He sat alone behind the curtain on the emergency room bed.
Robert shook a little, rocking back and forth absently, trying to
be calm. The nurse had led him here about five minutes ago and then
left him alone to wait for the next person in the hospital chain to
come take a look at him. He could hear the murmuring of people in the
next few beds, but mostly it was quiet in the ER--a few voices of
doctors and nurses discussing "medical histories" and procedures
affecting the current random assortment of patients...nothing
affecting him until he heard the words "Psychiatric evaluation" and
then he knew that they were talking about him. He tried to make
out the rest of the words but there were too many other voices for
him to pick out what they were saying. "What's taking so fucking
long?" he thought in a panicked state.
It was only a few days ago that his life had begun to unwind. He could not really pin down where the fine line between "normal" and "breakdown" had been crossed. He hadn't really eaten well in months, but until the last few days when the desire to eat was less than his desire to stay in bed and starve to death, he hadn't realized just how much weight he had been losing. His job was the same as it ever was, the same boring repetitive tasks he had every day. Nothing had really changed that had single-handedly pushed him over the edge. But one day he just found he wasn't sleeping anymore and then the days after it was more of the same. After a week of staring up at the ceiling and then crying like a baby when the sun came up after another sleepless night, he knew that this could not go on for much longer.
Robert had somehow managed to get himself together enough to get out the door and lock it behind him. He got into the car and drove to the local hospital. Trying to gather just enough of his senses to concentrate on parking the car was almost impossible. Operating on some level of instinct, he managed to find a spot n long term parking, in the lower garage. He didn't know how long he'd be here, or if they'd even admit him, but he had to try it. There just wasn't any other choice.
He blindly found his way into the emergency room on foot. The nurse at the front desk was calm, professional. Robert found he couldn't hold together for another minute. He raised his quivering voice from deep inside the dark place in his mind to cry out the only thing he could think to say. "I...I need help...please...help me."
Alone in the ER. Alone. Being alone was bad, but there were many ways in which being around people was even worse. It took an enormous amount out of him to try to act like there was nothing wrong. People didn't see that he was close to doing something awful, either to himself or to someone around him. All week long at his job he had been fighting to maintain some level of composure, trying not to snap. No one around him would understand. He had a hard time even remembering what it was like to have a "normal" problem, a problem he could talk to others about to make them understand, that they could relate to. The worst part was the alone feeling. If only he could stop that...