XXVI | Sometimes Real

When I wake up

the restraints

are gone.

Is this a hallucination?

streams through
the curtainless


There’s only one LED light
on the blank ceiling.

The nurses sit against the wall,

the pretty one
typing on her phone.

What day is it?
Did the meltdown happen

or was that the hallucination?

Tammie telling me
we’ve met before,

is it real?

I thought

I’ve already mastered

being able
to tell

what’s real,
what’s not,

but I guess
that must have been

the real hallucination.

An old panic
rages through
my chest

but my limbs
are weak

from being sedated.



They keep changing my medicine.

The pills—

Originally it’s five.

But here they give me

Now I also get

on top of the twelve


I wrap my hands
around my knees.

They move
so slowly…

Like I’m in water.

I can’t breathe in water.

The nurses,
they get up

and come towards me.

I say something.
They stop.

My feet touch the floor
and I’m running.

My legs
feel like needles—

jabbing into my body,

but pain
is what keeps people


There’s an easy way
to find out

what’s real,
what’s not.


Her bedroom is locked.
It is past 7am.

The greenhouse door
swings open.

The nurses
are beside me
in a flash,

hands on my shoulders,
saying soothing words.

Be careful.
Slow down.

You’ve been in bed this whole time.

A cold
gust of

blows through
my hair.

I step
on the cold stone pavement

and search for her.


I find her
(like a dream),

standing by the chessboard flowers

with an apologetic smile.

The rancid stench of vomit
overwhelms the smell of dirt.

I start to speak

when her face changes
every time I


Like a TV glitching.

A distortion.


The panic
I feel this time

is cold.


A step back.

She’s turned
to face me now.

‘You’re not real,’ I tell her.

She opens her mouth.
I talk over
the hallucination of her
‘This whole time—

‘you’ve been imaginary.’

A step forward.

Tammie’s face
changes again
as I blink.

A step back.


then amazement.

Then anger.

A Russian roulette of emotions.


Fifi. Oh Fifi.


Her voice

doesn’t seem
to come from her mouth.

A step forward.

Her hands
reach for mine

and I’m falling onto hard stone,
my vision blurring.

I feel
her full weight
on me,

her breath,

and desperate.

My eyes flutter
whenever she breathes.


She’s light

but the way she’s fallen
on top of me
is familiar somehow.


Why are you always suspicious of me, Fifi?
Even now that we’re here



The nurses
pull me up,

away from Tammie.

They’re speaking to her,
she’s looking at them

at me
being propped up

on the bench.

Grey eyes accusing.

The pretty nurse
tilts my head towards her,

asks a few questions:
Is it morning or night?
What’s your name?

How many rowan trees are there?

Of course,
I know

the number of rowan trees.

I can remember it
because I’m relieved
that Tammie is real.

Even as she leaves me
in the greenhouse with the nurses

and slams the door


behind her.


Even as an old



Along with a memory
of a fight,

another slamming door.

‘She’s real,’
I laugh,


I don’t

that’s been happening.

But if she’s real,

I have a reality
to cling to.

‘She’s real!’

I laugh
until the panic

goes away.




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