by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
Janine’s phone was off. It was never off. I only found out because eventually her father answered the house phone.
“She cut her wrists with a knife or razor blade or something. Anyway, she’s fine she just needs some time away from everything.”
I could have crushed his frail ribs with my fists. That naïve–
“Where is she?”
I didn’t care to filter my anger. Sometimes reality forces its hand despite our best efforts.
“At the BMC”
I hung up. No more wasted breath.
I walked in the front entrance of the institution where crazy lived. Outside crazy was called normal. Inside it smelled like rubbing alcohol. In the waiting room, everyone’s hair was shiny and thick. The bags under their red eyes reminded me of how I felt every morning.
I walked up to the plate-glass window and spoke softly.
“Is there a Janine Ibsen here?”
“Yes, may I ask who is asking?”
I faltered. I imagined one of her parents requesting to see her and the nurse saying, “you’ll have to wait until her boyfriend is out.” I chose the path we had already paved.
“A good friend.”
“One moment, please.”
Janine and I had been dating for over a year, but the situation felt so foreign.
“Put this on, walk through the double doors all the way down the hall and when they ask for a number tell them 0147.”
I put the fluorescent green sticker on my shirt and walked. I thought about what I might see when I found patient 0147. Jesus! It’s Janine. I almost vomited at that thought. I pictured her feigning a frown at me after one of my farts. I really got a kick out of that. I should have treated her like a lady. Then I thought about her tiny wrists looking like raw hamburger meet. I reached the locked doors and the buzzer spoke.
“Patient number please.”
“Um, hold on.” Shit. “Oh yeah, 0-1-4-7.”
The buzzer sounded and I jumped at the door.
Janine’s mother was crying in the hall. She looked up and came over to hug me.
“It’s okay.” I said hugging her back.
I felt awkward for telling such a bold lie. I knew how she was feeling but I didn’t give a shit. Her sadness started to make me angry and I asked her where Janine was. She didn’t answer.
“Can we pray together?” I ignored her and walked to the nurse’s station.
“Which room is patient 0147 in?”
Why give me the fucking number?
“She’s in room 31 down the hall on the left.”
I thanked her and started down, passing her mom, I heard her again.
“Can we pray together?”
What the fuck was pressing our hands together supposed to do? I picked up my pace acting as if I was anxious to see Janine. The pounding in my chest told me I wasn’t acting. Sometimes reality really has a way of forcing its hand.
I took a deep breath and knocked softly with one knuckle. I didn’t wait for an answer. I brushed the door open. Their she sat, in a chair with her arms bandaged and facing upwards. Her black curly hair twisting all around her head. Her eyes squinting slightly, shifting back and forth. She looked as if she were trying to solve life’s mysteries. I melted.
I walked over and sat on the bed next to her chair.
“I love you. How are you?”
I had asked this question in passing to thousands of people but for the first time I meant it.
She answered slowly. I was aware of my silence and touched her leg. She looked up at me, then right back down at the floor before making her thoughts audible.
“All of the questions are just distractions. The deeper the question, the cleverer the distraction. What’s on TV? What should I wear? Who am I? Is there a God? If life were just a fart, would death be the wind?”
A burst of air shot through my nose. I squeezed her leg and realized that I had never loved anyone more.
I just read this. I’ve read it before. But this time it made me cry.