Graduation Night, continued...
Adam woke up covered in sweat. He blinked a few times and tried to sit up, but his hands were caught on something. He looked over and saw that his wrists were in restraints, tied to his bed. He saw that his wrists were red and raw from pulling at the restraints. He was wearing what appeared to be some sort of hospital gown. And his wheelchair was not beside the bed.
Adam pushed away his mild nausea, trying to figure out where he was and how he had gotten here. And more important, how he was going to get out.
Before he had too much time to think, a man with white hair, wearing a white coat entered the room. “Hello, Mr. Harding,” the man said. “I’m Dr. Richman.”
Adam frowned. “What’s going on? Where am I?”
“You’re in the psychiatric ward of the hospital,” Dr. Richman said. “We had to put you in restraints yesterday because you were out of control.”
Adam looked at his red wrists and believed that the doctor was telling the truth. “Can you take them off now?”
“How about if I take one of them off and we’ll see how it goes?”
“All right,” Adam said. It wasn’t as if he had much choice.
Dr. Richman freed his left wrist from the restraints. Adam flexed his hand and felt a jab of pain. There was blood lining his knuckles. “What happened to me?” Adam asked.
“You were behaving quite erratically in a restaurant,” Dr. Richman told him. “An ambulance had to bring you here in restraints. I thought it might have been drug-induced, but your urine tox screen was negative. Mr. Harding, did you ingest any illegal substances yesterday?”
“No,” Adam replied.
“In that case,” Dr. Richman went on, “I’m worried the episode yesterday may have been some sort of psychotic breakdown. Your friend Mr. Jacobson said that you’ve been having some... unusual ideas lately.”
Your friend Mr. Jacobson said... Adam closed his eyes and remembered sitting in the coffee shop with Roger, drinking his coffee when all of a sudden he started to feel very strangely. It was almost as if...
“I think Roger poisoned me,” Adam said aloud.
“I think he slipped something into my drink,” Adam said. “That’s why I was acting that way.”
“I see,” Dr. Richman said slowly. Adam could see in the doctor’s eyes that he didn’t believe him.
“Look, doctor,” Adam began, “I’m not crazy, I’m really not. The date is October 21, 2003. I have a good job working at software company... you can call them up if you don’t believe me.”
“There’s more to good mental health than knowing the date and having a job,” Dr. Richman said. “Why do you believe your friend poisoned you?”
“Because I’m the only one who knows he was the one responsible for the accident we had,” Adam said.
“Ah yes,” Dr. Richman said. “Mr. Jacobson mentioned that. You mean the accident eleven years ago? The one you were convicted for?”
Adam’s jaw hardened. “I swear I’m not crazy.”
“I’m not saying you’re crazy,” Dr. Richman assured him. “But there’s something called delusional disorder, which is not uncommon. Mr. Harding... Adam, do you think there’s any possibility the things you’re saying may not be absolutely true? Do you think there’s a chance that maybe your friend didn’t poison you?”
Adam could see there was no way he was going to convince the doctor he wasn’t crazy. He was just wasting his breath. “Where’s my wheelchair?” he asked.
“We have it in storage for while you’re a patient here,” Dr. Richman said.
“Great,” Adam sighed, leaning his head against the pillow. “I can’t walk, you know. Do you believe that?”
“Maybe tomorrow a nurse will bring you one of the hospital chairs,” Dr. Richman said. “But for now, we’d prefer if you stayed in bed. Is that all right?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“That’s the spirit,” Dr. Richman said with a smile.
Adam swallowed. “And what about my... uh... I have to cathe myself.”
“A nurse will take care of that for you too,” Dr. Richman assured him. “And she can give you an enema later today.”
“Fantastic,” Adam muttered. He didn’t want to say anything that sounded at all subversive. He figured the less he said, the harder it would be for them to claim he was nuts, the faster he’d get out of here.
And as soon as he got out of here, Roger was going to pay for this.
Adam’s nurse was a woman in her forties named Cindy. She came in to introduce herself and undid the restraint on Adam’s other wrist. He was very careful about what he said—he didn’t want the doctors to think he was insane and keep him here.
