Body and Soul
The room was dark when Sylvia opened her eyes. She tried to sit up but couldn't move an inch. Her wrists were restrained along her sides with leather straps, secured with Velcro tape, so were her feet. Sylvia had a clouded memory of the events before, like when there's fog that forms in the morning, you can only see a couple of feet in front.
She tilted her head to the side, trying to see around the room. She had no idea where she was. The bed was tilted up slightly, which gave her an idea that she was in a hospital. She turned her head to the other side and noticed that there was a yellow light coming from under the door.
"Hello?" she called. No answer. "Is anyone there?" She strained to hear something. She saw several shadows move across the light under the door, but they didn't stop. She wasn't about to panic . . . not at first. Someone was bound to check on her.
She laid her head back down on the pillow. Why was she in the hospital anyway? She didn't feel sick, just a little groggy. The doctors must have given her a sedative. Did something happen to her to cause a memory problem? Maybe she hit her head that caused her to forget? That was possible. But wouldn't she have a headache. She couldn't sense a headache.
Sylvia did have a tender feeling in the right shoulder. She tilted her head so that she could see her shoulder. There was a bandage covering her shoulder, and at the center was a rust-colored stain. The stain was in the shape of a circle. Even that didn't refresh her memory. She flexed her right shoulder a bit.
A sudden eruption of pain exploded around her shoulder. It was a sharp, burning sting that she could not recall ever having in her life. The only thing that came close to the feeling was when she broke her ankle when she was fourteen, but just a little; the shoulder pain was a few notches sharper. Several long and painful minutes passed before any relief came.
Sylvia would have felt a lot better if she could see what time it was. The dark room did not help in the slightest. The windows were blocked by blinds. That didn't help much either. It had to be night time, because no light was entering around the edges. Usually some light could enter the room even with the blinds blocking out most of the sun. It was definitely dark outside.
Then she realized, with it being night, the hospital would only have a few people on hand. There had to be someone to check on the people staying at the hospital.
Sylvia turned her head toward the door again and waited for the next shadow to pass her room. She could wait for a while; she had time.
Her thoughts kept dwelling on what had happened. But there was nothing that helped her remember. Was there a loud noise that might be part of her memory? She might have been in an accident. It couldn't have been a car accident, she realized, there would be more injuries if it was. Besides, what would cause the injury on her shoulder? From the pain, it felt as if something went clear through her shoulder. Only a bullet could pass through something like her arm. She had no recollection of any gun being fired. But she had a feeling that there was a loud noise involved. Maybe someone outside her door had an answer to why she was here.
Sylvia heard foot steps outside her door. Please let it be someone that knows why I'm here, she thought.
The door opened. A nurse walked in the room. When the nurse reached Sylvia's bed, she turned on an overhead lamp on the wall behind the bed.
"Good morning, Mrs. Norris," the nurse said. "How are you feeling?"
"My arm hurts a little," she said, blinking several times to adjust from near total darkness to the bright light behind her.
"Your about due for another dose of pain killer, I'd say." The nurse checked Sylvia's chart at the foot of the bed and nodded. She placed the chart back where it was and went to the side of the bed and pushed a button. The back of the bed elevated with a soft hum.
"Could you unstrap me?" Sylvia asked kindly.
Before Sylvia finished the question, the nurse was already opening the blinds to the window. It was still dark outside; only a hint of the sun rising, which was coming from the left of the window, hit Sylviaís retinas, through the optic nerves, and into the back of her brain.
"I'll have to get the doctor's permission first." The nurse walked from the windows to the bathroom across the room, turned on the light, then left the room. A minute passed before the nursed appeared with a tiny paper cup and a larger one. The tiny cup contained two red pills. The larger cup was filled with water.
The nurse held the tiny cup to Sylvia's mouth and rolled the pills in. "Open the hanger door," the nurse cooed, like Sylvia was a child.
Sylvia ignored the nurse's patronizing words and took the pills anyway. The nurse tilted the cup of water toward her mouth. Sylvia swallowed the pills.
"That's a good girl." The nurse placed the cup of water on the food tray beside the bed. "You'll forget all about the pain shortly. You're probably hungry. The food cart will be here in fifteen. I hope you like French toast."
"When can I speak to the doctor?"
"Some time after breakfast, is my guess."
"How am I suppose to feed myself?" Sylvia looked down at her restrained hands and jiggled them a bit.
"You just donít worry about a thing, dear. Iím here to help." Before Sylvia could say another word the nurse left.
Sylvia pushed her head deeper into the pillow in frustration. At this rate, she mused angrily, sheíd never get any answers. Four minutes and that nurse was already getting on her nerves. There was at least one thing that Sylvia definitely remembered: she hated hospitals. The nurses were always running in and out of the patients rooms. Sylvia was not a patient patient.
