REAL ART

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This is Mental

Chapter 18: This is Mental

My dad showed up the next day at around noon and he looked disastrous. There were dark circles under his eyes, his brown hair that was usually neatly combed was a mess as if he had stuck his head in front of a large fan, and his bright green eyes seemed to have lost a bit of colour. We hugged for a brief moment and then my dad looked me dead in the eye. “Art, what’s wrong?”

I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say, but I wasn’t enjoying behaving like Joe. Yesterday evening I had slept in my clothes in a room with this other guy who reeked of expired sweat. It took me a while to sleep and I felt like Alice was communicating to me even in the mental ward. I had gone to the bathroom in my room and had discovered written on the wall:

It’s going to be O.K.

An hour later, I found a red felt tip marker just outside my door. I opened the cap and there was a crumpled up piece of paper stuffed in the inside that read in the same handwriting as the wall:

Write out your anger.

So I did:

I’m not crazy. I’ve been framed. I don’t belong in a mental hospital and now my dad’s here and I don’t know what’s going on. Does she love me? Please answer me if you read this.

But then I realized that the wall with the message was just by the mirror and if my dad came into the bathroom when he arrived, he would clearly see it. But when I tried to wipe it off with my hand, all I did was smear some of the words. I had used a permanent marker.

“I don’t know, dad.”

“It seems you’ve had a rough year. I have spoken to Doctor Window and he tells me that you’re suffering from stress and anxiety. It’s what caused the mental breakdown.” I nodded. I didn’t know what else to say. My dad just gave me a comforting smile. “Son, we’ll get through this. Dr. Window thinks you should remain in the ward for a week and I think this is a good idea. I will be booking a hotel near here so I can come visit and we can go and explore Kelowna; some old father and son time. I’ve heard vague details about you and, Alice? is that her name?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’ve heard vague details about her but apparently she’s put a restraining order on you. Son, we all do crazy things but what made her act in such a way?”

I stared down at the floor. “I’d rather not talk about it.”

“O.K.,” said my dad as he patted my shoulder. That statement was beginning to mock me. “I hope in due time you will. I have brought you some clothes from your dorm. Not everything, but enough to get you through the week I think. Your mother and I have been talking and we don’t want you coming back to Kelowna. It seems being so far away from home was a bad idea. I hate to say it, but your mother was right.”

“Art, you’re going to get so lonely and if something were to happen to you, you’d be so far away.”

I nodded trying to shake my mom’s voice from my head.

“Doctor Window is going to be your mentor and friend for the next week.” It sounded as if Dr. Window had told him to say that. “He wants to see you each day just to talk. Nothing serious and you don’t even have to speak, but he just wants to see that you’re improving. I hope you won’t fight this.”

I nodded. I really felt like a prisoner. “So should I see him now?”

“Yes. I’m going to take you to his office if that’s alright.”

“Sure.”

I followed my dad down to the end of the hall where there was a black door slightly ajar. My dad knocked twice before I heard, “Please come in” and soon we were walking into Dr. Window’s office. The psychiatrist was sitting in a clean office with papers neatly stacked and two shelves filled with books. Dr. Window beckoned us to sit down and then smiled at my dad and I with his greyish-blue eyes. He folded his hands on his immaculate desk before speaking. “I take it you and Art were able to speak before coming here?”

“We did,” my dad replied.

“Excellent. Art, do you have any questions for me?”

“No,” I said. “Just that I’m sorry for my behaviour yesterday.”

“That’s quite alright. I’ve heard you’ve been under a lot of stress lately.”

I looked down at my red Chuck Taylors as a sign of confirmation.

“I’m not exactly sure if I understand why Art is here,” my dad said.

“Art is here because we (U.O.K., the Kelowna Health Centre, and I) believe that Art has been under a lot of stress here in Kelowna and all we want to do is help him get back on track.”

“By arresting me?” I accused Dr. Window.

“My son was arrested?!” cried my dad as he began to stand up, but Dr. Window put up his right hand to stop him.

