Monday, November 19, 2012

Escape Down Memory Lane-Part 1: Inception

The following story is true. Only names of people and places have been changed.

Escape Down Memory Lane
by Marty Reeder

Part 1: Inception

8 October 2012
8:00 PM
Memory Lane Unit
Summit Grove Nursing Center

Karen Turner’s boney, 5’0” frame shuffled down the empty hallways of Summit Grove’s Memory Lane Unit, soaking in the quiet. As someone used to the silence of her own home, she found moments of tranquility comparatively rare in the Alzheimer’s and dementia wing of the Summit Grove Nursing Center. For most of the day, clients wandered the circular hallways speaking to the nurse and her aides, to each other, and often to themselves. Yet at 8:00 PM the aides worked from room to room bedding the residents, while the nurse followed in tow and dispensed the proper prescription medications.

Because the staff came to Karen’s room last—she was a night owl by her own, proud admission—Karen enjoyed taking advantage of this downtime, meandering along the tiled floors of the wing. The stroll was not unpleasant, since the corridors of Summit Grove exuded the sanitary cleanliness of a hospital, while the crown molding and accent colors of the walls showed the comforting decor of a country golf club.
Karen rounded the back hallway, her frizzy hair casting multiple shadows from the softly lit corridor. Then she entered the dining area, a hub connecting to two other hallways, one completing the circle of the wing, and the other slicing it in half, leading directly to the desk at the entrance of Memory Lane Unit itself.

Casually, Karen observed that the aide usually manning the desk at the main entrance had disappeared from view. Probably, the staff member momentarily went to help with one of the clients. Karen turned her attention to the outward wall of the small dining area, noting one of the large windows exhibiting a view of the black October evening beyond. She ambled to the window, whose casement reached just below her chest, side-stepped the table set before it, and glanced outward.

Karen never would have guessed that such a simple act would lead to her eventual escape.

En route to the glass pane, Karen’s sharp eyes noted a small rubber pin lodged in the trim of the window sill. As someone whose life experience offered a wide array of dealing with knick-knacks, trifles, and random curios, Karen felt particularly prepared to notice the tiny object, which she accurately conjectured held the window closed.

While Karen may have previously toyed with the thought of escaping—often throwing out idle threats of escape to some of her visitors—neither she nor her listeners took it too seriously. The main reason for this was not so much a lack of resolve but lack of resource.

To enter or exit the wing of Memory Lane Unit required going past the main door, and even the most mentally unsound patient recognized this as a near impossibility. An aide just down from Karen’s room constantly positioned herself at a computer directly in front of the door. Even if Karen could have managed a distraction, or—as in that moment where the aide left to help a client—Karen would still have to both reach the number pad security lock located above her head on the wall next to the door, and enter the correct access code. While Karen had astutely eyed the employees punching the numbers on the keypad on several previous occasions, she knew it did her little good since the code changed daily. Even if, by some rogue possibility, all of this could be circumvented, then Karen would have to traverse the rest of the Summit Grove building without being detected by the adeptly staffed employees of other wings, with trained eyes for apprehending wandering clientele.

Yet at the moment Karen saw that she could open the window, a similar window opened in her mind: what if? The next thing she knew, she slid the window open, the white vinyl sliding easily across the ledge without the rubber pin stopping it. Another look down the main hallway promised her enough time to cautiously tinker with the now accessible screen. With relative ease, the screen popped out of the window frame and Karen leaned out the window into the cool Autumn air in order to place the screen against the brick building, removed enough to the side to be out of sight from the inside.

The black gap before her called out, tempting her, but something held Karen back. At this point the idea of escape proved too alluring to abandon, but Karen felt that just making it out the window would not satiate her desire for absolute freedom. If she was going to escape, then she wanted to make it a clean break.

Deftly sliding the window back into place and shoving the rubber pin into its slot, Karen’s great escape went on a twenty-four hour hiatus. The next night she would return, prepared.
©2012 Marty Reeder