It was a documentary about electroconvulsive therapy that brought it all back. Images shot up my spine, stifling me with a heaviness I hadn’t known for ages.
I called my mom the next morning, my gut still soured.
“Did they do that to me?”
“I don’t think so. Do you think that they did?”
She was unreliable. We both were.
I looked up the juvenile mental health facility where I had stayed as a 12 year old. I was there for six long, fluorescent weeks.
Visions of wires and medical tape and suction cups were suddenly fresh in my mind. One nurse on either side of me to keep me still, another group of sterile adults looking on. Blinding lights, cold sweat.
What else could they have been doing?
The facility does not exist as it was and an online message board did little to satisfy my curiosity. I did not associate the place with competence at the time and so I am prepared to never get an answer.
When a prescription gave me a full body rash in my first week, they simply stopped giving it to me. No new pill, no new questions. I never saw the prescribing doctor again.
I just kept to my worksheets. They would be translated into real schoolwork, if I ever went back to a real school, and I was making good grades for once.
I tried meditating during outdoor time with Zala. She was the only friend I’d made, but I couldn’t quiet my mind the way she seemed to. She had giant black marbles for eyes and every crease in the palms of her hands were dry. She said it was the air-conditioning and that meditation would help.
She had a seizure one day on the basketball court. No one stopped playing.
Every once in a while, between group sessions and lunch, I would follow the slobber trail to see where Freddy had been that morning. It usually lead to the common room, his wheelchair locked in its place in front of the television.
Rumor was that Freddy smoked something while on a family vacation to Panama or Puerto Rico – I can’t remember which.
He came back schizophrenic.
What kind of trail had I left? What rumor surrounded me?
I was one of many patients eating Thanksgiving dinner with plasticware that year. My visiting family pretending to enjoy the dry meat and the company as best as they could. There was some light, shuffled talk about coming home, but there was no real evidence that it would be in this lifetime.
Was I a future Freddy?
I had just made the basketball team before I was admitted and I was anxious to continue smoking cigarettes on the cement benches outside the public library, moss swaying like a dream overhead, the humid air moving it into a dance – like a grown-ups hands telling the music which way to sound and for how long and how loud.
Maestro, take these pulses from me, release me from these wires.
Let me burn up naturally. Proving anyone right or wrong, no matter.