David can't get Sydney Barrett out of his head or his dreams.
No, really, he can't. For the past four days, since the moment she walked down the stairs into the common room, she's all he's been able to think about.
On the one hand it makes perfect sense. He needed something new and she's both new and something. She's beautiful, which doesn't hurt, but she's also intriguing. She's still awake, unlike most of the drugged-out patients here, unlike even himself until she woke him up.
It makes sense that he can't get her out of his head.
On the other hand.
On the other hand, his head isn't a good place for anything. There's an awful lot of things in there and for all the drugs help to dull the noise of them to a tolerable roar, the drugs and the noise combined make it hard to think, to feel, to want. He's too busy swimming against the tide to get his feet under him.
He hasn't wanted much of anything since he tied a knot and pulled the cord around his neck. What was the point? He can't function in the real world. There's no right dosage, no right therapy to heal his sickness, to cure what ails him. He knows what he is: broken, wrong, garbage.
He knows that. He knows.
(He's not garbage; he is pretty, he is loved. He is pretty, he is loved.)
He still can't stop thinking about her.
He's approached her a few times since his disastrous failure with the Twizzlers, with mixed success. She's jumpy, wary, the way a lot of new patients are at first, but at least she's started to settle in. Like the rest of them, she doesn't have a choice so she has to adapt.
He doesn't want her to adapt to Clockworks. He doesn't want her to be lulled to sleep like everyone else. He wants to talk to her, to get to know her. He wants--
And isn't this the biggest delusion of his delusional life? He should have learned his lesson from Philly, yet here he is, wanting everything he's lost the right to have.
He wants her. Irrationally, helplessly, unsound in mind and body. He's infatuated.
He blames the dreams. He's been dreaming of her since the first night she was here, and if anyone knows anything about crazy dreams it's him, but from the first night he hasn't been able to get her out of his dreams, and they're crazy. If he told Doctor Kissinger about them, he'd say they were proof he was certifiable, if David wasn't already one hundred percent certified. Two hundred percent.
Every night, he doesn't dream of her. He dreams that he is her.
It's not the first time he's had this kind of delusion. He's had them on and off for years, even before Clockworks, but they've been especially strong in this place. He'll feel like he's chewing cafeteria food while he's playing ping-pong with Lenny through lunchtime, his mouth watering around a hamburger he isn't eating. The heat and wet of a shower will wash over him while he's sitting and reading a magazine, and someone else's hands will scrub down his body.
They're not real. No one is touching him. He's not eating anything. His body is his own, he's not sharing it with anyone else. He knows that. He knows.
She cried the first night, or at least he dreamed she cried. She was so sad and angry and wounded. Her autonomy and her dignity had been ripped away from her. She didn't want to be taken to this place. She hated it, hated everything, hated her mother for dying and leaving her alone.
He's not sure if her mother actually died. He hasn't asked her. It's not the sort of thing he can just bring up in polite conversation.
Hi, yeah, I know we've only just met and we're both insane, but I dreamed your mom died, is that true?
He doesn't think she would like him if he said that.
The second night, she was defiant, all steel and strength, her body taut with the determination to get through this and regain her freedom. He even dreamed that she thought of him, noticed him noticing her. He dreamed she liked his eyes, that she thought he's pretty cute for a guy who's lost his marbles for good. He hasn't asked her if that's true either.
Hi, yeah, I know we've only just met and we're both insane, but I dreamed you thought my eyes were startlingly blue, would you like to be my girlfriend?
The third night.
The third night.
If he had any sanity left to question, he would have questioned it. His eyes were closed but his mind was still awake, drifting gently in a Haldol haze, and he felt the sense of her filling him up again. His delusion of her: of her senses overlaying his own, of her thoughts weaving into his thoughts. His bed felt bigger because she felt smaller. Her pajamas fit differently on her than his fit on him. She slipped her hand down between her legs and--
His eyes opened, then, wide and shocked as he felt her slide her fingers inside herself. Inside him.
It wasn't real. No one was touching him. His body was his own, he wasn't sharing it with anyone else. He knew that. He knew.
He bit the back of his hand as he felt her rub her clit.
He'd had so little desire for anything for years. He didn't want to want what he couldn't have. The drugs made him too numb to care.
