Living Again One More Time
The whole place smelled like a strange combination of orange juice and sulfuric acid. It was cold, just as it had been every other time I had come here. And I had come to this white place a lot. The sound of my flat-heeled shoes echoed in the hollow, impersonal hall. And even though its loudness bothered me, I kept walking, uninterested, toward the institution's garden. I passed a group of people all dressed in white that walked very tightly around a short man who, too, was dressed in white.
"Hey Jane," I heard a low-pitched woman's voice say.
My face contorted into a smile even though I was not very sure of to whom I was smiling. I didn't care either. More often than not, the people in white were boring.
The echo of my steps faded away and the smell of sulfur softened as the hall ended and the greenness of the inside garden of the white place came into view. I had the fiery impulse to run; but I didn't, because it wasn't proper –Dad had told me so today. The outside air hit my face and made some black locks come off my tight ponytail when I finally stepped in the soft, warm grass. I saw an old man walking fast and a woman chasing him, both of them dressed in white. Close to the cement wall that separated the garden from the outside was a girl that couldn't have been much older than me –it looked like she was trying to climb the bump-less wall. Under a tree, two old ladies and a young woman talked animatedly grinning at each other. And, lastly, close to the dead center of the green garden was a boy –at least, I thought he was a boy because I could see a wide back and short, black, uncombed hair from where I was.
I stepped on the grass and took my red shoes off before walking toward the boy. I was smiling out of habit when the sound of a twig cracking under my bare feet filled the soundless void. At the same time, my avid eyes caught the shimmering of white, sparkling powder flying along with the passing breeze.
"Damn!" Sharply, the white-robed guy turned and fixed his frantic eyes on me. His expression scared me. "What do you think you're doin'?" he snapped gravely.
I didn't back away at the rage in those black eyes, but I couldn't reply either. He growled.
"Stupid chick," the boy said harshly, not looking at me anymore.
"I'm not stupid," I retorted this time, my voice only the tiniest bit shaky. "Far from it, actually. I make very good grades in school," I finished proudly.
The boy rudely ignored me and, instead, he stared, frowning, at a frumpy, little cement bench at the other side of the garden. My mouth opened to demand attention, but I decided to stay quiet. I really had no reason to be offended; I did not care enough to be offended. I sat on the grass, next to the boy wearing the white robe and took time to place my summery yellow dress around me so that it would not wrinkle too much.
A minute or two passed before the boy spoke again, his voice grumpy.
"Are you just going to sit there?"
I blinked a couple of times; it was a habit of mine.
"Yes. I think so."
The boy sighted exasperatedly and I blinked again, oblivious to the reason behind his change of moods.
"Why?" he half-yelled, half-growled.
"Why not?" I asked back. I saw him frown a little bit more and my body involuntarily shook again. "I can't go inside yet; my father told me to stay out here for a while. He works here as a doctor," I added, trying to sound friendlier.
"I don't care. Just go away," he faded off.
"So that you can take your weed?"
I bit my tongue when the words I had just said reached my ears. It was so vey improper to ask something like that but I couldn't help being curious just like I couldn't help knowing about weed –it was one of those things teachers taught you very early on. Hopefully, Dad wouldn't find out about my little transgression; he got really mad when I over trusted people.
"What are you talking about?" he asked defensively.
"Do you want to die?" I pushed.
I wouldn't stop this guy, whoever he was, from killing himself if he so desired; but I wanted to know. A swift breeze passed in between us before he answered.
"I don't want to die."
This time, it was I who frowned. "You were trying to kill yourself, of course you want to die."
The boy, whose only expression 'till the moment had been scowling, smirked as he fell on his back to look up at the cloudy sky. It looked like it was going to rain.
"Not necessarily," he whispered just loud enough.
I blinked again. My eyes fell upon him, trying to understand what he meant; he had a strangely hard look for such a pretty, boyish face, and a purple scorpion tattooed on his left arm –it was rather beautiful. I wanted to touch the tattoo but refrained myself just in time. Frustratingly, neither his face nor his tattoo told me what his intentions were, so I turned fully around to face him and crossed my legs under my yellow dress.
"What do you mean?" I asked, trying to mask my interest behind nonchalance.
He looked at me again and smirked.
"What's your name, again?"
"Jane," I said, still waiting for an answer.
"Jane," he repeated as if talking to the clouds. "I'm Alex."
I watched him intently as if that would make him talk. Obviously, it didn't. "Why are you here, Alex?"
"Because I'm an addict," he said in a tone that suggested I should already know –and I guess that, now that he mentioned it, he did look like an addict of some sort. It took me a second to figure out that he was staring at me. "Why are you here?"
I shrugged. "Dad said I had to come with him to work today; so I did. I come here often, because Mom can't take care of me."
"Can't take care of you? Are you five or something?" Alex asked sarcastically.
I vaguely thought that I should not feel so offended. But I was.
"No. I'm twelve. I just turned twelve three months ago in March."
Alex looked at me strangely, as most people did when I told them my age; apparently, I looked older.
"But we're in August," he said.
"No, we're not," I dismissed him; this had happened so many times before. "How long have you been here? Maybe you have forgotten what time of the year it is."
He looked at me mockingly.
"So you're twelve and we're in June, huh?"
I didn't like the way he spoke, so I intently ignored him. I shifted to lay on the grass, belly-down with my feet in the air; I liked the feeling of the green monocot tickling me all over.
"What is it like to be an addict, Alex?" I asked. He seemed to have calmed down, so I thought it was safe –and my curiosity couldn't resist it.
"You are one strange chick, you know that?" he said. I had heard that before, thought, and it didn't take me by surprise. "It's just like, well, like being an addict."
That was not very helpful.
