‘What great teeth you have!’ – Little Red Riding Hood by Gustave Doré
As I was walking out of my room down the hallway, I saw the other patients getting in line right before the locked exit door that led to the cafeteria. Directly across from the exit door there was the nurse’s station, and I so happened to glance over and saw a short redbone girl sitting in the chair with a hospital gown on and black snow boots. She had her hair cut into a short brown bob that came to the top of her shoulders. Her face was red and looked like she had been crying for hours because her eyes were so puffy. She just sat there with her hands in between her tiny thighs. From the looks of it, she was trying to keep warm. She was very small and slim and had big beautiful lips and long eyelashes. She was indeed beautiful and very young looking. I thought to myself what could she possibly be doing here. What happened to her to be in a place like this? She's so young. I guess she felt me staring at her because she looked up from the floor and caught eye contact with me. I looked away as if I wasn’t staring, but I think I was too obvious. I turned my head back after a few seconds to see if she was still looking at me and she did the same and looked at me again. I smiled to show I was friendly and she did the same with me and smiled back. Neither one of us showed any teeth, we just slightly did a short smile to connect with each other I guess. I knew when she smiled back at me we were going to be friends. She was younger than me I could tell, but she had the same temperament as me. She was shy, scared, and quiet, but could be a firecracker inside if pushed to the limit.
One of the nurses walked over from the nurse's station to where the young girl was sitting and said “Miss. Black go ahead and grab your bag and follow me, please. I’ll show you to your room so you can put your things up and then head with the others for dinner." She then got up and bent over to grab her bag and walked towards the double wooden doors where the rooms were. She was shorter then I thought when she stood up. She looks like she would only come to my shoulder. She could actually be my daughter if I didn’t look so young myself.
I heard one of the other nurses’ say "all right let’s move it, time for dinner." The double wooden doors that led to the cafeteria were unlocked and automatically opened once the nurse unlocked it using a button that was located behind the nurse’s station. One of the older gentleman that was a patient himself told me to get in front of him. “Ladies first” he smiled. I then smiled back and said thank you and followed the group of women that were in front of me. The hallways were long and empty, and I could see the floors had been freshly waxed. They kept the outside offices and hallways pretty clean from what I could see. As we walked down the hallway, I could see enormous windows that gave an outdoor view of the hospital grounds where there were bench tables, and flower bushes were occupying most of the wall space.
There was also a small back patio near one of the large windows and where I saw patients who seemed to be getting some fresh air outside. I remember those patients from being on C Hall because they were on the extreme side of having mental issues I overheard from the other patients. They looked pretty calm to me until one of them caught me staring out the window observing them. It was a black female patient whose flaming red hair stood wild on top of her head and looked like it hadn’t been combed in months. She had on a hospital gown, with bright yellow socks on. When she saw me staring out the window, she walked over to the window and stared at me in my eyes with the scariest look I had ever seen. She looked like a life-size black ass Chucky doll. It looked like it was straight out of one of those frightening movie scenes when you knew you were about to die and your time had just run out. She then opened her mouth, stuck her tongue out and took a long lick on the glass window and smiled at me with a big grin that showed all of her missing teeth that had been rotted out or maybe even knocked out. Who knows, I just knew I wouldn’t be eating much dinner after seeing that. One of the male patients walked up to me and whispered, "I think she likes you." I looked at him, and he was missing a few teeth too as he grinned at me with glee. I slowly backed away from the window and proceeded to walk down the hallway behind the others patients that led the way. When I got into the cafeteria, the only patients that were seated were the VA patients eating their dinner. They were pretty calm and I really didn’t see them get out of hand too much. It was about eight white men and one black man that made up for the group. They looked pretty rough on the outside, with lots of tattoos and looked like they worked out quite a bit. There were even older vets there who had to be in there 60s or 70s. I remember one of the men who was the biggest out of the bunch in our afternoon discussions where he said he was here because he had too much to drink one night and he tried to put a forty-five in his mouth and threatened to pull the trigger in front of his family and friends. I remember he said he had a three-year-old daughter and wanted to get away from drinking so he could be there to see his little girl grow up. I wasn’t use to seeing people who tried to kill themselves talk about it so openly. So it caught me off guard when he discussed it. From the outside looking in you never really know what a person is going through, or what they have experienced in life. As I proceeded into the lunch line, I heard the radio playing; thankfully it wasn’t Richards song that was on. It was one of my favorite music artist, Luther Vandross and it was one of my favorite songs “A House is Not A Home.” One of his lyrics he sings touches me the most:
Even when there's nothin’ but gloom
But a room is not a house and a house is not a home
When the two of us are far apart
And one of us has a broken heart.
