SAD in May — Day Nine
Prompt: Setting the Scene
The Behavioral Unit
By Lori Carlson
The double doors opened automatically and two techs ushered Chris inside. The interior was aesthetically bright and reeked of alcohol; something that shouldn’t bother Chris, but this was the wrong kind of alcohol. He squinted as the techs lead him to a big boxed-in area that said Nurses Station above in large blocked black letters. The whole station was encased in plexiglass except for round holes big enough to speak through in three separate locations around the box. A chair was in front of one of those sections and the tall black tech told him to sit down. The other, a short red-haired guy with pale skin and an acne problem, placed his bag of clothes on the floor beside him.
As he sat there waiting, Chris swiveled around in his chair and watched the commotion in the unit. Right behind him was what appeared to be some sort of Day Room or activities room. There were eight tables of considerable length, a large flat screened television, a bookcase with various books and magazines on it and a cart with all kinds of art supplies. That one was on wheels and people seemed to be fighting over where it should be placed.
Chris began to observe the people. Six males and five females were in the Day Room. One of the males, about six feet tall with shoulder length dark hair and broad shoulders, was playing the alpha male. Two of the women, both petite, one with blonde hair and other with brown hair, were playing she wolves. Two other males in their late teens or early twenties were trying to be buddies with the alpha male. The other males were older and didn’t seem to care what the other three were doing. Two of the other women were also older and only cared about coffee, apparently as they were arguing over the coffee carafe. One female, around twenty with long auburn hair paced incessantly across the back side of the room, one finger in her mouth, the other one pointing at something that wasn’t there.
Chris was a scientist, an Ethologist to be exact and was trained to study animals in their natural habitat. He wasn’t there to study anyone, but at least he would have something to keep his mind off of why he was there. He still wasn’t sure why he was in a Behavioral Unit though for alcoholism. He didn’t have any mental health issues. He just enjoyed drinking… to excess.
“Mr. Decker?” a voice behind him said.
Chris swiveled back around to face a woman in her forties with soft brown hair in a bun on top of her head, wired-framed glasses and strikingly beautiful blue eyes. “Yes ma’am,” he said in his southern accent.
“I will need for you to follow Frank to the room down the hall to the first left. Before you go, empty the contents of your pockets into the tray he is holding.” She nodded at Frank, the tall black tech from before.
Chris stood up and stuffed his hands into his pockets. He pulled out his wallet, a stop watch, some coins and a small flashlight. He tossed everything into the tray. Frank turned and began walking, so Chris followed him. He was beginning to feel like a nobody as very few words were being directed at him. Inside the room, Frank put the tray down on a cabinet top and turned to face Chris.
“Remove all of you clothing. Your belt and shoelaces go into this tray. Put on the gown available here,” he said, pointing to another counter where a bright orange gown lay. “I will return in five minutes.”
Chris nodded and waited for the man to leave. He removed all of his clothing and did as the man said with his belt and shoelaces. He stood there naked for a moment, contemplating all that had happened to bring him to this cold, bright place, naked. He put on the orange gown and waited. Moments later Frank returned.
“Okay, Mr. Decker. I want you to squat and hold it there until I say stop.”
What kind of crap is this? His mind exploded with questions, but he squatted. At first it seemed like nothing, but then his legs were getting shaky and his back was beginning to burn.
“Okay, Mr. Decker, you may stand up now.” Frank waited until he was standing and walked over and began patting down his arms and legs. Stepping back, he continued, “You may put your clothes back on. If you need ties for your shoes, you may ask for assistance at the Nurses Station.” Frank grabbed the tray off of the counter and left the room.
Chris slowly dressed. He was in no huge hurry to join the rest of the people out there. He put his shoes on and found that if he pushed the tongue under, he didn’t need laces or ties for his shoes. When he was done, he tossed the orange gown on the counter and left the room. He walked back to the Nurses Station and sat back in the chair. The same nurse as before looked up and nodded.
“You are in room 202, Mr. Decker. Your bag of clothes is waiting for you in there. We had to keep a pair of sweat pants and a hoodie because they had strings. You may go put your stuff away. You have ten minutes before lunch is served.”
Chris walked numbly in the direction the nurse had pointed to until he came to room 202. The door was already open and his paper bag sat on one of the beds in the room. The other bed was half-assed made up. “Oh great, I have a roommate,” he said half-under his breath. He emptied the contents of his bag: three pairs of underwear, three tee-shirts, two pairs of sweat pants and no hoodie. If he got cold, then tough shit apparently. Next to the bed was a wardrobe. He opened it and inside on the left were shelves and to the right were wooden hangers to hang clothes. “No need for that,” he said out loud.
“Dude!” a voice from the doorway interrupted his thoughts.
Chris turned around. It was the alpha male. “Yes?”
