The Sanity Investigation
The stranger is poised in her elegant seat as she prepares to jot down notes.
Her sharp presence cuts me in half, making her the only authentic human I have come across in my lifetime. Her celestial face damages my conscience that obliges me to speak of truths. Her name is Dr. Agnes Berry. She is supposed to be a psychiatrist. She is supposed to be something else as well. I am sure of it.
I woke up in a hospital bed this morning, then they sent me here. A private clinic. Okay okay. A mental health clinic, that is. So I am psychotic. So they say. So they have witnessed. So be it. I can only protest against myself. If truths refuse to participate — If I choose my own reality — If my consciousness becomes vigilant — I might save my sanity.
So I have been told I am psychotic. So they have substantiated the claim. So the witnesses have come forward. My mind is amused. I, Skye Stoltz, work around a plan.
I know the truths.
“All you have to do is answer all the questions,” Dr. Agnes Berry says. “No pressure. You may take your time. However, if possible, tell me the first thing that may come through your mind. Are you okay with that?”
“Let’s go,” I reply.
“December 24th, 1971.”
“45 years old.”
“Nothing professional. Just menial. Music school administrator.”
“Which music school?”
“For how long?”
“For a lot of years.”
“Number of years?”
“I can’t remember exactly.”
Dr. Agnes Berry gazes into my eyes. “Have you ever done anything that you may consider to be an important accomplishment?”
I smirk. “Nothing.”
“What’s your complete address, Miss Stoltz?”
“Somewhere along Eglinton Avenue West.”
“It’s a 5-minute walk to the subway station.”
“Complete address,” she repeats.
“Shut the fuck up,” I blast, “you phoney baloney shithead! You don’t sound like a goddamn therapist! You sound like a fucking cop! What the fuck do you want from me, huh?”
“I don’t want you to die. If you want to die, there’s the door. It’s wide open for you. If you want to celebrate another birthday, and more birthdays after that, you may want to go through this gruelling process with me whether you like it or not. So what’s it gonna be, Miss Stoltz? Do you wanna work on your funeral service now? Or plan a trip and go for a Christmas getaway.”
“Who are you?”
“I will help you how to live again.”
“Would you help me how to love, too?”
“I suppose we can do that.”
“I was just kidding.”
“Shall we continue?”
“Yes. Go ahead.”
“I don’t know. I just know how to get there, that’s all.”
“My dad killed her when I was little.”
“Do you have memories of your father?”
“Never. He died in jail.”
“Who raised you?” Dr. Agnes Berry leans forward.
“My older sister,” I reply.
“Where is she?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen her in a very long time. She’s been hiding from me.”
“Who’s little Danny?”
“He calls me aunt.”
“The street musician I met at Spadina station. He wanted to fuck me.”
“My alleged therapist. I don’t trust him.”
“Tell me about Grace George.”
“What about Miss Ethel Feinstein?”
“I made her up. Wait a minute. This is all private information. How did you know about these things?”
“The doctor at the hospital found a red notebook in your backpack and gave it to me for therapy method purposes,” she explains.
“Where the fuck is it?” I protest.
“I will give it back to you once this session is over.”
“Since you’ve already snooped into it, send me to a madhouse now. I don’t care. I’m gonna die anyways. So why are we still here for?”
“We’re here because I am not convinced that you deserve to be sent away as a candidate for bedlam.”
“What do I deserve then? A second chance?”
“You deserve justice.”
“Justice for what? So my parents fucked up. It had nothing to do with me. I survived.”
“There’s someone very special out there who’s been dying to be with you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? Who are you?”
“Let’s just say – I have been hired to look out for you.”
“Who do you work for?”
“I have to keep you alive no matter what. Or I would kill myself.”
“Why the fuck can’t anybody answer my goddamn questions? Who do you work for?”
“I’ll take you to all your truths, Miss Stoltz. Are you ready?”
“Dr. Edwards blasted the exact same words at me. I don’t trust you.”
“Good.” She snaps her fingers. “Did you hear that?”
“Yes,” I say.
She claps three times. “What did I just do?”
“You clapped.” I roll my eyes.
“Snap your fingers,” she orders, “and clap three times.”
I obey. “There.”
“Do you remember my name, Miss Stoltz?”
“Dr. Agnes Berry.”
“Do you remember what happened before you got here?”
“I called 911.”
“Do you remember why you called 911?”
“I finished a bottle of red wine, and then I hallucinated.”
