the long walk home 05

Madeline was smiling.

She seemed genuinely happy, and I was glad to see it. She’d been complaining bitterly for awhile now — with good reason — and it was great to see her in a great mood again.

“Hey,” she said, “guess what’s in Jay’s file?”

Madeline was saying this while walking towards me with a manila folder in her hands. Inside, I froze. I think I was still smiling, but inside, I remember, I had a moment and I just froze.

I used to work for a mental health clinic. I had been strongly reprimanded a few times for leaving clients’ folders on my desk, closed, even for brief moments. Clients’ folders were to be either with a staff person, or in a closed drawer in the file cabinet. Nowhere else, and no if’s, and’s, or but’s. It was more than policy; it was The Law. We weren’t in a mental health clinic, but records were still supposed to be confidential. Even in this place.

And here was Madeline, not only holding another client’s file, but asking me to guess what was in it.

Neither of us were staff.

I had a moment.

Because, even though Madeline was a client, I knew her as very conscientious, responsible and accountable, even more so than some of the staff. I knew she wasn’t happy with the program, but I couldn’t imagine her ever reading anything in another client’s file. Ever. Not even Jay’s file.

Well, up to this moment, because here she was, still walking towards me with that file, positioning her fingers as if to open it.

I was going to do something. I didn’t know what, but I was going to do something. For reasons of simple self-preservation. There was no way she was going to get me in trouble because she’d gone off the deep end, gotten a hold of a client’s file, opened it, read it, and was now willing and eager to share the file’s contents.

And while I was thinking that I needed to say anything right then to stop her, I was also thinking that there must be something else going on there as well. There were staff people nearby. Madeline was unhappy with the program, but she wouldn’t jeopardize her status by possibly being caught browsing through another client’s folder.

Would she?

But here she was, and now her fingers had found their grip … My mouth opened to blurt an objection, but she saw the look on my face and hurried her actions, opened the folder wide and said, revealing the contents, “Nothing!!”

And I had another moment.

And if you’ve ever been to any kind of medical facility, you know why. You know that eight pieces of paper are filled out within two seconds of you crossing the threshold. My first introduction to this agency included a 13-page application, among many other forms.

For any client’s folder to be completely empty of any paperwork whatsoever was …


23. March 2014 by sojourner hardeman
Categories: long walk home | 1 comment

One Comment

  1. Beautiful! Very well-written short-short story.

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