Promise You Won’t Get Mad? By D.I. Jolly

Winter stood as the judge gave sentence, then turned to see his lawyers smile and shake hands. They had been a gift from his rich employers and had managed the impossible. Sighting his extreme violent outbreak as a breakdown, they had gotten him placed in a hospital rather than a prison. Saying that the events leading up to the time in question had been of such enormous stress that he was not legally responsible for his actions and needed treatment, not punishment. When the doctors arrived to take him away he couldn’t help but wonder if it really mattered, or if he even cared where he ended up.

The first few months floated by in a drug-addled haze as they worked to find the ‘correct balance’ of medication. Eventually reaching a point where they felt they’d achieved what they set out to achieve and that therapy could now begin. First, they invited him to groups where he could sit and listen to other people open up about their feelings and explore the root cause of their actions. For weeks he just watched them, never speaking, never asking questions, just watching and wondering to himself if they meant what they said or if they were just saying what needed to be said in order to leave.

Earlier in his life, Winter had been in the army, from there he joined the police and eventually moved to private security. A violent life that he had always believed would end violently, not in a hospital surrounded by soft people talking about feelings. In an academic way, he understood that when he had first arrived, the idea bothered him, but now it was just a thought like any other. Holding as much gravity to him as the desire to eat when hungry, or drink when thirsty.

After weeks of nothing, he was moved to private therapy. There, all attention could be on him, and there he could really explore his feelings. But when confronted he found he had none. No feelings at all. He cared as much about the man he’d killed as he did about getting out of bed in the morning. The image of his dead wife was no more emotive than buttered toast. He felt nothing, and so said nothing. Frustrated the doctors took another look at his medication and subjected him to dose changes and alternative options before once again asking him the question. ‘How do you feel?’ For a long time, he thought about it and in the final moments of his scheduled hour, he looked at his doctor and said.

“How am I supposed to answer that question, when you’ve spent the last many months finding the perfect collection of drugs to make sure I can’t feel? I feel nothing, I care about nothing, a sunrise is as beautiful to me as a blank wall.”

The doctor rocked back in his chair.

“Now Mr Winter, there is no reason to get angry.”

A nearly forgotten reflex caused him to smile.

“Angry? Have you not listened to me? I can’t get angry, I can’t get anything, I feel nothing, I care about nothing, do you understand?”

“Well, do you understand the aggressive line you’re taking? And how worrying it is that a man of your skill and size sits there and calmly tells me he doesn’t care about anything?”

The doctor’s voice was shaky and he was speaking fast, but Winter considered his words.

“No, of course not. You’ve successfully put so many chemicals in me that I can’t understand what you feel about what I say, which is exactly what I’m trying to say. You’ve been asking me how I feel and I’m telling you, I don’t feel.”

Winter tried to think how his words could be misunderstood but even there he found he just couldn’t care, and before he had an opportunity to try, the door to the office opened and a large man in a white coat injected something into his arm and the world went dark. Through the darkness, he could hear another discussion about stronger medication and when he woke up he was strapped to his bed. For a moment he could remember something about restraints and thought he should try to pull against them, but couldn’t think why or care enough to bother. So he simply lay there, wondering if the reason mental hospitals were called insane asylums wasn’t that it was where you took the mentally ill, but because it’s where you went insane.

Like this story? Have any thoughts about it? Please let me know in the comments below. Thank you.

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