22 nightgown of the sullen moon

Drug trip, it’s not a drug trip so you feel a bit insulted

Space walk, it’s like a space walk with the corresponding weight loss

And you’re nothing but air, with your hand in the air

And your shoelaces tied up together with care

There’s a feeling of boredom

Of the big whoredom

Excerpt from “Nightgown of the Sullen Moon” by TMBG

EPOV

My shoulder rests against the wall for support. My slippers are slippery, but Dr. Cullen said I couldn’t get the ones with tread for another day. He said my family could bring them and drop them off for me.

I walk slowly, my shoulder dragging along the wall, so I don’t fall. I pick my feet up, even though I feel like shuffling.

I don’t touch the built-in wooden handrail, but I’m not afraid of germs right now. I can’t explain it. I always knew on some level that the germs weren’t as bad as I feared, but my mind told me that they could be, and the potential outcome wasn’t worth the risk.

Now I have a new understanding, one of having the same patterns in my brain, but the fear is gone. It has been replaced with…nothing.

Even so, I don’t touch the handrail.

Why?

I don’t know. I guess I just don’t want to. I have a coping mechanism. I can slide down the hall with my shoulder pressing for support. That works for me. Why touch the rail if I don’t have to?

It takes me several minutes to walk from my room to the counter where pills are given. The first day, I stayed in my room and hoped no one would notice.

They noticed. Two very large assistants showed up with a nurse who had my pills in a paper cup on one side of the tray and a syringe on the other. She said it was my choice.

I took the pills.

She told me it was very inconvenient for her to have to walk all the way down the hall to give me my “meds.” She asked me if I could be more responsible at lunchtime.

I said I would.

I heard the nurse tell one of the assistants as they left that I threatened a man the day before, and reminded them to keep an eye on me, that I could be violent.

I stand on line with the other patients. No one wears an expression I understand.

Lips are down, but not frowning.

Eyes are partly closed, but they don’t look like sleepy.

Everyone wears their pajamas. They told me I could, too, if I wanted, but I don’t like wearing pajamas all day. Instead, I sleep in my boxers and t-shirt and when I wake up, I put a pair of khakis on.

It’s my turn.

The nurse has neon cats on her scrubs. Yesterday they were suns and moons. Also neon.

I can easily read her expression: scowl, which means angry or displeased. I don’t think she likes giving the “meds” very much.

I asked her on the first day if her hands were clean before I took the cup.

I discovered she likes questions even less than giving meds.

I walk to the dining room-slash-craft room.

There is a tray with a sheet of paper with E. Mason. It’s the only one that’s left. It must be mine.

I eat alone. I look around. Everyone else eats alone too, even the two men in the corner who sit at the same table.

I stare at the tray.

I have oatmeal, which I requested, rather than eggs. The portion is too small. I can tell even without measuring.

However, I don’t feel like doing exercise, so I don’t expect that losing weight will be much of a concern.

I have tea. It’s plain black tea, but it’s boiling hot. I blow, and watch the surface tension break and dark, hot liquid splash the sides of the Styrofoam cup.

I wipe away the small bit that lands on my nose with the back of my hand.

I didn’t ask for them, but there are two strips of bacon on my tray. The first day, I got eggs and bacon and toast and coffee. I didn’t eat any of it.

They didn’t say anything, but gave me a form to fill out so I could request some things I might like.

The nurse’s aide who gave me the form was very kind. She looked at me in the eyes. I know she sees me. Most of the nurses don’t look at the patients in the eyes. They call out names, look at charts.

She brought me two apples after therapy. I asked her if I could wash them with soap and water in the bathroom, and she said that was fine.

I had asked for oatmeal and an apple and some herbal tea.

I wondered if I got the wrong tray. Or perhaps my order was misread.

I won’t ask. I stopped asking questions yesterday; they get upset and write on your chart when you ask questions.

Then, they ask you to explain in group or in one-on-one therapy.

They don’t seem to like my explanations.

