Name: Tara Damiano
Affliction: Hemispatial neglect
I wake up, and I'm not in my room. Which is kind of a freaky thing to realize. And there's this weird woman standing over me. She looks like a nurse.
Oh gosh, she is a nurse.
"Where am I??" I demand of her, sitting bolt upright in the bed. This turns out to be a bad idea, because it triggers a splitting pain in my head. Slowly, I lie back down, but keep my eyes on the woman.
"Hush, dear," says the woman with disgusting sweetness. "You're okay. You're in the Hospital."
"I'm in the—?" I'm bewildered and angry. I shouldn't be here. The Hospital is where all the Abnormals go—like that boy in my class last year who was really stupid and wouldn't stop shaking. It's not somewhere for the prettiest, most perfect girl at Passerville High.
"Why am I here?" I sit up slowly, focusing my attention again on the nurse. I notice she has her makeup on all wrong.
"You had a stroke," she responds in that same sickly tone.
"Isn't that, like, when your brain explodes?"
"No, just when—"
But my right hand has unconsciously made its way up to my head. Where there should be hair, I feel bumpy skin.
"Did you chop my freaking hair off???" I shriek.
"Only part of it," the nurse reassures me. "We needed to be able to operate. But it was worth it! Don't you feel so much better now?"
I do not feel better. I'm in the Hospital, in this ugly surgical gown, with all my hair gone, and now I learn I've had an operation. And my head hurts. So of course I feel like crap.
"You should be grateful!" continues the nurse. "Dealing with strokes used to be so much more difficult! Now we can—"
I jump out of the bed, interrupting her speech. I do not care about "recent advances in medical technology". I want to go home and rant to my friends over social media. Surprisingly, the nurse doesn't stop me when I walk unsteadily towards the stairs.
I'm about to walk down the stairs, when I suddenly crash into a wall that I'm 99% sure wasn't there before. Stupid Hospital. Can't anyone learn to put walls in normal places? But there's nothing normal about the Hospital anyway.
This fact asserts itself when I'm halfway down the stairs and I realize they've stopped. The stairs literally lead to a dead end. They don't even go out onto a landing or anything. It's the freaking weirdest thing I have ever seen.
I turn around and yell up to the nurse, "What the hell is wrong with your stairs??"
But before she can answer, I see MORE stairs out of the corner of my eye. Holy crap, this place is going to drive me insane. I turn towards them, and head down, wondering why they weren't there in the first place.
Five minutes later, I've found a kind of cafeteria place. I'm starving, so I get in line for some food. Disappointingly, all they're serving are beans, broccoli, and these demented-looking fries. I glare at the server, then go and find my own table near the door.
Then this girl comes up to me and smiles like I'm her long-lost sister. I glare back.
"Can I sit here?" she asks.
She does, and begins to pig out on her food. After a couple large bites, she says, "I'm Devorah. What about you?"
"Tara," I mutter, spearing the broccoli with my fork and beginning to eat.
"You don't look happy."
"The hell I don't. I just found out I had a freaking stroke."
"Aw, that doesn't sound fun." I don't answer, so she continues. "Guess what? I'm almost ready to go back home. Recovery's been a long, hard, process, but—"
"Recovery from what?"
"Anorexia." Devorah holds up a fry, beaming. "But now I'm eating fine!"
I stare. "You're too fat to have anorexia."
The smile slips off her face. "Um... that's not very nice, you know. And it can be triggering to some people."
"Whatever," I grumble. I've finished my food, and I'm still hungry. I gesture to my plate. "Don't they ever give normal-sized portions?"
"That is a normal-sized portion," says Devorah glumly.
"No it isn't!"
"If you're hungry, you should probably finish your food before you ask for more."
"What—? But I did finish it!"
"You only ate half of it," she insists.
I stare down at my plate. It looks pretty clean. "Are you kidding me or something?"
"No!" Devorah reaches out and rotates the plate a little. Then I spot a piece of broccoli that I could've sworn wasn't there before. I pick it up and eat it. Very, very weird.
"Hang on...." Devorah looks at me with a scrutinizing gaze. "Did you say you had a stroke?"
"Yes. What's that got to do with it?"
"Shake your left hand," she instructs. I lift up my hand and wave it slightly, but she frowns. "No, that's your right hand."
"What the.... No it isn't!"
"Then where's your right hand?"
"Here!" I shake it.
"You just said that was your left hand."
"Well... it... it... I don't know!" I yell.
Devorah stands up and moves around me. Then she says, "Where am I?"
"No, I'm next to you."
"But I can't see you!"
She comes back into my vision, looking worried. "Hemispatial neglect. I've been here a while; I've seen it in other stroke patients."
"Neglect?" I repeat.
"Yeah. You've completely lost the sense of left."
"What?? But... but nothing seems missing!"
Devorah shakes her head. "That's what they all say. And I notice you haven't been using your left hand. I bet it's paralyzed."
It's crazy. Maybe she's just trying to get me back for saying she was fat. I can't have lost something as important as my left side. I can't have lost anything! I'm the most perfect person I know. This can't have happened to me.
"Prove it," I tell Devorah. "Prove I have this... this neglect thing."
Wordlessly, she takes out a piece of paper and a crayon. "Draw a clock."
I take the crayon in my right hand and sketch a quick clock. Devorah takes the drawing, and holds it up, slightly tilted and slightly to the side. Then I see it.
"Oh my god, that's only half a clock."
"I know," she says gravely. "Let's get you back to the nurse."
I don't protest. Perhaps she's right. Perhaps I've lost something I can't even comprehend right now.
Perhaps I'm not as perfect as I thought.
YOU ARE READING
Imaginary FriendsShort Story
Imaginary Friends - And Other Stories From the Hospital A dystopian future in which everyone with a mental or physical difference is shipped off to the Hospital to get "cured". Also a social commentary. The first "chapter", Imaginary Friends, was or...