“Was it a hallucination or a plain thought?”
“Hallucination. I was there. Something was happening. It terrified me.”
“Your thoughts continually disrupt your reality, Miss Stoltz,” she says. “That’s why you have time to write something in that red notebook. Very impressive.”
“What do you mean, my thoughts?” I argue.
“I’m ruling out hallucination for reasons that you and I both know.”
“Give me back my notebook.”
Dr. Agnes Berry dunks her hand into a drawer and waves the fancy red notebook before my face. “I love all of them. I even wish they were all real like that.”
“Me too.” I nab my secrets back.
“Miss Feinstein exists, and you’re in love with her. Is that right?”
“I know who Grace George is. Grace George, the renowned classical pianist. Grace George, the star. Also, Grace George, with serious mental health issues. My Grace George.”
“You didn’t meet Eli at Spadina station. He is your childhood friend. Or — was your childhood friend.”
“You’ve turned Sally into an imaginary sister for your resentful convenience. She has always been around for as long as you can remember.”
“Your parents are still very much alive.”
“Once upon a time, Dr. Edwards saved your life.”
“Shut the fuck up!”
“Little Danny is your son.”
“I will kill you if you don’t shut the fuck up right now!”
“Time’s up. See you tomorrow. Thank you for your time.”
My name is Skye Stoltz. I am 45 years old. This is how my reality plays out. I have no use for it. But in the name of sanity, I shall play along. I must be good at it, too. Dr. Agnes Berry does need a star patient, perhaps. I have no complaints. Let the sanity investigation begin.
It is 5.19 a.m. EST. I am in my dingy basement, studying every word I wrote in my fancy red notebook. A shocking discovery is about to change Dr. Agnes Berry’s life today. I have had it. She was right. It must come out. Just not in the way she had imagined it would. Skye Stoltz is back. For good. Until she decides to take her last breath. Until then she is fired up for redemption. Get ready, woman.
There is the woman who knows how to manipulate her patients for her professional satisfaction. There is the woman who wears an irresistible mask to achieve a deviant goal. There is the woman who the world would love to sleep with regardless of the brutal consequences that may entail. There she is. My kind of woman. I am afraid she is just as evil as Grace George was. The woman who can damage my heart and thoughts. My woman. Dr. Agnes Berry.
I asked her to meet me in Queen’s Park at 10 a.m. I must have already smoked away 5 cigarette sticks in a row to alleviate my anxiety before she would turn up. I recited a personal pledge in my head over and over to kill time. I just wrote it last night. Something to help me release my Devilish side. Something to keep me warm. A whistling tune of the ordinary. A plea for love and beauty. Beyond Beethoven’s magic lies truths. The truths hidden in all men. These truths sing and compose music. Tragedies and comedies are amongst them. However, there is one common truth that all humans know but fail to admit. We are all desperate to prove ourselves for prestige of some sort. I am one of them. Today is the day.
The personal pledge:
I, Skye Stoltz, am the epitome of an angel’s image. I have resplendent white wings that shine blindly upon a miserable mind. I join the spirit of mindful freedom to influence a fragile soul with courage and strength. I shall make sure that every life form must move forward to its capacity. I live through necessary cycles to reach an understanding of every presented knowledge of happiness and misfortunes. It is human law. It is to meet my purpose. It is to dream. However I live my life is the aftermath of however I had been treated in the past. I am responsible for it all. I am the music that I create. I am the words that I write. Above all, I am the angel’s image. My name is Skye Stoltz.
Dr. Agnes Berry shows up on time. With a tray of two cups of Lattes in hand. She serves me one of the cups as her tempting smile penetrates my vulnerability. This is not the scenario that I have had in mind. She cannot outwit me anymore. This is a life-and-death spar between silent geniuses. Skye Stoltz vs. Dr. Agnes Berry. Her sad eyes proclaim secrets and wishes that seem to be inexorable and uninviting as I feel them. I may not know how to vindicate this intuition. I simply know.
“I read all my entries last night,” I say. “How did you figure it all out?”
“Your characters?” she replies, smiling. “I’m a therapist, Miss Stoltz. It’s part of my job to read between the lines.”
“I know you, Dr. Agnes Berry. You’re a Grace George yourself.”
“I did my job as a client, too. A research on a supposedly sane and sound mind. Who’s supposed to rescue my reality. But I guess she can’t do that, can she? Because she is just as scared as I am — to face herself. What’s wrong with you, Dr. Agnes Berry? You’re my age. You have a face that could launch a thousand ships. You’re unbelievably smart. You have an awesome career. Why are you alone?”
