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“Okay, first of all, I am NOT suicidal. I just happened to have a bad day and popped a few too many pills. Now I’m here. I don’t really understand why I’m here, though. I’ve come to the conclusion that people are normally here for one reason only: they are mental. Nuts. Completely insane. After all, that is why this place is called the ‘Mental Ward’” “I’m sorry, Max. But it’s actually called the Psychiatric Ward,” the doctor interrupts me. I ignore her, and continue to say, “However, I am not mental. I am not even suicidal. “But as many times as I try to tell people (namely my parents and the doctors at this place I like to think of as my personal Hell) this, they don’t listen. I think that’s probably why I did it. You know, because nobody listened. Well, okay, maybe one person. One person listened. And then this happened. All my life, I wanted somebody to listen to me and I kind of got my wish,” I pause for breath and, as much as I try not to, crack a smile. It isn’t the kind of smile that appears on your face when you’re happy. No, this is the opposite. This smile says “I know I’m smiling but I’m not actually happy. Not at all. I hate my life.” Yeah, that is what this smile says. Ironic, huh? You know, being depressed but still smiling? I am interrupted by my thoughts when the doctor says, “Max, are you aware that you’re smiling right now?” No sh**, Sherlock. Way to point out the obvious. What the f*** am I supposed to say to that? “Yeah, thanks for pointing out the obvious, you re****”? Or maybe “Really? I am? No! You’re joking!”? Instead, I say simply, “Uh, yeah.” The doctor takes her pen from her meticulous, organized desk and scribbles something down in her pad before asking, “Why is that? Are you happy about something?” I roll my eyes. Why am I here again? Please, do tell. Oh yeah, because my stupid parents are forcing me here since they do not listen, which is kind of why I am here in the first place, except not really. It’s more because somebody did listen…does that make sense? Probably not. “Are you listening to me?” asks the doctor (I should probably mention the doctor’s name: Dr. Smith---original, huh?), giving me a smile (it’s not a real smile, clearly). “Wha-? Oh, yeah. Of course!” I respond, giving a fake smile to her in return. “Okay, then. So, tell me. Why are you smiling?” I try think of something to say and then lie to her by saying, “Um. I just thought of something. A, uh, um, a memory. It was really fun. Funny. Er. Fun.” Fun or funny? She would inevitably ask me what the memory was. Should I tell her a memory that was funny or fun? Decisions, decisions. “So…it was both?” “Huh?” “The memory was funny and fun?” “Exactly,” I tell her. “What was this memory?” questions Dr. Smith (I told you she would ask me this). “Well, I was with this girl. She, uh, she’s my best friend. Sort of. Kind of. Um, yeah. She’s my best friend. Was. Is. Never mind. So, I was with her. And we were in this, uh…” I trailed off. Suddenly, I was having a difficult time narrating the memory I was thinking of at that moment. It seemed too personal. So, for the second time in two minutes, I decided to lie again: “Okay, so we were at the zoo.” I pause, waiting for Dr. Smith to finish writing something down, “Please continue,” she tells me. “Right. Okay. Well, we were at the zoo and um, uh, we saw this giraffe! He was hanging out, lolling his tongue out. The girl started to mimic this giraffe and I did too and before we knew it we were both cracking up.” I give her my signature smile: one that is big, lopsided, and shows off my teeth. People I know have told me it was “cute” and I want to look “cute” so that she will not suspect that I am lying. I even add a shrug, as if to say “Yeah, maybe this does not seem so fun or funny to you but it just cracked me up at the time! And me, lying? What? Never!” This seems to work because she says, “Aw, well that’s cute. And this girl. You two aren’t friends anymore?” I look down at the floor and am surprised to find myself blushing, “Uh. I do not really want to talk about it,” I tell Dr. Smith as my voice cracks. I hate that. When my voice cracks, I mean. It’s just so humiliating. It makes me feel like I’m not in charge of myself. You know, if I can’t even control my voice then what can I control? Oh yeah, that’s another reason I tried to, um, kill myself. I wasn’t even control. Not when it happened. But come to think of it, not ever. Dr. Smith smiles and says, “Alright. That’s fine!” Her watch starts to beep. She looks at the time and then looks back up at me before saying, “Actually, this session is up! I will see you tomorrow, okay?” I nod. Dr. Smith flashes me another one of her cheesy smiles (my god, Holden Caulfield would hate her. No, scratch that, he would hate this whole place.) and tells me to “have a brilliant rest of my day”. Okay, first off, she should not tell me what to do. And second off, “have a brilliant rest of my day”? Really? Like she actually cares if I have a brilliant rest of my day. G*damn, I f***ing hate her. Honestly. I hate everybody, actually. Everybody who is forcing me to be here. They think it’ll help. It won’t, though. Exiting her room I bump into somebody. The “somebody” is a girl with straight brown hair and brown eyes. She’s skinny---too skinny. As I bump into her, books she has been holding cascade down to the floor. “Oh, um, I’m so sorry!” I begin. She quickly grabs the books, takes one look at me, and walks off without saying a word. I watch her as she leaves. What an odd person. I shake it off, reminding myself that everybody here is odd (everybody, that is, except for me). After all, it is a Mental Ward (correction: Psychiatric Ward).
