Robby Doppler in the next bed over is on the phone with Rhonda, his wife who’s left him for his landlord and his landlord’s cocaine. He’s trying to convince her to check into Sibley with him, with us, I guess, although maybe he’s imagining they’ll get a suite together or something like that. He’s clicking the buttons on the bed remote to the rhythm of their conversation or fight or whatever it is they’re having, the hydraulics are whirring, the silhouette of the bed and the body against the stark white hallway lifting and churning like maybe Rhonda’s doing with Arthur right now. Arthur being the landlord.
Sometime between then and when they take our vitals at 3:30 I’m awake again listening to Ms. Rosa wailing down the hall. She’s saying not to hurt her. She doesn’t mean me, I don’t think. I can see it all playing out on the eggshell witching wall between my reinforced window and my hall doorway that has a door in it but if you close the door they get real short with you. So you have to wonder why they put a door in there at all. Some kind of compliance test, maybe, or some kind of ink blot. An open door means a mind open to recovery and rehabilitation, a closed door means you want to fuck your mother. Maybe Ms. Rosa down the hall closed her door and that’s why they’re hurting her, one nurse holding her down and beating her backhand across her face, the other shoving her up with 50ccs of something, the other raping her, the other insisting to her or God or anyone that no one’s doing anything to her. Or she's left the door open, she’s writhing on the bed all by herself, the poor nurses haven’t even crossed the threshold for fear of the Wrath of Rosa, and she’s just in the dark, writhing and accusing and suffering and saying.
I see all these things, and eventually they’re taking my vitals, and eventually still I’m shuffling through the breakfast line. I’m behind Ms. Rosa, who’s hunched over her walker, vibrating in that way you do when you’re just bones and memories and a nervous system. What looks good today, Ms. Rosa, I ask her, and she looks somewhere over my shoulder, takes off her hat, says, oh, fine, fine. I get my cranberry juice and my cold eggs from the buffet. Ms. Rosa does a lap around the room and you can tell from how she’s moving her hands that wherever she is at least there they let her keep her rosary.
Liam Cloud Hogan is a writer in New York.