She takes a sip of her latte and clears her throat. “This is how you build trust with strangers? Finding out the skeletons in their closets?”
“It’s step one,” I reply.
“How many steps are there?”
“As many as we like.”
“Tedious, don’t you think?”
“It’s part of my own reality check.”
“Snap and clap will never work, I guess?”
“I guess not.”
“Well, I’m afraid I can’t be your therapist anymore.”
“Fuck you. They sent me to you. You have to do your job.”
“I can’t do my job when you are psychoanalyzing me. In case you want to be informed of what therapy is all about, Miss Stoltz — creating tensions is not one of them.”
“Building trust is one of them.”
“Not your way.”
“So what’s your way then? Show me.”
“I can’t do this. I have to go.”
I grip her by the arm. “If you turn your back on me right now, I swear to God, I will kill you.”
“Why, you’re a funny little thing, aren’t you?” she laughs. “I’m not one of your puppets, Miss Stoltz. I do not pity you. Neither would I ever care for you. Love? You can have it in your dreams. Visit me there in your sleep. Make love to me all you want. I don’t give a damn about your psychotic episodes and the disgusting lies in that sad notebook of yours that you can never have in real life. Let go of my arm.”
I step back. “Dr. Agnes Berry, you’re dead.”
“Do me a favor, will you?” she threatens.
“Speed it up. You’re too slow.”
I slap her in the face. “I beg your pardon. But that was the actual step one.”
“Hit a vital organ next time,” she giggles. “It will make you feel better.”
“I swear to God, I will kill you!”
“Yeah yeah yeah, Stoltz. I can’t wait. Make it grand. Okay?”
“Who are you?”
“Good question. I was waiting for it.”
“Who the fuck are you?”
“I know all about you, Skye Stoltz. I know every little detail of your life.”
“Just answer the question!”
“I am a spy. I work for you. Do you have the balls to deal with that?”
I gasp. “I don’t — I don’t believe you!”
“Welcome to your reality, baby,” she says. “Did you miss me?”
Johann Sebastian Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 is the kindest thought nestling inside my head right now. It has been on repeat since I lied down in my dingy basement. The piece must hold significance in my past, which I have yet to find out as it might lead to one of the truths.
Hold on. I am taking it back. I know my truths. I do. I do.
Bach. Why am I drawn into you all of a sudden? I am a Beethoven worshipper. I always have been. Bach. Where have you been hiding in my memory box? You are invading Beethoven’s empire. Bach. What is special about this creation? Beethoven’s music ignites a listener’s mind. Bach. Explain your existence. Why are you here for?
Dr. Agnes Berry’s claim harasses the music playing in my head. To save my sanity is to vanish her. This imposter. This evil woman. Grace George’s clone. Must die! I have to catch her first before she murders me as I can already feel the vicious knife sucking into my throat. Blood splashes out in my bed as life departs peacefully. I am going to die, too. But I shall not die alone. I will make sure of it. After all, I am the genius here. Nobody else can do what I am capable of. Nobody else.
This dingy basement. My modest home. Where my beloved few visit me day or night. Even Dr. Edwards. Perhaps, I should see him again this Friday. It is about time to come clean, though he knows most of my secrets. I bet I must have already confessed all of them to him over the years. Fifteen years, huh? So I have been ill that long. Yet I can still hear my heartbeat. Sound. Dying. Urging for redemption.
What am I thinking? Scratch it off. Yes, they do exist. They certainly do. Screw you, Dr. Agnes Berry! Your madness will never equate with the doctrine of desire written in my thoughts. It has already been told. It has already existed beyond your grasp. It has already owned reality. Even yours. Stop tormenting me. Or you will pay. With your dead body floating along with my music.
Bach. Air. It is heaven’s secret serenading my thoughts. Dr. Agnes Berry. A spy. It is reality’s secret living somewhere. Somewhere? No. Here. I am confused. Bach’s air messes with my reality. What is happening? I must make the move. Now.
“Tell me the truth, Eli,” I plead. “Who are you?”
“Is this a joke?” he replies, slumping back down in my couch. “Who am I? What is that? Are you kidding me?”
“Like how we met. Or the fun stuff that we did together. Everything. I have to know. It’s important. I may sound deranged right now, but my life depends on it. Please. Tell me the truth.”
