I don’t like weekends. Weekends mean activity time, activity time means I have to bond with people. It means Dr. Thakkar pulls out his clipboard and brings us into the big cold room with the blue walls and gives us stale cookies and tells us to sit in a circle and talk about our feelings. It means that Saturday night I have to put on a scratchy suit and stand there while Radio Top 50 plays and middle aged women pumped full of antidepressants and steroids circle around me like sharks. Sundays I sit in Dr. Thakkar’s office, and he sits across from me. He wears gray pants. Dr. Caputo comes every other week. She has big black glasses and she argues with Dr. Thakkar a lot. She says I’m not making enough progress. But Dr. Thakkar says I need time to adjust.
I like weekdays because weekdays mean computer time. Every day, Monday to Friday, 1 to 2 pm. Monday morning at 8am we have breakfast. After breakfast, I write down what I ate and how much I liked it. Dr. Thakkar asked me once what I do to calm down. I told him that I journal. And I do. Every day, about everything that I do.
Lunch is 12 to 12:30, and afterwards I get my medication. The pills are big and bitter and they get stuck in my throat. But I don’t mind, because I know that as soon as I’m done I can go to the computer room.
The computers are all lined up and I always take the one in the corner. The first ten minutes of my hour I spend checking my emails. My mother emails me a lot, almost every day. She’s taking care of my plants. She got a dog. She divorced my father. She learned how to bake cinnamon rolls. The neighbor mows the lawn now. It’s nice that she’s so happy. My father calls me on my birthday, and on Christmas, but he doesn’t send emails. That’s all right.
The other 50 minutes are about Beth. I know I’m not supposed to be checking on Beth. But they don’t know, and she doesn’t know, because I have fake profiles on social media. I post every Tuesday, mostly cat pictures.
Beth doesn’t know I’m following what she posts. But I do. Every weekday. She’s married now, to her second husband. His name is Tony. They have two kids together, Aurora and Seth. I don’t like Tony. He doesn’t know Beth like I do. He doesn’t love her like I do.
I’ve loved her since we were kids. When I was 5, and she was 4, and I chased her around the playground. When I was 13, and she was 12, and she had braces and pink stripes in her hair. When I was 17, and she was 16, and she listened to screaming music and protected me from the kids who made fun of me for bringing my journal everywhere. When I was 19, and she was 18, and I moved to be near her, so I could see her drink too much coffee and buy her coconut chocolate and study at the same table. When I was 25, and she was 24, and she wore dark lipstick to job interviews and told me she needed space, and that I was suffocating her. And when I was 29, and she was 28, and she got engaged to Matthew Herscht and I punched him so hard I broke 3 of his teeth. And then I went to prison, and she got married, and I would have killed myself if I could.
Now I watch her Facebook. I write down all the places she goes to. I write down what drinks she buys, at what bars. I write down her friend’s names. Her waist is a little thicker since she gave birth. But that’s okay. I still love her. I still think she’s the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen in my life.
When the hour is up, I log out of Facebook and I go to my afternoon session with Dr. Thakkar’s assistants. They sit in a semicircle around me, in white coats and blue plastic gloves. Blue is Beth’s favorite color. They ask me about my sexual fantasies. I lie and tell them about the anorexic girl on the third floor, because I know they’ll never let me alone with her. She’s too delicate. I tell them that I like her hair, even though it’s boring and brown and brittle and Beth’s hair is shiny and bouncy. They ask me about my relationships with the other people in my program. I pretend to care. They arrange a date with Lola. I don’t care about Lola.
But I would rather go out with Lola than watch the training videos, so I go out with Lola. I sit on the terrace in a scratchy suit and the nurses bring us mashed potatoes and peas and limp chicken, and I look at Lola, whose fingers are bleeding and who has to touch her fork three times before she can pick it up. I talk to Lola, and I pretend to care, but I’m imagining Beth in front of me.
After dinner, I kiss Lola goodnight and the nurses all applaud my progress, but I don’t tell them that it feels like kissing cardboard. I go back to my room and I write down everything that happened, so I don’t forget. And then I rewrite it, as if it were Beth instead of Lola. Beth would give me her peas because she hates them, and she would drink tea, not water, and kissing her would be like magic and fireworks and stars raining down on us.
That’s what it was like to kiss her. I know, exactly, because I wrote it down. I flip back to that part of the journal, and it’s worn down and yellow because of how much I’ve reread it. She didn’t want to kiss me, but that’s okay. I always knew what was best for her. I made her do her algebra homework before we went biking. I made sure she got off the school bus at the right stop. I bought her raspberries so she would get her vitamins and minerals. I always knew what was best for her. And I knew kissing her was best for her.