I discovered yesterday that if I don’t ask questions, I’m bothered less with pointless explaining of my questions. Of course, if they want me to do something they always tell me.

Why ask someone to explain why it’s important that they ask why they didn’t get the breakfast they were told they could order?

I don’t eat the bacon.

I leave my tray on the roll cart by the door, and shuffle to my room. I don’t have to rest my shoulder on the wall, because I’m a little more awake now.

Emmett and Rosalie brought my clothes on the first day. I didn’t get to see them, but Dr. Cullen said they brought them.

I button up the shirt. It’s soft. I’ve left on the t-shirt I was wearing under my dress shirt when—

I don’t follow the thought, but I blink and feel moisture on my eyelashes.

I skip back a few hours…to when I put the shirt on in the first place.

It was Friday morning. Bella hugged and kissed me. And then I fucked up.

I walk to the men’s room. This is my least favorite task. All showers are monitored, and I only have to take one every third day.

Tomorrow is that day. I’ll worry about it, then.

For now, I have to make do with the sink. No one monitors its use, unless I ask to use my razor.

My skin itches with my growing facial hair.

I wash my face five times using my soap, which Emmett and Rosalie brought me.

I brush my teeth twice. Twice always feels right.

I floss. Once. As always.

I don’t wash anything else. I tried to on the first day, but they complained about the water mess.

I try not to look at the man in the mirror, but before I can comb my hair, I have to see.

I look like the other patients. No expression.

I think about how I feel. I’ve always done a good job of tracking my feelings, but here, where it matters, where they ask me often to explain how I feel…

I have nothing to say.

My face wears that feeling: nothingness.

I conjure up a time recently when I saw myself in the mirror. I remember how I looked after I put my mouth on Bella. I want to get lost in the memory, but it doesn’t feel the same. I try to make this face match that one.

It’s not the same, either.

I remember my face after I—

I close my eyes and shake my head. I don’t think I can make that expression, either.

I pick up my comb and focus on making the part in my hair.

I hear the comb scrape my scalp more than I feel it today.

~~§•§~~

The man to my right has a bandage on his left cheek and ear. He lays his head in his hand, covering the bandage. He told the group yesterday that he’s ashamed, but he didn’t say why.

It’s hard to understand him talk. I think whatever happened to his cheek caused damage to his jaw.

The man who sits to my right is old. He never speaks. He nods a lot, though. He seems to agree with every statement, even if doing so is contradictory.

“Do. You. Have. Anything. To Say, Ernie?” the therapist who is “facilitating” group therapy asks the old man to my left. Her words are big and loud and over-articulated.

He moans.

It’s my turn.

“Edward?”

I look up. This one is nice. She smiles a lot, but she doesn’t grin. Sometimes she smiles with her eyes, too, but never for me.

“Will you tell us how you’re feeling this morning?”

I hate this part. I don’t know what to say. Every answer seems to be the wrong one.

I watched everyone carefully yesterday, trying to figure out how to behave so that they wouldn’t say things like “that will not help you in your recovery, Edward” and “Do we need to adjust your medication?”

Both of those statements mean I won’t be getting out of here, soon. I desperately want to leave. Right now.

“Desperate,” I said.

“Can you be more specific? What do you feel desperate about?”

I know better than to say I want to leave. They increased one of my medications after I said that, yesterday. Dr. Cullen says they worry that I’ll try to break out because they say I have a history of violence.

I’ve never hit anyone other than Emmett since I was a kid. Is that what they mean?

I can’t lie. I just can’t.

So, I say the other truth. The one I that won’t upset anyone but me.

“I’m desperate to see Bella,” I say.

My eyes tingle.

“Is Bella your,” she looks at her notes, “girlfriend?”

“She’s…” I falter. What can I say?

“She’s beautiful,” I finish and let out a heavy breath of air with the confession.

“Edward, I think it would be best if you focused on your emotions about your OCD behaviors. Why don’t you tell me how that’s going today. Any uncontrollable compulsions?”

