THE SOFT ROOM
Okay. One time I was wheeling down the hallway at the Rehabilitation Center, waiting for my dad to pick me up. He usually goes for coffee across the street till I’m finished my exercises.
There was an open door that’s normally closed, I went through it down another hallway that was darker. I turned once, and just before the second turn I saw one half of a long glowing window in the wall that went down almost to the floor. There was a man and woman standing in front of the window, looking through it. They seemed pretty worried and caring like parents. As I moved closer I could see more of the window, and a man in a lab coat standing beside an empty wheelchair. He was looking through the window too, and sometimes writing something on a clip-board.
This was all none of my business, but I was curious, so I went closer. The people didn’t seem to notice me. They were talking about something in quiet voices, I just wheeled up quietly behind them until I could see in the window, too.
It was a big white room. There were lights, but not much else. The walls and floor were all white foam. There was a guy, maybe ten years older than me, with a beard, on the floor. He was just rolling around on the floor groaning. All he seemed to be able to do was roll. If he came up to a wall he just kicked it or flailed against it. Then he rolled the other way.
The mother said, “I really think this will help with his rage.” Then she waited a while and said slowly, “If only he’d had this when he was younger. He really could’ve used this. Things would’ve been … so different.”
The father shook his head, but didn’t say anything. Then he said, quietly, “No. They wouldn’t've, Helen. They wouldn’t've one bit.”
Then the man with the clipboard looked at me. He was about to say something I think, but I just kept going around the corner like I had somewhere to be. Also, I felt sick to my stomach and wanted to at least get to a water fountain.
The empty wheelchair was sitting next to a door. As I passed by it I looked up. The sign on the door said “The Soft Room.”
I’ve always thought I’d be a happier kid if I’d never seen the Soft Room.