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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.


“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.


Blogger Shawna said...

Hi! I found your blog by way of Blog Explosion. I'm now entranced with your story and can't wait for the next chapter. I'm really sorry that something of this magnitude had to happen to you though. I'm new to blogging, so when I figure out how to put links on my page, yours will be the first one there!

5:12 AM  
Blogger legerdemon said...

This is a really interesting story, but I would like to know more about the other people. Surely you must have had a passing conversation with some of the other patients by this point. How did you know the name of your roommate?

1:33 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

Another great installment. I hope you stick with this until the whole story is told.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Cloudy said...

I agree with Jen; I will be very dissapointed and upset if I don't get to hear the end of it.

It's very good and while a little editing here and there is in order, the story (real or fiction) is indeed fascinating.

If it is true it's horrible that it happened to you. The idea to put it into a book is marvellous: so many people all around the world do not know thier rights (especially in developed countries, where they are more firmly established)

Looking forward to reading it until the end. I'm going to put a post about it in my own blog; the best way to make something travel is by word of mouth after all.

Fabulous sorty!

3:28 PM  
Blogger Cloudy said...



3:29 PM  
Blogger Ross said...

Legerdemon, you've predicted the next chapter.

However, there were a number of paitents who I really hadn't had a solid discussion with even as I left the facility, as until a certain point, I was tremendously disliked by a large contingent of the population there. More on this later.

10:49 PM  
Blogger legerdemon said...

Okay, thanks. I really can't wait.

12:02 AM  

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