Jenna and I are sitting across from each other in the hotel cafeteria with grimy trays of untouched food in front of us. Voices echo everywhere and it smells like oily tuna, but it's a relief to be somewhere besides Josephine's room, the hospital, or some diner heavy with cigarette smoke and greasy burgers.

"You okay? You look like you're ready to kill someone." Her eyes flick to the morbidly fat man who's elbow keeps jabbing into her side.  I can see that she's almost ready to blame it on him, but we both know I would never let her get away with that.

"Adam wants to come up." I glance down at my phone again. A young child runs behind Jenna, the shriek carrying right over her head and I scrunch my face up at the annoying disturbance. Jenna doesn't even flinch and it sends a fist into my stomach.

"Oh my word... Good luck with that. Are you ready to get out of this death hole?" Without waiting for my response she stands up and goes to return her tray. I follow, averting my eyes from everyone else in this room. No one is happy to be here, except those with new children. But if their babies are fine, they wouldn't be here long enough to resort to the expensive, awful hospital food.

When we get to where we're supposed to be, Josephine is sleeping like always. Her head has some stubble on it and a few less staples, but that's about the extent of her improvement. I bend over and absentmindedly kiss her forehead before flopping into the chair. Jenna steps into the bathroom and comes out a little bit later.

We live in a never-ending loop of sitting in this room, watching the paint dry and losing our minds in the process. She sits down next to Jo's bed and pulls out her notebooks when I have an idea. I stand up, making it look like I'm going to the bathroom, but I stop right behind Jenna. I take my fingers and snap, right next to her ear. She doesn't move. Than I clap. I can feel myself start to shake with anger and I hit the table with a textbook as hard as I can. Of course, Jenna doesn't register it at all. I feel burning at the back of my throat. Why? Who decides that Jenna has to be deaf? They took away her speech, her childhood, her entire family. Music was one constant in her life--I would know because it was the singular one in mine--and then it's just stolen from her.

But the startling noise wakes up Josephine and that makes me feel even worse. Jenna turns around and stares at me, her eyebrows scrunched together. I'm standing there like a madman, my eyes wild, clutching a textbook that I just slammed against a hospital wall. Josephine starts to cry and I stalk out of the room before I have to look at either of them.


I'm convinced that I'm going to have a flashback as I sit on a cold stone bench outside of the hospital, but nothing happens. The birds still sing, the vendors keep selling their greasy hot dogs, and people keep walking by as I sit there with my head cradled between my hands.

Nothing happens. I'm still sitting here, in real life. I rack my brain and there are no memories I can remember. There is hardly a conversation with Josephine that I can clearly picture. What did she even look like before the surgery? Who the heck even taught me sign language? Why do I have to use ASL anyway? What is wrong with me?!

I stand up quickly and my head splits. I have no idea where I am. My chest constraints and I turn in a circle, trying to figure out where I am. John, you moron. You should know this! It feels like liquid heat is running out of my temples when I realize I have no idea.

I'm about to run out on the road when a beautiful girl with long black hair and a tissue stuck on her forehead stops in front of me, her hands on my shoulders. "Josephine," I whisper, because she's the one thing that I know. She just smiles.

I wrap my arms tightly around her because she's the correct weight. She's healthy. Perfect. I lean down to kiss her, but her face dissolves like a pillar of sand in a power fan right as I'm about to touch her. A grating scream breaks through behind me and I whip around to see Jenna standing there. In that moment, it's like a cyclone goes off in my brain and I know that I had one of those mental episodes. My worst yet.

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