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10. Insanity

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The day had come when I could finally see my love. I would be permitted to visit Darius in the “treatment” center that they’d locked her away in. Why she was sent away I had a difficult time understanding, but it was insignificant. What I assumed was that the stress finally broke her down and being she didn’t have me to vent to, she snapped. See, when she vents, it’s not how normal people might expect a rational person to act. When something breaks Darius down to her basic roots, she’s far from rational. I’m the same way though, hence why we are each other’s vent puppet.

Vent puppet, that’s a new term for you, isn’t it? A vent puppet is like an emotional punching bag; you say whatever is in your heart to say, whatever insane thought possesses your mind to shout. By me being her vent puppet, she could scream at me until her throat was hoarse and her voice was gone, until nothing else remained in her heart to say. And I, as the carefully manipulated puppet, would just listen quietly, content to say only what was necessary, if anything at all. After exhausting her mind and leaving everything to shut down, she’d slowly revert to her old self. This relationship was mutual, it worked both ways; like I said, we were each other’s vent puppet.

We all left together and walked together in silence. The uneasy atmosphere lurked in the air, penetrating the depths of our souls, amplifying the tension. It seemed like an eternity passed before we reached our destination. Entry was troublesome as paperwork needed to be filled out and all kinds of questions had to be answered. After another decade seemed to drag by, we were allowed in. I crept in behind everybody else, terrified of my own shadows, let alone the sight of Darius. The room we were put in was nice and homey, it was meant for visitors and patients to feel comfortable and calm. The colors were pale and neutral, nothing bold or alarming. The room had a personality all its’ own, which it inspired on its’ inhabitants. We found a table that would suit us all comfortably and waited. I sulked visibly, staring at the table’s smooth white surface.

She was escorted in by two employees dressed in matching white outfits, uniforms that matched the tables and the walls. The entire institute reeked of purity and white, it was symbolic of the mental cleansing that occurred within. In reality, it was a mockery of the darkness in the hearts of the insane. But Darius didn’t belong here any more than we did, standing apart from the white in our various shades of black and gray. No, she was different, and she wasn’t insane. But they didn’t care, she was a statistic to them, and I hated them for it.

Anyway, Darius came in and sat down with us, glaring at the white tabletop. She was sedated; I could sense the manipulation of chemical substances immediately. Yet, her frustration still shone through as the table reflected her glare; the colors swirled and danced in her eyes. We spoke to her as if she were a child, treating her with caution and respect. She nodded here and there, told us that everything was fine and she was fine and we shouldn’t have come; she repeated the same few ideas over and over again. Eventually, she looked up at us, making eye contact one by one, resting on me. Whether she bore a grudge, I couldn’t tell, whether she remembered what happened at all, I don’t know. But to me, none of it mattered anyway. When a few more seconds had been wasted, she asked the others to step away for a moment, that she might speak with me.

She looked at me through glassy eyes, staring past me, focusing on what she could. I sat closer to her, holding her near me. I remembered then that she’d been shot, twice, but I didn’t mention it. The past events that led to this moment were insignificant. I spoke to Darius as if nothing had happened, as if we were sitting by the window together watching the sunrise and the stars fade out into the new day. She was childish again, weak and innocent, needing of someone to carry her through the trials of life. I held her close, rocking back and forth as she spoke softly to me. She told me how she missed me and wanted to go home. I promised I’d be there, waiting for her, thinking about her every moment that we were apart. She seemed satisfied with my honest words, and the sedatives were helpful. They allowed us a long time to sit and talk together, and from then on we were permitted weekly visits.

The doctors felt that if she saw us too soon, she would relapse. That was lunacy. She improved after she saw us but they were too stubborn to admit it. I knew all along that Darius was perfectly fine, but the head-shrinkers were far from agreement. They were determined to prove that she was crazy, and she was determined to screw with their heads as much as possible. She did a good job of it.

They had Darius do all kinds of things to express herself, so that they could attempt to understand where she was coming from. That was impossible. Only we could truly understand where she came from and what was going on in that little dark head of hers. They had her write stories and paint pictures and do all the things that Darius hated; they forced her to think.