“We’re childhood friends. You taught me the piano code. I have been playing like a pro since. Thanks to you.”
I smile. “My first memory was right.”
“What first memory?” he giggles. “Honey, you need an extreme medical attention. Enough of incarcerating yourself inside your wicked penchant already. This will kill you. Seriously. What happened last time is still unforgivable. But since I’m going to ask you for a favor, I shall let it pass.”
“A new piano composition.”
“Oh,” I sigh, feeling dizzy. “Well — I — I don’t know about that — I don’t think I –”
“I need it to impress a woman!” he rages. “I still need to practice and shit. You better get your ass together and have it in my hand by the end of this week or you are fucking dead! Got that?”
“Who are you?” His demonic eyes slit into my mind that I wish reality were a lie. My fancy red notebook flames up, informing me of the world’s insecurity, pleading for war to steal a queen’s throne.
“I am not important. I never was. I just need a little piece of your genius to prove something out of myself. Is that too much to ask from you, bitch?”
“That sounds like me. Or Grace George. Oh my God. What’s happening?”
“We’re all happening! Do you wanna snap and clap now?”
“Snap and clap,” I utter in horror. “Dr. Agnes Berry.”
He rises and stands tall. “Do I look like a fucking doctor to you? Look at me, son of a bitch! Look at me!” He slaps me in the face. “How did that feel?” He snaps his fingers. “Did you hear that?” He claps three times. “And that?”
“Dr. Agnes Berry!”
“Eli, goddammit! The name is Eli! What does your first memory tell you about me? Huh? I wanted to fuck you? Yes, I already did, slut! I fucked you like the pig that you were! Oh, you have no idea what you did to people who cared about you! No idea!”
“Get the hell outta here! Get out!”
“Snap and clap! Do it!”
“Does that say in your notebook, too?”
I run to grab a knife. “Get the fuck out of here now!”
He edges closer to me. “Snap and clap, bitch!”
“Eli,” I bellow, “don’t make me do it.”
“Snap and clap, bitch!” he laughs. “Snap and clap! Snap and clap! Do it!”
I stab Eli in the chest. Instantaneously, blood erupts from the wound. He gasps. His eyes roll upwards. He loses his balance. His eyeballs catch a glimpse of me. He half smiles. He struggles to utter a word. He falls. He reaches for my hand. I break down. I have to finish him.
My one and true friend will be dead in a while. His identity will remain a mystery to me. His truths about what happened, the love that he gave me, the wisdom that we both shared will all remain a mystery. His name was Eli. In my first memory, he was my childhood friend. I taught him the piano code. He asked me for a favor. That was it.
Now my one and true friend is dead.
Bach. Air. Heaven’s secret serenading my thoughts. Dr. Agnes Berry. A spy. Reality’s secret living somewhere. Somewhere here.
And in here, I have limitless courage to seek revenge.
Dr. Agnes Berry, we shall meet again.
I know who you are. Every teardrop you wasted away over heartaches. Every hand you held and continue to hold. Your sensitivity and genuine connection. Your deepest beauty. The love you have. The symphonies that grow in your soul that become impatient if you set them aside for a while. I know your name. Every letter. Every word that describes it. Every meaning that comforts the lonely. You are a hero that has never been acknowledged. No one knows your remarkable worth. No one knows how many times you have made the world smile. No one knows the heavens you have created from your impoverished home. You are the genius one. The chosen one. Your audience is waiting for you. You must meet them. Soon.
Life may not make any sense. Let alone understand our reality. But what matters is we can read each other’s thoughts regardless of how they make us feel or perceive everything that is happening around us. We can throw the past into the horizon and never look at it again. We can learn to move forward and be happy. We can help each other heal our tortured spirits. I can hold your hand. You can hold mine. I am asking for forgiveness. It might be too late now. But I will do my best to exist for your beautiful name. Perhaps, you will lend me your time to make it up to you. God will never have mercy on my soul. But I know you will. I am here. I am with you. I am ready. Because I hold the truths. The smarter truths. Fight with me until how the ending decides for itself.
The Face Without a Name
I sit at a picnic table in Queen’s park and light a cigarette. A black squirrel scurries around my feet as if it’s bugging me to play with it. The chilly wind leaves a misty touch in my cheeks. The autumn leaves crash in front of me. A patrol officer walks by and says hello with a smile. I respond with a thank-you nod and combust away with my coffin nail.
