Excerpt of Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
(Page 6 of 9)
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You must have been devastated.
No, my thought was, that's James: a perpetual battle between his head
and his heart to the end.
You're making light of it. But I remember that time. What you went through.
Don't patronize me. I had to laugh. His heart succumbed first. His
heart! I did laugh, actually. I laughed as I identified the remains. Such
a cold, bright place. The morgue. I hadn't been in one since medical
school, I always hated them. The harsh light. The bitter cold. The light
and the cold and also the sounds - rubber-soled shoes squeaking like
hungry rats against tile floors. That's what I remember: James bathed in
unforgiving light while vermin scuttled.
Now you're the one patronizing me. As if I couldn't see past that.
The doctor writes something in a chart. He allows himself to smile at me.
You scored a nineteen, he says. You're doing well today. I don't see any agitation
and Magdalena says the aggression has subsided. We'll continue the same
He gives me a look. Do you have a problem with that?
I shake my head. Okay, then. We'll do everything we can to keep you in your
home. I know that's what you want.
He pauses. I must tell you, Mark has been urging me to make a statement
that he can use to declare you mentally incompetent to make medical decisions,
he says. I have refused. The doctor leans forward. I would recommend that
you not let yourself be examined by another doctor. Not without a court order.
He takes a piece of paper out of his file. See - I have written it all down
for you. Everything I just said. I will give it to Magdalena and tell her to keep
it safe. I have made two copies. Magdalena will give one to your lawyer. You can
trust Magdalena, I believe. I believe she is trustworthy.
He waits for my answer, but I am fixated on the photo of the naked
woman. There is doubt and suspicion in her eyes. She is looking at the
camera. Behind it. She is looking straight at me.
I can't find the car keys, so I decide to walk to the drugstore. I will buy
toothpaste, some dental floss, shampoo for dry hair. Perhaps some toilet
paper, the premium kind.
Normal things. I'm inclined to pretend to be normal today. Then I will
go to the supermarket and pick out the plumpest roast chicken for dinner.
A loaf of fresh bread. James will like that. Small comforts - we share
our love of these.
But I must go quickly. Quietly. They will try to stop me. They always do.
But no purse. Where is it. I always keep it beside the door. No matter,
there will be someone nice there. I will say, I am Dr. Jennifer White and
I forgot my purse and they will say oh of course here is some money
and I will nod my head just so and thank them.
I stride down the street, past ivy-covered brownstones with their waisthigh
wrought-iron fences enclosing small neat geometrically laid-out
Dr. White? Is that you?
A dark-skinned man in a blue uniform, driving a white truck with an
eagle on it. He rolls down his window, slows to a crawl to keep pace.
Yes? I keep walking.
Not the nicest day to be out and about. Nasty.
Just a walk, I say. I make a point of not looking at him. If you don't look,
they may leave you alone. If you don't look, sometimes they let it go.
How about a ride? Look at you, completely soaked. No coat. And my goodness.
No shoes. Come on. Get in.
No. I like the weather. I like the feel of my bare feet against concrete.
Cold. Waking me out of my somnolent state.
You know, that nice lady you live with won't like this.
Come quietly now. He speaks soothingly while pulling the truck over to
the curb. He holds out both hands, palms up, and beckons with them.
Excerpted from Turn of Mind
by Alice LaPlante. Copyright © 2011 by Alice LaPlante.
Excerpted by permission of Atlantic Monthly Press. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.