Chapter 4 – The Kids Are All Fucked Up
Group was probably the favorite activity of every patient in the teenage mental ward. Every week, a volunteer came in to serve one purpose—make our stay here a little more enjoyable. In the seemingly distant past, a music therapist had visited and played a bunch of Bob Marley songs for us, even bringing in percussion instruments for the patient participants to play on. On that day, I had the shining opportunity to play a guitar after being told that I couldn't bring mine with me to Trenton Psych. However, fearful of embarrassing myself by playing a wrong chord, I was too nervous to ask. When I had finally worked up my courage, the session was already completed and I had lost my chance. It was a day after that incident that I came upon my first Visitor's day at the hospital. And the first time I realized that nobody was visiting me. Overcome by grief or something like that, I came to the decision that this place was basically the dark, fiery kingdom of Tartarus, disguised with white paint and inspirational posters. Nevertheless, I found myself looking forward to group therapy every week, because it simply took my mind off things that I had time to think about on an average day. I supposed that was the whole point, though.
Today was unlike most days, and all I wanted to do after that horrendous session with Doctor Collins, was go to sleep. Forever, preferably. Unfortunately, I didn't have the nerve to ask to return to my room. I was forced, by my own lack of social skills, to follow the hot nurse into the big room where they held Group. Once again, she served as a mere distraction. I realized that although I checked her out on a regular basis, I knew absolutely nothing about her. I wondered what her name was. She looked like a Brittney, or a Valerie, or something like that. The walk to our destination was long, so I had a while to muse over that. Or so I thought.
“So, I heard you were in the ICU a couple o' days ago. How are you doing?” she asked me, looking over her shoulder.
What the fuck? Was she new here or something? None of the nurses ever tried to make a casual conversation with us crazy, suicidal children.
“I'm fine, thank you,” I mumbled politely.
She smiled at me with her rosy red lips, “That's good. What's your name again, hun'?”
“Uh...” I was drawing a blank, while simultaneously pondering over why she was doing this. And what was my name? What the fuck was my name? “Um...my name's like...Frank. Iero. But you can call me Frank...Iero.” Shit, I sounded like a complete idiot, “Or just Frank. Or Frankie. Or like...whatever.”
She giggled like a little girl, “Frankie. That's cute.”
I blushed beet red. Cute? What did that mean? Was it implicit of something completely different? Was she coming on to me or something? I shoved my hands into my pockets and gave her a quiet thank you. I seriously didn't know how to react.
“Well, here we are!” she said brightly, stopping in front of a large white door leading to the activity lounge, “Have fun, Frankie.”
She held it open and I walked into the well-lit room, leaving my disheveled thoughts behind. Most of the seats in the room had already been filled up, by my peers. The only empty one I spot was next to Gerard. Internally, I groaned. Now I had to sit through an hour of him being his loquacious self. I sluggishly made my way towards the chair and plopped down. I received only a short greeting from my table mate. That was weird. I turned to see who sat on the other side of me. I nearly keeled over upon recognizing the gorgeous female who was always with the other Frank. I gripped the edge of the table in front of me. What was happening today? It was as if I was being thrust from one pretty girl to another. Of course, I shouldn't have been complaining, but I wouldn't have if I had at least a vague idea of how to interact with them.
I was relieved when a woman up front cleared her throat. The room silenced and gave her the attention she subtly demanded.
Canvas in hand, a youthful, but plump lady was standing before us, grin on her round face, “Hi, guys! My name's Erin, and we'll have a lotta fun today, right?!” Crickets. Come on, lady, that was pathetic. The smile didn't wipe off her face, “Right! So who here likes to draw?” A few hands hung up in the air and lingered there for a few seconds. I was surprised to find that Gerard's was one of them. “That's great!” Erin continued, but I ignored the rest.
The room I sat in was one that sort of bugged me. I could never put my finger on the reason, today, it came to me. On the walls were pictures drawn by patients, hung up as if they were Van Gogh masterpieces. The cupboards were labeled with various stickers such as “Fingerpaints” or “Crayons”. Up front stood a jolly supervisor, speaking in an unnaturally excited tone. Honestly, the only way I could describe the whole situation was depressing. This sole room simplified the main problem with mental hospitals. They were so fucking demeaning. Here we were, kids of at least thirteen years of age, being reduced to preschoolers. Just because we had a few issues did not mean we weren't still intelligent beings. I scowled to myself and directed my attention back up front.
