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 drug therapy.
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 front gardens.
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.
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No Man's Land
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Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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