Chapter Two: The First Night Is Always the Strangest
The evaluation wasn't as
long as he thought it would be. It took about two hours, but he had assumed (judging
by the wad of papers) that it would take much longer. Then they had left, and
he was alone again. He waited all day for them to take him upstairs to the ward. He hoped that William would come back, and take him out of here, but as day turned
to night, he let go of that hope.
After an entire day without
visitors, there was a knock at his door. It was Dr. Rothman.
"Hi, Harry. How are you doing?" He asked, pleasantly.
"It's about frickin time. What took so long?"
"Well, we had to make sure
there was a bed available, and I had to fill out a mountain of paperwork, and it took a little longer than I expected. I apologize."
"Um…is there any
way you could send me back to London for treatment? I would rather be close to
home for all this," Harry asked timidly.
Dr. Rothman looked at him
with nothing but kindness. "I'm sorry, but I can't do that. The more you cooperate upstairs…that is, the more you talk to your doctors and help them to figure
out what caused you to try to kill yourself, the sooner you'll be able to leave. I
have a friend in London who I spoke to today, and he said he'd be more than happy to see you once you're out. But, in the meantime, you need to be admitted."
Harry nodded, suddenly
feeling the urge to cry. "Will I be staying here, or at another hospital?"
"You'll be staying upstairs,
in the adolescent ward on the…21st floor, I believe. A nurse
will be in to give you another gown, and then take you upstairs, ok?" Harry nodded
again. He didn't want to speak. He
was afraid he would burst into tears if he did. There was one question he needed
to ask, however.
"Did you speak to my brother?"
"Yes I did. I told him what the plan was and that it would be a good idea for him to bring you some clothes tomorrow." Harry nodded. "So, I guess I will see
you upstairs then."
The doctor left the room. Harry's thoughts began to wander. Maybe
I am crazy. Maybe they just want to stop my from staining the family name, as
if such a thing were possible. But, dammit, family is sacred. They're always preaching to me that family is sacred no matter what.
So why put me here? His thoughts were interrupted by a nurse who walked
in, two gowns in hand.
"You need to change into
these gowns before we go upstairs," she said as she put them down on the bed. "Let
me know when you're ready."
He looked at the gowns
at the foot of his bed. He rolled his eyes, grabbed them, and headed to the bathroom
to change. He soon realized why there were two gowns. No matter what he did, one gown just wasn't going to cover it. They
have him the second gown to cover the part of his body left uncovered by the first.
He walked out to the hallway
and scanned the nurses station for the nurse he had just spoken to. He found
her, but she was absorbed in a conversation with another nurse. "Umm…excuse
me? EXCUSE ME?" He said loudly.
The nurse rolled her eyes,
and looked at him. "What?" she said obnoxiously.
"You said to let you know
when I was ready. Well, I'm ready."
"Give me ten minutes,"
she said, and she turned back to her conversation.
Well, I didn't know that
patients were that much of a nuisance, he thought bitterly. He went back into
his room and just as he got ready to sit down, the nurse burst through the door, wheeling a wheelchair behind her.
"All right, let's go."
He climbed into the wheelchair, and adjusted the footrests so his knees were comfortable bent.
The nurse pushed him, and they were off down the corridor.
The hall was brightly lit,
but the dull color of the beige paint seemed to negate the effect of cheerfulness. They
stopped in the middle of two rows of elevators. Harry just realized that the
hallway was deserted, and he had the urge to ask why. But he couldn't speak. The farthest elevator on the right side opened its doors. The nurse ran to catch it, pushing Harry along very quickly. They
approached the elevator, and it was almost packed. There was no way a wheelchair
was going to fit. But somehow, the nurse managed to squeeze herself, and the
wheelchair into the crowded elevator.
It was dark in there. It was in stark contrast to the hallway he had just left. The elevator was dimly lit, and the wall was wood paneled. Everybody
seemed to hold their breath as the elevator made its agonizingly slow journey to the top of the building. The doors opened. Painted on the corridor wall was a big brown
'15'. Half of the people in the elevator got off, and no one got on to take their
places. Finally, some breathing room, he thought.
The elevator stopped on the next four floors, and then it was empty. It
was just him and the nurse, heading up two more floors to the 21st.
The doors groaned as they
opened. This hallway was white and brightly lit, as the other had been. But there was something different. Ah…there's
a sunshine yellow trim. Ugh, he thought to himself. They walked down a short hallway, made a turn, ten walked down another, turned again, and continued to
walk. At the end of the hall, there were blue double doors. There was a picture that looked as if it was painted by someone under the age of three. It said "21 West." The nurse pushed a button that caused a
buzz on the other side of the doors. A woman came to the door, but instead of
just opening it as Harry thought she would, she took out her keys and unlocked three locks.