I check my wristwatch. The time is 10 a.m. Today is Thursday, October 26th, 2017. Let me remind myself again. My name is Skye Stoltz. I am 45 years old. I am here to face the smarter truths. I cannot control situations over. My mind dictates me to. I am a completely different being from the reality that I am living in. I do have a heart. I do exist. My motives are pure. I would like to settle.
Five… four… three… two…
“Hey!” Dr. Agnes Berry sits across the picnic table and lights a cigarette. “Are you convinced yet?”
“Not quite,” I say. “I still need proofs.”
“You stabbed Eli to death yesterday,” she says.
“Oh my God,” I gasp, stunned.
“The last words you wrote in your notebook were: The Face Without a Name. So here I am. You want me to keep going?”
“God, no. But can you read my thoughts right now though?”
“I can only process thoughts and things that have already happened.”
“I know the truths. Every single one of them. I just never knew you existed.”
“I was always around. Watching you. Keeping you safe. Even investigating other people’s intentions and their significance in your life.”
“Other people. You mean, the loved ones I have known all along?”
“They’re not your loved ones,” she objects. “They idolize you. There’s a huge difference.”
“How dare you accuse my heart?” I blast back.
“An artist possesses the most sinister heart. It’s a fundamental requirement. However, once they love, the love lasts for a lifetime. But you don’t have that. You have a self-indulgent ass. Proud of whatever genius she has, which doesn’t even mean anything at all. That’s why I’m here to show you how to get it all out at once.”
“Get it all out at once? Get what out?”
“The evil thoughts that have been damaging your reality,” she giggles. “Like murdering Eli.”
“I didn’t mean to do it,” I cry. “He was threatening me, and he sounded more like you or Grace George, so I did it.”
“He was not threatening you. You threatened him to death.”
“He was innocent,” she says. “You both fucked each other. You fucked Grace George over. You and Grace George both lost your minds. That’s why I’m here to keep you alive. Now finish your legacy, so we can get it over with.”
“You finish it,” I insist and light another cigarette, “and get ready for the Christmas eve show. It’s gonna be grand. You’ll see.”
“You mean, the funeral!”
“I am not going to die, Dr. Agnes Berry. Not until redemption and revenge sit on my chest as if it’s my fancy red notebook. I got tired of being a – what do you call it – self-indulgent ass. Do whatever is necessary for me to stay alive. Feel free to invade me.”
“What are you up to now?”
“Kill Dr. Edwards.”
“What for?” Dr. Agnes Berry lights another cigarette.
“Because he knows all my secrets,” I reply. “You remember Grace George’s line?”
“The grand piano owns my hands. They belong with each other. Anyone who even attempts to touch it will pay the price. The price of life.”
“Every Grace George’s line is memorable in its own sense,” Dr. Agnes Berry replies.
I surrender my fancy red notebook to her. “It’s your turn. Finish it. You’ve got until Christmas eve. Make sure I’m dead after that. Or even before it completes itself.”
“I can’t. This is yours. I don’t want to alter anything.”
“You’re not going to alter anything. You’re just gonna make it better for both of us.”
“How? I wouldn’t know how.”
“Sure, you do. You’re my spy. You know what to do.”
I lied. She made me do it. She brought me here. I had to act a certain way, speak in her voice, and mimic an awful habit. She is a disgusting pig. But her words are more powerful than Beethoven’s symphony No. 9. I don’t know why I’m here. It must be one of her mental schemes. I know who she is, was. Her guts cringe my spine. Pardon me, but I don’t have words of wisdom to share. I see things in black and white. Like piano keys. The now is important to me. Like right now. I am in control of every life phenomena that is happening, and is about to either help me get out of the legacy deadfall or crucify my hopes once again. I can only speak to you. I know you’re listening by reading this. I have never written anything in my life except music. I can only tell you things that I know to be true. Probably even more true than what I have ever known.
This is my voice. Now take a sip of that coffee, and hear my voice. I know my past very well. It does still look like a lightning bolt that cuts the skies open. I thought I already ended it all. There was no reason for me to hang on. I was never like Grace George who could own everything in the world and everybody she desired to be with. I was a good girl. Except that composing music drove my mind to extremes. I went crazy. Like schizzo. I must have lost it. I can’t remember the rest of it anymore. The last thing I remember is a beautiful therapist who fought hard for me to hang on. Her name was Dr. Agnes Berry.
