I felt powerful hands shaking my body. I groaned.
“Ross? Ross? Wake up!”
I rolled over in bed to see Clayton inches from my face.
“Ross! It’s time to get up!”
“Alright, alright, I’m getting up.”
I thrust my face into my pillow.
Clayton’s hands shook my body. “Ross! Ross! You’re not getting up! It’s time to get up Ross, it’s time to get up!”
I rolled over. “What time is it?”
“Time to get up!”
I pulled away my bed sheets, looking around the room. This wasn’t my home. I didn’t belong here. I wasn’t supposed to be sleeping here. Why? Why? Why now did I have to get up?
Clayton was in my face, inches from it. “It’s time to get up!” he exclaimed. “Get up!” Having only been at Hust-Limmer for one day, I assumed that it was possible we were woken up at a specific time, so I pulled myself out of bed and the room came into focus as I put my glasses on. After changing into clean clothes, I set out down the hallway that led to the dining area and common room. As I entered the common room, Lionel sat in the corner, his head resting on one arm of the couch, half asleep. None of the other patients were up, and I silently cured Clayton. I hated getting up early.
Helen soon entered the room, taking a seat away from me. The patients slowly filed in, finding seats on the various pieces of upholstery that dotted the common area. Some spoke amongst themselves, others sat quietly, many slept.
I simply took in my surroundings. I watched the other patients, after yesterday’s introductions I was to some degree a little worried about conversation. Additionally, females outnumbered males 7 to 3, and since we couldn’t sit on the same couches or at the same tables as females, it was kind of hard to carry on a conversation.
After about fifteen minutes, the two steel carts with the food trays were wheeled in, and while some patients immediately went to grab their tray, most lay half asleep on the upholstery, needing to be encouraged by staff to gather their trays. My enthusiasm was not high for the meal, given my previous experiences with the food. I took my tray to an empty table, and opened it. The trays were so large they almost consumed half of a table in space, and while Clayton and Lionel sat together, I took a seat by myself.
Soon the children arrived. In addition to the adolescent ward, there was a children’s section that consisted of children who appeared to be between eight and twelve years of age. While their common area was separate – it was located at the opposite end of the hallway I lived on, they ate with us, as there was only on area with the appropriate tables and chairs for serving meals. They also took their trays, almost too enormous for their small hands to carry, and found their seats at spare tables. A boy, who looked about eleven, took a seat at my table. He did not extend his name, and so I, still a newcomer to the place, said nothing either. At first.
I soon learned that among the foods on the tray I actually wanted to eat was the Smucker’s jelly packets that came with meal. In particular, I liked orange marmalade, which happened to be a the least desired flavor during the morning meal. The type off jelly packets one would receive was completely random, so quickly a trade began to obtain the packets one desired. Strawberry was a favorite, and I happened to be endowed by the preparer of my tray with a heavily in demand Strawberry packet. I quickly swapped the two I had to a nearby table of children for four packets of orange marmalade.
It soon became well known I liked orange marmalade.
“You eat orange jelly?” called Kelly from across the room.
“Yea, I love it.”
“The stuff tastes like shit, you can have it all,” she passed down the marmalade as a staffer reprimanded her about her language. She did not apologize, just grunted and went back to her meal.
Sugar packets were also traded depending on what type of cereal you were assigned. There were three possible cereals to receive: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, or Cheerios. Frosted flakes were the obvious preferred choice, which freed up one’s sugar packets for trade. However, they were the scarcest. Cheerios weren’t bad, but corn flakes were the worst – at least for me. I always ate my cereal dry since I decided I hated milk at the age of six. Therefore, corn flakes ended up being dry, poor tasting flakes of cereal, and sugar was a necessity to make them at least tolerable.
The children also desired sugar, simply because they were children, so they would frequently trade other aspects of their meals for the packets. It was never that we were not provided enough food, it was that we didn’t want to eat most of what we were offered. When the trading because too frequent, the staff would prevent us from talking or exchanging items between tables, which caused an immediate downturn on activity, but items would still be passed hand to hand, under the tables if they were truly desired, the transactions done in discrete whispers.
When the meal was over, some of the patients began lounging on the furniture, while others, including myself, returned to their rooms to brush their teeth and shower.
The bathroom was still steamy from Clayton’s early morning cleansing, and I made a mental note to wake up before him from that point forward, so I could get in the shower before he used it. As soon as I turned on the water, I received another incentive to shower early: the water was freezing cold. As I came to learn, if one waited till after breakfast to shower, when apparently every other patient in the facility had the same idea, one had no chance of having hot water. Our complaints to the staff were shrugged aside as they told us the boiler was simply overloaded and nothing could be done except change our showering schedules.
I finished my shower quickly, the water only encouraging me to do so, and grabbed Airframe and headed off to the common area.
