Thursday, 23 September 2021

F Fic, Non-fic


by Sara Beth Johnson


"Myra." The door cracks open. Farris, one of the few male nurses on staff, sticks in his head. "It's time for your meds." Seeing I'm decent, he enters, holding a paper cup of pills in one hand and a plastic cup of water in the other.

I sit up and take the pills. Farris adjusts his nametag, knowing he doesn't have to watch me. I always take them.

"They're gone."

"Excellent." He sighs, reaching up to rub his eyes. I can tell they're bloodshot and darkened from a lack of sleep, most likely because he's taken the night shift again. "Dr. Wallace will be in a little later to see you before he begins his rounds." Farris smiles, but only slightly, and leaves me to my solitude.

Finally. I was beginning to think he'd never leave.

Other than my occasional run in with Farris, nothing good comes from the opening of my door. Even when it is open, or when I am out spending time in group or therapy, I find no comfort. For me, there is no freedom from the pain or disappointment of life.

I used to not be this way. I think, if I can remember back that far, life used to be enjoyable.

Now, outside that door, I meet others who, like me, are perpetually lost, perpetually broken, or, as the doctors say, sick.

But, I'm not sick. I'm hurting.

I sit on my bed, staring at the white wall before me, it's only ornamentation a single colored drawing I made in art group. It's a house, my house, the home I left before I came here; it wasn't a good one. I mean, it was at first, before Mom got sick and Dad started drinking. That was when everything went to crap, when I'd gone to crap. It was only a few years after that when my sister, Kaitlyn, decided I needed to be in this hole. But she hadn't experienced what I had. She was already out of the house by that time, grown and gone.


"How are you today?" A soft voice asks.

I'm pretty sure it's a man, but I don't know him. Dr. Wallace has a deeper voice. This one is different, less formal. I could look at him, find out who he is so I know him for next time, but I find it not worth the effort. Not many things are.

He sits down on the end of the bed opposite me, waiting for my reply. From my seat, I can see his white coat. It's longer than most, which probably means he's important, some sort of specialist they've brought in, thinking it'll make me have some sort of breakthrough. Though, to be honest, I think we all know I'm past the point of no return, not that anyone will every say that. They get paid too much to give up on me.

I reach down to play with the hem of my paper gown. I know if I ignore him long enough he will leave, believing I'm as empty of a shell as I appear.

"Myra," he presses, waiting a moment before continuing. "How are you feeling today?"

In my mind, I know he's only trying to help. So, I answer. "I'm fine." Only I'm not. In fact, I'm anything but fine. I'm falling to pieces. There are moments where I wonder why I don't disintegrate and filter through the floor. It'd be better that way, less work, less worry, less pain.

"Myra." My name catches my attention. This time I look up, but not at him. Instead, I fix my eyes on the toothbrush that rests on the corner of my sink. It's used and worn, like me. Sometimes I wonder why they let us have toothbrushes. It isn't like the clinically depressed need clean teeth, or fresh breath for that matter. No one gets close enough to notice.

"I think everyone needs a toothbrush."

My eyes widen a fraction of an inch and I turn to him. He's a little taller than me, but not much older. His dark brown hair is cropped short, the surrounding stubble creeping around to his chin.

"Was I talking out loud?" I manage, cringing as I hear the foreign voice coming from my lips.

"A little," he chuckles, "but that's why I'm here." He has a nice voice, one that almost makes me want to trust him, to tell him what happened to me.

"Why are you here?" He hasn't brought a file folder, which means he either read it ahead of time, or he's just here for another assessment.

He shrugs and then lies back on the bed, letting his legs dangle off the edge. "Just to talk."

Something about him urges me to relax. Despite my best efforts, I lie down beside him, restraining myself from speaking once again. The sleeves of my gown slide to my elbows. The moment it happens guilt overwhelms, and I shove them back down.

The man's eyes flicker down towards the movement. I know he's seen the repulsive jagged lines of pink that cover my skin.

"What's that?" he asks, turning his attention back to the ceiling.

"It's nothing." It's everything. I turn from him, feeling pain whelm up in the bottom of my stomach. I glance at the flawless fabric covering my skin. If I look at it long enough, I can pretend they aren't there.

