Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 3
Morning has broken like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing,
Praise for the morning,
Praise for them springing fresh from the world.
~ Morning Has Broken, lyrics by Eleanor Farjeon
Blackbird Has Spoken Series
- Blackbird Has Spoken:Part 1
Ivy Ledbetter finds herself on a psychiatric unit at Mercy Hospital after a mental health crisis.
- Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 2
Clara Cyborn, psychiatric nurse at Mercy hospital, is outraged by reports of Dr. Stricklen's mistreatment of the patients. Ivy has a very moving connection with Cloe, a frequent flier to the ward.
- Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 4
Dr. Stricklen's harassment of patients and staff finally catches up to him. Cloe has a huge setback as a result of Stricklen's last foray into patient abuse.
From Blackbird Has Spoken Part 2
Clara Cyborn, nurse and patient advocate from the mental health unit, stormed into the office of Elizabeth Starthem to complain and demand action against Dr. Stricklen's abusive treatment of patients. Elizabeth already had a pile of complaints but hadn't gotten anywhere with the hospital administrator.
A young woman named Cloe made friends with Ivy, sealed with a pinky swear. During grief and loss group Ivy experienced a trauma trigger from the past. Later, Cloe and Ivy had an intimate moment when they both discover a mutual connection from their childhoods.
Excerpt: Ivy set down her crayon and looked at Cloe. "How do you know that song?"
"My grandmother used to sing it to me. She was in the church choir. My mom has an old record album of Cat Stevens singing it."
Tears slipped from Ivy's eyes. She realized why there was an instant connection between her and Cloe. She felt like Cloe was a part of her.
Cloe tenderly swiped a tear off of Ivy's face. "What Ivy? Why the tears?"
"My Nana sang that to me all the time when I was scared or sick or sad."
Their eyes met and lingered with an unspeakable knowing, a oneness of hurt and love. Finally Cloe spoke. "We're not allowed to hug here, but if I could, I would wrap my arms around you and hug the hurt right out of you. Maybe when we get sprung."
The end of the world
Ivy screamed and flew into Nana's arms, shaking violently. She heard the sound of Nana's hysteria, which frightened her even more. The three gunshots were followed by the sounds of erratic footsteps from the upstairs. The shock wave of a final shot rang out, followed by a thud, and the utterly terrifying sound of silence - the sound of finality, death, and the end of the world. Liquid warmth drained down Ivy's legs.
Soon Ivy heard sirens, and the chaotic, heavy footfalls of the crime scene investigators. She sobbed into Nana's breasts, clawing at her neck leaving bloody gouges on her grandmothers's skin. She could hear Nana's muffled crying. Nana rocked her and held her tighter than she ever thought possible. Though the smell of gunpowder had long dissipated, the acrid odor remained so thick to Ivy's senses she could literally taste it. She felt the mix of surreal numbness and brutal reality.
Nana wept, "Oh, Ivy, darling Ivy. I'm so sorry. So sorry. Nana's here. The Lord is with us. He will carry us through."
A policemen came down to talk to Nana. She was able to tell him what she heard, but could not fill in any background information because Ivy screamed so badly. The officer decided to talk with Nana later.
Ivy's weeping eventually subsided, but they continued to rock. The only sound to be heard in Nana's basement apartment was the rhythmic ticking of the antique clock on the mantle. Ivy was now snuggled down onto her round little grandmother's breast. Always the safest place in Ivy's world. Nana stroked her hair and spoke.
"Ivy, your mama's in heaven in the arms of Jesus. We're going to miss her, but we will see her again. I promise, baby girl."
"What about Roger?" Ivy's little mind filled with fear.
"He's gone too, Ivy. But he's not in heaven and he'll never hurt anyone again."
In her quavering little voice Ivy petitioned her grandmother. "Nana, sing me the morning blackbird song." She was desperate for the song, for the song was the only way she knew to enter the Divine safety of God's presence. "Nana," she pled, "please sing me the song."
As the night sky faded into gray twilight, and a light rain pattered on the window pane, the apartment filled with song.
"Morning has broken, like the first morning," Nana began.
"Blackbird has spoken," Ivy sang softly. Like the first bird. Together they sang about the morning praises. The presence she longed for filled the apartment, then Ivy slept a deep and dreamless sleep.
Suddenly, Ivy felt a shaking at her shoulder. A familiar voice prodded her. "Ivy, it's time to wake up. It's time for breakfast." Ivy opened one eye and stared up into the face of Clara Cyborn, her nurse, friend and advocate. She didn't know what to feel. She just got up and went to the dining room, numb and detached. Twenty nine years had passed between the time she fell asleep for her nap and the time she woke up, and it still felt like the end of the world.
