Just Let Me Die Here (A Serialized Novel) 37
Officer Evans drives me to Canmore General Hospital. The same hospital I visited this morning trying to find out why this all happened. Now I’m even more lost than before. Now everything has changed. It looks different this time. No longer a peaceful place for recovery set against a beautiful mountain backdrop. The sky is a dark gray, heavy with winter rain, and it casts a murkiness over the building. The bricks look worn and dirty. It feels like a looming presence as we enter the parking lot. Something lurking and sinister. I can’t stop my body from shaking. My teeth are chattering so loudly, I am certain Evans can hear it. He doesn’t comment though.
After parking the car at the curb, Officer Evans walks me around to the end of the building. We don’t go through the entrance that I remember from before, but rather a small glass door set off to the side. It’s hidden by several tall bushes. No one wants to be seen coming or going through this particular door. Inside, the air is saturated with a warm mix of bleach and hand sanitizer. Evans walks me down a hallway to a check-in desk. Above the desk, the sign reads ‘Mental Health Urgent Care’.
“Good evening,” says the nurse sitting behind the desk. She is middle-aged, but with a haircut that shows she’s trying to stay young and hip. Her nametag reads ‘Patricia’, but I’m sure she insists people call her Patti. She looks at me with the same expression I imagine she would give an injured puppy.
“I’m checking in a patient for observation,” Evans says. He hands her a stack of papers that he brought with him from the station.
“Yes, name?” They both look at me.
“August Logan,” I say, barely audible to myself.
“Thank you, Mrs. Logan.” She flips through the first three pages of Officer Evans’ paperwork and then looks up again. “And are you submitting to observation voluntarily?” I want to say no. No, no, no! I haven’t volunteered for any of this. Who in their right mind would volunteer to be locked away while their baby was lost out in the world? No, not lost. Taken. Then again, it is the very state of my mind that is in question at the moment. And I have come to understand that this will all go a lot easier, hopefully a lot quicker, if I cooperate.
“Yes,” I say, my shoulders falling a bit, giving in to the weight of everything.
“Thank you, Mrs. Logan.” She clicks away at her keyboard. A moment later, the printer next to her spits out a few pieces of paper and she slides them across the counter towards me. Handing me a pen she says, “Please check all the information on the first page and then initial the two spots on the second and sign at the bottom. I scan down the paper. There is my name and all my information. Under “Reason for hospitalization” the line reads “Requires observation and evaluation of psychosis”. I want to tell her that this is wrong. I want to make my case that this is all a big mistake. But the twist of her mouth shows she is growing impatient and I know that anything I say would have no effect on her or the situation. Besides, I’m certain she’s heard it all before. I initial on the two lines, not even sure what I’m initialing for, and sign at the bottom. It asks for the date next to my signature. I write January 9, 2015.
Seventy-two hours. Three days. I am trapped in this hospital for three days.
This is all just another “why?” to add to the list.
I follow a nurse through the door, glancing back just once to see Officer Evans walking away. Down the hallway. Out to the parking lot. Leaving me behind.
Past the double doors that the nurse leads me through, there are two rooms across from one another. They look like typical doctor exam rooms. She ushers me into one of them. She tells me to take off everything down to my underwear and hands me a pair of pants and a top that are made of papery hospital gown material. The pants are quite loose on me and, with no way to cinch them tight, no drawstrings, belts, or laces of any kind are allowed here, they hang precariously on my hips. The nurse then takes my clothes and the rest of my things and puts them in a plastic zip lock bag.
“Any jewelry?” she asks. I look down at my left hand. I leave my engagement ring at home whenever we go on vacation. I’ve always been worried that something would happen to the diamond and I thought it would be safer at home. But my plain white-gold wedding band is there. I haven’t taken it off since the day we got married. I shake as I slide the band off my finger and place it in the nurse’s outstretched hand. “Anything else?” I reach up and unclasp the thin chain that hangs around my neck. The small pendant, adorned with a tiny piece of Aquamarine, Millie’s birthstone, slides down the chain as the nurse drops it into the plastic bag. “These will be waiting for you when you are released,” she says.
“Can I keep my phone?” I ask. She looks at me as if I have lost the little bit of mind she assumes I had to start with.
“Any calls you need to make can be placed through a landline with the permission of the doctor. She then proceeds to take my height and weight, blood pressure and pulse, which, she notes, are a bit elevated. I can’t imagine why.
