the memory’s not vague. blueberry yogurt:dish of the day every day. the meal plannersand walk-up window doses dealt form to timeas if a promise ring, and then promiseschased themselves; the spin cycle resembledreal life. older mike returned from electroshockmore wiry and rubber-made than whenhe rolled out that morning. maybe nowhe is dead, or has kids, or is in jail and has kidshe did not kill while hallucinating knifemen.
*suicide mallory said older mike was smart.suicide mallory’s white arm was bangledin red scars. she hid pencils beneath her gown,slipped out the pink erasers, bit downthe metal sleeves to pretty serrations, carvedan index of incongruences into her skin.nurses kept her cuffed in gauze. she was lovelythe way agony in the smallest bursts could be.suicide mallory, hell-bent and permanent,probably finally ended it. if i hoped to seeanyone of them again: her narrow noseand a fresh white arm scored with liesno one can sanitize with betadine.
*little mike, my roommate, heard five voices—or nine—personalities i wanted to know,which the nurses discouraged. nurse doughad a head like a bean and lips like an eye.i loved him, his brown arm hair and teal scrubs.i hated his wife, whose eyes i was surewere also teal. the best days were doug days.when the fight girls crushed each other’sbrown cheeks over the cute newpathological liars, doug pried them apart.he was the hero driving older mike’swheelchair, and i was the damsel lamentingdainty ankle, hobbled and locked in the guiseof volatile black boy on wellbutrin.
*i made up voices to be metal like little mike,but i went tupperware-soft under heat.mike-with-cornrows came, and nurses loanedthe fight girls nail clippers and beaniesto keep their ears from burning. one nightin family group, mike-with-cornrowsclaimed he used to be gay, when frank(the social worker who was still gay) said“let’s talk about that” and i fumbled my eyes,imagined baseballs punctuating sentences.no-longer-gay mike’s parents half-breathed.
*my family didn’t make it to family group,but my cousin mailed me a bear once —paddington in a yellow hat and blue slicker.i was fourteen i think. it appalled my doctorthat i hated my own mother, so i hated himfor knowing nothing (baby metalheads hatesoft everything) and requested a new shrink,some sap who’d let me live in nine west.but doctors were gods: i could only turnmy back on so many before losing preciousdayroom game privileges. i was listeningfor voices to make my case more serious,but the worst noise was the chess rookskittering in for the kill along a line andat a velocity with which, even then, he hadlittle to do: a hand at the back, as in loveor possession, pieces to claim either way.