The thing about Darius’ artistic expression was that she did everything without thinking. It was her belief that you can’t plan art, it simply occurs. Hence why photography was her favorite medium. With a camera, you can freeze a frame exactly as it happens, without thought or use. You just focus and click, done, saved. Darius always took pictures, the ones she liked the most covered the walls of her room; they were the most random and meaningful. She took the same approach to writing. Not once while writing a story or anything else would she plan ahead of time. Her excuse was that it hindered her progress, she felt restricted by her own structure. So she stopped setting rules and just wrote whatever came to find, without thought or revision. I can understand these methods; I exercise some of them myself. Art cannot be defined; because of our varying perceptions and ideals, our expressions are all different. Because of this, there is no such thing as good or bad art; it’s all art, and therefore, by definition, or lack of thereof, it is enough. Anything that expresses your emotion is beyond criticism and should be appreciated for what it is.

Darius and I share everything, and that includes most ideals. The doctors couldn’t accept the truth because it was so obviously simple. They refused to acknowledge the truth because that’s what it was. So they made her write according to their rules, and she scared them every time with her edgy topics and statements. She wasn’t serious- she just wanted to give them a little jolt, that’s what they were fishing for, after all. So she gave them what they wanted, she jumped through the hoops and balanced the ball on her nose, and they never saw her coming. Some of the things she wrote were funny because they were honest; most were hilarious because they were so surreal. It didn’t matter to me; it was all a game, another part of the story, another scene in the play.

Like I mentioned, we were permitted weekly visits. Darius perked up when we were around, so the doctors thought it’d be smart to cut back on the strong stuff. She was slowly coming back to us, as if she were waking from a long dream, one week at a time, recalling more and more each day. It was like watching her be reborn, growing and maturing all over again. It was two years that she was kept there while they did all kinds of tests and asked infinite questions. There were points where they’d wanted to talk to me and the rest of us, but we’d kindly refused and left quickly before the bastards could get their claws into us. Two years of her young life was wasted in that hell. But I’m getting ahead of myself; there are things I’ve forgotten to mention.

Cicero.

What the hell became of the poor bastard?

He got his all right, he sure did. He was sentenced for the rape of those girls and was suspect in a number of other crimes. He was locked away for a good while. I couldn’t have been more satisfied, neither could Syrius. The story of Faye’s murder was never told; I tried to persuade Syrius to tell it to the authorities but he couldn’t bring himself to relive the tragedy anymore. It had been buried a long time ago, he said, and he wasn’t about to go tripping over old gravestones. I suppose he had a point. The cops had enough on our old pal Cicero anyway to keep him locked up for awhile. When we told Darius the good news, she was drunk with joy. Poor ole Cicero got himself caught in the classic web of deceit, and boy did he pay the piper. He got his day all right, he should’ve known better than to try and pin the deed on us. And it got better. I hear that his gang tried to regroup but without its’ faithful leader, couldn’t. Turned to shambles, a few rogues tried to organize it and take charge. But Cicero’s downfall had spelt misery for his fellows, being as how proud bastards like Cicero don’t go down alone. Course not, he ratted out as many of them as he could manage and they were rounded up and sent away too. Basically, the group collapsed from under him; once he started naming off his fellows, they all turned on him. Loyalty was forsaken the instant he was carted away, kicking and screaming.

So that’s all there really was to say about poor Cicero, that poor dumb bastard. He was smart as hell in reality, but he should’ve known better than to screw with us. And he got his all right; we took care of it. Even if he did get out sometime, there was nothing for him to go home to. So goes life and all else. One can’t afford to get caught up in the madness.

Anyway, back to topics that actually matter, the aftermath of it all. I rejoined society once I got to see Darius on a regular basis. Madison was pretty much the same as before, talking little, listening constantly. Draven was more upright and temperamental, reminding us daily about how close we all were to being locked away forever. And Syrius, crazy, wise old Syrius? He just shrugged it off like it never happened, nod and smile, laugh if you could afford it. He laughed about it when he saw how uptight the rest of us were. He thought it was hilarious; Syrius thought a lot of things were hilarious. Tensions were a bit high for a while, but otherwise fine. Things were almost back to normal, almost. We just needed Darius home with us, where she belonged. Home. Home is what you make of it, wherever you make it. Family’s more than blood.

