The nurses all flipped when I couldn’t make myself eat. I just couldn’t open my mouth and chew and chew and chew and swallow. It was all so meaningless. Samantha came in and talked at me, but I could feel myself slipping. My bones felt like reeds, hollow and failing.
When Samantha brought Adam in, I almost laughed at his face, but I couldn’t laugh. Too much trouble. His face was priceless, though, his mouth an ‘O’, his eyes unfathomable, as usual.
“Vi.” He stood just inside the door. “What the fuck?”
“Don’t swear.” My fingers plucked at the mint green waffled blanket.
He came over to the bed, sat on the chair. Samantha hung discreetly in the background. In case he decided to jump my bones? Strangle me? Who could’ve guessed the idiosyncrasies of Samantha’s head?
“You look like a skeleton, you stupid idiot.”
Samantha said, “Adam,” in a censoring tone.
I defended him weakly. “Leave him alone.”
Samantha raised an eyebrow and walked out the door.
“Did I piss her off?” I said.
He ignored the question. “What the fuck are you doing, Vi?”
“Nothing. At the moment. What are you doing?”
I didn’t know what I said. It was all so strange, so separate from me.
I felt like I floated on the ceiling.
Looked down at the two of us.
“Vi, you’ve got to snap out of it. Eat something. Fight. You’ve always been so willing to fight. Fight, damn it!”
“I’m too tired. So tired. How was Thanksgiving? Did Ivan leave?”
“Yeah. He had to go back for classes. He wanted to see you before he left, but they wouldn’t let us. I had to practically promise my first-born to see you now, and it was with the stipulation that Samantha was here. I don’t know why she took off.”
He folded his hands between his legs, leaned forward, looked down at them. “Vi, I’ve gotta be honest here.” He shook his head, leaned back, looked up at the ceiling, folded his arms across his chest. Shook his head again.
“So be honest, already,” I said. “I’m turning gray, here.”
His gaze leveled on mine. So uncomfortable, the weight of that look.
“Vi, you don’t look good. You’re not okay. You’ve got to fight.”
“There’s nothing to fight.” Fight life? Fight with the nurses? Fight?
He stood, paced. “Vi, you’ve got to fight your mother.”
I turned my head away from him, stared at the paste white wall. “Leave me alone.”
“Get pissed at her, Vi. Get fucking pissed off.”
There was nothing to be pissed about.
There never had been.
That was the fallacy.
“Adam,” I said. “It’s too late. She’s gone. It doesn’t matter.”
“It’s not too late. She’s still in your head, Vi. Can’t you see that? It matters. You matter. You’re worth saving.”
I turned my head to look at him. He stood beside the bed, hands on the guard rails. How had he known I’d been thinking about that? About being saved?
“Am I?” I searched his face, wanted it so bad I could taste it like sweet nectar.
“Am I worth saving? Am I?”
He sat again. “Yes.” He leaned forward, elbows on knees, hands tight together. “Yes. You’re worth saving. Please don’t give up.”
Samantha came in then, and we both looked at her.
I said, “Am I worth saving?”
She walked to me, stopped beside Adam. “Yes. Yes, you are, Violet. You are so worthy.”
“Well, then who’s going to? There’s nobody.”
Samantha rested a hand next to my arm. “Violet, you have to save yourself. Nobody can do it for you. We can help, but we can’t do it.”
I looked at Adam and he nodded. “You can do it, Vi.”
“I don’t know.”
I felt scared. So scared. Like suddenly there was uncharted territory ahead. Like before I knew what was coming; the next blow, the next push. But now, I didn’t know. Like a bend in the road had appeared and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to take it. But I felt, for the first time in my entire life, that I was curious for what might come next.
Hopeful that it might be something beautiful.
I breathed in, felt the air fill my lungs, exit again, leaving life singing in my veins.
Samantha said, “Time’s up, Adam.”
Adam took my hand and squeezed it. He stood and smiled a crooked, half smile. “I’ll be seeing you, Vi.”
I nodded, watched as he walked out.
Samantha said, “Are you ready to let it go?”
“I don’t know how.” I didn’t know if I could, but I thought I desperately needed to.
“We’ll help. I want you to go to a special hospital, stay for a month or so. How does that sound?”
Institutionalized. Lovely. “Psych ward, huh? Lock the raving loonies away!”
“Violet, you need more help than I can give you.”
I stared out the window at the black sky. Four in the afternoon and it was so dark, already. But inside, it felt like I’d begun the change. Like I might be a little hungry.
I said, “Okay. I’ll do it.”
Maybe there was something beautiful in just trying.