your first time
you’re given a bed on the women’s ward in a room with another annette. she’s pregnant, spends most days asleep, & only stirs when the rn rolls in with her pre-natal vitamins, which you’re almost given on accident.
you’re warned never to get too close to that-woman-over-there with the inside out green sweatshirt draped over the backwards baby blue hospital gown with the faint stains of her own dried blood. she always sits in that corner, alone, eating until unhinged, then retreats back into her room.
you soon learn more about the women you call your peers. it seems that the quick answer to, why are you here? is depression. some are self-injurious women, with the darkened marks of healed scars rising boldly from their arms, proclaiming their presence without permission. some are addicts, who speak freely about what they’ll buy once out. others are mothers, carrying printed photos of their babies, the reason they must get better. most are babies themselves, whose mothers file in during visiting hours with homemade lunch or dinner.
the first meal you & mom eat in there tastes cold. you look at her & admit you somehow knew you’d wind up here one day, that it was only a matter of time. she says in all her years seeing you off to sleep away camp, to college, to various life phases, that this is the hardest venture to pack for. & when she leaves at seven o’clock every night, all she wants is to take you home, to the safe existence that bred your insanity.
but no one here is insane . they are, for whatever reason, feeling life’s unrelenting pain all at once. they are, in this artificial world of uno games & coloring & therapy groups on clockwork, somehow still finding ways to harm themselves.
one night, a patient sneaks plastic cutlery from dinner into her bathroom, & walks out into the common area the next morning with raw, bandaged wrists & a grin. later, when she shows you a photo of her son, disregarding the no physical contact rule, you ask if you can give her a hug, & she lets you.
still. you will never rid yourself of the idea that the maddest rule, for the maddest are themselves unruly.
that-woman-over-there is left to her own devices. she’s innocent, even when she manages to flip the very table she sits alone at. any woman strapped to a gurney by four men while rn’s remove bags upon bags of hoarded food from her room, who screams & screams & receives silence in return, you decide, is innocent.
someone must love her, mom says, recognizing that an endless stay is not cheap.
no. someone must love themself more
Annette Covrigaru is a gay/bigender American-Israeli writer and photographer. They were a Lambda Literary Emerging LGBTQ Voices nonfiction fellow and writer-in-residence in 2014 and 2017, respectively. Annette’s work has appeared in Entropy, Gravel, Cosmonauts Avenue and Hobart, among others, and is collected at www.annettecovrigaru.com. They live in Brooklyn and on Instagram at @a.cov__.