An interchange between Ray and a girl after her first day at partial hospital. PG-13 only for SI discussion.
"How did it go?" His words hit me quickly, but mine meandered back to him.
"Overwhelming." I waited a bit, still guarded, still unsure of what to share and with whom to share it. "I cried during the second group. I felt like an idiot vying for attention. Someone else was talking and the idea of introducing myself to those people made me flip out. So they threw some tissues at me, and didn't make a big deal out of it."
"That's good, though. It's your first day."
I was still looking at my arm and thinking about very little. My wrist looked like plastic and the little blood that weeped out from exertion looked fake. The scab I pulled off my heel offered orange blood, but this blood was funny and deep. When I cut, it looked like clay, my skin, but now it hurt like skin. He sighed, looking for a new way to approach. There was no one else I wanted to be within a five mile radius of me. I was tired, and I wanted Ray. I wanted Ray sitting on my bed. I wanted Ray sitting on my bed in silence, Rebeca Roberts interrupting people while captaining "Talk of the Nation" on NPR. Briefly I wondered where the usual host was, and looked forward to not listening to "Where We Live".
Ray's hands danced up to his face. I could tell, the little vibration of energy from the slight movement told me, that he wanted me sitting next to him. I cuddled. I loved to cuddle with him, but I was sitting at my desk, the wooden chair a solitary seat. He wanted to hold me, to hold my face and talk to me, like we talked last night when I sliced my arm. Slice, not slash. He sighed again, turning his energy toward the fish tank.
"Did you feed them today?"
I reached the bottom of my coffee cup while he walked up to toss some flakes at the two fish in my tank. Sugar coated the styrofoam and slid down to my mouth. I met it half with delight, half with disgust, and briefly thought about diabetes. After closing the lid of the tank, Ray walked over to me, my hands and cup in my lap. He looked down, his eyes soft. He has this way of persuading me to do things. Things like, in this instant, stand up and hungrily accept his arms, open to hug me. I let my arms curl up; he wanted to comfort me, and I wanted to be comforted. He has this way of breathing me in when he hugs me, taking inventory of my hair conditioner and lotion, the detergent I used on my clothes and the breath of blush I had nervously dusted over my cheeks that morning. I sucked him in like a cigarette, desperate and needy, holding the air in my lungs for a bit to get the full effect. I kept my eyes open and felt warm and normal. He let go.
"I don't know how I feel about this," my eyebrows crawled up my forehead without my permission.
"It's just the first day. Give it a chance."
"I can't imagine ever opening up to those people. They have active problems. They've been hospitalized, they can't live normal lives. I'm a joke. I'm not ready for this."
He had nothing to say because he didn't believe this. He pulled me to him again, and I took another much-needed drag.