Medicine Man

I remember the day I lost my mind.

The sun was out, and the day was bright. It was fucking miserable.

Through the window of my apartment, I saw people jogging, cycling, laughing in Central Park. The birds were chirping and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky.

Did I mention it was miserable?

Yeah, I remember everything about that day. Every single thing. But that’s not the worst part.

The worst part is that everyone else remembers it too. And the thing about everyone else remembering is that they don’t ever forget it. And they don’t let you forget it, either.

As if you need any more reminders.

As if you don’t relive those moments in very vivid and graphic detail. The day you crossed over to the other side.

The side where the crazies live.

I’ve always straddled that line and done a great job of staying on the sane side. Because unfortunately, everyone else in my family is sane and un-crazy. I’ve always wanted something in common with them. Other than my silver hair, that is.

I come from a family of silver-haired and green-eyed women. Also, tall.

Taylor women are tall and willowy and stunning and have been for generations. It’s our signature, actually. Not to mention fashionable and successful.

We own a boutique clothing store called Panache on Madison Avenue that caters to the old-money New Yorkers and Upper East Siders.

When I was born, my mom, my grandma, my aunt, my older cousin who was eight at the time, they all thought I’d be like them. In fact, they were so confident about my Taylor-ness that they’d already decided on a name suitable for a Taylor baby: Willow.

They shouldn’t have.

There’s nothing willowy about me. I’m not delicate or graceful or tall.

Except for the legendary silver hair, I don’t possess any of the Taylor qualities. My eyes are a startling shade of blue. I’m too short and my fashion sense is a pair of shorts, sneakers, and t-shirts with Harry Potter quotes.

But the thing that bothers me the most is that I was born with something more than blood in my veins. Something extra-terrestrial, alien, quite possibly blue-colored – hence the weird, un-Taylor color of my eyes. Something dark and shadowy, with long claw-like fingers. Something that has weighed me down all my life.

“Have you thought about it?”

“No,” I say.

“Have you thought about harming yourself in any way?”


“Are you ready to talk about what happened that night?” she asks.

I look up from where I’m playing with my short nails. They don’t let us keep long, sharp ones on the Inside.

“What’s that?” I ask, like I haven’t heard her loud and clear.

“About your attempt.”

“It wasn’t an attempt.”

“So what do you think it was?”

“An accident,” I tell her. “It was an accident.”

Josie, my therapist, gives me the look.

That look.

The look where they think I’m crazy and I’m lying, and they pity me. They think that if they poke me too much, I might explode.

I don’t like that look.

It makes me want to explode. It makes me want to snap my teeth, grow my nails to the point where my hands look like talons. It makes me want to scratch and bite and scream.

But I won’t.

That’s not me. I don’t explode. I’m a peacekeeper. I’m sweet and quiet. I keep my head down and don’t make any ripples.

I am calm. I’m cool. I’m a cucumber.

Happy thoughts.

Thoughts about… my bunny slippers that I brought from home, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that I’m reading for the thirty-sixth time, and the pigeons that I feed in the gardens when they let us outside.

Slowly, I deflate.

“Okay, then.” She nods. “It was an accident. Are you ready to talk about it?”

It being The Roof Incident.

People have been asking me this a whole lot ever since The Incident happened. My doctors back at the state hospital, my therapist, my mom. Everyone.

I’ve already told them, and they still sent me here.

On the Inside.

“If I talk about it, will you let me go? Will you recommend that I be released?” I ask.

“You know I can’t do that.”

I look at my bunny slippers. “Didn’t think so.”

“We still have a lot of ground to cover, Willow, and your contract says another four weeks. So I’m sorry.”

“Are you, really?”

“Yes, of course.”

I make a non-committal sound because I don’t believe her.

“Why? You don’t believe me?” she asks, reading me accurately.

“Not really, no.”

“Why not?”

“Because frankly… you’re not my friend. You don’t care.”

She doesn’t care that I’ve been stuck here for two weeks now and that my every move is monitored. She doesn’t care that they feed me pills twice a day and then, ask me to open my mouth and actually, show them that I’ve swallowed them.

What am I? An animal?

She doesn’t care that I have to participate in group therapy and art therapy and recreational therapy and all kinds of fucking therapy all day when I clearly don’t need to.

So yeah, nope. I’m not talking. Thank you very much.

“I care. I do care, Willow,” she says.

I lick my lips and sit up straight. “Do you have a boyfriend?”

She looks taken aback.

Well, maybe I shouldn’t have been so abrupt. But it’s a valid question.