This is my fancy red notebook now. I can do whatever the hell I want. I have just won my life back. This is the real me. The other one that you met from the previous entries was an imposter whose agenda could have been the reason as to why I lost consciousness for a long while. I don’t want to investigate the truth anymore. Inside of me I know who she is, was. I can’t wait to find out what happens in the end. Despite it all, I am still wishing for some happy ending. It’s emotionally daunting sitting here and scribbling away. But my smile depends on it. I have to smile. Or laugh. Or eat good food. Something or anything that replenishes memories.
What I can possibly do now is compose a piano piece for the Christmas Eve show. Writing music always introduces me to a brand new emotion. Mind you, I am ignorant in a lot of ways. Yet love tears me up and tears me apart. Don’t you find it exhausting to prove it yourself at given situations?
I am not harsh. I have a soft heart. Boasting is a sign of stupidity and insecurities. But it’s important that you must know this about me. So you’ll know what to expect. Let’s make it predictable and fun. Maybe lighthearted, too. Like winning my true love over.
You know me. Right? You do. I don’t need to elaborate myself anymore. I just want to get to the ending. I don’t know how. I don’t know when. All I know is somebody with a big name must be dead after the Christmas Eve show or before the revelation invades an enchanting home. I still don’t know what that means exactly. I’m just here to finish the job.
The end. The scariest part of all. A great relief at the same time. What would I feel? I’m so stupid. I shouldn’t have asked that. I must get to work.
Procrastination is my leading star sometimes. I can fill out blank music sheets for two hours of nonstop banging to meet a deadline. I love to drink. I’m in love with red wine. There’s nothing like its sweetness in this world and beyond. It pumps up good blood into my brains. I can sound intelligent. I can argue. I don’t have a problem with being a little bit rude as well. It changes me. It turns me into a bad guy. But I need to be a bad guy once in a while to stand up for myself and what’s right for me. Now I make sense. Do I make sense? Do I sound drunk? Give me a break, judgmental fools! I’ve only had a glass. It’s just a glass. No biggie.
See my place in your head? There’s a grand piano in the living area. It’s a cozy studio. It’s in midtown. Does it sound familiar? Ha-ha! Yes, I’m here. Ethel went out to grab some groceries. I got lazy. I told her of the Christmas Eve show. She’s excited about it for me. She’s even planning on having a grand celebration on Christmas Day. It’s a perfect love.
What this fancy red notebook does is unbelievable. It extends to my unconscious life GPS. First off, I’m becoming good at writing. Second, what’s happening around me doesn’t have a choice pretty much. Third, the facts cannot be altered. They just get better and better.
Dr. Edwards pays me a visit. I offer him a glass of red wine. Of course he declines. He looks sketchy right now. It’s October 27th, 2017. Today is Friday. Today he’s supposed to be dead according to my recent memory. Maybe she has changed her mind. Or chickened out. Who knows what has come over her. After all, she’s the madman. I know who she is, was. The fat ugly motherfucker.
“Are you ready?” Dr. Edwards asks.
“Ready for what?” I reply.
“To go sober,” he says. “I can take you there now.”
“Drinking is my drug,” I say. “If you take it away, you’re taking my life. Is this why you’ve barged into my home today? I thought you were my friend.”
“Miss George –”
“What did you just call me?”
“Miss George!” he says, “Miss Grace George.”
“I am not Grace George!”
“Alright. That’s it. I have to take you with me now.”
She is still in control. The fat ugly motherfucker. Son of a bitch.
A black balloon floats above my head. It is black. It is a balloon. Don’t fool me. It stays still. So still that it seems to command my head to hush. Ssshhh. I am in a hospital bed, dressed in a weird gown for sick people. I am tragically ill. That’s what I’m supposed to believe. That’s what my memory says. Dr. Edwards stuffed me in here, like a rotten spam to be fed to a deadliest animal in the wild. I’m probably on sedation of some sort. I’m fizzled out, and can hardly move. This fancy red notebook keeps on fighting against my conscious efforts to realize my reality. This reality decides as to what I should believe and trust. As for me, it’s hard to give up on something that has already stolen my time away. That time could have been spent on love or writing a score for a symphony orchestra that I’m affiliated with.
Is that so? Knock knock. You there? I just want to make sure I’m the only one here, and that I’m the only one scribbling away. The fat ugly motherfucker must not intervene anymore or I would skin her alive in front of little Danny.
