XXII | Somewhere Familiar

How many days has it been?

My bedroom

is curtained
on three walls,

on the fourth

so I can’t tell the time.

They stop bringing food
after the third day

so I’ve lost track

of how long
it’s been.

Tammie doesn’t seem to leave
at regular intervals,

and I sleep a lot
because of the injections

so I can’t tell

the time at all.

We don’t talk much—
Tammie and I—

when I’m awake and she’s here.

After that first conversation,

there doesn’t seem to be
anything else
worth discussing.

One day
(or night),

I open my eyes.

Tammie’s not in her chair.
The movement

that made me open my eyes
was not hers.

A nurse,
familiar to me,

short bob hair,
plain passive face,

bends over the bed

and loosens
my leather straps.

Like a bird

caged for too long,

not sure
what to do

with myself.




The door opens 
just as I’m trussing up my blanket

in the shape of an elephant

to entertain myself.

When you lose interest
in even death,

there is really
nothing left
to occupy yourself with.


I begin, about to explain my elephant

but I come

face to face

with a familiar woman
in a familiar white lab coat
holding familiar papers

in one hand.

The doctor
smiles at me.

That non-patronising, no-nonsense, relaxed and trustworthy


I wait
for a surge of rage

to rise up in me.

I wait
for my hands to reach out 

to strangle her.

I wait
but I feel



Usually we don’t talk to patients
until we’ve observed them
for at least a month.


She stands by the door,

With one hand,
she pulls the door wide open

and holds it like that.


But we’ll make an exception
since the price has been paid.


‘Who died?’ I demand,
digging my heels into the bed,

mind whirling again

with the possibilities.


I’ll give you a hint, Fiona.


Her face remains expressionless.


How did you try to escape?


The space where the memory should be
is black,

and I’m about to say so

but then I

a card,
the corridors,
blurry faces.

A cockroach.

Was there a cockroach?



There wasn’t.

Walking with two nurses.

My hands
start trembling like they did then,
when I reached into the hidden pocket

and retrieved the card.

‘Which one of them?’ I whisper.

The doctor
gestures at the door

with the papers.


Answers. They’re luring you
with the promise of


You know they’ll never

give it to you.


I get up
and follow her,

my eyes fixed on her clear ones,

just like I did

the first day I came to Wonderland.




When I step into the corridor,
I realise it’s not my bedroom

after all.

The upper corridor.

The one
with a row of doors on one side,
all labeled the same.

The doctor
opens the door

next to the room we were just in.

Sit, she commands.

I sit.


This must be her office.

White desk,
white computer,
white picture frames.

She picks up
a white pen and starts to write

on the papers she was holding.

I watch,
holding my breath

because my breath

isn’t white.

She looks up at me eventually,
puts down her pen.

‘Fiona,’ she begins,

two hands meeting by the fingertips,
balanced on the table with her elbows.


How many people were there
in your family?




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