VIII | Some Protection

After my conversation with Gavin,
I retreat

to the greenhouse


to think about my situation.

the nurses
follow me

like shadows.

Annoyance tingles

all the way down
to my toes.

Even Tammie
tags along

with the smell of her vomit.

I tell her to get lost for a bit
but she doesn’t seem

to get the hint.

She just gives me

another apologetic smile

and follows me
into the greenhouse.

‘the fortuneteller’

isn’t here today

so I take time
to admire

her chessboard flowers.

They’re beautiful.

If you shake your head vigorously
while looking at it,

the flowers turn grey.

I find this funny.

So I do it a few times

until I’m dizzy.

Then I stumble
and land on my bottom

on the cold stone,



The nurses don’t help me up.

Both of them
have their phones out now,

typing furiously.

I think about
making a run for it

but Tammie’s scratching her head,

her mouth opening
and closing

puzzled by my actions,
unsure of what to do.

I find that

even funnier
and I laugh

until I start crying.


Fifi, ah… Fifi…

Don’t cry. Stop.
Ah, what do I do?


Her hands
are wiping tears from my eyes.

The rancid stench

is overwhelming.

I push her away.
‘Stop it, Tammie.’

She’s mumbling something.
Her fingers feel


on my face.

‘Stop that!
‘Leave me alone!

‘I want to be alone,
‘you weirdo!’

Hands grab my upper arms tightly

as I’m about to
push her away.

They’re strong
and firm,

with the smell of

When I open my eyes,
the plain nurse

sticks a piece of tissue

in my hand.

‘Wipe your face,’
she urges.

The pretty one pats me on the back
and I blink wordlessly,


by this sudden


stands out of reach,
pushed aside

by the nurses, maybe.

There’s an

apologetic smile

on her face.

The nurses lead me to a bench.

I sit at one end.

sits at the other.

We watch the pair of rowan trees
sway and dance

to a non-existent tune.

In silence.




I don’t know
who Tammie is.


I have no idea.

How did I know her name
when we first met?

Why does she always
smell of vomit?


I don’t really care
who she is.

More importantly,
I need to leave this asylum.

The nurses

don’t follow
any of the other patients

except me.


Asking directly
is just asking to be lied to,

so I have to


to do this.

I fell asleep

too quickly
last night.


Were you tired?


it’s the extra pills

they made me


Are you sure?


I watch the motionless nurses

out of the
of my eye.

Getting rid of them
isn’t difficult.

There’s many things
(I feel for the plastic knife—)

I can use to protect myself.
(—tucked in the elastic of my panties.)

But what about



I don’t know
why I’m in this asylum,

why my memories

of the hospital
are so vague.


The rowan trees

are frozen.

They’re not swaying

like someone pressed
the pause button.

I look around.


But there’s only silence.

We’re alone.

I stand up and stretch,
one eye on the nurses.

A few paces
to the left.

A few paces
to the right.

to the left again.

Feet land in dark soil.

Wiggle my toes.

The nurses
stay where they are,

watching me.

I reach out

and touch one of the rowan trees.
Fingers inching
towards the gap

between them.

I scratch

a non-existent itch
on my waist.

With one hand,
I pluck a bunch of unripe rowan berries.

With the other,
I hide my plastic knife in the gap.




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