My therapist is pretty. She’s got straight blonde hair that she keeps tied up in a no-nonsense ponytail. Her light-colored eyes are hidden behind big, black glasses and her lips are usually very lightly painted pink. That’s the only touch of make-up on her beautiful face. It doesn’t matter. She doesn’t need any.

I bet guys must lose their minds over her. Figuratively.

She twists on her couch and clears her throat. “Um, no. Not right now.”

“Why not?”

“I haven’t met anyone interesting in a while.”

“So, what do you do for sex?”

I can’t believe I said that but I’m genuinely curious. I’ve always been curious.

If I’m stuck here with a therapist, I might as well make some use of it. If she wants to talk, we can talk about interesting stuff. Stuff that I’ve always wanted to ask and never got a chance to.

I couldn’t ask my mom. She wouldn’t have liked it. I think according to her, I’m still a pre-teen who hasn’t even gotten her period and thinks kissing could make babies.

Josie laughs. “I’m sorry?”

Not gonna lie. I like that this question is making her a little uncomfortable, if her squirming is anything to go by. This is a complete win-win.

“For sex. What do you do? One-night stands? Masturbation? I’m in the masturbation camp. You know, because I’m stuck here and all.”

She smiles, adjusting her glasses. “Ah, is this your revenge strategy? I asked you questions you didn’t like and you’re trying to make me uncomfortable.”


I shrug, innocently. “I’m just making conversation. You said you cared.”

“Well, to answer your question, masturbation is keeping me happy for now, so I think I’m managing,” she says.

I jump topics. “What about my books? There’s not a single Harry Potter book in your library. You guys should do something about it. It’s a travesty.”

Ah, Harry Potter.

The source of everything good and holy in the world.

She smiles. “I’ll talk to someone about that, okay?” She folds her hands in her lap. “Now, are you ready to talk about it?”

I sigh. “Can we just move on from it already? It’s been like, two weeks.”

“Exactly, only two weeks.”

“If I keep talking about it, I’m never gonna forget it. You realize that, don’t you?” I raise my eyebrows.

Josie raises her own eyebrows. “Forgetting is not the goal. The goal is to talk about it and confront it and get help.”



I can help myself, and the first thing I need to do is forget that The Roof Incident ever happened. Talking about it and rehashing it is not going to make me feel better.

Personally, I think therapists and psychiatrists have a very twisted way of treatment.

Besides, The Incident is not going to happen again, anyway.

I sigh, tired.

So tired.

I’ve got a full day of this. When I leave here, I’ve got community group, process group, education group – all the groups – where all they ever talk about is your illness, your meds, your feelings.

And it’s not as if I can get some sleep at night, either. The meds they have put me on are sleep-stealers. I can’t sleep until the wee hours of the morning and even if I do manage to fall asleep before that, the whimpers and noises of the ward jerk me awake.

Okay, happy thoughts.

All the fucking happy thoughts.

In my most monotonous voice, I tell her, “There’s nothing to talk about. It was an accident. I was very emotional that day. I’m a very happy individual, otherwise. You know, my illness aside. So yeah. Again, for the thousandth time, it was an accident. I’m not crazy. I don’t belong here. You need to pick up your phone and call my mom. You need to tell her that I’m fine and she should come here, break the contract and take me home.”

She sighs, too. Her sigh is patient but long. “Okay. So, not today. All right. I’m not going to force you. That’s not my style. But I do want to tell you that what happened has nothing to do with the circumstances. Your life might be very happy but that has no bearing on it. It’s like an itch, Willow. It’s there. Constantly. You can ignore it but then, one day it becomes so big, so irritating, that you’ll do anything to get relief. Including scratch it.” She smiles, gently. “But then again, I don’t have to tell you that, do I? Because you already know. So I’m here when you want to talk about it.”

The itch.

Interesting description. Personally though, I like the one I came up with: Magic.

I thought it was magic. That something in my blood.

Granted, it was during the time I’d first discovered Harry Potter books and I was in a major Harry Potter phase. Well, to be honest, Harry Potter isn’t a phase, it’s a lifestyle. But still.

I thought I was born a witch and that’s why I was so different from my family. I was almost convinced that when I turned eleven, they’d come for me like they came for Harry. They’d take me to the world’s biggest school of witchcraft and wizardry, Hogwarts. I’d learn about all the spells and incantations and potions and the right way to wield a wand.

But instead of going to my dream school for magic at eleven, I ended up here at the age of eighteen: Heartstone Psychiatric Hospital.

“Can I go now?” I ask.

“Sure. See you next week.”

Because that something in my veins is not magic. It’s anything but magic.

It’s a curse and the only thing that I can do to get rid of it is to not think about it at all. And somehow get through the remaining twenty-eight days of my incarceration, so I can be Outside again and get my life back.