They tell me that silence is golden. They tell me that my screams upset the other patients. I try to be good, quiet, but the silence, it pushes at me. It fills my ears and muffles my thoughts until I can’t even hear the beat of my own heart. Sometimes the silence creeps in from the corners of my little room, crawling and reaching for me, blind and fat like worms. I can’t help but scream then, to ward it off, keep the silence at bay, hiding.  

During the day there are doctors and other people walking the halls. Their shoes hit the tile in staccato slap-slaps. There are the far away murmurs of the patients that are let outside. Their voices just audible from my barred window. The patients in the rooms on either side of me ramble and rant in comforting highs and lows.  During the day I have sessions, times when the doctor comes in and talks to me. He has a perfect voice, low and strong. It fills up my little room, probing the corners for hiding silence, dispatching it with questions and medical terms. I feel the most myself in sessions. Sometimes the doctor even thinks I have made progress. Soon, he says, I may get to go home. But he says that everyday.  Then night comes. Night is the worst. The doctors go home, the patients sleep, the silence wells up and drips down the walls thick and impenetrable.

The doctors, they don’t see it. They don’t think that silence is dangerous. I see it. I saw it smother my baby brother. I remember how his frail cries dimmed and dimmed like gas lights being turned down at the theater until the silence had taken him. Then it was quiet, so, so quiet. I won’t let the silence get me too. So I scream, and I sing, and I pound the floor with my feet. Sometimes the large one and the doctor come in, tell me that silence is golden, but I know it isn’t. Silence is drowned sailor blue. The large one holds me down. I never fight. I can hear the swish swish of his uniform against his skin and the low wave of his breath in my ear. I can hear the tiniest pop when the needle enters and the doctor’s voice like a far way train as my head fills with fog.  Their small human sounds are comforting. I don’t like when they leave. I am left with the fog that won’t let me scream even when the silence crawls up my legs, reaching with sharp claws for my throat. I can only scratch with one finger nail against the material of my jacket, tiny soft little scratches, but they work. The silence retreats, I am saved.  I scratch.