Cindy told him that they were moving him into another room with another patient. Adam didn’t like the idea of sharing a room with another patient in the psych ward, but he supposed he didn’t have a choice for now. Cindy brought in one of the hospital wheelchairs—it was an old, bulky chair with a high bar coming out of one side to mark it as hospital property.
“Can you transfer by yourself?” Cindy asked him.
Adam nodded. He climbed into the wheelchair, which creaked threateningly as he sat down. One of the footrests was broken and his foot hung down, scraping against the floor.
“Sorry,” Cindy said. “I’ll try to find a better chair for you, but we’ll have to make do with this one for now.”
Cindy pushed Adam’s chair down the hall and he did his best to hold up his leg so that his foot wasn’t dragged along the floor. She wheeled him down a few doors to a dimly lit room and stopped the chair in front of the bed closest to the window. Adam would have preferred to stay in the wheelchair, broken as it was, but Cindy didn’t give him that option. She insisted that he climb into the bed and she immediately wheeled the chair out of the room.
Adam looked over at the empty bed next to him, wondering who his roommate was. He heard screaming coming from outside the room and a chill went down his broken spine. He was afraid to find out what it would be like here at night.
Cindy came back in, holding a small cup of water and two blue pills. “Here, take this,” she told him.
“What is it?” Adam asked.
“They’ll help you to relax,” she told him.
Adam sighed. What the hell, couldn’t hurt. He took the two pills and swallowed them with water.
Cindy left again and this time returned with a urinary catheter. Adam reached for it and Cindy shook her head. “No,” she said. “You just lie back and relax. I’m going to do it.”
“I do this to myself four times a day,” Adam told her. “I think I can handle it.”
“Yes, but I’m the one who’s supposed to do it,” Cindy insisted. “Do you want me to get in trouble?”
For the sake of being agreeable, Adam allowed her to insert the catheter into his penis. He always felt a little anxious when a nurse catheterized him, because he had heard horror stories of it being done wrong and causing serious damage. Adam knew his body well and knew how not to hurt himself. He winced with he saw Cindy struggling to get past a point of resistance.
“I can do it,” Adam offered again, but Cindy pushed his hand aside.
As she was struggling with the catheter, a large man with a red scraggly beard burst in the room, giggling maniacally. He was about Adam’s age, maybe a few years younger, and seemed a little unsteady on his feet. When he saw what Cindy was doing, he stopped dead in his tracks. “Jesus Christ!” he gasped.
“Excuse me, Leo,” Cindy said to him. “Would you mind giving us some privacy?”
“Jesus Christ, man!” Leo repeated. “Dude, what the hell is she doing to your wiener?”
Adam felt his face flush. He felt like crawling into a little hole and dying right now. Cindy squeezed the catheter past the resistance and pushed down on his belly; the bag began to fill with urine as Leo looked on in horror.
“Cindy, you better never do that to me,” Leo said to her.
“I don’t have to do that to you, Leo,” Cindy said, “because you’re not a paraplegic like Mr. Harding here.” She pulled the tube out of his penis and stood up, “I’ll let the two of you get better acquainted.”
Leo held out his hand to Adam. “I’m Leo, man,” he said. “Nice to meet you.”
“I’m Adam,” he said, taking Leo’s hand.
“So what’s wrong with you that you’re in here?” Leo asked him. “You seem fairly normal-looking.”
“Thanks,” Adam said wryly. “I’m here because my best friend poisoned me and made everyone think I’m insane.”
“Gotcha, you’re a paranoid schizophrenic,” Leo said with a smile.
“People really do get poisoned sometimes,” Adam grumbled. He knew his story sounded phony. He had to learn to keep his mouth shut.
Leo plunked down on the bed next to Adam. He looked over at Adam’s legs, which were lying limply on top of the covers. “What’s wrong with your legs?”
“Can’t feel them,” Adam replied.
“Sucks,” Leo commented. “How’d that happen?”
Adam ignored his question. “So why are you here?”
Leo smiled. “I’m bipolar. I sort of ‘forgot’ to take my meds for a little while and I wound up on some crazy manic trip. But I’ve been back on the meds for a week now and I’m sad to say the trip is over.”
