June 22, 1997
Today Desiree and I came to Willows Whiten.
We sat on the wraparound porch and sipped some iced tea served by an assistant in purple scrubs, while Mom filled out the paperwork. Desi lolled with her sunglasses on and acted so normal at first that I was afraid they wouldn’t take her. I on the other hand chewed my nails and rocked to and fro and jumped at every noise (quite naturally, I was not acting) and gave every impression of being a nutcase.
Then they showed us up to our rooms. Desi and I each have an identically made bed with quilts, windows that open, although not too far, and braided rugs. It’s like a Bed & Breakfast...except that they searched our bags. They did it in a nice way but they took away anything sharp or pointy, anything we could hurt ourselves with. They took my pens and shoelaces and Desi’s colored pencils, although they told her she could have them back in “controlled situations.” She said “Hah,” just like Daddy and lay down on her bed.
After Mom left us I sat down on my bed and cried. Cried like I was nine instead of nineteen. They made us sign more papers and say goodbye. Was she glad to go? I can’t tell if she is embarrassed or if she just doesn’t like seeing both her children committed at the same time and same place. I know we’re a horrible disappointment to her, being crazy, and without boyfriends, and both bad dressers.
So I took a sedative and fell asleep crying on top of the covers and woke up right before dinner, wondering where Desi was. But finally we are in a place where someone else can keep an eye on her. When I went downstairs she was sitting watching Jeopardy with two old ladies who thought she was the cutest thing ever, not having known her very long.
We all had a family type dinner at a long table. There are only a few other patients. None of them appear to be very crazy, just depressed. Mostly they are people in their fifties—like my Dad—and a long-haired mustached young guy who did not talk or make eye contact. I don’t remember if we talked. I don’t think we really did. We all just picked at our food, which was turkey and kind of gluey gravy, mashed potatoes, and canned green beans. I judiciously spread my food around my plate so it looked like I ate something. I did manage to swallow some ice cream.
One weird thing I want to write down before I go to bed.
To get here we drove out Route 45 into the rippling mountains. Passing roads like Snook Hollow and Brush Mountain and Tattletown. Green leaves, blue hills, clear creeks...in God’s country.... Finally we turned off the main route onto Old Mingle Road, headed towards Clearshade Gap which was two stoplights and a railroad crossing. We wended our way onwards into the woods. Willows Whiten is not up on the mountainside, but rather in a hollow cupped by an arm of the mountain. Desi was sitting up front because she gets carsick, and she was fidgeting because she needed a smoke. We crossed a rumbly bridge over a stream and ducked through a damp hollow, and then Desi exclaimed and Mother slammed on the brakes.
“What?” I asked, aroused from my nervous stupor and grabbing the handle.
“Deer,” said Mom, sighing. Hazards of driving in Pennsylvania. She accelerated again through patinated copper gates.
“A buck,” said Desi, adjusting her sunglasses and slumping backwards.
I craned my neck to look out the window and then saw the buck, standing under a pine tree in the shadows. He was pure white all over, pearlescent and glimmering. Even his horns were like white velvet—but his eyes were black when he looked at me. And his leaf-like ears were bright, ember red.
Did I really see him? A white buck with red ears?
Desi and Mom didn’t say anything, so I didn’t either. But I knew he was watching me. Maybe still is.
I am going to fall asleep crying again.
June 23, 1997
We’ve been here twenty-four hours now.
Desi is in the recreation room perusing the massive collection of romance novels and the board games. The TV was making me nervous so I came out here on the porch to write. Right now I’m sitting overlooking the lawn with a plastic cup of lemonade (yes, real lemonade, fake cup) and a borrowed pen. I’m not allowed to have my own pen on the possibility I might use it to slay myself.
I am supposed to keep this journal as a favor to Mr. Hazeldean. Our Benefactor—as we’ve taken to calling him.He’s the one paying for our stay here. He will not see this journal though. I will prepare a highly sanitized edition for his viewing pleasure.
To make an attempt at proper introductions—my name is Evangeline MacBride and my sister is named Desiree. She is three years younger than I am. We are sometimes mistaken for twins because we have blue eyes and are blond and short and very thin. And I look young for my years. But there the similarities end. I am pale with straight hair and dark blue eyes. Desi’s hair is wavy and darker blond than mine, her skin is olive and her eyes sometimes look green. I’ve often told myself that she could be a movie star if she ever washed herself and combed her hair.
I used to think she was the normal one. She has actual friends, for one thing. She gets average grades and even had a part-time job in an ice cream shop, and a boyfriend named Peter who was older than I am. But when Daddy checked into the mental ward this spring at Center Mountain she got very depressed and started slicing herself up behind closed doors. Was fired for throwing a scoop of butter pecan at a customer. And got herself put on medication and sent to counseling.
As for me, last February I tried to kill myself in my dorm room at Lucerne. I didn’t succeed, obviously. In fact, I abandoned the razor and went straight to Freshman Honors English afterwards. I guess I was too tired to make a proper effort. I decided to break up with Jeremiah instead and that made me feel happier. But ever since then I have been entranced with the idea of my death. It isn’t scary to me. I view it as a gate out of this world and it’s now my favorite thing to daydream about. Not handsome boys or adventures. Just death, sweet death.
Desi is here because I wouldn’t come without her.
She actually left Peter to come with me although he strictly forbade her to do it. He had rosy innocent cheeks and fluffy ginger hair, but he is a raving sexist, just like Jeremiah. Desi and I seem to attract that sort, I don’t know why. But I feel that we are safe here, at last, together. With our Benefactor.
This place is utterly unlike what I expected. Willows Whiten Psychiatric Care Hospital. Did Mr. Hazeldean name it himself? Anyone who names his hospital after a Tennyson poem.can’t be too bad. And his name is Jack Hazeldean of all things. I wonder if he knows about the ballad. “She’s o’er the border and away!”
Anyway, it is cool and quiet inside. Many rooms. There are braided rugs and wicker rockers and all the paintings are by actual masters and not the nauseating pastels you find in most hospitals. I can detect a faint smell of disinfectant and overcooked food, but it really isn’t too bad. They seem to have hidden all the medical stuff behind closed doors. The exterior is made of painted white wood and Pennsylvania bluestone. Surrounded in concentric circles, first by porches, next by lawns and gardens, and finally by the crowding woods. There is a still green lake with a rowboat and a dock which are off limits to us patients. The grass is full of dandelions, clover and those little blue flowers that I don’t know the name of.
If everything makes me tired, why can’t I sleep?