I’m not crazy.
I know I’m not, no matter how they treat me.
The padded walls, the locked door, the restraints they use when I get taken for my weekly walks around the grim corridors, they all make it look like I’m some kind of serial killer or something worse.
I’m sure I’m as sane as the next person, as long as the next person isn’t the person next door, because they probably are crazy. Or maybe they’re as sane as I am, but closed away in here with no rhyme or reason why.
I’m not crazy. I have to tell myself that over and over, or else I might go nuts.
I used to have a cell, a real one, with cold stone walls. They didn’t like it when I started keeping count of the days of my incarceration. They took away anything I could make a mark with, but I still keep count.
It doesn’t make any sense. I’d swear years have past, but nothing changes. My tally, the faint scratches on the window ledge, it shows hundreds, thousands, so many I can’t even keep them straight, but it doesn’t make sense. The nurses look the same, same hair, same eyes, same everything. Even the woman who keeps me here doesn’t change.
It would be easier if I had lost my mind. I wouldn’t have to make sense of nonsense.
I’ve asked why I’m here so many times it outnumbers the marks on the window ledge. I remember pounding on the door of my cell until my hands were bloody, until they dragged me to a bed and shackled me there and closed me in another dark room. They let me scream until I had no voice left.
I tried to ask reasonably as well, when they take me for my walks. I only get those if I don’t make a fuss. I’m down to just one guard now. I used to have one on each side, and the nurse with her needle behind me, in case I tried to make a break for freedom. Again.
Turns out that unless you know the way out of here, you’re like a lab rat in a maze. They know all the entrances and exits, but all the corridors look the same to me, and if you don’t know where you’re going, they’ll find you in less than no time.
You have to take what you can get. The breakouts led to solitary for weeks. Now, I behave as much as I need to just so I can see something that isn’t the same four walls, all day, every day, without even a face looking in on me. They’ve given me windows. Barred and unbreakable, but seeing daylight is worth it. I miss daylight.
The only time I can forget about this place is when I sleep.
Just lately, I’ve been dreaming more vividly. I thought I’d forgotten how. Your mind needs stimulus to trigger dreams, and four walls and a blank window are about as stimulating as watching paint dry. No, worse. Paint at least does something.
They give me something to look forward to, glimpses of a world outside.
I know it can’t be the real world, not with the castles and towers and clothes that look like something from centuries ago. But it’s a world that isn’t padded and closed and silent. The people have faces. The days have sunlight. Even the rain feels wet.
There’s a man, too.
Isn’t there always?
I’m sure Freud would have something to say about the fact that I dream of a lizard-like man who feels like he’s a prisoner as well. I see him in a cell, alone in the dark. I see him as if I were standing there in the doorway, looking at him. He’s looking at me, and there’s something there, something behind the reptilian green skin and red eyes. Why green with red eyes? God knows. He looks like any other man, if he didn’t have those features. Maybe I’m trying to look back at the origins of my problem, by defaulting to an allegory of the rise of man.
Or that could be bullshit and I just saw a really big lizard when I was a toddler. The brain is a funny thing.
Maybe I’m trying to get my repressed need for freedom out by freeing the lizard-man in my dream. I know he wants it, and I know - in the dream - I’m the one who can give it, but he refuses. It doesn’t make any sense. For one thing, I know damn straight that I don’t want to be a prisoner, and I’m damn sure my subconscious shares the sentiment.
Still, there’s something there.
Even when the cell isn’t in the dream, the lizard-man appears. I wish I could figure out what he means. All I knows is that the feeling of being trapped is there whenever he is. I don’t know how to free him, and dreams aren’t exactly the most cooperative medium to work with.
And then there was the kiss.
If I didn’t know better, I would say I was dreaming of fairytales, but I know for a fact that no handsome Prince - or scaly lizard-man for that matter - will come galloping to my rescue. For one thing, the horse wouldn’t fit into the corridors.
So. The kiss.
Maybe it’s being locked up here for so long with no human contact that made me feel it, but when I woke up after that dream, I didn’t want to read into it right away. For a moment, I’d felt happy, and in a place like this, that’s one hell of a thing. And more importantly, in the dream, it was my kiss. I was choosing to have something good out of my subconscious lizard-man, and I was happy about it.
I think it’s telling that my life now revolves around trying to make sense of what goes on in my head. They’ve told me I’m crazy so many times that I have to quantify the contents of my head to reassure myself that they’re wrong.
I know I should think more about the world outside than the world in my head, but it’s out of reach. My family never visit, maybe they don’t even know I’m in here, and I can’t even remember the face of the guy I was dating. He had dark hair, I think, but all I can really remember was that he liked to be in charge, no matter what.
I had a life and prospects once. I can remember the smiling sunshine pins I used in my office, to tack thinks to the corkboard. A cup with a blue flower that I dropped and chipped when I moved apartments. Little things stick. Random things that made an impact at the time, but now seem so irrelevant when you realise you can’t remember the colour of your mother’s eyes.
It hurts to realise that, to know that little by little, your memories will escape you. I tried to remember for the longest time, did everything I could to hold onto as much of my life out there as possible, but now, all I have is myself, my name and the dreams that are keeping me sane.
The woman who I think is my jailer made it into a dreams too, which isn’t surprising. She doesn’t speak to me, but from time to time, she looks in through my door. Those are the days when she has a cameo with lizard-man. Hello, subconscious. I see what you did there: sinister black outfit, vast over-the-top coach, surrounded by threatening, black-clad guards. You’re overegging the ‘she’s an evil bitch’ pudding a bit.
I don’t like to think of things in terms of hate, but I know I hate her. I hate the way she smiles at me - in dreams and in reality - and I hate the feeling that she knows everything about why I’m here, while I’m in the dark in every way. And I hate her for reasons I can’t even understand, reasons that make the lizard-man rage, reasons that woke me sobbing in the middle of the night.
Not that I would let her see.
Sometimes, it’s better when the people you hate have no idea about it.
Let her imagine that my incarceration has driven me crazy. Let her think that I’ve stopped speaking because my mind is broken. Let her think - and be mistaken in that thought - that she could ever break me.
I’ll sit in silence, marking the days unseen. I’ll hold the invisible hand of the lizard-man who is the only company I have anymore, and the only person who can make me smile in this hellhole. I’ll wait. I’ll watch. And she’ll never know how much she has failed to break me.
Me and my lizard-man, we’ll both be free one day.
She just doesn’t know it yet.