Weekends offered long periods of little to do. The doctors did not work on weekends, so no progress in releasing us was made. We had no “school,” which normally took up a fair portion of my weekday morning and the television provided most of the patient entertainment. While in theory we were all supposed to have equal timeshares on the TV per week (equal proportional to our privilege level, at least), it more became a first come, first serve scenario. Ruth had already taken her place in front of the TV, wielding a VHS tape in her hand. It Takes Two was the title I read off the side as she inserted it into the VCR. As the movie came on I heard grumbled complaints from a few patients, and it wouldn’t take me long to find out why.
I, however, settled into an upholstered chair and opened quickly became engrossed in Airframe, only glanced up occasionally to follow the course of the movie as it progressed.
I would have called it “naptime.” I really don’t remember what it was officially called, but for the purposes of my explanation, naptime will suffice. After eating lunch, all of the patients were returned to their rooms where they were supposed to sleep for an hour.
Almost everyone did, the number and dosages of the drugs many patients were on placing them into an almost perpetual state of drowsiness. Anytime to sleep was clearly welcome. As for myself, I lie atop my bed and read, or would occasionally go and look beyond the glass of the window. Directly below my room was the shipping/receiving area, as well as several large green dumpsters. There was a small pond, and a paved road snaking around to the left out of view. Beyond the visible portion of the road was a large brick building with no visible markings except a red light attaching to its side. To my right were trees, beyond which I was unable to see.
I had twenty-five minutes left before the end of the naptime, and I was lying on my stomach, with Airframe propped against my pillow. Clayton stirred then lifted his head, looking at me.
I sat up, and let my legs hang off the bed, he did the same, facing me.
“So, why are you here?” I began.
“I don’t really know.”
“Well, how’d you get here?”
“What day is today?”
“Saturday.” Clayton looked down, and stared at his hands for a moment. He touched his fingers as if he were trying to count silently.
“When’d you get here?” he questioned.
“Thursday, same as you.”
“Oh!” He looked up, quite excited now.
“It was Thursday morning, yea, it was Thursday morning, and I was going to work. I got in my car, and- can you drive Ross?” he asked, cutting himself off.
“No, I’m only fifteen at the moment.”
“Oh, I’m seventeen. Well when we get out of here, I can drive you places if you want. Anyway, it was Thursday and I was going to work. I left the house, I said goodbye to my mom, and got on the highway. I was driving fast, I always drive fast.” He grinned. “I was going like eighty five down the highway, I was passing all these cars, going to work.” As he spoke his hands were flying, holding one still and with the other making motions to visualize the passing of cars. I noticed that as Clayton spoke, he waved his hands in wild gesticulations.
“So I got off the highway and I pulled into this parking lot, I was going to stop at this store to get something. As I got out of the car, a cop drove up behind me. Before I knew it there were a lot of cops, all over the place, like three or four. They came out of nowhere.” He paused for a moment, then continued. “They told me I had to come with them, I asked them, ‘Officer, what did I do wrong?’ but they just said I had to come with them. I called my mom but she wasn’t answering her phone, and there was nothing I could do, the cops said I had to come. They took me to a place, a place before I came here.”
“Ah! Yes! St. Vincent’s!”
“I was there, I saw your hospital wristband, it was in the room where I was.”
“Ah yes, that room, I hated that room! It was so small, I was so uncomfortable, they kept me in there for hours!”
I related my story, finishing up with when the doctor told me I would have to stay the weekend.
“Yes, the doctor!” Clayton exclaimed. He would get excited when I mentioned something he knew. “What is her name?” He waved his hands in circles, as if to emphasize he was searching for it.
“Smith,” I said, “Dr. Smith.”
“That’s right! Dr. Smith! Anyway, she says to me she don’t know how long I’ll be here. She says that they have to figure me out first.”
I was still a little perplexed by the story, as I had trouble figuring out how the police found him, why they took him, and why he was being held here.
“Did the police say anything to you, did they say why you had to go with them?”
“No, no, they didn’t say nothing. They just say, I have to come with them.”
I walked to the window, to try and catch a glimpse of any signs of life outside the confines of the facility. Clayton reached over and grabbed a glass of water on his nightstand, then sat down on the floor, at my feet. He sipped the water occasionally, as we waited in silence.
Finally, I took a seat next to him, and picked the cup up, tilting it slightly and allowing a small pool of water to flow onto the floor.
“What are the things in water?” he asked.
“Like what is water made out of?”
“Molecules, which are composed of atoms."
Clayton stared at the water. “I can see the atoms in this water.”
“No, Clayton, I don’t think you can, atoms are too small to see.”
Clayton stared intently at the puddle on the floor. “No, I can see them, I can see the atoms in the water, they're right there!” He exclaimed, jabbing his finger excitedly at the liquid.
Any thought that Clayton didn’t need to be at Hust-Limmer immediately vanished from my mind.