Harry's mouth fell open. Why would she do that, he thought. Are they that dangerous?
"Hi Tina. This is Harry, he's the new patient."
"Come on in. Just go in that room, hon." Harry went into the room as told. It was a conference room. There were
two tables that were right next to each other, as if to make one large table. There
was a conference phone in the center of it. Tina came into the room with a bag
and a wad of papers.
"Oh God, not again," Harry
"She laughed. "Yeah, this is what we have to fill out in order to register you.
So I'll give you this sheet," she handed him a sheet with the basics (name, address, phone number, etc), "and I'm gonna
ask you some questions while you fill it out." I better put Highgrove down. But what should I use as my name? He
chuckled. He couldn't figure out his own name.
Harry Wales you idiot, he thought. Harry Wales, just write it down. "OK, any allergic reactions to any medications?"
"None that I know of."
"Do you need religious
services? Do you go to church on Sundays and such?"
"Do you have a special
diet? Are you a vegetarian or anything like that?"
"Do you have thoughts of
hurting yourself right now?" This was a tough one. He hadn't thought about it. If he wasn't thinking about it,
it didn't really bother him. But when he was thinking about it…he nodded
gently. "Yes," he said meekly.
"Do you hear or see things
no one else does?"
"No." This sort of questioning went on for almost an hour.
"OK," she said as she gathered
all the papers that were now splayed out on the table. She picked up the bag
and handed it to him. "Here, this is your stuff from the room you were in downstairs. I need you to open the bag and go through everything for me." Seeing his slightly puzzled look, she added, "Just left out each thing in the bag, and I'll stop you when
I need to."
He began by lifting his
pants out of the bag. She stopped him, "No belts." She pulled the belt from the loops. Then he lifted his shirt. She stuffed her hand into the pocket. Then
he lifted his shoes. "Take out the shoelaces," she said matter – of –
"Two reasons: One, you're
going to be on one-to-one, and two, shoelaces are not allowed on this ward. He
just stood there, looking alternately at the nurse and his shoes. Which question
should I ask first? He thought.
"What's one-to-one?" He
asked as he pulled his shoelaces free.
"There is going to be someone
who will be watching you, basically. They need to record where you are every
"And why am I getting this
"Because you told me you
were thinking of hurting yourself. This is to be sure you don't. Now come with me so I can give you some essentials." She walked
to the door and held it open for him. He walked out and waited just outside the
door. He looked at the clock that was behind the nurses station, suddenly aware
that he was beyond caring what time it was.
Across from the nurses
station, there was a large room with a lot of chairs and people who were watching TV; at least they were pretending to watch
TV. Some of them were staring curiously at the new guy. For the first time since the whole ordeal had begun, he felt a twinge of fear. He was actually afraid of the other patients.
"OK, come on in here,"
she said as she led him into a closet, literally. IT had shelves that were full
of hideous hospital clothes (white with blue spots or blue with dark blue spots), something that resembled towels (though
they weren't terrycloth), boxes of combs, bottles of shampoo and lotion, toothbrushes, and empty boxes. The nurse took an empty box down from its shelf.
"This big one is a towel…doesn't
look like it though does it?" He looked at her, and realized what she was trying
to do. It was a joke. A bad joke,
but it was a joke nonetheless. She was trying to lighten the moment. It was a really depressing and scary thing to be checked into a psychiatric clinic, and anything that could
make the situation a little more bearable was a good thing.
He chuckled and nodded
at her comment. She smiled, glad she could make him laugh. "And this smaller one is a washcloth. This box…" she
said as she threw shampoo, lotion, and a comb in, "is your shower box. This is
where all your stuff for shower time is. And the boxes are locked in here, so
if you need anything from it, you'll need to let me or one of the other nurses know."
She ushered him out of the closet and left it open behind her. "You'll
be staying in this room," she said pointing to the first door down the hallway.
He walked into the room. "This is your bathroom, with a shower and everything.
You just missed shower time, so I suggest you take a shower and get ready for bed.
You're not allowed to close the door to the room because you're on one-to-one,
If you need anything, you can ask any of the nurses, OK? All right, I'll
leave you to it, then." She turned on her heels and left. He sighed heavily. OK, I might as well take a shower.
He went into the bathroom,
and closed the door behind him. He started the water, trying to find a balance
between hot and cold. But there wasn't much of one. It was hot and cold spurts. Oh, well, he thought. He pulled the hospital clothes off his body and climbed into the shower, attempting to cleanse himself
of his present ordeal.