Sylvia opened her eyes and looked at the TV that was attached to the opposite wall. She wished that it was on, at leastónot that she cared for TVóbut it would make the time pass more quickly. If she had a choice, sheíd rather have a good book to read instead. She took a deep breath and exhaled.
Just before Sylvia lost it, the nurse rushed in the room with a tray of rood and placed it on the serving tray beside the bed. The nurse wheeled the table across the bed and over Sylviaís lap.
"What hospital is this?" Sylvia asked.
"Why youíre at the Green Meadow Hospital!" the nurse said, with an almost too cheerful voice. Or was it a touch of crazy? Cheerful and crazy, probably.
The nurse lifted the lid off the food tray to keep the food warm. Steam wafted into the air above the tray. The tray contained three plates. The middle plate had two slices of French toast with the remnants of a mound of butter melting in the center of the toast. On the right of the French toast sat a plate with a bowl on it that held a little white box that read corn flakes. The plate on the left had a cup of apple sauce with a foil lid.
The nurse picked up the knife and fork and proceeded to cut a piece of French toast. She stabbed the piece with the fork and put it to Sylviaís mouth.
Sylvia had no choice but to open her mouth and chew. The toast was just as she remembered: nasty. Was it the butter they used? Or maybe the hospital cooks used some kind of powdered eggs? Whatever it was, it made the French toast taste . . . artificial. And where was the syrup? There was hardly any drip of the stuff. It was so bland that Sylvia was afraid that she lost her taste buds, but she relaxed, hospital food was bound to be bland.
After swallowing, Sylvia said, "Could I have something to wash it down?" She almost begged.
"I knew I forgot something. I meant to get some milk and o.j." The nurse dropped the fork and knife on the tray that made a loud clanging sound, causing Sylvia to wince, and ran out of the room.
Sylvia sighed, and tried to produce some saliva to clear that nasty flavor out of her mouth but, alas, it was futile. The flavor would sit in her mouth, unless she could drink some milkóhell, she could drink anything, even orange juiceóon top of this crap. The corn flakes might be good, as long as they were fresh, and not cardboard-stale. Being restrained did not help matters. What if she had to use the bathroom? She would be damned if she was forced to use a bedpan. Suffering through that indignity would be the end, especially if the bedpan was metal. Those damn things were cold and painful to sit on. No, thank you very much! Her mind screamed. Take that ice-cold bedpan and stick it where the sun donít shine. Iíll pee the bed if I have to, she told herself angrily.
The nurse returned with two cartons of milk and a clear cup of orange juice that had a lid on it. She opened one of the cartons and stuck a straw into it. The straw had a bendable end for easy drinking.
Sylvia sipped the milk and swished it around, coating her mouth. As soon as she swallowed, she wished she hadnít. Was that soy milk she tasted? Yuck! What kind of hospital was this? The hypoallergenic, flavorless, restrained, torture-your-patient-with-disgusting-food Monkey Ward.
Werenít mental hospitals suppose to treat their patients with some kind of respect? Sylvia had no idea. All she wanted was to be unstrapped and maybe released. What did she honestly do to deserve this? If hell was a place, Sylvia was there.
"Better?" the nurse asked, holding the milk carton close the Sylviaís mouth, the straw an inch from her lips.
Sylvia nodded, at least for the next bite of that scrumptious French toast.
The nurse placed the carton on the tray and cut the French toast into almost equal pieces. She proceeded to feed Sylvia every last bite and had no choice but to put up with the food, as tasteless as it was.
After the last bite was eaten, Sylvia realized that, even though the food was tasteless, it would be a good idea to eat; it had to be nutritional, and it might make her shoulder heal faster. Now that it was over with, it didnít seem too bad after all.
"Thatís a good girl," the nurse said. "You donít want to insult the cooks by not eating, do you?"
Sylvia shook her head no and sighed. To avoid confrontation, Sylvia had to put up with this nurse. She might get somewhere by playing along with this treatment, as insulting as it was.
With satisfaction, the nurse continued to feed Sylvia. She opened the little box of corn flakes and poured its content into the bowl it was sitting in. With the quick hands of a nurse who has been doing this for a while, she opened the milk and drenched the dry flakes in a waterfall of milk. The nurse looked as if she enjoyed this part of her job. I canít wait for sponge bath time, Sylvia thought sarcastically.
The rest of the meal wasnít as bad as Sylvia imagined. The corn flakes actually tasted crisp and fresh, but had no sweetness. She guessed that sweetener was too much to ask for. Oh, well. Once the cereal was finished, Sylvia got to eat the apple sauce, which had the most flavor of all the items that were on the tray, although it was a little tart.
