She was so familiar with the clanging of the metal door that she scarcely paid it any attention any more. It protected the world from her as surely as her mind had learned to protect Lydia from the world. Each and every day of her isolation started with the scene replaying over and over in her mind – she saw herself standing by the window. She took out match after match and set the curtains on fire. She watched the flames rise as she walked out of the room then shut and locked the door. That’s when the screams began. She saw it all in extreme detail. It was only when she banged her head against the wall that the movie stopped. The doctors had managed to take that control away from her as well. It started with straps across her arms, legs and chest that confined her to the bed. ‘So much easier to protect you with, my dear….’ Yes, she often visualized the doctors as wolves torturing their prey. One day the straps came off – everything unfurling in slow motion as some potion was slowly and methodically eased into her veins.
“Lydia, you feel better now, don’t you?” The doctors congratulated themselves as they left the room.
Lydia could only nod; Her world now moved at a snail’s pace. The minute hand on the glass-encased clock took hours to tick from one minute to the next. The echo from the slamming door reverberated in her head most of the day. There was scarcely room in her head for any thoughts. The movies still played over and over, just in slow motion now. She could feel the drugs moving through her body and attacking her nervous system. Her feet wanted to move, but they could not. She wanted to feel her hair to see if the tangles were gone, but there was no longer any way to move her arms to lift her hands. Sometimes she could make a finger move which intrigued her as she watched the tiny shadows on the crisply starched bed linens.
Lydia lived her life in 4 hour increments. That’s how long the slow IV drip took. Near the end of the four hours, she had moments of lucid thought. She remembered where she was, but could not quite remember how she got here. Today was Wednesday. She only knew that because the new nurse told her. She watched as the bag was taken down. She looked at the new bag of poisonous liquid lying on the tray. She could see the faces of the tiny demons anxious to take flight through her veins. She felt a tear roll down her cheek – a rather unfamiliar feeling. She saw her arm and her hand, battered from all the needles and the drugs. She was defeated. As she lay there waiting for the onslaught that would follow, she tried to see the nurse’s face. Her dark brown hair shielded her features, but she did see a wisp of kindness there. Then a strange thing happened. The nurse gave her a shot and left the room without starting a new IV. Lydia’s eyes closed and for the first time in weeks, she fell into a deep sleep.
When Lydia woke up, she spun into a momentary panic. She was no longer accustomed to having thoughts of her own. She glanced around the room. It was different somehow. The glass-encased clock was gone and she was aware of soft sheets beneath her body. As her eyes managed to focus, she saw the sheets were a pale sky blue. Something had definitely changed.
Lydia drifted back to sleep. She did not hear the sound of the skeleton key turning in the lock nor did she hear the door open. When Lydia awoke, the movie again played out in her mind. It was no longer in slow motion, but it also did not have the frantic pace she had once remembered. She slowly opened her eyes and saw the kind nurse standing by the window. Window? There had been no windows at the state hospital. As the nurse spoke, her features came into focus.
“Welcome home, Lydia”.
Home? Lydia could feel her heart race. She saw the scars. She felt the panic. She saw flames rising and she heard screaming. Then everything stopped. This was no longer playing in her head. This was real….
“You look chilly. I thought I’d start a fire.”