Friday, 11 March 2016
Fiction Friday: Short Story Part I (FRIDAY)
Written by Kris Kaila
“When I look at my daughters I just don’t see…what I’m supposed to see,” Sim said, before she took a long drag of her cigarette.
Waving the smoke away from his face, Dr Berg asked, “And, what are you supposed to see?”
The cigarette now dangled from her slender fingers, ashes falling onto the tiled office floor. She narrowed her eyes at the doctor and refused to blink or move. Dr. Berg stared back. The seconds could be heard echoing from the clock hanging behind her. Dr. Berg crossed his legs and cleared his throat, all the while never removing his glance from Sim’s. She brought the cigarette to her lips and then stopped.
“I don’t know. I guess, I’m supposed to feel like baking some fucking cookies.”
“Come on, Sim. What do you think you are supposed to feel when you see the daughters you gave birth to?”
Sim took a long drag before answering the doctor’s question. “Like everything was worth it.”
Clearly not wanting to answer the question she again narrowed her eyes. But this time she did it only for a second.
“Like, all the sacrifices you make for your kids are supposed to be worth it in the end. When you look at your children you are supposed to forget all the hardships life gives you. Like, the nine months of carrying that huge load around for 24 hours a day. Women are supposed to forget the long hours of pain of labour. The endless crying, shitting and feeding. Their constant presence. You can’t be alone. You can’t just go out and do the things you used to do. You’re stuck. Stuck in this role, this life, stuck,” Sim exclaimed, getting up from her chair.
Dr. Berg sighed. Rubbing his forehead, he remained seated. “Stuck. How so?”
Sim was leaning her right shoulder against the wall, left leg hooked behind the right. Her cigarette still dangling from her fingers was forgotten for the moment.
“Stuck. Unable to move. Unable to live.”
“Being a mother means not having a life of your own?”
“Being a mother is supposed to be the life. Your life is your children.”
“But what about you, Sim?”
She brought the cigarette up to her lips but did not take a puff. She threw it to the ground, and squished it with her slipper foot.
“What about me?”
“What constitutes a life to you?”
Sim leaned away from the wall and walked back to her seat. She looked into the doctor’s gray eyes.
“Life was my husband and my art. Mornings spent sleeping in, afternoons reserved for painting. The nights at home with Griffith or going out to some party or dinner. Late nights making love or just talking about whatever you want. The point is you could do anything at anytime,” she sighed.
“So why change it by having children?”
“That’s enough soul bearing for today, thanks.”
Doctor Berg gave another one of his sighs, before speaking. “Sim, we are going to have to talk about this one day.”
“Next time, my life story,” she put her right hand over her heart. “Promise.”
Sim got up quickly and moved towards the door. She knocked lightly three times. The door swung open, and a hefty sour looking woman was standing in the doorway.
“Nurse Judy.” Sim greeted.
“Mrs. Branigan.” The nurse muttered formally.
The two walk in silence through various hallways till they entered the day room. She looked around at her surroundings, once the Nurse had plopped her down at the craft table. Even though it was 1962 the wallpaper was something from the Victorian Age that was not the calming effect it was supposed to be. Next to her was Herman. Herman was everything you would expect to see in an institution for the mentally ill. He was big, fat big and tall big, not very muscular at all. He was a sweet man, but extremely lost in the upstairs department. His chin would wag to the right when he moved his head to the left. Saliva was constantly pooled in the corners of his mouth, ready to drip onto his flabby chest. He would only talk in one to two word sentences. It took him a minute just to get one word out.
“Sim. Session over?” He questioned, spit hitting Sim’s chin.
Though Herman was facing Sim, his eyes were looking over her right shoulder. His face was slack with glistening sweat.
“Yeah, Herman. My session is over. So, what are you making there?” Sim asked, wanting a cigarette so bad she picked up a marker and put it in her mouth.
“Making dog. Black. Like Sully.”
Sully was a stuffed dog that Herman carried with him everywhere. His birth mother gave it to him before she left him here in the early 1940s. Herman had been in and out of asylums since he was five. He was always big for his age, dim-witted and very violent. Violent in the sense he threw things when he was angry, happy or frustrated. Herman was on every new pill available to man. Since he never actually hurt anyone he had managed to stay out of a maximum-security asylum for twenty odd years. He was the only one that Sim would talk to besides another artist type woman like her.
“That looks just like him. You’re getting real good at drawing, Herman.”