Returning to matters that truly matter – Darius. She was recovering well, or so they said. She had her moments that gave them a scare, but that’s how it was. She knew that she scared them, and she loved doing it. When it was important that she act normal, she did. She was able to differentiate times for severity and times for play and manipulated the doctors very well. They were pawns to her, she could affect and control and determine their conclusions and do as she willed. I missed her terribly while she was gone. On the days that I couldn’t see her, I’d sulk around and do close to nothing. The others left me to myself and knew better than to argue. Sketch came around on a day like that to see Madison and talk to me. I’d been fired when we were all arrested; the arrest had cemented his opinions about Syrius. But when the truth came out, and it would come out in time, Sketch would accept what had been; the past was dead and gone, buried in pain and earth.

To avert from the topic of Darius for a little bit and explain the strange and bizarre happenings of Sketch’s forgiveness.

Sketch was one of those hard people who can’t forgive something even when history forgets what they’re so worked up about. On the matter of Syrius, he was far from accepting. See, Sketch blamed Syrius for Faye’s death. But only because he didn’t know Syrius’ side of the story, or he didn’t want to know. We kind of tricked him into it. We convinced Sketch to read what I’ve been writing, the part long ago about Syrius, where the enigma was explained. Sketch sat and read it over and over for hours, letting each word sink in until he had it memorized and was looking through the paper, instead of at it. Somewhere that little bit of denial hid, nestled under a rock somewhere, quietly observing that had come to pass. And he was just there, dazed and confused, lost and annoyed. We’d left him alone for a while and kept at a good, safe distance away. When he got up, we were going along with our lives as if nothing happened, nothing had ever happened to cause all this. Sketch got up and looked through the place carefully until he found who he sought – Syrius. He grabbed him and pinned him to a wall by the throat and demanded to verify if my writings were accurate. He was crying and screaming and we were all standing around him on both sides to try to find a way to cut in. Syrius was agreeing and yelling and fighting with the iron clamp in front of him. It took the three of us to pry him off of Syrius and calm him down. Three of us.

We sat him down and Madison stayed in front of him, knowing full well that he wouldn’t go through her; he’d never hurt her. Draven and I were at his sides. Syrius was on the floor on his hands and knees, coughing and crawling around. He was sputtering words that we couldn’t understand as air returned to him. Sketch was hysterical, Madison was talking to him in a calm, soothing voice, explaining that we weren’t going to hurt him; we just needed him to know the truth, that it was better this way. He agreed with her and calmed himself for her; after all, she was all he had left. Madison held him like a child, rocking back and forth. He was getting better slowly; I helped Syrius to his feet. The two of them stared at one another for a while, locked in contemplation. Days would pass before things would be mended. In the days between, we kept them separated as they considered what had come to pass. Those few days were hostile and stressed, but we lived.

I went to see Darius during one of those hectic days alone. She was upset about the fighting, but we both knew that it was necessary to make the wrong things right. So she supported our decision to tell the truth. I was able to give her some of my writing to read during her time. She was ecstatic about it. In the process of writing, she’d never been able to read it. We were all reaching new levels of trust and necessity. She couldn’t wait to be out among the world again, my writing was a little bit of it, a reminder; she could read what we’d been through as I’d seen it. She had my heart and soul. And somehow, I had hers. That’s what makes love real, us, having each other. It’s complicated. We were both suffering from each other’s absence, but that didn’t matter because we still had each other. She would be out sooner or later and I’d still be there waiting. And what makes love what it is? I’ll still be there, two years later, waiting for her and all the pain, all the suffering will be gone, forgiven and forgotten. Though we might talk about it decades from now, it might be mentioned and remembered for an instant, it won’t matter because the pain isn’t real. When you’re in love, you can’t feel the world, the pain or misery. All you feel is love, absolute, pure and simple, untouched, un-harnessed, kind, caring and compassionate – love.

Back to Sketch. It took some time between the two of them, but there was an eventual truce. Peace reigned supreme at last. We made the two of them face up and there was a nice handshake and emotions raged but it was all said and done. Sketch’s anger was directed toward the true culprit, Cicero, who would rot in jail for his crimes. I got my job back, and Madison and I returned to the ranks of the employed. What can I say, it helped pass the time while she was gone, Darius I mean. So we worked and Syrius and Draven just sat around. I really don’t know what they did with their days. They might’ve continued our gang antics. I don’t know, I could care less. I was only concerned with Darius. The gang had led to her downfall and mine, but we weren’t down yet. And we’d be back; better than before, it would only require time and effort. Patience and determination would get us through this. That’s all it would take, that’s all. Things were slowly improving; it would still be awhile. Things would never be as they were. Never. But we had to make due with what we had. So we did.

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