Now and then I call your name
And suddenly your face appears
But it’s just a crazy game
When it ends
It ends in tears.
Hearing this song takes me back to one of the nights where I was laying in my bed, and I had all of the lights off, but I was awake and couldn’t sleep. I hadn’t heard from Richard in a couple of days, but I had seen he was still posting online. Of course, I sent him texts, but he didn’t respond to any of them. I figured maybe he was busy working or with his kids. I was kind of use to seeing females post under his pictures and leaving comments but this one caught me off guard because he responded to her. Under one of his pictures the girl wrote, “Hey Sexy, I’ve been missing you. Check your DM.” Under the picture he wrote, “Hey You, I certainly will” with a wink emoticon. I’m usually not the jealous type, and I tend to ignore the females, but I was upset that he could respond to a groupie online but he can’t respond to me. I was even more upset that he had no shame in responding to this chick knowing I would possibly see it. I was hurt because here I am trying to get his attention and there he is entertaining someone else in my face. The more I thought about it lying in bed, the more upset I became, and the tears started to soak my pillow. I was used to being rejected, but it hurt more because it was from someone I loved very much.
As I was laying there in my bed crying in my dark room, I heard his voice whisper in my ear “Don’t Leave Me.” I thought I was losing it. I couldn’t have been. It felt so real. It was like his spirit was connected to mine in some way or form, and I could feel and hear him all at once. I felt him caress my face and wipe the tears now falling from my face. I heard him say “don’t cry; King doesn't like to see you cry.” I didn't want his voice to go away, and I didn’t want his touch to go away either. It felt like I knew him from a past life, so I closed my eyes and began to talk back to King in my mind without a word coming from my lips. In my mind, I felt like I could speak and communicate with him without saying a word. It felt like we were tied together somehow and I could make him feel what I felt, and feel what he felt at the time. As I lay there with my eyes closed, I spoke to him and said, “I don’t want to leave you, but you do things to make me want to leave. I never want to leave you, but I don’t like feeling this way, King.” He replied, “I don’t want to hurt you. I never wanted to hurt you, but I am not perfect. I have my flaws, but I never wanted to bring you into my world to inflict them on you. I need you, Queen.” I then felt him touch the side of my cheek with the back of his fingers and softly moved them to the bottom of my chin and lifted it to kiss my cherry red lips. It felt so real and when he kissed me my heart stopped beating, and I stopped breathing for a moment.
I loved his lips. They were slightly brown, not too big and not too small, but just right. They were soft as silk, and he had the prettiest white teeth that gave him a smile that made you lose your train of thought if you were thinking about anything at the time. As he lifted his lips from mine, he said again, “Don’t leave me, I’ll be back soon to finish what I started.”
Ma’am, Ma’am, “Do you want fish or do you want Salisbury steak?”
My eyes blinked, and I saw the lunch lady staring at me impatiently as if they had another crazy one on the line. I then spoke up and said I would like to have the Salisbury steak, please. After my food was fixed, I walked out of the line and went to have a seat with my group who were located on the right side of the cafeteria. On the left side I saw they had the Vets, but as I was sitting down, I saw patients from the C hall were coming in. Typically they come in before we do so they do not mix with the other patients, but it appears they left late and now have to eat with us at the same time. I was so nervous sitting in the same room with them because from what I have seen they do not have it all upstairs. I thought I was crazy, but these people were on level ten.
