Sage

         Some real things have happened lately. First of all, they moved my therapy group because of Sage last night. They’re moving my hospital room too, because I “enabled” everything. Let me tell you my side of the story.
I got off of the phone so Marissa could use it and I chilled with my group. I went back to my room, for some reason I can’t remember, and guess what I see as soon as I open the door—Sage. She was my roommate. She was pacing, crying, and when we made eye contact she told me, “I really need to be alone right now. Can you please just leave.” I respected her wishes because I knew where she was coming from. I left and went to tell Aiden and Marissa.

I know what you’re thinking, “Emma, you’re such a gossip.” But aren’t we all until we know why we shouldn’t be?

         “Sage isn’t okay,” I said.
Aiden nodded and Marissa told me about a phone conversation with her boyfriend that apparently really upset her. Sage went to our room crying and has been ever since. Aiden went to his room for whatever reason and I went to talk to Tiffany, my other roommate, but she was on the phone.
Moments later, Sage came out of our room. Right outside of lobby B, a hallway down from the nurses station, it happened.
“I really need it. Please let me use it. I have to,” Sage told Aiden. He looked both ways and then he gave it to her like a drug deal. I saw a flash of rectangular silver and I knew what it was. It was a zippo lighter—the kind my dad uses to light his cigars. What is she going to do, burn herself?
Marissa turned around with her hands on her head in fury after Sage shut herself in our room. “Why would you fucking do that,” she whispered to Aiden.
He shrugged and said only this: “I know how bad the urges can be.” Marissa and I nodded in unison because we too, knew the urges. But something wasn’t right. She was desperate—it was off-putting to say the least.

         It’s almost like I know what you’re thinking again, and no, the thought didn’t even cross my mind in that moment. I wasn’t in a place that is for people with clear heads. It was a mental hospital, so no, I didn’t stop her.

         Sage came back out because she couldn’t get it to work. How do you not know how a lighter works, I wondered. But I was in the dark; there was a razor in the lighter.
Aiden said “Pull the chimney,” frustratedly. He didn’t want to get caught, but he also didn’t want to be responsible for her suicide. Sage nodded and went back into the room, satisfied. After all, we knew Sage. I had known her for maybe two full days. Aiden maybe five. We figured she wouldn’t use it for more than cutting, but then again, we couldn’t know for sure.
He spun around, angry with himself. Marissa was angry, too. For God’s sake, I was angry. How did I get roped into this? Tiffany was still on the phone so I was the only other girl allowed in the room. It was policy that only people belonging to that room can enter. It was up to me to stop her, so Aiden told me to go and get it back for him.
“Sage…are you okay?” I said as I quietly knocked on the bathroom door.
“I can’t get it to work,” she sniffed between her crying.
“Okay,” I say. I report back to Aiden, standing outside the door to our room.

         I bet you’re wondering why I didn’t just open the door. There are no locks on mental hospital doors unless they lead to the nurse’s station. And the answer to that question is, there isn’t a clear answer. I’m sorry you don’t want to hear that, and you want me to do what’s right. But, as I said before, that wasn’t a point in my life where I was doing the right things. Nobody was.

         Aiden told me I should go back in and ask for the blade.
“Sage…maybe you could give it to me and I could get it to work?” I lied. I just wanted to get my hands on it so I could give it back to Aiden and it could all be over.
“I figured it out,” she said between her shortened breaths. I could tell that she was crying. The only thing running through my head was “At least she’s still alive.”
She opened the door and I saw her. She had so many cuts up and down both arms. I couldn’t even make out how many there were because blood was pouring out of all of them simultaneously. It was all red, dripping crimson onto the floor. She told me to give it, the razor, back to Aiden; her hands were holding the parts of the lighter for me to assemble and stash.
“I don’t want to get him in trouble,” she said. I nodded and stood there, scanning the room. I was looking for places to hide the blade and lighter. “I’m going to the nurse’s station,” she tells me. She also noticed me frantically looking about the room: “They’re going to search the room. Give it to Aiden,” she said solemnly, like she knew what was going to happen. Hell, so did I.
I was standing there, panicking, with the evidence in my hands. I stuffed my pockets with it and left the room, quickly. I left her standing in the middle of the room, blood dripping on the floor, to get back to Aiden. He stood up from his chair in lobby B and asked if I had it. I nodded. We both looked around for nurses, and there was one at her station waiting for something to happen, as always—this meant I couldn’t rid myself of the evidence without one of them seeing.

