disassociation. mental health. question of reality. hospital.
“I’m not crazy! I’m not crazy!” C.J. screams pulling the red bright blanket over his head. The blanket that his mother brought for him from home was something familiar, snug, and safe. As soon as he covers his head with that blood of red, the world disappears and all the hands that are trying to grab onto him. ‘Snatching,’ he thinks. ‘They are snatching my brain for the experiments. I don’t want to be a lab rat.’
“I’m not crazy! I’m not crazy!” C.J. shouts again kicking the first hand that touches his feet. But the blanket does its magic and after a moment C.J. quiets down. The calm that the blanket paints over his nerves, like a miracle and just in time to return to an agreeable state and continue a civil consultation.
The impact is done, however, on the bystanders and stranglers who peeked out of their room at the last minute to note the echo of the commotion in the hallway. The screaming came from C.J.’s room, a common exchange between C.J. and his doctor.
The noise is quite vibrant this morning like a drill cutting through concrete. But it’s the magnetic field cutting through C.J.’s brain matter to get to the core of his secrets. ‘Secrets expelled!’ The loudest of C.J.’s thoughts come through. The machine gun keeps on expelling slugs as the shells lodge into his cranium. There is no getting out, only through the mouth, if only C.J. speaks. He knows that the only way that the secrets get expelled is when speaks.
“Keep quiet. Keep quiet,” He murmurs and continues saying everything twice. That’s the only way his brain registers the mission. The mission is to keep his secrets locked up deep, deep inside his brain-dungeon. That is how C.J. visualizes his brain; a dark cave with jagged rocks, filled with opaque syrupy liquid that keeps on trying to ooze out.
The blood-red blanket shelters him from what occupies his room, rather, who occupies space in his room. At the moment it’s C.J.’s doctor, but even the doctor’s presence is equivalent to the horror of thousand tiny mice scuttering on the floor. His biggest fear is seeing a mouse dangling above his head, or even seeing one on the ceiling in that mouse frozen stance that a mouse does. Petrifying.
“Truth is freedom. Truth is freedom.” The last of C.J.’s objections and he exhales heavily. It’s time, he thinks, to open himself up to the wounds. A country woe ballad playing in the background but that’s just in his head. The blanket drops to his side and then C.J. cocoons himself in it like beef in a taco. ‘Here I am,’ he finally reveals himself but he still cannot look. The eyelids closed tight, holding them tight as he can. ‘No peeking,’ he reminds himself but that’s not possible to keep and he stitches two words into a rhyme, “Refrain Game. Refrain Game.” Well, at least somewhat of a rhyme.
C.J. sits for a moment in silence and listens, knowing well that the doctor is sitting in the chair near the window waiting for him to make a move. C.J.’s first move and here it is as he uncurls his fingers from a fist and looks down at the sticker slightly crumbled in his palm. The sticker has a picture of a cat in a box with the words above the image read, “MAY YOU ALWAYS BE HAPPY AS A CAT IN A BOX.” C.J. smiles pondering at the quirkiness of the statement. One, how does C.J. measure cat’s happiness? Two, how does C.J. accomplish that level of happiness? But that’s not the matter of the moment. The doctor. His doctor. Dr. Nerva’s presence prevails as most important and C.J. finally looks up to examine the room and Dr. Nerva.
“Good morning, C.J.,” Dr. Nerva begins with his routine conversation.
‘Good morning. Good morning.’ Echoes in C.J.’s head and then the words melt into the volcanic lava, leaving Dr. Nerva’s greeting unanswered. But suddenly, C.J. snaps his fingers as if a light bulb has gone off in his head. “Yes. Yes.” He says recognizing the sunlight coming through the windows. “Morning. Morning.” Whether it’s good, that’s debatable.
“How are we doing today?” Dr. Nerva asks.
‘Doing. Doing.’ Once again, the words echo in C.J.’s head muted and muffled as if they have been said through a screen or a wall. “Leaky brain. Leaky brain,” C.J. answers. The prime real estate is his brain and it’s leaking, oozing out like overfilled guts. Too many words get to be the goo of scrambled eggs before the frying or baking. Before they solidify into something digestible. In the moment of clarity, C.J. snaps out of his oozing brain and back to rays haloing Dr. Nerva’s head. It’s been about a week since the grey clouds engulfed the sky and the rain ensued. But, spring without rain doesn’t foster rebirth. The boundless capacity of C.J.’s fascination of the beaming light from the outside once again stalls his concentration on the matter of conversation.
Dr. Nerva doesn’t believe in restraints to apprehend someone in his meddling season of complete loss of control or pushing someone in his subdued season of inner reflection where conversations lay difficult and with interruptions. So, Dr. Nerva lets C.J. elaborate on the matter of his leaky brain and the expulsion at C.J.’s pace. Also, they had this conversation plenty of times.
C.J. reconsiders and finally speaks with an eloquent flow, “I got new crayons. See,” he points to the pencil case on the side table. “And craft paper,” C.J. adds. “Rainbow colours.” He pauses momentarily and then continues, “I’m not crazy. Lapse of time, that’s all… I’m less frightened today… The blanket helps.” No, it’s not a choice. The lucidity comes and goes but only for a moment. The noise comes at times like a radio in a distance. Repeating things twice at times helps C.J. to hear and understand what is being said to him. The moment of his head submerged in the water and then he surfaces as if nothing happened and C.J. continues living in the tangible and coherent where words come through crystal clear without a shadow or mist. “When will this end?” C.J. asks determined to leave soon as this is a temporary stay. He read the papers and signed with that understanding.
“Maybe a month,” Dr. Nerva answers.
“Month is not enough,” C.J. says worriedly. That’s too soon.
“Let’s take it day-by-day then.”
C.J. likes that answer. ‘Day-by-day’. A motto he can live by. He has lived by it thus far. ‘Day-by-day.’
“Does it say I’m crazy?” C.J. points to the doctor’s notepad.
“Irregular, then?” C.J. smiles at his clever attempt to joke.
Dr. Nerva doesn’t answer.
“Remember, you asked me whether you’re real?”
“And whether colours have feelings… Yes. But distance and time don’t exist. My memories are fraud. All memories are fraud. If they don’t exist, how can they be true? Besides the breath underneath my bloody blanket. That’s blood. My fault.”
“You didn’t hurt anyone.”
“We’re all connected. If you hurt someone, I have hurt them, too. That’s how the plan works. Like the gears in a watch. Connected. Turning. Precipitating the other’s action. One moving part. If one is at fault, we are all at fault… But, I didn’t hurt anyone. You said. An innocent bystander.” C.J. diminishes his argument and gets back to the basics. Yes, he has done his homework and he reaches for his scribbles. The rectangles on the page are filled with blue ink. C.J.’s answers to another set of questions, tasks, goals. Here the fun hour begins. Let’s start with the first answer. “I’m not crazy.”
© Jacob Greb — 2022
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