She was sat in one of the side rooms on the psychiatric ward, surrounded by members of staff. It had been a good day and she was not too busy with the Queen’s business, so there was time for a chat. This was a welcome change for Jill, for her royal excursions had been known to considerably restrict her free time. She sat upright in the armchair, her copious amounts of blue eye-shadow glittering in the natural light of the day, complemented by the thick crimson lipstick smeared around her mouth and chin, a shade of red that was just close enough to the colour of blood to appear sinister. Her clothing was equally colourful, the rainbow dress and dazzling cardigan meaning that she had covered most shades of the visible spectrum.
“Dr Mitchell!” she wailed as he entered the room.
It was Dr Muller, a psychiatrist resembling Einstein, who would likely have benefited from spending some time as a psychiatric inpatient himself.
“Goot morning, Jill” he replied in a thick German accent, carefully manufacturing each word.
Introductions and pleasantries were exchanged between team and patient, as they always were before the questions began.
Matt, one of the nurses, spoke first. “We’ve had some difficulty with Jill over the past few days and it’s bee-“
“GO ON! OFF YOU GO!” Jill cried, waving Matt out of the room with a grand flourish of her hand. Trembling with agitation, her icy gaze fixed on the man that had begun to contradict her reality.
Matt was taken aback, as were we all.
Jill’s long monotone laugh followed the outburst, a transparent and futile attempt to lighten the mood. The efforts of someone well aware that their mind was slipping away from them, of someone trapped in a decaying cerebrum. The efforts of a poor lady who was terrified to her very core.
The awkward silence lasted an eternity, before more questions were asked and what eventually followed was a series of attempts by Jill to prove that she could in fact remember aspects of her daily life.
“… but of course we visited my sister on Monday! Huhuhuhuh…”
Monday was yesterday. The visit was almost two weeks ago and, to be immensely pedantic, had not occurred on a Monday.
“… there was some change on the stove! Huhuhu…”
There had in fact been a coin on the table. Not bad. This half memory seemed to calm Jill somewhat, but she continued to look around the room wearing a sad, confused smile, laughing desperately after each time she opened her mouth. A repetitive and increasingly agitated cry for help.
“… and they take my blood pressure every two minutes! Huhuhu. And I have to take that bloody pill! Well I don’t need it if you ask me!! HUHUHUHU!!!”
The staff had been taking her blood pressure once a day if they could even manage that, and that bloody pill was amlodipine, a medication to control Jill’s blood pressure. A medication that she very much did need.
Suddenly it all became too much. The laughter could suppress her terror no longer.
“We did have another difficulty with Gill last night when-“
“WELL IT’S YOU! THEY KEEP COMING IN AND TRYING TO WATCH ME SHOWER! AND WHEN I’M ON THE TOILET!! AND THEY WON’T LEAVE, ME, ALONE!!! I CAN REMEMBER!”
What had in fact happened was that Jill had tried to shower at 4am, having previously fallen on multiple occasions. A recipe for disaster. Yet, when the nurse on duty had tried to help her back into bed she had been uncooperative to say the least.
But Jill was not done with her outburst quite yet. She reached into her handbag, producing from it a stack of scrap paper covered in illegible scrawl. She scrabbled around among this mess of disjointed words and pictures, desperately searching for her timetable. She had taken to writing everything down so that nothing would be forgotten. A last ditch effort to prove to the world that she remained herself.
She handed the paper to Dr Muller and glared at him intently, her eyes a turbulent concoction of rage and despair.
He stared expressionlessly at the dishevelled timetable of Jill’s shits. With the same distant, glazed eyes that had seen this so many times before. So many of these attempts to fabricate proof of a memory that was now a mere shadow of its former self.
The Sun had hidden behind a thick sheet of cloud and the room was barely lit by the natural light that remained. Jill gazed around the room. Our eyes met, just for an instant, and even in the dim light it was possible to make out how brown they were. Those sad, brown eyes that were looking to anyone or anything for help. The kind that seem to look through you rather than at you, as if warning of something approaching from behind.
Though it had not been ten minutes since we were introduced, I wondered if she even remembered who I was.
“I do not sink it is appropriate zat we continue ze converzation today, OK Jill?” concluded Dr Muller after some time.
And with that, Jill went back to her baffling day-to-day existence. From an outsider’s perspective it would have been easy to assume that this little chat would have ruined her morning, but if Jill had proved one thing that day it was that the whole encounter would likely be forgotten before she had shuffled five paces out the door.