I was found bleeding and unconscious in an alley. I had been stabbed and beaten left for dead in a heap of garbage. Now I stand here in a hospital gown staring into a little square mirror under the green tinged buzzing light. All I see is a stranger looking back at me. I wonder who that poor girl is and what happened to her. There is little to identify the stranger looking back at me. Hair jagged, cut down to the scalp. Bloody finger tips scrapped and worn down. Pulling down the hospital gown, I look at the red angry wound next to my heart. It’s not the only stab wound I have. I am nothing more than gruesome stitches and a fractured mind. I don’t remember who I am or where I came from. I have no idea why I was lying half dead in an alley. All this poor sad girl staring back at me has is a dark void until she woke up in a strange Seattle hospital. Everyone tells her how lucky she is to be alive. I think that is debatable.
The psychiatrist doesn’t tell me I’m lucky. Dr. Dan just asks me to talk about my feelings then he sits there and waits for me to speak.
“Well, let’s see Dr. Dan, just what the hell am I supposed to feel right now? I mean…I look in the mirror and I see a stranger staring back at me.”
“Describe this stranger to me. What do you see when you look at her?”
I don’t look at him. It is hard to put it all into words for him, but I tell him haltingly. “She looks hallow on the inside…empty grey eyes. Dark jagged hair and dry cracked lips. The wounds make her look like some crazy science project…I don’t know…her bones…they protrude from her neck and shoulders…she looks alone.” My voice if barely a whisper, “she is ugly.”
“Well the bruising is more yellowish instead of greenish, you are definitely healing. It that what you mean by (ugly), are you talking physically unattractive?” He looks at me expectantly waiting for me to elaborate on my thoughts. I just look at him shrug my shoulders and turn my head intent on some nonexistent speck on the wall across the room.
“When I look at her I get the feeling that she isn’t a good person. I feel like she has done bad things.”
Clearing his throat, Dr. Dan shifts I his seat and pushes his glasses up. “So how do these thoughts make you feel?”
Making eye contact with him for the first time, “I am fucking pissed. I feel like I want to break every damned thing in this hospital room, then I want to punch everyone in their fake smiling faces. I want to set this place on fire and watch it melt away in the flames. I want to make everything as unrecognizable as she is.” I don’t even notice the angry tears rolling down my cheeks until Dr. Dan passes a box of tissues to me. I wipe the tears away with angry swipes.
We talk like this for an hour or so going back and forth, Dr. Dan asking questions, me answering. My emotions are all over the place. One minute I am angry then sad, and then confused. Dr. Dan records our discussion on his phone and writes in his little notebook. Later he asks me what I am scared of.
I tell him, “I’m scared of what it means.” I stare at a spot on my blanket and pull at a loose string on the edge of the sheet.
“What do you mean, by (it)?” He jots something else down as he pushes his black rimmed glasses back up his nose.
“What (it) means is that I was left in a heap of garbage for dead!” My emotions are running high, over flowing now, and I am becoming more agitated. “I mean, what if I remember and I find out I was an awful person who was asking for it? What if I did bad things? What if I was a really bad person?” My emotions are stretched to their limit and my voice is small, weak. I feel weak. I am fragile, glass ready to shatter.
Dr. Dan sits and listens. His silence encouraging me to go on, “I think I would be lucky if I was the victim of some random act of violence, being in the wrong place and all that?”
“You consider it (lucky) if this was random, why?”
I am tugging on the blanket string harder, wrapping and un-wrapping it around the end of my finger, cutting off the blood and watching it turn purple then watching it turn pink again. “Well, if it isn’t random, then someone meant to do this to me. That means that they could still want me dead.”
“I think that is one avenue that the FBI has been exploring. They don’t know for sure.” He pushes his glasses back up again. I think it is a tick, pushing them up when they don’t need to be pushed. “Some of your wounds make them believe this may have been a personal attack.”
“How long have I been here?” I look up at him.
“Just a little over a month.”
“Has there always been an agent outside my door?” I peer around him to look at the man in a dark suite standing in the hallway looking around, pretending he isn’t eavesdropping on our whole conversation.
“No, that has just been since your picture was run on all the media outlets. Just a precaution.” He tells me this in an attempt to be reassuring. It isn’t helping.
