Bellevue is what you imagine it to be, a place with beautiful views. From the back of the ambulance the evergreens looked greener than I’d seen them in a while. Lake Washington sparkled in reflection of Mount Rainier. “How beautiful!” I exclaimed. The medics in front seemed not to notice. One had her black booted feet spread out on the dashboard.
At night I am woken by some commotion. Screams drift in from the room next to mine. I hear different voices and shuffling. Staring at the clock to make out the time I realize that it’s framed with glass. I take this in for a long time. A light flashes over my bed. I don’t pretend I’m asleep. “You’re okay?” the night nurse asks. I nod in response.
In group I learn the reason of the commotion. His name is Justin and he’s only seventeen years old. Younger than my son, I think. He says he has no friends left after his back injury which left him without hope to ever play sports again. “The voices are never good,” he says. I look around the room, taking in the solemn faces. The young therapist forces a bright smile, “things will get better.” I want to grab her by the throat, how do you know?
Harper had run up after me, sensing my distress like only a dog would. Why had her incessant licking of my tears not been enough? If I’d collected myself right then and there would she have turned out to be a better behaved dog? The Space Needle stuck out like it always did between orange cranes and the grey Seattle high rise buildings. I must’ve looked at all of it from the upstairs guest room. I’d printed my passwords to my computer and bank accounts along with an apology note.
Living in Bellevue is like living in a bubble to some: beautiful houses and parks, nicely protected from crime, reminders of drugs and homelessness. It’s where the high earners live and the good schools are. I’ve called Bellevue my home for five years, and neighboring Seattle, which is a bit rougher looking in places, for two.
“We found you a place in Bellevue to stay,” the nurse in the Seattle hospital said, “will you go?”
My girlfriend brought a puppy picture of Harper for me to look at.
No razors, no belts, no shoelaces are allowed in the behavioral health unit. All gifts brought in by visitors are to be examined by the staff first. There are no cellphones and we don’t go outside. Laying on my bed I can see that it’s sunny outside. I’m glad we don’t get to go outside. I feel safe this way. The main group therapist announced this morning that everyone who collected ten points would be allowed to go for a group walk tomorrow night on the property. The one older man on the unit was whispering with a woman how they could sneak a smoke in.
After four days I collect my shoes and join the group walk. We stop at a fish tank and admire the fish as if we’ve never seen a damn fish in our lives before. The group leader asks us if know the names of any of them. I recall how my dad used to have a fish tank, my mom thought he needed a hobby.
My knees feel weak. I watch the regular people strolling in and out of the hospital halls. Can they see we haven’t been outside for days? Can they see we are crazy? Does it show we can’t be left alone? I stay close to Justin. He struggles with his walking. Hands disappearing in his oversized blue sweatshirt.
“There is no reason for me to live,” he said that afternoon. We all wanted to give him reasons, but it sounded so hollow coming from our mouths. I willed him to get better.
Dizziness overcomes me at the diner where we stop on our way home. I’m deemed better. The neatly dressed social worker had handed me a paper containing a referral for a psychiatric nurse, a medication prescription and an appointment with my regular therapist. I said goodbye to all my buddies on the unit, including the staff. I’d walked the block so many times and peeked in every room. I would never see them again, yet we had shared our deepest pain with one another. Maybe they would try again, maybe they would succeed: commit suicide that is.
At home I greet my dogs and play with them. Harper cries for the bear that my girlfriend had bought me in the hospital giftshop. I take my bag and stop at the top of the stairs in front of the guestroom. I sit down on the double bed where I had taken the pills, one after the other.
Looking out the window over the rooftops I regard the Cascade mountain range, I see the harbor and part of the Puget sound. I’d always wanted a house with endless views.