There is a typo on the hospital menu this morning. What is usually a carefully proofread and elegantly written list of bullshit has somehow been printed with an error. Maybe it was deliberate, maybe it was put here to tell me something. Tell me how to get out of here? Maybe. I’ve tried to make it appear as if I have no wish to escape here anymore, I can’t take the sedation and isolation. But this typo, there are never typos. It must mean something. But what if it’s a trick? What if it’s them trying to get my hopes up? I can’t let them think that I’m trying to get out. What if it’s from my wife? Poor Katherine. I haven’t seen her in weeks, she must be worried sick. They’re monitoring my calls, writing things down. It’s not safe to call home anymore, they’ll know I’m trying to get out. I think my eyes are giving me away, one of them is looking at me.
“Ah, wow, Salisbury steak today. Yeah? My favorite.” I speak loudly and clearly, that should cover up any suspicion that was placed on me. I smile as one of them passes, showing my teeth and nodding my head. They’ll think I was just excited about the menu, right? Yes, of course. There may be a lot of them, but I can’t speak to their intelligence. I can’t stare at the menu any longer, I’ve got to move or it’ll be suspicious.
I get into line behind one of them and one of them behind me. I can feel their eyes burning into my skin as they stare at me. I won’t, no, I can’t make eye contact. They speak to each other, over me. The one behind me clapping me on the shoulder as they laugh, the one in front had told a joke. I must hold myself up under the weight of it’s massive hand. I can’t show weakness to them. I know they’ve been drugging me so I can’t escape. But if I don’t eat they punish me. Toting around great containers of green mucus they say will help me get my energy back. I’d rather eat the drugged food. A ladle appears from behind a Formica counter and dumps a heaping pile of slop onto my tray. A chunk of what I can only imagine is their version of a Salisbury steak is dropped on top of it. It makes a thick and wet sound as the chunk settles into the slop. I want to be sick, but that would be weakness.
The typo is still there. I’m back at my table. I wasn’t seeing things. They are all preoccupied on their food, but I can all feel their real intention of trying to catch me looking for escape. I’m staring at my plate, I haven’t touched the food. The menu has been snuck under the table and I’m ripping it as quietly as possible. I need the typo, it must mean something, I’ve got to figure it out. Riiiiiiip. Oh no. That was loud. Why have they all stopped talking? They’re all looking at me, I can feel it.
I can’t slip up like that again. They’ve returned to each other, for now. I’m definitely not safe now. I know it. They’ll find the clue in my pocket, I just know it, they’ll take my jack-
There is a hand on my shoulder.
“Doctor? Doctor Hoffman? Are you alright?” One of them asks. With a voice familiar and a face familiar but it’s someone I don’t know. “Doctor Hoffman? Let’s get you some rest.”
They’ve pulled me into a standing position. Their taking me away again. But I’ve got the clue memorized now. They haven’t yet found a way into my brain. Yet.