“Hey,” Leo said, “don’t people like you need, like, a wheelchair or some shit like that?”
Adam frowned. “Yeah, but they won’t let me have one right now. So I’m stuck in this bed for now.”
“What a drag, man,” Leo said. “Well, if you want to go watch TV or something, I’d be happy to carry you into our lounge. You seem pretty light.”
“Thanks for the offer,” Adam said. He would have rather stayed in bed for the next week than get carried around by this psycho.
Leo smiled at him. “You should make yourself comfortable. People have a tendency to stick around this place for a long while.”
Adam stared at him. I’ve got to get out of this place, he thought.
Cindy failed to find a better wheelchair for Adam. He lay in bed all morning, drifting in and out of uncomfortable sleep, and she never returned with a chair for him. He hoped he didn’t have to stay here too long, because he couldn’t take much more of being treated like this. Even the psychotic schizophrenics weren’t confined to their beds.
Finally, Cindy returned with another nurse. Adam started to sit up in bed, but then he saw she didn’t have a wheelchair with her. Instead, she was holding an enema bag. Adam groaned, “I don’t need an enema.”
“You’d rather get impacted?” Cindy said.
“If you’ll give me a goddamn wheelchair, I can take care of it myself in the bathroom,” Adam said.
“The doctors prefer we do it this way,” Cindy told him. She gestured toward the other nurse, “This is Sheryl. She’s going to be doing the enema.”
“Hi, Mr. Harding,” Sheryl said. From the nervousness in her voice and the fact that she looked very young, Adam got the feeling she hadn’t done this before. He was afraid to ask. “Can you roll onto your stomach, please?”
“Sure,” Adam grumbled. He crossed his legs manually first, then rolled his upper body. The effect was that he was now on his stomach. He lay with his head resting against the pillow. He shut his eyes, trying to pretend this wasn’t happening.
“Okay, what do you do first?” Cindy said to Sheryl.
Adam gripped the pillow under his head as Cindy continued to instruct Sheryl on what to do. He felt lucky that at least he couldn’t feel whatever was happening down there. When Sheryl began inserting the fluid from the enema bag, Adam suddenly felt a severe cramping sensation in his abdomen. He groaned with pain.
“Are you okay, Mr. Harding?” Cindy asked.
“No, I’m not,” Adam replied, wincing at the pain in his belly. “If you have to do this, do you think you can at least have someone do it who knows what they’re doing?”
“We’re just trying to help you,” Cindy snapped at him. “Would you prefer if we left the stool inside to get impacted and you could get your colon removed later?”
Adam bit his lip to hold back a comment. The last thing he wanted to do was piss her off more than he already had. Cindy apparently took over after that and Sheryl stepped back. The pain in his abdomen subsided gradually as Cindy finished up.
Sheryl lagged behind after Cindy had left. She helped Adam turn onto his back again. “I’m really sorry about that,” she told him.
Adam felt bad about yelling at her. She was obviously new at this and it wasn’t her fault that she screwed up. “That’s all right,” he said. “You’ve gotta practice on someone, right?”
“I guess so,” Sheryl said with a smile. “But you didn’t volunteer to be a guinea pig.”
“We’ll call it even then,” Adam said. He was surprised that Sheryl seemed to be flirting with him a bit, even though she had just helped give him an enema. He hoped he could use this to his advantage. “Hey, do you think it would be possible for you to bring me a wheelchair?”
“Oh,” Sheryl bit her lip. “I... I’m not sure. Where’s the one you usually use?”
“They’re apparently storing it for me,” Adam explained. “It kind of sucks to be stuck in bed.”
“Well, I don’t know if I’m supposed to,” Sheryl said hesitantly. She was studying him carefully. He wondered if she knew why he was here.
“It’s not like I’m psychotic or anything,” Adam said to her.
Sheryl glanced down at his hands. His wrists were still raw from having struggled against the restraints and his knuckles were bruised from when he punched Roger. It was material evidence that he deserved to be here now and there was very little he could say to convince anyone otherwise. “I’ll see what I can do,” Sheryl promised.
