Saturday, March 26, 2011

When You Laugh, What Does It Mean?

Arriving still bleary at 5 o'clock in the morning
I find her in a room with two residential staff
laughing, so much so that the emergency department nurse
went over and closed the door.

They tell me she barricaded herself in a room earlier
punched and kicked holes in the walls, the police were called,
and she was brought here for an evaluation, which is what
I'm doing here, and in the room I see a 16 year old girl
with defiant black eyes.

She's seen these stupid staff before,
she's heard all their dime store diagnostics,
chicken soup platitudes, empty encouragement
but she understands better than anyone, after growing up in these places,
that all she has to do is push a little bit and all these
caretakers stop caring and
quit on you.

I ask the kid, so what's really going on
and she puts it out there flatly,
I'm testing
which is what you do when you've only lived in a place
with total strangers, who claim to have your best interest at heart,
for three weeks and you've spent the last few years in similar places,
none of which could handle your shit.

I ask her if she wants to be in a hospital. No.
I ask if she has been in the hospital before. Yeah, about 5 times in the last three years.
I ask if it helped. She laughs. No, it doesn't do anything.
I call the Program Director. The program cannot manage her at this time.
We want her hospitalized.

I ask, as professionally as possible,
what the director hopes a hospitalization will achieve.
She's not on medication.

I don't send the full message that is
locked and loaded on the tip of my tongue, but
I suggest that the child might be better off going back to the
program with assurances that staff there will keep her

The program cannot manage her at this time.

Returning to the room, I find her laughing
again with the staff, and I deliver the message
cloaked in jargon
that we will be looking for placement outside her program
to allow her time to stabilize and to let the situation cool down.

We talk a little, and she says
the hospital won't help unless they can change the way my brain thinks
and that sounds to me like an apt prescription for this
completely broken child welfare system
and it's endless shuffling of risk, of liability,
which unfortunately happens to present in the form of children.

Her face is smiling.
I tell her to stop doing what she's doing,
and she knows just what she's doing.

She nods and smiles at the three of us,
but her black eyes don't blink
even though we are all smiling warmly,
and the sun is rising as we mimic
the movements of professionals

You know, some drug company is probably hard at work right now
on a pill that, taken twice daily, can reduce the unpleasant
side effects of serial abandonment in just a short course of treatment.

You hang in there, okay?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (New International Version, ©2011)


  1. Oh shit. Helpless, hopeless shit.

    and 'thoutdin' - the whatever it's called google verification - puts it even better.

  2. Sorry, Sandra. I had to purge this. Maybe that's what's not so great about a blog like this -writing and posting immediately. not everything one writes should be read by others I suppose.

    Don't know what you mean regarding "thoutdin"?


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