Grandiose 16

“Elizabeth, what are you doing?!” Barbara screams at me. I keep my eyes closed, shivering, as she vigorously dries me off with a white towel. It feels like sand paper against my skin and I cringe at the touch of it.

            “It seems she needs more help than I thought,” I hear Kauffman say with a sigh. I pretend not to have heard him. I have been pretending many of things lately. Sometimes I imagine myself back in London helping mum with dinner while we laugh about silly things. Other times I think about Henry locked in that room strapped to a wheelchair. Nevertheless, reality creeps in like a cold breeze on a summer day and I find myself in my padded white room, alone.Image

Barbara quickly helps me put on my institution issued blue patient uniform. As she guides me out of the room, I slip a weak smile at Kauffman. He doesn’t smile back rather just nods his head. That’s when I notice Victoria and Demetrius walking about the grounds from the open window right behind Kauffman. They are holding hands.

This makes me angry but I act calm as to not upset Kauffman much further. I wonder what they are up to all the way back to my room. Dinner wouldn’t be ready for a couple hours, so I was stuck in there for a while.

I sprawl myself on the floor just staring at the ceiling lights. At first I’m slightly blinded but my eyes gradually adjust to them. I felt like I lay there for hours and thought dinner would not come soon enough. As time went by, I found myself in a trance. The lights danced in front of my eyes but I was oblivious to them. I was on a high induced by the erratic thoughts that now occupied my mind.

They consisted of Victoria and Demetrius. My suspicions about him were not without merit, after all. I now knew he could not be trusted since he was obviously in cahoots with Victoria. I reckon they’ve been planning their evil deeds against me since the beginning. It wasn’t enough that she drove me insane and ruined my life but now she wanted to hurt me even more.

I closed my eyes and let the darkness sink in. I heard and felt nothing. I was dead to the world and so it had gone on without me. Time has and continues to pass me by while I remain frozen in place. Then like an unexpected wave, an orchestra of 300 violins starts to play. They play so vehemently in my mind; growing louder and louder as smooth and beautiful as the calming sea.

Back home, the Elders would say that if you heard violins play in your sleep something magnificent was going to happen. It could either be something terrible yet magnificent or something great and magnificent. I wondered if the latter was true for me.

The symphony kept on playing even though my mind simultaneously transported me back to various flashbacks. Many from my past in England and a few from my time in New York like a really fast picture book. Then I heard the door open and the music stopped. I kept my eyes closed.

            “Time for Dinner” Demetrius barked at me. He was not in a good mood. I quickly pulled myself off the cold padded floor and followed Demetrius out of the room. He walked ahead of me while I stayed closely behind him in silence.

As I walked behind him, I could help but notice his broad shoulders and tattooed muscular arms. He twitched his neck to expose another tattoo on the right side of his neck. It was of a red dragon that ran down to the nape of his neck. I imagined he had about fifty tattoos over his entire body but couldn’t be too sure.

            “What are you looking at?” Demetrius scolds, startling me. I freeze.

            “Nothing” I respond with a gulp, my body starting to shake. He grabs my arms and pushes me against the glass wall. I feel the vibration against my back. I close my eyes.

            “Open your eyes!” He yells. I slowly open them and look into his green eyes. They are not warm but cold. He is cold. He squeezes my wrists but I do not cry out in pain. I pretend he is not hurting me.

            “Say something” He tells me with an evil grin. I don’t respond. He lets go of me.

            “Walk faster!” He says to me as he points towards the end of the hall. I slip past him and start walking ever so quickly towards the cafeteria. My body still trembles and my heart is pounding so fast that I fear I will drop of a heart attack. I could hear my heart pound as if a mad drummer had taken refuge in my soul.

            “Pace yourself” I suddenly hear my mum’s caring voice say to me. I take a deep breath at the thought of her. I try to fight the tears but they come down anyway. Then I really start to cry and fall to my knees, distraught. I don’t even notice the two orderlies coming from the right. They immediately assume I have gone mad and haul me off to the shock room. Demetrius never says a word nor raises a finger.

