"You weren't serious about it, were you?" she asks.
I know what she means, but I play dumb. "Serious about what?"
"You cut. It's nothing. We see it all the time. You didn't want to die. You wanted to...well, that's what I'm here to find out."
"No, see, I did. At least at first." I look at the bland, orange-brown walls, the nondescript carpeting, the surroundings clearly designed to be as unthreatening as possible. Soothing, perhaps, if your nerves are easily relaxed. Me, well, my nerves felt like they were on the outside, and every voice, every sound, every rush of air disturbed them. I wanted no disturbances. I just wanted stillness.
"I just wanted stillness," I continue. "However I could get it."
"Your mother said you were upset. One of your cats was sick and she suggested having it euthanised--"
"Euthanised? No, that's not...that's not the right word. She wanted to kill her. Shemp is a great cat, she just has these little episodes sometimes. She's...I don't know, maybe she's epileptic or something. Yeah, it's scary to watch, but you don't just get rid of something because it isn't quite right. Shemp is...I love Shemp."
I'm crying now, and it's pathetic, like I'm following a fucking script, like I'm Timothy Hutton having a major breakthrough in Ordinary Fucking People and suddenly everything's going to make sense now, because the movie's almost over and the audience has to understand. "And you're going to read something into that, aren't you?" I ask. "Shemp's fucked up and so am I, and if she's disposable, then what am I?"
She nods, just slightly. "I don't think...Let me put it this way: There's nothing wrong with you. I've talked to the people on duty the night you were admitted, they said you seemed shaken and scared. But also funny. You kept making jokes."
"I don't remember that."
"They said you seemed to be doing it almost to distance yourself from what was going on, a reflex action."
"You make me sound like Woody Allen."
"Are you a fan of his?"
"Yeah." What the hell? I wan't expecting a question like that.
Her slightly distant manner drops away. She's almost animated. "Do you like his older movies, the funnier ones or--?"
Seriously? "No. I mean, yeah, those are great, too, but, you know, Zelig--"
"I wondered if you'd seen that one. What did you think of it?"
"Well," I stammer, incredibly self-conscious and feeling like I'm suddenly doing a really half-assed Woody Allen impression. "It was kind of, um, disturbing..."
"In what way?"
What are we, Ebert and Siskel all of a sudden? "He didn't, you know, couldn't, you know, be, um..." I stop. I get where she's going with this. "He didn't feel comfortable being himself, he was so desperate to fit in, he sacrificed his own personality. He couldn't relate to the world."
I pause, waiting for her to say something. She doesn't, so I continue. "And he probably, you know, had a weird, spastic cat that his mother wanted to put to sleep. Is that what you're suggesting?"
She smiles, shaking her head. "No, I was just curious what you thought about it. You have--those tests you took? They suggested you had a very analytic mind. And significantly above-average intelligence, but you already knew that, didn't you?"
"Why...Why would I know that?"
She picks up the notepad she'd sat down when we started talking and rustles through the pages. "You're eighteen?"
"Yeah. Nineteen in--God, what is this, April? A month? How intelligent can I be? I don't even know what day it is."
"You're not fooling anyone, you know. But listen, we'll talk more tomorrow. Until then, rest, relax, do whatever makes you feel comfortable. If you don't feel like going out to the day room, that's fine. We're not going to change you overnight."
"We? Who's we? And what am I changing into?"
She stands. "You, me, whoever gets your case. And what you change into--well, that's up to you."
As she exits, she leaves the door slightly ajar, and I hear the click click click of her boots down the industrial hallway, hear her voice talking to someone else, then mingling with other voices. I sit in the earth-toned blandness of my room, looking at the books I'd requested Mom bring me. Naked Lunch? Seriously? Do I want to intentionally feed the very depression that landed me here in the first place?
They've got books in the day room, bland, out-of-date best sellers, Judith Krantz and shit like that. Maybe that's what I need. Something uninteresting. I can sit out there surrounded by people, talking, watching TV, reading the same thing average people read, and maybe I'll start to feel what it must be like to be normal.