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Name: Marissa Polyakova

Age: 12

Affliction: Obsessive-compulsive disorder

I didn't eat lunch today.

The people in that fancy black maglev came and took me away before I could eat lunch. And they wouldn't let me eat in the car.

But now it's 2:00 and I'm finally at this Hospital, and they're offering lunch to the new arrivals.

I didn't eat lunch at 12:00 like I always do.

I'm hungry.

If I eat now, maybe I won't be hungry for dinner.

What if dinner in the Hospital is served earlier than I'm used to? What if it's later? What if they don't allow you to eat between meals?

What if I get hungry in the middle of the night because of this? What if I starve to death?

No, that's never going to happen.

I've heard that the people in the Hospital aren't very nice. Maybe this is the last time they're going to feed us for days and days.

In that case, I should probably eat the food that's offered.

I realize now that I've been standing in the doorway for a long time, while most of the other kids are starting to sit down and eat. Slowly, tentatively, I walk towards the nearest chair and brush my hand over it. I sit down cautiously.

All this time, a boy's been watching me. He looks about eighteen. Maybe he's curious. Maybe he can see the anxiety on my face. Maybe he thinks I'm hot.

Oh gosh, I really really really hope he doesn't think I'm hot.

"The chairs aren't dusty," he says.

What? Oh. He must've saw me touching the seat of the chair. "I know," I reply.

"Then why were you brushing it off?"

I don't tell him that when I was in fifth grade, someone put a thumbtack on my chair and I sat on it. I just shrug and say, "It's a habit."

But a habit implies you can stop.

"Ah, yes." The boy nods like he understands. "I used to bite my nails. Terrible, I know. All you need to do is just think about it when you're about to sit down, and not do it! Easy." He smiles.

Why is he being so patronizing? Is it because he's older than me?

I ignore him, instead focusing on the food. It looks like reheated pizza. I eat the first piece, trying to ignore my brain telling me that if I eat now, I won't be hungry for dinner.

The pizza isn't too greasy. Good.

It's still a little greasy.

I need to wash my hands.

Is there a bathroom anywhere? I really, really need to wash my hands. Maybe I can ask. But what if they say no? Will I just have embarrassed myself?

Which is worse—being embarrassed or not washing my hands?

I choose the latter.

"Excuse me," I whisper to one of the assistants, "can I go to the bathroom?"

"Can you hold it?" he asks.

I shake my head.

"Very well. Down the hall, to your right." He motions in the direction of the woman's room, and I walk briskly towards it.

I need to wash my hands.

If I don't wash my hands, maybe I'll get some disease and die. We are in a hospital, anyway. There are probably tons and tons of diseases just floating around in the air.

I run.

I get to the bathroom. It's relatively large, but I don't see anyone else there. Good.

The soap smells weird. Maybe it's poisonous. I'd better not use it, just in case. But then my hands won't be completely clean.

I turn on the water, then turn it off. On, off. Five times. It helps me calm myself. I know it's a terrible waste of water, and I hate myself for it. But I can't stop. I can't.

I wash my hands without soap. Turn the water off, on, five times again.

My hands don't feel clean. I think it's because I didn't use the soap.

I slather my hands in the unusual soap, and repeat the ritual. This time it feels right. Not completely right—nothing ever feels completely right. But I'm okay. For now.

But just as I'm turning the tap off for the fifth time, the handle actually breaks off.

Oh gosh oh gosh oh gosh I broke the tap.

Maybe I should try to fix it.

Maybe they can tell if a handle's not on properly. Maybe they can analyze the fingerprints on it and tell it was me. Maybe I should wash it in one of the other sinks. But that wouldn't work. There would still be fingerprints.

Then I see something inside the broken tap, where the handle should be. It's a blinking light.

It looks like a bomb.

I need to tell the doctors RIGHT NOW.

But what if they don't believe me? What if it goes off because of that? What if it's not actually a bomb and they laugh at me?

The risk is worth taking.

I run as fast as I can back to the room where all the other kids are finishing their lunch. The assistant I talked to before is still there. He looks at me with a quizzical expression as I rush in.

"There's a bomb in the bathroom," I tell him, out of breath.

His eyes widen. "Are you sure?"

I pause. Am I sure? No. The scenarios play themselves out again and again in my mind. What if it is a bomb? What if it isn't? So I just finally say, "I think."

The man nods once, then motions to another assistant, and they run down the hallway toward the bathroom.

I sit down back in my original seat, almost forgetting to inspect it for sharp objects. What if it is a bomb? What if they're too late? What if they die? But what if it's just a false alarm? What then?

I can't keep track of time. I just ask myself these questions over and over for what could be minutes or hours.

Then we hear a message through the speaker system.

"Urgent. A bomb was found in bathroom 2A. We have successfully deactivated it, but we suggest the immediate evacuation of the premises of all who are able, since there could be more bombs."

A doctor quickly motions us towards the door. We get up and go, silently, through the waiting room and out the entrance. Soon we're outside the building.

I'm relieved. So very relieved. And for a moment, for now, I feel safe.

The end.

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