I scream at them to let me go but it doesn’t seem to help my case at all. They strap me to the cold steel slab, stick a rubber white stick between my teeth, and place a tube on each side of my head. The attending doctor then proceeds to shock me with fifty volts of electricity. My whole body shakes violently and I pass out within minutes. The violins start to play again. At first I can barely hear them but they grow louder and faster with each passing second.

            “Are you happy now?” Mum asks me as she brushes my hair. I smell her Chanel perfume and it makes me smile.

            “No, mum” I cry as I reach for her hand but she disappears. 

Grandiose 11

You dreamt about me?” Kauffman asks from across the table. We are having breakfast in the cafeteria. We both ordered scrambled eggs with toast and a cup of coffee.  As I grabbed for the hot sauce so did he and our fingers touched. I tried not to blush. He chuckled a bit.

He looked like his normal self again. His eyes glistening as the sun hit them. I was glad he was being nice to me again and when I had told him about my dream he didn’t laugh; he was surprised.

“I never had a patient dream about me before” He smiled.

“There’s always a first time for anything” I said, blushing. Was I flirting? I became upset because I was confused by my emotions.

“Don’t get upset. It’s okay” Kauffman told me as he cupped my hands between his. I looked him and he leaned forward and smiled. I smiled back.

“Now, I have a surprise for you. You’re going to love this” he said as he led me out the cafeteria. He had me by my right hand and we ran to the main hallway with the glass walls overlooking the garden.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Kauffman asked, breathlessly.

“It certainly is” I responded. Then he dragged me out through the exit door into the garden.  It was a warm day and the snow had melted away a few weeks ago.  I raised my hands to the sky taking in the sun, twirling myself around with glee. I was outside for the first time in three years.  I let myself fall onto the wet grass smelling fresh honeydew as Kauffman lands right beside me. We stare up at the sky and watch the birds fly by.

Lying there, Kauffman opens up to me about how he had lost his parents when he was young and had to take care of his younger brothers. He had to grow up fast at thirteen years old. I slid my hand into his as to comfort him.  For a while, after he had confiding in me about his past, we just laid there in silence. I didn’t think about anything really; was too happy to be outside.

I wanted to milk this newfound freedom until I had exhausted the day for all its worth. Abruptly making my way up, I made my way around the garden in total awe of the new born flowers.  Kauffman followed and watched me from afar. While sliding my hands through a shrub, I pricked a finger on a sharp twig that had been poking out.

“Ouch!” I yelped. Kauffman rushed over to me, pulled a handkerchief from his jean pocket and wrapped it around my finger.

“I think it’s time to go back inside; you’re going to need a band-aid.” He told me looking at my bloody finger. I didn’t protest as he led me back inside. He had a nurse attend to my finger in the session room.  She was quick and a bit rude, but my mind was preoccupied with other pressing matters.

The whole day I had the feeling that I was being watched even though you were always being watched here.  In the garden I thought I saw a man watching us from the extended garden, but when I had looked back he had disappeared. I couldn’t shake the feeling.

A strong lavender aroma from Victoria’s newly washed hair blended with the freshly brewed Columbian coffee from the cafeteria that alarmed everyone that lunch was ready. She placed the red food tray on my desk and smiled.

“They made peach cobbler, your favorite” Victoria told me, pointing at the peach cobbler. I never told her I loved peach cobbler. Only Victoria knew this. I didn’t say anything back because I knew how the discussion would end. I ate my lunch in silence leaving Victoria and Kauffman to chat over their lunch.

Again, I had that uneasy feeling that someone was watching me. I turned my head to the door but no one was there. Kauffman and Victoria were immersed in discussion about the poor care of the third floor patients. Many of them weren’t being fed because the nurses were scared of them.

Some were even being mistreated by the orderlies who took pleasure in beating them.  Six third floor patients died last week of alleged unknown causes. Corruption roamed free here and those who talked were never seen again.

I had overheard Demetrius talking to another Russian orderly, named Marcus, who was known to have the tendency to act violently against patients brag about molesting a second floor patient. It was common for orderlies to molest or even rape female patients. I was one of the lucky few that had not been subjected to such indignities.

For the most part, I was grateful for Demetrius. He always kept a watchful eye on me and protected me but I always wondered why. Why is he so nice to me? He treats everyone else like sewage rats but I’m the exception. I’ve always been skeptical of him; you always have to trust your gut. Sometimes I feel like he is just fattening me up like a pig for slaughter; not to sound morbid or cynical, though.

