Chapter 17: Valentine’s Day
I didn’t stay very long in Peachland. In fact, there was a Kelowna taxi waiting for me right outside the museum doors. I didn’t question it, just hopped into the yellow cab, said, “U.O.K.”, and before I could even get my seatbelt fastened, we were on our way. I didn’t even have to tell the guy where to leave me. It was like he was an already programmed robot and soon I was back outside Abbot. I got out and, after paying the guy, I stretched as the car drove off down Water Street.
Then it was Valentine’s Day and I heard a knock at the door. I turned. There was no one in the bed beside me so I knew Joe had gone. I groggily got up, opened the door, and was surprised to see Jake standing on the other end.
“Art,” he said. “We need to talk.”
“About what exactly?” I asked him.
“About what’s going on with you.”
“How do you know what’s going on with me?”
“Please sit down.”
So I sat on my bed. Jake just remained standing but stood right in front of me so I was looking at him like some curious child awaiting instructions from his father.
“I know about Alice,” he started.
“What do you—”
He cut me off. “I know about the whole Art experiment. To you, it makes no sense and the fact that I do know about it is irrelevant. All I came here to tell you is that you’re not alone.” And then he walked out of my room shutting the door behind him.
I sat on my bed in bewilderment. What I had wanted had just happened: proof. Proof that I wasn’t crazy. But now what? Now that Jake had confirmed my suspicions, I felt nowhere closer to the end. When did this all end? And, frankly, did I want to know? It seemed though that I was still alone even if Alice supported my crazy artistic decisions because she was leading me towards them. So, therefore, nothing changed when really everything had just changed. So I walked out of my room and I refused to speak to anybody about what was going on, even after Jake’s little speech. Nobody. In the strange nonexistent Alice reality, I was alone and therefore had to figure this out all on my own even with Jake’s little does of knowledge. He hadn’t offered to help me crack The Alice Case so that meant that his only job was to confirm my suspicions and basically send me a telepathic “Don’t Give Up” message.
So I was still back in the game and I knew I had to do something drastic. Kiss Alice, tell her I was in love with her, do something. I had already kissed Alice and so wasn’t exactly thinking doing that again would be a good idea.
School was fine. I was passing my courses and learning a lot about art. Even with Jake’s Speech, I still didn’t know if Alice actually loved me or was just fucking with me to see if some day she would fall in love with me. Or maybe her whole objective was just to drive me crazy and anything after that would be considered later. The red cars and everything else was just too overwhelming and I almost thought it didn’t mean that Alice loved me, it was just confirming that I loved her. And if that were the truth, I didn’t need the constant reminders. I knew them!
So I decided to confirm my love for Alice in hopes that all she was trying to do was confirm her love for me: I left a peach by Alice’s door. A peach, a chocolate heart, and a book of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Yes, madness, I know. Then I knocked on her door and disappeared out the backdoor where her room was located, down the three flights of stairs, and out the backdoor of the main floor. Then, what? What was I going to do now? I hadn’t thought everything all the way through. I couldn’t go back to Abbot. I knew that. But I didn’t have to. There was a car waiting for me outside my exit. But not just any car: an R.C.M.P. cruiser. And this confused me. Especially when they handcuffed me and put me in the back of the car. We drove off down Water Street and I felt trapped. My bounded hands felt the metal of the seat I was sitting on. It was not that uncomfortable if I positioned my body a little bit to the left so I wasn’t sitting on them, but I felt very unsure why I had been arrested and put in the back of this car.
“You’ve been charged under the Mental Health Act,” said the R.C.M.P. officer in the driver’s seat as if reading my mind.
I wanted to speak, but somehow felt as if I had been silenced as if I was mute or at least was mute for the time being. Wrongly accused was what I kept thinking and I’m going to jail. Fuck, Alice, what’s next?
Well, I didn’t go to jail; I got nowhere near a police station. Instead, I ended up in the Kelowna Health Centre because, where do mental health cases go? They go to get better. The arrested go to jail.
The cruiser stopped outside the Centre and I was walked into the building and placed on a stretcher. Then a nurse handed me a book once my hands were unhandcuffed: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I wasn’t smiling. In fact, I ripped the back and front cover off the book in front of the woman and she looked appalled that I would do such a thing.
Soon I had my own room and was being told that they were going to call my parents. I thought this was a joke. Honestly, I thought this was when my party was going to happen. A bit late, but that was fine. But no, no, my dad was on the phone.
“Dad?” I said incredulously. One of the nurses had handed me the portable phone and I was almost speechless in hearing his voice.
“What’s going on? I hear that you were ripping down whiteboards off people’s doors, banging the fire bell, and yelling in the halls. The R.A. told you to stop but you continued ripping down the whiteboards on several other floors. When the school psychologist and the R.A. sat you down, you were told to stay put and then you disappeared out the door. Art, are you all right? Your mother is gravely concerned.”
