Silence + Noise

She mumbles it to me, words dribbling out of her mouth like whiskey from a drunken old man's. For a moment I am mildly surprised, but after thinking about it… I deserve to be here. I hear a vague shuffling and shouting from behind the wall I am leaning against. I stare at her mouth, her tongue slipping and sliding against her dry, cracked lips. I think, she needs water.

My feet are bare and my toes are chilled, even though the doors outside to the freezing December cold feel like miles away. With this plastic gown I have on, I am agonizingly aware of the folds of fat my stomach is creating. I resist the urge to grab them in angry, furious self-loathing.

She walks me out; scared to hold my hand, so she wraps her sausage fingers around my wrist. My skin is cold, clammy, and my fingers have gone the color of the bruises littering my hips and legs. Those were the lasting side effects, they said. She repeats what she told me to my mother. My mother's eyes flash red and I lie back on the gurney as the shouting match ensues.

This is a serious matter she needs to stay here It's my decision I am her mother you are a stranger you have no right We can get a court order to keep her here it's for her own good No, you have no idea how my daughter works she is not crazy she doesn't need to be here we can get her doctors she doesn't need to be here Ma'am I think you are underestimating what she is capable of doing to herself You don't know anything You said yourself that this was a surprise It doesn't matter we can take care of her

And so it goes on, for forty-five minutes. Yesnoyesnoyesno And I just curl up and close my eyes she said Are you sure you can stay here and I just nod and stare at her, feel her kisses on my cheek and I'm too tired to function.

I wake up and I'm being wheeled down a huge hall. My eyes sting and my mother is walking next to me staring straight ahead. I feel like just my arm weighs a million pounds, I can hardly move a finger. I blink and I'm in an elevator. I blink again, I see mustard colored walls and me being propped up by three pairs of arms helping me stagger to a room with neutral decorations and a huge suicide proof window. I drop onto the foam mattress and sleep. No springs, I could strangle myself. No locks, I could hurt myself. Nothing Nothing Nothing. I feel another kiss and an awkward squeeze and an I love you so much and now it's the morning.

I am forced awake for vitals. My arm is squeezed tight, 105/60, next. I get blood taken, pinprick, dizziness, it's over, see? That was easy.

I sit at the table staring at this "meal". Three graham crackers (59), a bowl of lukewarm porridge (192) and milk (286). I stare and I stare and stare. The number bounces around in my drug-addled brain and I almost scream.


I wring my hands, horrified at this meal that they want me to eat. That they are forcing me to eat. The burly male nurse sitting in the corner making small talk with everyone else looks at me and I know that look. Eat.

A hand creeps to my tray and removes 59 worth of graham crackers. I follow the hand up to the arm up to the shoulders up to the neck up to the face and I am greeted with a meek smile. I can't help but give him a fatigued look of gratitude. Porridge hits the wall, and I hear laughs. A boy with a milk cup suctioned to his mouth laughs and I push my own porridge around with my plastic spoon. I'm still wearing my gown, I notice. I am cold.

"I'm Sven."

The lone hand has spoken. I gaze at him.

"I'm… I'm Tess." I say, almost unsure of myself.

"If you want clothes you have to eat."

I want to ask him how do you know but I just stare at my tray in confusion.

"They won't let you do anything if you don't eat."

I look at Sven, then to the male nurse. He's paying attention to the porridge-on-the-wall boy. I look at Sven. I don't want to ask. I don't want to but he's already taken some of my food.

"Eat my porridge?" I murmur, looking at my thumbs. Subtle chuckle. I feel so alone. One spoonful, and it's gone. Nurse-man doesn't notice. I look at Sven, mouth a silent thank you, and poke holes in the tin foil of my milk cup with a plastic non-serrated knife. This place is so safe it's scary.

Suddenly everyone stands up and files out. I stagger out with them, the odd one out, the white speck among blacks, browns, shoes without shoelaces and sweatpants without strings. They sit us down at a table in a room with windows out to the hallway and one of them gives me a sheet of paper:

Vitals/Breakfast/Art Therapy/Music Therapy/Personal Therapy/Lunch/Group Therapy/Visiting Hours/Dinner/Vitals/Lights Out.

I'm so zonked that all I can hear coming out of this Art lady's mouth is a faint blahblahblah and I am sitting here in front of Sven with a pencil and paper and nothing to do.

"Draw something," I hear. So I think. And I think. I think of all the things floating in my mind and think of which one to draw. How I wish I was: Me as a thin girl. Me beautiful. Alternatively: Me as I am now. Me as a fat girl. I'm so angry and the awareness of this immense layer of fat on my body frustrates me so much that I take the pencil and scribble furiously on the paper, an incoherent meaningless graphite blob on tree pulp.

I look up at Sven. Do I want a reaction out of him? He's so tall, like a tree. I feel small, short and stocky. He looks down at my paper.

"That's good," he says. He's so happy-looking. Why is he here? He looks me in the eyes, and my chest closes up, "It means so much when it means so little."

I laugh, "Thanks for making me feel better."

He splays out his hand on the table and pokes dents in the table with his pencil in between his fingers.

"Why are you here?" I ask, knowing it's beyond rude. "Sorry."

"It's okay. It's the normal question. Suicide attempt number five."

"Oh. I'm sorry."

"Don't be. Every time I fail I'm glad I survived, but the funny thing is I keep doing it over and over again."

"Funny?" I smile as much as I am capable, which isn't too much.

"You know what I mean," He draws a slightly curved line on the paper, in lime green marker. "What about you? You're a newcomer."

"Codeine overdose, anorexia, self-harm. Too many things left alone for too long, I suppose." I crack my neck, "I just got surgery on my hip like a month ago, and I had a lot of codeine left over from then. Last night I decided to swallow the bottle."


I purse my lips and crookedly give him a weary smile. Whatever his issue, it's probably worse than mine. He's making fun of me. I highlight some of my scribbled lines with pale blue crayon, then pale blue glitter glue. It's starting to look like pretty abstraction, dirt turned into sunlight, into rain. It's so cold in here.