As they walked in, I saw one dark skin black lady who was dressed in a red tank top and red shorts. She had a short fro haircut, with the meanest face you ever saw. She had no smile on her whatsoever and looked like she was ready to take anyone out if you stepped to her the wrong way. When she walked in, I notice she was shinning, as if she was sweating with water, but I saw there was no water on her or sweat. As I tried to stare a little closer, I notice she was covered in a shiny substance. Is that baby oil? She had saturated her entire body with baby oil, and I do mean saturated. Her face, arms, legs, chest, everything was glistening. Why the hell she got on all that baby oil? Why no one told her that was too much baby oil to be putting on. I really don’t even know if it was baby oil, it could have been Vaseline, but it was way too much. She reminds me of the greased up deaf guy on the television show Family Guy, but she wasn’t deaf. She could hear very well. I know she could hear because one of the MHA’s told her to get in line and she replied with “Don’t fuck with me, I’m not in the mood today Ike.” I nearly spit my drink out when she said this to the MHA. The MHA couldn’t help but look at her like she was insane, which she unquestionably was, and walked off. As she got in line she started putting up her middle fingers and shooting birds at people who weren't even there saying fuck you, fuck you. I mean she was putting it up like she was putting a fist in the air saying black power, but it was fuck you instead. I just shook my head and stared back down at my food before she caught eye contact with me and wanted to start some shit. I already had one traumatizing encounter with the tongue licking, window cleaner lady, and I don’t need another one from Ms. Johnson & Johnson.
I wasn’t in the mood to eat, but I had heard around prior conversations that if the MHA’s don’t see you eating they assume you are still depressed and will not let you go home, but will keep you here longer. So I tried to act like I was eating my food or at least drinking something. As I was sitting there pretending to enjoy my meal I saw to my right Lil Red had walked into the cafeteria with the nurse who was getting her situated with her bags earlier. The nurse waved her hand towards the lunch line, and directed her to get a plate of food, then have a seat at the table where our group was. As I saw Lil Red walk up to the line, she looked like she was scared as hell. As if she was on that show of Scared Straight and she had finally learned her damn lesson. When Lil Red walked out with her tray, I then looked at her and smiled again, which was my invitation she could sit with me, and I wasn’t going to bite. I couldn’t say the same for the rest of the patients who were around us though. She then smiled and sat in front of me. I decided to be the first one to speak because it looked like she was so nervous and could barely look up to talk. “Hello, I’m Queen, what’s your name?” She then lifted her head from her food tray and said, “I’m Renee, but people call me Red.” I then smiled and said, “it must be because you’re Red huh?” She then smiled and said “yea, and that's my favorite color.” I then said mine too. We both smiled shortly and looked back at our food. I then asked her, “Where are you from?” She said without looking up, “I’m from Macon, Macon, GA.” I said "oh really? I have a friend that lives close by there. He stays in Warner Robbins." She said, “Yea, I got some family out that way too.” I asked her were you born and raised there, and she nodded her head and said yea. “I haven’t been anywhere too far from Macon. This is my first time here in the big A, are you from here" she asked? "Yea, I am. I was born in New York, but I’ve been in Atlanta since I was three." She looked and smiled and said that’s what’s up. Lil Red suddenly looked towards her left and noticed Ms. Johnson and Johnson was wiping the tables, floors, and chairs with a bunch of napkins. She was wiping so hard and fast trying to get it clean. Ms. Johnson & Johnson went to the hand sanitizer machine cleaned her hands, and then went back to wiping the table again. She did this at least three to four times, back and forth. Lil Red whispered and asked me, “what’s wrong with her?” I then smiled and said I believe she has OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Lil Red then asked, “What’s that?” I then tried to summarize it up, in a nutshell, to make it easy to understand. “It's a mental disorder that causes you to perform ritual tasks and check things repeatedly and uncontrollably at times. Sometimes they have fears such as germs, or they have to feel the need to rearrange and organize things in a certain manner.” Lil Red said, "Oh Okay." I saw that she was sitting closed in as if she was scared to move or something. I then asked her, “are you afraid of being in here?” She said, “yea.” “I’m pretty much scared of everything. I’ve never been in a place like this before.” I smiled and said "well you’re safe with me. It can be kind of crazy in here, but for the most part, it's not too bad.” She smiled back and finally showed her teeth and said thank you. I could tell by her smile that use to suck her thumb a lot when she was younger, but somehow her smile was still adorable. It was time for us to start heading back to the recreation room so we can have our evening group wrap up. The MHA’s began yelling out dump your trays and line up at the door. Do not exit out of the door, line up in front of it. Lil Red and I grabbed our trays and walked towards the dishwashing counter, and we noticed an older man bending around the Coca-Cola Machine and asking for some Tarter Sauce. He was talking into the drip pan as if it was an intercom. A Veteran was standing next to him making some coffee, and he looked at me with the same look “Who the hell is he talking to back there?” The VA then told the older man, Sir there is no one behind the machine. You have to go back to the lunch line if you want some Tartar Sauce. The man then said okay and walked back into the lunch line. I looked at Lil Red and said, “Girl we got to get the hell out of here.” She then laughed and said, “I am right behind you.”
