“Lisa!” I whispered as loud as I could. She was supposed to bring us a rope made of knotted blankets, but she was behind schedule after taking a detour to the cafeteria for a night snack. Melanie and I were poised to repel from the window and make our escape at midnight. We had been making plans for this night, and everything had to run like clockwork.The Bedford rules about fraternization state that patients can’t hold hands or show any kind of affection. Well, given our increasing love for one another, we could no longer live under such a dictatorial regime. We wanted to be together and live our own lives, so we decided to leave this place on the first of June if the conditions were right and we had done our homework.
The only regret I had about leaving Bedford was not being able to say goodbye to Dr. Bryson. I can’t believe I’d feel this way, for our therapy sessions had been at best a mixed blessing. For weeks after the “incident,” the word used to characterize my behavior before the mental health board, he tried to convince me that a “vaccination” had been found, one that would transform me back to human form: acceptance and reconciliation. It was time to get out of here.
Once we had decided to escape some four weeks earlier, we not only planned each detail meticulously, but we conditioned our bodies to prepare for the physical rigor necessary. Not wanting to arouse suspicion, we performed calisthenics in our rooms at night. Our efforts paid off.
To come off without a hitch, everyone had a key role to play in this plan. We could trust only our roundtable friends—Tom, Arnie, Lisa—as conspirators in our escape. Melanie and I could have easily tied the bed sheets together ourselves, but what else was Lisa going to do? Eat a hole in the back wall so we could slip through?
Arnie would feign a heart attack and thereby distract the night staff and security guards. Believe me: everyone heard his convulsions. The lynchpin of the plan was Tom, who would walk toward the front gate once we were in place. He would function as a decoy to divert the attention of security, while Melanie and I slipped through the gate.
So we made our escape on a late spring evening, never looking back at the cream-colored walls of Bedford that had enclosed us for so long. We only looked forward, to a life together, without restrictions, without a tightly controlled schedule. I had already arranged for us to stay temporarily at my sister’s place. During her last visit in April I had played off her guilt for having sent me to Bedford in the first place, and she finally agreed in advance to take us in. Admittedly, as I alluded in my testimony before the mental health board, were it not for Elizabeth I wouldn’t have met the love of my life.
Time was of the essence, I thought, for the Bedford security would soon discover our absence. Sure enough, as Melanie and I dashed across the golf courses toward the tree line, we heard the baying of hounds in the distance, vindicating the oft-whispered rumor that Bedford’s security staff kept scent dogs hidden in secret kennels somewhere. None of us really believed it, until now.
Just inside the woods is a creek. We already knew the terrain, because my sister supplied us only a week prior with a printed Google map cleverly hidden inside a Kafka novel I had requested. Melanie’s mom, bless her heart, was waiting in her car about a mile away. As frail as she is, her participation in the escape plan was as much a testimony to motherly devotion as an indication of our desperation.
We sloshed our way through the dark, trickling water separating us from our freedom. Before we got to the other side, I turned to Melanie and clasped her petite body.
“I’ve been waiting to do this for too long,” I prefaced my next move. Holding her firmly in my arms, I kissed her passionately. She was startled at first, but she soon responded with equal ardor. Her lips were warm and soft, the feel of her body against mine heavenly. I had found my soulmate, and nothing on God’s green earth could compare to the love I felt for her.
Perhaps nothing in this life lasts, and there are no guarantees. And maybe our spiritual journey, like the road to mental health, is an individual one. I don’t know. But now I have someone with whom I can share my hardships, and I think she knows she’s found the same in me. Together we’ll manage to soar above both the peaks and valleys.
“We must go now!” I exclaimed, painfully tearing myself from her tender embrace. Clearly we had locked arms in what can only be described as the hug of the century, but it did not even begin to satisfy our hunger for one another.
“I love you, Sam Gregory,” she said, looking like a beautiful nymph under the moonlight.
“I love you more, Megan.”
I figured I call her by the name she’s always wanted. Why not? Now that we’re on the outside, we can do whatever we want. Now that we taste freedom, we can have a happy ending.