The Outpatient

Nadia de Vries

Part 1:
Don’t Touch Me, You Don’t Know Where I’ve Been

There’s a screenplay for every apocalypse. Isn’t it funny? The radio was playing aboard the ambulance. They are reporting on my near-death on the news.

I’m a habitual actress. Which is different from an occupational actress. When I was younger, I could vomit on command. I was not a favorite at birthday parties. I’m a performance artist now. I make my money with talking. And I like to cook vegan dinners for my friends. They are performance artists too. You can recognize us by our identical, iron-deficiency bruises. If you’re part of a scene, you’ll know.

But it is hard to not be universally loved. Last week someone said to me, Everything was fine in our organization until you came around. I just sat there and listened, a lingering smile on my face like I’d just been fucked. Maybe I was. But I did not enjoy it. I thought to myself, I hope your hot water bottle opens in the night. I hope your cat dies, in traffic, under a blood moon.

The secret to being a good cook is remembering to chew well. I feel the same way about gossip. I like to draw out the event, to sprinkle it with embellishments until it is just right. When people say silence is golden, do they mean the color or the material? Because the distinction is important to me. As a Virgo, I appreciate tactility. Every girl deserves a platitude, and this one is mine. Anyway, I keep myself informed.

Last night I got my fortune told. It said You will pass your time quietly. How am I supposed to pass my time quietly? My life is funded by noise. Even now, I can hear my blood pumping on the heart monitor. And scientists are naming storms after my friends. Being the topic of conversation, I feel almost immortal. Remember Shakira falling through a sugar-glass table. Remember, also, the total absence of blood.

Sometimes I wonder what my epitaph will be. She worked herself to death. The circumference of her waist was minimal, and therefore her loss is tragic. And what will happen to my moisturizers. Dear audience, is there a script for this?

The rain is slamming on the ambulance doors. I feel the proximity of a hospital, the way the driver relaxes her hand on the wheel. I am listening to me as I am happening, my present unspooling in real-time, and I’m thinking: finally, someone I knew before they were famous.

Part 2:
Everyone I Love Is Sick

Some people are obsessed with catastrophe. They don’t know who they are if they’re not suffering. Don’t pretend you’re different. I know hurricanes make you wet.

There’s a fine line between being self-deprecating and being self-derogatory and I don’t think I’ve mastered it. The leper asks the depressive: What’s on your bucket list? and the depressive answers: Getting sick. If this makes you laugh the joke is on you. I’m not superstitious, but I wouldn’t say Bloody Mary to a mirror.

A while ago I started losing control over my bladder. It was very sudden. One moment I was fine and the next I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. It was embarrassing. I had to find a way to cover up the stains. I went to see a pelvic floor therapist. She asked me if I had recently experienced something traumatic. I said No. Then I asked her: Can you be traumatized by something that still needs to happen? She said she didn’t know. She charged me eighty bucks for the privilege.

There’s a girl in the next bed. She was quarantined for eating a pangolin. Who gets quarantined for eating a pangolin? I can smell her fear through the curtain. It smells like raspberries. It’s perfumed. Insincere. True fear smells like dead rabbit, and I’m one to know. I grew up in the countryside. There are a lot of roads there, most of them strewn with dead animals. The simple life. It wasn’t my idyll. I have no notable enemies, but I’m not shaking hands with anyone.

That’s not to say that I’m a difficult person. Darling, I’m just a document flying between a manila folder and the world. I have no expectations. It’s like when a plane is applauded for not killing its passengers. Sometimes, the bar is just low. And that’s fine—for now. But don’t let your third eye go idle. If you’re developing a cough, maybe your body is trying to tell you something.

I have a new idea for a video. It’s a single shot of me, sloshing around in the sea. The tide is low. The beach is quiet. I’m wearing a long, red Galliano dress, from a season before when he turned out to be a Nazi. I look good in it. I’m dragging my hands through the water while asking no one in particular: where is my pride, I can’t seem to find it, where is it…

Part 3:
I Was Goth Until I Learned Dying Isn’t Funny

They’re playing soft rock in the emergency room. The bassline speaks to my cluster headaches. It’s like the end of the world. Some days you don’t need one Advil, but a hundred.

