Original article posted by bluesman:
It was the drops of blood that gave her away. Well, that’s not entirely true. She started acting strange after she came out of the restroom. Before she went in, she had been quiet, reserved, but lucid. Nothing out of the ordinary for a first date. Nothing that would require long explanations. After she came out, her demeanor completely changed. Her eyelids had fallen to half mast. She slouched in her chair. The corners of her mouth were pulled up into a very faint smile. She laughed loudly at things that weren’t even jokes. She lost interest in her meal. She was relaxed to the point of absurdity. Several times she made to hit Josh on the arm in that playful way girls do when they like a boy, but she missed each time, and nearly fell out of her chair with the last attempt. He had helped her back into her chair, while she giggled and said something he didn’t catch.
There was also the thing that fell out of her purse as she tried to get out of his car. He might not have given a second thought to it, he knew where she worked, but he had seen the drops of blood—dark points on spotless white pants. He had been staring at her in one of the obvious places: her rear. He saw the first drop when they got up to leave the restaurant. She stood up, turned around to pick up her sweater that lay draped over the back of her chair, and there it was: a small dark spot high up on her backside, just below the belt loops on the right side. At the time, it meant nothing to him. But then he saw another one, after she came out of the restroom at the music store. She had sat on her haunches, looking at the rap section, laughing obnoxiously, making noises, as though she were a human beat box. She nearly fell again, threw her hands out to arrest her fall, the C.D.s she held in her hands skittering on the floor. As he stooped to pick up her and the scattered C.D.s, he saw a second dot on her pants, this one just down and to the left of the first. Her behavior became even more erratic. She had put on a pair of headphones at one of the listening stations, and was bouncing to and fro, alternately pointing her index fingers in the air, a la John Travolta, her lips pursed and sticking out in a caricature of a kiss. The other browsers snickered and laughed behind their hands, while the store owner just looked on impatiently. Finally Josh pulled her away. She complained loudly as he led her out to the car, pulling away from him, fighting him. She tried to play it off with a smiling face, but her features were pinched and agitated. The smiles were more snarls than anything.
She started to complain of a headache, and so he pulled over next to a newsstand that had little packets of aspirin hanging in tidy rows. Before he could get out, she had jumped out of the car, yelling. Then he saw it fall out of her purse and onto the floor of the car: a small, plastic cylinder with a black rubber plunger and a tiny needle. The plunger was pushed all the way in. As he stared at it, the object became clear, immediate, present. He picked it up. It felt heavy in his hand. The back lettering on the sides, denoting measurements in milliliters, stood out sharply. Josh felt sick at his stomach.
There was a commotion outside. Looking up, he saw she was fighting with the newsstand keeper, holding a little packet of aspirin in one hand, and a bottle of mineral water in the other. Her face was twisted, her body rigid with anger. She threw the bottle of water at the newsstand guy. It struck him square on the nose, and he disappeared behind the counter, holding his hands to his face. She went berserk. She tore apart the newsstand, throwing newspapers, gum, playing cards, and souvenirs everywhere. Josh jumped out of his car, running toward the chaos. A cop came running up, called over by a concerned onlooker, and tried to calm her down. She turned on him, trying to scratch his face with her hands. The officer grabbed her and forced her down, kicking and screaming, to the pavement. And there she lay, on her belly, with her face pressed into the cold, wet cement, screaming and cursing, spittle flying from her mouth, tears gushing down her cheeks, as she thrashed underneath the heavy policeman. Josh just stood there, seeing dark spots and sinister syringes, looking down at the train wreck that was his date.
This is Camille’s story.
Camille worked on the third floor of the Midwest Regional Hospital. The third floor is Behavioral Sciences. It is the place where drug addicts, depressed teenagers and semi-suicidal people go to wait for proper treatment. A holding pen/halfway house for the marginally dangerous. Camille worked the graveyard shift. She had been there two years, working three twelve hour shifts that start at six p.m., Thursday through Saturday. She got along okay with her co-workers, if only for the fact that she always showed up on time, did her charting properly, and was always willing to work everybody else’s shift when they called in sick—which was every three day weekend or whenever somebody made camping or boating trips.
Behavioral Sciences shared floor space with Pediatrics, and Camille had to walk through halls adorned with painted scenes from Toy Story, The Jungle Book and Bambi to get to her corner of the floor. Along the way were narrow, darkened rooms with small children sequestered within—children shaved bald, I.V.s sticking out of their emaciated arms, translucent respirators over their mouths, emotionally and fiscally crushed parents sitting beside them.
Camille had to punch in a code to enter her work area. Her code was her own birthday, until one of the patients in Behavioral found it out and then told it to his friend during his afternoon call. The friend came in later that night, drunk, and threatening to lock up Camille and the other woman on duty, Teresa, waving a small steak knife as he shouted. Everyone in Behavioral had to change their codes after that, and Camille changed hers to the birthday of her mother, whom she hadn’t spoken to for three years.
Once inside the heavy door, she would sit down behind the long counter than faced the patient’s rooms, and get the shift change report. The twelve hours she would spend at work consisted mostly of tedious sitting. The patients usually came out of their rooms to pace, or to tell their life’s story to Camille, or whoever was working that night. One night a patient would tell Camille about how she ran away from home. The next, another would tell her how he tried to poison his wife because she refused to buy him pantyhose. Every once in a while, a patient would become so agitated that they would have to restrain them. Sometimes the patients were so violent they would call hospital security—a fat balding man well versed in Star Trek lore who would tell Camille that “a phaser set to stun would put this one down, quick,”
At around three a.m. Camille would take her lunch break, all fifteen minutes of it, in the small office behind the bathroom. There was just enough room to slide into the creaking roller chair that was wedged between the wall and the heavy metal desk that held the patients paperwork. She would eat in silence, staring at the insipid posters which hung on three of the four walls of the space—a man in a rowboat, gliding across a fog-strewn lake in the early morning light, a woman scaling an impossibly high slab of sandstone in the middle of a forsaken desert, a muscular runner at the blocks, his body covered in sweat. Each scene was underscored with a caption:
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED BY
DETERMINATION IS SEEING THROUGH WHAT OTHERS WILL NOT
SUCCESS IS A JOURNEY, NOT A DESTINATION
And there Camille would sit; slowly eating her food, her face blank, the word PERFECTION standing over her like some crushing, incomprehensible monument.
Re: Story #26
Keep up the story posting…. its what this place is about and I enjoy what you post.