XXXIV | Some Advice

Mind your own business,
I want to tell him.

But his voice is low,
he’s jumpy

like something’s wrong.

I already

something’s not right

with this place.


I go to the dining room
to spit out the orange.

It tastes

like dish cloth.

I grab the other half from Gavin
and throw that away too.

He pours himself a bowl of cereal

and I get

a sense of deja vu.

(Not sure why.)

I just eat a pack of biscuits.

‘I’m sure
‘I recognise you,’
I say

while he pours too much milk
into his cereal.

His spoon slides off the edge

and drowns
in the bowl.

along the length

of his scarred arm

He fishes it out,
adds more cereal

to balance out the milk.

‘I’ve been here
‘much longer than

‘you’ve been alive,’

he says.

Now there’s too much cereal.
He’s about to pour more milk.

It’s gonna overflow.

He puts away the milk
and stares

at his mountain of cereal


I offer him a biscuit.

I don’t eat cereal
and now I won’t ever,

seeing how long it takes to get it just right.

‘said that to me
‘last time too.’

He stabs his spoon into the mountain

and ignores my biscuit.
Tammie appears

from the direction of the toilet
and takes it.

He looks dumb
even though he’s obviously older
than I am.

‘Don’t do that,’ he says.

I have no idea
what he’s talking about.


starts tying knots with my long hair.


What if he decides to kill you?


she whispers
from behind.


excavates his cereal mountain
and speaks,

under his breath.

(He’s barely audible!)

‘Do you know
‘the eight patient rule?’

I nod.

There are always eight patients.

absurd like that.

He stares at me then,

a strangely searching gaze

that makes me




there’s a commotion.

Fabric sounds.

Gavin breaks eye contact with me

as the plain nurse
walks past,

snatching a plastic knife

from Fatima.

‘Give it back.’
Fatima holds her hand out.

Head high.

‘Bow in my presence, servant!
‘And return my sceptre

‘at once!’

The pretty nurse
pulls her into a hug.

It surprises her.

‘Stop this now.’

She pushes the nurse away.

‘You don’t need a sceptre.’

sees Tammie and I
watching her

and frowns.

‘I won’t let anyone take my place.
‘Give it back.’

Another nurse emerges from behind a corner
of an empty wall.

The three nurses surround her,
their gloved hands

reaching for her.

(So this is what
I look like
when I go crazy.)

Gavin’s still eating his cereal,
ignoring whatever’s happening.

‘What do you know?’ I demand.


while the nurses are distracted!


‘When there’s a new patient,
‘the craziest ones have to go.’

‘Go? Go where?’

Gavin stands up
eyes glaring, angry.

He’s jumpy again.

‘Do they get killed?’

He leans down—
his breath smells like sour orange milk,
his voice quivering
a little.

‘If you want to live,
‘then put in effort to live.’

He straightens up.


The third nurse is leading Fatima upstairs.
She’s following willingly.

Without her knife.


‘If you don’t want to,
‘then just keep doing what you’ve been doing.’

He throws his cereal bowl

and starts to leave.

I intercept him,
grabbing his hand—

the one with the long scar—

and dig the fingers
of my right hand
into the darkened skin.

‘Have you tried killing yourself?’

His eyes linger on his scar
and then the stump

of my little finger.

His voice
is remarkably soft

for a guy.



We watch the third nurse
lead Fatima


to her bedroom.


‘But they didn’t let you.’

He doesn’t say anything
and that’s how

I know I’m right.




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