"We should try and write as our dreams teach us;
shamelessly, fearlessly, and by facing what is inside every
human being — sheer violence, disgust, terror, shit,
— Hélène Cixous
Amber curls her fingers into her palm, one for each year she's lost in here — thumb, pinkie, ring finger. Since she's counting losses, she tucks in her middle finger for Rocket, killed by the cook, and all that's left is Sweet Pea, who's far away now and isn't looking back. There isn't a place for Baby Doll, the small blond white girl without a name. She didn't run; she stayed, but she isn't all there anymore. Not the way Amber and Blondie are.
"Hey, Amber?" Blondie whispers when Amber is counting again, using her fingers to tick off time.
Amber rolls onto her side and scoots closer to the left side of the bed, where the bed spring pokes into her ribs, twists up and up and digs in deep. But it's the only way she can hear Blondie, who's whispering so softly, being so careful even though Blue is gone now.
Blue is gone.
Amber lets the thought spin in her head sometimes, lets it loop like a favorite song.
"Yeah?" she whispers back, tucking her arm under her pillow.
"Do you … ?"
Blondie doesn't finish. She never does. And Amber never gets a chance to say I do.
Blondie likes to play with Amber's hair, absently curling it around her finger. Amber's hair is too straight to stay that way, though. The strands drop flat, hang slick like they don't know how to be anything else.
Dr. Gorski is asking the girls questions. Dr. Gorski is playing another song. They're not allowed to dance.
"This is not about the showing. Tell me. Tell me your story."
Amber can close her eyes and remember the steps — map, fire, knife, key — each word a note, a beat, swirling and swirling in her head.
Then she opens her eyes and sees Baby Doll, and there's nothing left to tell.
"You are free now," Dr. Gorski tells them, cupping their cheeks, her smile kind. "You have all the tools you need."
Amber can't say good-bye to Baby Doll, but she tries, kneeling at her feet and staring up into her blank eyes.
"Where am I going to go?" Amber whispers.
She thinks that Baby Doll smiles, but Dr. Gorski has told the girls before that it's only a muscle spasm. It's not real.
But Amber needs to believe in something.
They think they're going somewhere.
Amber and Blondie are stuck halfway between the institution and halfway between the rest of the world, stuck like whatever is in the blender that's stopped the blades from spinning.
"We can get out of here," Baby Doll had said. "We just have to try."
They'd been too scared to try before, but those were the words that had rung in Amber's ears when she'd reached for the knife, crouched slow and quiet and stretched her fingers until what had been a dream—
Amber's hand is jerked back and away from the blender. It happens like a recurring dream. The drops of blood on the counter are just as bright as they were on Rocket's clothes.
"Do you think Baby Doll was right? Do you think we'll ever get out of here?"
Amber holds her breath waiting for Blondie to ask her inevitable, "Do you … ?"
I do, Amber thinks, as loudly as she can, and slides out of her bed and into Blondie's, where there aren't any lights or creaking bed springs.
There's only Blondie, quietly shivering in Amber's arms as she cries.
In her individual session, Dr. Anna Gillham asks Amber what she's trying to accomplish.
Amber shuts her eyes — map, fire, knife, key — and tells her, "The impossible."