A Dan­ger to Our­selves

The Iowa Review - - CONTENTS - Molly Quinn

We ar­rive fight­ing. Our fa­ther says he can’t loan us any more money; our sis­ter says it’s time. Our hus­band drags us from the car and through a haze of car­bon monox­ide smoke. Our girl­friend cuts us down. Our land­lord says we can’t flood the bath­tub, pull the fire alarm, or jump out of the bushes—we’re scar­ing the other ten­ants. The state trooper pulls us over. Driv­ing like this is against the law. So is pan­han­dling in the sky­way. So is bap­tiz­ing your chil­dren in the Mis­sis­sippi. The barista says we can’t take up a ta­ble; the li­brar­ian or­ders us out of the stacks. We apol­o­gize. We didn’t re­al­ize we were talk­ing to our­selves. Our room­mate turns us on our side. Our neigh­bor wakes us from a nap in the snow. Our friends won’t in­vite us for din­ner, or let us crash on their couch—not when we’re like this. We lean over the rail of the Wash­ing­ton Av­enue Bridge, mes­mer­ized by the drop. They take us to the county psy­chi­atric ward. The doors are thick and made of metal and lock be­hind us au­to­mat­i­cally. We’re told it’s okay to eat; the food isn’t poi­soned. Nei­ther is the water. Still, we only in­gest things that come in sealed pack­ages: saltines, peanut but­ter, ap­ple juice with a foil cover. Our hold pa­pers are de­liv­ered with a doc­tor’s sig­na­ture tes­ti­fy­ing we’re a dan­ger to our­selves or some­one else. They con­fis­cate our shoes, ra­zor, per­fume. They cut the string from our hoodie. We look, but there’s noth­ing sharp to be found. The bath­room mir­ror is pol­ished metal, our re­flec­tion dusky and warped. We’re put to bed on a nar­row cot. There are tests. Blood. Urine. The Beck De­pres­sion In­ven­tory. The Mil­lon. Neu­ropsych test­ing. Rorschach blots. It’s a baby. A man. An ele­phant. It’s a clone. It’s a clone. That one, too, it’s a clone. We take the MMPI, all 567 ques­tions. Do you like me­chan­ics mag­a­zines? Are you eas­ily awak­ened by noise? Do you some­times feel like there’s a tight band wrapped around your head? Was your fa­ther a good man? Do you feel like smash­ing things? True false, true false, true true, false. We color the bub­bles in a pat­tern: Frankenstein’s face with a di­ag­o­nal scar. Here you go, doc. It’s night. We’re awake. Ev­ery sur­face is fas­ci­nat­ing and re­quires clean­ing. When we ask the night nurse for a bucket and mop, he says ab­so­lutely not. He knows us from the last time, is weary of our face. We al­pha­bet­ize the measly li­brary of ro­mance and science fic­tion, water the

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