I look up at her again. She has brown hair. Bella’s hair is brown.

“No,” I say.

“What about your mysophobia…um…how many times did you wash your face this morning?”

“Five,” I answer.

“You washed your face five times yesterday, too.”

I nodded.

“If I asked you to only wash your face three times tomorrow, do you think you could?”

“Yes.”

“Will you do that?”

“No,” I said.

“Why not?” She asks, writing on my chart.

“I like to wash my face five times. It feels right.”

“What would happen if you don’t.”

This is where I would normally feel the fear.

I swallow.

I don’t feel it.

But something is wrong. Why does she care how many times I wash my face?

I search for clues in her expression, but all I see is that smile. It’s nice enough, but it doesn’t reach her eyes.

Her pen is poised to write.

“I don’t know,” I say. “I suppose I’ll have to make do with three. But I won’t like it.”

She writes that down.

She moves on to the man with the bandage.

He tells us that he’s ashamed because he failed. He tells her is sadness level is at a 9 out of 10. She writes that down.

They don’t use levels with me.

I told them yesterday that the numbers are arbitrary, and I had no idea how to use them.

She asks the man if he still wants to hurt himself today.

He nods and cries.

~~§•§~~

Dr. Cullen introduces me to my psychiatrist, Dr. Eleazar. He offers his hand and I stare at it and then look at Dr. Cullen.

I’m not allowed to wear latex gloves. I did take a pair from a box setting on the counter at the nurses’ station my first night here and hid them in my pants pocket (I made sure the ends were not sticking out), but now seems like a bad time to use them.

Dr. Eleazar nods his head. The hand he had meant for me to shake gestures to a chair in front of his desk.

I sit.

“So, Edward. Dr. Cullen says that you had an episode a couple days ago while at work?”

I nod.

“You have acute mysophobia?”

“Not now,” I clarify.

“Yes, that’s the meds, and that’s what we’re here to discuss. Dr. Cullen told me that you don’t want to be on medication, but according to your in-patient therapy records, it seems to be helping,” he continues to speak about meds and dosage.

He smiles.

I am compelled to respond with a mirroring gesture. I remember Dr. Cullen saying something about getting people on your side.

“I can shake your hand now if you will take me off the medication,” I say.

I try to smile.

Dr. Eleazar laughs.

“Yes, but what happens a week from now, when I ask you to shake my hand?”

“I don’t know,” I answer.

“That’s why you’re on the meds, Edward,” he says.

“Because I don’t know how I’ll respond a week from now?” I ask, hoping he’ll clarify.

Dr. Eleazar sighs loudly.

Oh, no. I asked a question.

I immediately feel foolish.

I wonder if I should mention that later. It is the first feeling (other than desperation) that I’ve had since I came here.

“Yes, Edward,” he says. “I want you to be able to function normally. Isn’t that why you’re here?”

“No, I want to get well,” I say. “I think I function pretty normally already.”

“What would ‘well’ look like to you Edward?” he asks.

“I don’t understand your question,” I say.

“I think I can help, if I may?” Dr. Cullen says.

Dr. Eleazar nods.

“Edward. Remember when we talked about goals? Would you tell Dr. Eleazar what your goals are?”

“Yes,” I say. “I want to be able to take care of myself: shop for groceries and clothes. Go to meetings and converse with people. I don’t think it’s important to shake hands, but I would like to feel more comfortable while standing within eighteen inches of someone. I want to be with Bella, to have sex with her and not worry about STDs. And I want to…”

I hesitate. Will they make me do all of these things before I leave?

“Edward?” Dr. Eleazar says.

“That’s all,” I say. “That’s all for today,” I add because I cannot lie. There is something I want to do, but I don’t want to do it today. I don’t even want to think about it today.

But it is a goal.

For her.

~~§•§~~

A squirrel is running back and forth. Scurrying. I can almost hear the rustling of the leaves. I watch it pick up something…a nut? Then, turn it over and over, then drop it, then run up the tree.

The same behaviors over and over.