They said I couldn’t bring a gun to the studio. But then how am I supposed to defend myself at the studio? I can’t remember what the argument was. She had the integrity of a car salesman. The point is, I didn’t know how to respond. Apparently I’m still a student of anger. Anyway, it seems irrelevant now. The doctors say I’m doing fine.

Around this time last year, I tried to die by hand. I wore long, silk gloves to cover up the bandages on my wrists. A nurse said I had a “classic” look—and he was right. Death is timeless. If you ever get bored, fake a victimhood of some kind. There might be a court case with crutches, and fabulous eyewear. And then all the world will forgive you.

Maybe this is all just a bad dream. The ambulance will turn into a pumpkin after midnight. Remember how Snow White had a glass coffin because her friends wanted to have one last look. I aspire to that level of community. An IV-drip for a hangover? How relatable! I’ve always been an honest friend. When I say you’re special, I mean you’re special the way a mass-produced T-shirt that says I’m special is special.

The music has stopped. I hear the ceiling fan whirring above me. It sounds like a circular saw. Uncanny. Some roses are getting trimmed tonight. There are no footsteps in the hallway, no toilets being flushed. I wonder when they’ll come back for me. And how many calories you lose in intensive care.

Only a cynic would call this a palate cleanser for the world. Dear friend, pad your knees. The future is wild. It commands us to crawl—cover up before it hurts you. In case of an emergency, press one. I love it when a chain letter ends with me.


July 15, 2020

PERFORMANCE ART OR MIRACLE? – Young woman survives “fatal” gun shot

Fast times at the Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Three days ago, a 29-year old woman was admitted to the emergency ward after attempting to kill herself on live television. The woman, a local performance artist known as “CC,” shot herself in the head on Sunday night with a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson Model 36 revolver. Further investigation revealed that the victim had a history of mental illness.

The plot thickens, however, as Ms. she pulled the trigger while she was an audience contestant on What’s Hot? That’s Hot!, a live cooking show. The show has had considerable viewer ratings since its first airing in 2016, and Sunday night’s episode was no exception. According to Channel 40’s station director, over 200.000 people witnessed CC’s “blaze of glory” and this number continues to rise as footage of the attempted suicide has been circulating online since Monday. The director of the show claims that she had no prior knowledge of CC’s “stunt” – a move that’s so far been interpreted as a desperate cry for attention.

After being rushed to the hospital on Sunday night, the disturbed woman’s chances at survival were considered slim. But early this morning, a miracle occurred in Ward B of the hospital’s emergency unit. Upon checking the ward at the start of her morning shift, a nurse discovered CC sitting upright in bed. The bullet-induced hole under her right ear had disappeared. Her vital signs were stable. When CC noticed the nurse, she allegedly requested an oat milk latte.

Doctors are astounded at the outcome of this tragedy-turned-miracle and do not rule out celestial intervention. The What’s Hot? That’s Hot! directors are enraged at Ms. CC and are threatening to sue her for pain and suffering, but they might be too late to press charges. After being dismissed from the hospital earlier today, our local Lazarus hopped on a plane to France to work on a new performance video titled See You Later Terminator. The French government has already vowed to protect CC, now an international YouTube star, at all costs.

And the endorsements don’t stop there. CC’s “brush with death” has earned her a one-million-dollar sponsorship from Smith & Wesson, as her dramatic stunt boosted the company’s sales by 400%. Despite her miraculous survival, then, it seems that CC’s story is ending with a bang after all.

Nadia de Vries is the author of Dark Hour (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2018). Recent work has been featured on a poem a week, Hotel, Minor Literatures and Wonder. Her second collection, I Failed to Swoon, is forthcoming in 2020.