent between her and my father- my mom agreed to let me go with my cousin while she worked. Both my parents were against the idea of me going to Kisha’s job with her at first; partly because I would be a distraction and partly because I might get bored; mainly though, because Kisha worked as a care provider, in a home for people with mental illnesses.
At the home, Kisha’s co-workers gave me candy; all of which were probably in their fifties with young grandchildren around my age. Once Kisha put her food in the foul acrid odorous staff lunch room and put her coat in a rickety locker, she washed her hands and led me out the door, into the vomit green colored hallways. Before she started her work, she bent down to make herself eye level with me and peered deep and seriously into my younger wide eyes. She then told me that I could only come along with her on her rounds if I promised to be on my best behavior. I solemnly swore to be up to only good and then we were off. Hand in hand, I went were she went.
We had been to about eight rooms and I was already ready to going home. These people were scary, frightening, and unlike any other adult I had ever been around. I would almost go so far as to say these people weren’t adults; child-like and impulsive, angry and irrational; not seeming to have responsibilities or the mental capacity to care for any one person but themselves. While Kisha cleaned the rooms of the patients and gave them food, I watched silently from my new occupation as a wallflower: pretty, quite, unseen, unmoving. I saw a woman who thought she could see and speak to demons, and man who liked to scream and yell at everything, a man who threatened to and then actually did try to bite Kisha, a pale beautiful lady who liked to stare blankly out of the window and sing to herself, a little impish looking man who didn’t talk at all-which I later in my years discovered he is what one would call a mute-, a lady who touched herself in inappropriate places without shame, and much more. I couldn’t believe nor fully grasp what I was seeing, the sights horrendous and simply out of the ordinary. Why were these people so weird? What was wrong with them? Didn’t they know how to behave? Even though I had a million questions running through my head, zipping, slamming, and colliding within the walls of my brain, I knew better than to ask. This was part of my promise to be on my best behavior. Kisha was so focused that I decided she had a job to do just as I; her’s being to care for these people while mine was to simply be a small, pretty, and ever-present wallflower.
After a few more rooms, Kisha grasps the handle of another rickety door and then turns to me and says “This is Alfred. You’ll like him.” She then merrily opens the door and greets Alfred. He quietly says, “Hey” back while he continues to watch TV. I study Alfred and think for a second that he looks out of place. He is younger compared to all the other patients; him probably being only twenty-four or something. His red shoulder length hair, unwashed and dingy, but pretty nonetheless gleamed in the natural sunlight from the window. His skinny body was limp as his neck was the only straining part- it was turned toward the television set.
Kisha begins working while I plop my butt into the seat of a chair at the foot of Mr. Alfred’s bed. From my position I can see the T.V. too. The show Rugrats was on.
“You like Rugrats, too?” I asked. He glances down towards me and then with a course scratchy sandpaper voice he whispers, “Yes. It’s my favorite television program.” From there on, we make comments here and there about the show as it goes on.
When Kisha finishes her work in Mr. Alfred’s room she asks me if I would like to stay with Alfred while she finishes her rounds. I’m unsure at first, so I turn to Mr. Alfred to ask if he minds my company. Obviously she trusted Mr. Alfred enough to leave me there in the first place so I knew I’d be safe. Besides; after seeing half of the lunatics in this place, Mr. Alfred seemed like a safe bet. We continued to watch T.V. in each other’s presence even when the Rugrats show ended.
After a few minutes, Mr. Alfred turned the T.V. off and then turned to me.
“So, why did you come to visit?” He asks with a blank face.
I simply told him, “Because Kisha brought me.”
He seems to think of this for a moment before he turns to me and says, “Freddy says hello”.
“Who?” I ask?
“Freddy” he replies. I look around the room, but I see no one but me and him.
“Who’s Freddy?” I question.
“My twin who lives in my head, we share thoughts. Oh, he says he likes your shirt.” Alfred says with a grin.
“Now hold up, Mr. Alfred. Why can’t I see Freddy?”
“Because some things aren’t meant to be seen.”
“I don’t get it.” I say. “Freddy, your brother lives inside your brain?”
“Exactly so, that is.” He says. Mr. Alfred then says one of the profound things I had ever heard in my short life.
“Just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s not there.” I’m stunned silent for a moment. Then I quietly whisper, “Like Jesus?”
“Yes” he says happily as if he is excited that I understand. “Just like Jesus.”
And then an idea forms in my head: the idea of something existing without being seen. It’s funny how a man that talks to himself on the reg might actually be a genius. He was right. I believe in Jesus, as many people do, but I’ve never actually seen him. Why is it that Mr. Alfred is labeled crazy for talking to someone people can’t see when millions pray every day?
I begin to think about what life would be like if I could see Jesus; if I could see Freddy too. I then ponder the brain itself. It’s in my skull. I know its there- even though I have never seen, felt, touched, or tasted it. Never mind the fact that I hold no physical proof of its existence-because my dad told me. He used to tell me that my brain was in my noggin. I have come to believe his word to be truth; the law, but how would I really know for certain it is there?
I then ask Mr. Alfred if he wishes he could see Freddy. Then people wouldn’t think he was crazy, he wouldn’t be in this home for people with mental problems, and we wouldn’t be talking about his twin brother Freddy. Mr. Alfred then says to me again, “Some things aren’t meant to be seen. They’re more beautiful that way. Oh you think so too? Yeah, I’d definitely agree. Oh hush up you!” He chuckles as if Freddy has just told him a funny joke. He then says” Can you think of all the things you can’t see, but know exist? Aren’t they more beautiful than the average thing? Isn’t it more beautiful like that?”
I think of love. Sure, I may not understand much about it, but I know it isn’t physically seen. I then realize that if people could physically see love with their own eyes it wouldn’t be nearly as special. It would just become matter with about as much worth a spoon or a paper towel. It’d simply be an object or thing, not something we, as humans all desire. This crazy person actually makes sense.
We continue our chat. Me, Mr. Alfred, and Freddy, that is, about things that exist but can’t be seen. We think of ghost, money on cards, fish in the sea, bacteria, hope, electricity, oxygen, the future, etc. By the time Kisha comes back to get me I am the world’s youngest scholar, saturated with astute knowledge. Not only am I a scholar, but I am sad to leave Mr. Alfred and Freddy. Both of them are really so, so nice. They aren’t crazy lunatics or mentally disturbed. They are simply misunderstood. I have so many more questions for the two of them, zipping and zooming around in my brain- which as I mentioned earlier, is another thing you can’t see, but still believe in its existence- and being trapped between my two ear wholes with no chance of escape, but Kisha was ready to go. As I walk out the door with my small hands, tiny, fragile, and young in Kisha’s larger ones, thick adult-like, and strong, I turn and say bye to Mr. Alfred and Freddy.
They both say goodbye back while Kisha stares at me like I’ve grown two heads and seven tails. Before she has the chance to say anything I tell her, “Freddy was there too. He was just being beautiful. That’s why you couldn’t see him. But he was there. I just know.”
And I leave it at that as we walk home.