Lil Red and I were walking back from the cafeteria, and I can’t help but think how comforting it is; to finally have someone to talk to while I'm here. Since I got here I have been feeling lonely and the only person I really talked to since I been here was Ms. Mary. It felt good to have someone young to be able to relate to because most of the people here are older than me. Lil Red and I made it back into the living courters where our rooms were down the hall from the nurse’s station. I told Lil Red "I will be back, I am going to run to the restroom. I will meet you in the group room okay?" She said okay and walked toward the recreational room. I entered into my room and slightly moved the door to where it was almost closed. I remembered they told me I couldn’t close the door all the way. They had to be able to get into the room or peak in there at all times for safety concerns. I pulled the curtain from the bathroom door and walked in and closed it behind me. I used the restroom and proceeded to wash my hands so I could get back to Lil Red.
“Now what are you doing? Trying to make a friend in here?” I heard the Mad Queen say. “How are you going to be friends with someone and watch over someone else when you barely can take care of yourself? No one wants to be your friend, and no one gives a damn about you. Why the hell do you think you are in here? I’ll tell you why. Because of your so-called friend, Richard rejected your fat ass and left you for a celebrity who is a multimillionaire. Shows what type of friends you can make.”
“Stop it,” said Queen of Hearts. “Leave her alone. You have already said enough for today. Give her a break. Rose, don’t you listen to her. You are an amazing friend, and you deserve to make new friends. You are lovable and loyal. Just because you had some people in your life who mistreated you, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be loved or continue to show love to others.”
“That’s Bullshit,” said the Mad Queen. “You know damn well she can’t keep a friend let alone a man. I would have left her ass too had someone famous wanted me. She has nothing to offer anyone but her craziness and her stupidity. How can someone be so naive to think that someone could ever be in love with her?”
I then looked in the mirror, and I felt so ashamed of what I saw. I hated hearing these two go at it. Back and forth, back and forth. I just wanted peace, but I could never have it with both of them. I threw some water on my face, to try and wash away my tears, and hopefully the pain I felt inside. I took a deep breath and decided to walk back towards the recreation room. I was pretty sure rap up was about to begin, and they would be looking for me to mark me present for participation. I tried to participate in every group activity because that was an excellent way to show I am ready to go home and get out of here.
When I walked back into the group room, I saw Lil Red sitting on the sofa and with an empty spot next to her. I figured she was saving me a seat so I went ahead and sat down next to her. She then asked, "are you okay?" I smiled at her and said, "yea I'm fine." One of the MHA’s pulled up a chair to the front of the room and told everyone to gather around in a circle. Once everyone was settled, the MHA said, “We are going to discuss one specific thing that we each would like to work on while we are here. Let’s go around the room, and let's start with Brian. Brian was from Australia and spoke with a thick accent. He sounds like the Crocodile Hunter.
“One thing I would like to work on while I am here is getting in touch with my family and trying to restore my relationship with them.”
The MHA then said that is very good. She then said, next person, Sue go ahead. Sue then said "I would like to work on being able to control my urges for wanting to take Ambien. I want to be able to get back to my grandkids, and my husband. I love them very much."
I notice that her hand constantly shook on her thigh, which I saw she was not able to control. She was an older Caucasian woman who had to have been in her 70s and wore glasses. She was lovely and quiet I noticed.
The MHA then smiled and said, "if you work hard towards that goal, I am certain you will be able to reach it." It was my turn and the MHA raised her hand towards me to have the floor. I then said to the group, "I would like to be able to speak about the things I am struggling with instead of keeping them bottled up inside. I want to be able to use my voice as well as my pen to communicate my pain." The MHA then said, "that is very healthy Queen, I certainly agree, and it can be done by taking baby steps and begin opening up to those you feel comfortable with sharing."