But her body desired. Her body wanted and ached. Her fingers were slick and every rub of her clit sent shocks of pleasure through both of them.
He couldn't hold back. He reached down his own pajamas and grabbed himself. His cock was already hard for her, with her, because of her.
He had to be quiet. He would actually, literally die with embarrassment if the orderlies stormed in because they thought he was having another nightmare.
His delusion of her didn't last long, just a handful of minutes. But they were the most excruciatingly amazing minutes of his entire life. She touched herself and he felt her body against his hands. He touched himself and thought she felt his body against her hands. The double sensation of it felt almost like a feedback loop, like she was experiencing what he was experiencing what she was experiencing. She thought of him and his eyes and he thought of her and her eyes and somehow he knew she knew all of it.
When she came, the tension and release clenching through her body, he came too, and her afterglow flowed through him like a drug. When the sensation of her faded, he cleaned up with a tissue and lay back down, shaken, captivated.
He'd never had that happen before. It put the phantom hamburgers to shame.
It's the fourth day, now, and they're sitting across from each other at group session. She keeps glancing at him and then away, and it's funny because he's been doing the same thing. He doesn't know why she would feel shy when their mutual masturbation session was only his delusion, but apparently it's also his delusion that she shared the experience.
It's all making his head hurt, but she's the one who suddenly gets up and leaves the session.
"Oh," he says, watching her go. He seems to do that a lot, watch her walk away from him. He wishes she would walk towards him instead.
Should he go after her? He's approached her every day and he thought-- He doesn't know what he thought. He doesn't know what's real. She probably doesn't want him around.
Doctor Kissinger grumbles but doesn't go after her. It's a locked ward, she can't go far. "Troubled girl," Kissinger says, without moving his lips.
David blinks at him.
Kissinger turns to him, noticing his attention has drifted back. "David, would you like to say something?"
"Um." David glances around the group. He briefly entertains the idea of telling them about his dreams, but no. No, he is not going to do that. He shakes his head, keeps his eyes pointed down and away.
"Very well," Kissinger says, and turns his attention to another patient.
After the group session ends, it's time for his next dose. Ten milligrams of Haldol knocks him down like it's a bowling ball and he's the pins, sending his entire existence into the pit. When the world comes back, he's sitting in a wheelchair in the common room. They left him next to Lenny, like they usually do. She's lost in her music, tapping on her headphones and lightly rocking to the beat.
He licks his lips, wetting them. Drool has crusted at the corner of his mouth and he wipes it away, feeling numb and clumsy.
Lenny notices the movement and lifts one can from her ear. "Have a good nap?"
David rubs his face, trying to clear the haze even though he knows he can't. He needs to get out of this place, but he knows he can't do that either. He can't do anything.
"Someone woke up on the wrong side of the wheelchair," Lenny says, and pulls the headphones down around her neck. "What, did they give you the brown acid?"
"It's nothing," David grumbles; it's childish and he knows it, but this place makes him feel like a child.
Lenny shrugs. "Tell me, don't tell me. I don't care." She bites into a Twizzler, chewing it aggressively. She doesn't offer him one, because she actually does care and it annoys her when he gets surly.
He tries to clear his head, or least stop it from stewing. "I had a weird dream last night," he admits.
She leans forward and offers him a Twizzler, like it's his reward for acting as her entertainment. He takes it, but just holds on to it. He rubs his thumb along the ridges.
"Come on," she prods, when he doesn't continue. "Gimme the deets."
He's not sure how much he's ready to share, but if he has to tell someone, he'd rather tell Lenny than Kissinger. "It was about her."
There's only one 'her' that they've been talking about all week. Lenny waggles her eyebrows. David is grateful that his blood is too sluggish to reach his cheeks.
"It wasn't like that," he protests, even though it was exactly like that. "I keep... I don't know. Dreaming I'm her. It's weird."
"It's all weird," Lenny says, like that's supposed to make him feel better. Then: "You liiiiike her."
"Shut up," he says, but can't stop his mouth from smiling.
Lenny chews her Twizzler triumphantly. "You gonna ask her out?"
His smile fades. "I don't know."
"She likes you, dude, I can tell. I know when a girl has it hot." She makes a crude gesture with her tongue. "You gotta move in fast before someone else does."
