I was escorted into a small, white room by an emotionless face in a white coat. Before I could even turn around, the big, heavy door was closed and, click, locked from the outside. With a defeated sigh, I began to take in my surroundings. White walls, white tile floor, white ceiling with a bright fluorescent light, a thin white blanket and a small white pillow placed in the corner. I walked the perimeter of the small room, running my shaking hands carefully over the walls. No windows but the one looking out to the hallway- the one they’d use to watch me…whoever “they” may be. No doorknob on the inside. No way out. I noted the smeared handprints up the wall and closed my eyes, sympathizing with all the poor souls who has been locked in that room before me. Those who, too, realized they were trapped and at the mercy of an unfeeling population of people who thought of you as little more than an inhuman burden on society. I slowly spread out my fingers and matched my handprint with one of my predecessors. The stranger and I were suddenly one…one single being united under the horrors of this torturous imprisonment. The room became a spinning white blur and I fell to my knees, fighting to keep in what little I ate for lunch. No way out. No way out.
Once the spinning ceased, I crawled to the corner and slowly began to lay out the crumpled blanket. On it were stains of brown, black and yellow. It reeked of metal and a scent I couldn’t quite put my finger on…but at that point, I was too numb to care. I curled up in a tight, shaking ball and pulled the blanket over me. I couldn’t believe I was there again. There- at the Crisis Center- a place I prayed I’d never have to think about again, never mind be held prisoner. Prisoner. That’s exactly what I was- a prisoner once again. But this time? There was nothing to set my sights on. No people to turn to who understood me and who loved me for who I was. No fuzzy chicks that warmed your heart and fell asleep in your hands. No fishing at the peaceful farm, casting all your cares into the still water. No screaming in the car, releasing pent-up anger and worry until you could breathe again. No sitting on the floor in pjs until two am, working to make sense of the world and all it holds. No more laughing until we cried or crying until we laughed. No more heartfelt hugs or empathetic eye-contact. No more inside jokes. No more happy music. No more family. There was no light at the end of the metaphorical tunnel…no. Not this time. I could feel it in every fiber of my being.
Before I knew what was happening, hysterical and unyielding shrieks began to escape my mouth. I pressed the dirty blanket to my lips and screamed until I could scream no longer. At some point, someone switched off the light…from the outside, of course, and I was left there in the darkness of the strange, square room.
Eventually, the screaming ceased. I carefully pulled the blanket away from my mouth, rolled over, and caught my reflection in the light above. I stretched out my arm and tried to touch the face staring back at me. She did the same. Hot, salty tears ran down the sides of my face, soaking the pillow, and she cried with me. We looked at each other for a while. She had a sad, distant look in her eyes…alive on the outside, but dead in spirit. With a heavy heart, I realized that the broken girl in my reflection was all I had left. I whispered goodnight and turned to face the wall.
I don’t remember falling asleep, but I know that I must have, because before I knew it, the girl that once kept me company was replaced by a bright light. Remembering where I was, I groaned and threw my tired arms over my eyes. I felt like I had been hit by a bus…and I wished that I had been.
Knock, knock. In entered a woman wearing bright purple scrubs and big purple earrings. She handed me what I guess was supposed to be breakfast and told me I was going to be transported within the next half hour. I sat up quickly.
She shrugged, handed me a plastic spoon, and closed the heavy door behind her. The smell of the contents of the plastic food tray filled the room, turning my stomach. I pushed it away and rolled back into my make-shift bed. All I could do at that moment was pray with all that I had in me that I would be brought back to Moses Cone. At least there I would know what to expect of them and they would know what to expect of me. In a sick sort of way, the nurses, technicians, and counselors there at Moses Cone were my family- Ms. Denise…Ms. Janine…Mr. Jim…Ms. Michelle…Ms. Lorrie…Ms. Bonnie…Ms. Amber…Ms. Janay- the only family I had left. I lied there, praying, waiting for the fateful knock at the door.
Finally, a policeman entered and said, “Someone is here to transport you to the hospital.”
“Moses Cone?” I demanded in a voice I hardly recognized.
“Yeah, I think that’s what they said.”
Tears of relief sprang to my eyes as I got up and followed him out the door- out of my cell- into the hallway. There stood a police woman, blonde ponytail, gray uniform. I put my wrists out in front of me and looked at her.
She laughed and looked me in the eyes. Wait, in the eyes? She could see me? My heart did a little leap. She could see me!
I gave as much of a smile as I could muster to woman taking out the handcuffs- the first person who treated me like a human since my arrival there.
“All right, let’s go.”
(Written August 2012)