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and procedure. These consisted of drug protocols,

an actual physical or psychic energy or simply an

surgeries, tests, and sometimes psychoanalysis

idea she had constructed given an already estab-

and counseling. All of these were methodologies

lished verbal context: an assumed cause and

for a) continuing to live and b) justifying the state


of living. Like anyone, she was coping. Only the

She stared at her knees poking beneath the

evidence of her coping was more striking; the

white woven blanket and concentrated. Explaining

struggle was more condensed. She could think of

was difficult. Her explanations never sounded

a few allegories—a person marooned on an empty

real. She didn’t feel real. She wasn’t sure if looking

island in a vast ocean or trapped in a spaceship

like a ghost made her somehow believe she

floating in a lifeless solar system—as she lay gaunt,

should feel like one, too, or if that this was just

weak, pale, and barely distinguishable from a

how ghosts were made: through a death that’s

pile of white sheets and blankets in a hospital

gradual so that at the end, or even somewhere in

that might as well have been anywhere but hap-

the middle, the ghost doesn’t know whether it’s

pened to be in a small city near some factories and

alive or not.

restaurants. The head of her bed was raised at a

“When I try to remember,” Leeann began, “I see

45 degree angle to, theoretically, permit her to

this kind of white blank in my head. I feel like

converse with Richard with their eyes on an equal

nothing’s there . . . in my head. It’s not like seeing

level and occasionally meeting.

just a color, but it’s like this pressure inside of my

“When you . . . ‘can’t remember,’” Richard set-

mind. Kind of like a wall that’s real. But it’s not like

tled on the phrase uncertainly, using Leeann’s

I’m just looking at a wall, not like looking at this

words out of respect but wanting, she hoped, to

wall, you know,” she nodded to the one in front of

find some that were more precise. Maybe he


understood, or maybe he was just doing a job,

“I mean, it’s sort of the same color, but I can feel

tracing the grooves in a familiar pattern of thinking

the wall, the one in my head. I can feel it sort of sit-

and thus defeating the point of thinking, really

ting in there. Her eyes searched the blanket for

thinking, in the first place. “What . . . um . . . hap-

words. “And then I kind of feel like nothing is real,

pens? You seem like a very intelligent young lady,”

but no, not even like that, like I’m not really here,

he added quickly. “So that’s why I guess I don’t

but I am, but it’s . . . strange . . . that I am here?” She

understand. Can you explain more?”

looked up at Richard. His body was leaned slightly

People often cited Leeann’s intelligence. She

away, like a windblown field of wheat. Maybe,

thought that it was mostly to reassure her and

unconsciously, he knew something about the

believed that most people could find the words

shadows that, when she was alone, moved across

for what others wanted to hear so naturally and so

the walls, and needed no source of light; maybe

rapidly that they could never be sure what their

he was listening for coming terror and preparing

own opinions actually were. And maybe trying to

himself to bolt. Sometimes some things—the

find out was useless anyway.

unreal things that existed nevertheless—fright-

“Sure. I guess.” Leeann’s eyes dropped to her

ened her into believing that she would forget the

lap, and she exhaled once, still impatient with

world she had known and maybe that would be

Richard’s casual use of “intelligent,” which seemed

bad. Or at least irreversible. Or both. And some-

a completely relative and useless adjective, based

one like Richard might be able to tell her if she had

on the biases and interests of an impassive elite, to

forgotten or if she were lost, even if he didn’t

which she belonged, she supposed. And maybe

know, by leaving her alone in her mind.

Richard did, too. She could feel him waiting and

But Richard nodded, which encouraged her to

wondered if her perception of his expectation was

continue. “I watch myself doing things,” she said.

36 | COA

Profile for College of the Atlantic

COA Magazine: Vol 1. No 1. Winter 2005  

COA Magazine: Vol 1. No 1. Winter 2005