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II: HER WORDS • Fiction “He seems nice.” The main lounge is warm and


friendly with a fireplace on the back wall and deep brown chairs around small, intimate tables. I hate it more than the doctor’s rooms. The couches are more comfortable and the walls are a beautiful burgundy, but they are faker than the beige I’m forced to stare at for forty minutes a day. We’re allowed visitors in here on Wednesdays and Sundays from 1 to 4. Dad works Saturdays so he doesn’t miss any. I’ve never woken up to an empty chair beside me. Today we played chess. He’s not


very good and I don’t think he likes it much, but he knows it’s my favorite. He always smiles like he’s happy to be here. I know he’s just happy I am. He asked about the girl with the fire-red hair who was grinning in our direction from the corner of the room. She’s called Darby, I told him. She’s new and from Maryland and is very nice. He gave me a coy, questioning smile. I shrugged as nonchalantly as I could. It’s 4:05 and she stands before


me with that same playful grin. This is the first time I’ve noticed that I’m almost always the only one in the lounge for the full three hours. Most people come and go every 45 minutes or so. Some don’t ever come. Darby sat alone in an oversized armchair by the fireplace reading a book. She doesn’t anticipate any visitors. ________


“Are you feeling any better lately?” I’ve gotten better at this part. For


the first time I notice that the white coat also has piercing blue eyes. I don’t know how I ever missed them. His words aren’t nearly as long as they usually are and I hear most of them.


119


Listening for the first time, I’m starting to realize that he’s not all bad. He thinks I’m crazy, sure, but he also thinks that’s okay. I’m not crazy. Mrs. Scrintor and Larry, now, they’re crazy. And that’s okay, but I’m not crazy. Dad always tells me that normal


is relative. If everyone was blue and walked on their hands, the doctors wouldn’t think they were nearly as normal as I know they do. When I explained this to Darby she understood. She said that if she ever met someone who wanted to be normal she would send them here. I thought that was pretty funny. The doctor didn’t. His face turned very serious and he explained to me that the situation of those of us here is not a laughing matter. I know that’s true. It was the first time I’d laughed in months.


________ “So, why are you here?”


“I forget things.” “You’re lucky.” I know it’s not a real answer, but


it’s the best one I have right now. I want to know what she means, because I’ve never felt less lucky. I can’t ask her now, though. Too much eye contact and conversation. I become very focused on the mashed potatoes in front of me and pretend like I’m not incredibly curious. She talks so fast I sometimes find myself sentences behind, grasping at every word trying to keep up. Today she complains about the roast beef. It’s too dry, she says. I don’t know what she’s comparing it to.


________


“It’s been three weeks. That’s very good.”


I nod. “Why is that? Has anything


changed to make you feel better?”


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