Chapter 12 – Sunday, July 17th
She was lying flat on her back, staring at the ceiling. It was Sunday again, which meant they would swoop down on her, en masse, and the complaints and arguments over the total non-issue of ECT would start all over again.
The very idea of it made her so, so tired.
She'd gone through with it, the treatment, on Friday, and was just now starting to feel real again – not better – but finally coming out of the fog caused either by anesthesia, or by the ECT itself.
She had no memory of the treatment, which had worried her, but the nurses assured her that's the way it worked. She remembered walking to the surgical prep area, lying on a gurney in the hallway, having an IV put into her arm, and then… nothing until waking up here in this room on the fourth floor, groggy and confused. The rest of Friday faded in an out. She'd had a headache and slept a lot.
But overall, it hadn't been all that bad. Certainly didn't warrant the family drama it was creating.
Melanie had confronted Dr. B when she saw him Thursday morning, after most of the week had passed and nothing happened.
"How long are you going to keep me here? You haven’t sent me to ECT, and you haven't done anything with meds at all."
He'd looked at her in that implacable way he had, like he couldn't believe she was asking for a passing grade when she hadn't turned in her assignment. Trouble was, she had no idea what the assignment was.
"We'll do it tomorrow. Plan on being here another week or two."
"Are you kidding?" she'd asked. "I've never been inpatient that long. You can't keep me. Don't I have rights?"
He just kept looking at her like that.
"Melanie. You have post-traumatic stress disorder. Maybe a touch of bi-polar, a chemical imbalance probably caused by your trauma. You've been functioning lately by way of drugs and alcohol. Honestly? I can't see that you're safe enough for discharge right now. And I don't know if ECT will help you, but I don't think it'll hurt."
"You've got to be fucking kidding. My family is flipping out, pissed that I'd even consider it, and now you say it might not work?"
Dr. B just continued his steady, probing stare. "That's right. You did well for a long time. Years. When you finally tell us what's going on, we'll be able to help you."
"My mother died. Jesus. You know that."
Dr. B nodded, and his eyes grew kinder. "I know. I also know that you're losing your son because of your chemical use. I can see that you're depressed, but that's not what I'm worried about, not really."
"It's that you're barely here at all. You put on a good show, you might even be trying really hard to convince the nurses and staff. But most of the time, you're not in this world. Where are you?"
She didn't answer. She couldn't.
"Melanie? Did you put yourself back into that shed? Or somewhere better? Or somewhere even worse?"
She shook her head. She couldn’t talk about this. Pretty soon she was going to have to stop talking altogether.
"So, I'll have ECT tomorrow, then?" she asked, staring past him at the bathroom door, unable to meet his eyes.
Dr. B nodded his head, but still he waited, as if he thought she'd cave and tell him about something more shocking than electro-convulsive therapy.
"Okay, see you then." She'd rolled over in her bed to face the wall, putting her back to him, knowing he'd eventually go away.
She'd had the treatment Friday morning. It was fine, whatever. Nothing more spastic than the current forcing a seizure through her brain and limbs, noted only by the jerk of her big toe.
Today was Sunday, and they'd be coming.
She stared at the ceiling and waited.
There was a metal box fixed to the ceiling, and sometimes she forgot where she was and thought it housed a video camera. She shrank into herself, cold, afraid, and wishing she had clothes, or at least blankets.
She knew he watched her, that he was fascinated with the beautiful doll he'd locked into the little doll house. He'd told her that a hundred times, like he really believed it, and like it was really important that she believe it, too.
But he was lying. Or he was just plain crazy.
For one thing, doll houses had furniture – little beds and kitchens, rugs and curtains. Some of them even had toilets and sinks.
Here there was a light bulb on the ceiling next to the square metal box, it was harsh and bright and on all the time. There were no windows, just one green door, locked tight. There was a thin plastic mattress on the floor, and a yellow Tidy Cat bucket with a blue snap-lid in the corner, which he explained was the toilet.
She wasn't stupid. This was no doll house.
But it didn't matter. She was still his beautiful doll.
She blinked until the room came into focus. Bed, blankets, window, curtain, and sink. Faded blue carpeting. Tan walls, except for the one the head of the beds butted up against, which was a better blue than the carpet.
She heard her name, and realized it was the voice, Liz's voice, that had brought her back. She opened her eyes and forced a smile. "Hi," she said, and, "I was sleeping," although it wasn't sleep, not exactly.
It was more like waiting. In the shed.
Liz held a microwave container in one hand. The other was hidden behind her back. "I brought you lasagna."
"And?" Melanie asked. "What's in your other hand?"
Liz set the lasagna on a table that rested between the two beds, against the blue wall. She put both hands behind her back for a second, then held up the one that had been hidden. "What? This hand? Nothing."
Melanie rolled her eyes, but a flash of excited anticipation rolled through her, giving her stomach very faint butterflies, and making her toes curl. If she'd been on her feet, she'd have been impatiently dancing on her toes. Maybe the treatment had fixed her a little bit after all.
And yet… some part of her observed all this from a distance, like from a top corner of the room, or through a video camera hidden safely inside a square metal box. That part of her remained cynical – what could Liz have possibly brought into the hospital that would be worth this excitement, a bottle of whiskey? A pot brownie? Surely not.
Liz, laughing, withdrew the hidden prize with a flourish. "Look!"
She was holding a zip-lock freezer bag.
Melanie's jaw dropped, and a rush of pleasure raced from her throat to her belly.
Watermelon, and strawberries, and blueberries… bite-sized and glistening with fresh appeal, the gallon-sized bag bulging. Her mouth watered, and then she started to cry.
She couldn't even speak right away, her throat too tight with emotion.
Who but a sister would ever know?
Melanie raised her hands, helpless, and finally felt her throat open to let a laugh escape. A real laugh.
"You're the best sister in the whole, wide world," she managed to say as Liz handed her the bag of nirvana.
Addiction was a bitch. Melanie craved, and paced, and ate anything she could find, especially sweets. But the only thing that came even close to salving the need was this exact mixture of fruit.