As human beings, we take a lot of things for granted. One being life. Life is hard, and may end up always being hard, but we need to live life for people that never got to, or will never get to. My judgment slipped one day and I made a mistake. A thing I won’t ever be able to erase. I took for granted life and freedom. I had no freedom in this prison, but it helped me to understand that others were feeling the same way and that I shouldn’t take anything for granted.
The disease sank its talons into my heart, scarring jagged lines into it, none of which was visible from the outside. From the outside, I was just a girl, lying in my hospital bed, staring silently at the ceiling. Only one sound reached my ears. The sound was that of a dripping faucet, each drop making its way to the smooth, white, porcelain surface of the sink every two seconds. I sat there, listening to the consistency of the drops, interrupted only by the talons once again, as they inched their way deeper into my heart. It was almost impossible to ignore, as I had never been very good at ignoring pain, but I sat there still, lying in bed, no way to stop the disease from reaching the depths of my heart.
Then, the drops were drowned out by the start of the air conditioning, as it howled like souls of the lost, which mirrored the residents of the building it was installed in, as these residents were battered, bruised, cut and broken. So I ignored the loudness, as I felt for it, related to it, almost. The machine would turn on and off throughout the night, allowing the sound of the drops to spill through the breaks of the air conditioning. The only other sound present was one that required much more determination to hear. But I had determination. I tuned my ears to the sound of her roommate’s breathing. I turned my head slowly and was able to watch the rise and fall of her chest, in awe of the fragility of life. The sleeping girl was saved, just like I was, and now we were in this together, both of us unaware of how long we were going to be kept there.
But then, a disturbance arrived. I slammed shut my eyelids in pretend sleep as a night nurse walked by to make sure everyone was in their bed. Any sign of restlessness during the night was an excuse for them to keep me there longer, so I avoided any motion until the man walked past my room to check on another. I followed the sound of his footsteps with my ears until he was safely down the hall and I could go back to being restless.
But being restless was not good for this disease of mine. It provoked it, egged it on. The restlessness guided the talons further into my heart, ripping flesh and tendons as it went. Like barbed wire the talons did their job, hurting and tearing and scarring. The holes in my heart from the disease allowed other terrible things inside: loneliness, desperation, anguish. The disease was friend to all things nasty. But my despair was interrupted by something much louder even than the machine. The screams.
Usually the screams came during the day, while everyone was up and about, ready to start conflict, but this time, it was night, and one of the residents was on the brink of panic. As soon as we heard the shouts, we all imagined his name in our heads, we knew each other by voice and sound. We all imagined the reason he was in this place to begin with. Schizophrenia.
That was his disease. It too clawed at the depths of his heart like my depression clawed at mine. But at this moment every patient’s heart was connected. If it was during the daytime, we could all help ease the stress from the screaming patient, but being up at night was forbidden, as were many other things, so we all sat in our beds, stiff as boards, screaming and weeping internally for the patient that cried out. We were all internally connected, and when one was in distress, all us others silently felt for the one that weeped. I sat and listened to the pounding and the thumping and the cracking until the time came where someone was going to have to do something. The screams died out as what we referred to as “booty juice” was injected into the behind of the weeping patient. Then silence. We all sat awake, lying still and frozen, waiting for the thumping of our hearts to calm to a normal level. Nothing cut through the silent prison that was the hospital.
I sat there still, minutes ticking on, sweat pouring down my neck, trembling, the talons scraping into the deepest chambers of my heart. This place was supposed to ease the talons, slow the spread of the disease, but it did the opposite. The depression had reached its maximum in this prison of a hospital, but there was nothing I could do, not even count down the days I had left, as I had no idea how many there were. All I could do was sleep. So I succumbed to the heaviness setting into my eyes as daylight began to spill through the cracks in the blinds and I fell into nothingness.
Months later, at my new job, I was surprised by one of my older customers. He said something I will never forget, no matter how small it seems. I asked him how his day had been, and he said, “Wonderful.” I asked if there was any particular reason and he responded, “I woke up breathing another day.” Somewhere he is going through life right now, unaware of the effect he had on my perspective of life. To that gentleman that helped me see what I needed to: thank you.