Sparrow House

Sparrow House
Donna Lynch 2006

“Welcome to your new home, Lucy,” the nurse with the little round face said cheerily. “Well, your new home for at least the next sixty to ninety days.”

That was the deal: no jail time since it was her first offense- or at least the first offense for which she’d been busted- but a pleasant two to three month vacation at Sparrow House Rehabilitation Center.

The staff seemed friendly enough that first morning, but she’d heard they always seem friendly in the beginning. Maybe this place was different. She flipped through a glossy brochure as the guard waited with her for the nurse to return with admission papers.

Has addiction left you feeling hollow inside?
Do you feel like there’s nothing left for you?
Sparrow House can help.

She read about the modern rooms, the athletic center and swimming pool, the high standard of care and the cutting edge drug treatment programs. They even had relaxing gardens and an aviary.

“Wow. Birds,” Lucy whispered dryly to herself, wondering if there would ever be a day that she gave a damn about something like that.

“I know what you’re thinking, Lucy,” the nurse said with a kind smile and soothing voice as she reappeared at the desk. “You’re frightened. You have no idea what’s waiting on the other side of these doors. And all you know right now is that you don’t care about a garden or some silly birds. You just want to know when you can get your next dosage of methadone. You just want to know when it’s going to stop hurting. And the answer is soon. But in the meantime, some people find that it’s nicer to have a distraction from the pain. You know, someplace safe, where they can think. And who knows? Maybe with some time, you’ll be one of those people.”

Lucy nodded, uncertain if she wanted to laugh or cry.

Over the next few weeks Lucy aligned herself with a routine that included private therapy, group therapy, drug education, and physicals, but still she was not comfortable in her new home. It had been impossible for her to make any friends when everyone she met was either moved to a different building, or seemed too disconnected to communicate with. In fact, as the days went on she began to feel like everyone around her was half-dead. The only exception was Nan.

Nan was the nurse who admitted her, and the one who continued to care for her. She listened as Lucy told her about her life as a heroin addict. She did not judge her when she saw her track marks (“I see much, much worse everyday, dear,” she’d said). She expressed empathy when Lucy confessed to feeling alone at Sparrow House.

“What is it with everyone here? They all seem…empty. Like something’s missing from their eyes. They all just sit in the garden, staring at the sky.”
“It’s the P.T., dear.”

“I don’t understand,” Lucy said, her voice trembling.

“The treatment. When you poison yourself, you develop a sickness in your soul. And we’ve learned that it never fully heals. It’s more than just damage to your body or your mind; it’s your spirit, honey. And here at Sparrow House we believe that spirits are much too precious to destroy like that. So our doctors found a way to keep those spirits safe.”

“What are you talking about? Some sort of religious thing?”

“No, honey. No religious ties here. We use what we call Psychopomp Treatment, or P.T.”

Lucy shook her head in confusion.

“It will all make sense when it’s your turn. You have to trust them. You are your own worst enemy my dear. The only way to keep your spirit safe is if we send it back where it came from.”

Terrified, Lucy asked at least a hundred more questions, but would get no more clear answers. She asked questions as they led her from her room, across the grounds, and into the aviary. She asked questions as they stripped her and prepared her for the epidural. She asked questions still as they strapped her to the gurney and gently made small incisions throughout her abdomen and chest. But as they wheeled her into the next room with it’s vaulted ceilings, open skylights, and hundreds of ravens, crows, and sparrows, she was silent. And as the birds descended upon her, burrowing through the flesh and muscle in her opened, sterile wounds, they took back the fragile, wounded thing inside of her, and she understood.


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Sparrow House

Copyright Donna Lynch 2006

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