chapter seventeen: all this is not named him
from GIRLY, a novel by Elizabeth Merrick

When I woke up there was a woman in a yellow smock trying to pass for a blouse rolling me over and sticking a needle in my ass. I yelled, and she said, “Well it’s about time, sweet pea.”

Everything hurt. When she rubbed my head, it felt like her whole hand was made of needles.

And when I remembered something besides walking to his house in my white dress and that I had lost him and that nothing made sense any more, I closed my eyes, not tight, just heavy, and tried to let my bones sink into the bed until I lost consciousness, but I didn’t. The attendant in the yellow smock brought me a plate of food and I kept my eyes closed until her hand-needles attacked my shoulder, gently, and she said, eat. Everything was inedible, I just nibbled on it, except the chicken, which fed my memory and I remembered feeling like the power was in that white dress, in the twilight. I remembered that I traced the carpet wale on the wall of the Amtrak car for two hours that seemed like days, that a man in a hat wanted to sit next to me and feel my ass until I summoned something outside myself in my glare and it made him go away.

I sort of lobbed the chicken around my mouth and dowsed it with water when its yucky industrial boiled taste became too clear to me, when the light from outside seemed to brighten somehow, making me wince. I remembered that a car softened me, somehow.

The nurse’s nametag said Annette. Her shortish hair looked like she’d put curlers in it—these lush, wide rounds of curls, but she was obviously not that type. She was about thirty I think and had this pretty, funky brassy filigree metal necklace on that made her nurse outfit look less lame.

“Excuse me, Annette?” I said. “Annette? What is going on?”

“You took some bad acid,” she said. “Did you ever see that Freddy Wiseman movie, Hospital, where the kid in the black turtleneck is explaining how he took a bunch of mushrooms in Central Park and then suddenly starts projectile vomiting all over the ER holding room?”

“Uh—“ I say.

“That’s why they have tile walls. Hose-able. Well that was what was happening to you, only it was all inside your brain. Like a lightshow in there, I’m sure,” she said, folding up the blanket at the bottom of my bed. Its edges were frayed, and for a second I panicked and thought I was in some deep ward of a huge crazy hospital in a decaying northern city, like Detroit or Cincinnati, but when I looked out the window the landscaping and lawns were perfect, lush as hell despite the dry dirt, and the parking lot was full of SUVs. I could see the freeway coursing around some hills—it wasn’t so nearby as to give off exhaust fumes, but the view of traffic was excellent.


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