Emmaline’s Story – On the Inside
I woke that morning feeling nervous and edgy. After morning rounds I tried to fall asleep again but failed. Eventually I sat up, propped my pillows against the wall and turned my attention to Danica.
For a few minutes, I watched her sleep. She tossed, turned, and mumbled in her sleep. I wondered if she was having a nightmare and considered waking her but as soon as I moved, she seemed to settle and fall into a deeper sleep. I sat back deciding to leave her alone.
I guess any rest is better than none.
I reached into my pillowcase and extracted a fresh writing tablet to make some notes about how I came to be desperate enough to attempt suicide.
I just couldn’t figure out how I would explain it to Danica, but perhaps the list would help. Again, I glanced at her, wondering if she was strong enough to handle my depression and her own.
I thought of the night she came to collect me at the scene of my undoing, when my conscience chimed in,
Danica is stronger than you think. Don’t wimp out on her!
Taking pencil in hand, I realized that even I didn’t have a clear thought of how my suicide attempt and incarceration happened. I skipped back a year, to when I was on top of the world. From there, I made some basic notes, outlining my undoing:
- I was born into slavery; a lamb tied to a whipping post.
- First, middle, and last one family denigrates.
- Had no childhood
- My life equals free labor. No more. No less.
- Family drove a wedge between me and anyone who wished to be in my life.
- Tried to break free from whipping post.
- Family abandoned me.
- Sank into despair.
- No one to turn to.
- Lost myself.
- Reasons to live: Zero.
I sat staring at the list with tears in my eyes. It was an extremely bare-bones list, but I relived emotions I never wanted to feel again. Part of me wanted to shred it into tiny pieces and eat it, so no one would ever find me out. Instead, I swallowed my tears, folded the paper and tucked it into my elastic waistband.
At seven a.m. I repaired to my seat on the porch and skipped breakfast. I couldn’t figure out exactly why I was angry. I just knew I was antsy, anxious, and filled with venom. I was crosser than a hornet so I stomped inside, grabbed a tray from the cart, and dumped the entire thing into the waste basket, tray included. I walked stiffly to the table with B calling after me,
I didn’t bother to turn around or even look back. I wasn’t surprised to hear psych guy calling me a moment later,
“Emma! Hippolyta! Whoever you are today! My office in one hour!”
Danica sat wide-eyed and stunned with spork poised over her plate,
“Wow! Who peed on his Cheerios,” she asked.
“I did,” I ground out as softly as I could manage.
“What the heck did you do,” she asked, astounded.
“Nothing compared to what I want to do,” I replied without looking at her.
She let it drop and I went back outside with Danica on my heels. She stood before me, as though studying me, like she was trying to read me. Then she grinned and said,
“It’s weird. Right?”
I couldn’t squelch a tiny smile. It still seemed foreign to me, that I drew so much comfort from being in the presence of a real friend. I suppose, I was still waiting for her to abandon me just as my family had. Maybe I’d even thought I could drive her away, since it was bound to happen eventually.
“So,” she scowled, “Psych guy right after breakfast… or lack of it? What an ugly appetizer.”
“Yea, no kidding,” I said, letting go a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.
Danica sat down next to me, “Maybe you should actually talk to him.”
“Hmmm,” I bought some time to think it over.
“Maybe, just think about it,” she asked.
I replied stubbornly, “Don’t think so. I’ve almost got him right where I want him.”
“But Em’,” she whispered, “Where, exactly, do you want him? He may be our only way out.”
“To where,” I asked pitiably, “Maybe you and the girls should. I’ve got nothing left. There isn’t anything to go back to.”
“How do you know,” she asked cautiously, “You won’t see anyone. How do you know they haven’t changed their minds?”
A derisive grunt escaped me that I wished I could suck back in. Danica’s face was crestfallen. I held my fingers out in a loop. She looped her own through mine, and in barely a whisper, I said, “I’ll think about it.”
Danica grabbed my hand and squeezed, “My fingers are crossed for you, sis.”
I squeezed back and smiled, “Okay sis, it’s time for psych guy. Who should I be today?
You pick a god or goddess that has some meaning for you,”
“Ummm,” she hummed for a minute, thinking it over.
I waited, perfectly willing to keep psych guy in suspense.
“Can you be Nyx,” she queried shyly.
“For you, sis, anything,” I replied, getting up from the table.
“Good luck,” she mouthed as I started to turn away.
“Thanks,” I mouthed back, not wanting to admit that I would probably need it.
I approached psych guy’s office with Danica’s confession ringing in my ears, “He may be our only way out.”
I thought about the big picture for the first time,
Even if there’s nothing left for me, my girls may have a lot to go back to.
