You lay in your bed and feel the metallic blood-like aftertaste spread itself across your tongue. You know that in a few minutes the sleeping pill will take affect and your thoughts will become fuzzy and you’ll be whisked away to a deep sleep. You know that, but you fight it anyway. The more that you fight, the more that the next world can bleed into this one.
Your heart beats fast like footsteps running. The next world. Forbidden words that you have washed from your vocabulary. But they are safe in your mind. They haven’t learnt to listen to your thoughts. Not yet.
You tell yourself
Tomorrow I am free.
You taste the words, swash them around your mouth. Fit your tongue through their gaps, squash them between your teeth.
‘Is she awake in there?’
‘Yeah but she took her Zopiclone.’
‘Did you do the check?’
‘Looked under her tongue, yeah.’
‘She’s getting out tomorrow.’
‘Yeah. Poor thing’
Hello? Can you hear me? Where have you been?
The council give you the flat that you want.
Your family and your doctors told you it was a long shot when you applied, but you got it. Third block, second floor on the right. It’s yours. You can finally move out of your Mum’s house.
The council built these blocks of flats in the 80s, behemoths of grey cement a stones throw away from the hospital designed to house mental health patients that won’t get better.
A flat in Orchard Court means that you’re beyond saving.
But you’re also lucky. The woman at the council with grey hair and grey teeth tells you
‘It’s rare to get a flat there, you’re lucky. The previous tenant just died.’
‘No, pancreatitis. He was a big drinker, apparently.’
You run your fingers over the powder-blue walls of your new living room. You know the smell of smoke will never be washed from these walls. You inspect the once light grey carpet for stains; you half-expect to find a brown puddle of his dried blood. Signs of the previous tenants demise.
You find nothing.
You name him Derek. The man who died here. You imagine him spending days here, alone in the world. Drinking himself numb, you imagine the way that the billowed smoke from his cigarette would look in the sunlight; the way it would move, as if alive.
You are lucky.
Our home, a home for us
(The voice presses itself against your mind, like fingers trying to pry open a door locked shut. If you could just figure out how to open the door for just a minute.)
Your Mum is proud of you. She reminds you every few minutes. Her eyes go red with welled-up tears. She thinks you did something to deserve this.
You are thirty years old, no education, no job, and crazy. She has never had a reason to be proud of you before.
She stands with you in the living room of your flat, grips onto your arms tight and smiles at you. A real smile. A smile of relief. She is proud.
In the light you can see the little burst blood-veins on her cheeks, like red worms. She has deep creases either side of her eyes, but they are not laughter lines. They’re crying lines.
She is only fifty. She has aged before her time. It is your fault. You have aged her.
Your madness is manageable now, you are sure of it. You have learnt how to side-step it, placate it. As long as you take two tablets after breakfast, one at lunch, and two more after dinner then you will be fine.
You imagine your madness under your floorboards, an amorphous creature with long-reaching tentacles, spreading itself across your flat. Always waiting.
‘You have some mould in the corners of the flat, but that’s easy to get rid of. I’ll get you a special spray.’ Your Mum says.
You know it’s not mould, the madness’ tentacles have spit ink. It’s a reminder. A warning.
You are lucky.
And we are together
Your Mum writes down her number on pieces of paper and tapes them up all around your new flat.
I memorised your number when I was ten years old, you remind her.
‘I know but this is just… in case. You promise me that you’ll tell me if anything… happens.’
‘If you know… If you hear the voices, you promise you’d tell me? Because you don’t want Joaquin back.’
I wouldn’t let him come back
As part of your discharge agreement you have to visit your psychiatrist at the hospital once a month. Your legs and arms go numb as you walk to the entrance. You were locked in, you could be again with one misstep.
You meet Dr. Martin at the entrance. He says it’s good to see you, he tells you that you look well. He walks you past security and into Meeting Room One. The same Meeting Room One you would go when you were an inpatient.
It’s just you and Dr. Martin in the room. Now there is no note-taker, no nurse from the ward, no trauma counsellor, no mental health practitioner, no trainee mental health practitioner (‘you don’t mind if they sit in, for training purposes, right?’)
You sit at opposite ends of the large round table. He sets down his coffee and puts his elbows on the table, joining his hands together. He smiles and you watch his grey beard move, like a tree-top in the wind.
He has brought a mug of coffee with him into the meeting. It’s a good sign, it means he doesn’t think you’re a threat. He doesn’t think that you will pick up that coffee and throw it over yourself or him.
Or maybe that’s what he wants you to think. Maybe it’s coffee that’s gone cold. Maybe he’s tricking you.
‘How are you finding living in Orchard Court?’
I love it! You say, you throw your hands into the air for emphasis and immediately regret it.
He raises his eyebrow. ‘Your Mum told me that you spent all of your disability allowance in a week.’
You sigh. Yes! But! I have enough instant soups to last me the month. I have pasta, rice, soups. I’m not going to starve.
‘Maybe next time you meet your counsellor you two should come up with a monthly budget. Would you do that, for me?’