David looks around the common room and snorts. "Who's my competition?"
"Me," Lenny grins. "Hey, we don't know which way she swings. Could be both ways, I don't mind sharing. We can both get a slice of that cherry pie."
David gives an outraged laugh at that. He takes a bite of the Twizzler, chews it. "If she likes me, why does she keep running away from me?"
Lenny leans back. "I dunno, son. She's shy? Fresh meat and all that. You gotta coax that filly in with some sugar."
"Maybe." He already tried offering her Twizzlers. Twice, after the first attempt went so badly. So not actual sugar.
Maybe he should just keep his distance for a few days. Maybe he should give up on the whole idea. It's fucked up, he knows that, the mere idea of falling in love in a mental hospital. It's absurd, pointless. There's a simple answer to his question: she runs away because she doesn't want to be anywhere near him.
He doesn't blame her for that. For a lot of his life, he hasn't wanted to be anywhere near himself either.
That night, he doesn't dream he's Sydney Barrett, though he wishes that he had.
It's a nightmare, a bad one. He can't remember any of it, not really, just fragments and fear: wet noises in the darkness, overwhelming terror like there's a monster just behind him, huge fangs dripping with drool as its mouth opens wide around his head and--
He gasps awake, disoriented, and has a fraction of a second to notice that his eyes are at the same level as the top of the door before he falls. The bed crashes apart with a huge racket; he bounces off the mattress and lands on his face on the floor.
Before he can even figure out what just happened, the orderlies are rushing in, and there's a nurse with a needle, and it doesn't matter how calmly he protests that he was just having a bad dream, that violence and needles are not necessary. They drag him over to the wall, pin him down, a nurse jabs him in the neck, and he's gone.
They put him under close observation to make sure he won't do it again, even though he has no idea what he did. The bed crashed to the floor, which means it wasn't on the floor to begin with, which means it was floating. That can't be anything but another delusion (he knows that, he knows) but if it only happened in his own mind, why did the orderlies rush in and drug him?
It felt real, but he doesn't know what's real. It happens, sometimes: his delusions leaking out into the real world. Maybe he's having delusions about his delusions. Maybe he's not really here at all. Maybe he's still hanging from the extension cord in his old apartment. It's as good a theory as any.
Lying in his temporary bed, sedated and sequestered away from the others, an orderly sitting across the room and watching him, David thinks he's ruined everything. Again.
That night he dreams he's Sydney Barrett. He dreams that everyone in Clockworks was talking to her all day about his fit and how they took him away in the dead of night, and she knows now that he hears things and sees things and breaks things. That even though he's earned his yellow stripes, he's still dangerous, still a threat to the nurses and orderlies.
The dream should be another nightmare. It should snuff out any hope that she might ever want to speak to him again. But in the dream, she's not afraid. She's curious, intrigued. But most of all, she's worried for him. She wants him to come back. She misses him.
It doesn't matter. The whole thing is all in his head. In reality they've barely spoken. He's tried to talk to her, tried small talk and small gifts and a friendly smile, but she's never really responded to any of it. His delusional dreams have been confusing him, fooling him into thinking there was ever anything more between them than the polite conversation of prisoners.
He won't approach her again. It's bad enough that they're both trapped in this place. He doesn't have to make her life even worse by bothering her.
After they release him from the observation area, it's time for another group session, and Kissinger won't let him get away with not talking about what happened.
David would have been fine with a private session, but not a public one. It's humiliating and it feels like a punishment. It probably is one. At his last private session, Kissinger said it was important for David to focus on getting better so he could go home one day, but then without moving his lips, he said: "Poor man, you'll never go home."
He didn't have to rub it in. David knows he's never going home, he knows, no matter what empty promises Amy makes. He knows. It was never going to be just a few weeks until he got better, because he's never getting better.
"How does that make you feel?" Kissinger asks, aloud, in front of the whole group.
It makes him feel like he's broken. Like he's wrong and he'll never be right. Like he's garbage that's been thrown out.
"I mean, it's just-- It's fine," David lies. "Like, whatever. Because, I mean, look at me. I-- I know what I am."