Sitting, helplessly strapped to the bed, spoon fed, life couldnít get any better than this, or could it?
"There now, that wasnít so bad, was it, young lady?" The nurse collected the tray and carried it across the room and placed it on a table by the door. She walked to the side of the bed and pulled open a drawer, reached in it, and extracted a remote control.
"Since youíve been such a good girl, you can watch a little TV." She turned on the TV and placed the remote in Sylviaís hand. "The doctor should be here in a little while." The nurse turned on her heal, walked to the table by the door, took the food tray, and left the room.
Sylvia was glad that was over with, now for some entertainment from the bottomless pit of shit, a.k.a. TV. She looked up at the TV and saw that it was on some kind of news show, with a ticker tape scroller across the bottom of the screen. Boring! Sylvia thought. Plus the channel had all kinds of icons on it, in every corner. Sylvia wanted more than ever to have a book to read than watch TV. TVs should have a different name. How about imagination dissolvers.
She changed the channel. Ah, some goofball with a moustache and a huge nose, pontificating pedantic political mumbo jumbo. You have to be brain dead to watch this show. Next channel.
We have a sports channel, boys and girls. You can watch sports twenty-four hours a day. Who wants to watch dumb jocks running around a field all day, kicking or hitting balls around? No thanks, Sylvia thought, Iíd rather be beaten unconscious.
She channel surfed through the entire TV in less than thirty seconds and could find nothing to interest her. What a waste of electricity. Musac would be preferable to this. Sylvia looked down at the remote and could just barely make out a button that said time. The TV had something useful after allóit had a clock. She pushed the button and, sure enough, there was a clock in bright green digits. Assuming that the time was right, it read quarter after six. That should be about right, according to the light coming from the window, which was steadily getting brighter. The light coming in the window was blue now.
She changed the channel to the weather channel and confirmed that the clock was correct.
Where was the doctor? A person could go crazy here waiting for a doctor to arrive. Well, at least she was in the right place. What could be worse than being restrained to a hospital bed? A straight jacket, maybe.
In what seemed like hours, Sylvia waited and waited. She sat and stared at the TV and out the window for less than two hours, waiting for answers. Until finally her waiting paid off.
The doctor entered the room and pulled out a chair. "Good morning, Mrs. Norris. My name is Doctor Ira Loken. How are we feeling today?" The doctor was bald and pudgy. He had a friendly smile. He was wearing the customary white coat with a pocket protector, holding a pen and a small notepad.
"Bored and confused." Sylvia responded. She let out a sigh.
The doctor was holding a clip board and scribbled a few notes. He wrote a few more seconds and laughed. "I can understand being bored." His eyes moved to the TV and shook his head.
"But how is it that you are confused?"
"I canít remember how I got here." She shook her head.
Doctor Loken nodded. Was it in understanding, agreement, or neither, or both, Sylvia had no clue.
"Yes," he said.
"Yes, you donít have any memory of why you are here."
"None," she shook her head, and felt relieved that her first impression was falseóthe doctor wasnít psychic or telepathic. But that might have been a good thing, he might have been able to help her remember.
"Well, can you tell me the last thing you do remember? Find a frame of reference, as it were."
"The only thing I can recall is a loud noise. Maybe something hitting my shoulder." She looked down at her bandaged shoulder.
"Okay, thatís a good start. Anything else?"
She closed her eyes, trying to force her mind to draw up a picture. She opened her eyes and shook her head. "Nothing. The noise is the freshest memory. But it was as if it was in a dream . . . a dream in which I can only hear in it, like I was blind-folded."
"Interesting, to say the least. So you have no memory of what happened two days ago?"
"Two days?" Confusion and panic surfaced Sylviaís mind. "Have I been asleep for forty-eight hours?"
This time the doctor shook his head and said, "I wonít know for sure until we run a few tests."
"Can you at least fill me in on what happened to my shoulder?"
"Um . . . it might not be wise to tell you too much right now. It might be better for your mind to . . . to adjust to the trauma."
"What trauma, Doctor Loken? What can be more traumatizing than not remembering two days before?"
"Well . . . in my experience, itís best for someone with memory difficulties to let their memories return by themselves." The doctor shifted in his seat, trying to get comfortable.
"That might be best," Sylvia said, "but are you sure I canít get a little memory refresher for my trouble."
The doctor stifled a little chuckle. "I wish there was such, that didnít require me to tell you. Certain scents are said to trigger memories, but that is usually for triggering long term memories. What youíre having problems with are your short term memories. Like I said, I will need to run some tests to find the cause."
