*I’m in the middle of writing a novel about a college student who gets sent to a psych ward 2 weeks before graduation and wanted feedback on this scene. Note: Catherine, the counselor who just alerted the police, is not my protagonist’s main therapist but a “counselor on duty.” I appreciate your thoughts*
I distinctly knew something was wrong by the way she came in the door. Her gait was stiff like she was holding her pee and trying not to let it come out. She didn’t look at me right away—her gaze focused on that bitten pen like it would save her from an unwanted duty—she waited until she sat down to do so.
She didn’t smile, but her eyes were both sympathetic and serious all at once. I tried unsuccessfully to swallow the lump lodged in my throat. She said I was “a danger to myself” and “needed to be protected.” I thought I heard her say “police” and “nearest hospital or psych ward” but I can’t remember her exact wording. I was there but I wasn’t there. She said something along the lines of “If you walked out of this room and did something to yourself, I wouldn’t be able to live with that.”
I remember thinking, Geez, lady, give me a break. It’s not like I’m trying to shoot up the entire campus, I just don’t wanna live anymore. I hate people like her. The ones who say that suicide is selfish because loved ones have to deal with the aftermath.
“Don’t you care about your family? How could you even consider such a thing when you have so much to live for?” they say with condemning voices.
Yet, they gloss over the person herself and the deep, deep pain she endures every day so that her family and friends get to see her, never knowing that the image she portrays to the world is not her, not really, just a shell, a broken façade.
Catherine suggested that I let someone know what was going on, so I scrambled around in my bookbag, feeling for my phone to text Jason, my boyfriend. I couldn’t tell my parents, not yet. They’d freak out and I didn’t need to deal with that and the police coming to get me.
While I texted Jason, she said, “I know you probably hate me right now.”
I looked at her, into her eyes, for the first time since coming in that morning. “I don’t hate you,” I said. “I’m just scared shitless.”
She nodded in response.
After about two minutes of deafening silence, I saw two campus police in the doorway: a man who looked like a mix of caramel and honey, and a woman with the blended pigment of white-out, vanilla ice-cream, and off-white eggshell wallpaper. Despite the serious, dreadful situation, I saw kindness and compassion in their eyes. What a contrast to the fear I felt that must have been pouring from my eyes like the tears I wanted to shed but couldn’t. The male officer pulled out handcuffs and my heart immediately became an anvil in my stomach. I took one step back and tried not to let my digested breakfast come back up. What have I done? This can’t be happening! I’m supposed to meet with my trainer for our workout in 20 minutes! My breaths came and went in shallow gasps, and my head was a snare some inner drummer was having too much fun pounding on. What have I done?!
I cautiously eyed the door behind the male police officer. Can I outrun him? No, even if I could, they’d probably tackle me and then handcuff me. Better not.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “but it’s protocol. Some people get scared and act out.” A vain attempt of reassurance in an unbelievable situation. I nodded in response, understanding where he was coming from. I turned my back to him so he could cuff me. They’re loose, but still, handcuffs? I’m not a dangerous felon. I can’t even punch my roommate hard enough for it to cause actual pain—and I’ve tried. What a joke. What they don’t tell you is that when the cold fire of metal handcuffs encircles your wrists, even loosely, you’ll believe, for a second, that you are a criminal. You are not safe. You’re a danger to yourself and these metal rings prove it.
“We’ll lead you out the back way, so no one sees you,” they told me as they ushered me out.
I didn’t even know there was a back way.
I turned my head to meet Catherine’s eyes one last time before she went completely out of my line of vision. Her eyes seemed to say, “Get better, Nicole” while I wanted to know why she was doing this to me. We went down a hallway and passed numerous counselors’ closed office doors. Do they know what’s going on? Does Victoria know? How could she do this to me?!
I walked down the hallway, twisting, turning, and going through a place once so familiar, now unfamiliar and foreign. There were three concrete steps outside leading down to the cop car waiting for me. The only thought in my head was, I hope I don’t fall. The male officer drove a separate car while the female officer opened the door for me. I got in, terrified. Because of the handcuffs, I had to turn my back to the door, sit, and then throw my legs in the car, with no help to balance myself if I did fall. Once in, she came around and buckled me in like I was an incompetent child; the first step to dehumanization. And now, I’m here, in Crazyville. This should be interesting.