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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Chapter 6: The Weekend & The Wait

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.

“What?”

“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.

“Hey Ross.”

“Hi Clayton.”

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.”

“St. Vincent’s?”

“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?”

“Yea.”

“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.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Late Entry & Delays Ahead

I apologize for not posting an entry last night, as one was due. I depart for my first year of college in 6 days. I've had almost no spare time to write anything, and while I have made progress on this weeks entry, it will be delayed. I will try and get next week's out before I leave. However, the week after next, I will be on a trip in the wilderness and will not have access to a computer. The week following that, I'll be getting adjusted to my first college experience.

To make a long story short, there are delays ahead for entries. I will not stop posting, because I went into this to force me to write at a regular interval, but I might have to push my deadlines back a bit. When everything settles down, I'll be back to posting every Friday, but for the mean time, it'll be a bit intermittent.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Bonus: Map of Facility

While taking a break from writing this week's chapter, I decided to make up a map of the facility in Adobe Illustrator to give the readers a better idea of what I'm talking about.

The map is only of the adolescent ward, I really didn't get beyond that enough to know what the rest of the facility looked like, or how large it was.

Doorways are color coded (this may be significant later): Red doorways required a swipe-card access to open them, yellow doorways (only 1, the food prep area) required a manual key, and green doorways were not locked, they could be opened by anyone. I didn't bother to fill in all the room doors, they would half yellow, half green, depending on the time of day.

Click on the map to enlarge it.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Chapter 5: First Night

There were an unending number of rules that went along with being a patient at Hust-Limmer. First, there was a three level rating system – when a patient first entered, they were on level one – privileges such as having shoe laces were revoked, and the bed time was earlier. Level two patients regained their shoelaces and were permitted to stay up later, along with two chances to use the video gaming console per week. Level three patients had the most freedom, including the ability to go outside (albeit in a 10x12 fenced area and strictly supervised), four chances to videogame during the week, the latest bedtime and the fewest restrictions.

To move up in the ranking system, one simply had to follow the rules. Violating minor rules repeatedly would cause one’s rating to drop down one level. Major offenses would result in a complete drop to level one. Others could result in more severe punishments: being confined to one’s room throughout the day, or being assigned (or, many times, subdued and dragged) to the “quiet room,” a padded isolation area, for any number of hours.

The basic rules were enumerated on a poster on the wall, next to information about the rating system, but the actual restrictions were far more specific. We could not watch certain channels on TV, such as MTV, nor could we watch specific programs on channels as benign as the Discovery Channel. The couches we had could only be occupied by one gender at a time and the same went for tables in the dining area. No physical contact between any two patients was permitted, be it a hug or shaking hands. Note passing between anyone was not permitted, and one could not enter anyone else’s room other than our own. We could not discuss anyone else’s reasons for being in the facility (except when done in an activity), we had to go to bed on time, wake up when we were told, take the medicine we were prescribed. There were times that we were confined to our rooms and could not leave – we were encouraged to sleep, but I mostly read.

Dinner was just as inedible at all the other meals. It was a ziti-type dish, though the zitis were so rubbery that I imagined I could bounce them off the floor. The “desert” was a cookie, and the only reason it was halfway decent was that it was produced by a commercial manufacturer, who actually had a brand they had to live up to.

After the completion of my meal, I put the tray back on the rack and took a seat in one of the upholstered chairs. A television with a VCR sat in the front of the room and rows of tapes lined a shelf to its right. Below the tapes were books, none of which appeared to be above the sixth grade level.

A nurse walked into the room and called out my name, along with the name of another patient. My parents were here for visiting. Parents could come by once each day during an hour and a half visiting time. Those that actually were lucky enough to have nearby parents were usually visited once every few days, and some were seen everyday. Others wanted to have nothing to do with their parents and were never visited, and others had been removed from their parent’s custody for a variety of reasons.

I was led into the room directly next to the room I had been checked in during my arrival. It had a very similar layout – a solid wooden desk in the center and dimensions of about ten feet on all sides. Both my mother and father were present, and I took a seat. My parents closed the door and my father took out a yellow legal pad; it would become an object present in every meeting for months to come.

“How are you doing?” my father asked.

“Alright, but the food here is awful.”

“Well, that’s hospital food for you.”

My dad scribbled something on the legal pad. It looked like “food bad.”

