She entered the room looking around, seemingly concerned. She was urged to take a seat by the window and she placed the bag she was carrying beside her feet on the floor.
The man sitting right in front of her was eyeing her wearily. She tried to give him a reassuring smile before she reached out for his hand.
“How are you John?” she asked tentatively. “How is everything?”
He was reanimated by the sound of her voice and his face lit up with a smile.
“I’m fine Clarisse.” He managed. “I just miss you.” He cupped her hand in his and she shuddered.
Her eyes teared up but she tried to conceal it for John’s sake. She couldn’t believe that John, her lifetime companion, her husband for 15 years would have to be held up in a psychiatric ward. She missed him so much… But she had to be strong if only for his sake. He’ll get through it and soon enough they will be reunited again…
She pulled herself together and mustered with a half-hearted smile, “How are they treating you? Is anyone bothering you?”
He looked at her, puzzled and offered no reply.
Clarisse felt uneasy. She didn’t want to bother him with her probing questions. She was too much of a mother, he would always say. Instead, she reached for her bag and pulled out some gummy bears.
“I brought you some. I know how much you like these. They’re your favourite since we were in high school!” she laughed.
He couldn’t help but smile back and reached out for some gummy bears. “You look exceptionally beautiful today Clarisse.”, he told her with sad longing in his voice.
She blushed at the complimemt. She had indeed put in some extra effort for today’s visit. She had her most expensive lipstick on and was carrying her favourite bag. John always knew how to make her smile with simple words…
“Are they feeding you well? You look a bit pale,” she asked tentatively, “I bet they don’t cook for you as well as I do.”
He had been fighting his tears for a while now but he lost his control and choked on a sob. “Please Clarisse…”
“Oh love… I didn’t mean to…” Her voice tailed off as she took him in her arms. “I promise we’ll get through this together.” She kissed his forehead. “You’ll be out of here in no time and you’ll be back home, with me and Teddy and life would be as it should be…”
“Clarisse not again…” he sobbed. She hushed him and held him tighter. She pitied the state he was in, her once strong husband now sobbing like a child in her arms… She was glad Teddy didn’t have to witness this, he would’ve been devastated at the sight of his broken father.
Clarisse had an idea she thought might lighten up dear John’s mood. She let go of him to open her purse. She handed out a ragged piece of paper to her husband. “He drew that for you.”, she said softly. He unfolded the piece of paper and saw a big red heart inside of which three stick figures stood smiling and holding hands. A father, a mother and a young son… A happy family.
John’s hands shook as he shoved the drawing back into his wife’s hands. “Clarisse just stop!” He shouted, now livid with anger. Alarmed by his sudden outburst, Clarisse pulled back quickly to her own chair, waiting for him to calm down and wondering whether she should call someone.
“John have you been taking your meds?” she asked as calmly as possible after some time. John seemed exasperated by her incessant questions and his frustration was growing…
“Clarisse I don’t need meds, ok? I’m completely fine. You got that? You’re the one who needs meds!”
“Ok you’re right, you’re fine. You’re completely fine but you need to prove it to them so you can get back to us.”
“There is no us, Clarisse, not anymore, not since a long time…”
“What do you mean?”
“Ted is…” it wouldn’t come out, “Ted is gone Clara.”
Clarisse stared at him blankly for a while then burst into laughter. “I’m sorry,” she managed between breaths,”but this is just the most ridiculous thing you’ve come up with until now.”
“Clarisse listen to me,” he held her forcefully by the arms, “Our son is dead. He has been for over a year now in a car accident…” His voice wavered at her blank expression.
“You’re being delusional John. Let me go!”
“Every week we have to go throught this, over and over again. I’m tired of this Clara! Do you hear me? I’ve been playing this game of yours for far too long.”
“Nurse! Nurse!” she called out, panic rising in her voice. “John I said let me go! You need some help. Nurse!”
“Listen to me…” She struggled. “Just listen!” He forcefully pulled her close to him. “I know it’s hard for you to understand but our Ted is truly gone… it’s heartbreaking for both of us… But Clara denying it makes it all the more painful. I can’t get through this without you. I need you by my side… I hoped you’d remember by now.”
She continued to struggle.
“Do you recognize this?” He moved aside to reveal a small bloodied schoolbag.
She stared at the bag in disbelief and was suddenly assaulted by a whirlwind of bloodied faces. Flashes of the crash hit her and she saw her six year old sprawled on the ground bleeding profusely with his schoolbag thrown beside him. She remembered her little son drawing their family just the night before the accident and gifting her his precious piece of art. She remembered getting mad and shouting at him after he scribbled over the very same handbag she was carrying today and stuffing it with his favourite gummy bears. She remembered him sprawling her expensive lipstick on his entire face in an effort to mimic his mother and her laughing for days at the incident…
She remembered… and Oh how she longed to forget. Pain tore at her heart and brain as her screams grew louder in the room. John saw her tear at her white hospital robes and attempted to calm her but to no avail.
Two nurse walked in brusquely. “It’s ok Clara dear. Calm down.” The nurse motioned for John to get out while she held Clarisse down with the help of her colleague.
“I’m so sorry sweetie… I love you. You’ll be ok…” His voice was breaking. “So sorry… I’m sorry… So sorry…” he kept repeating as a mantra. His heart broke into pieces. He had lost not only his son but his only remaining support in life… his wife. The doctors deemed it was an appropriate time to face her with the truth of the situation but they warned him that sometimes the shock may prove initially more traumatizing. However, he couldn’t withstand faking much longer. He had no one to talk to and he needed her… He needed her back.
He withdrew silently from the room as his wife was sedated and taken back to her room. How he hoped he’d developed trauma related amnesia the same way his wife had… At least they’d be together. She finally remembered yet somehow it did not make him feel better knowing the pain he has inflicted upon her weakened mind. He sank slowly to the ground fidgeting with the gummy bear paper wrap his wife gave him earlier, unable to control his crumbling heart as he cried his fill, right there at the door of that cursed ward…