The Hospital Room
At 12:19 a.m. inside room 873 in the west wing of Mountain Ridge Methodist Hospital lay Arlon. Not in any serious condition physically. Just a large bandage on his left arm. His mother and father were sitting on poorly cushioned chairs in opposite corners of the room. They could barely even look at each other, let alone sit next to each other, even in a time like this. More on their quarrel later. Arturo, Arlon’s father was very tired, and his eyes were red and puffy, for he had been crying more or less non stop for the past four hours. Juliette, his mother was on her phone, oddly enough. She also had been having a rough night, but not nearly as bad as the two men in her life. But this is about Arlon. A tall man named Dr. Murphy had just put nineteen stitches into his left forearm, about two inches below his elbow. The cut was from his own doing. To his left stood a male nurse, with bushy eyebrows and a rather large nose.
At 12:21 a.m. the nurse left and a man in a green polo shirt walked in. He didn’t seem like a doctor at first. Just a man. He wasn’t wearing a lab coat, but he did have a Mountain Ridge lanyard on. He was of average height and build. He had a grey beard that seemed slightly unkempt, and he had a significant bald spot. He also wore glasses and was holding a clipboard with some papers in it.
“Mr. Montoya, how are we feeling?” said the man.
“Fine,” replied the outwardly sullen twenty-one year old.
“My name is Dr. Hayes.”
So he is a doctor.
“I am one of the Psychologists that work here at Mountain Ridge,” he went on.
“Am I being admitted?” asked Arlon before Dr. Hayes could finish.
“Let’s not think about that right now Mr. Montoya, I’m just here to talk to you right now and maybe ask some questions if that’s okay.”
“Yeah. That’s fine,” replied Arlon.
“May I call you Arlon?”
“Am I pronouncing it correctly? Ar-lun?” asked Dr. Hayes.
“Perfect. Interesting name. I like it. Where did your parents get it?” asked Dr. Hayes.
“It’s my father’s name,” said Juliette, rather brazenly.
“That’s lovely,” replied Dr. Hayes. He went on. “Mr. and Mrs. Montoya, do you mind if I talk to Arlon alone for a few minutes? There are some chairs down the hall. I hope that’s okay.”
“Yes of course,” replied Arturo. Presently he got up from his chair and started walking towards the already opened door.
“Is that completely necessary?” asked Juliette.
“It won’t be long, I promise,” replied Dr. Hayes, with a soft smile showing through his scraggly beard. After a long and noticeable sigh Juliette got up, gave Arlon a kiss on his forehead and ran her fingers over his buzzed head. Arlon closed his eyes during this but didn’t seem to enjoy it. He looked relieved when he opened his eyes and his mother’s back was facing him.
“Will you come get us as soon as possible?” asked Julliete.
“Yes of course.”
At 12:25 a.m. Dr. Hayes closed the door, and turned to face Arlon, who had barely moved since the wrapping had been put over his stitches twenty minus prior. The two made brief eye contact. Dr. Hayes had a hopeful yet worried look on his face. He was gripping his clipboard tightly with both of his hands as he pondered how to talk to Arlon. His was a special case and he knew it. Arlon lay there completely void of emotion. His face was a completely blank slate, almost like a canvas before the first brush stroke. Usually one would affiliate an utter straight face as sadness or anger, but this wasn’t the case. Arlon didn’t look sad. He didn’t look angry. He certainly didn’t look happy. Just truly emotionless. If anything he looked slightly tired, but only slightly.
“I’m glad I got to talk to you privately Arlon,” Dr Hayes started. He sat down in the chair Arturo was previously sitting in and continued. “Do you know why I might be here to talk to you tonight?”
“Cus I cut myself right?” replied Arlon.
“Well, not just that. I’m here to find out the ‘why,’ and I also wanna find out how you’re feeling.” said Dr. Hayes.
“So… how are you feeling?” asked Dr. Hayes
The sarcasm was felt four rooms over.
“Ok….” Dr. Hayes sheepishly said, looking down.
“Look I just wanna go home. I got my stitches. I’m good to go. Right?” asked Arlon.
“Arlon I’m sorry but I’m afraid you won’t be going home tonight,” replied Dr. Hayes.
“So I am getting admitted.”
“We’ll get into those details later. I just want to know what happened. What made you wanna do to yourself what you did?” asked Dr. Hayes
“Where am I going? Horizon? North Chapel?” asked Arlon, completely ignoring the question posed by the Doctor.
“Arlon, if you tell me what happened then we will get to the logistics of everything later. Please?”
“I never wanted to kill myself,” said Arlon, curtly.
“Ok. So what happened?”
“They were fighting again. It was a long night. And I just… I don’t know.”
“What exactly were they fighting about?” asked Dr. Hayes.
“Me. As usual.”
“Well… what about you?” asked Dr. Hayes.
“Mom thinks I’m throwing my life away because I have a boyfriend. She thinks that all I’m doing at school is drugs and partying with Jared. I don’t know.”
“And your dad?” asked Dr. Hayes.
“A saint if you ask me. He’s always understood me. Loved me. My mom doesn’t.”
“I’m glad you have a good relationship with your dad, Arlon. That’s very good for you going forward.”
“So how bad did the fight get?”
“My mom was trying to tell me I had to move back home and go to community college because I was acting up too much,” Arlon started. “My dad kept telling her that since he was the one paying for my tuition, he had the final say. And he wants me to stay up at JSU. He thinks it’s good for me. But they just kept screaming at each other. And my mom was screaming at me a lot too. It was a lot, I don’t know.”
“What made you want to cut yourself?” asked Dr. Hayes.
“I don’t know… I just always do it when I get really sad. Like tonight.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve always done it. For years. And tonight I guess I was more upset than I realized because I cut way too deep.”
