It was a Tuesday night in early March. My wife Pat had obtained a court order for me to spend 72 hours on a psych hold. According to the order, I was a danger to myself. This wasn’t the first time I’d been held for psychiatric observation. I didn’t want to be in this hospital, but I knew that it was for my own good, and that Pat needed a break from my self-destructive behavior.
I walked into the recreation room. I was surprised to find the room was empty. That was a rarity. The movie Armageddon was playing, and I sat down to watch. That’s when a young woman entered and took a seat in one of the worn out leather recliners.
“Hi, I’m Aimee,” she said. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Hi, Aimee. I’m Rob. Sure ask me whatever you’d like.”
This woman was sending out some peculiar vibes. She wasn’t your run of the mill psych patient. We all have a certain weirdness quotient; I know that. But I felt creepy and flustered, and somewhat defenseless. I sensed peril. From what, I couldn’t say, but the danger was there.
She stood and faced me. “Look at me,” she said. “Do I have camel toe?”
Camel toe. Jeez. That’s a very graphic reference to a woman’s pants riding up her crotch and drawing attention to where your eyes shouldn’t be looking.
“Camel toe? No . . . no, I didn’t notice.”
“Well, take a look. Do I?”
I obliged her, quickly scanning the area in question. She was very pretty. Petite, about five foot two, maybe 110 pounds. She had smooth, dark skin; a cute, turned up nose; and sensuous, full, lips. But it was the alabaster white of her large, almond-shaped eyes that drew my attention. Not a hint of red or yellow, just pure, perfect white. Her hair was a different story. She must have cut it herself, and the result was a mangled set of bangs that jaggedly framed her otherwise lovely face.
“No, I finally answered, no you don’t.”
“Thank you for checking.”
What was I supposed to say? “My pleasure”?
“You’re married, aren’t you?” she asked. I wasn’t wearing my wedding band. I think the intake people were afraid I’d swallow it.
“Good guess; yes I am married.”
“It wasn’t a guess. I’m psychic. I can tell you the name of your wife.”
“Okay, what’s my wife’s name?”
“It’s coming to me. Kelli. Your wife’s name is Kelli.”
“Actually, it’s Pat.”
“But everyone calls her Patty. Right?”
“Um . . . no . . . they call her Pat.”
“Okay, but I will tell you this — your Karma’s in serendipity.”
I had no clue what that meant.
“So, what else can you do?” I asked.
“Well, I’m psychokinetic. I can move things using only my mind.”
“That sounds cool. Let’s see you move some stuff.”
We were in the TV room, so I suggested she move the DVD player.
“Okay, here goes.”
I wasn’t surprised when nothing happened.
Not missing a beat, she declared, “You know, I can blow up a light bulb just by willing it to explode. I mean implode it – I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
Gesturing to the ceiling, I asked, “Can you implode one of these fluorescent lights?”
“Hmmm . . . fluorescent’s a lot harder than a regular light bulb. But, I’ll tell you what – tomorrow at breakfast, I’ll implode every light in the cafeteria. They are going to freak out!”
“I’m looking forward to that,” I said. “You know, the last time I was here I met a woman who said she was a medium.”
“A medium, right. What’d she do? Never mind, it doesn’t matter. I don’t believe in that medium crap. Mediums claim they can communicate with the dead. I don’t believe in ghosts and all that spooky mumbo jumbo.”
I didn’t say anything. I just sort of shuffled my feet.
“Do I make you nervous?” she asked.
“I could tell. You’re cute when you’re nervous. You’re a genius, aren’t you? The reason I know is that I’m a genius too.”
“Genius?” I asked. “I really don’t think I’m all that smart.”
“I wasn’t always a genius myself, but the strangest thing happened to me after I was hit by a car. I wasn’t hurt bad, but — this is amazing — after the accident, my intelligence increased by 14 times. And, ever since, I can speak 14 languages – French, Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese – you name it, I can speak it.”
I reached into my bag of foreign idioms.
“Well, I’m pretty tired, and it’s been a long day. I guess I should say, ‘bonne nuit.’”
“Good night. I said good night in French.”
“Oh — yeah. You kind of mumbled it.”
“Il est tard. Je suis très las. It’s late, and I’m very tired,” I said.
“I don’t need a translator. I told you I was fluent in -- ”
“Yeah, I know, you’re fluent in 14 languages.”
“Wait," she said. “Can I ask you a big favor?”
I just wanted her to leave me alone, but I nodded. “Sure, then I have to get to bed so my sleep meds will work.”
“Yeah, the window.” She meant the window of opportunity the sleep meds have to work. If you lose that window, you could be up all night.
“So, what can I do for you before I hit the sack?”
“Kiss me on the lips, please.”
She didn’t just ask me to kiss her; she couldn’t have. Holy fucking shit!
“I’m sorry, Aimee. I’m very happily married.”
“Just one kiss. I promise. Perfectly innocent.”
“I can’t. Really, I just can’t.”
“Don’t you think I’m pretty?”
“Aimee, I think you’re beautiful, but . . . my wife. I can’t kiss you. I love my wife.”
“Okay, then just a quick kiss on my cheek.”
“I’m sorry, I just ca--”
Before I knew it she’d planted a soft kiss on my left cheek.
“How was that?”
“Very nice,” I said. “It was a very nice kiss.” I was blushing. I could feel the warmth on my face.
“G’night,” she said. “Can’t wait to blow out the lights in the morning. You’re gonna love it.”
“I’m looking forward to it. Good night, Aimee.”
I headed quickly to the safety of my room.
The next morning, the cafeteria lights remained intact. There was not so much as a burned-out bulb. But something was off. I felt like every staff member was staring at me in an indisputably disapproving fashion. Had someone seen “the kiss,” and even if they did, how was that my fault?
Robert Rickelman has published nonfiction stories in Inscape Magazine (where his piece, “Phyllis” won the Nonfiction Editors’ Choice Award.), Twisted Vine Literary and Arts Journal, The Long Island Literary Journal, Blue River Review and forthcoming from Barely South Review, and The Bitchin’ Kitsch.