This is based on a true-enough story. Creative liberties have been taken where the facts are boring, or do not contribute well to a narrative, and there’s a few thinngs which in retrospect ought to be removed for pacing reasons, but it’s my story and I like weird asides with “lore” details, and I think they add something to the reader in the know.
Very little “happens” here, it feels a little trope-y at the end, but I stress the true-enough inspiration .
Content Warning: allusion to bad mental health stuff, death.
A relaxing weekend, or, how I learned to let go and love the pad.
She woke up a little, first becoming aware of a cacophony of sounds, with no rhythm and of such varying quality and tone that she would soon not be able to understand how she was asleep at all before.
Her ears were splitting, her brain and heart pulsing against eachother, each vying needily for her attention. She went to rub her temples and felt a tug on her wrist.
She woke up a little more, now aware of a sterile, blinding, light, to which she could not understand her previous obliviousness thereto.
She stared straight ahead and up, as she was slightly angled up, at a hung and tiled ceiling metal grid, the same kind as in any office building, Looking down, or forwards, she was still wearing the same clothes that she remembered wearing, her clubbing outfit consisting of black jeans, a long forgotten band t-shirt and a red zip-hoodie. Her purse was right there, between her foot and the bars of a hospital bed, and presumably so was her phone. Past this, she could see a queue of identical such beds, stretching as far as she could see (at minumum six beds before the hallway turned a corner). Along this queue, doctors, nurses and other workers moved along, checking charts, using doors into further rooms and hallways she couldn’t see, and occasionally asking questions of her fellow queue-mates. When she saw a doctor walking towards her, she went to adjust herself to ask a question when -.
Thump! Her wrist tugged against her movement and she slipped and fell back those two inches, into the mattress.
“Oh, you’re awake, good!”
She became suddenly aware of the man sitting in a chair across the narrow hall from her, facing her bed, but who was engrossed in his phone.
The doctor kept walking past her, her gaze apparently focused on someone behind Sophie.
She quickly became acutely aware of her right wrist, which was covered in a padded strap, which was attached via six inches of flat fabric strap to a bar on the side of her bed.
The man to her right remained though, he was wearing scrubs, but didn’t seem to be a doctor or nurse: no tools or nametag, stethoscope or clipboard, marked him as anything she could gather.
“Jesus, where am I?”
The man glanced up from his phone, and very slowly and matter-of-factly responded,
“You’re in the bed queue, you’ve just left Emergency, and you’re waiting on a section bed”.
His voice sounded practiced and tired, like a cashier asking if you wanted to join a store loyalty programme, he had clearly said these words a lot of times, and clearly had no passion for the job of repeating them.
She wasn’t satisfied with that answer, but didn’t think he’d be any use in clarifying.
She groaned and lay back down, struggling to find a comfortable position to lie in, to move into a spot she could return to blissful sleep, but the sounds and lights continued to bang against her dome, as her hangover began to creep, til the sensation would overwhelm her senses.
What felt like an hour or so later, she realized that she was in a new place. She was in a lot of pain though, and couldn’t locate the source. She thought it was a leg? No, her stomach? No, maybe her elbow? Her muscles ached, and her eyes begged for sleep.
This new place would have been quieter, but for the patient yelling incomprehensibly, and the nurse responding in kind.
Sophie tried to return to that spaced out zone she had been in moments prior, but failed. As she focused on a point on the ceiling, someone entered the room.
It was a nurse, who began to chat to her.
She introduced herself as Linda, and as she checked her blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and poked and prodded at her in a variety of places, she explained the situation to Sophie as she understood it.
Sophie had been out drinking with some friends, and had a little too much, and said a few things that were a little concerning, which if they had exited a sober mouth would have been laughed off.
Unfortunately, she had made whatever this unfortunate joke was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and some good Samaritan who misheard her informed a waiter, who passed it on the bar to cut her off, who went beyond the call of duty and informed management, who was feeling a little extra cautious that day and phoned the police, and by the time the comments made their way to them, the game of telephone had mutated what was probably admittedly a joke with friends into a serious incident.
Sophie’s confusion must have been evident, as Linda went on to explain, “after the ambulance had left the bar with you, the police went back through the story for their report, and by the time the heard the actual original comments…”. Linda trailer off.
“Anyway, procedure says 72 hours from getting a bed, or as soon as a doctor says you’re good to go, so try to enjoy your,” she glanced at her watch, “Saturday morning, and you should be out in no time. Take this as a relaxation day, like any other hangover day, except you have me instead of being stuck in your bed with a headache!”
Sophie nodded, raised her hand as much as she could, and queried with her eyebrow.
“Oh, of course, you should have been let out already”, Linda exclaimed, reaching over and around, “but you’re still confined to the ward, and you have to remain visible to staff at all times”.
Again Sophie nodded.
Linda produced a clipboard covered in documents, and then asked some general administration questions. Emergency contact, if she needed a slip for work or college to excuse an absence, allergies, religious affiliation,
“Just in case you slip and break your neck!” Linda cheerfully explained.
Sophie burst out laughing, “you probably shouldn’t be saying that on a psych ward”, she managed to force out, between giggles.
“Well, you definitely can’t say it, rules say I have to do all sorts if a patient makes those kinds of jokes, but someone has to!”
They quickly continued through, with more and more boring boxes to tick and forms to be filled in. Eventually Sophie asked for water and an aspirin.
“For a hangover?” Linda paused, “I can’t give you anything without a reason. Best I can do is paracetamol and a glass of orange juice?” Sophie smiled and two of the former were produced.
“With that out of the way, I can go grab you your drink to wash them down now, but before I go”, Linda stood up and turned around, pulling something from a press on the wall, “are you okay to change yourself or do you normally need help?”
Sophie was confused, but very quickly realized what she was asking, as she shook her wrist and repositioned, her sodden jeans squelched against the rubber-wrapped-foam beneath her.