Savoring every single bite of the peach cobbler as the sweet and pungent flavors electrified my taste buds; as I finished my lunch. I tried not to think about the harsh reality seemingly construed like a blockbuster horror story.

Then a shrilling scream rounded the lively souls silent and my heart pounded like a mad man playing the drums. It had come from the third floor and soon I heard the pounding footsteps of orderlies and nurses running towards the screams.

“Stay here!” Kauffman yelled at me as he rushed out with Victoria. I locked the door behind them, just to be safe.  The officials will not like this or perhaps they are not aware of the increasing deaths and disappearances. I make my way to a corner and hide away from view. I have to get out of here. I fear the worst and I will not stand around and wait to be caught by the killer.

//
//

Grandiose 7

I’m watching the snow fall. My face is pressed against the left glass wall of the main floor, overlooking the garden which is now completely covered in a beautiful white blanket of snow. Sometimes they let me walk around if I’ve been good but always under the watchful eye of Demetrius. Demetrius was a steroid pumping, six foot four orderly from Russia, covered in tattoos. He was known for abusing his authority and had a really bad temper. He loved to physically abuse patients if they didn’t adhere to his way of doing things. He never hurt me though, but I didn’t receive special treatment either. Through my periphery, I saw him take out a cigarette and light it. The hall was empty; everyone else was at lunch or in their rooms. I had eaten my lunch in my room and he had come to surprise me. He knew I liked looking outside. Image

I yearn to go out and feel the cold on my skin and throw myself onto the ground and make snow angels. They rarely let me go outside; not since the attempted suicide incident when I was first emitted. It was my first Spring here, and they had taken me out to the garden. While walking around, I noticed a sharp rock by an old oak tree and picked it up without anyone noticing. I attempted to cut my wrists but was stopped by two nurses. I was more deranged then.

After that they never let me out, even now I am restricted to these walls. It is maddening really to watch those who can go outside in the Spring and Summer. I envy them. I always plead with them to let me go out but it is futile. This of course drives me into screaming spells which results with me being drugged and locked up in my room.  I cringed at the thought of it.

“Time to go back Lizzie” Demetrius says to me in a strong Russian accent. I didn’t like people calling me Lizzie but I wasn’t going to tell him that. I didn’t want to see what happens when you talk back to him. I was very comfortable with our arrangement. He grabbed my right arm a bit too hard as he led me back to my room. When we got there, he shoved me in and slammed my door shut. I stayed in there until it was time for dinner. This time it was Janice who got me and took me to the cafeteria.

Janice was obnoxious and loud. I towered over her but she was a big woman with very strong arms.  It was around 6:30 p.m. when I got my last meal for the day. I decided to sit at the far right corner of the cafeteria. I was one of the few patients that actually got to eat outside of their rooms. Most patients were fed in their rooms; some were too dangerous to let out. When I was first emitted, I was one of those dangerous patients who reside on the third floor. My tray was slid through an opening in the door and sometimes the orderly would be cruel and shove it in. It would spill the contents on the floor and I would have to eat it.

Then one day, Molly, a shy, petite nurse, came into my room with my lunch. She wasn’t afraid of me. She was nice to me and sat with me as I ate. I took a liking to her right away. The Director was impressed at how Molly had tamed me, that I was given cafeteria privileges. Come my fourth evaluation by the former psychiatrist (which I don’t recall ever meeting) I was moved to the first floor.

Now I sit in the far right corner of the cafeteria, staring at my food tray. It consists of macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, chicken breast, fruit bowl and a box of orange juice. I’m not hungry. I think about throwing it out but pick up the plastic white spoon instead and shove it into the mashed potatoes, putting a good heap of it into my mouth.

I eat everything in record speed even the juice is gulped down in less than a ten seconds. I sense someone watching me and turn my head slightly to the left to see Kauffman staring at me. When he sees me looking back, he smiles at me. I quickly turn my head back to look at my now empty food tray and blush a little, glad that my long red hair covers my face.

“Sweet Elizabeth” I hear a familiar distant voice say.