“Don’t worry,” my mom added, “you’ll be out of here early next week. Before you know it.”

“How are the people?” she added.

“Strange. I really haven’t gotten to know them, but they always tend to be sleeping. They can never seem to stay awake, many of them.”

“How’s your roommate?”

“Hard to say. I sense that there isn’t something exactly right about him, but I’m not exactly sure what it is. But so far, he’s been fine.”

I explained the events of the day, and then my dad overviewed what the Dr. Klein had told them earlier in the day, which he had taken ample notes on. Apparently, the police had yet to provide the actual document to Hust-Limmer, which they wished to review before they would release me.

Updating everyone on the situation took most of the visiting time, and after a half an hour of conversation, the door opened.

“Visiting time is up,” a female staffer announced, then closed the door behind her.

My parents and I stood, and I hugged my mother and father goodbye. We left through the door to the room, and my parents reminded me that they would be back during visiting hours tomorrow.

I returned to the common area, where most of the patients were sitting around on couches. The television was on, with a movie playing on in the VCR. Several others were sitting at the tables in the dining area. Having nothing better to do, I walked down to my room to retrieve Airframe. I walked down the hallway, however when I arrived at my room I found it to be locked. Puzzled at why my door was locked, I returned down the hallway I came to the large circular work area where the staffers and the nurse sat.

After a brief period, one finally came over to where I was standing.

“Yes?”

“The door to my room is locked, I need to get in there.”

“We don’t allow people in their rooms at this time, what do you want in there?”

“There’s a book I want to read.”

The nurse, clearly annoyed, rolled her eyes slightly. “You’ll have to wait a minute. I need to get the keys.”

She walked off and spoke to another woman, whom I followed down the hall to my room.

“Which one is yours?”

I indicated my room, and she unlocked it, waiting at the door for me to retrieve the book, before she locked it again.
In the common room, I took a seat in one of the upholstered chairs and began reading.

Having only been at Hust-Limmer for one day, I was confined to the level one privileges, and I was sent to my room at 8:45, along with Clayton. To pass the time, I mostly read the one book my parents had brought for me, Michael Crichton’s Airframe. I showered, put on my pajamas, and hopped into bed with the book, reading until I became tired enough to fall asleep. I would also read ravenously during the day, as the many of the movies and television shows watched by the other patients were simply of no interest to me, and my own television interests were of absolutely no interest to anyone else, so rather than disrupt one of the few activities to keep the other patients occupied, I resigned to reading my book.

Clayton and I didn’t speak much the first night – he showered after I was finished, and after a short period of lying in bed with the light on, he turned off the overhead lights and the light next to his bed, while I read with mine on.

Forty-five minutes later, I was sufficiently exhausted to put the book aside and go to sleep. As I settled into the pillow, I thought, crazily, about Britney. When all this was over maybe we could just make up and be friends. I could tell her the stories about what happened, she would feel sorry, and we would continue our quasi-friendship. I wondered, in my convoluted logic, if this meant that I’d never have a chance to go out with her. I wondered if she was thinking about what was happening to me, I wondered how much she knew.




Everything was dark. The only visible light came from the hallway; the door was cracked slightly, so everyone could be watched. But there was a sound – the sound of running water. Not like a sink, but rather a bathtub or a shower. What time was it?

I turned over in my bed, and fumbled around on the nightstand next to my bed, looking for my watch. 3:27 AM. Where was the water coming from? My eyes had begun to adjust to the darkness. I looked to Clayton’s bed, he was not present. Clayton was showering. Showering at three in the morning. Welcome to Hust-Limmer Behavioral Health Center.

The gushing water made a distinct din in the otherwise quite facility. I was surprised that no one was at the door to see if he was drowning himself. Maybe the staff was accustomed to patients who shower at odd times. I put my head underneath my pillow to block out the sound, and quickly returned to sleep.

Before long, I was awoken again by blinding lights.

“Is everything alright in here?”

A staffer had turned the lights on, and was standing in the doorway. Sitting up, I glanced around in the room, still groggy from sleep.

“I don’t know. He’s been showing. I guess that’s alright.”

She moved to the bathroom door, and knocked.

“Yea?” Clayton stuck his head out the door, allowing a cloud of humidified air to seep into the room.

“Is everything alright?”

“Yea, everything’s fine.”

“If you need anything I’ll be outside.”

The staffer left, shutting off the lights, and within moments I was asleep.