I held her tighter, and there was something exciting and terrifying about her squirming. And kissing her was just like I imagined. Magic and fireworks and stars raining down on us. Sex was even better. After a while she stopped struggling. And her skin was soft, and her lips were salty, and her eyes were closed, and I was so happy.
The next page is the sad page. When I woke up, I was in a car surrounded by doctors and policemen and I couldn’t find Beth anywhere. And the next few months were a blur, because I wasn’t allowed to see Beth. I wasn’t allowed to talk to Beth. My mother cried every day. And now I’m not allowed to talk to Beth. She got divorced six months after we had sex. I don’t know why, but I’m happy. Matthew wasn’t good for her. He wasn’t good to her. I would be good to her. I would be so good to her.
Tuesday mornings we have group. I sit in group and I nod but I’m not listening. I write down the names of everyone who’s in group. I want to remember. Today we have 11 people. When Beth was 11, Mom got into a car crash while we were both in the car. She broke her wrist, but I was fine. And I brought her ice cream so she wouldn’t feel sad in the hospital. Now I’m sad in the hospital and she isn’t bringing me ice cream. Tuesday from 1 to 2 pm I watch her instagram story. She has a picture of Aurora’s school play. The next slide has a picture of ice cream. It’s green. I write down pistachio. Beth never liked pistachio when we were kids. Maybe Tony made her eat it. Tony isn’t good for her.
Wednesday morning I am supposed to play basketball on the court in the back, but Dr. Thakkar says I have a special appointment with him and Dr. Caputo today. When I go to the office they close the doors and show me the computer screen.
“I know you’ve been looking at your sister’s pictures on Facebook. We can read your search history. You’ve been searching her up every day. Thomas, this isn’t good for you or your recovery. We’ve discussed this. You cannot contact Beth in any way. You cannot talk to her. You cannot look at her social media.”
The room blurs and my ears go fuzzy. They can’t take Beth away from me. They can’t take this away from me.
“Thomas, the point of going on the date with Lola is to expand your horizons. You’re supposed to be exploring your sexuality.” Dr. Thakkar looks sad.
“I don’t care about my sexuality. I want my sister. I love my sister.”
Dr. Thakkar shakes his head. Then Dr. Caputo tells me that she is taking over my case. I don’t like this. I don’t like change.
Dr. Caputo says I don’t get computer time anymore. She wants me to spend more time in group. She wants to give me new pills. They’re blue, not gray. Blue for Beth. She doesn’t want me to journal anymore. She thinks I think too much about Beth. She takes away my paper and my pens.
I’m not allowed to journal anymore so I try to keep everything in my head, but it’s hard to remember the details. One day I wake up and realize that I don’t remember what I wore yesterday.
I wonder how Beth is doing. I miss seeing her face every day. But I haven’t seen her in a month now. I don’t remember where the wrinkles line up on her face. I don’t remember which of her teeth is a little crooked. I don’t know where she goes for lunch with her friends, or domino night. I don’t know if she’s still married to Tony.
I have to apologize to Lola. It was mean of me to treat her like that. We get ice cream together and I don’t have to kiss her anymore. She’s sort of nice now that her fingers bleed less.
Dr. Caputo sees me less. One Wednesday she gives me a pamphlet. It tells me I should clean a school or be a lifeguard at a beach. I can’t swim. But I can clean. So I tell Dr. Caputo on Thursday that I want to clean a school. I want to be a janitor. Dr. Caputo says it’s all right if I am supervised. But it doesn’t matter whether they supervise me or not. I am the best janitor the school has ever seen. I am good at cleaning, and I like doing it. It gives me routine, which is something I’ve been missing ever since Dr. Caputo took away my journals.
Now, I still hate weekends. Weekends still mean activity time. It means Dr. Caputo and the clipboard in the big cold room with the blue walls and stale cookies. Sundays I sit with Dr. Caputo for three hours and we talk about my childhood and my pills. She asks how I feel. I tell her I am happier. I am thinking about Beth less. It’s true. I tell her I love weekdays. I love the cleaning. I love the structure and the patterns, but I don’t need to journal anymore. I know I won’t forget the important parts. She says my progress is great.
“Have you felt anything romantic or sexual towards anyone who isn’t Beth?” she asks.
“Yes, there’s someone with soft short hair and bright eyes and a chirpy voice,” I explain.
“That’s fantastic. Have you considered making a move?” She’s writing something down on her clipboard.
“Yes, just like we talked about. I’m going to ask her out on Friday,” I say, and I smile because I know that this is it, I’ve moved on from all the pain I’ve caused.
“What’s her name?” Dr. Caputo is so happy for me.