“Henry!” I yelp as I jolt myself off my seat and look around for him. Everyone turns to look at me. I see him across the room and rush to meet him but am stopped by three big orderlies. I fight them screaming for Henry but when I look back to where I had seen him, he was no longer there. He had slipped away once again. I see a nurse inject a needle into my right arm and soon I start to feel sleepy. I am carried off back to my room, locked in for the remainder of the day.

Kauffman comes into my room a few hours later, looking rather frazzled. He hadn’t been sleeping much with my sudden drawback and his ever growing patient list. Despite his lack of sleep and stress, he still managed to keep a smile on his face. Behind him was Victoria or as she called herself now, Marissa.

“How are you?” Kauffman said to me with a smile.

“What happened with you tonight?” He continued to ask.

“I swear he was there!” I exclaimed. I went on to tell him of how I heard Henry call out to me and how I had seen him across the cafeteria by the far left exit door.

“I see…” Kauffman said in a low voice.

“We’ll talk about this further tomorrow morning” he went on to tell me as he turned to exit my room.

“Who is this Henry she speaks of?” Victoria whispered to Kauffman when they were out of Elizabeth’s earshot.

“Henry Betzel, but the thing is there is no record of him. I’ve done my research on her story. He doesn’t exist” Kauffman said to her with a sigh.

“He doesn’t exist?” Victoria replied, chuckling a bit.

“No” Kauffman responded with a yawn. I sat in my room, knees tucked in, shivering. I saw Henry with my own eyes. I wasn’t crazy or maybe I was. If only they had let me reach him. I didn’t sleep that night. I couldn’t.

Grandiose (4)

Kauffman leads Victoria to a table in the center of the cafeteria. The cafeteria is empty; only two food cooks lurk behind the food bar, preparing the morning breakfast for tomorrow.

“What would you like?”

“Sky’s the limit!” Kauffman jokes. Victoria bats her eyes and smiles.

“What do you recommend?” Victoria asks flirtatiously.

“The tuna melt is to die for” Kauffman says enthusiastically.

“Well, I must try it then” Victoria replies, passing a hand through her thick curly black hair. She suddenly realizes that she still had her coat on, so she takes it off and places it behind her chair. She catches Kauffman staring at her chest, only to find the top two buttons of her silk white blouse unbuttoned exposing her busty chest.

“Oh, dear”

“It seems they’ve come undone” Victoria laughs as she slowly buttons her blouse.

“No, I’m sorry”

“It was un-gentleman like of me” Kauffman replied, embarrassed.Image

“It’s quiet alright”

“You are a man, aren’t you?” Victoria teased. Kauffman blushed even more at this.

“So, the tuna melt, you say?” Victoria smiled.

“Yes, that’s right!” Kauffman said, relieved to change the subject as he made his way to the food bar.

“Benny, my man, how’s it going?!” Kauffman yelled out to a frumpy looking bald man with a full dark brown beard.

“Hey, Mr. Kauffman” Benny said as he walked up to the kitchen side of the food bar.

“How can I help you?”

“Can you whip up two of your famous tuna melts?” Kauffman asked with a grin.

“No problem, Mr. Kauffman” Benny replied as he headed back into the kitchen.

Meanwhile, Kauffman and Victoria talked more about the position and Elizabeth. Victoria was getting tired of talking about Elizabeth, noticing how much Kauffman fancied her.  She quickly shifted the conversation to suit her own insidious interests.

“Why work for a loony bin?”

“Why not go private?” Elizabeth pried. Kauffman was slightly taken aback by Victoria’s over-bearing inquiry.

“I would appreciate it if you would not call it a loony bin. It’s a mental rehabilitation facility” Kauffman told Victoria firmly.

“Did I say loony bin?” Victoria said, pretending to be coy.

“I meant mental hospital”

“Pardon me, my manners just go off the bat when I’m hungry” she said as she placed a hand to her heart. She smiled to herself, because she had purposely vexed him.

“I guess we all do silly things when we’re hungry” Kauffman smiled.

“Benny, are those melts ready yet?!” Kauffman turned his head and yelled out.

“In just a minute! Do you want chips with ‘em?” Benny yelled back.