“Thanks. You helped.”
“So, where’s Bonnie?”
“Today?” Sim asked no one in particular.
“Friday. Visit day.”
“Shit! Nurse Judy?” Sim hollered.
The pudgy nurse came hurriedly to the table. “Mrs. Branigan, there is no need to holler. It only upsets the others. A simple wave of the hand would do. And, it is Nurse Moore.”
“Sorry,” Sim said, sticking her middle finger in the air and waving it.
“Mrs. Branigan, this behaviour is not acceptable. You are a grown woman who can understand the rules.”
“Rules? If I understood the fuckin’ rules, I wouldn’t be in here pissing my life away.”
“Pissing. Fucking. Life.”
“Herman, stop that. Do not repeat anything out of Mrs. Branigan’s mouth.”
“Wasn’t. Sim. Said.”
“She,” Sim gestured towards the nurse. “is talking about me.”
Herman looked over at Sim, while his eyes were focused on the nurse.
“I’m Mrs. Branigan.”
“You’re only confusing him.”
“Look, is today visiting day?” Sim was still chewing on the marker.
“Yes.” The nurse answered, tugging the pen out of her teeth.
“So when’s my visit?”
“Mr. Branigan has not arrived as of yet.” Nurse Judy started to walk away, but turned back. “Please, see if you can be decent till then.”
“Till then? Sure I can do that.”
“Mama. Might come. Today.”
“Maybe.” Sim said, never knowing how to answer him.
“Fuck it all to hell.” A young attractive blonde came storming into the room. “The asshole fucked me again.”
Bonnie came and sat down beside Sim, not before gently patting Herman.
“I ask him how much longer he intends to keep me in here. And, he says till I promise to get married. I ain’t getting married to some Suit, especially my father's kind.”
“So, I told him to piss off. I wasn’t about to marry someone just so people can stop calling his daughter a whore. He’d rather I be nutso, before a slutso.” Bonnie suddenly smiled.
“That’s a real nice horse there, Herman. You’re getting better now.”
“I know it’s Sully, I was just testing you. You’re good.”
Beside herself, Bonnie was the “sanest” one in here. Five years ago, her father committed her into the hospital involuntarily. During one of his parties, Bonnie had been caught having "sexual relations" with his business partner. His partner was forty years her senior, and his grandson was her fiancé to be. To stop the engagement she slept with his grandfather. His partner claimed she seduced him, and to avoid further embarrassment her father declared her insane. She was 19 years old at the time. Every second Friday when her father visited they talked about the same thing. Her asking when she could leave. Him vowing never unless she married someone of his choice. Her father’s and his partner’s money helped build the new wing at Chatfield in 1951. Her father’s power extended to the whole hospital claiming her insane, while full well knowing she was not. In fact, Dr. Berg stopped their sessions years ago. She went to his office like everyone else, but she just smoked and read “outside loot.” (Outside loot was any material that was current and not censored. The magazines and newspapers they got were months old and had pages missing or words blotted out).
Sim arrived at Chatfield less than year ago. She refused to speak to anyone for the first three months, even Griffith, her husband. The fourth month she began to talk to him, only after Herman asked if she would mind helping him drawing Sully. Once Bonnie realized that Sim was also sane she latched onto her for dear life. Sim was also looking for some version of normality and accepted the friendship. Herman came as part of the package. Bonnie needed Herman to feel to sane and in control of something. Sim just liked the simple man. He was often the kindness she needed. Especially after an hour with Dr. Berg trying to extract her inner most feelings that she wanted to keep buried. After ten months and two weeks, Sim still wouldn’t tell him anything he did not already know from his manila file.
“How’s it going with Dr. Berg?”
“It goes on for 59 minutes too long.”
“Has he gotten you to break about your past?”
“Not yet. Maybe Monday. I said Monday.”
“Maybe if you just tell him he might let you go home. It’s worth a try.”
“Worth. Try.” Herman said looking up from his drawings.
“See even Herman thinks so.” Bonnie picked up a marker and started to draw.
Before Sim could answer either of them, a rail-thin nurse of thirty-something came over to them.
“Mr. Branigan is here, Mrs. Branigan.”
“Your Prince is here,” Bonnie said sarcastically, not looking up from her creation.
“He is, you know.”
“Then what are you doing in here?” Bonnie asked her friend, looking up just for a second.
Sim sighed her Dr. Berg sigh.
* * *