"To begin our daily discussion, I'll introduce myself properly for our new member, Johnson."
Jude coughed and then continued.
"My name is Jude. I'm fifty-five years old. I'm here because... Well, I work here. And my favorite book is Of Mice and Men. Now that I'm out of the way, let's get down to business."
He moved his hands in a beckoning motion. A young woman, similar in appearance to Trisha, rushed next to him. She wore a lab coat and thick glasses.
"My intern will turn a powerpoint on for you. Obviously, I can't do that myself. It's about anger and depression. We haven't discussed those things since before even Edna got here. Patel thinks this place is a drug rehab center... Not a psychiatric hospital."
I had no clue during that meeting who Doctor Patel was. I knew what he did for a living. He prescribed medication for our group of loonies. I knew that and that only, and not why he was such a terrible doctor. And why the city of Fort Wayne, as large as it claimed it was, would have a man like that, our of all people, care for the next generation. Within fifteen to twenty years, our group of loonies would be in charge of the whole town if we recovered. And it was their job to put the city of Fort Wayne in good hands, not sweetly, balmy ones like mine.
The first slide was displayed. It was a stock photo of a woman sitting in an uncomfortable looking classroom chair. Her face was in her hands. There was text above her, the title of the PowerPoint. As Jude had said, it was titled Anger and Depression.
The woman, clad in a lab coat, then pressed a button and the next slide appeared.
"What is Anger?"
As if Jude could read and see, he asked us that exact question.
Vlad LeBron gave me a look again and answered.
"When you can't stand it anymore and...."
He stopped. I knew then and there it wasn't about me anymore.
"Go on. Please, go on." Jude told him.
"When you can't stand it anymore and you let yourself go. You snap and afterward you never want to be taped back together."
"Thank you, Vlad. Mary, put on the next slide, please!"
Mary used her remote and read the next slide. It was a simple explanation of anger bulleted into a few lines. Nothing much. I really don't remember this, since now, it seems like it was ages ago.
Mary then had us read the next slide ourselves.
"Go to the whiteboard/chalkboard and write something on it about what makes you feel angry."
Jude smirked. "I'll go first. Mary, help me out, will you.
Mary divided the board into two halves. Depression was the right, anger was the left.
Jude whispered in Mary's ear and she picked a red marker and began to write.
She didn't write a singular word, but a story right in the middle of the anger column. It wasn't her story. But the story of Doctor Jude Floyd; a man who could once see like the rest of us. And he wasn't ashamed that he couldn't anymore, no. It gave him something in exchange.
To me, it sounded like a metaphor. He had to trade with God if there is one.
"I am not angry because I am blind. Well, maybe a little. I can't see my autograph collection. And I've never seen my wife's face before. It doesn't matter because I know she's beautiful anyway. I am angry because I had to lose my vision at your age to be given this gift I have now. The gift of healing. But I am thankful for it as well. Angry and thankful."
"You see what I tried to explain? Well, I can't on the board. But being blind is terrible sometimes. Absolutely terrible. I've been to the Christmas lighting at Graceland but I've never seen it. The fact that I'll never see the Eiffel Tower or anything else brings me down sometimes. But I'm thankful I'm able to be here and help you. I don't think I'd be here if I could see. My life would be completely different. Now, it's someone else's turn. Does anyone want to volunteer? We don't have to go in order this time, but everyone has to write something down. Today."
Libby went first.
She only expressed a fact I already knew.
Trisha went next; Edna got up and followed.
"I'm just here."
Then went Megan. She wrote the same thing. Well, she's Edna's clone, after all.
Ronnie slid down her sleeves and then pulled them back above her wrists. She got up and stood still for a second and glimpsed at me. She made sure I was still there and that I was watching her. She slowly walked up to the board, only to be shoved by LeBron.
As if it was in slow motion, I ran over to catch her. And I did, in the nick of time.
The world went back to normal and she put her small hands on my shoulders. I could feel all eyes were on us.
Ronnie started to laugh.
"Johnson, you saved me!"
I gave her a warm smile. One I would have never given her before.
"I guess I did." I had no clue what to say. I just was flabbergasted.
"Thank you." She pulled me into a hug; it took me by so much surprise I almost forgot to hug her back.
She then got up and wrote her answer on the board as if nothing had happened.
LeBron's word was miles above her's. He was much, much taller than Ronnie. By at least a foot, if not more.
I walked up by Ronnie and Jude and wrote mine down. And if people didn't take it in the wrong context, it would make plenty of sense. It did to me and almost the whole room. Megan was the one who was confused. Not Vlad LeBron.