It’s time for dinner and we’re all sitting at assigned tables. I have been put at a table with several other people (all my age of course---did I mention this was the Adolescent Psychiatric Ward?). There is Ben, who suffers from some type of bipolar disorder. Then, there is Sam. He doesn’t talk, so I don’t really know what’s wrong with him. One thing I am sure of is that him being a mute is a probable factor. The third person at our table is Joshua, who has schizophrenia, which is why there is a fifth empty chair at our table. Of course, none of us are allowed to actually say it’s empty. Apparently, there is a boy named Robert sitting there.
The dinner is pretty uneventful, which is surprising considering I’m in a mental hospital. I mean, you’d think that with all of these crazy people here something interesting or amusing would happen. But so far, nothing. Zippo. Zero. Nada. That is, until I decide to get seconds for food. So, I get up to get seconds (it’s chicken and it’s pretty mediocre but hey, I’m a growing boy and I’m hungry), come back to the table, and proceed to sit down. Little do I know that the chair I’m sitting in is Robert’s chair, which means that I’m sitting on top of him, which in turn means that I am hurting him (am I really that fat?). Well, once Joshua realizes this, he completely flips. I mean, like, completely. He starts crying and screaming and shouting. It’s insane. Remind me not to sit in Robert’s chair ever again. Actually, I wouldn’t mind sitting there. Joshua’s temper tantrum was really kind of entertaining. I know you probably think that’s an awful thing for me to say. But hey, I need some kind of amusement in this godforsaken place, don’t I?
“And my next girl will be nothing like my ex-girl.”-The Black Keys Dr. Smith said that on weekdays, there are mandatory activities for us patients. These activities include singing, drawing, and simply having "heart to heart discussions". I can tell you one thing: I do not like the idea of heart to heart discussions. I mean, really. I'd ever want to have a heart to heart with these people. However, today is different. It's a Saturday, which means we have what is called a free day. That is why I'm heading to the recreational room. My roommate, George, told me about it. He takes Zoloft because he is both clinically depressed and anxious. He’s tried to kill himself at least three times now. I can’t begin to wonder why he’s my roommate. He said it was pretty cool and that there was a T.V.,foosball table, and a ping-pong table. Well, honestly, I'm in the mood to watch T.V. Or play foosball. Or ping-pong. Or do something that might distract me from thinking about the fact that I'm in a loony bin. When I get to the recreational room, I see that I am not the only one there. Do you remember that really skinny girl I told you about? The one I bumped into after my meeting with Dr. Smith? Well, she's there. I wave to her, and I see a flash of recognition in her eyes. She doesn't wave back, though. She's on the sofa reading a book. "What are you reading?" I ask. Silence. No answer. I'm beginning to wonder if she actually talks, "Um, can you talk?" She nods, but still doesn't say anything. "Why don't you then?" She shrugs. Eventually, I give up. I'm not going to have a conversation with myself. That's just not happening. So, I check out the foosball table. It's a pretty nice table, but it seems kind of pointless if nobody will play it with you. I have a feeling the girl reading won't be interested in playing foosball with me, but I ask her if she would like to anyway, "Hey, how would you like to play foosball with me?" She doesn't say anything, but she does put the book down and walk over to where I'm standing. It looks like I'm about to play a game of foosball with her. We play a few rounds, and she wins them all. After we're done, I stand there, pretty impressed. I've only met one other girl this good at foosball before. "Nice job," I say to her. She just nods and returns to her book. I sit down on the sofa next to her and take a peek at the cover of her book. It's called "A Long Way Down" by Nick Hornby. "Can I read the back?" I question, "I'd like to see what's it about." She hands me the book. Apparently, it's about a group of people who meet when they're on the roof of a building, which they were intending to jump off of and thus kill themselves. Cheerful, eh? "You can borrow it, if you'd like," the girl speaks. Can you believe it? The girl speaks!! I'm so shocked at this recent development that I can't even fully process what she's said. "I'm sorry, what?" "I said, if you would like to, you can borrow it." A book about people who want to kill themselves? That is the last thing I need right now. "Um, no thank you. I have a book of my own, actually." BS. I was actually going to call my mom and ask her to bring a book next time she came to visit. She smiles, "It's really not that depressing, if that's why you don't want to read it. It's kind of funny, actually." "Wait, I never said I didn't want to read it..." my voice trails off. "Oh, come on. Do you really expect me to believe you? That you already have a book? You're a terrible liar." I smile, as a memory comes flooding back to me. This girl reminds me of someone. "Gee, thanks," I say sarcastically. "Forgive me, but how exactly is the book funny?" "You'd have to read it to find out." "Aren't you reading it?" "I've read it plenty of times before. You can read it." She throws the book on my lap and gets up to leave. "Um, thanks," I say, "See you around?" It's a question, not a statement. She smiles (boy, first she's speaking, then she smiles? This girl's on a roll!). "Yeah. I'm sure you will,” she says.
