The sharp smell of blood eventually roused Jonathan from his sleep, his hands over his eyes in an attempt to calm the pounding of his head. Straightening up in bed, he noted the sweat dripping from his body and the dampness of the shirt plastered to his chest. Aside from the smell, he was struck by how quiet the room was. As he stumbled over to the light switch, an odd heaviness wearing down his frame, he realized upon flicking the switch that the bulb was broken.
“Damn,” he muttered, still trying to gain control of himself and figure out why his entire body seemed to be screaming in discomfort. As his eyes adjusted to the near-darkness, he finally took in the state of his room.
“Jesus.” It was a mess. Aside from the blood residue that spattered the walls, the mirror was cracked, and the shards of glass scattered on the ground caught the muted light that peeked out from behind the drawn curtains. The wooden table that held few of his possessions had been overturned. Pages from his Bible had been judiciously ripped out, and now lay near the bed, beside a cracked photo frame containing a picture of his family. A slow anger began to build as he stared at the mess. He thought of all the time his sister Temi had taken to help set up his room. Despite the infrequent nature of her visits, she had put ample effort into her attempts at making the room feel less foreign. Running his hands over his head, Jonathan noticed the state of his fists, and his breath caught. His knuckles appeared angry and swollen, tapering off to fingernails that seemed to be cracked.
Walking over to the curtains, he tried frantically to piece together the events of the previous night but came up blank. Suddenly flinging back the curtains, he stood there and took in the extent of the damage. As he surveyed the room, he began to pace, his head in hands and his mind spinning on a continuous loop of one word: “James.”
No sooner than he had sat back down on his bed, there was a brisk knock at the door. His head sprang up, and before he could form a sentence, a nurse had entered the room. He recognized her. She was one of the new nurses who had arrived earlier in the month. Jonathan remembered that he had taken a liking to her because her cornrows reminded him of his younger sister, Folake.
“Good morning Mr. Abayomi, hope you had a good-” she stood in the doorway, staring wide-eyed at the damage that had been inflicted upon the room. Jonathan let out a derisive laugh. How could he have let this happen again?
“I-I think I should go call a doctor,” she stammered, quickly exiting the room and letting the door swing shut behind her.
Jonathan lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling, listening to the repetition of the ticking clock on the wall beside him. About ten minutes later, the nurse returned. “Doctor Williams will see you now, please follow me,” she instructed. Wordlessly, Jonathan rose off the bed and followed her out the door.
Regardless of the circumstances, Jonathan was glad to be able to walk around at night. Usually, if you were up for anything other than a glass of water or a visit to the bathroom, you needed a night pass. A lot of patients tended to roam at night, especially the insomniacs, and so nurses were typically assigned to supervise them. As he was thinking this, he glimpsed a small, light-haired figure coming towards him and realized it was his friend, Ada.
“Uncle John, You’ve come to visit me!” She exclaimed, a brilliant smile beaming across her face. Her excitement was contagious, and Jonathan couldn’t help but return the smile. Though Ada was only thirteen, she had been at the institution for almost six years. She was a petite albino girl rescued from an abusive mother, and so had spent most of her life in the facility. She was diagnosed with various disorders and had a tendency to stay awake for days on end. She has once confided in him that she was afraid to sleep because in her nightmares she often saw the face of the devil.
“Hello sweetheart,” he replied, gently placing a hand on her head, “unfortunately I can’t stay long, I have a meeting with a doctor, but I will be back to visit,” he assured her. She shrugged a reply, “It’s okay, Mary and I are going to play cards. She said she’d teach me to play a game called ‘Snap’!” she said, gesturing towards the nurse, who was surreptitiously glancing at Jonathan, not used to seeing him in the halls at night.
“Alright darling, I’ll see you later.” And with that Ada took off down the hall, forcing her nurse into a near-run in an attempt to keep up.
Jonathan continued his journey down the hallway, occasionally slowing to glance into the open doors. Looking at some of the patients, he found himself remembering why he hadn’t pushed too hard for a night pass. In one room, a middle-aged woman was crying at the end of her bed. In the next was a man mumbling frantically to himself. Jonathan quickly turned away, continuing to walk down the hall with his nurse a few steps behind him.
A few moments later, he found himself seated in front of Doctor Williams. The silence stretched out in front of them until broken by a long sigh.
“It happened again,” Jonathan said, his eyes on the yellow wall behind the doctor. He liked the colour. It reminded him of the bedroom he’d had as a child.
“I know.” Doctor Williams responded, his eyes focused on Jonathan.
“It’s the third time now. He keeps doing this, and I don’t know how to get him to leave me alone.” Jonathan said, his voice rising. He ran his hands over his head and stared up at the ceiling.
After a pregnant pause, the doctor finally responded.
“I would like to speak to him,” he said slowly, gauging Jonathan for a reaction.
“Who, James?” Jonathan asked, well aware of the answer. “I mean, I don’t know if I can do that. He’s not exactly known for being reasonable.” Jonathan explained.
“I understand that,” Doctor Williams replied, “which is why I would be employing the use of a sedative. It’s completely painless. The reason I’m asking is that I believe that if I understand where he’s coming from, I’ll know how to deal with you.”
After a moment, Jonathan responded, “I have no problem with it, I guess. But I have to warn you, doctor, he seems to be incredibly violent. You have to be careful,” Jonathan warned, slightly hesitant.
“That’s what the sedative is for.” Doctor Williams replied, a grin on his face.
Thirty minutes later, Jonathan was laid on the plush leather couch, lying still as the doctor injected his arm. A couple of moments went by, and he began to feel light-headed.
“It should be okay to start now,” the doctor began, “so, Jonathan, how does it feel to know that you’ve disappointed your family?”
Jonathan sat up on the couch, indignant. Or at least, he tried to. The sedative made everything move very slowly, and he found himself struggling to respond.
“I mean, isn’t that why your sister stopped visiting?” the doctor continued, “must be difficult, having a brother in a mental institution.”
Jonathan was livid. His outrage over the doctor’s statements coupled with his inability to move compounded his anger until he saw red. He usually had a better grasp on his temper, but with the sedative, he seemed to lack the strength to control himself. Thoughts began to fly in and out of his mind, clashing for dominance. “Who the hell does this man think he is?” “I’m sure he has a reason for saying all that” “He has no right to disrespect me, does he know who I am?” “Why would he say all that” “I’ll break his fucking neck-”
As he struggled to contain his emotions, a voice spoke, the doctor. “I mean, aren’t you tired of being a failure?”
And with that, his control broke. His rage called out to him, and he dove into its embrace, swimming further down, and down until there was nothing but blackness.
Doctor Williams watched the face of his patient, worried that his plan would not work, or that he had pushed it too far. Would his methods end up being detrimental to Jonathan’s recovery, rather than an aid?
Minutes passed five, ten, then twenty. Was there a problem? Had the sedative gone wrong?
Suddenly, his patient’s eyes flew open as he sat up, eyes darting around the room. He glanced around, taking in the piss-yellow walls and the faint smell of mint. Finally, he noticed the aging man sitting across from him, staring intently.
“Who the fuck are you?” he practically snarled. Doctor Williams smiled.