When he came out of the
bathroom (opting to wear the blue pajamas with the dark blue spots), everyone was in their rooms. There was a nurse with a clipboard sitting outside his room. The
girl in the room next to his was standing at the doorway waiting. She was wearing
what was obviously pajamas, and her hair was dyed blonde. She was short, but
the way she carried herself more than made up for it. "You're new," she said,
interested in who the new patient was.
"Yeah. I'm Harry."
"Jennifer. You aren't from around here, are you?" she said, sitting down on the floor.
He followed suit.
"Is it that obvious?" He blushed.
"Well, your accent kind
of gives you away," she said laughing.
"I'm from England."
"What are you doing in
New York then? You on vacation or something?"
"I guess it started as
something like that. Are we waiting for something?"
"Yeah, before bed we have
snack time. But we need to be in our rooms so they can give out meds first."
"Snack time? Doesn't that end with nursery school?"
She laughed. "Don't knock it. You're not allowed to have food in your room
so this is to prevent you from getting hungry during the night."
"Is there a schedule or
"Oooooooo yeah. They wake us up at six…notice there are no light switches," she pointed to the empty light switches
outside their rooms. "They think that they could be used as weapons or something
and they don't want that, so they use their keys to turn on the lights. Anyways,
then they take us up to the room. But you won't be able to go cuz it has to be
2 days before you can go up, not to mention the fact that you're on one-to-one. But
then at 8:30 there's breakfast. Then they give us meds and we fill out our menus
and goal sheets. Then we have community meeting.
That's where you'll be introduced to everyone on the ward, staff and all. Then
it's school, exercise, lunch, school again, then quiet time, which is when we do homework but you can sleep then too if you
want. The rest of the day we sort of play it by ear. Some days we have groups, others we just chill in the rec room."
"Cool. I saw the TV…do you have cable here?"
"Yeah, but I must warn
you…all we watch is BET around here. If you aren’t into hip hop or
R&B, you're pretty much fucked."
People started to come
out of their rooms. Jen and Harry followed suit.
the new guy?"
"This is Harry. Harry, this is Mack; also known as 'the Rev' around here."
"Nice to meet you," Harry
said, somewhat shocked at the masculine appearance of the girl.
American are you?" Mack asked.
Harry went to answer her,
but was interrupted when he heard Jen yell, "Y'all, lay off the new guy's accent, OK?"
"Thank you for the announcement
Jen, now will you wait here a little more quietly?" a very exasperated nurse, whose nametag read "Lucy," said.
"Sorry, Luce," Jen said,
The rest of the patients
got a good laugh out of the announcement though. They all walked into the small
cafeteria and sat down. Harry followed Jen and Mack to their table. Then the nurses unlocked the kitchen door and went into the refrigerator and began to take food out. All of it had been labeled with the patients' names on their pieces. For those who didn't have their own food, there were cookies…and not very good ones at that, Harry
soon realized. But it didn't matter because everyone was trading with each other.
"Want some Oreos? Because those suck," Jen asked him. He
laughed and nodded with a desperate look on his face. Jen laughed at him. She has a beautiful laugh, he thought. Good
God…I'm in here and I'm STILL thinking about picking up girls. This is
not the place to do this, he scolded himself.
Then the nurse started
calling out names. "Mack…did you meet your goals today?"
"Yeah," Mack said unenthusiastically,
rolling her eyes.
"Jen…what about you?"
"Um hmm," Jen replied through
a mouth full of Oreos.
The nurse did this with
every other patient in the room. The patients all sat there, some staring at
Harry. Others stuffing their faces. Some
lost in conversation with each other. After a while, the nurse said, "OK guys…back
to your rooms so we can get back to the rec room." Everyone grudgingly got up. Some sat their stuffing cookies and chips and god only knows what else into their
mouths with more momentum then before, but eventually got up and left. Harry,
Jen, and Mack all left together.
"So what's happening now?"
"We just have to go wait
in our rooms for a few minutes before they let us back into the rec room," Mack told him.
"So let me ask you something…how
did you get here?" Jen asked him. Harry looked at her studying her face. They reached their rooms and they stood in the doorways. I guess I can trust her, the thought. I mean, what reporter
could get me in here?
"I tried to kill myself…"
"Mind if I ask why?"
He thought about it, but
decided that now wasn't the time. "let me put it this way…if I told you,
I'd have to kill you," he said with a smirk.
She smiled back. "OK, when you're ready to talk, I'll be here." For some reason, he took comfort in that thought.