Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 5
From Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 4
Dr. Stricklen went on a rampage after Cloe Ludlow threatened to blow the whistle on him for making improper advances toward her. As he began to unravel, he threatened plucky, aging unit clerk, Muriel Hightower, with bodily harm. Stricklen was taken into custody.
Cloe herself unraveled later that night, and spent the night in the safe room.
She went into a sudden burst of rage, with the kicking of of chairs, throwing of pillows and shouts of profanity. She spent the night in the safe room. But she was not safe from the memories of the day, nor of the past.
The next morning, just before morning goals group, Ivy spotted Cloe sitting up against a corner wall, still in her pajamas and robe. She looked wan and glassy eyed, no doubt from lack of sleep. Ivy went over and sat with her. They didn't speak for a long time. It was enough for Ivy and Cloe to know the love emanating from one another. Finally, Cloe sighed deeply and looked at her friend.
"I sure wigged out, didn't I?"
"No worries, Cloe. I've had a few wig outs since I've been here."
"I guess that's part of psych ward life."
"Tell me about the safe room, Cloe? Is it scary?"
"In a way it can be, but really, the truly scary thing is being so out of control that I need to go to one. I've only been one other time. It took me a long time to calm down. Once I am in the room it is very lonely. It keeps the patient and others safe, but it is so isolating I have no one near to help ground me. I feel like I am going mad. I am alone with my scary, unstable thoughts. I sang to myself last night. It wasn't a happy song, but it helped in some way, maybe only for the fact that I was expressing feelings."
"Wow, I will have to scratch that one off my bucket list," said Ivy. They laughed.
"Do you want to know what happened yesterday?"
"Only if you want to talk about it. I take it Dr. Weasel upset you."
"You could say that, yes."
"Thanks. Me too. I told him I wanted him to take out the diagnosis he put in my chart. He kept saying I had a serious pathological personality disorder. I have a well documented case of PTSD, not a personality disorder. So I grabbed the file and began crossing things out. He really got mad then and grabbed my arm so hard it left bruises. Look at my arm."
Ivy took Cloe's arm and looked at it. "Why that creep."
"I tried to pull my arm away and threatened to scream and press charges. Then he went ballistic on Muriel when he asked her to call security. He wanted her to call security on me, can you believe that? I did nothing but stand up to him. I think Muriel knew."
"How you doing now, Cloe?"
Cloe let out a long breath. "I don't know, Ivy. I'm just so tired. Sick of everything. Every man I've ever known, just about, has hurt or betrayed me in one way or another. My dad, my grandfather, uncle, boyfriends, a creepy bunch of guys that got me drunk."
"I don't know what to say, Cloe. I am so very sorry. I love you."
Cloe looked at her friend and took her hand. "I love you too, Ivy Ledbetter.
They smiled at each other.
"So Ivy, what's your story? Why are you here?"
It was Ivy's turn to let out a long breath. "Well..." Several seconds of silence, then she began again. "Well, I guess lots of trauma too. My mom's boyfriend - murder/suicide while I was downstairs with my Nana."
"Talk about a creep. He was the scariest human being I ever knew. I couldn't figure out why Mom stayed with him, or why she ever hooked up with him in the first place. He was nothing like my dad."
"Where was your dad?"
"He died when I was four, a year and a half before my mom was killed. He was a lineman for the power company. Something went wrong and he fell off the top of a pole in a bad windstorm. Broke his neck and died instantly. Broke my heart."
"Six months after he died, Mom hooked up with Roger. He was cruel and violent. Nana, who was my Dad's mom, lived in a basement apartment in our house. She told Mom if she didn't kick Roger out, she would go to social services and try to get custody. Mom let me live with Nana downstairs. We had a door that led out so we stayed to ourselves. I saw Mom when Roger was at work. I don't know where I'd be if Nana hadn't been there for me." Ivy looked at Cloe. "You mentioned your grandmother used to sing you the morning song. What was she like?"
"Grammy was very eccentric. I guess I take after her - pink hair and all. She and my mom loved to dance and sing. We used to turn on the music and Grammy, boy, she could put on the moves. Nothing old about her. She was in the church choir, and when she wasn't singing hymns, she sang boogie woogie. She and my mom did perfect harmony, and they taught me how to sing with them. We sang in church a few times, the three of us."
"It was. The only good thing in my life growing up." She rubbed her stomach. "I'm starved."
"Smells like bacon."
"The breakfast of champions."