“Sure, that would be great!” Kauffman replied. A few minutes later, Benny came bustling out the kitchen entrance, from the far left of the room, carrying two red trays. He set them on the table, each facing their corresponding owners.

“These look great” Kauffman beamed at Benny.

“Thank you, anything else?” Benny smiled.

“Oh, Benny, I’ll like to introduce you to my new nurse’s assistant, Marissa Croon.” Kauffman said to Benny.

“How do you do, M’am?” Benny smiled at Victoria as he tipped his head.

“I’m fine, thank you” Victoria smiled back.

“Well, Bon’ Appetite, I have to get back and finish cooking tomorrow’s breakfast. Good night, ya’ll” Benny said in a Texas drawl as he headed back to the kitchen.

Kauffman and Victoria didn’t talk much during their meal. Kauffman was still trying to figure Victoria out; she hadn’t talked much about herself and he was curious to find out more.

Over the next few weeks, Victoria made sure to always be on Kauffman’s good side. She made sure he had his favorite cup of tea ready in the morning, brought him strawberry scones (his favorite), and even gained Elizabeth’s trust; which Kauffman found to be very impressive. She had him under her spell. She wondered how long it would take for him to sleep with her.

During one very cold November morning, Victoria decided to pay Elizabeth a visit. Elizabeth had been coiled on the far right corner of her room, murmuring.

“Hello, Elizabeth” Victoria said coolly. Elizabeth lifted her head and smiled. The lights were brighter here than any other place in the facility and everyone thought that was quiet peculiar.

“Hi” Elizabeth replied in a baby voice.

“Do I know you?”

“Of course, it’s me, Marissa”

“You look like someone else” Elizabeth says to her.

“May I ask who?” Victoria asks as she steps closer to Elizabeth.

“I can’t remember….” Elizabeth whines, frustrated by her own incoherence.

“I’m sorry you can’t remember” Victoria replies, trying to sooth Elizabeth.

“Let’s play a game, Elizabeth”

“Do you like games, Elizabeth?”

“Yes, what kind of game?” Elizabeth asks eyes wide with excitement.

“Truth and Tell”

“I ask you a question and you answer truthfully. You can ask me questions too and we’ll just go back and forth” Victoria says to her.

“Okay” Elizabeth replies in a baby voice again.

“I’ll go first” Victoria says as she leans down on her knees in front of Elizabeth.

“What do you talk about with Mr. Kauffman?” Victoria asks.

“We talk about me mostly, of what I can remember of my past, anyway…” Elizabeth replies, trailing off.

“What do you remember?” Victoria continues.

“Hey, it’s my turn” Elizabeth scolds Victoria.

“Yes, I’m sorry. Ask me a question.” Victoria says coldly.

“What’s your name?” Elizabeth asks.

“I told you that earlier, it’s Marissa” Victoria replies, frustrated.

“Marissa, that’s pretty” Elizabeth says.

“Your eyes, you look so much like her…” Elizabeth started saying but stopped when she saw Kauffman approaching.

“I see you’re up and early” Kauffman chimes in as Victoria turn her head and smiles.

“Oh yes, she’s quite a girl” Victoria says sarcastically.

“Victoria” Elizabeth whispers.

“What was that?” Kauffman asks Elizabeth.

“Victoria!” Elizabeth screams so loud that Kauffman has to step back.

“Calm down, who is Victoria?” Kauffman asks, curiously.

“She’s Victoria…” Elizabeth points at Victoria.

“No, Elizabeth, her name is Marissa. You are confused.” Kauffman says in a soft voice.

“She’s obviously confusing me with someone else” Victoria laughs.

“You remind her of Victoria, that’s interesting” Kauffman says as he looks at Victoria.

“Who is this Victoria” Victoria asks, masking her nervousness.

“Someone she knew, but I can’t be sure” Kauffman replies.

“Oh look at the time, your first session is in ten minutes, we must prepare” Victoria urges Kauffman.

“We’ll discuss this further” Kauffman smiles at Elizabeth as he heads out her room with Victoria holding onto his left arm. They close her door and Elizabeth is left rocking herself on the floor murmuring again.

“Her eyes… it’s her eyes” Elizabeth repeatedly babbles.