“Just thought you’d want to know, put your clothes on top of the wardrobe. We have a klepto here and she has a liking for men’s clothing.”
“Ummm, thanks for the info.” Chris said, placing his bundle of clothes on top and then closing the doors. “Are you the roomie?” he said, looking back at the guy in the doorway.
“Naw man, not me. I am way down the hall. You have Bradley. He snores.”
Chris walked over to the guy and extended his hand. “The name’s Chris.”
The guy took his hand and gave it a hard shake. “Timothy, but everyone calls me Tinker. I gotta buzz, man. The girls are fighting over who gets to sit with me for lunch. See ya in the Day Room.”
Lunch arrived just when the nurse said it would. Chris was given a tray with a cup of soda with no ice, a plain hamburger on a bun, tomato and lettuce separate, a packet of mayonnaise and one of mustard, limp French fries, and a cup of half melted orange sherbet. Nothing on his plate looked even remotely appetizing. He went to the ice machine and added some ice to his drink. As he took a sip, he could almost taste Jack Daniels in it. How he longed for a drink. Shaking it off, he went back to his seat and put some mayonnaise on the top bun, the tomato –thin enough to read through—and the lettuce on his burger. He took a bite. It was horribly cold and stringy. He ate a couple of fries, but they too were ice cold and had a pasty taste to them. Tipping the cup of sherbet up to his lips, he drank the melted liquid. He placed everything back on the tray and took it back to the nurse at the tray trolley.
“No appetite, Mr. Decker?” she asked.
“I guess not,” he said.
“Here, fill this out and maybe tomorrow you will get a better meal.” She handed him a form and a pencil.
Chris went back to his seat and looked the form over. He began circling things he might like and prayed that once during his stay here, he would get a hot meal. He handed the form back to the nurse and walked over to the bulletin board. There was a schedule of classes and activities from 7 am until 5 pm. Roll call every morning was at 6:15 am. Breakfast was at 6:30. Lunch was at noon and dinner at 5 pm. Free time began at 5:30 pm and ended at lights out at 10:00 pm. Chris hated strict schedules. It was one reason he never went into the military. He liked making his own schedule and coming and going as he pleased. This was going to be a nightmare… a month long nightmare.
At 1 pm, a class on Anxiety began and Chris got sandwiched between the two women who had been flirting with the alpha male earlier in the day. They giggled and passed notes between one another and kept bumping arms with Chris. He glanced over at Tinker and swore he could see steam pouring out of his nose. The whole situation was causing Chris anxiety until he finally got up and excused himself. He went to the community bathroom and sank down in the floor beside the wash basin. Now he really wanted a drink. He could almost taste the smooth rich liquor sliding down his throat. And then he heard the door open. It was Tinker.
“Hey! What’s the big idea of sitting with Rosy and Kay? Them’s my girls!” Tinker said, pounding on the sink.
Chris stood up. He couldn’t afford a confrontation. He would lose everything. “Oh God man, please, when we go back in, sit beside them. They are driving me crazy.”
“So you didn’t sit there on purpose?”
“No, I sat down and then they sat down afterward.”
Tinker rubbed his head for a minute. “Okay, so long as you aren’t trying to steal my girls.”
Chris waited for Tinker to leave first and sure enough when he got back to the room, Tinker was sitting between the two girls. Chris was about to sit down where Tinker had been sitting when the red-haired tech turned to him and said, “The Doctor is ready to see you… down the hall to the right.” Chris knocked on the door and heard a faint “come in.” He opened the door and was relieved to see a familiar face. This was the psychiatrist who had visited him several times while he was in jail.
“Hello Chris,” the older man said. “Come on in and sit down.”
He took the seat by a window and soaked in his surroundings. Bookshelves of medical books lined the far wall, the doctor’s large oak desk took up most of the left side of the room, but on the right there was an entire wall of windows that revealed a park below them. Chris couldn’t help but wish he was in that park about now.
The doctor cleared his throat and then said, “It looks like you passed all of the tests to get in here, Chris. I was worried with your addiction that you wouldn’t be able to calm down enough. Are you still taking the Klonopin for anxiety?”
Chris nodded, then said, “They gave it to me every morning at the prison, but I didn’t get a dose here yet.”
“No worries, I will see to that. You do understand that you are under my care for the next four weeks and that depending on how you act, it will determine if you are freed or if you must finish your jail sentence. DUIs are serious trouble these days.”
“I understand,” Chris said, shifting slightly in his seat.
“Good, good. Go to the classes, eat your meals, take your meds and play nice with everyone. In four weeks, this will all be over. You may go back to your class now and I will see about your medicine.”
“Thanks, Doc,” Chris said, walking out of the room. He slowly walked down the hall. The only thing on his mind was a long tall stiff drink. Four weeks. Oh God, let me get through these four weeks.