the long walk home 08

It takes little bites of you. A dedicated, consistent sleep deprivation stratagem takes little nibbles, small enough so that you don’t even notice the cumulative effect. Small enough …

Before Judith finally succumbed and broke out the vacuum cleaner, she’d talk. Repeatedly. About the problem. I remember watching her go from being a bright and sunny cheery person to being a persevering-but-mostly-cloudy one. I watched as her tone dulled, her energy waned and her vitality decreased. She was like a hamster on a wheel, revisiting the same options that hadn’t worked: Get staff to enforce the rules. No, they don’t enforce rules. Confront Summer about behavior. No, she doesn’t change behavior.

Day after day, week after week, month after month.

I remember continually suggesting the vacuum cleaner and her politely laughing off the suggestion. I understood why she didn’t really consider that a viable option. Under different circumstances, I wouldn’t have considered the vacuum a viable option either. It would have seemed like something a prisoner might have to do because the guards and warden were uninterested in the rights and welfare of prisoners.

But I had talked with the staff and it was quite obvious that, for whatever reason, they were going to be of absolutely no assistance.

One day (before she resorted to the vacuum cleaner), Judith and I were talking and it was obvious that she had reached that place. That place doesn’t have a word that I’m aware of, but it’s the place right before … a woman chases her husband with a golf club in her hand … or sells her boyfriend’s Porsche for $1,000 … or something like that. Judith had arrived at that place. I wasn’t concerned about what she’d do to Summer; I figured Summer deserved whatever Judith did to her. I was concerned about Judith. If Judith smothered Summer while she slept, Judith would be the one to go to jail.

I got a stick. I don’t know where I got it from. Probably some broom or mop had outlived its usefulness. Then I got an old appliance, probably some barely functioning toaster or radio. I took them and Judith to the tv room and told her to beat the heck out of the appliance. (I didn’t use the word heck.)

She laughed politely.

This was bad. This meant she didn’t even know she was at that place. I told her not to beat the heck out of it, just hit it 3 times, knowing all that I needed to do was to get her started. She still didn’t want to do it. I told her she had to. I told her I was going to leave the room, close the door and that I wasn’t going to open it until I heard at least 3 whacks. And then I left the room and held the door closed and waited.

I don’t think she hit it right away. I remember a lengthy silence. Long enough that I worried that she wasn’t going to hit the thing at all and we were going to wake up in the middle of the night with Summer having to take a trip to the hospital or the morgue. Then I heard the first whack. Then the second. Then the third. I stopped counting when I heard the fourth whack. I made sure that no one went in the room until she was done. Thankfully, she was in there for a bit. Better some old appliance than … a staff person or a roommate.

She was glowing when she came out. She hadn’t looked that bright and sunny in months.

22. June 2014 by sojourner hardeman
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