"Okay, here we are," the gentleman driving the ambulance says as we pull into a large, packed to the brim parking lot.
"Just hang tight. I'll get you unstrapped in just a minute."
The ambulance is a long, noisy van. I am strapped down to a long, cushioned seat. The ambulance, to me, looks like my dad's first travel trailer, the one with all the good memories, long, narrow, and packed to the brim with whatever supplies the paramedics need to keep people alive while they are rushed to the hospital.
As far as I can tell, the seat goes from one end of the van to the other. And it isn't really a seat. It's more like a long, thin bed or couch.
I hate being all strapped in. I also feel nauseous from the ride. It had only been five minutes or less from St. Peters Hospital's emergency room to the Evaluation and Treatment Center up at BHR's headquarters but I had to sit backwards in the van and watching the world whizz past going backwards made me feel a little queasy and dizzy.
I feel like a caged animal. I've felt like one for twelve hours, maybe even longer. Time has escaped me. There is no way to tell time when you are locked away in a windowless room for twelve hours. In fact, I was so out of it that when the ambulance came to get me, I was rather shocked to see that the sun was still shining brightly and that the birds were singing their chorus of happy, carefree song as the day continued to unfold. I had thought it was much later. Before the stretcher had wheeled me outside, I had thought that I would be met with a black sky and some shining, playful stars and maybe even a little sliver of the moon, or maybe even a full moon. I had not been expecting to find a full-fledged day, still in bloom.
"Okay," the man says to me.
"I'm going to come around and unstrap you. Hang tight."
He walks slowly to my side of the van and unstraps the stretcher. It lurches to a steady speed as he pulls it out of the van. Still moving backwards. With a sigh, I squeeze my eyes shut and hope I manage to keep the microscopic bit of food that I have left in my stomach.
The sun is bright. Too bright. I'm glad that my eyes are closed and that the intrusive glare can't reach me. I want to kill the sun, would kill it without hesitation if I only knew how. I would blot it out of the sky forever and ever. So what if the world dies because the sun is gone. I don't care! I wish that it was nighttime. Nighttime is the best. The sun is gone, my eyes don't get poked and prodded by too bright of daylight, and all is finally quiet and peaceful in the world. I heave a sigh of relief when the sun glare suddenly disappears as the stretcher rolls noisily through a set of tall, heavy, unbreakable doors.
Not getting out anytime soon!
The doors lock. And away slips my freedom along with every ounce of dignity that I still have left. How did they manage to get out, I wonder?
The stretcher stops and the buckles are taken off of me.
"You are in good hands," the ambulance driver tells me.
"Thank you for cooperating. You were one of the easiest passengers I've had to deal with all day."
"You're welcome," I say. I'd like to thank him for the ride, thank him for not turning on the ugly, ear-shattering sirens on our way to the nuthouse because it would have totally done me in, the sound, you know, but right then, a gripping fear overcomes me and I find myself unable to say anything more.
Oh Chrissie, where are you?
Oh Nevaeh, where are you?
Oh Smm Smm, where are you?
Oh Bryan, where are you? I need you more than ever and quite possibly more than the rest of them. Where, oh where, are you?
Oh dear Satan, Mary Meyers, where are you?
Where have you all gone?
Oh, dear Satan, my wicked, unholy father, where are you? Why have you forsaken me?
Minnie May sneers at me from a corner of the room. Her voice is sweet like honey and it sounds like my mother. I shiver.
"Go away!" I yell.
"Not a chance," Minnie May says and twitches her little whiskers gleefully.
Oh, how could they have let her escape? HOW?!!!!! And to think that she managed to get out from a tiny hole in the wall behind her TV, a hole that nobody even knew she could fit through. The hole was for the TV so that it could get better reception and reach all of the surrounding satellites. But how on Earth did she manage to escape? And why wasn't anyone watching?
She has only been out for 19 hours and my world has come crumbling down, just like the World Trade Centers on 911.
Firm, strong hands clasp my arms, which are swinging rapidly, trying to keep the ever present Minnie May at bay.
"I won't hurt you."
It's the security guard. Swiftly he begins to lead me down a long, narrow hallway. He is in a hurry to get me through the next set of doors because he just witnessed me yelling at an unseen being to go away.
Only it isn't an unseen being. Just a minute ago, it was right in front of my face, mocking me, taunting me, hoping to twist the last screw in my head loose so that I would really lose it and have to be put in restraints. The only problem is, I am the only one who can see her. And that's because the bunny wants ME! I am her target and she will stop at nothing to get what she wants, my ultimate demise.
We walk to another set of doors. They are open and we are greeted by another man.
"Come right in," he says, a very thick accent to his voice.
"There you go," the security guard says and gives me a shove, not unkindly but just enough of a shove to keep me moving, towards the man and the impenetrable doors.
The man grabs my hand and we walk through the doors.
The doors slowly but purposefully close in on us.
There is definitely no escape now. If I thought I was trapped before, I know for certain that I am now.
"Are you hungry?" the man with the thick accent asks me.
"Um, I guess so," I say, though the last thing I am feeling right now is hungry. But I should be hungry. I haven't eaten since early, early this morning and, just minutes before the ambulance took me, my stomach had been growling in protest, demanding that food be put into it at once. So yeah, I MUST be hungry, right?