The look on Dr. Hayes’ face was that of perturbed wonder. He wrote some things down on the papers that were attached to the clipboard he was holding.
“When did you start?” asked Dr. Hayes.
“I was about ten or eleven.”
“Yeah,” replied Arlon. He lay there still with a blank look on his face. He had shifted his body a bit. It seemed as if the hospital bed was becoming uncomfortable.
“What made you start?” asked Dr. Hayes.
“I don’t know. It was around the end of sixth grade when I started to feel different. Then it got really bad in seventh.”
“I don’t really know. I was just sad all of the time. I remember crying almost every night, and crying in class. Like I vividly remember sitting in the back of English class, texting my dad all the time about how much I wanted to kill myself, and how sad I was. He didn’t know how to react.”
“You were suicidal in the seventh grade?” asked Dr. Monroe with an increasingly worried look on his face.
“Did you ever actually try to?”
“No. But that’s when I started cutting myself. It started out as just a little, but then I started doing it a lot.”
“How much is a lot?” asked Dr. Hayes.
“Everyday. Usually after school before my parents got home from work.”
“Do you still do it today?”
“And how old are you now?”
“That’s a very long time to be self-harming.”
“It’s addicting. I just can’t stop. It brings me comfort.”
“Comfort. Comfort how?”
“It just makes me feel like I’m in control,” Arlon started. “For my whole life I’ve felt like I couldn’t control my emotions or how I felt. And I always found myself crying and breaking down so I had to find a coping mechanism. I don’t know how but it calmed me down. It never hurt. For some reason making my physical pain match my emotional pain made me feel better.”
“It never hurt? What do you mean?” asked the now astonished Doctor.
“That’s what I mean,” replied Arlon, bluntly.
“Can you please explain?”
“I don’t know. It just doesn’t hurt.”
“Surely at some point you’ve hurt yourself” said the doctor.
“Well, yeah. Physically. But I never felt the pain mentally. I’d just look down at my bleeding arm and feel a calmness rush through my body. The sensation is addicting.”
“What about tonight? Did it hurt?” asked Dr. Hayes.
“The only thing that kinda hurt was the needle for the numbing they did before my stitches. But cutting myself didn’t hurt. Not at all.”
“Arlon I’ve never heard anyone say that before” said Dr. Hayes with wide eyes.
“I guess everyone else has been lying to you,” said Arlon in a monotone voice. “People only ever do it because it feels good.”
“Arlon we need to find a way for you to stop this. You hurt yourself pretty bad tonight.”
“No we don’t.”
“I don’t need to find a way to stop this. I’m fine.”
“You do need to stop Arlon. This isn’t healthy,” said Dr. Hayes.
“I don’t care. It brings me comfort. My life has been nothing but uncomfortable and cutting myself has somehow given me a sense of stability. It has given me something that countless therapists, hospitals and medicines haven’t.”
“There are other ways son,” said Dr. Hayes. His voice was now cracking a bit.
“This has kept me alive though,” replied Arlon.
“But it could kill you. Don’t you know that?”
“Everyone does something that could kill them. Whether it be drinking, smoking, driving fast, whatever it is. Everyone does something.”
“But not everyone self-harms, Arlon,” said Dr. Hayes.
“I’m different,” said Arlon. “I’ve been sad for a very long time and this is how I cope. It is what it is. I’m probably gonna do it for the rest of my life. And if I just wear long sleeves no one will know. And if no one knows then it’s okay.”
“But your family knows. Doesn’t that mean something?” asked Dr. Hayes.
“The fact that I’m alive means enough. And it’s easier since they never see it. And I honestly don’t care that they know. Like I said, I’m alive.”
“Yes, you are alive,” said Dr. Hayes.
The two sat there in silence for about a minute as Dr. Hayes wrote copious notes down on the papers that were attached to the clipboard he was holding. Arlon lay there looking up at the ceiling, twiddling his thumbs. At this point he almost looked bored. Dr. Hayes finished writing down his thoughts on the matter and looked up at Arlon. He gave him the classic ‘everything’s gonna be alright’ look and Arlon matched it with yet another blank stare.
At 12:34 a.m. Dr. Hayes got up from his chair and finished jotting down some last few notes. He then looked up from the papers that were attached to the clipboard he was holding and glanced at Arlon, who was looking the other way. Dr. Hayes looked down at his watch.
“Thank you for talking to me, Arlon. I really appreciate your honesty.”
“Yeah,” replied Arlon.
“We’re gonna get you the help you need okay?” said Dr. Hayes, hopefully.
“Yeah,” replied Arlon, again.
“I’m gonna go get your parents and bring them back in here. Then we’re gonna go talk about what to do next. Okay?”
At 12:39 a.m. Dr. Hayes walked back into the room with Arturo and Juliette. It was evident that they had spoken briefly in the hall. The group weren’t in the room long as Dr. Hayes told Arlon he could change back into his clothes and get ready to go. He also informed Arlon that he was being involuntarily admitted to North Chapel Psychiatric Hospital, news that Arlon expected. It still greatly upset Arlon, because for the first time in almost an hour he showed actual emotion. Arlon pleaded that he didn’t have to go, and that he wasn’t at suicide risk. But it didn’t matter. Arturo and Juliette agreed with Dr. Hayes that it was needed, even though Dr. Hayes didn’t need their blessing to admit their son. And that’s that, really. The group gathered their things and started to walk out of the room. It’s very sad. A boy addicted to self-harm. I wondered about his body, and what it looked like after over ten years of cutting into it. All I remember about that moment was how badly I wish he could find a way to stop. The group walked out of the room and left for North Chapel. I wish I could help Arlon. I really do. But I’m just the clock that hangs above the door in room 873 of the west wing of Mountain Ridge Methodist Hospital.