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I sit in the chair by the window staring. I don’t know what I’m staring at and I don’t care. It’s dark and it’s late and I can’t sleep anymore. The drugs are wearing off.

The Nurse comes in.

Can’t sleep?

She checks my pressure and pulse.


We have a Lounge.

She hands me some pills.

You can watch TV.

She hands me a robe and slippers.

And you can smoke.

I turn and I stare out the window.

Get changed and let me show you where it is.

All right.

She leaves and I take the pills and I change and when I open the door, she’s waiting for me. She smiles and she hands me a pack of smokes.

These all right?

I smile.

Thank you.

We go to the Lounge. A television, two couches, an easy chair, some vending machines. The television is on.

You want a soda?

I sit in the chair.


You’re okay?

I nod.

Thank you.

She leaves and I can feel the pills kicking in. I watch television but nothing registers. I smoke a cigarette. It burns.

A man walks in and he walks up to me and he stands in front of me.

Hey, Buddy.

His voice is deep and dark.

Hey, Buddy.

Tracks crisscross his forearms.

I’m talking to you.

Scars run the length of his wrists.

I’m talking to you.

I look in his eyes. They’re blank.


He points.

That’s my chair.

I turn back to the television.

That’s my chair.

The pills are kicking in.

Hey, Buddy, that’s my chair.

Nothing registers.


I watch TV and he’s breathing heavy and the Nurse comes in.

Is there a problem here?

This Asshole is in my chair.

Then why don’t you sit on the couch?

Because I don’t like the couch. I like the chair.

James is in the chair. There’s the couch or the floor or you can leave. You decide.

Fuck James. Make him move.

Do you want me to call Security?


Then you decide.

He walks to the couch and he sits down on it. The Nurse watches him.

Thank you.

He laughs and she leaves and we’re alone and I’m watching television and smoking a cigarette. He stares at me and he chews his nails and he spits them at me but the pills are in and the bugs are gone and I don’t care. Nothing registers.

I watch the television. Everything slows down. Slows down beyond recognition.

The image blurs, the voices fade. There is no action and no noise, just flickering lights and a symphony of withered voices. I stare at the lights, listen to the voices. I want them to go away and they won’t.

My eyelids fall. I struggle to bring them up but they won’t come. The rest of my body follows my eyes. My muscles go limp and I slide from the chair to the floor. I don’t like the floor and I don’t want to be on the floor but I can’t stop myself. As I slide, the surface of the chair holds my robe and scratches the back of my legs and the robe bunches around my waist. I lift my hand to adjust the robe and my hand falls back. My mind tells my hand to move and my mind tells my hand to adjust the robe but my mind isn’t working. My mind isn’t working and my hand isn’t working. The robe stays.

The man stops spitting his nails at me and he stands and he walks toward me and I can see him coming through the slitted lids of my eyes. I know that he can do whatever he wants to do to me and I know that I am helpless to stop him. I know that he is angry and I know from his tracks and his scars and his eyes that he will probably express that anger through some form of violence. If I were able to move I would stand and meet him with a dose of whatever he cared to bring but I can’t meet him with anything. With each step he takes toward me the situation becomes more clear in my mind. He can do whatever he wants to me, I am helpless to stop him. Helpless to stop him. Helpless.

He stands over me and he stares at me. He leans down and he looks at my face and he laughs.

You are one ugly Motherfucker.

I try to say something back. I can only grunt.

I could kick your ass right now if I felt like it. Beat you to a bloody fucking pulp.

My body is limp.

But all I want is the fucking chair.

My mind isn’t working.

And I’m gonna fucking take it.

He reaches out and he grips my wrists and he drags me along the floor. He drags me away from the chair and into the corner of the Room and he leaves me lying facedown on the floor. He leans over and he puts his mouth next to my ear.

I could have beat your fucking ass. Remember that.

He leaves and I can hear him sit down in the chair and start changing the channels on the television. There is a daily sports wrap-up, an infomercial on hair growth, a late-night talk show. He leaves the talk show on and he laughs when he is supposed to laugh and he mumbles to himself about how he’d like to fuck one of the guests. I lie facedown on the floor.

I am awake but I’m unable to move.

My heart beats and it’s loud and I can see it.

The bristles of the carpet dig into my face and I can hear them.

The laugh track on the show booms and I can feel it.

I am awake but I’m unable to move.

I fade.

I fade.

I fade.

Morning comes and when I wake I am able to move and I stand and I look for the man. He’s gone, but my memory isn’t and it won’t be for a long time. It has always been a fault of mine. I hold my memory.

I go to my Room and when I open the door I see an Orderly setting a tray of food on the desk. He looks at me and he smiles.

Good morning.

Good morning.

I brought you some breakfast. We thought you might be hungry.

Thank you.

If you want anything else, just call.

Thank you.

He leaves and I look at the food. Eggs, bacon, toast, potatoes. A glass of water and a glass of orange juice. I don’t want to eat but I know I should so I go to the chair and I sit down and I look at the food and then I feel my face. Everything is still swollen. I touch my lips and they crack. I open my mouth and they bleed. I close my mouth and they drip. I don’t want to eat but I know I should.

I reach for the glass of water and I take a sip but it’s too cold.

I reach for the orange juice and I take a sip but it burns.

I try to use the fork but it does too much damage.

I break up the toast and push the pieces down my throat with my fingers. I do the same with the potatoes and the eggs and the bacon. I drink the water, but not the juice. I lick my fingers clean.

When I’m done I go to the Bathroom and I vomit. I try to stop it, but I can’t. About half of the food comes up, as does some blood and some bile. I am happy that I have kept half of the food. That is more than I normally keep.