Little Danny. Why is he so important all of a sudden? I didn’t think of it. I didn’t put his name up there. Omit it. Omit it. I didn’t mean for him to turn up like that. Who’s doing it? The fat ugly motherfucker is driving me to commit murder. No! Not him. He is such a lovable kid and gifted pianist. Maybe he has also been writing music all this time. He has so much prowess that it’s hard to keep up with his genius now. Like Mozart. Little Mozart. Little Danny. This is so messed up.
Who is little Danny again? He calls me aunt. Wrong. Wrong? C’mon. Truth. Give me a little something here. Okay, I’ve probably got it. No. No. In between the madness, little Danny is, was my son. The fat ugly motherfucker proclaimed to me that little Danny was my son. Figuratively, I suppose. Subconsciously, yep, I would agree on this one. It makes more sense. Right? What do you think?
Are you following me? If not, don’t destroy it. I feel the same way. Meanwhile, the black balloon drifts towards the foot of the bed, and builds itself a safe spot down there. It’s staring at me. Angrily. It’s growling now. Like accusing me of a crime. It seems to have a life of its own. No no no no no! Don’t draw a face on it. We’re not going extreme here. We’re not. Understand? You’re not the fat ugly motherfucker that I’ve known. So don’t draw a face on it. Let my head sleep for a little while longer. That’s right, pal. Don’t stab your boredom into my head. Oh Jesus. Why do I sound like a stranger? Who is this? Is this you? Who is this? Make me stop ranting. Stop! I’m tired now. I just want to sleep and never wake up ever again.
Sounds like a plan. Easy death. How should I do that?
Somebody knows. Who does? I can’t find the fat ugly motherfucker anyways. She has put me in a helpless situation right now, that’s why I’m in a death bed. Thank goodness I’m not dying yet. Hope is still working for me. The hope to get to the end. To kill the fat ugly motherfucker.
Wait a second. I’ve just remembered something.
Ooh. The black balloon is howling like a dog in the middle of the night. Silence! Let my head speak. Because I’m supposed to be more powerful in here. Why the hell does this black balloon squeeze its prestige into my responsibility? Wow. I can play with words now. I can think and write. I can be the greatest mind. I can even be Beethoven. No no. I am already a genius in my own right. I’m a composer. A ghost composer. A ghost composer to Grace George.
Grace George! Dr. Edwards insisted I was Grace George! I am not Grace George at all!
My name is … Yeah… You know… You have already known my name… For God’s sake! How many times do I have to tell you what my name is. Do you, at least, remember how old I am? Wake up! Snap and clap! I am not going to tell you anymore. That reality or truth has already been told. It will never budge.
Ethel enters, sobbing. “Hey, sweetheart! How are you feeling?”
“I can’t move,” I say. “What hospital is this?”
She kisses me on the forehead. “Oh. Some hospital. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”
“Is this a rehab or –” I say, “a psychiatric ward?”
“Kind of what?”
“My drinking doesn’t affect my life! It helps me compose music! What the hell is wrong with you, people? You don’t understand what it takes to be a goddamn genius, for crying out loud! Get me outta here!”
“Because I’m your mother and I don’t want you to die.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Oh Gracie, sweetheart!” she cries.
“Gracie?” I scream. “You’re calling me Gracie and you’re supposed to be my mother? Am I dead already and in hell facing Satan’s judgment? What the hell is going on here?”
“You’ve tried to compose music. But you’ve pushed yourself way too hard. This is the result. I understand that now. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know it would turn out to be like this. Oh, sweetheart. I don’t know how to forgive myself for what I’ve done to you.”
“I am not Grace George and you are definitely not my mother!”
Ethel holds my hand. “Oh, sweetheart!”
I shove her away from the bed. “Out! Out! Out!”
“Please, don’t do this!”
“You will die if you keep on doing this!”
“Good! That’s the plan anyways! I want it to happen now!“
“I can see the black balloon, too,” she says.
“The fat ugly motherfucker is all over you, too, huh?” I giggle, “Wow. Just wow.”
This is a mental health unit. The white walls imprisoning my mind look like cotton balls. Soft, kind, and hopeful. Angry and unforgiving at the same time. I’m searching for her. The fat ugly motherfucker. Where could she possibly be right now? She stole my name and my dreams. Never mind what’s happening in between. After all, lies and betrayals are two of the most extraordinary parts of life that teach us to become somebody somehow. And that somebody is on a special quest. The quest to feel important. We are repulsive beings that always look for prominence. Validation leaves us disappointed regardless. How are we supposed to answer to life everyday when our intentions are coated with pride and selfishness? I don’t want to live anymore.
