I was really on a roll with this writing business when my cell phone rang. I don’t get many calls, so whenever I hear it, I think it’s someone else’s phone till everyone around me starts looking annoyed. It was Natalie. I had sworn I would never ignore her again.
She wanted to know if I was all right, if I was out of the hospital yet, why I hadn’t called. She wanted to know if they were going to see me again.
“They?” I said. “The last I saw you, you were one person. Did you multiply?”
“No, silly; I mean me and Kim and Sam; your family.”
After making sure that Joy wasn’t there, I began to pack my stuff up to go see them.
The phone rang again. This time it was my father’s nursing home.
“We’re calling to notify you that our cat has begun to sleep on your father’s bed.”
It seemed as though everyone had become plural while I was in the hospital.
“I don’t understand. You’re calling to tell me about your cat?”
“Cuddles, our therapy cat,” she said. “We keep her for our patients’ comfort. They like to pet her and talk to her. We found that when she starts to sleep on a patient’s bed, that person will be next to die.”
Some therapy cat. I’d be too afraid to let it come near me.
“She has a sixth sense about it. We don’t really understand how she knows, but we’ve had scientists here studying her. Anyway, many family members want to know when Cuddles starts sleeping with their loved one so they can come and pay their last respects.”
“Thank you very much, I’ll take it under advisement,” I said, although it’ll be a nice day in hell when I start taking advice from a cat.
I no sooner disconnected myself from the flaky nursing home lady, when Cheryl called. At least it sounded like Cheryl. It was Cheryl’s number. She said her name was Marcy.
“I heard you were in the hospital, so I thought I’d call and see if there’s anything I can do for you.”
“Cheryl?” I said. Cheryl is supposed to be my patient, a frequent flyer at the psychiatric emergency room. Patients aren’t supposed to call to check in on you.
“No, this is Marcy. Cheryl is useless when it comes to taking care of people. She can’t even take care of herself without running to see you or calling you. This is why we’re all concerned. We have to get you feeling better so that you can continue to help us take care of Cheryl.”
“Well. I’m feeling fine, now; except, I’m confused. Who are you and how did you know I was in the hospital?”
“Natalie told us and I said, I’m Marcy,” said Cheryl, a self assured sounding Cheryl, a Cheryl I recognized, but never heard before. “I’m the one who takes care of people because Cheryl is useless at it. You never met me because I don’t need to see you.”
“Oh, I get it,” I said. I got it, but I couldn’t say it aloud, not without hatching a whole nest of problems that I didn’t need. More on that later. Cheryl was a multiple, and Marcy was her high functioning alter. She, too, was plural.
We talked for a long time. It least it seemed like a long time to me. She insisted on knowing my rehabilitation plan, whether I was seeing a therapist, whether I was taking meds. She didn’t like my answers. I was able to evade talking about me any further by turning the conversation around to talk about Cheryl. Marcy loved to talk about Cheryl, although she didn’t seem to like her much.
I turned the phone off when we were done. I didn’t want any more phone calls. I really didn’t want to have to leave the Epiphany Café, where I was safe and everything was manageable. There was a big, manifold world out there, one that was trying to get in.