Emily Rae Robles

the paradoxymoron

Meeting Myself (Flash Fiction: Day 4)

Prompt: Why didn’t it happen to me?

My first day in the mental hospital, I was awoken by the cries of the girl next to me, who had not been there when I snuck under the thin blanket that night.

“I almost died,” she bawled repeatedly. I caught her eye as she wiped her nose with the sleeve of her hospital gown, but I was too insecure to do anything but smile faintly.

As the day went on, she drained more and more of the nurses’ energy with her constant complaints, continual drama, and self-proclaimed multiple personalities.

I envied her.

I wished for her confidence, for her ability to speak her mind, for the attention she received from the others.  I was the quiet one, crying alone in my room after each strangling anxiety attack.  I had never been in a place like this, and it terrified me.  The nonchalance of the patients made me want to run back to the city and hide among the incessant isolation of crowded places.  I sought a window, only a window, where I could gaze out and remember my life of normalcy. But there was none.  They had trapped us into our own society of patients coming, crying, healing, helping, leaving.  I had not been there long enough to see this structure at work; I still cried all the time.

The girl’s name was Brianna, except when she decided she was a lawyer named Michelle.  She had been charismatic, I could see, but now depression drooped from her face.  The others made fun of her dramatic interruptions of each group session; many complained to the nurses to get rid of her.  Finally, they did, transferring her to a special unit.

The day Brianna left, I found myself wondering why I wasn’t like her.  Everyone had seen us as opposites, but was she truly that different? As I mused over our mutual humanity, I suddenly realized that she had been my friend.  In that first exchanged glance the morning I met her, we each knew the worst about each other.  There were no false impressions in our brief relationship.  We were the same, and yet I still couldn’t understand the difference between us.  Why was she the one in the special unit while I remained high-functioning?

The revelation came during the ten minute period in which we were allowed fresh air—smoke break.  I didn’t smoke, but stared at the abandoned cigarette butts lying around the gazebo.  They were burned to different lengths, in different patterns, in different places, but they had all served the same purpose.  Brianna, I realized, had been burning much longer than I had. I was new, untouched, unsure of my purpose.  She knew herself and didn’t care about her insecurities.  I was only just meeting the girl who would later turn out to be me.

Why didn’t it happen to me? It did. I just didn’t know “me” well enough yet to understand.


February 5, 2011 - Posted by | flash fiction, writings | , , ,

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