Meditations in the Center of a Maelstrom

I told the Doctor that I was a college student and that told him that he could assign me books day per day.

I keep wanting to call the one he gave me “The Good Book,” but that’s not it, it’s not the Bible. Mark, from the next town over, who makes altars to his ex-wife by the window of the parking lot, who wears a towel draped over his head, hid them all. He was detained and got a “booty juice shot” for screaming at Jesse that he was a NONBELIEVER, YOU ARE MY SON AND YOU ARE A NONBELIEVER!

I made notes one evening, writing out the tests with a classic capless pen in a composition notebook given to me, of which of the twelve Distortions I possessed. WD and I carefully positioned the weighted chairs that can’t be thrown during even TV time so that we could rest our legs in front of us, as if having a movie night at one of our homes.

We sat by the nurse’s station, back in the corner by the round pillar and by the payphone. After watching TV and eating his cheesy crackers, WD began silently reading beside me as I read and took notes, and it felt nice, like a sense of friendship / a sense of peace.

A ratty red-haired man jumped a passing young security guard and tried to kill him.

WD shot up immediately. He later told me that it was a reflex from prison.

A handful of guards came running and nurses were yelling: “GO TO YOUR ROOMS.”

Calmly, somehow calmly, I took all of my things I could work on and walked around the writhing black and maroon bodies. My room was right in front of the scene, and I didn’t flinch.

It wasn’t the new drugs, the drugs that I should’ve been on for years.

It was my calmness in trauma coming through, my body had felt this before and knew how to react, and I noticed that in myself. Some people survive chaos and that is how they grow. And some people thrive in chaos because chaos is all they know.

I argue that these are all the same people.

The change came in my room when I noticed a possibility of what that scene could later do to my mind and body, and I just breathed. My roommate was gone. I hope she returned to her horses.

In…and out.

Leslie Benigni is a recent MFA graduate from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, now living in Pittsburgh. Her work has been published in Quibble Journal, Defunct Magazine, Not Deer Magazine, and Flyover Country Literary Magazine, among others. Find her on instagram and twitter, respectively: @benignileslie and @lbeni894

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