Three thousand habitable planets in the known universe, and I’m stuck on the only one without people who recognize that these voices originate, not in my head, or anyone else’s head, but from at least one of those other habitable planets. I see it. Like being stuck in some Hitchcock movie, it’s frustrating explaining to a woman with walls of degrees that Emma, Jane, and Heath come from Mial, a planet from a distant, distant galaxy.
I like the trains. Jane and Heath do, too. I meet them there. Emma like games. Not fun games. Mean games. Says they’re fun. They’re not fun. No trains on Mial. Just clocks. That’s weird. Heath argues a lot. About anything. Mostly abortion. Jane’s quiet, mostly. Takes care of me, though. Helps with my itches.
Dr. Hayward says she understands. She doesn’t. Asks me to calm down. I can’t. Her medications make me itch. The white pills produce worms. They live under my skin, tickling me in unpleasant ways. My leg has stopped shaking. Says that’s a sign of her white pills taking effect, takes my anxiety away. But taking my anxiety away would require asking Emma, Jane and Heath to leave. They won’t. Dr. Hayward can’t help. Jane told me if I said anything about her or her colleague’s presence, Heath would have Dr. Hayward killed. Then authorities would accuse me of murder, again. Then I’d really be in heap. Especially after what brought me to Dr. Hayward in the first place.
Police say I pushed John Doe off the platform of the T line. Schedule says it comes every 23 minutes. It doesn’t. They lie. Jane told me why, but I’m not at liberty to say.
My roommate’s name is John, but I didn’t push him. His name isn’t Doe either. I don’t know any Does. Damaris. Danes. Dorothy. No Doe.
The T train was on time February 3, 2010. Never a good sign when trains are on time. Means they’re hiding something. Jane knows this. She’s nice to me, tells me these things. My bench smells nicer than other benches. Its green, well-kept. I brush it off every day. Most others down there in the subway are ugly brown and black colors. They use to be yellow. Dirty men pee on them when people are watching. Not mine. I make sure of that. No one sits on my bench anymore. Just me. Phil use to. He knows Heath. Told me so. I know he wasn’t lying. The three of us had lots of arguments about abortion, brainwashing, train schedules. Always at 03, 26, 49. 03, 26, 49. It recycles uneven. No reason for it, just does. Phil said men in suits conspire to make patrons late. He’s right. I saw them. They hold briefcases and type with their clean thumbs on their phones.
Those phones are bad. They kill people. News shows tell me so. I believe them. Weather at 10 passed the hour, channel 6, 5pm and 10pm. No reason to lie. Weather reports are never late. Jane says that’s good. News people are suppose to be on time, trains late. So is how the world works, Jane tells me often.
TV’s across from my bench are nice. Tell times of the T trains. On time. Departed. Cancelled. Ha! I like watching them change. Jane knows who changes them. Won’t tell me though. Says its good I don’t know.
Dr. Hayward is making me watch surveillance tapes of when the police man said I pushed Mr. Doe. Says it will make me better to see me do it, to see it happen. Says seeing it will help me know reality. She brings a big TV today. The room is small. It makes me uncomfortable. Can’t tell Dr. Hayward though. Says that’s good for me, discomfort. She lies. She sits next to the TV, across from me, clicks some box. She’s still close enough to smell her breath. Always of lemon. Lemon drops. Three each meeting. I watch, I know. I don’t lie.
The video is black and white. I like TBS late night shows. Always start at 05 and 35, never at 00 or 30. On time, but not really. Makes me laugh. Ha!
“What’s funny, Francis?”
I tell her. She can’t make the connections I can. Those framed degrees are lies.
“I want you to try to focus, Francis. This is very important. You need to see what you did so I can help you get better.”
I squint. My new prescription glasses are hard to see out. -7.5, -8.25. I see me. After a long time the camera gets closer to me. Its like the movies, close up, movie style. I’m on my bench. Ha!
“What do you see, Francis?” I tell her I see me. So stupid. She doesn’t even wear glasses. Maybe she should, it’d help. 10:22:43, 10:22:44, 10:22:45 trip along the bottom of the screen. Seems so real. I remember counting then, too.
“Francis!” Dr. Hayward stares at me. She does that a lot. Makes the worms wriggle more when she stares at me like this. “Focus! Stop swaying like that and look at…”
I’m not swaying, I say. She’s swaying. Jane tells me its all a trick she’s playing. Trying to confuse me. Its not working. I see her lies. I tell Dr. Hayward I see me in black and white, I’m getting bigger. Phil isn’t there. Heath is yelling at me. We argue for a long time. Can only see my face now. Turn it down, please, I ask Dr. Hayward. Please turn it down.
“There is no sound, Francis. This is only footage.”
I yell it again. She’s still lying. Why can’t you hear it, I ask. Its plain as day. So stupid, deaf. Reciting the argument back to Dr. Hayward like she asks, I play both my voice and Heath’s. Its funny to hear me play Heath’s voice, sounds like David Duchovny. Heath makes fun of me for it. That’s not funny though.
