The Voice of Kindness
Too abruptly, I realized that none of the lost girls had a single thing left to lose, and I was outnumbered eleven to one. The term ‘Criminally Insane’ leapt to mind and I would have torn my own skin off, had it meant I could free myself from the oppressive atmosphere.
This moment, and every moment of degradation leading up to it, was too much to stand, too unsettling to contemplate, too panic-inducing to ruminate! The entire scene was something straight out of “Alice in Wonderland,” after she went down the rabbit hole, or Janice Joplin’s rendition of it.
“Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall,”
The refrain bored into my thoughts like a drill boring into hardwood; unbidden, seemingly excruciating, and slightly off-kilter. Something deep inside me shifted into sensory overload and I flew out of my body.
The shell of me remained seated. By all appearances, I was a slightly uneasy young woman squirming in her chair. All else bolted for the door. I was pulling on the handle, kicking and clawing the door, screaming at the top of my lungs,
“Let me out! Let me out of here! I need to go! I’m not them! I’m not even like them! Help me!”
An undetermined amount of time later, I came to with a gentle hand shaking my shoulder. A strikingly shrill voice called my name,
“Emmaline? Emmaline Mason! Are you okay, honey? Did you take something?”
Lacking ability to respond, I ran my hands over my arms and down my sides, making sure all of me was present and accounted for. For a brief moment, I was stupefied that no one seemed to have witnessed the scene I’d just made. I wondered how much time had passed while I was in that state.
Minutes? Hours? Days? I wondered, but couldn’t piece the time together.
My eyes scoured the room, but I hadn’t seen a clock since I’d arrived. The effort was useless and I shook visibly knowing I was the next likely candidate for ‘eternally hopeless junkie.’
“We were afraid we wouldn’t be able to wake you, dear.”
The name on her smock read “Daisy.” Hers was the voice of kindness, but still could have shattered glass. The smile tugging at the corners of her lips was almost genuine.
Daisy asked the expected questions,
“How old are you, Emmaline?”
I stood mute in her inquisitive stare.
“Okay,” She replied gently, “Let’s try this one. Is there any chance you could be pregnant?”
I shook my head emphatically.
Daisy glanced down at my medical records, whispered something to her co-worker, and turned her crimson smile back to me,
“It’s okay, dear. You don’t have to speak. I’ll get it from your insurance form.”
She made short work of divesting me of all my worldly possessions, never once losing that damned smile. I wondered if she painted it on every morning.
“Why don’t you give me your purse and sit down to remove the laces from your shoes,” She asked kindly.
I was suddenly stricken with outrage at the invasions, intrusions, and abuses I had already suffered at the hands of the personnel. I stood there in silence letting my thoughts consume me, listening to the angry voice running amuck in my head,
Why don’t you cram it where the sun don’t shine, fake face? By the way, is that smile by Max Factor or Maybelline?
Slowly, I lifted my purse from my shoulder, handed it to Daisy, and sat staring down at my shoes to hide my snarl.
“I’ve searched your bag and removed all contraband; prescriptions, junk food, candy, soda, etcetera. I’ll put it in a locked box until you’re ready to leave,” Daisy explained as she approached, “Let me help you with those shoe laces,” She offered, kneeling to remove my last vestige of individuality.
Upon extracting the offending laces from my Kmart, $5.99 sneakers, she looked up at my veiled expression. She stood, saying cheerfully,
“Oh! Not to worry, dear. You’ll get everything back when you leave.”
I wanted to challenge her, confront her then and there,
Isn’t it a question of if rather than when?
But I wasn’t certain I was prepared to know the answer. My short, hellish exposure to this place had made me extremely paranoid. I presumed that I too would be drugged beyond oblivion like the lost girls. I glanced nervously at them; terrified that their fate would become my own.
Daisy took my hand and issued the words I had already come to dread,
I followed dutifully, wondering what my next mortification would be.
She led me into a large, dimly-lit, community room and I was brought up short, being left to the merciless Nurse Belinda. The tall, big-boned woman pulled several sheets, some blankets and a tiny pillow from shelves.
“Arms out,” she insisted.
I lifted my arms weakly, really feeling how weary I was, when Nurse Belinda dropped the entire load into my tired arms.
“We earn our own keep around here. You’ll do well to remember that. Follow me.”
Again with the ‘follow me’ routine, I huffed silently.
I glared daggers into her back and prayed this was my last “follow me” for the night.
Belinda showed me to a pitch-black room, save for a tiny amount of light seeping through the small, square window in the door.
Finally, sweet, sweet, blessed sleep. Hallelujah!
I found an empty bed in the darkness, spread the blanket atop a thin, threadbare mattress, and placed the tiny pillow under my head. I shoved the rest of the linens over me haphazardly, not caring how it would look in the morning. Exhaustion claimed me and I was asleep before I could contemplate tomorrow’s torments.
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