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White Walls

by Tanya Mitterer 6 months ago in Short Story · updated 6 months ago

Isolation

White Walls
Photo by Joseph Akbrud on Unsplash

I stare at the same four walls every day. White, sterile, and bare. There’s a small window on the door that I can look out and a narrow hatch that they slip my medication and meals through. There’s a sink, a mirror, and a toilet in one corner. A twin-size bed with white sheets and a single pillow sits on the other side of the room. My toothbrush consists of a rubber finger sleeve with nubs on it so I can brush my teeth, wouldn’t want me to make a weapon out of a toothbrush, I guess. I don’t get visitors outside of the doctors and nurses that come to my room. I guess I should feel lucky that the walls aren’t padded.

I have no idea what day it is, what time it is, or how long I’ve been here. I don’t know if it’s day or night outside. I’ve made friends with the doctors and nurses. I’m not a danger to anyone else. Heck, I’m not even a danger to myself at this point. I would love to be discharged, but even if I could just see sunlight briefly would be a miracle. I’m practically translucent at this point. They’ve talked to me about transitioning into the general population so I can socialize. I’d keep this room, but would be allowed to visit the community room for group therapy, lunch/dinner, and activities. I asked if there were windows to look out of because that’s all I really care about at this point.

“Yes Meena, there are windows. They have bars on them, but there are windows. Believe me, we do know how good it would be for you to be able to see sunlight and socialize with others, but the transition must be handled appropriately. We do believe we’ve got the right combination and dosage of all your medications. Your temperament is good, you take your medications, you eat your meals, and you sleep well. You don’t cause us any trouble; in fact, you’ve been a model resident. You’ve shown great improvement and we don’t want to overwhelm you by stimulating triggers that will cause a relapse in our progress. You did a lot of damage and hurt a lot of people Meena. While I don’t believe it was your intention, something snapped. We all know and recognize that you’re a good person. It’s unfortunate it all came crashing down at once and you ended up here, but I do believe we’re on our way up!” Dr. Peters reassured me. I liked all of the doctors and nurses, but Dr. Peters was my favorite. He spent time getting to know me and understand me. He felt more like a father to me than my own, which doesn’t say much.

“I understand Dr. Peters. I don’t care if I socialize, but I really want to see the sunlight or see it rain. I know you’ve kept me in this room for a reason, but I do think it’d be good for me. Just let me look out a window, please. You can wait until the community room is empty and it’s just you and I,” I pleaded with him. I knew this room was starting to get to me. “I need it. I can feel this very sterile, very bare, and very white room closing in on me and I’m afraid I’ll lose progress. Please.”

He looked at me, curiosity and sadness in his eyes. This was the first time I’d ever asked for anything. I was mute for months before I spoke to anyone; him being the first. I’ve let them poke me with needles, medicate me without a fight, and study me. I’ve complied with everything. I’m not going to cause him any trouble if he says no, I just know I need this.

“I’ll tell you what Meena; it’s almost dinner time. We’ll bring your meal to you as usual and when you’re done, myself and Dr. Stone will come back and we’ll take a little walk. I can’t argue with you, it would be good for you. Enjoy your dinner and I’ll see you shortly kiddo.” He smiled, winked, and left the room.

I was getting a bit of freedom. Even if I just get to step foot into the hallway is a victory for me at this point. I was actually feeling excitement. I didn’t smile, because I don’t know how to do that anymore, but I was excited. My dinner came shortly after he left. Mashed potatoes, brown gravy, chicken breast, green bean salad, and a dinner roll. This is my favorite meal here. The food is actually very good, for a hospital. I got a cup of chocolate milk, something Dr. Peters specifically requested I get with my dinner each night. I don’t know if I get special treatment because I’m so unique from their other patients, or if everyone in here gets treated this well, but I can’t complain. Soon my door opened to a nurse retrieving my dinner tray.

“Spotless again Meena!” she smiled and left the room.

I hadn’t noticed when she came in, she left a pair of slippers by the door. I stared at them. I was feeling anxious. There was a knock at my door with Dr. Peters and Dr. Stone soon opening it. They noticed I hadn’t put the slippers on, but was sitting on my bed with knees to my chest and my arms wrapped around them.

“Talk to us Meena. This is a process, remember.” Dr. Stone was always straight to the point.

“I was excited when Dr. Peters left today. I haven’t felt excitement in I don’t know how long. Then when I noticed the nurse had left those slippers inside my door when she came to get my dinner tray, I got anxious,” I was panicking. “How long have I been in here? Please don’t lie to me,” I pleaded. “Maybe I shouldn’t leave this room. Maybe I don’t need to see something other than your faces, my meds, and my meals. This is all so much!”

