The environment inside a hospital is hostile.
I walk down the hallway on beige tiles that were once white. A Filipino nurse beside me pats my shoulder as she whispers, “This is your room.” My hospital bed, with white sheets and green flannel, awaits me. Someone on the other side of the drawn grey-striped curtain swears.
“Go in and lie down,” the nurse says. “Get some sleep.”
I set my knapsack down on a brown plastic chair close to a plastic nightstand beside the bed. As I lay my head on the pillow, the voice on the other side of the curtain screeches, “What the fuck are you doing in here? I asked to be alone in this room.”
I close my eyes.
Hands shake me out of my fetal position.
No longer on the other side of the curtain, the woman brings her face close and snarls, “I said, get the fuck out of here.”
“Fuck off, bitch,” I growl back.
“Carolyn!” A squat Italian woman with short blonde hair stands in the doorway. “Just leave her alone. She may fight you.”
I look at them both. “I would.”
The blonde woman steps inside the doorway. “I’m Michelle,” she says. “I’m a friend of Carolyn.”
A shorter man, who also looks Italian, follows Michelle into the room. He smiles and comes right to my bedside. “I’m sorry about all that. I’m Richard. Michelle’s brother. What is your name?” he asks.
I stare into Richard’s light green eyes.
Michelle and I become fast friends and I stay with her when I get out of the hospital. She devises a plan for us to go into business together. She will pay me fifty thousand dollars a year and we will make music videos. For a week, Michelle keeps me inside her apartment in Nôtre-Dame-de-Grace, an Anglophone suburb in Montréal, watching videos and listening to music. When we go outside, we shop. I spend my own money on her. When we go to the Bonaventure Hotel and have an expensive meal, it’s on me. I use my credit card and spend money I do not have.
Michelle lures me into thinking I’m the one to marry her brother Richard. She tells me that my medications are merely sleeping pills—so why take them?
I listen to her and stop taking them.
“Richard is coming,” Michelle says. “You must get ready. Go to Place Ville Marie and wait for him there.”
She gives me a shove and I walk briskly to the Metro subway. I see the stop for Place Ville Marie before I hear the announcement. There is a long, long pathway with fluorescent lights on the ceiling. They whiz by me as I speed down the path. At the end of the tunnel, I gravitate to a gold-coloured seat beside a tall golden post.
I sit there. I sit there. And I sit there.
I look at my black and white Swatch and see that it’s almost ten. It’s getting late and the weather is cold. I walk back through the tunnel and back to the Bonaventure Hotel.
Michelle is just returning from the bar when we meet. “Let’s go to my place,” she says when she sees me.
I say nothing. I follow Michelle back to her place where we find Michelle’s old boyfriend Sean watching videos in the living room and smoking pot.
Before I enter the room, I look at Michelle. “I need to go home and take my medication.”
“Why?” she shouts. “They’re just sleeping pills.”
The fear in my stomach forces me out of Michelle’s building and onto the street. I
go to a pay phone and call my friend David.
“David,” I say. “Can you pick me up? I’ll meet you at the café at Loyola.”
“Yes,” he says. “I’ll leave right away. Just wait for me if you have to.” I walk and walk and walk and finally reach the café close to Concordia University’s Loyola campus. David lives in Côte-de-Neiges.
A half-hour passes before he arrives.
We go back to my place. David’s first degree is in pharmacology. He encourages me to take my medication. I want him to spend the night but he has to go back to his girlfriend.
Michelle ends up back in the hospital.
I stabilize once I start taking my medication regularly, as prescribed. But I do not like the doctor who follows up with me in the outpatient clinic of the Allan Memorial Institute at the Royal Victoria Hospital. The medication he puts me on makes me gain weight, makes me sleep for fifteen hours at a stretch and leaves me depressed. I
start self-prescribing. I talk to David about how I can get off my medication.
In March, I stop.