It was hard not to react. If I learned anything from life, it’s that hedging your bets and bluffing will get you further than confession but that didn’t stop me from sometimes blurting out the things that hurt me.
“Patricia, chill,” Aaron said.
Her name was Patricia Carbloni and I knew her well. In AP statistics I learned that you can guess the dice are going to land a certain way each time but it’s best to assume you won’t get snake eyes, and it’s best to assume you won’t get doubles. If you get doubles, it’s best to assume you won’t get double doubles and it’s best to assume you won’t always win.
“You can’t always win,” Mrs. Shepherd said to me in class.
I was losing. I was making the wrong guesses. We were guessing which pairs would come up next; an impossible game that now looking back, I realize Mrs. Shepherd had set up simply to teach us that probability isn’t fortune telling.
“I know, of course,” I smiled at her.
I passed AP statistics with a 92 and the AP placement test at the end of the year for college credit. Despite my eighth grade teachers thinking I was not up for the challenge to continue some of my advanced placement, I was one of the highest scores in government and psychology, and went on to become Summa Cum Laude in college, enrolled in three honor societies, and received one of the highest scores on the psychology placement test. You can’t always win but you can memorize, read faces, bluff. My parents taught me at a young age how to do two things: survive and lie.
“Here, Sadia, here,” Aaron motioned towards my bed.
“Saaaadddddieeeeeaaaa,” she sung and stood up walking over to us.
My parents taught me how to play spades when I was seven years old. That’s a young age to learn such a complex card game; a game that requires silent communication with a partner and an ability to predict the moves of your opponent each round like clockwork.
This game also requires fortunetelling. You have to bid on how many tricks you will win at the beginning of the game after looking at only your hand, not your partners. This requires intution. Depending on where your seated depends on when you make your bid. In this way, I felt like being last was an advantage. We didn’t always bid. When they were first teaching me they left that part out, but my mom and I won a lot. They taught me how to bid on tricks.
I always wanted to help count the books to help keep score with my mom. It was an extra task that I enjoyed, coveted, felt special taking on like I was useful even if I lost. I hated losing and I rarely did. I was a studious observer when it was game time. You have to pay attention to the cards, the mannerisms of your partner and the mannerisms of your opponents. If my brother threw a ten pretty early, he had a bad hand and soon he would throw a trump to show my Dad he absolutely had a bad hand. He would start sometimes with a high card to bluff but nothing above a seven. If my mom started with high cards, I was expected to match them so we could make our books last. If my mom threw a low card we had time. There was no talking or any kind of obvious movement. Little nods to affirm me. I had to learn to count cards and if you’re watching the books, sometimes you can peek if you’ve forgotten but everyone agrees that is cheating. If you’re dad gets drunk enough, the hand doesn’t matter and your brother will storm off anyway.
Patricia was enjoying this and I had about five seconds to decide what story I wanted to go with. I turned to my bed and sat down and looked at aaron. Demured.
“I’m good,” I said ignoring her. “I’m going to rest.”
Aaron looked at me and then her and then walked out. I expected that. Sometimes I like to group things in themes to help me keep track of my life so I will call this.
1. The story of Patricia Carbloni
I knew that Patricia would not be in the hospital long. She frequently called the police on the facility she was living in, walked off the premises and was always found quickly and returned. She liked to get away and complain to new people. She also liked making new enemies. Pointing out all of your flaws immediately was her forte. The pro here is that she also told long and winding stories that had no ending and made no sense so people stopped listening even if she was right about someone’s incompetence or insolence. The con is I am her incompetent, insolent, insane social worker. I could not pretend I was someone else in front of her. As scared of revealing my life to this institution as I was, ethics trumped this round.
“So Sadia,” she began and sat on the bed with me. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
She laughed deeply like she always did. She coughed right after and got back up to walk back over to her bed.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I won’t tell a soul.”
She was facing the window.
“IF you give me fifty million dollars and the socks off your feet.”
She brayed and I laid down and remembered how usual this really was. Patricia’s threats and cackle. Bidding tricks. Being uncomfortable in a bed too small for me. She went on for a while but said nothing about my identity when staff came back to check on us before lights out. I ended up falling asleep somehow. Pure exhaustion eventually empties the brain and I woke up only because I felt something tickle my face. It was Patricia. She was standing over me grazing me the corner of the pillowcase and holding the pillow like she was going to smother me. When I looked at her, she dropped it on my face.
“See you tomorrow, Saddddeeeeea.”
I waited until she went back into her bed and knocked her pillow on the floor.
“Tomorrow will be a no mistake day,” I whispered.
“Hey shut the fuck up or I’ll eat your fingers like chicken nuggets.”
For the first time in days, I laughed but quietly as not to disturb my roommate.