It was then Lil Red’s turn, and she spoke softly like me. She was so shy and nervous I could tell because it was her first time speaking in front of this group. She spoke, "I want to be able to get over my depression." The MHA replied, "very well. I am glad you are here with us, and we are going to do everything we can to help you through it." As the others went around the room telling what they would like to work on, I couldn’t help but wonder what brought Lil Red here. What happened to her, or what did she do? Typically most people who are brought here want to hurt himself or herself, or someone else. She didn’t look like she would hurt anyone, but I do hear others say little people are the craziest ones. They will jump on you like they were 6 feet tall and wouldn’t think twice about it. Group was finally over, and it was time for medications and snack time. We had about another hour before it was time to head to our rooms to sleep. I then told Lil Red to save my spot I’m going to grab a snack and asked if she wanted me to bring her back something. “Nah I’m good, I’ll save your spot.”
I walked out of the recreation room and headed towards the nurse's station to grab some Oreo cookies and bottled water. Before I could leave, I had to take off the cap on the water bottle and hand it to the nurse. In one of the group meetings Ms. Mary told us we couldn’t have any bottled caps because people are using them to cut themselves. I thought to myself, how could anyone cut themselves with a bottle cap, but I heard that plastic could cut worse than a knife at times. If a person really wanted to hurt themselves, they will find a way, and sure enough, they found a way with bottled caps in here.
Once I got my bottled water and cookies I started to walk back towards the recreation room, but right before I got there, I noticed one of the ladies was crying on the pay phone. She was curled up in the chair with her feet up on it and talking really low on the phone. She looked like she was very sad or upset about something but I couldn’t tell from what. Her face was just red and her brunette hair covered up most of her face where you could barely distinguish her. While she was on the phone, I thought to myself I need to call mom and my little bro David to let them know I am okay and see what they are up to. I haven’t talked to them in the past two days. It was kind of late, and both the phones in the lobby were taken up. So I might as well wait until the morning.
When I walked back into the recreation room, I saw Lil Red sitting on the couch still waiting for me. She smiled when I walked back into the room and patted the chair for me to sit down next to her again. We had an hour to kill before it was time for each of us to head to our rooms for bed, so I might as well try to find out some info on Lil Red and how she ended up here. Lil Red was watching the T.V., and I noticed Kevin Hart was on and it was one of his stand up comedies called Laugh at My Pain. It was one of my favorites, and it looks like it was one of Lil Red favorites as well because she was laughing so much where it caused her face to turn red, but this time she was happy. Every time she laughed she would cover her smile trying to hide it. I never knew why she would conceal her smile because she had a beautiful smile from what I could tell. As we sat there watching the stand-up, I went ahead and opened up my Oreo cookies and offered her some, but she said she didn’t want any. I knew I wasn't supposed to be eating these cookies because I am supposed to be on a diet so I can get the rest of this weight off me, but under these conditions, I need some sweets in my life.
The show went to commercial, and I decided to ask Lil Red some questions so I could get to know her better. “Lil Red, is it okay I ask you something?” She looked at me, smiled and said, “sure, what’s up?” I looked at her with a look of curiosity and asked: “What the hell brought you in here?” She chuckled and said “Girl I don’t even know: one moment I was locked in a hospital room back home in Macon, and the next moment I was in the back of an ambulance heading here. I was scared as hell because the room they had me in was like a glass room and right next door I could see a male patient in there. I overheard him saying he was HIV positive. He looked like he had lost it, and a wreck. I saw this man falling apart in front of my very eyes. I felt so bad for him because it looks like his world was torn apart and he had no life in him. I was already feeling overwhelmed by what I was going through, but seeing this man made my issues seemed so minute. The room I was in had one of those steal metal toilets as you see in prison and a sink. They didn’t even have a bed in the room. Just the floor. I was so scared out my mind I didn’t know what to do." I asked Lil Red, “Well what caused you to end up there?” She then looked at the floor with sadness and took a deep breath and exhaled. “You see me and my girlfriend have been having some problems recently. I’m a lesbian, and I have been one for quite some time now. Probably since Middle School.” When Lil Red told me this, it shocked me because I wouldn’t think she would be a lesbian. She was so cute and petite and shy. Nothing about her said I liked women. However, what do I know? One of my best friends is a lesbian, but she is a stud. And I had some friends who dibbled and dabbled with women, but they didn’t completely cross over. They were just curious and wanted to try it once in their life. But I was never judgmental about it because I loved all my friends including the ones who liked women and/or men. It didn’t really matter to me. Love is love in my eyes and who am I to judge. That’s Gods job, not mine. Plus I even thought about it a couple of times in my younger days, but I liked men way too much to become a full-blown lesbian permanently. It just wouldn’t work out because I liked getting the D, and that was something I could not see myself giving up. As she talked, her story sounded so much similar to what I was going through as well with Richard.
