Nacchan didn’t quite expect to be given a special case.
The chief of the staff was a jolly old man who could be mistaken for Santa Claus with his hearty chuckles. He had a lean face lined with wrinkles that told of a habit of smiling. He seemed to be amused at Nacchan’s shock. Seated at the other side of the Chief’s desk, Nacchan continued to read through a file folder with information on his three patients.
“They’re siblings, and it is in their best interest to be pretty close to each other.” The Chief said, folding his arms on the polish mahogany table that matched the other furniture in his office and nothing else in the whole hospital. It looked and felt more like a principal’s office with the grey office chair and the glass cabinet with trophies. “They don’t quite mix well with other patients and even some of the staff, so you may have to look after them most of the time.”
I’m alone in this. Nacchan realized. He felt that it was a big step in his career so he chose to do as told with minimal questions. He had a few, but in his surprise and confusion he can’t quite formulate them into coherent thoughts, much less words. It didn’t help that the office reminded him of his high school years when he had to speak with the principal pretty often. He chose to stay quiet and nod, retreating into his meek high school self and returning his eyes to the files.
Siblings, he thought to himself, thinking of possible group therapy activities. How hard could it be?
“Akiko is the eldest.” The Chief narrated. “You can read all of the notes already made there, so you can tell she’ll be more active than her sisters. She’ll also be the most violent, so keep her under wraps.” The Chief’s sudden booming laugh made Nacchan wince. “Not literally of course.”
Nacchan did not expect the Chief of all people to joke about something like that and he blinked for a moment. The Chief didn’t seem to notice, he stood and poured himself some water in a glass from an elegant silver pitcher on the table behind him. He drank as Nacchan continued reading. Violent? This is gonna be tough.
“The middle child is Yukiko.” The Chief sat back down, observing Nacchan as he opened the next folder and read the patient chart. “From her diagnosis, it’s not hard to understand that she’s the least communicative among them. She responds with music, however. She hums a lot.”
When Nacchan opened the next folder, a piece of paper fell out. “Ah, that’s the youngest. Haruko.” The Chief identified as Nacchan picked up the paper and flipped it to see the scribblings on it. “She doesn’t talk at all, or hasn’t tried. All she does is draw and doodle. We try to analyze her work, but there’s no conclusion to that yet.”
The paper was filled with the word “asleep” written repeatedly, sometimes overlapping and in different colors.
After the patient chart, there were other drawings, of suns and of eyes, making Nacchan curious and a little creeped out. It must have shown on his face because the Chief laughed again. “You’ll get used to it! Let me get you your schedule and some patient charts you’ll need. Best start today.”
The Chief stood and turned to rummage in the metal file drawer to the left of his desk. The drawer stood out like a sore thumb in its white paint and obviously different material in the office with wooden furnitures.It reminded Nacchan of a similar drawer he saw somewhere but he couldn’t recall the exact details. The Chief pulled out some sheets and handed it to Nacchan, snapping him out of his thoughts.
“They should be at group therapy now, but away from the others.” The Chief said as he sat and leaned back on his office chair with the handsome leather upholstery. “It’ll be a perfect opportunity to meet, don’t you think?”
“Yes.” Nacchan finally spoke, and having kept quiet made him sound a little hoarse. Gone was the confidence he had set aside for this very moment. The Chief found this funny, too.
“Now go ahead.” The Chief said cheerily. Nacchan gathered and straightened all the papers and folders as he stood up. He bowed and turned to the door, his mind blank. He felt more and more unprepared and anxious with each step. Being aware of this made him feel even less ready as he held the doorknob.
“We’re very glad to have you here,” the Chief suddenly spoke. “So hopefully, you can stay with us for a long time.” He added, with a smile.Nacchan bowed, still empty of thoughts.