“Don’t bullshit me.” My string is very important at the moment.
“I think they are trying to find out who you are. See if anyone can identify you. I won’t bullshit you, ever. With that said, they are probably just as interested in drawing out whoever hurt you.” He puts his notebook on the table and reaches for his phone to shut off the recording. “Do you have any other questions before we finish for the day?”
“I guess not. I don’t know what to ask.” All my pulling and twisting has broken my string. “The nurses can page me if you should decide you have questions. I will come back by on my rounds tomorrow.”
“When did they run my picture?”
“It was on the news a week after you arrived.” He turns and walks to towards the door.
I feel anger boiling to the surface now. “I suppose nobody has come for me?” Dr. Dan gives me a little sad smile and shakes his head in the negative. “Do you think that the reason nobody has claimed me is because the person who would look for me is the same person who did this to me?” My hands start shaking. I place them at my sides pushing them under my butt to keep them still.
“I guess that is one possibility. I couldn’t say for sure.” He shrugs a little.
“So did they announce to the world that I am awake and talking? That might draw him out…” I am still sitting on my hands and biting down on my bottom lip. The metallic taste of blood is filling my mouth, because my lips are cracked.
“No, they didn’t. Just that you were in critical condition, and then later, in a second news conference, they announced you were improving, in stable condition but still unconscious.” Dr. Dan leaves the room closing the door softly behind him.
My head is splitting and I am full of confusing emotions that have no place to go. The nurse brings me my meds and I go to sleep. Sleep comes with vague shadows of a man standing in a doorway watching me. He is tall with a toboggan, but I can’t pull his facial features out of the shadows. He is reaching for me but I don’t want to go.
My next session with Dr. Dan leaves me struggling again. I guess that is the purpose of psychotherapy right? His sessions leave me drained and exhausted. I lay there for a while in my room with the door open. I see agent Carson standing in the hallway. He is young looking in comparison to the other agents they have had posted outside my door.
“Hey.” I wave at him. He waves back then pretends he wasn’t staring at me and looks down the hallway. I know I probably look frightening, my hair has started growing but it is still a messy business. I can only imagine what I look like, no makeup, bruises, crappy hair, and the scars. I am definitely something of an oddity, stare worthy most definitely. I have scars down my arm and next to my heart. I have others but those are the places people can see when I don’t work to cover them. I am sitting in my bed in a pair of scrubs right now. They are purple and about two sizes too big but I guess I can’t complain. I could have one of those horrible hospital gowns to wear. The nurses have begun to warm up a little, they are actually very nice and they started bringing me some of their old clothes and scrubs to wear a couple of weeks ago. The scrubs are the most comfortable to hang around in my hospital room.
Carson moves a chair over to the door way and sits with his back against the wall with his foot crossed over his knee. His hands are clasped in his lap and he leans back and relaxes a little bit. It’s late and the hospital is quiet. I motion for him to come into the room. He looks at his watch then up and down the hallway, probably making a mental note for some report he has to do on his night at my door. He gets up and straightens his sleeves on his jacket as he walks into the room.
“Is there something I can do for you miss?” He doesn’t address me by name, I don’t have one, and to him I am probably just a case number.
“Do you play cards?” I sit up in the bed and grab a deck of cards that someone left for me. He looks at me a little cautious, a little confused.
“Yes. I can play cards, depending on the game.”
“Someone left these cards and I don’t know any card games. I was hoping you might be able to teach me one. I don’t sleep much and I don’t like taking the medication to sleep, it makes me feel fuzzy. I feel fuzzy enough without it…you know.”
He looks at me for a second then looks back at the hallway. “I shouldn’t but I think a few hands shouldn’t be a problem.” He pulls up the chair next to the bed and slides the adjustable table between us. Taking the pack of cards from me he opens them and pulls out all the jokers, and begins shuffling the deck. “Did you have a particular game in mind?”
“No. Anything will be fine.” I get myself positioned cross legged on my hospital bed.
I was better prepared for Dr. Dan when he came by during his rounds. I had some questions. I need to know where to go from here. What am I supposed to do today, tomorrow, the next day? Dr. Dan said to consider this a “Do Over” for my life. Dan says it doesn’t matter what the past was, what I might have done. I can make anything out of my future. I have a unique opportunity to start over and begin fresh.