When I arrived, I stood in the doorway. Psych guy was drumming his fingers on the desk and looking at his watch. All other thought ceased and I was immediately on the defense.
It’s not like I have a watch or even a clock, idiot!
“Come in,” he said, raking his fingers through his tousled hair.
It was obvious he’d had a rough morning and I wasn’t feeling particularly merciful.
This is for Danica, I told myself.
“So,” he began, rifling through his notes, “Hippolyta, how are you today?”
“Hippolyta,” I asked.
Psych guy sucked in a deep breath and leaned back in his chair,
“You are a conundrum,” he stated, sounding as weary as he looked.
I sat straight-faced, expressionless, as though I could have cared less what he thought or felt. He sat with fingers laced behind his head, staring at me. I stared back blankly. Eventually he broke and I chalked up a mental point for us.
“Okay, out with it! Who are you today, Emmaline?”
“Emmaline,” I queried, “Why do you pretend not to know me?”
His eyes narrowed drilling into mine and he responded,
“I know you, Emmaline. I’ve known dozens, no hundreds,” he corrected, “like you.”
I slapped on a confounded expression and asked again, “Emmaline?”
“Okay,” he said with exasperation, “Have it your way. It’s the hard way, but go ahead! Be my guest! Who are you today?”
I donned an exceedingly calm demeanor while my stomach pitched, and softly replied,
“I am the Goddess Nyx, daughter of Chaos, sister of Erebus. I am mother of Hypnos and Aether, Hemera, Moros, Thánatos,”
Psych guy cut me off, “I see. How old are you,” he paused and glanced through his notes, “Nyx?”
“Older than time,” I responded.
He shot back a challenge, “Okay Nyx, tell me about yourself.”
Softly, I explained, “I just did.”
What is your purpose here on earth,” he inquired.
“I have lived in the shadows since the creation. My power is unyielding. I am mother of day, brightness, night, sleep and death. Have you had a falling out with my son,” I asked trying for a mother’s concern, “Did you quarrel with Hypnos?”
It was barely perceptible, but I heard him grumble into his hand, “You could say that.”
He sat up straight again, urging, “Continue.”
“My family is quite large,” I began again when he caught me off-guard,
“How do you feel about being the daughter of Chaos?”
“I am daughter of the beginning, the creation; the void taking form,” I explained with a calmness I didn’t feel, “I watched the birth of creation.”
“No way,” he stated flatly, “You’re wrong,” he necessitated trying to equal my calm and goading me in the same breath.
“Oh,” I inquired, “How so?”
“You were born of a void, a vast glob of nothingness,” he replied almost cruelly, leveling his gaze at me.
I attempted to appear thoughtful, as though pondering his words deeply, “I suppose it would appear so, to a mere mortal,” I hurled the insult directly slapping his face.
“Let me ask you this,” he issued without pause for reply, “Are you proud of your life, of what has become of you? Have you been happy living in the shadows with unyielding power? Are you proud of your children? I think, even you have to admit that nearly half your offspring are necessary evils, and nothing more,” he stated with disdain.
I remembered seeing a photo of “the Thinker;” a statue I’d come across in the encyclopedia, and immediately immitated the pose, with my hand under my chin, giving the appearance of profound consideration.
In truth, I did think about his words, in a more personal context than I cared for, but would bite my tongue off before I’d give up the charade I’d promised Danica.
After several more moments, psych guy was forced to relent, “Our time is up for today, Nyx. Try not to change. I want answers to those questions tomorrow, at eleven a.m. sharp.”
I left his office, closed the door behind me, and cursed him hatefully under my breath,
I’ll outlast you, Mr. Prescription Pad! I can and I will! You think you’re smart enough to trip me up, but you’re not! Go ahead! Bring it!
I stood there, just outside his office, irate and fuming. For the first time, I wasn’t thinking of who was watching my expression, or what Na and B would make of it.
I was thinking of dousing psych guy in kerosene and flicking a BiC, or shoving him down an empty elevator shaft, or pushing him into a busy highway, when one of the lost girls passed by. She let herself into his office, interrupting my homicidal thoughts.
I was astonished at her appearance. There was life in her eyes. She was dressed, groomed, and even acknowledged my presence with a nod.
Unreal! No freakin’ way! She’s a body-double! She has to be!
With stupefied admiration, I returned to the porch and found my girls there. I talked for a while and then touched Danica’s finger to mine. She returned the signal.
I couldn’t resist asking, “Has anyone seen the lost girls lately?”
