Dancing with Rachel
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First Published on Nov 09 2012
Taylor, the other narrator and David’s therapist, struggles to stay sober and fight off depression while his wife lies in a coma. He bounces between his job at St. Joe’s, a psychiatric hospital, and the adjoining Lazard Memorial Hospital’s Extended Care Unit. Taylor spends much of his time traveling the cold, antiseptic tunnel between the two hospitals, always seeing the light at the end, but knowing he’s far underground.
Their lives intersect on an inpatient psychiatric unit run by Dr. Rainey, the medical equivalent of an absentee landlord. While at the State Hospital, David meets a patient who knew Doc Rainey when he was an intern struggling with his own boundary issues.
'Regulars' on this unit include Tom, a rapist and master manipulator, whose benign appearance hides true evil. (David describes him a cross between Fred Rogers and a serial killer.)
A patient named Simon wants nothing more than to find peace with God. His size and religious fervor make him the perfect cat’s paw for Tom. This scares David’s ex-girlfriend and fellow patient Monica, as well as their friend Kai. The one patient not afraid of Tom or Simon is Marc, an entrepreneurial genius suffering from bipolar disorder.
As Taylor worries about David, Taylor's friends worry about him. They watch his spirits and his weight drop as he wrestles with his own demons. An insurance company balking at the cost of a new respirator for his wife doesn't help.
Life outside the hospital can be chaotic, especially within Kai's family. His father, a born middle manager nicknamed BiMM, declares bankruptcy, accuses his mother of killing his father, and refuses to believe his wife had an affair. Kai has no doubt his grandmother tampered with the garage door lock, trapping Kai's grandfather inside. He's not at all upset when they find the old racist asphyxiated, but he wonders if he's the only sane person in his family.
An excerpt best describes the action:
My belly rumbled. Terror. Choked on his own vomit -- didn’t somebody famous die that way? Lost. A man was dead. They made his suicide look like an accident. An insane man was judged sane enough to be put to death. He was happy about it. When I shut my eyes, the devils reappeared.
"But Kai got out,” a rare friendly voice said. It made me smile. I even giggled a little. The nurse muttered “inappropriate affect” and wrote something on a clipboard.
“Dr. Stephenson home with his young wife?” I asked. She dropped the clipboard. I’m going to be here awhile.
“He’s never leaving,” a voice said.
Still, Kai got out.
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