~”She was a black hole, constantly collapsing into herself”~
By Samina Ahmed
“She can stay in room A5” said a frizzy-haired woman with the smallest pair of lips August had ever laid her eyes upon. This woman did not bother glancing up at the restless police officer and August who soundlessly stood next to him at the front desk.
Frizzy-haired woman had heavy eyes that were fixed on the computer’s dimly lit screen and murmured a few more words under her breath.The only noise that penetrated the worn out four walls of the main office was frizzy-haired woman’s fingers meticulously hitting each key on the keyboard as if her life depended on it.
“She can stay in room A5. Honey you can just enter through this door right there and find your room. A5. Sharon will arrive in a few. Meanwhile, you can start unpacking. Understand?” She pointed at a door that was a few feet away from the front desk.
“Do I have to sign any papers or anything, Miss…?” The police officer leaned in closer to read frizzy-haired woman’s name tag, but it was impossible with the abundance of hair that occupied this woman’s scalp.
August turned around and inspected every corner of the room. The main office screamed out “death”. It reeked of spoiled groceries, and had poor ventilation. There were no chairs or couches to sit in except a little toddler-sized seat that would probably fall apart with one push of a finger.
With the deficient lighting from the ceiling and the continuing sound of each computer key being pushed, this place could disintegrate within seconds now.
“Jackson, Miss Jackson. I don’t assume you are her legal guardian. So no officer, there are no papers or anything for you to fill out. Carry on. Goodbye.” Frizzy-haired women was cold. Her presence filled the room with an even greater sickening odor. She finally stopped typing and locked her almond-shaped eyes on the officer. He seemed to be glued to the spot at that moment.
“I uhm- I think I should go. Pardon me, Miss Jackson.” The officer takes off his cap to reveal his perfectly combed hair and quickly bowed before her without being cautious of the desk in front of him. A thunderous blow made the officer take a few steps back, losing his balance. “Damn it” he breathes. Miss Jackson’s face cracked into a sinister smile and she resumes her irritating typing.
As Miss Jackson and the police officer’s awkward first encounter came to an end, August turned to face the officer. The weight of her suitcases and backpack felt like a thousand bricks being cemented together, one after another. She was impaired. Her inexpressive face made it difficult for the officer to speak to her.
August was made up of the delicate, small seashells that lay at shore, and the shriveled autumn leaves that inhabit the fractures of grim sidewalks. She could be attending the most exhilarating birthday party ever, with striking colors jumping off the walls, music blasting louder than a fallen roof, and people whose faces twinkled under the disco balls. But, you would still find her alone somewhere at this affair, sitting on a small stool with her head down and gazing at the tiny speck of dirt on her left shoe the entire time. It was not the fact that there was something wrong with her (there was certainly something wrong with her), it was just because she finally gave in and accepted who she was that made her like this. She was a black hole, constantly collapsing into herself.
August Piper was hollow.
August Piper was damaged.
She was utterly vacant,
and she believed that nothing could ever change that.
“You’ll do just fine here Piper. I’ll check up on you in a couple of days. Sound good?” He gave her an uncanny smile and a heavy slap on the back. If you looked closer, you could make out each deep crease that formed near this man’s distrusting eyes. If you looked close enough, beyond his mahogany brown eyes, there were charcoal clouds engulfing the golden sky–and he was trapped behind those clouds.
“I’ll be going now.” He bowed once more to Miss Jackson, but she was too engrossed in the small computer screen and her pushing of each key to even notice. The officer rushed off without looking back at August.
The door’s right there. You can make it out without this woman even realizing. You can do this. Just go August, one step at a time. Although August desperately wanted to leave and just be alone for a time in a secluded area, she knew better. Her mind was her greatest adversary and she was conscious of what it was capable of doing.
August dropped her suitcases to the floor, releasing loud thuds and dust particles to float around them. She stared up at the ceiling for a brief moment and let out a low moan of anguish. I hate this, she thought.
She gathered up all her belongings and proceeded to the door that Miss Jackson pointed to earlier. With one push of the steel door, August was no longer in the main office but found herself staring down a narrow hallway. Was it too late to turn back and just ditch this place? But by the time August turned her body to leave, the door had closed shut and she was locked in.
Frustration crept into her as she tried pushing against the door but there was no budge. Each side of the hallway had a few doors that led into bedrooms. The smell of spoiled groceries had completely left her nostrils. Instead, there was a strong, sweet smell of jasmine that roamed around the hall. The deficient lighting was instantly replaced by rays from the late afternoon sun that came from distant windows, and the fresher air seemed to bring a sense of safety. She could not remember the last time she felt this kind of warmth. It was refreshing.
A5. A5. August leisurely wandered through this hall, looking up at each door to find her number, while inhaling as much of the jasmine as her body could take in. Each door had a metal plaque in the center with the name of the patient that belonged to the bedroom. All the doors August had passed by so far were wide open but she did not bother peeking through to see who was there. As August approached her bedroom, the plaque was empty. She dropped one of her suitcases and twisted the handle to reveal her new bedroom.
Simple. That’s all she could think of. But instead of one bed for herself, there were two, each on opposite sides of the wide room. The room’s one window, placed right in the middle of the bedroom had a pair of creamy white-lined curtains that hung so delicately near the frame. Under the window was a wooden desk with drawers, about the width of the window. There was not much on it, just a stack of papers piled neatly with a few pens.
On the other side of her room, there was another door. It must have been the bathroom. The spotless walls were painted white, the floor tiles were sparkling clean and the beds were elegantly folded. Out of all the bedrooms August had stayed in, this one would definitely take her awhile to adjust to. She stepped inside and settled on the bed closest to her. There was a pair of white pants and a soft shirt folded next to each other.
Lying on the shirt, was a lollipop. August tilted her head. Strange. She picked up the sweet treat and squinted at the writing on the wrapper to try to decipher what flavor it was.
August immediately looked up to see who it was. A woman dressed in jeans, and a black shirt with a blazer on top stood before the door. She had to be in her late 20’s. Her face was well made-up, not too overdone, and her jet black hair was tied back into a high ponytail. Her jade eyes, framed by long lashes, were alluring. She stared at August with delight. She smiled. The smile pressed her radiant rosy cheeks, and her bubblegum pink lips curled, gradually revealing her dazzling teeth like a brand new pearl necklace. This kind of smile brought warmth and comfort to the room.
This woman held onto a clipboard behind her back. “August Piper? Hello, nice to meet you. I’m Sharon. Welcome to Jared’s Institute for the Mentally Ill.”
[To Be Continued…]