When I Look Up At the Stars. I Do Not Ask ‘What Is This Place?’ I Feel More A Whisper Beg, ‘Whose Face Is This I Face?’


Riley was a bit on edge. I had been watching her because, for one, she was a girl around my age, and I was locked up with her. I thought I could at least dream of her while the mind numbing meds had me drooling and shuffling along the bleached fluorescent floors. It’s so strange thinking, to yourself, oh geez, a crazy chick, I bet she’s a lot of fun, while you’re literally in her peer group doing therapy in the mental ward.
They can stifle all sorts of chemical reactions you think are your divine right through medication, but that realization that you’re as good as a lab rat in a maze with a contentious thought of breeding, it’s humbling and self-mitigating. My punk ethos could hardly survive the inversion of the crazy rage style into this clinical comported thing. I sat in the chair waiting on an easier exit, but Riley couldn’t sit through it, it seemed.
“Is this group session supposed to help us in some way, or is it just to keep us busy for a while so we don’t climb the walls?”
“I mean, should I be expecting deep work and be anticipating breakthroughs, or is this a babysitting session just distracting us from how generally incompetent the level of care is around here?”
“Well, we can talk about that. If you feel like you’re not being cared for…”
“Oh, my God.”
“What can we do better?”
“You can unlock the door.”
“Alright, then. Let’s talk about getting into our thoughts. We can’t make the decision to let anyone out in this session, so let’s talk about something else while you’re waiting.”
I almost rolled over in a daydream of mounting an heroic escape with this queen of disaster. At the end of the day, the hospital would be a fiery pit of ashes, and we would be on the road in a stolen car, top down. Hers.
“Adolai, you haven’t shared here before. Why don’t you tell us a bit about what brings you here.”
For some reason, I decided not to mention being dosed at the Halloween party. I had an inkling I might have something inside me worth teasing apart.
“I guess I’m not sure,” I offered. Why was I participating? I think I decided I would show Riley how it was done. That you could humor them AND best them at their own game. “I get confused a lot about… relationships with other people. Like, I put myself out there, but the shit I get back in return, results definitely vary.”
“Mmmhmm, go on.”
“I wish I could control… more.”

“I’m not sure, precisely, whatever ‘moorings’ are. But I feel like, you know the saying ‘loosened moorings’. That’s where I feel like I’m at right now. Like, in my normal life, even if it’s not the case, everything seems organized and tied down, everything down pat. Another weird phrase, ‘down pat’. But being in this..” I wanted to say cage but instead said, “place… It’s like I’ve been unlocked from the background of the everyday. Like everything could just float away into the unknown. That everything is up for grabs and could change, in a dangerous… weightless way. Like even the floor, I could just lift off or fall through if I wasn’t focused on myself here right now sitting in this chair in a conscious way. And it’s not just me, but the whole system of everything. Things seem unmoored, again. And oddly beautiful. Because any thing in this different landscape has invisible wings that allow it to hover here, strangely announcing itself as part of the scene. Things could just burst in some unknown direction at any time, it seems. I’m both terrified and thrilled.” I felt I had spoken my piece, put myself out there. I awaited the world to return my energy.
“That’s nice. Does anyone else have something to share.”
And, nothing. Again, just this empty feeling of a blank canvas mocking my attempt to contribute. I could laugh or cry, who would judge. I bit my lip, rolled my head back with my frustrated eyes bulging at the painfully bleached white ceiling, and slumped into a vision of free Riley and myself from this prison of detachment.
Time and boredom reasserted themselves as the keyholders of this dominion. My body and mind clutched tight to a feeling of youthful escapism, closing my eyes hard and shuddering. I wanted no part of it.

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