9.34 The Sister
The next few blogs will be transcripts of the fourth season of Storytime with Paul Dore. This season is based on my latest novel Dreams of Being a Kiwi. Each episode/transcript will contain excerpts from the book, as well as an introduction to some of the characters.
Dreams of Being a Kiwi was the first novel I wrote a long time ago. It’s a story I continually return to and am finally getting it into print and on the podcast. The book is about a young man who suffers from a mental illness and how he navigates his way to find peace.
My sister found me in the bathroom, in the tub, bleeding from one wrist, shivering from the water. The ice had melted, the cut was not very deep, the blood more symbolic than anything else. I had passed out for a while, but conscious when she walked in. She did not look surprised, only nodded her head. Her mouth went straight, not a frown, not a smile and she did not rush to help me. She just stood there for a while. We looked at each other. Later she told me my eyes said, Help! I need you like never before. For the first time in her life she was frozen.
She helped me out of the tub, I did not want her to touch me. I screamed and shouted, but she persisted. She lay me on the floor, my body shriveled up into a ball of shivers. I could not look at her. The voice was in full swing, told me my sister was going to kill me, told me I should be afraid of her, told me I should cut her with the razor blade. I could not listen to the voice anymore, could not move. I stared at the underside of the toilet bowl.
The concept of time evaporated. My sister stroked the hair from my face. In my head I told her to stop, screamed it loud, but it came out as barely a whimper. I tried to cry, no tears came, I was okay with that, I didn’t want my sister seeing me cry.
The police car turned into a parking lot beside a giant building. We pulled into the back. They brought you in through the back so the people entering the front for visits did not see people being dragged in by the police. Must have been terrible to be one of those crazy people dragged in through the back. The car parked, engines cut, a noise vibrated under the hood. The policemen did not move, both their eyes were on me. They asked, “Do you know what this place is?” I replied, “Why did we go to this hospital? It's my hand that is cut, not my mind.”
The doctor finally looked up, said, “This is a psychiatric hospital. You have been committed. Your sister filed the necessary paperwork to get a court order to have the police escort you to us. We believe you are suffering and want to help you. Your sister and you are two very courageous people. This is a difficult time.” I turned to my sister, “Can we leave now?” Her quiet eyes broke my heart.
Two orderlies grabbed me from behind, pulled me up and over the back of the chair. We left the office, left my sister, I yelled, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Bring me back! Let me go!” My feet went limp. They dragged me down the hallway, unlocked a door, we entered a room. This would be my room for the next few years until I transferred to another wing. The room was all white, a sheet separating the room down the middle. There were two beds, one on either side of the sheet, no one else was here, they lay me down on one of the beds. I couldn’t move, I didn’t move, they said they would be near if I needed anything.
Paralyzed except for the ability to move my head. I looked to my right side, a window. A bright light shone through the window, the bright light blinded my eyes. The voice quiet, my mind shut off, all wires cut. My soul escaped, I fell into blackness, a blackness so deep, a void so wide. Gone, I wanted to die, I did not have enough energy to die. My mind left my body through my ears, it floated away above me. Gone, gone, gone into blackness. Blackness surrounded me, blackness entered my heart, everything went black.
In and out of consciousness - could have been hours, could have been years.
One morning or day or night I opened my eyes, my sister sat in a chair beside the window. She was looking at me, asked if I recognized her, I said, “Of course.” She moved her chair closer, the chair legs scratched along the floor. Before the darkness, I never recognized her features: the hair perfectly pulled back, the arc of her eyebrows. When she settled back in the chair, she smiled a warm smile, there was something familiar and comforting in her smile. She spoke for a long time.
“I am sorry for all of this,” she said. “Maybe at some point, you will recognize it as a necessity to save yourself from yourself? Maybe you will be eternally upset with me? I don’t know, doesn’t really matter to me. What does matter is you know I did this because I love you. They told me not to say much, to listen if you had something to say, to agree to be comforting and supportive. That all goes without saying, but what I will not do is talk down to you, talk to you as though you are a child unaware of what is happening to you. I regard this as pointless and condescending.
“You are a person, a grown up, someone that is ill, but someone that needs to learn who they are again. To be acquainted with the individual you have been separated from and this can only be accomplished by talking to you like you are my brother and understanding that any words that come from my mouth are out of love whether you want to hear them or not.
“You are a brave person, braver than I am. For a long time, I ignored your problems, figured they would go away, convinced myself it was because our father was an asshole and our mother was a lost soul. That perhaps you believed you were like them, that you needed to act out in ways that complemented their behaviour in order for you to have a better understanding of your life. I will tell you the truth. I know this is not the best time to have this conversation, that we had many other opportunities, but I don’t want to waste anymore time.
"Your father was a fool. He had a beautiful wife, he had two wonderful children and he threw it all away. He drank and was violent and he disappeared out of our lives. I will tell you about your mother. She was a sad soul, unable to cope, she suffered her whole life in silence. First through an overbearing father, one that shunned her existence, then through a husband that cheated, lied, stole, but worst of all, held her captive in her life. Held her captive in a box, a kind of glass box where she only knew she was alive by the fog left on the glass by her breath. She loved you, she loved me. The official report was her car flipped off the road and she died an accidental death. But you know and I know this was not the truth. I want to say it out loud so it becomes a truth that we acknowledge, or at least consider. Maybe if we agree to it together, wherever she is, she will rest a little easier to know that we know the mystery is gone and we understand. And we remember the truth. What do you think about that?”
My head nodded, I had tears in my eyes, I let them fall.
“You became my responsibility,” my sister continued. “I lied and bribed certain people so we could be left alone. The world was going to stop moving on its axis before you and I were separated. I realize now I made a mistake, but people make mistakes, that is in our DNA, especially ours. It is inevitable, please do not think I forgive myself, please do not think I am shifting blame to other people or other circumstances. I firmly blame myself. We will both make mistakes in the future, maybe I am making one right now? I have always tried to make the right decision for both of us.