Dr. Stone sat down beside me and grabbed my hand. I immediately calmed down. I hadn’t noticed that Dr. Peters had brought the slippers over to the edge of my bed for me to slip into. I was feeling lightheaded. I need to slow my breathing. Before I know it, I’m on my feet with the slippers on. Dr. Peters has my door open.

“Take it slow Meena. We’ve got all the time in the world,” he reassured me.

I walked up to the door and stopped. I hadn’t walked through a door in forever. The hallway floor was shiny and clean. I could hear faint voices down the hall, it sounded like some of the nurses talking.

“Ok. I’m ready,” I said as confidently as I could.

Dr. Peters stepped through the door ahead of me. Once he was out, he turned to face me with a smile on his face. Dr. Stone was standing behind me, quietly encouraging me. I took one last deep breath and stepped across the threshold of my room into the hallway. The rush of emotions hit me quickly and I started to get lightheaded again. Dr. Stone quickly caught me and helped me gather myself until I was ready to move forward.

“Let’s head down this way, Meena,” Dr. Peters said as he positioned himself beside me and Dr. Stone behind us.

There were no windows in the hallway, just doors to other patient rooms. We made our way down the hallway to a set of double doors. Dr. Peters opened one and ushered me in. The first thing to catch my eye was one of my favorite nurses, Sarah. She was smiling and giving me a thumbs up. As I entered the room, I caught glimpse of a window. I stopped, looked at Dr. Peters and asked if I could approach it.

“By all means, please do,” he smiled.

I made my way over to the sofa under the window so I could bathe myself in sunlight. Dr. Peters and Dr. Stone stayed back, allowing me to have some freedom. It was warm and bright. I got goosebumps when the warmth and light started to settle into my pale skin. Emotions were beginning to surface; emotions I hadn’t felt in a long time. I closed my eyes to take it all in. The next thing I know there’s gentle hand on my shoulder.

“Meena, you’re smiling,” Dr. Peters said. I opened my eyes and he had tears in his eyes. He had placed a small brown paper box on the cushion between us. “I haven’t seen you smile once since you arrived in our care.”

Dr. Stone had placed and was sitting in a chair in front of us on the sofa. He was beaming with joy. “I’m so proud of you, Meena.”

I examined the box. “What’s in there?”

“Why don’t you open it Meena, it’s a little something from all of us here who’ve watched you grow over the past 3 years,” said Dr. Stone.

3 years. I’d been in isolation for 3 years with nothing but my own thoughts, scheduled meals, medications, and white walls. I started to cry; something else I hadn’t done since I arrived here. 3 years.

“Talk to us Meena. What are you feeling?” Dr. Peters gently urged.

“I’ve been here for 3 years! No windows, no emotions, and no visitors for 3 years!!! How is that healthy?! I’ve been a prisoner of my own mind in a white walled room by myself for 3 years. You’ve made yourselves the only friends I have. You’ve controlled my meals, my medications, and my emotions for 3 freaking years! Is this a peace offering for isolating me for so long?!” Everything in me was surfacing. I hadn’t noticed until now, but 2 more nurses had joined the room. Both doctors stayed in their seats close to me, seemingly unworried. I hadn’t moved from my spot on the sofa, a form of self-control I had learned while here, but I was raging on the inside.

“Meena,” Dr. Peters started, but I cut him off.

“Please get away from me! I don’t want you near me!” I screamed.

They looked at each other and both took leave to the other side of the room with the 3 nurses. I was shaking and I needed to calm myself down. I looked out the window, closed my eyes, and let the sun soak into my skin. Peace and calm were coming over me. I took a deep breath, wiped my eyes, and picked up the little box. It really is a thoughtful thing for them to do. I don’t believe they did anything with malice, but for my own good. I had snapped at them; the only people who seemed to really care about me.

“I’m sorry. Will you please escort me back to my room?” I was ready to leave. I was tired.

They looked surprised. I don’t think we’d been in the room 15 minutes and I was ready to leave.

“Yes Meena. You haven’t opened your gift yet,” said Dr. Peters curiously.

“I haven’t earned it. I lashed out in anger. If I may ask for you to hold onto it until the next time when I earn it from good behavior.” I held the box out to him.

“Take it with you to your room, Meena.” Dr. Stone said matter-of-factly.

We walked back to my room.

“We’re proud of you, young lady,” said Dr. Peters. “We’ll do this again, I promise. You’re more than ready.”

They both wished me a good night and took their leave, shutting the door behind them. I placed the box on the floor next to my bed before climbing in between my sheets and drifting off to sleep. That little brown paper box would still be there in the morning, waiting for me.

Short Story

Tanya Mitterer

I’ve written hundreds of stories…in my head. I’m a dog mom of 4, wife, DIYer, and free spirit. I’ve spent the last few years of my life navigating my creativity and how to best channel that into my life. Cheers to writing and adventures!

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