A Tree Grows in the Psych Ward

She hadn’t really noticed Christmas happening.

Wrapped up in her own mind, some days barely even cognizant of the other person, the one growing inside of her.  It wasn’t until she was settled into a room in the hospital’s psych ward that she looked out into the dark, noticed the blinking lights on the side of the building, realized it was that time of year.

She spent the days trying to avoid everyone else, playing the pregnancy card to get out of group therapy sessions.  Watching TV, not concentrating on crossword puzzles, flipping through out of date magazines, she would wait for the suitable amount of hours to go by, so that she could lie in bed and not sleep.  At first, the security guard flicking on the lights hourly, to ensure all was well, was annoying.  But then it was comforting, and she almost welcomed it.

On Day 3, a new woman,  Nancy, came onto the ward.  Quiet, so quiet, hair and eyes tired, she was busy avoiding people, too.

But while the others laid in bed not sleeping, Nancy couldn’t even try.

The OCD was worst for her at night, when everyone else could escape into sleep, or some version of it.  For the first couple of nights, the staff kept her busy, or sedated her, or something, because there were no signs.

But one morning, when the ward woke up, Christmas had happened all over the common area.

Nancy had somehow gotten into the hospital’s decorations.  She’d erected the fake tree, putting it on top of one of the dining tables to give it added drama.  Festooned it with garland so that barely any green showed.  Then she’d gone to work on the walls.  But of course, this being a psych ward, none of the usual ways of affixing decorations (nails, staples, thumbtacks) to walls were available to her.

So she’d found some scotch tape.

And bound the entire common area in a sticky mess of tape and tinsel and paper snow flakes.  And scotch tape, of course, is only so sticky and can only hold for so long.  So that by the time everyone else woke up, half of the decorations were hanging in various states of disrepair.

It was horrible and beautiful.  Grotesque and reverent.

The whole ward stood there, staring.  The pregnant woman, the girls who were sneaking back in after having signed out on passes and gotten drunk the night before, the guy whose arm was in a cast after he’d tried to hack it off, the ten-year old with the dead eyes, they all stood and stared.

And Nancy.

She slumped in an uncomfortable chair.  Utterly exhausted.  Looking around her, just as shocked as the rest of them.

(Image is A Classic Still Life, Holiday in the Hospital)

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17 responses to “A Tree Grows in the Psych Ward

  1. I may have a new favorite Christmas story. Beautiful. And a little horrible. Thanks.

  2. Oh Ginny…how horribly wonderful.

  3. creep-tastic! vaguely reminds me of my office christmas party from a few years back…

  4. My name is Nancy.

    It’s perfect.

  5. Wow, just wow. I can see it, all the tape and Christmas decorations.

  6. Ah mania, one can get so much done.

  7. Pingback: The December Just Posts « collecting tokens

  8. Pingback: Cold Spaghetti :: Just Posts for a Just World: December 2009

  9. this was excellent.

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