What good does it do the squirrel to run up the tree each time?

It gets no benefit from it.

That squirrel seems nervous as hell. Emmett said that once about me. I asked him what he meant. He said it meant so nervous it was impossible to be calm.

The squirrel is nervous as hell.

I think I should laugh now, but I can’t.

I’m not nervous as anything anymore. On the other hand, I also don’t feel like doing anything.

There’s a piano in this room. I asked if I could play it yesterday.

They said no; it’s locked.

I sat on the bench yesterday and stared at it.

The nurse came over twice to tell me that I couldn’t play.

I don’t know why she thought I wouldn’t remember after she told me the first time.

There is no “arts and crafts,” today, but we are allowed to come into the room and have “rec” time. There are games.

Two aids aides are playing monopoly with one of the patients.

The television is on.

I go to the shelf and look at the books. I find one with sudoku puzzles. All but the hard ones are completed.

I want to complete all of them, but think better of it. Who knows how long I’ll be here?

I pull a pencil out of an unopened packet on the shelf.

I complete three and put it back on the shelf.

I put the pencil in the book.

~~§•§~~

“Edward, tell us how you’ve been coping with your OCD compulsions today.”

This therapist is like Dr. Cullen. She doesn’t write as much. I like her a lot.

“Good,” I say.

Tonight’s session is about how to deal cognitively with our problems.

“Can you give me an example?”

“I don’t understand,” I say.

“Well, what do you do when you have a compulsion to measure or avoid touching something that you feel is contaminated?”

“I don’t.”

“You don’t…touch it? Or…”

“I don’t have compulsions.”

“At all?”

“Correct,” I say.

It’s true. Other than just wanting to do things because it feels right…like a good habit, I don’t feel any fear.

Also, Dr. Cullen said I can’t get off these meds until I can show them that I’m not afraid to not do my OCD behaviors.

Because I’m not afraid, I decide I’m going to prove it, even if it makes me uncomfortable. I need to get out of here.

“Good, that’s very good, Edward. Would you be willing to do an assignment tomorrow?”

“Yes,” I say. This is it. This is how I can prove it.

“I want you to not repeat cleaning behaviors, like washing hands, face, teeth, et cetera. So, if you wash your face in the morning, you just do it once, OK?”

“OK,” I say.

“Is there anything you’ve done that is unusual?”

“Um,” I don’t know what she means, but every time I say I don’t understand, people roll their eyes like Rosalie. But they do it more often than she does.

It makes me uncomfortable, but I don’t know why.

“I thought I saw you solving a sudoku puzzle earlier,” she says.

“I’m sorry. Someone else had solved the others in it. I thought it was OK.”

“It is, Edward. It’s fine,” she said.

“Oh,” I said, understanding what she meant. “You mean, because someone else had touched it, I should be afraid. But I’m not afraid anymore.”

I smiled. I was actually very uncomfortable, and washed my hands twice after, but I wasn’t afraid.

I certainly wasn’t sweating, and that was new.

~~§•§~~

As I walk down the hall to my room, I feel my nighttime meds “kicking in.” My body feels heavy, and I want to lean against the wall, like I have to do in the morning.

I pass by other patients’ rooms. Each door is open a crack. Mine is at the far end of the hall.

The end of the hall seems farther away tonight.

The man with the bandage on is face has his door open. As I pass by, I see a nurse’s aid aide sitting in a chair next to his bed.

She watches the man.

I stop and stare, because I don’t understand.

The nurse looks up at me.

“Go to bed Edward,” she says.

“I don’t understand,” I say.

She looks away from me, but doesn’t answer my question.

I go on to my room.

I lie on the bed. It makes a funny noise. I think there may be plastic under the fitted sheet. I have to be still in order to fall asleep.

I think about Bella. I wonder if she’s thinking of me. I wonder if she is angry with me for failing.

I hope she understands that I want to get better.

I have goals.

Dr. Cullen says I can make phone calls in the morning.

I know who I’m going to call.

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