"And what's that?" Kissinger asks, like he doesn't know the answer, like he's not thinking it already. Like he hasn't written it down on his notepad a hundred times.
David was violent, apparently, so they have to talk about his violence. They have to go over it again and again and again, not because it will make him better but because it hurts him. He did something wrong so he has to be punished. He hates this place.
"Well, you know. What happened. What I-- what I did to, uh, to Doctor Poole."
He doesn't remember hurting Doctor Poole. He accepts that he did. He woke up from a drug-addled daze with blood on his hands and bits of tape in his teeth, and his pockets were full of things from Doctor Poole's office. Of course it was him. But no matter how many times he talks about it, he never remembers anything more.
"You went off your medications," says Kissinger.
"But that's not--"
Kissinger snaps his fingers, annoyed that Lenny isn't paying attention. She's lost in her music again, rocking and slapping her headphones. But she only put them on when David had to talk.
He's not saying anything she doesn't already know, but he appreciates the gesture.
David looks to Kissinger again, then notices someone walking in the hall behind him. It's Sydney Barrett.
David sits up straight, clears his throat. She's coming this way. Is she supposed to be here, in this group session? Should he leave? He can't leave.
"This--" David begins, tries again, unable to look away from her approach. "You know, I-- I saw things."
She zips up her collar as she enters the circle and takes a seat.
"Delusions, you mean," Kissinger continues. "We talked about that. Your brain chemistry, how your illness simulates voices, all the hallucinations you describe. The Devil with Yellow Eyes."
Kissinger turns to Sydney, not pleased by her interruption. "You have something to add?"
"No," Sydney says, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. "Please keep talking so we can all pretend that our problems are just in our heads."
David doesn't know what he expected her to say, but it wasn't that. "What does that mean?" he asks, leaning forward, confused and curious.
"It means that you're in here because somebody said you're not normal," Sydney says, speaking low, angry but controlled. "Like normal is this suit we're all supposed to-- But you know who else wasn't normal? Picasso, Einstein."
Lenny's pulled off her headphones, and she's as interested as David. "Ooh, I like her. I like you. You got what the kids these days call moxie."
"You know, just so I'm clear," David asks, challenging her because how can he not? "Are you Einstein or Picasso in this scenario?"
"Whatever." Sydney rolls her eyes. "All I'm saying is, what if your problems aren't in your head? What if they aren't even problems?"
What does that mean?
"Talk about that," Kissinger insists.
"No, I'm good."
"I read in your file that you don't like to be touched," Kissinger continues. "All animals need physical contact to feel love."
David remembers Sydney's hand between his legs, and he's very glad she's looking at Kissinger and not at him.
"You know those cartoons in, like, magazines?" Sydney says. "There's a man on an island with, like, maybe a single palm tree. People say, go to your happy place, and that's what I think about."
"Well, that's sad," David says, surprised. He thought--
"That's sad?" Sydney replies, tersely. "You're in a mental hospital. All I'm saying is that thing they tell us is crazy, how I don't want to be handled, or you see stuff and hear, whatever, voices. That's what makes you you."
What she's saying, what she means. It's crazy, he knows that, he knows, but it's the same way she felt in the dreams. And for a moment, for one wild, carefree moment, he believes in them, he believes they all happened somehow, that they were all real, and that she wants him the way he wants her.
Hi, yeah, I know we've only just met and we're both insane, but I dreamed I was you and we were falling in love. "Do you want to be my girlfriend?"
She doesn't respond for what seems like an eternity. Then she says: "Okay."
He can't believe it. Did he actually say that aloud? Did she? Her lips were moving, so... probably?
"But don't touch me," she adds, shaking her head to show how much she means it.
"Okay," David agrees, astonished.
"Okay." She stands up. "Find me at dinner." And then she's gone.
Lenny gets up and leans close to his ear. "Why are the hot ones always so crazy?" she whispers.
David laughs, and now he's floating, really floating. He never wants to get Sydney Barrett out of his head or his dreams for the rest of his life.
He's fallen in love in a mental hospital and it's every bit as absurd and pointless as he dreamed. Irrationally, helplessly, unsound in mind and body. He's infatuated and he doesn't care. He wants her and she wants him.
He can't wait for dinner. He hopes she likes cherry pie.