Lunch Break at the Psychiatric Ward

Chloe Honum

The fluorescent light is covering me like a hood of silk. It smells of sweat and medicine. The fish tank in the hallway is a risk and a gesture. A box of wonder — we are trusted not to throw ourselves against it.

Once, when I was small, my mother lay on the carpet and asked me to walk barefoot up her back. I grew very light, hovering above myself, and made the journey. I had to balance my distance from her body. When she rolled over, my feet became birds in the golden leaves of her hair.

Outside, the boy with the twisted body is leaning on his cane and smoking a cigarette. The sky, the snow, and the smoke pass gray, white, and silver around in a circle. In an hour we will go back inside the building. We’ll climb the narrow stairs, as if venturing into the attics of our lives.

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