Dr. Wong's passion
Ivy had just finished breakfast and was getting ready to take a shower. It was day three. She heard a knock on her door. "Come in," she said, annoyed.
A nurse by the name of Helen stuck her head in the door. "Hi Ivy, I just wanted to let you know Dr. Wong would like to see you in half an hour."
Ivy rolled her eyes. "I hope he's better than that Dr. Strychnine. Do I have to see him?"
"Yes, but Dr. Wong has been here a number of years and is always a favorite of the team of docs we have here. He's well tested and found tried and true. He has a great sense of humor and is very down to earth. If you don't come out adoring him, I'll be surprised, but we do have two other doctors who are very respected."
"Okay. I'm about to take a shower. Is he going to be in the same office that Weasel was in?"
Helen was amused by Ivy's nicknames for Dr. Stricklen but tried to refrain from chuckling. "Yes, same office. Enjoy your shower and if you need more towels let me know now."
"No, I'm good. Thank you."
Ivy lifted her face into the hot stream of water. The water pressure was ridiculously low, but it felt good nonetheless. How she longed for her lilac body gel and shampoo from home. She didn't want anyone to know she was hospitalized so she had to make due with watery, hospital soap and shampoo that barely lathered. There was not enough either, but it would have to suffice. She enjoyed the retreat from everything and just focused on the sensations of hot water and steam. Suddenly she let out a scream and nearly killed herself jumping out of the shower. She grabbed a postage stamp sized towel that felt like sandpaper and tried to wrap it around herself. The water had gone from hot to icy cold in a split second. The shock put her over the edge emotionally. "Can't I have one decent moment in this place?" she sobbed to the air. "Just one stinkin' lousy moment of peace? One stinkin' lousy shower? God, I hate this place. Why do you have me here?" It seemed every near pleasant moment was always stolen from her by something. The emotional roller coaster never came to an end, just a straight-a-way here and there for a reprieve.
Helen was knocking frantically on the door. "Ivy, are you okay? Can I come in?"
"Just leave me alone. I'm okay. I just want to be left in peace."
"That's fine. I just want to make sure you're not hurt."
"I'm fine," she barked. "The water went cold on me."
"Oh, yes, it does that. I should have thought to tell you. I'm sorry, Ivy."
"Everyone's sorry around here. I'm the one who's sorry, sorry they pumped my stomach. Please go away."
Helen left, letting Ivy cry it out and have a chance to gather herself. "I wish they would fix the hot water issue in this old building, Muriel," Helen said to the front desk clerk, tossing a file onto the counter.
"Tell me about it," said the ancient, cranky clerk. "I've been in this building for over thirty five years, and all the modernizing hasn't done a hill of beans for the hot water problem. I'm sick of hearing the complaints."
"Clearly, Muriel is in sore need of retirement," Helen whispered to Eric, the therapist who led the grief and loss group. He replied with a hearty "Amen!"
It was a bad day so far on the Club Eleven unit.
~ ~ ~
Ivy was now dressed. She had to launder her only set of clothes last night so she'd be fresh today. She'd be darned if she'd wear the hospital pajamas except for bed. If only she could bring herself to have someone bring her some things from home. But it was too humiliating to let anyone know. They had taken away her cell phone, standard protocol upon admission. No shoe laces, belts, hair dryers, razors, cords of any kind - anything someone could harm themselves with. The "guests" had to use a common phone, which interestingly, had the old fashioned curly phone cord. One could do the deed right there. She found it amusing imagining staff finding someone who had chosen that way to off themselves. My but she was feeling sick and cynical. She looked at the clock. The half hour was up. Time to face Dr. Wong. Her tummy was tensing already.
~ ~ ~
"Come in," said a male voice with an asian accent.
Ivy stepped in to the same nondescript little office with the cheap, bare desk, a file cabinet, a phone, and a couple of the glamorous plastic molded chairs that filled the unit. This one had a sick green color to match the paint. Dr. Wong appeared to be about sixty. His hair was thinning and gray but he had beautiful skin and the most beautiful brown twinkling eyes she'd ever seen. He wore a gray suit coat with an expensive white shirt, open at the collar. His tie was wadded up and resting on the file cabinet.
"Come, sit down. You are Ivy?" He didn't wait for an answer. "Nice to meet you Ivy, I'm Dr. Wong...and I don't bite." said the man, who extended his hand and wore a smile that said he was ecstatic to meet her.