I’d forgotten that I had only spoken to Danica about them. My girls looked around with confused faces while I shoved my brain into reverse, and fudged,“Ummm, I mean the patients here that are, or were, drugged zombies. Have you seen any of them?”
Helen chimed in, “I think I know who you mean. I saw a few of them when I was waiting to be admitted.”
“That’s them,” I said.
“I’ve only seen one of them,” she confided, “I hardly recognized her!”
“Me too,” I said, lowering my voice, “I can’t believe my eyes! I thought there was no hope for them, but look at the girl who comes out of psych guy’s office!”
Helen and Marie exchanged glances smiling, “We will!”
“It’s incredible,” I informed them, “You won’t believe it! You just won’t. It’s enough to make you think twice.”
“I hear that,” Danica replied, “I saw one of them in the shower this morning. She wasn’t just standing in the water like usual. She was washing with soap and shampoo.”
“Exactly. It has to be some sort of miracle.”
“Yea, right,” Danica backed me up.
I wanted the girls to have time to talk among themselves, without my presence, so I took my leave, “I’m going to walk in the sun for a little while,” I stated nonchalantly and made for the lawn at the edge of the porch.
Wandering outside again was freeing in a way and terrifying in another. I inhaled great gulps of air wishing I could bring it inside with me. Finally, I raised my eyes to scout the grounds for a quiet place.
The fence with coiled razor wire loomed in the distance like a personal tormentor; a veritable bully. I squared my shoulders and walked directly to the scene of where I had crumbled. Suddenly, I knew why I’d chosen that place to begin with.
So I wasn’t entirely mad, bonkers, and out of my ever-loving mind!
I rejoiced mentally. It was a good distance away from the porch and partially hidden from view, down over the hill.
I chose this spot for a reason! I chose it! I’m not beyond help! I’m really not!
Danica crested the hill to see me jumping with renewed joy, vim and vigor. In my reverie, I hadn’t noticed her. She stood on the hill watching me bounce up, down and around, yelling, “Yay me! Yay me! Whooo hoo hoo hooey!”
She ran down the hill, closing the distance between us quickly,
“Yay me! Whoo hooey! Yay meee!
“What,” she asked excitedly, “Did you get your walking papers? Did they drug you? Are you spaced out? What happened? Spill!”
I grabbed Danica and hugged her, “I’m not out of my mind! I’m not insane! I’m not! I’m not! I’m not! Whoo hooo!”
“I know?” She said it like a question; half certain I’d finally lost my mind completely.
“No! No,” I said happily, “I just realized that the night I came unglued, right here in this spot, it wasn’t the last straw! I haven’t lost me! I was just misplaced for a while.”
“You thought you had disappeared and insanity took over?”
“Exactly! No wonder we’re sisters! We think alike! Yahooey!”
This time she hugged me and we both sat down as she whispered, “Congratulations, Em’. I’m so happy for you.”
It was the gloomiest congratulations I’d ever heard. I turned to face her and took her hands in mine, “What’s wrong, Danica?”
“Nothing,” she sighed.
“Hey sis, this is me you’re talking to. I’m acquainted with nothing and your expression isn’t it,” I said gently.
“You’re getting well. That’s a good thing.”
“You’re getting well without me. That’s a not so good thing.”
Tears were brimming in her eyes and I pulled her to me, “Let’s make a pact right now. Neither of us leaves without the other. Okay?”
She was sobbing in my embrace.
“Okay, but, but how… What? How can you promise that?”
I lifted her chin until her teary eyes met mine, “Danica, you’ve seen me in action. I can be nuts with the best of ‘em. You don’t really think I would abandon you. Do you?”
She smiled softly and I helped wipe her tears away.
“You really mean it,” she asked hesitantly.
I made a circle with my fingers and held it out to her. She started to reach and pulled her hand back. I didn’t waver. I kept our sisters circle held out. With her eyes fixed on the ground, she finally looped her finger through mine.
“Look at me,” I insisted gently.
With our fingers still looped, she raised her eyes to mine.
“This is our sisters’ blood oath. We stay for each other. No matter which of us gets her walking papers first, we wait for the other. Agreed,” I asked unlooping our fingers and changing to a pinky swear.
Danica hooked her pinky with mine, saying, “Agreed,” with a genuine smile this time.
We both pulled our fingers against each other’s hard and collapsed into a relieved hug.
It’s after sunset, I stood and said, “C’mon. Let’s go inside. It’s getting dark.”
“Oh wait,” she cried, pulling me back down, “What happened with psych guy? Were you Nyx?”
“I wasn’t just Nyx,” I laughed, “I was Nyx to the hilt! Now I need to pick your brain! C’mon. Up and inside! Lights out soon.”