“Is there anybody going to listen to my story all about the girl who came to stay? She’s the kind of girl you want so much it makes you sorry, still you don’t regret a single day.”-John Lennon and Paul McCartney
It’s Sunday and on Sundays, most people go home so that they can go to church or whatever. There are fewer patients and less staff as a result. I, however, decide to stay here. As much as I hate this place, home isn’t much better. I decide to venture towards the recreational room for the second time that weekend. I flop onto the old, brown couch and pick up the remote that has been lying there. Looks like somebody forgot one of the recreational room rules: put T.V. room remote away. Uh oh. What a tragedy. Well, anyway, I flip through the T.V. channels and, seeing as how there’s nothing else on, settle for some dumb T.V. movie. Suddenly, another person sits on the couch next to me. I turn around. It’s the skinny girl.
“Hey,” I say, “Why aren’t you at home?”
“I didn’t want to go home,” she responds, “And anyway, I could ask you the same thing.”
“As crappy as this place is, I’d rather be here than at home,” I inform her.
It’s silent for a while, before I realize that I still don’t know her name, “So, what’s your name?” I ask
“I’ll tell you if you tell me yours,” she says, smirking.
“Fine. But you tell me yours first.”
“Alright. I’m Kylah.”
“Nice to meet you, Kylah. I’m Max. So, why are you here?”
Kylah (yes, I know her name!) raises her eyebrows, “That’s not something we discuss here. It’s, like, an unspoken rule. You never ask somebody why they’re here.”
I look down at my feet, embarrassed. “Oh, right. Sorry,” I apologize.
She looks at me for a few seconds before saying, “Okay, well, let’s see what’s on T.V. because we are not watching this crap T.V. movie.”
I look at her. My god, she reminds me of somebody. I don’t like it. I wanted to forget all about that somebody. Why can’t I stop thinking about that somebody??? I observe Kylah as she surfs through the T.V. channels. “Christ,” she mutters, “Why is there never anything good on T.V.?” To my surprise, she turns the T.V. off before turning to me and saying, “Let’s do something else.”
To be honest, I just wanted to watch some T.V., but instead I say, “Alright, what do you want to do?”
“I don’t know. Tell me about yourself. Why are you here?” Kylah asks.
“Didn’t you just break the unspoken rule?” I ask.
Kylah sighs, exasperated, although I really don’t get why she’s so annoyed; she doesn’t have much of a reason to be. “You don’t get it, do you?”
No, I really don’t. “Um, not really. Care to explain?”
Kylah rolls her eyes, “Look, it’s only if a person is new here that they can’t ask what a person is doing at a mental hospital.”
I nod. “Wait, but other people have told me why they’re here.”
“Have you asked them why, though?”
“Exactly. People can tell you anything. You just can’t ask them. Understand?”
I nod, “Yeah, I guess so.”
“So,” she smiles, “Why are you here?”
“I’d rather not say,” I stammer.
“Oh, I didn’t tell you? Newbies have to answer people who ask them why they’re here if the person asking has been here for a long time.”
“How should I know if you’ve been here a long time?”
Kylah rolls her eyes (again), “Just trust me. Now go. Answer me.”
I sigh, “Alright, well, I tried to kill myself. So now, I’m here.”
Kylah snorts, “You were ashamed of that? Look, my friend, people are here for much worse than that.”
I nod. But what I’m really thinking about is the she just called me her friend. I’m happy about that, actually. I mean, yeah, this is a patient in a Mental Ward but still, it’s nice to know that I have a friend. Up until now, I had no friends. “Wait, you said ‘my friend’. Does this mean we’re friends?”
Kylah rolls her eyes (she seems to be an expert at that) but doesn’t say anything.
“You never answered my question!” I whine.
“Oh, stop whining,” she reprimands.
“You still haven’t answered,” I say.
“Yeah, and I’m not going to.” With that, she gets up and leaves.
For the first time in a long time, I grin. She may not have given me an answer, but I know she is my friend----my only friend.