Ivy was taken aback at Dr. Wong's sincerity and joy. She shook his hand firmly. A smile broke out on her face. 'I like this guy,' she thought.
"It's nice to meet you too," she said as she took a seat.
"Ivy, I want put you at ease. I love what I do because I love helping people like you. I don't have private practice like other doctors here. This is where my life work is."
"That's nice," she said, relaxing significantly.
"Now, tell me little about yourself, Ivy."
"Um, well, I..." suddenly she couldn't think of anything to tell him. "Well, to be honest, Dr. Wong, nothing comes to mind at the moment. I don't know who I am anymore. I don't want to be on this earth most of the time. But you are very nice."
Dr. Wong smiled compassionately. "Oh Ivy, you are honest woman. Good for you, good for you. That's very good start. Maybe I help you a little. You live here in town?"
"I have a little studio apartment over on Mercer street."
"Oh, I know the street. I go to little corner grocer there on 8th and Mercer. Rivera's Grocer. Ever been there, Ivy?"
"Why, yes I have."
"What do you think of homemade churros? They not Chinese, but I can't get enough of them. I go there early Wednesday and Saturday morning while they hot, on my way to gym." He broke into a sly smile. "I know, you probably look at my waistline," he quipped, patting his pooch of a belly, "and wonder how come gym is not helping. I tell you why, Ivy, because I only go there to swim two laps." He broke into giggles. "It relieve my guilt for eating five hot churros." he said, with a wink her way.
"Five churros? Wow, Dr. Wong, that's over the top." Ivy forgot she was on the psych ward, that she was even in a hospital. The cold, ugly office disappeared. She was so thoroughly enchanted and at ease with Dr. Wong that nothing else existed other than the two of them having this lovely chat.
Dr. Wong feigned offense. "Now Ivy, you be nice."
"Oh, no worries. I'm just teasing." They laughed.
Dr. Wong grew serious. "Ivy, I'm sorry you don't want to be on this earth. But I want to help you. That what I do here. Help hurting people like you. I look at your chart. It says you take too many pills. They pump your stomach. Ivy, tell me how you feeling physically?
"Well, I'm tired twenty four hours a day and it's hard to eat sometimes. I feel like a slug slogging through the mud most of the time."
Dr. Wong was listening intently, concern was all over his face. "Uh huh, uh huh. I see. Ivy, I put you at ease. Tired and no appetite common here. Each day we try to help you feel better, more relax. Let me look here at medications."
He poured over her medication list, muttering the names of each one, followed by "Uh huh."
"Okay, Ivy. I see you are on antidepressant - Cylexa. It pretty low dose. Maybe we bump up a bit. Okay with you, Ivy?"
"I don't want to be a zombie. Once I had a doctor who had me on so many drugs I could barely function. My memory was terrible. I was sleepy all the time, too."
"No, Ivy. I don't make zombies. I will bump up dose but not make you a zombie. Okay, Ivy?"
"I give you something for anxiety also. Small dose. You have any questions for me?"
"No," she said, then paused for a moment. "Well, there is one thing. Can you do something about the hot water problem?"
Dr. Wong threw back his head and laughed. "I wish Ivy. I'm not that smart. If I try to fix hot water, I end up in hot water." He laughed again, thoroughly enjoying his own jokes. "How you doing in groups, Ivy? Are they help for you?"
"It depends on which ones. To be honest, I haven't found anything real helpful. I ran out of the grief and loss group because the guy that led it looked and sounded just like the man who killed my mother, then himself." Ivy couldn't believe she'd just shared that.
"Uh huh, uh huh. I'm sorry that happened, Ivy. But everything here have a purpose. We giving people here lots of help, but it take time. Listen Ivy, you need anything, you tell nurse and she contact me. I am here for you. You come see me tomorrow and we talk more. Sound good, Ivy?"
"Yeah, sure. I don't have any other plans, that's for sure."
"Soon you will, Ivy."
"Thank you so much, Dr. Wong. My but you are a breath of fresh air."
Dr. Wong leaned forward and cupped his hand to his mouth with a sly grin, "Yes, that what they tell me. It those churros. You have good day, Ivy. Thank you for coming."
Once again they shook hands. Ivy wanted to kiss his adorable cheek, but of course that wasn't appropriate. She thanked the kind doctor and left his office feeling hope because someone in his position really, truly cared.
She went back to her room, stretched out on the bed for a few moments, and wondered when the other shoe would drop because nothing good lasts forever with her. Would the swinging moods and pessimism ever stop? She wished that the world were more like Dr. Wong, Clara, and of course, Nana, who died and broke her heart.
© 2016 Lori Colbo. All rights reserved.