When she is finished, the nurse leads me to a small lounge area. There are three couches forming a horseshoe facing a large television on the far wall. There is an episode of Sesame Street playing and I look around for any children. I don’t see any. There are two people, I assume patients, sitting on the couches, but not next to each other. They sit on opposite couches, facing one another but not looking at each other. Both are men, probably in their twenties or thirties, and both are dressed in sweats. One’s girth stretches his sweatsuit to its limits, while the other man’s stick-like frame swims in the oversized outfit.
“Doctor Rodgers is with another patient right now,” the nurse says. “But she will be with you shortly. You can wait over there until you are called.” She nods in the direction of the two men and the couches.
As I sit down on the one open couch, I realize that this episode of Sesame Street is dubbed over in French. I have to laugh when I realize that there are some words that I actually understand from my pre-trip audio lessons. I definitely didn’t know then that this is what I would be preparing for. The larger of the two men remains completely mute while staring at the television. The thin man lets out an occasional bark of inappropriate laughter while his gaze shifts around the room.
Twenty minutes later, a woman in black slacks and a purple sweater comes out of a door on the opposite side of the room. She is young, I am guessing younger than me by five years or so. Her light pink lipstick lines a mouth that is quite large for her face and is filled with what seems like far too many teeth.
“August?” It sounds like she’s asking the room, as if she doesn’t know which one of the three of us August is.
“Yes,” I say. She turns her body slightly back towards the room that she came from and indicates that I should follow her.
“August,” she says once we are both in the room. This time, not a question. “Please take a seat.” She closes the door to what I find is her office and crosses the room to sit in a large leather chair while I sit, poised on the edge of a small couch. I wait while she flips through a file folder of papers. My file, I assume, although it strikes me as odd that I would have a file in a hospital where I’ve never been a patient in a country where I don’t live. While she studies my record, I glance around the room. It’s quite bare, with only a single potted plant in the corner and one framed photo on her desk. It is turned away from the room so that I can’t see what’s in the photo. I try to imagine who she might have a picture of. A partner? A child? With the thought that there might be a smiling young child beaming from within the frame, I am glad that I can’t see it.
“Hi,” she finally says after closing the folder on her lap, her smile once again showing off her many teeth. “I’m Doctor Jordyn Rodgers.”
“Hello.” She doesn’t say anything for minutes, as if she’s allowing me time to settle in, room to say what I need to say. But I don’t know what she wants me to say.
“August, tell me why you’re here,” she finally says, breaking the increasingly awkward silence.
“Can I say because the police made me?”
“Because the police made me.” She lets out a soft laugh.
“And why did the police make you?”
“They think I’m psychotic.”
“Well, that’s quite an accusation. Why would they think that?”
“Because I told them that I came here on vacation with my family and that, once we were here, my husband took our daughter and ran away. And that’s the truth. But now they say I was here alone the whole time.” She looks as confused as I feel. And so, I tell her everything. From Tucker planning the trip, to the accident and discovering that he had taken Millie, to the police and the photo of me alone at customs.
“And I’m not crazy,” I say. “I know that’s not the acceptable word to use anymore, but that’s what the police think I am, and I’m not.”
“I see the police have been in contact with your therapist from back home,” she says, flipping through the file folder again and looking over some of the papers.
“Yes. I have been to a therapist, but just to talk. I have a lot of baggage.”
“Don’t we all,” she says with a reassuring smile, closing the folder.
“Please, can you just call my therapist and ask her? She’ll tell you I’m not psychotic or schizophrenic or any of those things.” I take a deep breath to try and calm my racing thoughts. My throat catches again.
“Of course. But for now, until I am able to look into the situation further, you can just rest here. It sounds like you’ve been under a lot of stress.” I can’t tell if she’s patronizing me or not, but I have been under a lot of stress. I won’t argue with her there.
“The police mentioned that you might get me a prescription,” I say. “So that I could level out or something. But I don’t need those pills.”
“Because you’re not crazy.”
“Exactly. So, are you going to make me take medication?”
“No. As long as it seems you are stable, the nurses won’t force you to take any pills.” I hardly feel anything resembling stable, but I will definitely try and keep up appearances.
“Now, it’s getting late and we won’t be able to do anything until the morning. I’ll call one of the nurses and they’ll take you to your room. You can lie down, maybe rest for a bit, and hopefully we can get this all figured out tomorrow.”
“So, I might not have to stay all three days?”
“It is a possibility.”
I leave Dr. Rodger’s office with a glimmer of hope buried somewhere under the pile of worry that has been growing inside of me. Maybe I won’t be here for all of the seventy-two hours. This will all get figured out and everyone will see that it’s all just been a big mistake and they can get back to the real issue of finding Millie.