I’m afraid I’m starting to sound like her now.
I am … Do you still know who I am? Please, I’m not as smart as she is. Trust me, I can’t even come up with a simple logic myself. I have to sound more like me. Or am I just pretending to be her? Oh yeah, alright. What the hell am I thinking? She’s still in full control. I have no way out. I don’t know why I agreed to do this. I’m a freaking idiot. I just can’t …
Stop ranting, for crying out loud! Say something intelligent!
I’m yawning. I’m here. Oh, for God’s sake, where are my red wine and cigarettes? I don’t want to fall asleep yet. I don’t want to. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t.
You sound like a teenage punk! Get out of here! You don’t know what in a world you’re talking about!
Mom! I don’t want to take piano lessons anymore! I hate it! I hate it! I’d rather die than learn it! It’s stupid! Why are you making me do this? Why are you punishing me? What have I ever done to you? What do you want from me? Why won’t you ever listen? Music will never be the world I would want to live in! I’m not like you! I don’t have your musical genes! I can never be what you want me to be because my heart will never live for it! Either you deal with me for who I am or I’m out of here!
Shut up! Shut up! Who’s saying that? I did not say that! I will never say that! It’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my entire life! Jesus! I sound like a teenage punk! Who is this? I don’t recognize this voice at all. I’m one of the greatest contemporary composers of all time, for crying out loud. My name is just hidden from the world for reasons that you have already known all along.
By the way, I am… Oh God. No. It can’t be. I have to look for her. She must explain her truths. Snap and clap. Snap and clap. Dr. Agnes Berry. Maybe she has the answers. The fat ugly motherfucker is hiding my own self away from my consciousness now. My judgment is dead. I hear distinct voices that never existed before. Before the Beethoven dream. Before I became a stranger to my own life. Before I confronted my sanity. I am… Damn it. I am whoever I am. I can be who I want to be. In here. In here. I am safe. I am safe to die.
The red wine will accompany me to hell. I will always be beautiful. I will take my genius with me. I will serenade to all evils. I will be grateful to greed for giving me confidence to create masterpieces. If greed is dead in your heart, you will never go anywhere. I’ve learned it the hard way. The hardest way. It is a dangerous rule to stay alive. You must keep on fighting for your worth in the midst of cruelty. Sacrifice anything that matters the most to you and you shall make your dreams come true. Been there and done that. Be prepared for the deepest grief and an eternal broken heart. Be prepared to cry everyday. Be prepared to be alone forever. As it is all a choice. Everything is born out of making choices. The right ones and the wrong ones are both the same. They both answer your questions about strength and courage. They both take you to who you are. The only thing that you will never understand is who gets to decide your birth, which leaves you helpless with your existence and purpose.
You are just another pawn of convenience for your fellow pawns. The pawn of convenience to be the subject of hate and love, bliss and sorrows, wisdom and ignorance. The pawn of convenience to be the reasons for someone’s life and death, success and failure, art creations and self-distractions. Your wealth is the result of greed. Not ambition. Neither hard work. Your fame is the result of more greed. Not a dream. Neither a chance. Your position as a pawn of convenience determines how you feel about yourself. You are —
Shut up! Stop controlling my mind anymore! I’m in charge of the legacy now! Why are you still here?
Take me home. Let me die at home. In my own bed. In my own dress. I’m only wishing for a familiar face who loves me. Not as their pawn of convenience. But a familiar face whose innocence hurts my heart and turns it into a pure mastery of love. Please take me home.
“Mom?” a familiar voice barges in. Deep and thoughtful. A young male with an angelic face. His tears fall on to my bare arm. He slips his hand into mine. He kisses it and weeps some more. I reach for his hair and caress it. I know him. I know him by heart. I’m just not sure of who he is in my life. But he calls me Mom. And I find it to be the most heartfelt moment of my identity. “It’s me, Danny,” he says. “Your little Danny.”
“Little Danny,” I cry, “you’re my son?”
“Yeah,” he replies, “your one and only spoiled brat.”
“Are you a spoiled brat?” I giggle.
“Sometimes,” he says.
“I bet I spoil you anyways, huh?”
“How old are you, little Danny?”
He grips my hand and breaks down. “I’m fifteen.”
“What’s your mom’s name?”
“Grace George. You are Grace George.”
“I don’t know who that is.”