Mary informed Jude all of our answers were on the half of the board. Then, Jude told her to read them.
"The first one, other than yours, is 'my mother'. The second on3 is resistance. Two just star it's because they're here. The fourth one says family. The fifth is being unrequited and the last one says one word. Pressure."
Jude put his hand atop his bald head. "Great! They're all good answers. Even if we got one twice. Every reason for anger is valid. What's not valid is acting upon the reason. I hope you all understand that, kids."
He sighed. "Let's move on to our next part, shall we? What's depression?"
Again. It was like Jude could see the powerpoint. And I've mentioned so many times, he couldn't. He couldn't see anything.
Ronnie raised her hand; Mary called on Ronnie; Ronnie replied.
"Depression is when you hear people say things to you. Good things; the greatest things. Compliments about your beauty, your brains, and your skills. The thing is, even with that, you think that you're nothing. Nothing. Because you filter out all of the good people in your life and you only hear what other people say. The bad things. Your flaws and your faults. If you only see those, that's all you think you are. At all. Ever. So..... You hate yourself and the world around you and you just sink."
Jude, Mary, and the rest of us 'loonies' were appalled. She had a voice and we had to stop what we were doing and just think. We had to listen to it.
She couldn't have said it in a better set of words and letters. That was what depression to me was. And you could be rich, like I was, or poor and unprivileged and still feel the same pit in your stomach.
"Well said, Ronnie." Jude praised her and the other patients often. I hadn't realized how apparent it was before.
"We're going to write on the other half before, but for sadness and depression. So... Who wants to go first?"
Ronnie and I both stood up. It was the problem we had in common. That problem was that we knew exactly what to write.
"Only one of you can go at a time... And it's always ladies first. So you, mister, have to sit down." Mary let Ronnie walk up to the board and made me take my seat again.
"I see something. I really see something. And I'm not letting it happen again, you hear me?"
She whispered a message directed to me. Jude could hear and so could I. He chuckled at little bit; I could see the smile even in his eyes for a split second. I thought what she had said was ludicrous. I was just friends with Ronnie. And because we were both in the hospital, we were extremely close already. We had no one else to lean on but each other. Which was why I was gravitated toward her in the first place.
Ronnie finished writing her word down
It was my turn, I assumed, so I walked up after Ronnie came back to sit down. Going in a different system, not being as open, made me feel chained down. It was okay to walk past Ronnie if I wanted to. And to look at her when she was speaking. One reason of many as to why people didn't like me that much was I liked talking face to face. Not so much on networking. I never had an account for any of those websites anyhow.
I drew an arrow up to Ronnie's word and wrote one of my own.
Then went the twins; they wrote the same thing again.
"Being in this dump."
Libby wrote "guilt."
Trisha put something down too. I couldn't read it until she walked away.
Vlad wrote down about his mom. And Mary wrote down a sentence for Jude.
"Giving things up in exchange."
Mary read the words once more. And then, Jude told her to turn off the laptop.
"Now, we can get to the fun part!"
I was confused. "I thought that was the fun part."
Jude laughed. "Johnson... That was just the warmup. Now, we have our whole, big dance recital to go through."
His metaphor was referring to my dance with Ronnie, obviously.
"Well, what are we going to do?"
"Talk. About our feelings."
The small bit of normality inside of me retaliated silently.
Jesus Christ.... Not this. It's just like this on TV...
"So, you get to be the first one. My goal here is to get you to tell me the truth. Whether that be here, or individually. And of course, with your family. Patel requires it. He kind of runs this place. Johnson, how did you feel this morning when you got here?"
Being in that place, it felt like time whizzed by, yet it felt like no time had passed at all. It felt like a week and a hour simultaneously. I thought that my outburst was years and years before that moment.
"I felt terrible."
"Like I wanted to just... I don't have a word for it."
"I hate to tell you this, but maybe you wanted to die. That's why you're here, isn't it?"
"I didn't hurt myself. I just wanted to go away. I didn't realize going away mean I had to kill myself. When I did what I did I thought I had to go somewhere else and start new. But now that I think about it, even that wouldn't have made me happy. Not at all. I wanted to disappear. Disappearing is dying. You're right."
"At least you admitted it. That's all that matters. You did good, kid. You really did."
He looked at me, as if he could see, and smiled.
"Tomorrow's our first individual session. And I hope that you'll be able to go into detail. It's best to do that alone, I think. But you can tell me at least why you feel the way that you do right now. It's a good start."
"Maybe I'm supposed to inherit the family business."
"Great. For now, it's good enough. I can see your eyes watering... You can stop for now. I'll let someone else speak. Thank you for your time."