Nina Harding was watching television in her living room when she got the phone call from the hospital. Nina’s stomach turned into knots when she heard the doctor’s voice on the other line: “Mrs. Harding, this is Dr. Richman. I’m calling about your son, Adam...”
This seemed very familiar. As Nina gripped the phone tighter, she remembered a phone call eleven years earlier. A Dr. Conway had called and spoken to her in a stern voice: Adam was in a very serious motor vehicle accident. He’s in extremely critical condition. There’s a good chance that he won’t survive. You should come down to the hospital immediately.
Nina had managed to hand off the phone to her husband before collapsing onto the floor. Fortunately, Tim was much more level-headed in emergency situations and he drove them both to the hospital. They arrived at the hospital to be told that Adam was in surgery and his prognosis was negative.
Nina hadn’t been able to stop crying. She begged them to let her in to see her only child but they said that they could not allow her to disturb the surgery. If Adam wasn’t going to make it, she wanted to see him alive one last time. But they forced her to wait.
She had been waiting outside the operating room and she saw the surgeons come out before they saw her. They were thoughtlessly commenting on the surgery, without realizing the mother of their patient was within earshot.
God, what a mess, one of them had said.
Well, at least he didn’t crash. I thought we lost him for a minute there.
I know... I was ready to give up. How old is he anyway?
That’s a shame. Well, he’s definitely never walking again.
Let’s see if he even wakes up.
Nina had to convince Tim not to go punch the surgeons in the nose. The doctors finally explained to them that Adam’s spleen had ruptured and they had been forced to remove it to stop the hemorrhage, but he had lost a lot of blood before that happened. His spinal cord was “destroyed”—they set the broken vertebra but the damage was to the cord itself was extensive. Adam was very unstable, in spinal shock, and there was no telling if he’d make it through this critical period. The doctor had laid it out for Nina and Tim: There’s a fifty percent chance he’ll regain consciousness. And if he does, he’s never going to be able to walk again.
The staff allowed them to stand vigil by Adam’s bedside. Nina cried and gripped her son’s hand, waiting for him to wake up, knowing it might never happen. She looked on as they changed his bandages while he slept, wincing at the row of staples imbedded in his soft belly, remembering the surgeon’s words: God, what a mess.
By the third day, Nina was beginning to lose hope. The man in the bed next to Adam’s had been unconscious for three weeks following his surgery. A woman came by to talk to the man’s family about the possibility of organ donation. As Nina tried not to listen in on the conversation, she felt gripped by fear of the very real possibility that Adam might not ever wake up. Would there ever be a time when she would be able to give up? When she would abandon all hope that her only child had life left within him?
Adam, she begged him silently, please wake up. Please, sweetheart. Please. I’ll do anything if you just open your eyes. I’ll buy you that fancy catcher’s mitt you wanted when you were ten. I’ll never make you take out the trash or clean your room ever again. Please wake up, Adam. Please...
Then the miracle happened: Adam’s eyes fluttered open.
As hard as it was for Adam to adjust to his new disability, Nina thanked God every day that Adam survived the accident. She learned later that Dr. Conway’s prognosis had not been an exaggeration—Adam came within inches of losing his life. He had been very very lucky.
“Mrs. Harding?” Dr. Richman’s voice snapped Nina out of her daze. “Are you there?”
“Yes, I’m here,” Nina spoke up. “Is Adam okay?”
“He had what I believe to be some sort of nervous breakdown yesterday,” Dr. Richman said. “I’m still not certain if it was drug-induced or not, but he seems to be having some strange delusions.”
“What?” This was not what Nina expected the doctor to say. She had always worried about her son’s physical health or his happiness, but she had never worried that he was going crazy.
“Mrs. Harding, do you know if your son takes illegal drugs?”
“I’m sure he doesn’t,” Nina said firmly. “Even after his injury, when he was having a lot of pain, he didn’t even want to take the painkillers.”
“I see,” the doctor murmured.
“Tell me what happened,” Nina demanded.
And he told her.
Nina gripped her husband’s hand as they walked through the psychiatric ward of the hospital. She heard screams in the distance and shuddered inwardly. How could Adam be locked up in a place like this? He wasn’t crazy like the other people here.