"Do we have to do goals group? I'm tired of being a psych ward groupie."
"I guess we have to. Rats!"
"I'm embarrassed to go."
"Oh, Cloe, take a look around. We have all had our moments."
"I know but I don't want people know about it or to judge me or pry and ask questions."
"No one has a clue, Cloe. Things are so confidential here anyway. Look, they're gathering. Let's get this out of the way and we'll have some bacon."
"Bacon is like the bread of heaven."
Ivy crossed herself and said "Let's go."
Amongst the clouds
After a scrumptious hospital breakfast of bacon, eggs, and scones, Ivy felt weary and went to her room before she went to see Dr. Wong. As she entered her room, she looked at the massive, tall window with a view of the city. The sill was wide enough for her to sit on. She sat looking over the city, noting the tiny moving cars and buses, the specks of students on a play ground, the billowing smoke from one of the factories, a man walking a dog, a jogger.
'What must it be like to be happy, normal people, going through an average day?' She wondered if the jogger was a fanatical health enthusiast? Were the people driving going to a job they liked? Did they take life for granted? Did any one of them have problems like hers and Cloe's? Clouds were gathering with different textures and hues of gray. She wondered what it was like to be a cloud? To live in the clouds. Then it hit her that clouds had moods just like hers. Somehow she felt a sudden affinity with them.
"God, I'm so sad for Cloe, and for myself, and every person on this ward. All those people down there have no idea that just seven floors up are some of the most broken, despairing, and traumatized people on earth, and we're just trying to get through another day. They don't even know and if they did they would not likely care. To them we'd just be a bunch of mental defectives who have lost their minds. Nana told me all the time about you. We went to church, just like Cloe and her grandmother and mother. I heard Your precious promises, I read them and memorized them with Nana, and I knew Your love so many times. I don't feel it now. I want to feel it. I need to feel it or I don't think I can go on. I have nothing and no one else. Help me to see and know you through the murky darkness that lies and tells me there is no hope. There has to be hope because You are God and you live forever."
She remained still, watching the world outside the window. A warmth filled her the sun rose through the darkness in her heart. "Oh, Father, let this stay in my heart and never leave."
Dr. Wong smiled brightly when Ivy walked into the office. "Hi Ivy. Good to see you again. How is my friend Ivy doing today?"
"I'm doing okay today, so far. And how are you, Dr. Wong?"
"Me? No one ever ask how I am. Thank you for asking, Ivy. I am doing well too, since you came in the door."
"You still eating all those churros?"
He laughed. "Oh yes, Ivy. I up them to six and swim extra lap."
Ivy put out her hand for a high five.
"Your hand okay, Ivy?"
"Yes, I'm trying to give you a high five."
Dr. Wong looked pensive. "Hmm. American's have strange customs. Okay, Ivy, high five."
They slapped hands.
"Ivy, I live in America many years and I'm still learning American ways. Tell me how you are doing? I know yesterday was bad day here."
"Yes, it was pretty bad. My friend Cloe was involved. She had a hard night. I'm very worried about her."
"You are good friend to Cloe." Dr. Wong grew very serious. "Dr. Stricklen not here anymore. You are all safe. I take good care of you."
"Thank you. You are so kind."
"Your nurse say you have bad dreams. Tell me more?"
"What can I say? I dream about the shooting. I can see, hear, and smell the whole event. I relive it over and over again every time I have the dream."
"This common with PTSD. When there is trauma, person dream vivid dream of what happened. They have flashbacks, like it happening right then. You have flashbacks, Ivy?"
"I did before I came here. Now it's mostly the dream. But I think of my Nana singing to me and it helps comfort me."
"Your Nana? That American word for grandma, right?"
"Yes. The night it happened she rocked me all night and sang a song to me that she always sang when I was afraid or sad."
"Ah, what nice Nana. My Nai Nai sing to me as little boy. But she have terrible voice. She scare me." They both laughed. "Ivy, I see here your Nana passed recently. You are grieving your Nana?"
Ivy began to cry. Dr. Wong handed her the kleenex box and waited quietly. After a minute she composed herself enough to say, "I can hardly bear it. She was my life. She took care of me all my life. I had no mother, no father, and no other family. It was just her and I."
"I'm sorry Ivy. Very great loss."
"It was very sudden. I was giving her dinner and she grabbed her left arm then her chest. I called 9-1-1," she said through sobs. "I did CPR the best I could, but I didn't do a good enough job. She died in my arms. I can't talk about this anymore."