“...to the person next to you. They'll be your drawing subject for today. I'll hand out the canvases so you guys can be real artists!” Erin said, as if it was a believable fib. “If you don't know each other, be sure to introduce yourselves!”
I turned to find that Gerard was looking in the opposite direction, at the boy who sat to the other side of him. Shit, that meant... I took my time in swiveling my head over to my “drawing subject”. She stared at me with her wide eyes, the bluest of blue. As if they bottled rain. A smile reached her small mouth for a moment, but I was fazed by the brevity of it. In my head, a voice was scolding me, yelling to me to say something. When I finally worked up the ability to articulate, she took the lead
Her breathing seemed to hitch as she spoke, “I...I'm Thalia.”
Thalia. Like the Muse. I supposed that it wasn't common knowledge, but I was a fan of Greek Mythology. The name suited her perfectly, though; just as the Muses enchanted god and men alike with their beautiful voices, she had just enchanted me with hers. Her voice was soft, like raindrops on a roof during a light drizzle and I longed to hear it again.
I smiled at her dreamily and murmured, “I like your name...” Fuck, was that too awkward? “I mean...I'm uh, Frank. Hi.”
Her teeth bit down on her bottom lip. “Um...thanks...hi.”
“Hi,” I said once more, since nothing else would come out.
“Here you go, guys!” a cheery voice spoke and Erin handed us both sheets of canvas, “Get started, you only have an hour!”
I took the paper and set it down on the table. Art was not my thing. And the fact that I was expected to draw the divine beauty seated before me made things even worse. I didn't want to draw some cheap-ass, ugly version of her. Beside me, I saw Gerard bent over his canvas, furiously shading with professional ease. A sigh left me. Thalia had already started on her portrait of me, outlining a face on her paper. She noticed me staring and defensively brought her arm over the sheet, hiding it from my eyes. It was then that I saw several vicious cuts running all down her right arm, apparent against her fair skin. Although I had a few scratches on my own wrist, it pained me to know that she had hurt herself—or had been hurt at all for that matter. I just wanted to wrap my arms around her and protect her forever. What the fuck was wrong with me? Usually somewhat of a cynic, it was unusual for me to think such...such cheesy thoughts.
“Why aren't you drawing me?” I heard Thalia speak, anxiously.
“Oh, I just...I was...uh...” I stumbled over my words, “I can't draw.”
Her brows furrowed, “Oh, okay.”
“And nobody could draw you,” I added on impulse.
Her head snapped up sharply from her work, “What the fuck's that supposed to mean?”
My face drained of color, astonished at the sudden harshness in her tone. “I j-j-just...I m-mean, you're so pretty. I mean...I'm sorry. I m-meant it like a good thing. I'll try if you want.”
She seemed to scrutinize my face for a second and simply said, “Sorry.”
Awkwardly, I picked up a colored pencil and began making markings on my blank sheet. I started with her eyes, trying to draw them as captivating as they truly were.
“I always start with the eyes too,” Thalia told me.
I barely managed to reply with an, “Oh.”
We didn't speak to each other for the remainder of the hour. I couldn't help feeling that I had totally messed up this first encounter. It made me want to smash something to pieces. Maybe my head for making me act utterly ridiculous in such an important circumstance. For—once again—causing me to look like a dumbass. It always did things like this.
“Okay, guys! Our time's up!” Erin announced, “Super job, everyone! If you want, you can hand in your pictures to me and I'll put them up somewhere. If not, hand 'em to your partner so they can see what an awesome job you did!”
I stood up, crumpling up my sheet, but soon found a canvas being thrust at me, dangerously close to giving me a giant paper-cut.
“Can I see mine too?” Thalia asked gently.
I gingerly took the paper from her and handed her the crumpled ball I had created. She straightened it out to find what I had drawn. Just her eyes. I couldn't bring myself to mess up the rest of her after I had drawn them.
Embarrassed, I said, “Sorry. I can't draw, I told you.”
She shrugged, “I like it. Look at yours.”
I nodded obediently. Unfolding my portrait, I gasped. Most of the picture was dark scribbles. Dramatic sweeps flew in various directions and very little space remained bright. In fact, the only light area was in the center, where there seemed to be a glow shining outwards. It was, in short, amazing, in a modern-art kind of way. It also looked nothing like me. I was a bit bewildered.
