I returned to my room to find my belongings disrespectfully strewn about. The nurses had dumped the contents of my dresser onto the bed, drawers included. Nothing of my wardrobe remained neatly hung. Books lay scattered like debris in the room, some of the titles lying open and visibly damaged—one page in particular tattooed with a dirty shoe print.
I snatched my suitcase from the closet floor and began packing it, first with books but then removing some titles to pack clothing and other necessities. The two male nurses entered the room as I worked. The quiet one remained quiet.
The other one said: The director wants to see you.
At first I didn’t do anything. Then I nodded and smiled, stepping slowly toward them. I raised the arm without the suitcase in a gesture of acquiescence and surprised them with a sudden charge forth in which I knocked them both out of my way and ran out the door to the hallway, sliding on the tile with my suitcase flailing in my left hand. I heard one of the nurses fall on the tile and then I heard them both scrambling after me. I ran past patient rooms with doors closed and some open to the sound of televisions playing too loud, I ran past faces turning too late to behold the humanoid blur speeding through the hall. What were the blur’s intentions? I turned right at the hall’s end toward the cafeteria but slid into a small depression made for an alarmed exit door. I waited for the nurses to run past me into the cafeteria and perhaps out the cafeteria doors onto the back lawn, but they did not. Perhaps they saw me slide into the depression or perhaps it was a poor decision, premature to try and trick them. The quiet one was there reaching for me with thick fingers, his forearms fertile with black hair. I punched him almost square in the chin with my right. It surprised him and he staggered back into the arms of the talkative one, who regarded me with eyes wide and full of violent delight.
The talkative one said: You’re fuckin dead.
I stepped forward and swung the suitcase up in a wide arc toward his face but it was too heavy and slow and he dodged it easily. The quiet one dove downward and got hold of my legs. I dropped the suitcase and with my hands clasped together brought them down forcefully on the back of the quiet one’s neck. I was able to bash him that way three times before the talkative one tackled me down. The quiet one had fallen asleep from the blows to his neck and only the talkative one remained. He was big and strong. He tried to wrestle me to obtain a dominant position but I slipped from his grasp and quickly got back to my feet. He stood and we squared each other up. He seemed amused but serious. He was wiry and had the composure of someone who’d fought many fights. A small crowd began to gather around us, murmuring like cats. Time seemed to slow so that passing seconds were audible disturbances. I had only been in two or three fistfights in my life, all of them during childhood. But my anger outweighed any trepidation or fear—my lack of fighting experience had been kidnapped by adrenaline. He swung for my face with his left and I dodged it. Then he swung with his right and he was too quick. He got me on the nose and my eyes welled with water. I tried to kick him and he dodged it easily. He laughed and re-centered himself with his hands by his cheeks, moving laterally like a boxer in a ring. I tried kicking him again just to keep some distance while my eyes stopped watering. He lowered his head and charged, tackling me into the wall with a thud and prompting an audible gasp from the observers, now numbering at least a dozen. We fell to the ground with him on top. He pushed himself up and raised his right hand toward his ear and I looked into his eyes to regard pure vacant fury. Then he blasted his hand into my face just under the right eye. My head bounced off the tile to another audible gasp from the onlookers. The nurse raised his fist up near his ear again.
GIBSON! screamed a voice from afar.
The nurse looked from me up to the source of the voice, his eyes wide as clarity and reason began to resurface. He dropped his hand, his chest heaving with air.
Director Hitchens’s shoes clicked on the tile as he ran toward us. A dull pain like a bruise began to spread at the back of my head. My lungs yearned for air but it was too difficult with the nurse atop me. I pushed him off, aware of swelling and extra blood below my eye, hot like lava beneath the skin.
Hitchens slid on the tile as he came to a stop. He seemed tired and haggard. He’d had a long day. He looked at me and then the quiet nurse coming to on the tile next to me and said: What the hell is going on here?