A Taste of Freedom
by Alexandria Ulloa
Am I dead? No. I breathe, only I can’t move. I must be paralyzed. My consciousness slowly begins to surface. I open my eyes and stare straight up. I blink while hoping that lubrication will flood and saturate my dry eyes. The lights are bright and flicker, kind of like a strobe. The tension in my neck slowly subsides; my body is cold and heavy. I try to move my arm. Wait, I feel trapped. Have I died and gone to Hell? Why can’t I move? Is someone holding me down? Slowly, I raise my head up yet I am still trapped. Have I been in an accident? I tremble as the room starts to spin, or maybe it is just my head. Shortness of breath and chest pain, now I know I am not dead. I am having a panic attack. Where is everyone?
My eyes wander around the room. Large white tiles border the light fixture at the center of the ceiling. They gradually appear smaller as my eyes make their way away toward the wall. I glance at my right forearm. An IV. A long, thin tube is sticking out of it. I follow the tube that is connected to a bag. The bag drips. Perhaps I’m just dehydrated. My eyes: back and forth. Bag to forearm. Bag to forearm. There are red spots on my forearm. What is that? Dried blood. My eyes fixate on an object just above my wrist. It is a brown, leather-like, strap with black eyelets. I inhale: Nothing. I gasp for air but I’m not getting any oxygen. I’m strapped down. I start to shake and my chest is heavy. I feel as if someone is sitting on it. Oh God, I can’t breathe. My heart starts to pound. Beep, beep, beep, I hear the machines start to sound. A powerful burst of air shoots up into my nostrils. This isn’t hell. This is a nightmare.
Who is that? A white-haired elderly woman wearing light blue gloves approaches me. I look past her gloves at her chest. An orange lanyard with her ID badge sways from left to right. The white lettering is too small to read. I can see the picture on the badge. Her hair was longer and darker. I can almost see her name. She stops a few feet away and picks up a long, sharp needle. The room is spiraling out of control. She inches her way toward me, stopping near my arm. I mutter. “What are you doing? What is that?” She smiles and says, “Don’t worry dear, this won’t hurt a bit. It will help you relax and go back to sleep.” She raises the needle and inserts it into the nozzle of the IV. I watch her thumb slowly push down. The contents make their way through the green nozzle and into the tube. Drip. Drip. Drip. It’s like watching a waterfall in slow motion. It trickles its way through the tube toward my arm. Cold, my arm starts to feel cold. My body goes limp and my head drops back down. My eyelids are heavy and start to flutter. “There,” she says. She leans over me. Her badge dangles six or so inches away from my face, left to right, just like Poe’s pendulum. Julie. Her name is Julie. My speech, slow and slurred, “I never wanted to wake up in the first place.” Turning my head to the side, all I can see is a brown, leather-like, strap with black eyelets.
My consciousness slowly slips away. My eyes roll to the back of my head. Everything is dark. I am floating. The only thing I hear is the sound of my heartbeat, that’s how I know I’m still alive. Is this a dream? I can’t fight this anymore. 5, 4, 3, 2,1, I completely let myself go. I find my subconscious in lucidity, but my fears are woken by the sound of a man’s voice. It is angry and deep: echoing in my head. “Do you want to die young, young…young…young…?” Thank God it’s only a dream.
I travel down through a long, dark tunnel, frightened by the echoes of my father’s voice. There is light at the end. Faster, c’mon, faster I tell myself. The end is near and the light is as bright as day.
I blink. Suddenly I am taken to a familiar place: a child’s room. The walls are partially pink. My Little Pony sits on the nightstand next to an unmade bed: a little girl’s room. A voice, a familiar voice, jolts my entire body. A man towers over a little girl. She is about five years old. He screams at her, “Do you want to die young?” This girl, this poor little girl, cowers. She is a tiny thing with two long, curly, brown pigtails that stick out of both sides of her little head. She shakes. He moves toward her with demonic eyes, looking as if they are going to pop out of his head. He looks like a monster. Perhaps he is the boogey-man. I watch. I need to stop him. I try to scream, nothing comes out. I wave my arms and hands in the air, trying to get his attention. He doesn’t acknowledge me.
The man reaches out and grabs her. His gorilla-like hands wrap around her small biceps. He throws her up against the wall and screams, “Goddamn it Ally, I asked you a question!” Ally, her name is Ally. “Why didn’t you make your bed?” Ally didn’t have time to respond. He let go of her little arms, took a step back, and took off his belt. Ally looked up at the man and cried, “Daddy, please don’t! I’m sorr…” it’s too late.
His belt is leather, long and brown, with back eyelets. He lashes her like a slave. “You’re no good, do you hear?” He says. She screams, “Daddy, please stop!” She begs him to stop. All I can do is cover my eyes. I can still hear the sound of his belt slapping against her poor, little body. Silence. I open my eyes, Ally sits in the corner next to her closet, rocking back and forth, praying to a God that should have protected her. A pull, I feel a pull. No, I have to protect her. What’s happening now? Darkness. Ally looks up. Our eyes meet and her pain creates a power surge throughout my body. She disappears.
I hear a soft voice. “Alexandria?” it asks. I open my eyes. Julie hovers over me. She holds a big Styrofoam cup. “Alexandria, it’s ok. I’m Julie, your nurse. Have some water.” She hands me the cup and I reply, “Ok, thank you. Where am I? How did I get here?” Julie responds, “You’re in the County General adolescent psychiatric unit. An ambulance brought you to the ER last night. Your toxicology screen came back positive with high traces of benzodiazepines. You tried to commit suicide, so we have placed you on a 72-hour hold. We will get you the help you need. I promise.”
Well, I’m still here. I probably should have hoarded another month’s worth of Xanax. I look down at my wrists. The restraints have been removed. Oh well, I am free. For just 72 hours, I am free.
Alexandria Ulloa is currently a student at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Ca. She is studying psychology and will transfer to ASU online in the next year and a half. She is writing a memoir and aspires to write poetry and music in the future.