“The First Words Out of My Mouth at Intake Should Have Been ‘I Hate Kentucky'” by Rebecca Hamlin Green

Killdeer bird standing in water and reflected below.
Little Killdeer, Rebecca Hamlin Green

There is a gazebo made from untreated lumber behind the facility where everyone sits and smokes, forced together knee to knee, looking wearily from one to the next, “I wonder what she’s got.” Some of us are fat, others fatter, with tear-stained twitching eyes, those eyes that could focus. The air is laden with unsaid pain and unspoken comfort and a steady rhythm of inhaling and exhaling from slender Kools, providing a fragrant breath to the ripening beast that was our collective suffering, its yellowed teeth firmly snug against our windpipes, with more than a glancing thought of a satisfying snap.  

“Nature is healing,” says a small tin sign in front of a dried up cornfield. Ha. “Nature.” A ways down the road, I notice this one bleached tree standing dead amid a backdrop of hazy sky that closes in on either side of the highway that is six hours too long and is totally straight but still gives me motion sickness. Nature. The verdant humidity of my northern childhood gives way to shallow hills grazed to stubble and studded with broken-down farm equipment that rise from the ground like a dinosaur’s ribcage. Plus miles and miles of chicken shit. It perfumes every corner of the town for a week each season.

My ears prick up as a diesel truck whines and throttles into the parking lot. A door opens and closes. After a moment, another woman walks out to the gazebo, awkwardly packing her cigarettes against her wrist. She has thinning hair but kind brown eyes. In her arms is one of those water-filled baby dolls.  She coos to it as if to calm it from the jostling of her gait. This woman is in my group and her infant grandson died in his sleep while at her house, so she carries the doll. She says she sees a man peering in through the transom above the door to the room where we gather but she knows he is not real, though she admits it is often difficult for her to tell the difference between what is and isn’t these days. No one says anything about him. Or the baby.

I uncross my legs and narrowly miss a cigar-sized slug under my flip-flop, its mucous drying as shimmering trails on the gazebo’s Astroturf floor. I want to shriek, but in my mouth is a sock of stagnant wool. I try to bite down but the fibers offer little resistance.

The human jaw can only gnaw on disappointment for so long before it starts eating itself, the grimace becoming permanent. And so we sit here waiting for our sessions to begin, silent, except for the occasional cough, wondering how it all ended up like this, wondering how we wound up here: Bentwood Meadows, a place devoid of wood, devoid of meadows. Just fallow fields and madness and sky, the killdeer picking at discarded cigarette butts, little white and brown ghosts running to and fro, to and fro.


Author photo: Rebecca Hamlin has large glasses, smooth brown hair and wears a button down, cardigan and cameo necklace.

Rebecca is an artist and writer living and working in Chicago. She explores in both her art and her writing the precariousness of relationships with other beings and with our own environment.