By Alli Marney-Bell
I see light when I wake up. Could I be dead? I don’t think I’m dead. The ground feels cold. My head hurts. Where am I? I try to stand up. My wrists buckle under my weight. I fall before moving my legs. I hit my head again. It still hurts. Where am I?
I am in a room. A small room. The air feels like ice. The walls are dark. Concrete. The ground is dirty. Dust swirls up when I breathe. Then there is knock. On the big metal door. Thump. Thump. Thump. It comes again. Thump. They don’t wait this time. The door swings open. Someone walks in. I had hoped the man would be him. I want to see him. It’s not him.
“Get up. Follow me,” he says. I don’t move. He says it again. I think I’m slipping away. His voice is getting further away. I feel him grab my wrist. My eyes won’t focus. Where am I? I’m less aware of my body. I’m more aware of my mind. “What the hell is wrong with you, lady? If you don’t start moving I’ll drag you out of here myself,” he threatens, his mouth right next to my ear. The whisper tickles.
I am slipping away. My gaze drops. The man drags me with him. I feel like I’m in trouble. I look up. I see a TV screen. I don’t know where it came from. Where am I? I see a face in it. I recognize him instantly. I scream.
I’m screaming and I can’t figure out why. I feel pressure on my arm, and see a bulky man holding onto my wrist. I shut my mouth and yank my arm from his hold. “What the hell is going on here?” I demand, my head pounding in confusion, “what is this place?”
He looks at me, almost bewildered. “Don’t act innocent, woman. We know what you did. We have proof. What we need from you now is for you to answer these questions about that man there.” He points at a small TV screen, no more than a foot in length. A man sits on the other side in what appears to be a waiting room, with his back bent over and his hands intertwined within themselves as they shake in his lap. His face is so wrenched and distorted with nervousness that it takes me a second before I realize I recognize him. But these people can’t know that. I’m need to cover it all up, but my voice shakes when I ask, “Who is that?”
“The owner of the house you broke into,” he says bluntly. “Apparently, you’re quite the ‘not so secret’ admirer,” he chuckles. I have to refrain from letting my jaw drop in surprise as he finishes his sentence. How does he know?
He continues with his mocking speech, seemingly overly cocky as he says, “Again, you don’t have to play the innocent game. It’s a waste of your time,” his mouth turns into a confident smirk as he proceeds, “by the end of the day, you’ll be sitting back in your jail cell, waiting for the trial that will convict you as guilty, and then soon after, the innocent card will no longer peg you as the sweet little woman who was wrongfully imprisoned. Instead you will become the crazy lady obsessed with escaping, always telling all the guards and policemen and people who visit her that you’re innocent, and each and every day you lose more and more of your nerve, chasing after all the new prisoners with any object you find laying on the ground.”
He takes a small break and paces around the room for a minute. Cracking his knuckles, he leans in and whispers, “after enough time has passed, and you can hardly move your twiggly old legs, you will rot in your cell, and your cries for mercy will be heard by no one. Trust me, I’ve dealt with people just like you before. People who are arrested for attempted murder never escape this place.”
I’m standing up. Not sure where the time went. That man is sitting down. It feels as though I swallowed a 50 pound weight. That man is not him. He is sitting down. But he is not him. He looks content. Does he know? He hasn’t said anything. My eyes peer to the side. The screen. There he is. The one I want. He scratches his nose. His beautiful nose.
The other man is talking again. “Hey. Snap out of it,” I hear him say. “They’re going to be here soon to ask you questions. You have to answer them truthfully. If they think you’re lying, they will bring out the lie detector machine. And trust me, that isn’t fun for anyone.
There is a knock. Thump. Thump. Thump. The door opens. A shorter man enters. He has paper. A pen. He sits down. He looks at me and asks, “Ma’am, do you know why you’ve been arrested?”
“Do you remember anything about what you did yesterday?
“And you can’t figure out why you’ve been arrested?”
“Can you walk us through your day?”
“I woke up. It was cold outside. I got coffee. I stayed in the coffee shop. Until it was dark.”
He looks confused. “Did you not have somewhere you needed to be? A job? A family obligation?”
“No,” I answer matter-of-factly. I am getting impatient with the questioning. I just want to see him.
Then there is another knock. Thump. Thump. Thump. A woman this time. “Sir, are you ready to bring him in?”
The short man lets out a heavy breath. “Sure, get him in here.”
And at that moment I see him. I want to jump up. I want to embrace him. But I stay still. He has a look of concern in his eye. I don’t know why. He says he loves me. And people shouldn’t be concerned around those they love.
He speaks, finally. “That’s her. That is the woman who tried to kill my wife.”
I don’t understand. I want to respond. No, I didn’t. But I lose the fight. I slip away.
“Hey. Hey! HEY!” Someone is snapping their fingers in front of my face. Why do I keep losing time? What is going on with me?
I look up and see the man who wouldn’t stop yelling at me earlier. “What is going on?”
He looks dumbfounded, and asks me, “Are you going to try to explain yourself?”
“Explain what? You haven’t even told me why the hell you have me trapped here!” I retort. A loud sigh of frustration escapes without my consent, and for the first time I begin to worry I might be in serious, inescapable trouble.
Images of a warm home flash through my mind. My eyes grow heavy with exhaustion. When was the last time I was at home? It feels like forever.