He smiles and you do, too. You like to think that you are his favourite patient.
He was the first person that you told about Joaquin.
He was your priest. Ready to absolve you of your sins. You told him about Joaquin. The way that he had put the horrible pictures behind your eyes, planted the rotting taste on your tongue. The lies that he fed you. The way his voice boomed in your skull, disorientating you. The way you felt his hands on your skin every waking second.
Opening your mouth and saying these words felt like throwing up the black charcoal mixture they gave you when you took an overdose.
But Dr. Martin didn’t grimace. Didn’t flinch, just listened. He helped.
You spent all your money on Friday.
You had gone shopping for your rice and pasta and Instant Soups and tea bags. You stood in the queue of the shop and felt proud of yourself, ticking off each item on your shopping list.
I’m proud of you. You’ve done so well. Come so far.
Joaquin won’t come back.
I promise. I won’t let him. We should celebrate.
Get a few things, for our flat. I got that flat for you, you know? Worked my magic.
I can’t explain that, you know that, I can’t explain how my world bleeds into yours.
You always were a smooth talker. (A smile plays across your lips. You walk out of the line and over to the Home section of the store.)
This grey throw would go great on the sofa and what about this marble crockery set and what about the matching cutlery? And these stemless wine glasses and these soda glasses and what about these seat cushions and how about a baroque bedding set?
You go back to the line with your smile even brighter now. You are no longer just a woman trying to stick to a budget, trying to make ends meet you are now a woman buying whatever she wants for her flat a woman with her first flat.
Our first flat! We need to celebrate.
Why buy wine glasses and no wine?
(The idea equally thrills and terrifies you)
The doctor said no alcohol, it interferes with the tablets
And the tablets interfere with us. You know I’ll be clearer without the tablets.
(You bite your lip, hard.)
What if someone sees me what if they have spies here what if one of the Doctors are off duty and see me and take me back in?
They aren’t. They won’t. Do it quickly. Like pulling off a plaster
Your friend comes to visit your flat.
You have one friend. In the whole world, just one. And she comes to visit your new flat.
When you were at school you had a lot of friends, but once you became crazy they all turned away. As if madness was catching.
But not her. She is the only one. And she is beautiful and cherubic with perfect skin and she has sleek black hair and she is confident and she is successful and she is everything that you are not.
You never understand why she never disowned you.
You watch out of your kitchen window as her black BMW pulls into the parking lot. She parks up, gets out, locks the door and whips her phone out of her bag. Her movements are smooth and easy-flowing, like water. You think you could watch her move all day.
She calls your mobile. She wants you to come downstairs and meet her at the entrance.
You open the door for her and she sighs, relieved. She is scared.
‘How have you been? You look amazing really you do! And wow I can’t believe you have your own place you’re so lucky! How are you finding it? How do you find living here? How are your neighbours? Not being funny but I bet you have some weird neighbours not being rude just make sure that you lock your doors at night that’s all I’m saying’
She assesses your flat and does the same grimace-smile as when you serve her a two-in-one sachet coffee.
‘You really do look great, are you feeling better?’
Yes, thank you.
‘And no more voices?’
Only the nice ones. Ha ha ha.
So, how are you doing?
‘Yeah I’m good. Me and Todd are just saving up money to buy a house. The system here is so crazy I mean – no offence at all – but it’s crazy that you got a council house, you know? You never had a job or paid tax and I mean – no offence, but you never will either but Todd and I pay so much tax and we can’t even get on the council list.’
‘Like no offence but sometimes I wish I was mental too, it just seems so much easier. ’
Now it’s Friday night. It has been two weeks since you have left the hospital.
Two whole weeks on your own, in your own flat. Two weeks and you have eaten and drank and slept and you haven’t had An Episode and you haven’t hurt yourself.
Let’s make a toast!
You smile as you walk to the bathroom, reach behind the boiler where you have hidden your bottle of red wine. It’s warm but you don’t mind.
You get out your two stemless wine glasses and pour the burgundy liquid out. Your feel sick with excitement. You take a large gulp and imagine your teeth staining purple.
You squeeze your eyes together. Scared to open them, and be wrong.
Have I ever let you down before?
You bring both glasses of wine to your sofa. You finish your glass and wait patiently.
There he is. Not as a whole, but an outline begins to form on your sofa, next to you. Your eyes scan him; you can see his garnet coloured eyes. He’s here.
Did you pour me a glass of wine? You know I can’t drink it.
(His lip curls in a smile. Tears fill your eyes. You wish that he could lean across and caress your cheek. You know that he can’t. You are being sentimental.)
I missed you, Carlos.
I missed you too. Drink the second glass. I’ll only become clearer.
(You raise your glass to him) Joaquin can’t get us, right?
I love you.
I love you, baby.
Sarah Enamorado is an emerging writer living in Hertfordshire, England with her wife and her ragdoll cat. Her work has previously been published in Into the Void Magazine, Moonchild Magazine and Teen Belle Magazine.
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