Lil Red continued “I really do love my girlfriend but I like getting attention, and I like to feel like I am wanted. I really don’t feel like she listens to me or cares about my feelings. I honestly believe she is not faithful and still messes with other women. She is all the way in New Jersey, and I am down here in Georgia. So it’s hard enough as it is to be in a long distance relationship and there is barely any communication. It’s hard to even trust her because of the distance. I’m the jealous type, and I don’t play any games when it comes to my heart. One thing I am learning is that everyone does not deserve a front row seat in your life. Sometimes you need to kick them the hell out of the car and keep it moving. I tried to do this with her many times but I love her so much, and I keep going back. I know she is no good for me, but I can’t seem to let go. It hurts you know?”
I agreed with her, and I told her I certainly could relate to her pain and what she is going through. I am pretty much there myself.
She explained, “I was so depressed and down because I hadn’t talked to her in days. She wouldn’t pick up my calls, or answer my texts. It was like she was playing me to the left for no reason at all. I couldn’t stop crying, and I felt like just giving up. My mom said she was going to take me to the hospital because I couldn’t get out of the sadness and depression. I didn't have any hope anymore. My mind was gone, and so was my heart. When I was at the hospital, the nurse went to asking me some questions as to what was bothering me, how long I’ve been feeling this way and so forth. Then she asked me have you ever thought about harming yourself or even killing myself. The truth was I did want to kill myself at one point but not right then. I was depressed, and most of the times when a person is sad and heartbroken sometimes they get to the point they don't want to live anymore. Its like they want to escape the pain and the memory of them, but they don’t see a way out of it. When I told her this, she then said she will be right back and left me there sitting at the desk. When she came back, she had two gentlemen dressed in EMT uniforms and a stretcher. She said Ms. Black we are going to take you to a place where they can be able to help you with your depression. We won't be able to treat you here, but the place we will be sending you to is an excellent facility and have experts to help you get through this. I was so nervous and scared because I had to leave out on a stretcher and ride in an ambulance to this place. I had to leave my mom and friend there, and they were not able to come along with me. At that point, I asked if I could go home and the nurse declined and said we are unable to let you go because you are at risk at harming yourself. I then told her, I’m not going to kill myself, and I just felt that way when I was having issues with my girlfriend. The nurse then pointed towards the gentleman and instructed them to go ahead and strap me down to the stretcher and handed them a stack full of papers and said she is 1013. The men then came on each side of me and grabbed me by the arms and told me to get onto the gurney and proceeded to strap me down as the nurse instructed. My mom and friend were watching the entire time, and I could see my mom in tears and worried if I would be okay. I could see her sobbing on my friends’ shoulders holding on to her for support to keep her standing. As the men strap me down, I began to cry even more. I was scared out of my mind, and I was sad that my mother had to see me like this. It was one of the scariest experiences I ever had to go through. I want to go home. I miss my family. I miss my mom, my little brother, and sister. I miss my dog. I just want to go home."
I looked at Lil Red as the tears came down her eyes and as she wiped them with her pale little hands. “Lil Red, you will be okay, and you will go home soon. This place is just temporary, and it should be no more than a week or two before they let you out of here. I’m sure your family is worried about you too. Have you had the chance to talk to them yet since you been here?”
She said softly, “No I haven’t. I want to call them, but the phones are always tied up out there in the hallway.” I told her "I haven’t talked to mine in a couple of days either. Why don’t we get up early before the others tomorrow and call them? I’m sure they are waiting for you to call them, and want to ensure you are okay. How does that sound?” She answered, “that will be great. I really want to call my Grandma too. I am sure she is worried sick about me. I bet she is asking my mom a million questions as to where I am at, and how long I am going to be here.” Lil Red asked, “Can I have an Oreo cookie?” I smiled and passed her the pouch of Oreos I had clutched in my hand.