Pity

Author notes: This is from Susanna's point of view in Girl Interrupted; it takes place during the very beginning of the movie, where Susanna is holding Lisa's head in her lap in the institution basement after her breakdown.

It's very dark in here, in the basement back area; even with the time I had for my eyes to adjust, it is mostly shadows and faint outlines of things in the distance, and faces and figures, familiar as they are to me, seem vague and indistinct in the muted lack of light. The light Lisa had brought had been shut off a while back, and we all sat now in the basement's darkness, waiting…for what, I'm not sure any of us truly understood.

The concrete floor as felt by me keenly through my thin pajamas, hard, cold, and I shivered slightly. It didn't occur to me to shift my weight, to try to make myself more comfortable. That would have been a fairly difficult thing to accomplish at this point, given the circumstances. My right hand was throbbing, swollen, blood drying at the knuckles. Though I was afraid to look at it, I was fairly sure that a few bones were broken from the slamming it had received earlier in the heavy sliding door. But even this pain seemed distant, not fully a part of me…dimmed by my progression of thought.

I could hear the other women, gathered nearby…the sound of Polly's hitching, uneven breaths, as if she were on the verge of anxious tears…the sniffling of Georgina, who had until recently actually been in tears. I could feel Janet's and Cynthia's eyes on me, sense their stillness in the quiet, but this too was distant…this too I didn't acknowledge. This was all secondary to the woman- no, the girl, really, for Lisa couldn't be much older than I myself was- the girl whose body still lay curled close to mine, whose head still rested heavily in my lap.

She had stopped sobbing a few minutes ago, the harsh, ugly noises that had rattled through her gaunt frame dying down into a raspy breathing that continued even now. Occasionally she blinked, and a tear or two would once more spill out from half-closed blue eyes; other than this, she didn't move, didn't even speak.

But then, I had hardly expected her to. Both of us were exhausted by our displays of passion and emotion to each other, the wearing away of the desperate masks we had clutched to us so tightly. That was over now, draining us of energy so that we only sat, Lisa's head in my lap as I slowly ran my uninjured hand through the broken strands of her unwashed hair. My thoughts ran slow, stumbling, tangling in uneven jumbles as I ran my fingers through her hair…

To think that this was Lisa…THIS was Lisa, the bold, charismatic Lisa who had in turns intimidated and captivated me, who had made me look away from Susanna Kaysen, all the former struggles and ambitions I had once worked toward and fought against, and instead look to Lisa Roe and her utter disregard for authority, for the conventions of society. I looked at her reckless smile, the wicked gleam of her pale, penetrating eyes, and all I wanted was to follow her, to gain her approval of me.

I had looked to Lisa for my freedom…but now I know that she had been more deeply enslaved than I was, and for a much longer period of time. Eight years in Claymoore, Valerie had said… and only now could either one of us see how lost, how truly imprisoned she was, whatever her escape ratio might read.

I could hear the voices in the distance, the echoing sound of door opening, voices calling out through the basement tunnels, and I knew that our absences had been noticed, our presences discovered. I didn't care…by this point, I think that all of us, even Lisa, in a way, were even relieved. To have the pressure taken off of us, the decision of how to handle what had just taken place between us, was welcome even in the face of my assertion…for whatever I had told Lisa, and as sincerely as I had meant it, I was so weary now.

I didn't move, didn't call out to let them know where we were. I continued to sit, my hand resting gently on Lisa's head as my other wounded hand lay cradled in my lap. In spite of it all, everything she had done, the bitter realization of what she was and what she would not and could not ever be…despite it all, I loved her still. Only now there was no longer that sense of awe and admiration, no desire to be like her and have her turn her smile my way. Now there was a lingering sense of fondness for her, but it was mixed with a sadness and pity I knew even in her current state she would loathe to know I possessed toward her…

But the thing was that I did pity her, for reasons Lisa would probably never even be able to understand…she would probably never be able to look at herself in the way that I saw her now, to see herself in any way as weak, less… even after this breakdown, I knew by tomorrow she would pick herself up, return to the same arrogant, assured mannerisms she had always shown before, to dominating and bending others to her will. She would do it and think it her right, think herself to be happy…or at least tell herself that she was.

But she wouldn't be…she couldn't be, and for this I pitied her. For I have started to find my way again, after almost two years of searching…but Lisa won't even admit that she is lost.

End