“Please sit down, Mr. Amatory.”

When my dad was seated again, Dr. Window continued. “We had to take some precautionary measures as Art, and I’m sure you both understand this, was out of control.”

“I’ve heard,” my dad somewhat muttered. He too now looked down at his shoes.

“But we all snap and with the build up of stress Art was experiencing, we just didn’t want Art to do anything drastic that he would soon later regret.”

“What, like hurting someone?”

“More like hurting yourself, Art. That’s why the R.C.M.P. were at your school.” My dad was about to say something so Dr. Window hurriedly continued. “But Art was never driven to any sort of penitentiary, instead he was driven to the Kelowna Health Centre. I’m sorry Art if the R.C.M.P. were rough with you but you must understand that we didn’t intentionally try to harm you.”

“I understand.”

Dr. Window sounded like a dictionary with his fancy words like “penitentiary” and it made him more distant to me. He was just another doctor as far as I was concerned. A doctor that just didn’t want his patient to go ballistic or ruin his career. If he had spoken more colloquially, I may have trusted him more. But with the distance he was already giving me, I started considering who were my enemies and who were the people I could trust. Dr. Window didn’t seem like a guy I could trust.

“I have told Art that you would like to meet with him every day he’s here just as a sort of check up,” my dad told Dr. Window.

“Very good,” said Dr. Window. “Art, don’t think of me as your enemy, think of me as your friend. All I want is the best for you. I don’t want you to feel that this ward is a prison, more like a recuperation station.”

“Yes, it’s very recuperating when I have a guy who reeks of expired sweat and snores extremely loudly in my room when I’m trying to sleep,” I remarked.

Dr. Window just nodded as if I was some angsty teenager. It’s then that I remembered Earkle’s surprising calmness. Dr. Window was reacting the same way and it made me realize that I needed to act more nonchalant than I was. Me snapping so quickly was definitely not helping my chances of getting out of here.

“I didn’t know Paul was a problem, but if you are uncomfortable with your room we can always move you to a room where you would be more comfortable.”

“No, it’s fine.”

“You sure?”

Dr. Window didn’t actually look concerned. It was almost as if he had an invisible clipboard out and was just checking off the list he had to go through that day. Did I offer him different living conditions? Yes. Check.

“It’s fine. “

“Art, Doctor Window is offering you to switch your room. If this Paul is keeping you up, I suggest you take it,” my dad advised.

“Dad, it’s fine.”

“If Art says it’s fine, I trust him,” concluded Dr. Window.

Trust. Check.

My meeting with Dr. Window was more like a briefing for my dad and me. I didn’t really hear much as my psychiatrist couldn’t really say a lot about me in front of my dad. Tomorrow was when I would be hearing the truth about what was going on or at least what they (Dr. Window, the Kelowna Health Centre, and U.O.K.) thought was going on.

When the meeting was done my dad went back to his hotel, which was a Best Western on the Okanagan Highway. I was invited into the kitchen where I was offered a tuna salad sandwich, which I ate at a table with several other mental patients. As I ate my sandwich, I wondered how people got into this place. What did you have to do and were they all being protected from something? One girl with brown bed hair was stirring her spoon in her small bowl of soup and humming softly to herself. The guy beside me, whose grey head of hair was balding, was snoring. I quickly ate my sandwich and began to wash my plate when Lily appeared.

“Hi, Art. I hope you’re feeling better from yesterday.”

“Yes,” I nodded.

“Would you like to come into the lounge? We’re watching The Little Mermaid.”

I followed Lily into the lounge even though I wasn’t that thrilled in watching some cheesy Disney film. The room was filled with bodies but luckily no one was sitting in the La-Z-Boy at the back of the room. When we walked in, Eric was just about to kiss Ariel as “Kiss the Girl” was playing in the background. Just before they fell into the lagoon, it was then that I noticed Eric’s blue eyes and then Ariel’s.

Alice. I couldn’t avoid this girl.

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