I was speechless, literally speechless. I had no words. As I held the phone to my right ear, I felt like I had forgotten all words. I had forgotten how to communicate or at least express myself with my mouth. All the words that were erupting in my ears sounded like gibberish and almost impossible sounding.
“Did you hear what I just said?”
“Yes,” I nodded like a dumb puppet, but then realized he couldn’t see my nod over the phone.
“Are you O.K.?”
And then it clicked: my second lie. U.O.K. U.O.K. equalled Alice. Maybe my dad was involved after all. I wasn’t sure, but I knew that all of this was a test and after the appearance of Jake, I wasn’t really sure who was on my side. And since you can only pass a test with the right answers, I gave what I thought was the right answer.
“Everything you just told me is true. I did all of it.”
“I know you did,” my dad confirmed. “What I want to know is why?”
Why? What was the motive here? What was the right answer? Who was I supposed to be? I hadn’t done any of the previous destruction he had mentioned and so I knew I had been framed and I was pretty sure Alice had framed me or at least had her goons work up the story. Maybe even if I had gone back to Abbot, I would have discovered that there were whiteboards on the floor. But why was I being accused of this? Clearly I was supposed to feel like how the wrongly accused do when they go to jail or at least when they are deemed mentally unstable when they were perfectly stable. The latter was more accurate to my experience right now. But if it wasn’t the wrongly accused, was I supposed to feel like some abuser or at least someone who damages property if not always, frequently? Then it dawned on me: Joe. I was supposed to be Joe. So I guess I had to behave like Joe, act like Joe, maybe even speak like him.
“What’s it to you?”
“What do you mean? I am your father. I have the right to know why my son is acting strangely.”
“Strangely?! You’re calling me strange? Fuck you.” And then I hung up the phone. “Jackass.” Then I threw the phone across the room for effect. It clattered against the glass window and smashed itself into the floor. I noticed the new cracked line in the right windowpane when the nurse came in.
“Is there something wrong, Mr. Amatory?”
“Get out of my room, bitch!”
“Mr. Amatory, that’s no way to speak—”
“What did I say?! Get out of my room! And my name’s Art. Don’t give me this ‘Mr. Amatory’ shit.”
“I’m sorry.” Then the nurse disappeared and soon reappeared with a man that looked like Socrates in a suit.
“Mr. Amatory,” the man lip-smiled as he extended his hand towards me.
“Who the fuck are you supposed to be, Socrates?” But then I realized that Joe wouldn’t say that. He probably didn’t even know who Socrates was.
“That’s clever but no,” said the bearded man. “My name’s Doctor Jack Window.”
I almost laughed in his face, but this wasn’t Joe. I couldn’t believe that anyone would be called that. Though, I had to admit, it was a sick name. “My name is Dr. Jack Window.” It has a sort of badass quality to it like Jack Bauer, but maybe a bit less cool.
I shook Dr. Window’s hand and gave him a sarcastic smile. “Nice to meet ya, Jack.”
“Please, Doctor Window is fine.”
Then Doctor Window turned to the nurse. I hadn’t realized, but the nurse was extremely pretty: blonde hair and big shiny blue eyes. She almost looked like one of Margaret Keane’s paintings except not as freaky looking. “Lily, you can leave. Mr. Amatory and I will be fine on our own.”
“Art,” I told him once Lily left.
“Art. My apologies.”
I shrugged my shoulders and basically flashed him an I-don’t-give-a-fuck-frown. “Why are you here?”
Dr. Window cleared his throat before speaking. “I’m sure you know by now that you’ve been charged under the Mental Health Act for the damage you did to your residence.”
“Did you know that Alice Sterling has issued a restraining order on you?”
“According to her, you’ve been giving her a bit of unwanted attention. Nothing too serious, but she’s said you’ve made a few advances on her when she specifically told you to stop.”
What the hell was he talking about, the kiss? The kiss happened last year! As far as I was concerned nothing else had happened. I had barely seen Alice all year so what purpose did she have in issuing a restraining order on me? But then I realized I was Joe. Maybe she really wanted to put a restraining order on Joe, but instead transferred it to me because I was Joe? This wasn’t making any sense. So if I was Joe, who was Joe? me? No. That was stupid and I knew I was thinking too much so I just nodded to Dr. Window as if I wasn’t surprised by the new information.
“We in the Kelowna Health Centre believe that it is best for you to remain in our care for about a week. After that, we can discuss what happens next. I have spoken to your father and he has said that he will be flying to Kelowna tomorrow to stay with you during your recovery. After that, he plans to fly you back home to Toronto. Whether you go back to U.O.K. is up to your family and you but I might advise that you don’t continue your studies until next year.”
“What about my courses?”
“Unfortunately your courses will be incomplete, but I believe a fresh start next year will be good for you. I have spoken to the school and they have agreed to wipe your record clean so you can start again like a new student next year. That is, if you come back to Kelowna. However, these are merely suggestions. Besides being under our care for a week, the rest is up to you.”
So I had to act like this for a week and my dad was coming to pick me up. Shit.