Salina lay on her back and stared up at the white fluorescent lights, which glared back at her. The silhouette of a woman, her small irregular hat neatly immobile on the top of her blond, well-coifed head, leaned over and smiled.
"Now just relax dear and this will all be over before you know it." She brushed away the strands of graying hair from the side of Salina's head and tucked it around her ears.
Two large men in white coats tightened leather straps around her wrists and ankles, their faces somber and emotionless as they went through their programmed motions. The men took positions on opposite sides of the table, their hands rested firmly on Salina's shoulders, pinning them to the gurney.
Dr. Wetten came around the side of the table and looked down at her.
"Now Salina, I'm sorry to have to do this, but you are not responding to any of the therapy or treatments we're giving you. Don't you understand that we are trying to help you? But you can only get better if you want to." His practiced tone reiterated.
She could only utter muffled curses through the rubber bite guard in her mouth, and spitefully bit down hard as she glared at the young doctor. The way he wore his hair slicked back, and the expensive pens all lined up perfectly inside the white pocket protector, made her sick. She wanted to spit in his face every time she saw him.
"I sincerely hope this is the last time we have to do this."
Her eyes followed him around the side of the table.
He opened the white tube, squeezed out some of the jelly and rubbed it on her temples.
"Salina, I understand that Andrew's death was very hard for you, but you are just going to have to accept the fact that he is gone and wrecking things around you and hurting yourself isn't going to bring him back or help you get better and the sooner you understand that, the sooner you will be released from here." The words came out in his usual rehearsed, clinical manner that Salina was used to hearing-in one ear and out the other.
The blond nurse picked up the white clothed electrodes sitting on top of the machine and handed them to the Doctor.
He looked down at Salina as he placed them on each side of her head.
"Salina, I have every confidence this is going to help you understand."
He smiled as the sharp burning sting bit into her head and every muscle in her body went into overdrive, contracting, causing her whole body to become one big knot. The rubber mouth guard split between her clenched teeth and her cheeks were red and wet from the spittle that flew out as her cheeks billowed in and out. Her hands clenched the bed sheet gripping it tighter while her wrists strained against the leather straps. The volts of electricity occupying all the available nerve endings negated any additional pain in the almost healed wounds in her wrists. Her back arched upward violently and the white jackets struggled to hold her. She slammed back down on the gurney, causing the metal frame to rattle and clang. Tears rolled down the side of her face and pooled in her ears. The aged lines in her face stretched and contorted with pain. She remembered the relief of the burning pain in her head stopping, before she went unconsciously limp.
Her eyes opened with a start and looked up at the dark corrugated ceiling above her. An orange sliver from the street lamp seeped through an opening and slashed across the inside of the box. She breathed white clouds into the cold as her heart raced. That dream always made her wake up feeling scared and alone. She pulled the mound of old blankets tighter.
"Emma, Emma where are you? I'm scared!"
She sat upright, as the silence of the empty box howled back at her soft sobs, street machinery answered her cry. She closed her eyes tight and the soft comforting arm of Emma wrapped itself around her shoulders and held her tight, like she used to.
"Sssshhh, it's all right. Everything's gonna be okay." Salina's crying subsided as the comforting words soothed her.
Soon, she lay back down; feeling more relaxed as the dream-vision subsided. Her eyes began to close as she drifted off, the needles and pins sensation in her temples all but gone.
One night, not long ago, Salina had been sleeping in her alley in some of the boxes that she always kept behind the dumpster. In the middle of the night, without warning, another seizure began, the next thing she knew, Emma was there helping her; like some angel sent down to save her.
From that moment on they were inseparable. Emma would show her things she didn't know about the street, and Salina would describe the beautiful pictures she saw in her mind. She and Salina always talked about the place they would get together in the spring and how they might decorate it. They shared the pains of their past, and the hopes for their future. Emma looked out for Salina, telling her it was okay, that all the things she saw weren't going to hurt her and the dreams she kept having weren't real. Somehow she could control and soothe Salina and that would help her keep it together. They fed off each other, and fed each other. But that was over.
Salina pulled on the brass door handle and the coldness of the metal made her shiver. Her massive stride took her inside the station quickly. The bags she carried were heavy, the wound paper handles cut into her fingers, even through the gloves without the fingertips she had found last night. She had to carry them; after all, everything that was important was in them.
Looking up, she noticed the blue, white and black whales swimming overhead, their gurgling sound gave her a tingle in her belly. She giggled and scanned the station for a purpose. "Move, move, move, get out of the way." Her mind flopped and then screamed at the nameless rabble that surrounded her. She hated them as she made her way through the crowd with the grace of a football player smashing through the front line- elbows outstretched, mean grimace on her face. People avoided her and moved out of the way. The window of hope was in her view now.
The ticket window gleamed with a heavenly pearl essence, glowing in her mind. The window tender smiled, his white teeth glinting in the light. She was trying to keep it together but she didn't have Emma to help her.
"Excuse me, mam... mam... MAM!... Hey lady, you want to buy a ticket or what?" The tender's smile turned down, not wanting to deal with another Baggy, as he called them.
Salina looked up at him and smiled "Purple hats are appropriate in the winter. Don't you think?"
The tender looked at her, puzzled "Listen lady, this is the ticket window. If you want to buy a ticket, fine, if not, the loony window is two over... Next." He beckoned to the next customer waiting.
She closed her eyes tightly, and clenched her fists; she knew that wasn't what she wanted to say but sometimes controlling what came out was impossible. Her mind switched gears so often now.
A burly gentleman in a fox hat rudely pushed Salina aside. The fox snapped at her. She snapped back and the fox yelped. The man put his briefcase on the counter, while his overcoat remained draped over his arm. He pretended that she did not exist. She stood there, bags at her side, looking forlorn and helpless. Emma would have helped her now.
Salina closed her eyes while thinking about what she really wanted, trying to focus her mind toward a purpose, but couldn't. She whirled around and opened her eyes.
Row upon row of wood benches were lined up perfectly. Salina began to weep as her mind flopped again.
"Oh. They're so beautiful... Look at the symmetry... Look at the walnut finish... It reminds me of the church I used to go to when I was a little girl."
She reached into the pocket of the raincoat that Emma had given her and pulled out the handkerchief she always used. Emma was her very best friend until she got sick. They used to take care of each other... but not any more. She dabbed her eyes, blew her nose and placed the soiled cloth back in her pocket. She didn't care anymore, and wasn't going to think about it.
Once again her massive stride propelled her quickly toward her goal. The whales overhead were still swimming and gurgling except, now, they had on tuxedos with red cummerbunds. "They must be going out later," she mused. But, as usual, her thoughts seemed to fade rapidly until, once again, she had a purpose. She must make it to the benches. The benches. That walnut colored oasis of waiting. She was determined to make it to the walnut oasis. They were getting closer now. The people moved out of her way as she traversed the great hall, her bags bouncing around her wildly. She picked a bench somewhere in the middle of the group.
She sat down and started going through her bag, looking for the sack that contained Emma's stuff.