As I walk back to my bed, a Doctor comes into the Room. He smiles.


He’s wearing a name tag but I can’t read it.

I’m Doctor Baker.

We shake hands.

I’m going to be working with you today.

I sit on the edge of the bed.

Are you okay with that?

He looks at my face but not my eyes.


I look at his eyes.

How are you feeling?

His eyes are kind.

I’m tired of that question.

He laughs.

I’ll bet you are.

I smile.


He hands me more pills.

Are Librium and Diazepam.

I take them.

They’re detoxification drugs and important medically because they stabilize your heart, keep your blood pressure down and help ease you through withdrawal. Without them you could suffer a stroke or a heart attack or both.

He leans forward and looks at my cheek.

You’ll be taking them every four hours, in decreasing doses, for the next five days.

I look at his eyes.

We’re going to take some tests.

He’s seen this before.

And start planning a Program for you.

All right.

First though, we need to try and fix you up a bit.

We go to a Room. It has bright fluorescent lights and a large surgical bed and boxes of supplies. I sit on the bed and he puts on a pair of latex gloves and he examines my cheek. He picks away the scabs. He opens my mouth. His finger fits through the hole. He gets a needle and some string and tells me to clench my fists and close my eyes. I leave them open and I watch as the needle runs through. Inside and out. My cheek, my lip, my mouth. Forty-one times.

We’re through and he’s on the phone with a Surgical Dentist and I’m sitting on the bed and I’m shaking from the pain. I can taste heat and the string and the blood. He sets a date and he hangs up the phone and he starts washing his hands.

We’re gonna take you into Town in a couple of days and get your teeth fixed.

I run my tongue along the stitches.

I know the Dentist and he’ll take good care of you.

I run my tongue along the remnants of my teeth.

You’ll look as good as new.

I let my tongue sit where it belongs.

Don’t worry.

He puts on a new pair of gloves and he turns around.

Now I need to check your nose.

I take a deep breath. He steps forward and he starts looking at my nose. He touches it and I cringe. I can no longer feel my cheek.

This is bad.

I know.

I’m gonna have to break it and reset it.

I know.

The sooner the better, but if you want we can wait.

The sooner the better.

All right.

He spreads his feet and he firms himself and he puts both of his hands on my nose. I grab the sides of the bed and I close my eyes and I wait.

You ready?


He jerks his hands forward and up and there’s an audible crack. Cold white light shoots through my eyes and through my spine and into my feet and back again. My eyes are closed but I’m crying. Blood is streaming from my nostrils.

Now I have to set it.

He moves his hands to the side and I can feel the cartilage move with them. He moves them again. I can feel it. He presses up and it seems to fit. I can feel it.


He reaches for some tape and I open my eyes. He puts the tape across the bridge of my nose and it holds the cartilage in place. It feels solid.

He grabs a towel and he wipes the blood from my face and my neck and I stare at the wall. My face is throbbing and I’m squeezing the sides of the bed and it hurts my hands. I want to let go but I can’t.

You all right?


I can’t give you any painkillers.

I figured.

The Librium and Diazepam will take the edge off, but you’re gonna hurt.

I know.

I’ll get you a new robe.

Thank you.

He steps back and he throws the towel in the garbage can and he leaves. I let go of the bed and I hold my hands in front of my face and I stare at them. They shake, I shake.

The Doctor comes back with a Nurse and they help me change and they tell me about the tests they’re going to give me. Blood, urine, stool. They need to know how much damage I’ve done to my insides. The thought revolts me.

We leave and we go to a different Room that also has a Bathroom. I piss in a cup, shit in a plastic container, take a needle in my arm. It’s simple and it’s easy and it’s painless.

We emerge and the Unit is busy. Patients wait in line for drugs, Doctors go from Room to Room, Nurses carry bottles and tubes. There is noise, but everything is quiet.

I go to my Room with the Doctor and I sit on the bed. He sits in the chair and he writes on a chart. He finishes writing and he looks at me.

Except for the Dentist, the worst of it is over.

All right.

I’m going to put you on two hundred and fifty milligrams of Amoxicillin three times a day and five hundred milligrams of Penicillin VK once a day. These will prevent any possible infection.

All right.

Go to the Dispensary and they’ll give them to you, or if you forget, a Nurse will come find you.


Thank you for dealing this morning.

No problem.

Good luck.


He stands and I stand and we shake hands and he leaves. I go to the Dispensary and I stand in line. A young woman stands in front of me. She turns around and she looks at my face. She speaks.


She smiles.


She holds out her hand.

I’m Lilly.

I take it. It’s soft and warm.

I’m James.

I don’t want to let go, but I do. We step forward.

What happened?

She glances toward the Dispensary.

I don’t remember.

She turns back.

Blacked out?


She grimaces.


I laugh.


We step forward.

When’d you get here?

I glance toward the Dispensary.


The Nurse is glaring.

Me too.

I motion toward the Nurse and Lilly turns around and she stops talking and we step forward and we wait. The Nurse glares at us and she hands Lilly some pills and a cup of water and Lilly takes the pills and she drinks the water. She turns around and as she passes me she smiles and she mouths the word bye. I smile and step forward. The Nurse glares at me and asks me my name.

James Frey.

She looks at a chart and she goes to a cabinet and she gets some pills and she hands them to me with a cup of water.

I take the pills.

I drink the water.

I go to my Room and I fall asleep and I spend the rest of the day sleeping and shoving food down my throat and waiting in line and taking pills.


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