Neither one of us speaks for a time.

"Scars aren't anything to be ashamed of," the man remarks.

This is something I've been told time and time again. As much as I want to, need to, believe it, I know it isn't true. Because of those scars, others can look, can count, each time I've been broken.

"I know you don't believe me," he hums, "and that's alright."

Crap. I know I wasn't talking that time.

"I heard you," the man breaks in. "I have a gift for knowing people. And what they're thinking."

"So… you are a specialist," I say under my breath, scrambling to my feet. "It's been two years. Two damn years," I hiss. "I have been given every medicine, every treatment, every therapy session possible. Nothing has worked. So, if you're going to give up on me just go!"

He smiles, a pained expression crossing his features, and sits up. "I know you don't understand, but someday you will. Things will be better--"

"No!" I yell. I know if I'm too loud they'll send someone in, claiming I'm a danger to myself or him. For a moment, I glance at the door, but I don't care. "You don't understand!" The desperation in my voice is deafening. Heat rushes to my cheeks and I clench my hands into fists.

His hands reach out and hold mine. They still and my anger evaporates, leaving a fresh batch of pain in the bottom of my stomach. "Myra. I know you're hurting," he whispers.

My lower lip quivers uncontrollably and I hate it. I hate everything. "You don't even know me." I ease my hands from his, feeling the rage within me flare up again. "Don't assume that you do."

He stares at me, concern evident in his gaze, and rises from his seat.

I retreat, taking two steps back towards the sink.

"Wait," he whispers, his eyes fix on me. "Please."

My body stills.

He draws in a deep breath, but slowly rolls up the sleeves of his white coat. As he draws back the fabric, two crimson scars emerge on his olive skin, just above the both of his wrists. They're like mine, only longer and mangled.

"Scars are nothing to be ashamed of."

I turn my gaze back to his face and open my mouth, unable to speak.

I don't know what to say. When you're like me, you always meet people that want to help, people that tell you everything is alright. But they don't understand. They don't understand the how completely and utterly broken I feel, how alone.


My legs collide with the bed frame, the icy metal shocking me back to reality.


He sighs, shaking his head. "I've been there."

"Here? Doesn't look like it." My voice is harsher than I mean for it to be, but I can't stop myself.

"I've dealt with more than you think…"

"Right." I scoff, facing the bed, forcing myself to look away from him.

He doesn't push me immediately.

"I know…the feeling of the weight of the world--"

"Do you?" My fingers grip the frame, the top of my knuckles turning white. A picture of my mother flashes through my mind, then my father. It's coming. I can feel it.

His hand lightly touches my shoulder. "I do," he whispers.

I look at him over my shoulder and my vision blurs with tears. I furiously blink them away, hating myself for not being able to control them. "I don't understand," I mutter, "how all of this could happen." I face him. "What have I done? Just tell me what I've done." Tears begin to roll down my cheeks uncontrollably, faster than I can wipe them away. "Tell me what I've done to deserve this!" I plead, dropping my head into my hands. "I just feel so…alone." Bile fills my throat, cutting off my voice. I know, if I don't calm down, I'm going to be sick.

Two hands surround my face, tilting it up.

Nothing happens.

My tears subside, and I open my eyes, finding a tranquil expression on his face. He adjusts his hands, using both thumbs to gently wipe away the tears. "Myra. You're never alone."

"I feel alone." Mom is gone. Dad is gone. Kaitlyn is gone, just in a different way.

He smiles, then rolls up my sleeves. I freeze. "This," he places his hands over my wrists, "does not define you." He lowers my hands, then places his hand over his chest. "This does."

I look at my arms and return my gaze to him.

Scars. That's what people see. They see and know that I am broken; they know what I've done.

"You are not broken," he breaks in, nodding to me, "just lost." He smiles again, like he knows something I don't. "But, that's why I'm here."

"I don't understand."

He takes a step towards the door. "You will." He grins this time. "I'm here. I'm always here, whenever you need to talk."

I nod. His time is up…and I've wasted it.


"Yes?" I ask, sitting down on the bed.

"I am here. All you have to do is talk to me."