"I'm not an addict. How would I know what 'like being an addict' means?"
He smirked and I realized that I liked it when he did that.
"It's not as romantic as people say it is. It's just, you know, always wanting more," he said, and I guess he thought I was confused because then he added, "Have you ever wanted more of something than what you can get?"
I smiled and nodded, knowing exactly what he meant. "Chocolate-covered, orange-flavored truffles," I said and he looked at me weirdly.
Then, he laughed gravely and contagiously.
"Candy? That's what you crave so much?"
I frowned at his derogatory tone.
"I don't see what so different between candy and drugs."
He opened his mouth but didn't say anything for a while. "I guess you are right."
"I am," I said and stuck my tongue out at him. Once again, he looked at me strangely.
"So," Alex started seriously. "You say you're twelve?" I smiled and nodded; and then he asked me the weirdest thing in the world: "And how long have you been twelve?"
I tilted my head and looked at his serious, pretty face.
"What a stupid question that is! I've been twelve since my birthday."
He nodded gravely. "And when was your birthday?"
"Three months ago!" I exclaimed. He was really unnerving me.
I mean, what was wrong with this guy? Why was he so dense? But then it hit me; of course he was dense, he was an addict! The drugs had probably killed all his little brain cells.
I looked at him pitifully.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have been so rude."
He sat straight and raised an eyebrow at me. "What are you giving me that look for?"
I blinked and made sure to change my expression; he seemed to be getting angry.
He squinted at my smiling face as if trying to find a crack on my expression. But of course he couldn't; I was a very good actress, I had practice countless times in front of the mirror.
I was going to point out to him that he had already said that when I saw his dark eyes divert from my face to fix on some point above my head. A second later, I felt two cold hands touch my bare shoulders.
"Here you are, Jane. I've been looking for you all over!"
I turned to look at the blond woman that was smiling down at me. She was dressed in white like everybody else and her lips were scarlet red. I didn't know her, but she seemed to know me somehow –I guess being my dad's daughter meant something around here.
"For what?" I asked, bothered that she had interrupted my conversation with Alex.
Her face shifted expression until she settled on something that looked like she was uncomfortable.
"To go with your Dad, remember? It's almost five and you have to leave," she smiled in an attempt to be sweet.
"No. I don't remember," I said to her truthfully but got up anyway.
"Wait," Alex said and I almost hoped he didn't want me to go because I didn't want to go. But when I looked at him, his expression was a lot more puzzled that sad. "She has to go now? But it's not even time for the doctors to leave."
I tilted my head as I did when I was confused and looked back at the woman's terrified expression.
"Yes, Alex, you're right," she stuttered. It surprised me that she knew him, too. "But Mr. Wright and Jane have to leave. Now."
Something about the way she spoke implied that she was trying to say something without saying it. This woman was really, truly, a terrible actress.
"But–" Alex started to say, but the woman interrupted him.
"Let's go, Janie. Say bye-bye to Alex."
I didn't like how she spoke to me, like I was some three-year-old; but I had to resign with frowning at her in discontent and then smiling at Alex.
"I'll come back tomorrow to keep talking, 'kay?"
He looked up at me and, surprisingly, smiled back –it made him look a lot more pretty and young.
"I won't be here tomorrow."
"They are transferring you?"
"No. They're letting me out."
I blinked a couple of times and then close my hanging mouth. They couldn't possibly let him out; he had tried to kill himself just today!
"But you are still an addict. They can't let you out!" I yelled unconsciously.
As quickly as I could, I covered my mouth with one hand. I felt ashamed, very ashamed, and disoriented; I had decided that I wouldn't mind if he wanted to kill himself, I shouldn't be bothered that they were letting him out.
"But they will," he said softly. "I could come here to see you, though."
I was shocked that he would care enough to do that; but my mind wasn't processing properly, so I could have hallucinated it.
Then, I snapped. "But I won't be here tomorrow," I said vaguely. "I could give you my house address."
"I will copy it down and give it to him," the blond woman said, nudging me to start walking. "You have to go with your dad."
I nodded, exited at the prospect of talking to Alex in the hominess of my house. I followed the woman in the white dress, and a moment later I turned while still walking backwards. I smiled at Alex ready to yell good-bye again, but a feeling of dizziness stopped my words short. I wanted to throw up. A hundred bells were ringing loudly in my head and I would have almost stumbled and fallen if it wasn't for the firm arms that held me in place.
It took a little time for my eyes to focus and see properly again, and when they did I realized I was in a garden. I felt disoriented; last I remembered, I had been with Daddy, in his car, and another car had gotten really close to us. This, however, was not Dad's car. I lifted my gaze and saw the face of a pretty blond woman smiling at me.
"Are you okay?"
"Yes," I said as I brought a hand to my head to keep it in place. I almost wanted to ask her why I was here; but, for some reason, it seemed like I should already know.
I looked up and my gaze fixed on a boy more than a couple of feet away from me. He was looking at me, the hint of a gone smile in his expression. I thought he was cute.
My head hurt one more time –it felt like I knew him, but I couldn't recall his face
"Hey, um, do I know that boy? He's looking at me."
The graceful, blond woman looked at the boy and then at me. She didn't say anything for a second and her face expressions changed continuously as if she had been deliberating. I chuckled; I didn't know this woman, but it was so obvious that she was such a terrible actress.
"Yes, you do. And he'll come to see you tomorrow. Now, let's go with your dad."
I nodded and walked with her. Before I stepped onto the marble floor of the psychiatric institution where my dad worked, I turned my head to look at the boy and smiled and waved. He smiled and waved back, but he didn't seem too happy.
I wondered why I couldn't remember who he was; for some reason, he looked like a drug addict.