Write What You Know, Part 24
By Stephanie Thompson, 1,554 words
Read: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23
Next time they were in a facility together, Jennifer was in for heroin addiction. Helen’s parents had moved her to another hospital, unhappy with her progress in the previous one. To be fair to her parents, she didn’t talk before and she still didn’t talk when they before. Jennifer was never sure if the new hospital did the trick or if it was the fact that they were together again after SOME TIME apart.
The first word she heard her say was her name.
They were alone in their room on her first night back.
“Jennifer, I thought I’d never see you again,” she said quietly just above a whisper, like she was telling the darkness her secrets. (That is a lot of words, I guess you better figure out how long she hadn’t been talking, why and how old they both are when this goes down.)
It was Jennifer who was quiet for those six weeks.
She had some kind of assignment that actually finally left her alone. She was up in the, what she thought of as her room already, laying on her stomach a fresh clean notebook in front of her and a pen in her hand. Elbow deep in her in her element.
Nikki was sucking a lollipop, lying next to her. Lord knows where she got the lollipop.
What does it look like I’m doing?
It looks like you’re starting a new project but I’m pretty sure you’re suppose to be making a timeline of your NYC activities.
What the hell is there a blue moon out or something? Since when do you pay attention to what I’m suppose to be doing?
Since I’m not the one in trouble for a change and you obviously need help.
For you’re information, I don’t need help.Well, at least not your help. I’ve got a crack team of people already on it.
You have, really?
Well, Stella has. Whatever, it’s being worked on. I’m doing this.
You do know that I know what this. I know everything you know.
Ok, I’m not getting into this again, for the millionth time, right now. I’m doing what I’m doing, you go back to shutting the fuck up and eat eating your ridiculous fucking lollipop.
Christie went back to the task at hand. On the top line she wrote, How to Catch a Helen.
It wasn’t long though before Jennifer was talking again because it was only withdrawal or methadone or whatever the hell what was likely to be happening at this hospital for rehab. But no matter who was or who was not talking at any point in time, they were always learning more and more about each other. They were best friends. Because no one tells more secrets than the person who wants to be understood and no one listens better than the one who’s not talking. (Jesus that was fucking horrific let’s try something else)
They learned a lot about each other and the others too. Because it turns out when you’re the quiet one, everyone wants to tell you their secrets, even the grown ups. They wielded the silence like a super power. Everyone else treated it with reverence, like the silence was implied wisdom. Reason beyond their years.
It wasn’t until later that they used the secrets and silence like weapons.
Cassie went downstairs for coffee and breakfast. What she found was a newspaper with her old friend on the front. She took the newspaper, eggs, potatoes, ham, and coffee found the least popoulated corner to enjoy it all.
Nikki was right when she said they ruled ONE OF THE TOO MANY MF HOSPITALS. But Nikki was only around when Helen wasn’t. Then it was Jennifer and Helen who ruled.
It was one of the few secrets she kept from Nikki. And the fact that she liked Cassandra just as much as Helen was a secret she kept from Helen.
On the second page she Wrote How to Catch a Cassandra
In the afternoon Stella, check in on her.
“I’m about to go to the . . . .are you working on a story?”
“No I’m doing that thing . . . That you wanted.”
She wasn’t doing that either but she hoped she’d say whatever she wanted to say and leave her alone again.
“Did I have a time line?”
“Ok fine, I’m going to the store. Do you want anything?”
“Yes, I’m sorry, can you grab me like a carton.”
“A carton of?”
Stella opened her mouth and she knew what was coming out next. Or what would have come out if Christie didn’t give her a look that stopped her dead in her tracks.
“Ok, anything else?”
“Alright, then, Lindsey’s PA is coming back this afternoon so, maybe type up that timeline for her soon, ok?”
She wasn’t sure when or how the falling in love thing happened. It was one of those things just happened. Sort of like Nikki.
They shared a room in THE NEXT PLACE. They didn’t want to let them stay together once it became clear that they knew each other. This hospital, these doctors, had a philosophy you might call it. A philosophy that said that we shouldn’t fall back in to old habits and be open to new experiences. Then Helen stopped talking again. She could turn it on and off now. It was pretty easy to play comatose, she sometimes even enjoyed it. For her part, Jennifer let Nikki come out and play, which oscillated between blatant disrespect and belligerence and actually fucking shit up like making other patients cry, throwing food around, and refusing meds.
The first time they worked together like that it took 14 days to get what they wanted. They honed their efforts after that.
Both pages were blank because she didn’t know how to catch a Helen or a Cassandra. Didn’t know how she got her in the first place out side of fate or cruel coincidence which she was just not realizing was one in the same.
She stubbed out on cigarette then lit another. She started a third page too. NYC Timeline it said and it too was blank but she couldn’t remember one day from another and barely even one city from another. How long was that bitch WHO’S NAME I’VE ALREADY FORGOTTEN SINCE SHE’S DiSAPPEARED FROM THE STORY was bossing her around? HOw many interviews? How many outfits? How many sleepless nights watching the clock tick tick tick down?
I cannot express how tired I am of writing this novel. I get so far then I get stuck
I get so far then I get stuck
I never at any point found my mojo. It’s like a constant fight. I know what I want to happen how set it forward but I don’t actually know how to write it short of narrating and expositing the hell out of it. And every second I’m not writing I’m literally wasting my life because I get further and further behind and if I keep getting further behind how in the hell can I finish on time and I might as well use this time to do something more productive or healthy like fucking sleeping if I’m not going to finish anyway.
And in the meantime, a significant part of this novel is just composed of notes to myself or straight insults to that actual writing. So it’s almost as if it doesn’t count.
So what is the point?
Their first night back together. They were sort of celebrating together. Catching up. They’d talked before then of course. Not much because of Helen’s WHAT’s THAT WORD FOR NOT TALKING state. And they’d been sending letters during their time in different facilities. Nothing was quite the same though until they were in person in the dark together. They sat on Helen’s bed, close, shoulders together, feet pulled up, giggling as softly as they could.
There were also quiet moments because they were friends like that and everything they had was counted in silence and secrets and the dark. Then someone grabbed someone’s hand.Wouldn’t it be romantic to say that it was so clear who did what and when. Or that she wanted it so bad and then it happened and she couldn’t tell if happened because she wanted to and it was magic or she got lost some place imagining and didn’t notice when it happened but the truth was it was none of that. Or she didn’t think it was.
The truth was that it was so long ago and the memories got fuzzy even if you didn’t want them too. Even the important ones. Even the ones not marred by a different pharmaceutical or illicit drug every other week.
That was one truth at least. This is another one. It happened and was so natural that neither of them noticed that it had happened.
They sat there for a long time. All night in fact.
“Look the sun is coming up,” one of them said.
Then one of them kissed the other.
Maybe the truth was they were indistinguishable from one another. That’s what love was wasn’t it? Two becoming one? So she couldn’t remember who kissed who, who held who hands because they weren’t two separate whos. They just were. One.
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