I can hear him just off to my left, but I nod, not saying anything, already retreating into my shell. Soon he'll be gone.

"Oh. And Myra?"

This time I look up.

He's still smiling, something glittering in his eyes. "You're never alone." He walks back and then reaches down, wrapping me up in a hug. For a moment, I forget myself. My arms move on their own accord. All I want to do is hug him back, to return this innocent display of affection, one I haven't felt in so long. It's so simple, and I don't understand. I don't feel, not like this.

After a moment, he pulls back. "Never alone," he repeats. "I'll see you soon, Myra." The start of a grin appears on his face once more as he once again steps towards the door.

I stand there, unable to move.

"Wait," I finally manage. "You're leaving?"

No answer.

I whip around, but there's no one. I'm alone.

"But I--"

The door opens. "Miss Myra. Miss Myra," Dr. Wallace bellows, clutching my chart tightly to his chest, pen at the ready. "How are you today?"

My heart thuds loudly against my chest. "Where is he?" I ask. We weren't done. Not yet. We couldn't be.

Dr. Wallace hesitates. "Hmm?"

"The man. We've been in here talking." I press, frantic now, "You-you sent him in here to…to talk to me. Remember?"

He looks at me like I've lost it. And to be honest, I'm starting to believe that I have.

"Myra," Dr. Wallace clears his throat, "no one's been in here this morning. No one except Farris… and I know it wasn't him because he's been accompanying me on rounds."

"No he was here! I swear it!" I exclaim. "He was right here! We've been talking for…" I hesitate, "hours now. He's been helping me and…" I trail off, noticing that Dr. Wallace is no longer listening. Instead he's looking at my chart.

"Myra. Farris just brought you your meds ten minutes ago." He says, eyeing me over the brim of his glasses.

"No!" I yell again. "I know you don't believe me! But he was here!"

Dr. Wallace nods slowly. It's what he does when he doesn't want to upset me, when he knows I'm about to have an episode.

"I think you need to calm down," he says instead.

"Calm? I am calm, Dr. Wallace! I just want to know who has been in my room! I've been talking to him." I know he doesn't believe me, but I know what I saw.

Dr. Wallace glances at his chart and then casts a glance back out the door. "Well. Myra. There are no windows in this room….and the only way to get in is through this door. As for that, I can assure you, no one else has been in here."

"But they have--"

"Was it Farris?" he interrupts me, his voice suddenly brief and to the point.

"Well no, but--"

"Then it wasn't real."

"I know it was!" I shoot back. Every ounce of blood in my body pours into my cheeks.

"No," he says. "You think that because you're sick. You need help."

"Dr. Wallace, please. Check the cameras. Do something!"

"Myra," Dr. Wallace warns, lifting my chart once more. I've seen this move from time to time, though it's rarely directed towards me. "Are you hearing voices?"

"No," I reply, knowing if I push any farther, he'll be forced to add it to my chart.

"Alright. But that may be something we need to readdress after this session." Dr. Wallace shakes his head, preparing to once again pose his earlier question. Before he gets the chance, Farris is at the door, claiming there's a code three in the lounge.

"I'm sorry, Myra," Dr. Wallace apologizes, gathering himself as he opens the door. "We will have to finish this some other time." He bids me goodbye and closes the door.

I sigh, moving back to the bed.

Had I made it all up? I suppose it's possible. A sickening feeling whelms in the pit of my stomach.

I lie back down, throwing my arms up to cover my face, settling into the silence. But now, it's different. I don't want it.

The hint of a breeze brushes by my hair as if someone has just walked by. "Now. Where were we?" a soft voice asks.

I look up, finding the man before me, a smile on his face.

My eyes grow wide.

Damn. I am seeing things.

My first instinct is to call for Dr. Wallace. He'd believe me then; he'd know. But, I can't seem to move. It's like my entire body has gone still.

I stare at him, and all I can do is ask: "Who are you?"

The man before me appears amused, but not mockingly so. He sits down on the bed, like he's about to share the most intimate of secrets with me, and says, "I am."

Though Sara Beth Johnson is originally from Shiloh, SC, she attends Erskine College where she is currently earning a dual degree in English and Secondary Education.

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