“I was not around, I was working too much, trying to help us get by. I wanted, was determined for us to thrive, for us to prosper in all the ways our full family could not. I wanted to prove that we were survivors. I understand now that this was more for me than for both of us. I regret that, I do not think regretting is bad, it is just a way to not repeat certain mistakes. In a way, all that work paid off. I never told you any of this, never thought you needed to know.
“I started at that pizzeria, I met some people. That damn oven, my own life disappearing one drop of sweat at a time. Muscling my way into other places, I met some other people. They liked me, I cannot say I liked them. Impressions were made, I started working, I am still working. I am making money, more than enough money to take care of both of us for the rest of our lives. I hope you understand, I don’t want to go any further on that at the moment. I also understand that money is not what will make you better. It can make you more comfortable, but it is you and me that will help you get better. I admire you. I am sorry. I would have crumbled a long time ago under the pressure you have been under. I have been learning about your illness. It is not a physical ailment, it is not something you can take medicine for and it will automatically heal. I am afraid for you. This is very serious, but you will get better because I know you. Sometimes you might not be recognizable but deep down inside there is still the part that is you, that wants to get out, that wants to be free. I had you arrested. I went behind your back, went through the proper channels, researched what my options were for you. I want you to understand that I am not dumping you here for someone else to solve the problem. I am here for whatever you need. Please nod your head if you understand this but only if you truly understand this.”
My head nodded. I wanted her to stop talking, but didn’t want her to stop talking.
“When a person becomes mentally ill,” my sister continued. “They may become a danger to themselves or to others, so you can file papers with a special court where they determine whether you should be brought into the hospital and through what means. There was a hearing where we discussed your case with a judge. The only way to get you here would be through an escort, which meant I had to get a court order for your arrest. The judge agreed, the papers were signed, the deal was sealed, the date had been arranged. I want to tell you how difficult this was for me. I am not telling you so you will have sympathy for me. This was out of love, I did this because you are all I have. I did this because I knew something was very wrong with you, but I don’t know about such things. I needed help and I only wanted the best for you, to do things in the proper way in order to minimize my mistakes.
“I knew you were taking drugs, I thought you were just experimenting. Don’t ask me how, I just did. But your behaviour, I did not understand. You talked to yourself, talked to other people. Loudly, softly, yelling sometimes. Things were out of control, I was not around for you, I was not there for you. I know what I said earlier about regrets but I deeply regret this.
“The day was scheduled for the police to arrive. This happened to coincide with your attempt at suicide. When I walked into that bathroom, saw the blood, the breath left my lungs, my mind went blank. I thought you were dead. I tried to imagine my life without you, all I saw was a blackness. There is no me without you. My reasons for living did not seem to run parallel with this image. I could not comprehend this concept. I would trade my life to reverse our roles. You were still breathing, you were still here. The blank area in my brain filled up with images of you, I almost suffocated as my mistakes and my ignorance of the situation over the past few years flooded my system. But you were still alive. We realized it was not a bad cut, you just passed out. We put you on the floor, you felt like a rag doll, the life was being sucked out of you.
“Somehow I was determined to help you find yourself. The police took you away. I followed them in my car - that was the longest drive of my life. I wanted to take you away from all of this. Arguing with myself, I wondered if I should join you in the hospital, pull up a bed right next to you, but I knew that this was the right decision. We sat in that office, I must admit I was going to lose my shit. I tried to keep myself calm, in my line of work, my calmness has been my biggest asset. They pulled you away, I followed them out into the hallway. They pulled you away from me. I stood there unmoving way after you had disappeared from the hallway. I couldn’t move, didn’t know what to do except that I wanted to crack the heads of those orderlies. My work turned into someone that gets what they want. I wanted to hurt them, but I stopped myself. The only thing that has kept me going is thinking of you. I sat at home, miserable, unable to keep a thought in my head, wondering if you were alright.
“Then yesterday a thought popped into my head, it just sat itself down, erased all the other thoughts. The thought was that you are a strong person. It started small, that thought, but it grew, it grew fast, took over, made me strong. Your strength reached from this bed over to our house, it said to go see you. Even though they told me to stay away for a while, the strength told me I needed to explain some things to you, no matter what state you were in. It told me that you have been strong for the both of us, that it is you that has been struggling all these years alone with no one listening, no one realizing what was happening. That you had lived for so long with all these things in your head, but you kept going, kept fighting, scrapping it out with yourself. You were not going to give up, you were fighting for something. I realized you were fighting for something that most people have no concept of - you were fighting for yourself, for your mind, your sanity, you were doing a balancing act to find yourself. You needed to find the core of who you were in order to heal yourself, even though you probably did not know you were sick.
“I am here to tell you that you are not alone, that I love you no matter what has happened, no matter what has been said, no matter what will happen. I want you to know that you are loved, that we are brother and sister, the same blood flows in our veins, we are together in this and I am nothing without you. I have been reading about what you have seen, what is going on in your head. You must feel very alone, but I want you to try and understand - maybe you will not understand this right now but soon come to understand - that I stand beside you. Together we are strong, that there hidden inside of you is the strength to change, to grab hold of yourself, to move forward, to heal yourself. I know the strength is inside you, I can see it, I just hope you can see it as well.
“That is enough for now, some of these things I say are difficult. I hope you are taking this all in, that you are feeling the strength inside as I feel it. I will leave now, you need more sleep, so sleep, close your eyes, remember my voice, remember it is here for you, it means you no harm, only help, only support, only to aid in you making yourself better. Good night, my brother. I love you with all my heart. With all my heart.”