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Day 3

W-3 by Bette Howland

Chapter 2 (p. 24–45, to end)

October 21, 2022 by Lynn Steger Strong

Iris drying her nails! The breezy ease of her. We ended the last chapter with Bette, but now she's disappeared herself. Iris is "new to W-3," but also new to us, and so we are getting more fully embedded in the ward, into watching, looking, learning with the other residents.

The pronouns get a lot more slippery: fewer Is, lots of wes and yous: we belong here just as much or little as everybody else does. Names and residents accumulate: Zelma, Trudy, Jesse, Deronda, Guz, Simone: "Night and day we were a ‘community’; the fact was relentless."

Each new arrival meant someone you were going to have to contend with–like living with your own conscience.

The concept of caretaking here has shifted to the self. Hair is a problem for everybody; clothes as a way to differentiate, assert: In Simone's case, a way to get a pass; In Zelma's case, having returned to the ward but "better prepared," a way to demand more space.

I should explain right away that I didn't belong here. But that goes without saying, no one belonged here. That was the ordinary… Anything to deny this grim, inert, collective state.

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