Tim found the room with the name “Harding” printed outside the door. The lights were off in the room and they stepped inside rather nervously. Adam’s bed was the one closest to the door, they had been told.
Nina approached the bed and saw that her son was passed out on top of the covers. He was wearing a hospital gown and she could see his bare legs, completely devoid of any muscle. Nina watched Adam’s chest rise and fall in his drug-induced sleep. She reached out and smoothed his short hair that was in disarray. Adam’s eyes opened a crack, “Mom?”
Nina felt tears come to her eyes, “Yes, sweetheart. It’s me.”
“Mom, thank god!” Adam struggled to sit up in bed. Now she could see there were purple circles under his eyes, probably from whatever medications he was getting here. He clung to Nina’s arm, “You’ve got to help me get out of here.”
Nina couldn’t help herself any longer—she reached out and embraced her son, sobbing onto his shoulder. She heard Tim clearing his throat behind her, “Uh... Adam, what’s going on here?”
Adam carefully disentangled himself from his mother’s embrace. “I think Roger slipped me something,” Adam said. “It made me... nuts. I don’t even really remember what happened.”
“Since when have you become friends with Roger again?” Tim asked.
“He called me a little while ago,” Adam explained. “Because he didn’t want me to tell anyone that... that he was responsible for the accident. You know, the accident where I...”
“Adam, what are you talking about?” Nina cried. She had been hoping on the way over that he wouldn’t confirm what Dr. Richman had told her. But it seemed as if he really was having delusions. “You were the one who was driving. There was a trial... don’t you remember?”
“Yeah, but...” Adam lowered his eyes. “I lied.”
Nina and Tim exchanged looks. Nina remembered how furious Tim had been when he found out that Adam was the driver. I taught him better than to drive drunk! It made it even harder to deal with Adam’s disability, knowing that it was his own fault and that someone else had lost their life because of him. Of course, Adam was their son and he was just a kid, so they forgave him for this. But it had always been a sore point.
“Why would you lie about that, honey?” Nina said to him.
“Roger was the one driving,” Adam said. “He... he convinced me that it would be better if I said that I was driving because... they’d never send me to jail. I know now it was a mistake, but...”
“I don’t believe any of this,” Tim said aloud. “It doesn’t make any sense. Adam, you’ve got to face up to the fact that you may need some psychological help.”
Adam blinked. “But that’s what happened...”
Nina could see by looking into Adam’s eyes that he truly believed what he was telling them. Somehow he had deluded himself into thinking that Roger had been driving the car during the accident. How had this happened? Had he just gotten so lonely that his mind was starting to play tricks on him?
“You’ve got to stay here, son,” Tim said quietly. “You’ve got to stay until you’re better. Until you can face up to what happened. We’ll do whatever it takes to help you.”
“This is bullshit!” Adam cried, his face turning red. “I can’t believe you think I’m crazy! Did you talk to Roger? Did you talk to that lying sack of shit?”
“Adam, calm down,” Tim said.
“No, I will not calm down!” Adam yelled. “Do you know what it’s like in this place? I can’t stay here any longer! I shouldn’t have to stay here... I’m not crazy!” He slammed his fist against the table by his bed. “I’m not fucking crazy!”
Two nurses, one male and one female, came running into the room. The female nurse was holding a syringe. “Is there a problem in here?” she asked.
Adam saw the syringe in her hand and winced. “No, I... I’m fine.”
The nurse looked at Tim for confirmation. “Everything’s fine,” Tim assured her. “We’re just talking.”
But the nurse still insisted on giving Adam the injection. Nina watched him tolerate the needle, but she felt the pain herself. It was unfair that Adam had to suffer so much.
“Adam, honey...” Nina picked up his hand from the bed. It was limp now. “We brought you some clothes to wear here, okay?”
Adam nodded. His eyes were drifting closed, but she could see the tears drawing close to the surface. “Okay,” he whispered.
“You’re going to get better,” Nina said. “I swear, you’ll get better.”
Adam’s eyes closed and his lips parted, silently blowing out air. He was asleep.
“Oh god, Tim,” Nina said to her husband, “what happened to him?”
To be continued...