“Who am I that I deserve this “Do Over”?”
“You are a very strong young woman who has come out on the other side of a tragedy. You can do anything. There are infinite possibilities for you. I don’t think we will find the meaning of life or a definitive answer to what the future holds for you in just a few sessions. I think it is a process. It is going to take some time to become accustom to things as they are. Your memory could return all at once or it might come back in spurts, here and there. Worry and anxiety are not going to help it return. Actually those things can hinder your recovery. We will continue to meet and talk and you will eventually start to feel more comfortable, even better.” I don’t think he understands that positivity is not my strong point.
Before he leaves me, he drops a sketchbook and a box of colored pencils on my table. “What is this for?” I pick it up and flip the pages. They are all blank, like me.
“I think it would be therapeutic if you journal and or draw every day. This will help you to organize your thoughts for our next session.”
“Great. Homework.” I give him one of the fake smiles I keep getting from the social workers, FBI agents, and awkward nurses that don’t have a clue what to talk to me about. He chuckles as he exits my room. I roll over for my afternoon cat nap. Not a whole lot to do when you are trapped. Even if I wasn’t physically trapped by this hospital and the man outside my door…what the hell would I do? I fall into another fit of sleep. The man with the toboggan is there again. He is touching my face but I can’t see his face. His fingers are cool but soft. He just sits there and watches me. He never speaks.
When I wake, there are people in my room whispering, I keep my eyes closed. I don’t know why, I just don’t trust anyone or anything around me. I listen to their hushed conversation. The conversation is about me, what my doctors have said and what my prognosis it. Then their voices are too low, I can’t hear much until they start discussing the possibility of me regaining my memory. Something about traumatic brain injuries and getting pieces of memory but unlikely to gain all of my memory back are just a few of the snippets that float over the sound of the air blowing from the vent under my window. Truth is, I may never have a full picture of my past. With that thought, why do I really want it, if it’s nothing but half images and no connecting threads?
The woman asks the FBI agent if they have any new information. I can’t hear it all, but they say something about questions for me. The FBI agents make me nervous. I don’t want to talk to them again. I feel like I’m the criminal, I feel like I am being interrogated. I thought they were supposed to be helping me. I get the distinct impression they aren’t really interested in helping me, but I don’t understand why.
Rolling over to make some noise to remind them I am present. They both turn to me with those fucking fake smiles on their faces. I want to punch them in their fake faces. The rest of my evening is filled with a barrage of questions. I am asked the same questions repeatedly. They want to do something called a cognitive interview. I refuse. They are just looking for holes in my story. I am sure there are plenty, I can’t remember anything. I guess they think I could be faking the swelling on my brain?
They are irritating me. My head can’t take any more. They need to go. I’m done with the constant questioning. My head is pounding and I feel like I am going to suffocate. My chest is getting tight and my breathing is becoming strained I need them to leave.
“I can’t think about this anymore!” I scream at them. “Get the fuck out! Get the fuck out! Get out of my fucking room! All of you leave!” Oh shit that really did hurt. Fucking hell, yelling makes my brain hurt! They leave with dissatisfaction tattooed across their faces.
All the questions they have for me, it brings things to just below the surface of my brain. Like the details are trapped behind smoke and glass. I know they are there. Answers lie just behind the smoke, so close but something blocks me. I am frustrated. Scared of the things I can’t see behind the wall. I lay on my bed, angry tears of frustration just rolling down my face until I am in a fit of uncontrollable sobbing. I am lost to the wracking sobs. I know the nurses have come in but I can’t respond when they speak to me. I cry even harder, paralyzed by grief. I am grieving and I don’t even know what I lost. I lost me, but I can’t tell what part of me is missing. My heart is splitting, ripping, shredding down the middle. I hold my hands to my chest trying to hold it in, trying to hold it together.
The pain in my hip is welcome. Clinging to the burn of the medication as I drift into oblivion, I float and then the man comes in my dreams. He is whispering to me, trying to get me to drink water. I feel him hold my head up and the straw touches my lips. I must be crying because he is holding me whispering, shushing me. The next morning I wake up feeling like shit, a narcotic hangover and dreams that are as confusing as my reality. Carson is sitting in the chair next to my bed. He sees I am awake. He looks exhausted. He leaves without speaking a word.