Solitary Confinement

Oh, the way my mind works! Sometimes I find things so humorous and other times I veer to the dark and morbid. This post is definitely the latter. It was somewhat inspired by the play my theater students wrote a few years back, as well as the RagTag prompt (trace) and the Online Writer’s Guild prompt (the silence woke her). Feel free to let me know if it weirds you out as much as it does me.

The silence woke her. Silence was not a sound she was accustomed to, not anymore, not since she’d been committed. It unnerved her. Why on earth was it so quiet? She lay completely still, waiting . . . for a moan or a scream, for the pounding or shuffling of feet, for some flurry of activity. Nothing—there was nothing! Should she move? Go investigate? She was afraid to, afraid of what might be happening beyond the door to her room.

Her mind worked through an array of possible explanations. Perhaps everyone, doctors and nurses included, had been drugged. Maybe they were all bound and gagged or they had been killed by some mysterious intruder—or, more likely, by someone who knew the inner workings of this place. But if they knew about this place, they would know about her, and nothing had been done to her. . . Good Lord!—that prompted an even worse thought. What if she had done something to the others and just didn’t remember? She’d had lapses in her memory before. That was part of the reason she was here. The other part was that she suffered frequent, yet unexpected bouts of aggression often precipitated by loud noises and chaos. Had she snapped once again and harmed the others just so she could sleep? She couldn’t be sure . . . but she had to find out.

Her palms were tingling and slick with perspiration as she placed them on the doorknob. With her heart pounding in her chest, she slowly turned the knob and peered through the crack. Other than the flickering fluorescent lights over the nurses’ station, everything was still.

She stepped into the hall, looking left then right. The corridors were empty. Moving cautiously toward the nurses’ station, she glanced over the counter. No one—no one was there. She moved behind it, venturing into the supervisor’s office which was dark except for a handful of monitors displaying the common rooms and the rooms of the more violent patients. All the images were alike in one way—the rooms depicted were devoid of their usual inhabitants.

She suddenly bolted down the hall, throwing one door open after the other, finding each room empty. They had all disappeared without a trace. She was utterly alone.

Finally stopping at the main entrance to the building, she sank to the floor in desperation. She stared through the glass façade into the vacant parking lot and trembled convulsively. She couldn’t go out there. Looking over her shoulder, she felt just as intimidated by the vast emptiness within. It reminded her of something the therapist once said: that it was clear she was just as afraid of herself as she was of others, and that sooner or later, she would need to decide which fear posed the greater threat.

It seemed that time had come.

My Recurring Nightmares

They have been ravaging my sleep on average three times a week for the last decade—horrible, vivid nightmares. These nightmares are and are not based on reality. Yes, I was a teacher for nine years and during those years, my patience and talents were seriously challenged. That doesn’t mean that it was all bad. Honestly, the first seven or eight were pretty gratifying for the most part. True… the hours were long and the workload was overwhelming, but I did love my students (99.9% of them anyway), and they usually loved me (maybe not at the time I was teaching them, but always in retrospect). Many of them still stay in touch, and I love that. I love to see how their horizons are expanding, where their interests are leading them, and what they are accomplishing. It makes me so proud to see them holding down jobs, going to college, and/or raising children. I feel blessed that they want to share those things with me, and I wouldn’t change my role as teacher for anything.

My last year teaching was, however, another story altogether. It was traumatic… but then, I had switched from high school to middle school and it was, as they say, “a whole nother ballgame”. It seriously did me in—which is why I am now freelancing. If the nightmares had started during that treacherous time, I could certainly understand it. But that wasn’t the case. My nightmares started just before my first full year teaching… I think. I don’t recall having them during student teaching or even when I taught summer school just after graduation. Hmm… now that I think about it… that may be the cause. Summer school was a bit of a challenge—not quite like middle school, but still a challenge.

As for the nightmares, they do vary. Sometimes I am sitting at my desk trying to do something as simple as take attendance only to look around the room and see that none of my students are paying attention to the task at hand. Bellringer activity… what’s that? Ms. V, you must be tripping! No work is being done. Students are desk hopping, making it next to impossible to get an accurate attendance. Students are even getting up and leaving, forcing me to follow them out into the hall and call them back much to their amusement. Sometimes I am standing in front of the class teaching in earnest, only to realize that no one is listening. Again they are moving around the room. They are talking to each other and tuning me out. Some are sleeping. Others are throwing things. Occasionally, a fight breaks out or a student cusses me out… usually just as an administrator comes in to observe.

I wake up stressed, in a cold sweat, and feeling completely exhausted. It all just seems so real. I think it is par for the course with the teaching profession though. I know other teachers experience this phenomenon. Maybe it is a form of stage fright. If you think about it, teachers are performers to a certain extent. Part of the job is to entertain… or at least engage young minds enough to instill knowledge. My question is this: when will my nightmares end? This week makes a year since I stepped inside a classroom, and still my nightmares persist. Is it too much to ask for a good night’s sleep?

Ragtag Daily Prompt: nightmare