“It's really good!” I said sincerely, “But where's my face?”
“It's not supposed to be your face. I started with that, but then I changed my mind. I drew what I saw when I looked into your eyes.” Her face was turning pink, “Like, I thought there was a lot of darkness and pain in there...it's going all over the place because it's all in disarray right now, like you can't handle it or something. But the middle is supposed to be the good part. The part of you that's happy, or hopeful or something. It's sort of small. Because you've been hurt too much to let the happiness shine all the way through. And if you did that, it would be forgetting all the woes of the word. But I think it should be a little bigger. I mean, that's just what I sensed, sorry if it's a little weird...”
My jaw dropped and I was at a loss for words. I merely folded the paper in half and clutched it to my chest. Tears threatened to jerk themselves out of my eyes. How did a complete stranger get me like that? I wanted to hug her or kiss her or at least say something meaningful.
Finally I managed to choke out, “That's beautiful.”
“Really?” She asked, and I could tell that it wasn't just for an extra compliment.
I nod furiously, “Thank you.”
She smiled, though her brows were laced with worry, “You're welcome. I guess I'll see you later, then.”
“Bye,” the word barely came out my mouth.
It was time now, for me to return to my room. I glided back, a smile constantly playing at my lips. Hardly noticing where I was going, I was in a floating cloud of joy. Pushing the door open, I stepped inside, letting out a loud, gleeful scream.
“What the fuck?”
I quickly remembered that I had a roommate. Oops. I hastily apologized and jumped onto my bed. My roommate, Elliot, stared at me from under his covers. He was a tall boy with jet black hair and a hard, serious jawline. He never smiled. Ever. It was a rare occasion to see him outside our room. Haunted by hallucinations and nightmares, he didn't like to leave his bed much. He only went outside to get his medication and fill in his required therapy hours. Over the past year, we'd developed somewhat of a bond, but a silent one. He refrained from talking to me. Thus, I was pretty shocked to hear him say more.
“Where were you the past two nights?”
“Uh...the ICU,” I wasn't interested in thinking about that when the thought of Thalia graced my mind.
Elliot obviously wasn't aware of that, “Why?”
“A bunch of stuff happened,” I answered vaguely, “Uh...I'm not trying to be rude, but why do you care?”
He frowned, “I was just wondering...cause I woke up screaming again, but you weren't there.”
In the past, when he had woken up from one of his recurring nightmares, he would come to my bed and I'd let him lay there, crying himself to sleep. If you thought about it, it came off as extremely... gay. However, we didn't consider each other friends of any sort. It was merely because he—like me—had no one. It felt terrible to be alone while having a breakdown and he had them on a regular basis. It was the least I could do.
“It's fine, I was just wondering...” Elliot sat up, “You seem happy tonight.”
“You seem sociable tonight,” I snapped.
He shrugged and I could see him blush in the dim light, “My mistake, I guess.” I regretted being so curt with him. After all, I had always craved some sort of companion. Why was I being such an ass when Elliot offered me exactly what I wanted? He slipped back under his blanket, “Good night, then.” He turned his back to me.
I sighed, “Elliot, I'm sorry. I'm happy cause I met this girl here and she was really nice.”
His voice was muffled when I heard it, “I said, good night.”
From what I could tell, he was mad. I let out another heavy breath and then looked back at the sheet of canvas, still held close to my body. Unfolding it, my mouth stretched into a grin.
“She drew me a picture at Group. It's really cool,” I informed him. “Do you wanna see it?”
When he didn't respond, I gave up. I wasn't going to let his moodiness ruin the first day in over twelve months that I felt...happy. It was a nice emotion, one I had missed. I wanted to savor every moment of it, because I knew that without fail, something would go wrong soon enough. Some called it pessimism, I called it life. I set my persona portrait down on the side table and slid down under my covers. My eyes shut and I prayed that my dreams wouldn't leave me in tears.
That was way too much foreshadowing there, haha... Please Rate/Review. I'm writing for my own pleasure, but I'm putting it up here for yours.
Last chapter's song was "Go" by Pearl Jam - "Oh please don't go out on me, don't go on me now. Never done it before, don't go on me now..."