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diSjOinted -- creative nonfiction by Johanna Dalton

“And here you are living despite it all.” - Rupi Kaur

Part I. The Clear Bag

Clouds filled her brain. A warm fuzzy feeling. The darkness surrounded her. Took her in. Comforted her. Offered peace. Every so often her eyes would flutter open and she would be bombarded with a rush of colors, distorted voices, sharp white lights, and they would shut once again. When her consciousness would push through, her respite would come in the form of a clear bag of liquid, and her thoughts would then be gently shushed away.

Oxycodone, fentanyl, ketamine. The fancy words swamped her mind. She didn’t care. Anything was better than the fear, the pain, the people who constantly surrounded her bed poking and prodding. She kept remembering, going back to that day. It was an accident. No one was at fault. No one meant for it to happen. But it did. Nothing could change that now.

For a while, she lived in a semi-conscious bliss. Not talking, not eating, not drinking. But everything good has to come to an end. It was inevitable, she had to fight back through everything she had pushed away for so long. The first battle was coming back to reality.

Cold turkey, addiction, dependence, the voices sounded far away. She didn’t know what they meant. She was alone and afraid, a pioneer in a new reality. No one could understand, no one asked, and the day came. The clear bag, her only source of consistency, didn’t come. She laid in her small bed staring at the ceiling as it all came rushing back. She didn’t know what was worse, the fever, the shivers, the chills, the uncontrollable shaking, the muscle cramps, or the memories.

Part II. The Girl

There was a man. A man who walked into his office by the window on the 14th floor of an office high-rise at exactly 8:30am everyday, Monday through Friday. He would work all morning until around 12pm when he would grab his coat and walk out of the room to get lunch. He would then return at 1pm and keep working until 5pm. Occasionally a person would come in to speak to him, or he would leave for a short time. At 4:30pm he would begin to pack up. At 5pm he would shut off the lights and lock his door behind him.

Little did he know, as he went about his everyday life, he had an observer. Her. She was a lanky girl, ghostly white, and horribly thin. She looked tired, tired of fighting, tired of the trauma and stupid conversations. Tired of the nice people coming in and trying to make her feel better. She just wanted to go home. She was alone in this newfound fight. And the more she watched him live his ordinary life, the more she started to hate him. She envied him for his ability to lock the door behind him and walk into freedom. She was stuck. She couldn’t leave, she couldn’t move, she could barely speak. Her brain might have been groggy from the drugs that had been pumped through her bloodstream for weeks, but her mind was getting restless. She was a girl, stuck in a body that had failed her, and pitied by everyone around her.

Part III. a breaking point

one night it was too much. the drugs had long since left her system. the man had left his job. she was relearning how to walk up and down the stairs. and she broke. she screamed, and screamed, and screamed. an inhuman sound, a guttural animalistic sound. she had screamed of pain hundreds of times after it happened, but this was different. now not only did her body fail her, but her heart and spirit too. battered, bruised, damaged, and bandaged, she had finally reached her ending point. her nurses were nice enough about her crisis. as she tried to limp away, imagining the freedom that the man had as she did so, they didn’t let her. the nurses called security and she was restrained in her bed, deemed a danger to herself and others. her parents stood helpless, finally accepting there was nothing they could do.

Part IV. A transition

One day, the doctors and nurses decided she was healed so she went home. as soon as she limped inside, she slammed the door to her room with the little strength she had, and cried.

Part V. From Then to Now.

Her family has long moved on, but she still hasn’t realized that pretending it didn’t happen doesn’t take away the fact that it did. No one knows. She hasn’t told a soul. Not one single person. It’s been years. She’s held onto this secret even as it eats away at her being. She fears the judgment, the changed perspective, the vulnerability. Long after her body physically healed, she still has barely begun to unwrap her thoughts. Late at night, she still sobs silently into her pillow. The shame and guilt overtakes her body and she shakes. She screams, even years later, for a forgotten past, and tainted future. Someone once told her to look on the bright side, so now she tells herself to be thankful because at least the tears flow. Some would be horrified, she just smiles and calls it healing.


Johanna Dalton enjoys iced almond milk lattes, walking her dog, and reading the news. She is looking forward to starting her junior year and gaining some sense of routine. This is her first published piece!

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