THE GRAY NOTHING SCAR
‘Gray’ he says, leaning forward in his chair to study my face.
‘Gray what?’ I don’t know what he’s talking about, I don’t know my own name these days though, so I’m not sure it counts.
The windows in my cell are frosted over, as though they think the sight of the gray sky is going to trigger a set-back. I’ve heard the word trigger so many times it doesn’t sound like a word anymore.
There was a trigger, on the gun. The gun was gray, gun-metal gray, as if a colour swatch in a paint store.
He clicks his pen, the deadening sound ricochets inside my skull. Triggers, they’re never what you expect.
I hug my knees, resting my chin on my cold hands. They’re veiny and bony and they don’t feel like my own. I can smell the ragged, dry cotton and the antiseptic chlorination of the hospital. It does not fade, but stubbornly retains its sharp bite.
‘You can talk to me’ says the doctor, always with the talking and the charts and the evaluations, ‘this is a safe space.’
A noise escapes my lips, not a giggle but a choking, hysterical, eye streaming chest twitching laugh.
Safe place, do they even exist? I may not know up from down, I may not remember how my own face looks, but I know this to be utter bull shit. As in, a bull tracking shit on its hooves as it trashes the china shop, the offensive stench outweighing the destruction.
I have one iota of truth to hold onto and it is simple. Safety only exists in death.
I said that aloud.
‘Can you explain that statement to me?’
If I could remember what my own face looked like, it would have an incredulous expression painted on it.
‘That needs explaining to you?’
‘You’re a doctor. You know that our bodies are designed to break down, that they are literally capable of destroying themselves. I could have cancer right now. I could suffer a brain aneurism at any second, not to mention the way our minds can malfunction, do I need to go on?’
‘You’re very vocal when you want to be,’
‘I don’t know, am I? You know about as much as I do, probably more.’
‘Are you able to tell me your name yet?’
‘Can you tell me what you mean when you talked about your Gray Nothing scar?’
‘I don’t know, maybe I meant something to do with existential despair, the grey nothing, the void of life.’
‘Do you remember why you’re here?’
‘I’m sure my chart tells you the answer to that,’
‘You’re dodging the question,’
‘If you’re asking whether I remember the gun and the bodies and all of the blood, then yes, yes I do.’
‘You remember receiving the head wound?’
‘Yes, there was…a surgery?’
‘Yes and you came out the anaesthetic saying it would be your Gray Nothing’s scar,’ I did? I run my hands across my scalp, feeling where hair gives way to bandages.
He looks down at his watch, ‘I need to go,’
Bile rises in my throat in spite of myself, ‘don’t go-‘my body begins to tremble, my faceless face pleading, ‘just tell me my name,’
‘No, you need to remember for yourself,’
‘Please, just a name, my name, I need to know,’
His eyes ice over, ‘I’ll give you a name. Grayson Nothing.’
‘I don’t –‘
He tucks his clipboard under his arm, ‘give me something on Grayson Nothing and the rest of this can be negotiated,’
I try to leap forward on my numb feet, the pain lances through my skull before the restraints stop me.
‘Tomorrow,’ he says, ‘tomorrow you’ll remember something.’
He unlatches the door that opens onto the sterile corridor. A snarl erupts, a sound I never expected I would make, and I lurch forward again, biting through the pain. The door slams in my face and I can see my reflection in the frosting. A blob of pale skin and straggly hair and no definable features, the light outside flickers and fades and I’m gone.
It was past two in the morning and Evan Simpson was sitting at a desk reviewing his case. He had tracked down Haley Mitchells in the emergency department three days earlier amid the victims of a mass shooting. The police needed information only she was able to give. He needed information only she could give. He’d believed she was faking her amnesia until she’d asked what colour her eyes were. He looked into her washed out blue eyes and told her brown and she didn’t flinch, she’d nodded and settled back into the corner of the mattress.
Evan’s pager lit up, electric blue and vibrating on the desk, he jerked back in surprise, the hospital for disturbed youth still gave him the creeps. A siren rang out overhead, and he looked at the message on the pager, 911, Haley Mitchells.
Two floors above Evan ran down the corridor to room two-oh-one. A gurney was stationed outside, a team of nurses beating on the chest of the small woman. Her wrist dangled down, the restraints gone. The restraints were around her neck and her eyes bulged.
The nurse pulled back and checked his watch, shaking his head. Evan strode forwards and grabbed the man by the front of his scrubs, slamming him into the wall. ‘Did she say anything to you before she died?’ The man looked up at him, mouth agape, eyes darting wildly, Evan slammed his hand against the wall, ‘god damn it did she say anything?’
‘Yes,’ said a feminine voice behind him, he spun around, his grip still on the cotton shirt front, ‘what did she say?’ ‘She said she knew,’ ‘knew what?’ ‘About something called Gray Nothing.’
Evan let go of the nurse and took a step back, ‘what does that mean?’ the woman asked, ‘it means none of you can do your god damned jobs properly.’ He turned walked down the corridor without a backwards glance at the dead woman on the gurney.