I noticed he was right when a tear slid down my cheek. He was right. I wanted to die. When I was in there, I still did. Being in that building was still somehow a temporary utopia. I found things I wanted to because I tried to get out of what I didn't.
Maybe it made sense.
"Anyone else want to speak? You don't have to if you don't want to."
In the background, one of the nurses, Karen, flipped the Sgt. Pepper record over and turned the volume a little.
"We were talking.... About the space between us all. And the people... Who hide themselves behind a wall.."
"Sure." It was Vlad LeBron.
Everyone else went silent. He must have never, ever, done his before.
"Well, well, well.. It's the first time you've budged about the actual problem since you got here. Huh, Vlad?"
"Yeah. It's been a week. Maybe it's okay. I want to catch up on Supernatural. So... I kind of have to get out."
Jude folded his hands together. "I'm not going to tell Patel or Brooks to let you out because you want to catch up on your television, right? I'm going to tell them to let you out when I think the time's right. So, Vlad, how have you felt since you got here?"
"A bit better.. I miss my computer and my internet friends. I'm alright though. I mean, you know, I miss Matt Smith in Doctor Who too, but we're not getting him back either."
"And your mother... I heard she called you today."
Vlad froze. "Yeah. She did. I told her I didn't want to go home with her. But if I had to do that, I'd go home to my dad. I don't want to do that either because they're both just-"
He paused. Not just in voice but in motion.
"I might have made this too personal. Does individual therapy sound better for you too?"
"No. They're both rude and they make fun of me. They've made fun of me ever since I was a kid. From the second I tried on my mother's shoes when I was little. And when you're three years old, there's nothing wrong with that. When you're ten and you want to go see Twilight at the movies, there's nothing wrong with that. No, because I was just as normal as everyone else. And they...."
"Just wait until we have our appointment. I'll set one earlier if you want. During your gym time. I was going to do that for Johnson, but you seem like you're going to lash, Vlad. And just go mad! After this, while they head to the gym, walk with me to my office. Please. I don't come normally on Sundays. If an emergency comes up, I'm sure my wife'll drive me here, Don't worry and go with the flow, all of you."
Vlad had his fists clenched and looked at me one more time.
I didn't win. He did. I had no clue to even fathom why he looked at me the way he did.
"Anyone else want to speak?"
"Yes. A little." Ronnie called to Jude.
"I was going to ask how you feel today.. But maybe I know."
"I mean I feel a little better today than I have lately. I have a friend now."
"I saw that."
"Jude, you're blind!"
"I know, I didn't mean it like that.. I could tell with my other senses. The point is I'm happy someone here tried to acquaint with you. You're likable. I know you hate it when I say that, but it's true. You're likable."
"If I am so likable, where's my group of friends? I haven't had any for a while."
"You have friends. We're just all older. Think about it. I'm not saying your mother or your father are your friends, but you have friends."
She crossed her arms and huffed under hear breath, loud enough for me to hear. "Friends. Sure. Friends."
"There's one sitting somewhere next to you, I bet. I can't see him with my eyes. You can't see him with your mind. Sometimes, I think you're as blind as I am. But in your head, because you see yourself as a monster. You're no monster, Ronnie! You never were a monster. Not when I first met you and not now!"
Ronnie looked pierced again. Someone contradicting her own thoughts hurt her. Either that or she was disappointed she was wrong.
She really was wrong. And I knew that. Jude knew that, and hopefully everyone else knew that too.
She nodded her head, but he couldn't see her.
"Did she say anything else?"
Jude asked me that question. And I thought he asked everyone. Too bad I didn't know that.
"Johnson? Did she say anything?"
I got jumped out of my seat. Jude needed a break. We hated ourselves and loved ourselves too much for him to handle. It wasn't that he didn't care. Maybe he was tired.
"She just nodded her head. I think she doesn't want to talk anymore."
"I understand. I have time for everyone else if they want to talk."
Edna responded by scooting her chair backwards for Jude to hear. Then she got up and walked away. Megan shortly followed.
"Well... That's a shame. They do that every time!"
Trisha spoke up. "Maybe individually. I'm kind of tired. I want to go to my room."
"Me too!" Libby agreed.
"Well, I got three of you. And for today, that's perfectly alright. It's been kind of slow here lately. But anyway, thank you for your time today, kids. I'll be off to my office with Vlad if you need me. I'll see you all on Monday!"
We all said goodbye to Jude before he walked out the door. With him, he took something important.
He took away the truth. One my father had no desire to hear. One he would scream and scratch at.
But I was okay with that. I really was.