         You’re thinking: “Emma, why didn’t you stay there and help her? Why didn’t you get a nurse, a towel, something? You act like you care about Sage, but all you care about is yourself.”

         Aiden and I both sat down and stared at each other. I couldn’t forget Sage’s arms. I put my hands in my pockets and tried to assemble to lighter blind and inconspicuously, without cutting my hands. He held his hand out under the arm of the chair out of the nurse’s view. I gave up at trying to put it back together and I just handed the lighter to him. I kept the razor, though, hopefully for my own use. For a second he didn’t notice, but then after he felt for it and realized it was missing, he looked at me with a not-so-confused expression. He knew my intentions.
“Where’s the razor,” he asked me impatiently. I reluctantly gave it to him, knowing I would have to continue using broken pieces of plastic to harm myself. By this point, Aiden went into his room to stash the razor. I was talking to Marissa and Tiffany—informing them of what happened. Afterward, I went into our room to console Sage, but there were already two nurses wiping the blood from her arms and the floor. They weren’t helping her, though. They weren’t consoling her. They were only concerned with themselves and their jobs. Because somehow a razor got in under their watch and someone used the damn thing.
They weren’t asking what happened or why she did it, no, they were only concerned with who and how. Who gave it to her, and how did they get it. It sickened me to think of her pain. I sat on my bed to watch the nurses bandage her arms. They told me to leave once they saw me, but Sage didn’t want me to leave. I was the only one there on her side.

         I’m a mind reader: “Emma, that’s their job. They can’t have a razor on the ward with ill-minded children. Someone could die. And you’re concerned with a selfish, self-mutilating teenager?”

         I left so they could take her to the quiet room and finish bandaging her there. She was hurting, and she needed help instead of padded walls. She walked from our room to the quiet room with towels on both her arms, red faced, tears flowing from her eyes. It was almost like a procession in front of the entire ward. She was being escorted by a male nurse who didn’t care. No one cared.
The time rolled around to take our night medication. I lined up behind Aiden.
“It’s my fault,” he said, facing forward and acting distant.
“No it’s not,” I replied, knowing that it was.
“But it is,” he looked at me this time and I had nothing to say for a second.
“Yeah, but at least she didn’t kill herself,” I responded. He didn’t care.
The nurse called for him to get his medication and I was alone. I could hear muffled screaming coming from the quiet room. I looked over and saw Sage, curled up cradling her arms and rocking back and forth. A nurse was holding the door open, but only to wait for the doctor to come. Was that his version of not leaving her alone? The nurse called for whoever was next in line. I quickly took my Lithium and went back to Tiffany.
She was standing outside of the quiet room to see Sage. The voice of a nurse told us to go back to our room, but there, a nurse was cleaning up the blood. Tiffany was frustrated because she couldn’t take a shit. We kept walking back and forth on the ward to pass the time, nervous as all hell. Finally, in one of our checks to see if the nurses were done cleaning our room, they told us to come in. One of them spoke to us angrily and impatiently.

         I’m sure you and I both know why they were angry by now. It amazes me how I didn’t see that when this whole ordeal was happening. All I saw was Sage being treated terribly, but really, her isolation was for the betterment of the rest of the ward. It was for the betterment of kids like me.