"You need to be evaluated first and then you will be fed," the man says. His voice is gentle and kind. The fear loosens its death grip on my chest, making it possible to take in a deeper breath.
The evaluation takes forever. I'm glad for it, though, because, before too long the gut wrenching, heart thumping fear quickly turns to irritation and then fury as the questions keep coming at me in twos, fours, sixes, and eights. Question after question after question assaults me. I want to reach over and strangle the little bitch who's interrogating me. I want to squeeze, squeeze, SQUEEZE until every ounce of air has left her body and she is nothing more than a black and blue corpse, ready to be taken down to the morgue where she will be burned for her utter audacity to insult my pride and dignity and turned into nothing more than dust mites and ashes and then forgotten about by society and eventually even her own family. That is, if she even has a family who gives a rip about her.
Oh wait, that's right! My dignity is outside, enjoying the picturesque view of the hospital parking lot. What was I thinking?
I laugh out loud.
"Is there something funny Miss Levcun?" the interrogator asks me.
"No, nothing really," I tell her. But I think to myself You're lucky to still be sitting calmly in front of me talking. I could have your head on a platter in seconds if I wished.
When the evaluation is finally over, I am excused. I walk out into a long, practically furnitureless hallway where tons of commotion is going on. It hurts my ears and my head. It makes me murderously angry. Good thing they took away all of my sharp stuff or this place, these PEOPLE making all this goddamn mother fucking noise, would be massacred in seconds!
The room is so loud because there is no carpeting whatsoever to flush out some of the noise. And the lack of furniture surely doesn't help.
"Come on Ashlee," the man with the accent calls to me.
"Come on here to the kitchen. It's time for you to eat something."
"Where are you?" I ask him. I have been robbed of my cane. Supposedly it is being held hostage in some locker inside the hospital but who really knows. Will I ever see it again? Who knows.
"I'm over here," he calls
"She is blind," another staff person, a woman tells him.
"You're going to have to come over to her and guide her."
"Oh, okay," he says and slowly, he ambles over to me.
"Can you see me at all?" the man asks.
"Yes," I say, feeling grateful that I have some useful vision in my left eye to track him. If I didn't, I'd totally be screwed in this hellhole of a place where recovery and wellness is supposedly possible to obtain.
The man starts walking and I follow him. I'm pretty certain that there aren't any stairs in this building but, just to make sure, I slide my feet across the smooth, linoleum floor. And that's where I find the hump.
"Whoa!" I say and slow way the hell down.
"Are you okay?" the man says, looking behind him to see whether or not I'm still following behind.
"Yeah, it's just the floor. It's uneven here. Are there any more humps here?"
"Just a little bit more," he says.
"The linoleum's coming up in places here. They're supposed to fix it soon."
Still sliding my feet, I make my way to the kitchen. Eventually, the floor levels out again and I take more confident strides, trying to catch up to the fast walking gentleman ahead of me. Making up for lost time! My stomach growls and I know I'm doing the right thing.
A hot, plastic TV dinner tray is handed to me. I explore it curiously with my hands and discover that the top of the tray is covered with plastic that must be peeled off in order to get to the good stuff inside. As my hands travel over the plastic, I wonder whether I'll be privileged enough to get some silverware tonight. After all, I haven't really done anything to misbehave tonight. Don't I get a reward for that? Rewards are small and very few a part in this place, that I can see right off the bat, but being able to use some damn silverware would definitely brighten up my night and overall outlook on life.
"Here is a fork," the accented man tells me as he slides a plastic fork over the counter towards me.
"What would you like to drink?"
"Just some water, please," I tell him. My voice is quiet. I still feel very afraid. There is still way too much noise going on in the main room and it's making me both nervous and absolutely outraged all at the same time. Thank Satan I managed to sneak my earplugs in here!
It wasn't really all that hard really. When I went into the emergency room, one of the nurses, a friendly nurse, told me to take off everything but my underwear.
"It's for privacy, you know," she told me.
And that's where I got the idea. I can hide the earplugs in my underwear! They'll never know they're in there and that's ONE thing they can't and WON'T take away from me.
So, once the nurse had left the room, I carefully took the earplugs out of my socks, which I knew would be taken from me once I changed into the ugly, slippery hospital socks, and slid them behind my butt cheeks inside my underwear. And, sure enough, they never found out.
Carefully, I pick up my TV dinner, my plastic fork, and the plastic cup of water and walk slowly to the tables in the room, sliding my feet in case I run into more uneven ground.
"Are you having trouble walking?" one of the staff members asks me as I struggle to spot a table.
"No," I tell her.
"Oh, okay," she says, sounding relieved.
"It's just that you look like you're limping."
"No, I'm not limping," I say, feeling irritated all over again.
"I'm just sliding my feet so that I don't trip over all this uneven ground. And, I also have scoliosis, which makes my step a little uneven."
She is satisfied with this explanation and, thankfully, she moves on to hassle another patient. Sighing heavily, I find an empty table, the farthest I possibly can get from all the noise, sit down with a very heavy feeling inside and begin to peel the plastic off the tray, revealing the food for the evening. So far, it looks to be some kind of macaroni casserole with beef in it and warm, soggy apples. Not very appealing but, at this point, I'll eat just about anything. Except for those disgusting, mushy warm apples on the top corner of my measly little tray.