Heath thinks abortion sucks a woman’s soul out with the baby. I tell him he’s a liar. He’s stupid. But Heath is smart. Convincing arguments make me feel stupid. Now I know better. I think I know better. I know better, right? Dr. Hayward tells me that my argument with Heath isn’t happening. Never did. She lies. She tells me I was arguing with myself about abortion because I saw some poster about it. She lies. I don’t read posters. They lie.
Worms are crawling around the me on the TV. I scratch my face on TV and I do it real, too. Dr. Hayward doesn’t care about the worms, likes them actually. Her pills give me the worms. They live right under my skin so she doesn’t have to worry, or care. Those white pills are bad, food for the worms, Jane says. They itch so much. I move around on Dr. Hayward’s couch. Its hard on my backside, like wood. I can’t play Heath and me too when I see me wriggling with worms. Can’t concentrate. My face looks fuzzy and wavy like a lake. Jane likes the worms. Says they are healthy for me. They give me strength, Vitamin D.
“Do you see you rocking back and forth here, Francis?”
No! I’m not rocking. Dr. Hayward points to the TV me but TV me just yells at Heath. My head gets smaller. I can see more of me. Cameraman is panning out. I’m still yelling at Heath. Heath is still trying to make me think that bad stuff about abortion. He’s wrong, I think. 10:24:13, 10:24:14, 10:24:15.
I see all of me now. Black and white still. Itching arms, God. I can’t feel my fingernails scratching, only the worms getting out of the way of my nails. I need to cut my nails. TV me gets up. Heath left. Said he went to get a cut of coffee. He lied. But I won’t tell him that. He really hates it when I accuse him of lying. But there’s no coffee shop in the subway. Liar.
Worms fall out of my TV pant legs as TV me starts walking toward the camera. 10:25:32, 10:25:33. Hi Jane, me and my TV self say in unison. Jane picks up all my worms I drop and hands them back to me.
“What are you doing with your hands there, Francis? Hmm? What’s going on in your head right there? Do you remember? Tell me, Francis.”
Jane likes me, I tell Dr. Hayward. She takes care of me. Jane whispers in my TV ear but I don’t share this with Dr. Hayward.
“Why are you smiling like that, Francis?”
Nope. You’re trying to trick me again, Dr. Hayward, I tell her.
“This is very important, Francis. You have to tell me what you are smiling about so I can make you better.”
I feel my teeth gritting, worms squishing. I spit them out, dig the leftovers out of my mouth with my fingers. They taste like rotten fish, gritty like scales.
“Francis! What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Dr. Hayward jumps up, shakes off the worms. Whoops.
TV me stops talking. So does Jane. TV me runs toward the camera. Looks like I’m going to run under it. One of the men with the nice blue suits falls under the camera. TV me looks down off camera. TV me disappears behind the train. 10:26:05, on time. Its never good when trains are on time. That’s what Jane tells me.
“Now! See that, Francis! What did you do? Just there? Why did you push that man?”
Never pushed. He jumped, I tried to stop him. Not my fault. Not his fault. Dr. Hayward lies. Jane told me he wanted to jump. Said his wife cheated on him. I pushed her last week. Never pushed Mr. Doe.
“Good, Francis. Say it louder, Francis. You have to believe it so I can make you better.”
Louder. Mr. Doe’s wife cheated on him. With me. I pushed her. She lied to me. Said I was her boyfriend. Sara wanted to marry me. Mr. Doe found out later. I told him. Jane hated that I told him. Mr. Doe didn’t believe me. Said I was too ugly for Sara. She wouldn’t, couldn’t, hadn’t. TV me yelled that I pushed Sara for being a liar. I yelled too so deaf Dr. Hayward could hear what TV me was saying.
“Excellent! Good progress, Francis!”
The worms collected around my wrists and tightened. I screamed, jumped to my feet. Some worms fell out of my pant legs. Jane was not there to pick up my mess.
“Look around you, Francis!”
I looked. Black and white walls, train, suits. I try to scratch the worms. Worms on my wrists arn’t worms, police man hands grab me. That’s relieving. I can’t see her, but I hear Emma tell me that all will be OK now, I’m getting better. I spin my head around. No TV me anywhere. Just the police man. He’s not happy. Calls me a killer. He lies. Dr. Hayward, I yell, help me, make me better.
The police man turns me in my place. I’m facing my bench, a poster with a dead baby above it. Dr. Hayward, I say to her, help me! You are standing there! Do something, I beg.
“I already have, Francis.”
“Thanks for the help, ma’am,” the police man speaks. He lies.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, I didn’t catch your name.”
I tell Dr. Hayward not to say anything, that the police man lies. Heath tells me so. Don’t listen to his lies, I say.
“Hayward. Dr. Emma Hayward.”