Before I Might: Two

Riding in the ambulance is neat. Awkward. But sort of a nonevent. Even if the EMTs do regard me with uncertain malice. Those conspirators formerly known as Mom and Dad follow in their entourage of shame.

“Have you ever seen a bullet wound?” Old-EMT-Guy says, his voice dripping with sage sage-yness.

“Have you?” I ask.

“As a matter o’ fact, little lady, I have,” he says, “and it’s a horrible sight. Maybe you should ride along with us some of these days and get an eyeful.”

“Let’s just call this my ride-along.”

“Now, missy, maybe you wouldn’t be so quick to threaten other folks if you saw some of the awful things we face.”

We drive at ordinary speed through mostly forgotten-after-sunset streets. Young-EMT-Guy nods. I take it they are not licensed in Scared Straight protocol.

I don’t bother to speak again. The ride from my school to the closest hospital for the criminally insane stretches out ahead and I really don’t feel like speaking to my own criminality or my insanity. It’s done me no good so far, as every single person I’ve talked to seems to think I’m ultra dangerous.

Old and Young stare at me. I swear, they don’t even blink. I chew the end of my hair swept to my mouth by the wind when I got in. If I weren’t so annoyed, I might be tempted to bait them into a fight. If I weren’t so scary, they might be tempted to lay hands on me. Thank the lord for small favors, huh?

What they don’t know is that I am terrified of where we’re going to cage me. I prefer control and lucidity. I get the distinct impression my cagers will prefer my deference and dream state. And there’s no telling what other caged birds will be there waiting for fresh flesh. No, I conserve my energy for the health workers who wait for me with fewer words and more meds.

Turns out, registration goes considerably faster when you arrive in style. The Conspirators sign me in and whoosh! up to the fourth floor with me. The men on this floor have muscles bulging from beneath sad scrub sleeves. It’s their tell: they rely on intimidation here. As I roll past the nurse’s desk, I notice only one woman. She, too, appears aggressively muscled.

That’s how I predict my level of fight when they eventually come at me with needles in hand. I’m no match for them, physically. I’m five-feet-five-inches in good shoes and have roughly the defensive capacity of a butterfly. I’ll need to ramp up my efforts to spit-scratch-flail. The spit grosses people out because they only expect it in movies. The scratch incenses them and distracts them so that I can flail to the utmost damage in the vicinity of my appendages.

How do I know all this? Well, I don’t. Not the first go around. But I’m a quick learner.

Be patient. I’m getting there.

First, I’m told to strip. I make a crack about dinner first, at which nobody laughs. Tough room. The female nurse receives me shed street clothes. She seems discouraged when she finds no contraband but shoves something at me and takes my belongings away.

No shoes, no laces, no foul. My loonybin-issued scrubs host small brown bears, psychotically smiling, arms wide, running toward insanity with a singular passion. Maybe the guy in charge of ordering the anathemas has personal experience with psychosis. The scrubs aren’t meant to be calming; I’m not meant to be calm. What would be the fun in zero puncture wounds and no hippie haze?

I open the bathroom door to several people standing in the ugly light of a sterile room.

“She’s been through an ordeal tonight,” White-Coat loud-whispers to the Conspirators. “As long as she isn’t hurting the staff, she won’t be sedated.”

“Oh, thank goodness.” The Conspirators hold each other. They have no reason to expect the best: they haven’t spoken directly to me since they arrived at the school.

“But I do recommend giving her something tonight, to get her some sleep.”

Everyone with a vote agrees. Never mind that I’ve managed to get my own sleep for several years. Never mind that no one has questioned or evaluated or talked to me. Never mind.

Sleep comes fast.

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