Award Winning Cement

A short story by Lora Lafayette

This cold, dark-blue, cement room is where I’ve spent every minute of the past four days. There is no window; the only thing that prevents complete darkness is a dim, steady, yellow bulb in the ceiling. They’ve not even let me out to use the toilet, so I’ve had to add mine to the other pools of urine and the urine stench that so overpowered me as I was forced into this room. There’s a mattress, soggy and reeking of the filth ingrained into it in the middle of the room. There is nothing else. I know they’ll only let me out of here after I’ve lain motionless on the mattress for a period of time decided by the mood of my captors to be sufficient. Some are here for hours, but I’ve known the luckless to be here for weeks on an attendants whim; while they lie on the rank and indecent furnishing. People in this room stare blankly at the naked bulb, some cry or yell – mostly curses aimed at the attendants or often the voices only they can hear. The lucky ones escape into manic movements and interesting delusions or hallucinations. It is unfortunate for me that I am plagued by bleak and dangerous voices yet completely aware of my surroundings. I can’t bring myself to lay down on the putrid pile. They’ve taken most of my clothes – I have no cloth to warm me. I am so cold.

Intermittently I smash my forehead into the hard wall. I have done this on occasion to let the white-hot electricity out f my brain. Now I only want someone to come; I need to see someone, if only for the few minutes it takes them to tie me to the thick, steel anchors in the floor. The silence makes my ears ring, broken only by what the nurses say are hallucinations. Three times since I’ve been here someone has come, but every time it has been with a syringe – the contents of which make my eyes roll back in my head, my jaw strain painfully to the right and my limbs ache with intensity to move.

A few months ago, I was praying for an honorable GPA, now I’m praying that I won’t get hurt when they shove me through the heavy, metal door from a screaming, overcrowded ward to this private Hell.


Out of “the quiet room”, the days remain interminable. The minutes are days in themselves. Days first spent pacing up and down the long corridors, turn into days spent sitting and smoking, staring.. Before very long it’s time spent sleeping or raving . Chaos or Sleeping all the morning. All afternoon. All night.

Dull, dreamless sleep. Dull, dreamless existence. Strong, sedative medication and cigarette smoke permeate the world. Locked doors, plastic furniture and an ancient TV set turn it into a ward. A dirty, overcrowded ward.

Every day drifts into the next. Hours hang in the air, like the heavy, summer sun. Flies buzz everywhere; they get caught in the sticky slips of paper that dangle from the ceiling. Patients lay around in a spectrum of states of lucidity. There are those who yell, some who listen to the radio, some just sit and rock – forward and backwards, side to side; and all those except the sleeping, smoke and smoke.

The daze of hospital life drips down the walls and pools on the floor. The puddles are big enough to swim in, to drown in. Surreal screams of the psychotic and constant, insistent begging for everything one might have that another does not. If begging doesn’t work, then stealing occurs. Stealing everything, no matter how trivial and useless the item might be. The only solution is locking things up, but in that case possessions are hard to retrieve; needing a nurse to get into your box, and they’re not too eager to help.

The boredom is intense, too much to measure. There is no real conversation only raving and counter-raving. The polyphony becomes monotonous it is so constant. Even hallucinations are no match for the slow, backward, Thorazined pitch.

Sometimes a friend is made – a buoy in the sea of frenzied, tumultuous loneliness. Best friends (and the ones better to avoid) sometimes go home, to my sorrow or relief. But they’re usually back in a month or so, screaming to be let out again.

The lady in the white coat smirks at me, “I’ll talk to you when you learn how to make sense.”