It’s been awhile, but now that the Fringe is over, I’ve got some more time on my hands…
Here it is:
I LIVE ON A STREET
“I live on a street. It’s not a long street: at one end is a dead-end, at the other end is the highway. There are seventeen houses on one side, nineteen houses on the other. I live in the eleventh house on the east side of the street.
“I do not leave the street. I cannot leave it, which is something I can’t explain to you, not yet anyway.
“There is only one car on this street. It is parked outside my house and the engine is always running.”
“You’re at St. Michael’s Medical Centre. What is your name?”
She stared through the doctor as he said this. Finally, she spoke again, “I live on a street. It’s not a long street…”
The doctor sighed as he stood up. He stretched out the stiffness that comes from sitting still, locked in a staring contest with a patient for hours. He was a young doctor, recently married, handsome; he already felt old.
“… and the engine is always running.”
He smiled down at her. She was pretty even though she was filthy. She’d been brought in this morning; someone had found her, wandering the streets wearing only underwear not far from the hospital. She carried no ID, and this little speech was all anyone could get out of her.
He started to leave the room; she reached out and grabbed his arm, shouting, “I do not leave the street! I CANNOT LEAVE IT!” Her dirty fingernails dug into his arm.
“Nurse! Nurse!” Two nurses ran in and expertly sedated the young woman. He thanked them.
“Let me take a look at that arm of yours,” the tall one said. He held out his arm, relieved to see that the young woman had not broken the skin. “You’ll be just fine,” the nurse said, rolling down his sleeve.
“Thank you. Well, she’ll be sleeping for a while, so I’ll be back in a few hours to continue the psych evaluation.” He handed the charts back to the nurse and left the room.
All day he thought of the young woman. He found himself looking down at the ten angry marks on his right forearm often. And so, at the end of his shift he passed the evaluation off to another doctor and headed for home.
The sun was blinding him as he took the off ramp towards his house in the suburbs. Just like every other day, he wished he lived further from the noisy highway. As he drove towards his house, he subconsciously counted the houses on the street.
He stopped suddenly when he got to the eleventh house. There was a car parked in front of it, exhaust lazily drifting out of the tailpipe. It was his wife’s car. He pulled into the driveway, and wondered why the hell Michelle had left her car running.
He saw her coming out the front door of their house, the eleventh house on the east side of the street. She froze when she saw him, and nearly dropped the luggage she was carrying. When she could move again, she started to cry, but trudged towards her waiting car anyway.
He was rooted to the ground, and barely heard her say, “I’m sorry, John, but I have to. I have to go, I just feel so… so… trapped, living with you, with the baby, living here…” she looked up at the house and her words trailed off, so she got in the car and drove away.
His right arm throbbed as he counted the houses: nineteen on one side, seventeen on the other. The noise of the highway rose and fell, rose and fell, and he marveled at all the things he’d never bothered to count.