Lifeless eyes meet mine through the small window of the padded room. I try to look away, but something in my heart wouldn’t let me. Her pale lips curve into a crooked smile that makes a shiver travel up and down my spine. A matted mess of dark knots float around her head, only giving her more of an unpleasant aura. Her stark white jumpsuit washes out any color that may be on her features. Arms are wrapped about her chest, strapped firmly in the straight-jacket that is being used for her own protection. She occasionally struggles against her bonds, but collapses to the floor in defeat for hours. Pity swells in my heart, followed by an unrelenting sense of remorse. Looking at her now, I hate myself. I feel responsible for creating the person who stares back at me with such empty eyes. A sliver of hope lingers that life will return, but it is buried far beyond her current mental state.
People often question me as to why I still bother visiting her. I don’t have an answer for them. I have tried to leave her behind me, but something always pulls me back. Perhaps it is hope; a false hope that she will return to the person I had fallen in love with all those years ago. Looking at her through the small glass window, I often question myself. She didn’t look like herself anymore; that person I seek within the depths of those lifeless eyes no longer exists. She has become a crazed monster, and yet I want to cradle her in my arms and tell her everything is going to be alright. As I watch her struggle to free her arms, I almost think it should be me in there. I am losing my mind watching her sit in this room day after day. It has been years and little to no progress made in her recovery. The doctors no longer look me in the eye, but do everything they can to avoid being in my presence. I have come to terms with the fact this is the way it is and will be, but I didn’t want to be the person that abandons her like everyone else has.
As I stand there and watch this woman in that little white room, the woman that had stolen my heart, I feel betrayed. Tears threaten to fall as I think about our past and the memories we have made together. All those are long gone now, and never will return. The voice of reason begins to whisper in my ear once again, making me wrestle with my emotions and my mind. I didn’t want to be the deserter, but it has been years now and I couldn’t seem to let go. She isn’t coming back, and I need to accept that fact. I need to find the courage to move on, knowing that she will never realize I am gone as she no longer knows who I am anymore. Time ticks away as I fight back and forth with reasoning, slowly coming to terms that it is time to let her go. It is time to release myself from her; to move forward and never look back. I am wasting away, desperately clinging to something that no longer exists. I am destroying myself with each passing day.
I lower my eyes with a feeling of acceptance and turn around, taking a few steps away from the small window. My heart feels heavy and I look back for the last time. Her face is framed by the small window as she watches me walk away. The betrayal I had felt fades into the sting guilt, believing what she feels now is that betrayal of seeing me walk away. I had hoped some of woman I loved still existed, but there is no longer any way to reach her. It is time for me to move beyond this chapter of my life, no matter the pain that it causes for both me and that woman in the padded room, if she could still feel that sort of pain.
As I look into those lifeless eyes for the last time, my lips mutter three simple words I hope she understood.
“I love you…”
I am doing this for us. It is what needs to happen. I turn back around and walk through the double doors of the psych ward, turning the final page. Relief didn’t wash over me; the burden didn’t lift, but I know it never will. This is part of my life, my past; it will never be completely erased. I accept this fact and walk from the hospital, a free man.