"I guess youíre right. Do I need to be strapped down at the moment?" She jiggled her arms and legs, although not much. "I have to use the bathroom."
"I donít see that those are necessary any longer." The doctor stood up and unstrapped the restraints on Sylviaís wrists and ankles. After removing the restraints, he rolled them up and placed them on the table beside the bed. "That should feel better."
"Thank you, Doctor! Iíll be right back." Sylvia jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom, closing the door and locking it behind her.
A few minutes later Sylvia came out of the bathroom, more slowly than when she went in. She felt more relaxed now that she didnít have a full bladder. She reached the bed and sat on the edge, facing the doctor.
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "What kind of tests were you planning to try?"
"I thought we could try youíre reflexes and eye coordination. If everything checks out, we can test your memory with simple questions."
"You mean Iíll have to take a written test?"
The doctor laughed slightly. "Donít worry, it wonít be like school. Most of the questions can be answered orally. The tests are like the standard I.Q. tests, only not as long or boring."
The doctor must have read Sylviaís mind. She hated I.Q. tests. They always made her feel stupid and or retarded. The first one she ever took was in elementary school, it must have been in first grade, or maybe it was third. The teachers told her she had learning disabilities, which made her feel even more stupid. "Sylvia, weíre sad to say that you have LD, weíll have to put you in a special class," she remembered being told. LD, the teacher had said. It sounded like a disease to her. What was worse, being told you had LD, or that the other kids in the special class were mostly composed of retards. She didnít think that the kids were retards to be mean. The kids really were retarded. Only six other kids were in that class, out of the entire school. There was another kid in the class who was like her. Her name was Silva. She was shy at first, but the more she knew Sylvia, the less shy she was around her. Eventually they became close friends. That was about fourth grade. By the time they made it to high school, they knew each other so well, they could practically finish each otherís sentences.
Just after their Freshman year, Silva had to move to another state. Sylvia and Silva kept in contact for a while, writing back and fourth because they lived too far away to call. But like most long distance relations, they never last. Sylvia didnít know if it was her or Silva that stopped writing. It was almost heart breaking, but it happens.
"Sylvia?" She heard a voice call to her.
Sylvia opened her eyes and found that she was still on the edge of the bed. "Huh?" She was confused at first, like when you first wake up from a strange dream that made you forget where you were or who you are. That usually lasts for a few seconds, but it seems longer to the mind.
"Are you okay?" The doctor was standing in front of Sylvia, his right hand was on her left shoulder. His hand was warm and strong.
"Uh, yeah," she said cautiously. "Why, what . . . what happened?" Her voice carried a touch of anxiety, afraid of what the answer might hold.
"You shut your eyes for a while. They were moving rapidly from side to side. Like you were in REM sleep."
"I feel a little light headed, like I was on a water ride. Does that make sense to you."
"It sounds like you need to rest." The doctor squeezed her shoulder lightly and moved his hand away. With the same hand, he reached in his coat pocket and took out a white bottle. The contents rattled like a rattle snake warning to strike.
Hearing that rattle caused Sylviaís heart to skip a beat and she had a shortness of breath. She grabbed the edge of the bed with both hands and squeezed until the knuckles turned as white as a corpse just before the makeup is applied for viewing.
Doctor Loken saw this and tried to calm her. "Sylvia," he said, concern in his voice. "Relax. Try to relax, Sylvia." He placed his hand on her shoulder again. "Itís just a sedative, to help you rest. Thatís all."
It took some time for her to calm down. Just before she calmed, she started to hyperventilate for a couple of minutes, and then slowly regained control.
"Sorry doctor, I donít know what came over me."
"Thatís quite understandable. Youíve been under a lot of stress. Being shot, and attacking your husband, can be very stressful."
"What? What did you say?" Her breathing changed again.
"Uh . . . I said, youíve been under stress," he said, trying to cover up the words that should not have slipped out. "Thatís all."
"No, what you said after that. Something about being shot. You said I attacked my husband. Oh, God! What did I do!? Is my husband . . . okay." Panic began to take over, her throat started to constrict. She felt like she couldnít breathe. Her vision blurred. Her head ached. The room was spinning. Then nothing. Sylvia passed out, and fell forward.
The doctor caught her with both hands, the bottle in his hand almost fell.
"I guess you wonít be needing this, after all." The doctor held up the bottle, and returned it to his pocket.
He lifted Sylviaís legs into the bed and checked her pulse. Satisfied, he pulled the sheet up. Then he slid the safety rails up, so she couldnít fall out.
He turn off the light above the bed. Seeing as the sun was finally up, the light was no longer needed.
Doctor Loken walked out the room, and closed the door.