A new nurse arrives to take me to my room. He is tall and burley, the embodiment of the kind of brute strength that I imagine is necessary in dealing with certain patients in a place like this. He leads me down a hall and stops at the third door on the left. He searches through a ring of keys that are attached to a lanyard on his hip and opens the door. Inside is a padded room. An actual padded room. I have to laugh at the absurdity of it.
“These are really a thing?” I ask. The nurse looks at me a bit askance. After my eyes finish taking in the padded walls, I notice there is nothing but two beds in the small room.
“We are pretty full right now,” the nurse says. “You have a roommate.” The sheets on one bed are slightly bunched, as if it’s recently been occupied, so I go and sit on the other.
When the nurse leaves, closing the door behind him, I lay down. It’s actually a bit more comfortable than the motel bed and I try to rest. Finding this impossible, this whole situation impossible, I begin to pace the room, from bedside to bedside. I have not been told that I can’t leave my room, but I also haven’t been told that I can, so I feel trapped. But only my body. My mind is everywhere else, running over and over everything that has happened and desperately trying to think of what I’ve missed. What am I not seeing, not remembering?
The only evidence the police have right now is that photo from the airport, and it looks like I am there without Tucker and Millie. What else will they find?
My thoughts are interrupted by the door swinging open to reveal a large woman in the same kind of sweatsuit I saw the two men wearing earlier. The two halves of hers barely meet at her middle. Her hair, thin, stick-straight, and ending just below her chin, is wet and stuck against the sides of her face. She burps loudly and then looks at me.
“Who are you?” she asks, shuffling over to her bed and flopping down on her back.
“Like the month?”
“Actually, I’m named after my grandmother.” She looks at me like I’m stupid. “But yes, also like the month.”
“Good. I’m Frannie. You’re prettier than the last one.”
“She was here too long. I didn’t like her. Why are you here?” It takes me a moment to absorb this woman, her presence and her rapid, verbalized train of thought.
“Oh, it’s just a misunderstanding. I won’t be here long.”
“That’s rich,” she says with a noise that I think is supposed to be a laugh. “Well, you’re lucky you got me as a roommate. Some of the other girls here are real off.”
“Yeah, you know.” She spins her finger in circles around her ear. I take it the motion means the same thing here as it does back home. Isn’t that the reason everyone is here?
“Oh,” I say. “Good to know.”
“Have they brought you your food yet?” she asks.
“We get food?” She lets out another bark of a laugh.
“Of course. They can’t starve you. But don’t get too excited. It’s pretty rough stuff. Reminds me of my mother’s cooking.”
Frannie is right. I mean, I don’t know about her mother’s culinary abilities, but the food here is far from good. When our dinners show up, it is a tray of some bland slop that I can’t tell whether it’s supposed to be soup or lasagna. Either way, it’s not good. It comes with a salad that has no dressing and is nothing more than wilting lettuce leaves and a couple small tomatoes, each cut precisely in half. I think of all the grapes and blueberries I have cut in half for Millie and I choke back tears.
“Breakfast is usually a bit better,” Frannie says as she sits on the floor, back resting against her bed, slurping down the meal. At least that’s something to look forward to.
Two nurses arrive in our room shortly after we finish our meals, a man and a woman. The male nurse collects our trays and leaves. The female carries a small tray with two cups on it. She hands one to Frannie, who pours the contents, a few colorful pills, into her hand. I assume the other cup is for me.
“Doctor Rodgers told me I wouldn’t have to take any pills,” I say to the nurse before she can hand me the cup.
“Don’t spaz, weirdo,” Frannie says. “It’s for me.” The nurse hands her the other cup which turns out to be some water to wash down her pills.
“Goodnight ladies,” the nurse says as she exits the room. Moments later, the lights go out.
Frannie seems to fall asleep the second her head hits the pillow. Her snoring is deep and strong, like a boulder rumbling down a bumpy hill. After a few minutes, she rolls over and the snoring ceases. I, on the other hand, can’t sleep.
There is a small window in our door that looks out into the hallway. The hallway light stays on all night. “For your safety,” the nurse that brought me to the room had told me. But it shines directly in my face. Even turned away, facing the wall, it’s too bright. And, it’s quiet. Too quiet. I press my head to the pillow and I can hear my heartbeat.
I almost wish Frannie would start snoring again to drown out the sound. With each beat, I imagine a second ticking away from this seventy-two-hour sentence. A second ticking away in the race to find Millie.
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