He stands up, obviously exasperated, but I still don’t know what I’ve done wrong. “You know this is really starting to get old. You can’t make your mind up about your story. One second you’re here and fully aware, and the next you’re not.” he sighs.
I keep losing time…
I’m just now realizing there is another person in this room with me. He sits next to the TV screen I saw earlier. He has a stern look on his face, showing no emotion. My eyes peer to the screen situated beside him. In it there is a face I recognize. I’m so happy he’s finally here. Maybe we can escape whatever this place is together.
I look at his face with passion. He cannot see me. I wish he was here with me, because he looks frightened. Maybe if he was here I could comfort him.
“If you’ll allow it, I would like to move onto the charges. Mr. Peritz claims that you broke into his house, attacked both him and his wife, and claimed it was for ‘your love.’”
I’m stunned. I turn back and look at the screen. I thought he loved me…
“That is not true! Are you being serious right now? I didn’t do any of that!” I’m yelling now, but I wish I could just escape.
“Ma’am there is no need to be defensive. We found your fingerprints all over the house, and our witness here says that you’ve been stalking him and his wife for months–”
“Stalking? Where the hell do you get off accusing me of something like that?”
The man with the stern face chirps up, speaking in a whisper to the man who was previously questioning me. “Time…help…multiple…figure out…” I barely make out those few words, but I cannot piece together what they mean.
They turn around, and he addresses me again. “Ma’am, this is Dr. Kernan. He is the on-site psychologist, and he would like to speak to you about your behavior over the last couple of months.
“You people have a lot of nerve,” I spit out, losing my patience for a final time, “dragging me in here, accusing me of stalking, and now forcing me to talk to a shrink.”
“Please, ma’am, this will just be to clear some things up,” he pleads.
I succumb to their demands, mostly because I’m too frustrated to argue. The man questioning me exits the room, so now it is just me and Kernan.
“Ma’am, you have exhibited some behavior that we have deemed questionable. If you don’t mind, I would appreciate it if you would yield to some questions about your recent actions,” Dr. Kernan asks.
“Sure,” I answer half-heartedly.
He smiles, as if he just won a battle. “Let’s start with some basic stuff. Have you experienced an irregular number of mood swings lately?”
“I would say so, but not a ridiculous amount,” I reply, already bored with the conversation.
“What about headaches? Were they more frequent and severe?”
“I think so.”
He takes a deep breath and pauses before he asks, “Now, when did your affair with Mr. Peritz begin?”
My eyes go wide. How does he know? I can’t speak. “I–wha–you–um–I,” I stutter, unable to form a coherent response.
“Now, ma’am there is no reason to be afraid. This will not affect your sentencing. I promise,” he leans in, hissing his words like a snake, willing me to accept and admit my wrongs. And it is working.
“About three months ago,” I respond before I can stop myself. What am I doing?
He smiles again, the same smile before. “During your time with him, did you ever experience a feeling that your environment was not real. As though, everything occupying the space around you was foreign, or unreal?”
“I guess,” I trail off, thinking back to some encounters when everything around me was fuzzy, and it felt like a dream I couldn’t wake up from.
“Did you ever feel disconnected from your own thoughts or body?”
“What do you mean?” I ask, confused.
“A feeling of depersonalization, as though your thoughts are not your own, that they don’t belong to you.”
I pause. “Yes,” I let out with a breath. I even surprise myself when I admit that.
“Have you suffered from short term memory loss or feeling a time distortion?”
“Definitely,” I almost growl out, before I can stop myself from admitting any more.
There is that smile again. It is the last thing I see before I lose myself again.
I see light when I wake up to someone shaking my shoulders. As my vision clears up, I see I am resting on the floor of a concrete room with a big metal door facing me from the other wall. I don’t know how I got here.
Then I remember the hands resting on my shoulders. I look up and see his face, and I want to scream. “You’re here,” I let out, a smile so wide spreading over my face it could break my skin.
He looks at me in vain, with an apologetic look sweeping his features for a moment, and then it is gone. “I was going to do it. We were gonna be happy,” he begins to rattle off, hardly taking a breath as he does, as though he is rushing to get this over with. “She would have been out of the picture. Forever. But then you changed–”
“Stop, stop, slow down, what are you talking about,” I interrupt before he can go any further, confused and worried beyond belief about his words.
The anger in his gaze deepens before he speaks again. “You are insane. I don’t know where to begin with you. I hadn’t realized it before, but now that I have, this can’t go on. We can’t go on.”
I feel like crying, I feel like yelling, I feel a headache, I feel vulgar thoughts creeping in that I had never dreamed of concocting in my own head before, I feel like I’m not myself. I am panicking.
“Dear, I’ve only just wanted to see you,” I try to get out, to reason with him before he leaves me, to try to understand what is happening, why everything is falling apart.
“No, no you haven’t,” he wallows, looking at me with contempt, “you just wanted to use me. To hide from yourself.” He gets up and walks toward the metal door.
I feel everything collapsing. I look down, staring at the stark gray floor as I lose my breath and begin to sweat. I hear the door click open. I look up again, taking a chance that he will look back at me. He does.
“Tell your other personality I said hi, and that she is no longer welcome anywhere near my wife,” he states, letting the door swing behind him, and closing the bond between us.
And all I wanted today was to see him.