         “Sage said she gave one of her roommates the blade. Which one of you has the razor?” the nurse asked.
“Woah. I just got off the phone,” Tiffany said, astonished that the nurse asked.
I thought to myself, “Way to go. Now she knows it’s me,” but I shrugged and said I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t want to put the blame on Aiden and have people hate me the rest of the week that I’m in the hospital.
“One of you has to have it” the nurse continued, “and we aren’t leaving until you come clean.”
At this point, Tiffany has moved to her bed and I moved closer to mine. She looked at me and widened her eyes as if to suggest that this is the time to come clean. This action, which the nurse clearly sees, diminished the chances of me not being punished.
“Well, judging by the look Tiffany just gave you, it looks like you know something,” the nurse looked at me. This was my chance to come clean and maybe not stay here for an extra few days. But then I would be a rat. None of the other inmates—I mean patients—would speak to me. Snitches get stitches, after all.
“Look, I came in here and she was covered in cuts. I asked where the razor was and she said she didn’t have anything on her. I said okay and left because I thought she would just wash it off and continue like nothing happened. She said she wanted to be alone,” I said. I was acting like I was irritated and offended at the fact that they would consider me to have played a part in this. Really, I’m just scared shitless. Everything coming out of my mouth was a lie and somehow, I didn’t feel guilty. The nurse said okay and almost instantly another nurse came into the room.

         Believe it or not, I actually thought I was in the right in this situation. They were attacking me, berating me, and punishing me for something I had facilitated. How dare they?

         “Can you help us search the room?” one of the nurses asked the woman who entered.
“Yeah, sure.”
The first nurse was directed at us, “We are going to do some skin searches and flip this entire room since no one is saying anything.”
Tiffany looked at me again, practically waiting for me to say something. I didn’t budge. Then the head nurse, Debby, burst into our room. She was fucking livid.
“Where is the razor,” she demanded so close to my face. I could smell her breath—hot and annoying.
“I don’t know,” I said angrily. She looked at Tiffany, desperate to find it. Tiffany said that she was on the phone and that she knew nothing. Which was true.
“One of you is lying,” she said, this time physically pointing her finger. “Tell me where the razor is,” she exclaimed. I was sure people outside in the ward could hear her shouting.
I didn’t say anything out of fear of what they would do to Aiden. I shrugged my shoulders with Tiffany and after that, she left our room and slammed the door with such force that it shook the walls.

         I’m sure you’re on Debby’s side. Hell, so am I. If I was a charge nurse and this happened on my ward, my job would be in jeopardy along with children’s lives. Underneath the lies and shrugging, I was on her side too. I wanted Sage to be okay. So did they. But I saw how they were treating her and thought that they were my enemy that deserved to be fought.

         “Seriously, you guys,” the nurse said to us while Tiffany giggled to herself. This situation was hilarious to her in a kind of sick and innocent way.
“I just want to poop,” she blurted out.
“This isn’t funny, one of your friends could have died with that razor,” the nurse said while she handed Tiffany a large green hospital gown to put on for the skin search.
“Can I go to the bathroom at least,” she asked the nurse.
“You can go after your skin search,” she replied, annoyed, “just go in the bathroom and change your clothes.”
“But while I’m in there, I can go.”
“You can go after the search,” the nurse replied. I began to laugh at Tiffany and she fed off of it. The nurses were so frustrated I could feel the anger radiating off of them.
Before they could begin the skin search, Debby came in the room again.
“We found the razor in Aiden’s room, no thanks to you girls,” she said. I could swear I saw a vein popping out of her forehead; angry doesn’t even begin to describe the word for Debby. But there was a hint of relief in her eyes. The threat was eliminated. I thought to myself, Aiden would have used it that night if he could have. So would Marissa. And so would I.

         Now that we’ve come to the end of my story, I suppose there has to be a “come to Jesus” moment for me and my friends. But here, in a mental hospital, there wasn’t. I spent the rest of my days on that ward apologizing to Aiden every time I saw him in the halls and insisting I wasn’t a rat. I wrote this journal entry right after this event occurred, and I wanted to share it today, two years later, not only to show how far I’ve come, but also to provide insight for those who don’t know what a teen mental hospital is like. We didn’t think clearly and rationally. We didn’t want to do the right thing. We didn’t want to advance in therapy and become people who function in society. We wanted attention. We wanted to wallow in our shared misery and hope that our lives would magically get better outside of those four walls. I didn’t realize in that moment that I held the key to my own happiness, and that I could have stopped Sage. I didn’t even want to. None of us did. But if there’s one regret in my life, I damn sure wish I did. Maybe she wouldn’t be undergoing electroconvulsive therapy right now. Maybe I could have showed her that people care. I had the power to do that, and I let that slip away. We all did.

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