"Ivy, it was not your fault. You don't have to talk about it. It was good you tell me, but you don't have to keep talking. We don't need to talk anymore today if don't not want to."
"Okay. I walk you to your room."
"You would do that?"
"Of course. I tell you I take good care of you."
When Ivy had dried her eyes, she stood and they walked together to her room. At the door Dr. Wong said with compassion. "Ivy, you will get through this, I promise. You have reason to live. Help other people. You help Cloe already. Tell nurse if you need me. Take care, Ivy."
Ivy teared up. "Thank you so much, Dr. Wong."
Dr. Wong colors
Cloe was taking refuge in the rec room. Coloring soothed her. It was her favorite escape. She was so sick of going to the groups she'd been to so many times she could run them herself. In fact, she often chimed right in like the facilitator, helping draw people out, giving information, answering questions. The group leaders didn't seem to mind. She felt too maxed out today to go through the program. She had gone to see Dr. Wong right after Ivy and he had given instructions that Cloe could just do R & R today and not have to attend groups. She was so grateful to be seeing Dr. Wong again. She'd made the rounds with all the various doctors over the years. Dr. Wong was a favorite with the patients and staff, thus often had too high of a patient load, so she was always willing to see the others who were not half bad, that is until Stricklen came along. As she colored in the intricate flower patterns, she felt like the flower book was the only thing in the world that was bright, except for her friendship with Ivy and seeing Dr. Wong. She was sick and tired of living from crisis to crisis, seeming to get nowhere. Life didn't seem worth living. Intellectually, she new that was false. It was a lie, but her feelings couldn't seem to stay in sinc with truth.
Clara and Dr. Wong came into the rec room. "Cloe," said Clara. "There is a detective here to see you. You don't have to see him if you don't want to. But if you're willing, we will take you to see him.
"Would you like to talk, Cloe? Maybe I help prepare you," said Dr. Wong.
Cloe couldn't process. She just stared at the book. A wave of despondency washed over her like a tsunami. She lost track of where she was, who she was.
"I think Cloe not ready," Dr. Wong said to Clara.
"Yes. I'll tell the detective another day. He'll just have to wait."
Dr. Wong sat down and chose a book to color in. He thumbed through the pages carefully, mumbling to himself, a habit that annoyed Mrs. Wong no end. "Hmm, what picture should I color? I not color since I don't remember when. What should I color, Cloe?"
Cloe was checked out, somewhere else and could not respond.
"Oh, here some lovely flowers. Hmm, what color?" He poured over the crayon and marker supply. "How you guys make choice with so many colors?" Knowing how difficult it could be for the patients to make decisions, he wondered at the wisdom of offering so many choices. "Oh Wong, they just color crayons, not life decision. Okay, Cloe, I choose this blue."
Cloe remained in her dissociated state.
Dr. Wong began to fill in the flower picture with great attention. "Cloe," he said gently, "my Nai Nai, that my grandmother, she take me to garden to read when I a little boy. She tell me, 'Boy, you read one chapter, I let you draw.' I hate reading as a boy, but I love to draw, so I try hard to read, even though it difficult. Sometime chapter too long. Sometime boring. Sometime too many big words. One day I say, 'Nai Nai, I hate reading. Let me draw.' She say 'No, read.' You know what I did, Cloe? I throw tantrum. I throw book at Nai Nai and throw myself on flowers, kick and scream. Wong was brat. Nai Nai get very mad I ruin her flowers. She throw water on me. It shock me, and I scream. Then Nai Nai laugh at me. She laugh so hard, she fall off garden chair. I throw another tantrum. Cloe, my Nai Nai had enough and she beat my backside. I scream and get madder. I turn 'round and sass Nai Nai. I say, 'Nai Nai, you mean pig. I hate you.' Then I burst into tears. Nai Nai hold me and say, 'sūnzi - that mean grandson - you wrong to throw tantrum and sass Nai Nai. But Nai Nai still love her sūnzi. You read chapter and we draw together. I read real good and draw picture of me and Nai Nai in garden. She very happy. We survive."
Wong drew back and examined his work. "Hmm. Wong, something not look right. Maybe wrong colors."
"It's not the colors that are wrong, Dr. Wong, it's that you color outside the lines?"
Wong looked at Cloe sidelong, indignant. "You say I bad artist, Cloe?"
"Well, let's just say you're a better doctor than an artist."
"Ah, Cloe, you warm my heart."
© 2016 Lori Colbo