Matilda moved into Fitzmary 2 long after I did; I think I had been there for six months when she came onto the ward.
I was never close to her. She was my age, and so we might have perhaps become friends in another situation, or in another environment; but for the few months we lived as almost neighbours, we didn’t exchange more than 20 words.
She was mid-height, about 25, and had a toned, slim figure and short dark blonde hair which was cut up around her ears and kind of ruffled across her forehead. Her face had thin features; she had a tiny nose and stormy grey eyes, yet those eyes always seemed to be squinting somehow. I could never work out if it was the strength of whatever was happening behind them, that she had to kind of tense them to hold it all back and inside, and this gave her a pinched, strained look.
It was an undercurrent of tension I think. She would walk very severely and deliberately, staring ahead of her in a way which did not invite inquiry or comment of any kind. I always got the impression that she really didn’t want anybody else to ask, and she would glare with just an edge of aggression which seemed to create a permanent grey cloud around her head.
Her stomach was muscular and severely flat, and she would wear tops which just showed it off. I was about 5 stone overweight at the time, and always used to envy Matilda her stomach. I always assumed she was fine doing her own thing, and that the tension or the aggression I perceived was just where she was at that time. Perhaps I should have tried to penetrate it, but instead I kept my distance.
She was shrewd, I could tell that from a distance. Her eyes squinted perhaps because the weight of her thinking was too intense. I think that her mind was going a dime a dozen and she just couldn’t stop those cogs turning; everything was perception.. analyse.. counter analyse.. evaluate. There was a slightly autistic look to her, as though her mind was just moving to fast to hold onto.
She shouted at me once in the smoking room; had a huge outburst about what exactly I cannot remember entirely now. But she ranted at me something along the lines of “what you’re thinking isn’t true, you don’t know me like you think you do..”
I remember being stunned, because she was usually silent, still and entirely unaffected by the other inhabitants who smoked about her. She usually sat, straight backed and legs tightly crossed, pulling on her cigarette with a kind of controlled ferocity. After she shouted at me I remember scanning my own thinking, had I said anything to her which she might have taken as insulting? or what might she have picked up on?
I remember wondering whether she had perceived that I had created an impression of her in my own mind, and then that it was one she didn’t entirely agree with. I remember wondering that as I was one of the more lucid inhabitants on the ward, that my opinion held weight. I remember wondering at the fact that I had never actually spoken to anyone about Matilda, expect Nina, and even then it had not been more than a few words.
But I remember considering how close we all were, in those confines of Fitzmary 2; and I remember wondering about the insanity of the powers of perception and the powers of intuition. Moreover of assumption. I felt that perhaps my impression of Matilda had started to rub off on Matilda herself, and she resented this mis-match, this misjudgement and misrepresentation. I started to wonder if she had sensed somehow, or felt, the picture of her that I had in my mind, and the way this may have been projected onto her squinting eyes as she passed by me in the hallways; another thing for her to evaluate.
I wondered if she had analysed, evaluated, and then rejected- but then considered other peoples touched and affected perception, which had dutifully caused her blood to boil. I’m not sure exactly but I sometimes think that four walls can be too close, that they can lend another crazy shade to an already crazy environment and mix of worlds and expansive psyches.
I remember feeling slightly bad, even though I knew I really had no reason to. I didn’t want her ferocity to come out at me; I understood the resentment which springs from another persons projected assumption of your own personality, and I understood and respected the way she told me I was wrong.
But, these things happened on Fitzmary 2, people got pissed at other people a lot, for a variety of sometimes reasonable and sometimes otherwise reasons. After that outburst she never spoke to me again, and as she had never spoken to me beforehand, I didn’t worry about it too much. But it did make me wonder, and give me food for thought. Something about my exterior had got under her skin, despite the fact that I never would have wanted it to- and I remember it being something along the lines of my apparently assuming to know her.
This is obviously a common issue, and a common enough slight on a ward such as this- but it made me realise that we often have a great and unintended impact on the people around us, above and beyond what we mean to or what we desire.
Her somehow pinched expression of slight displeasure, and the slightly aggressive tone to her stare which I picked up on as she purposefully strode through the hallways of Fitzmary 2 was what I saw, but it was not who she was. Of course I knew that, but perhaps a part of me assumed too far- she felt it and by god she told me. I respected her for it then, although I perhaps didn’t understand as far as I do now.
The fact that she was impacted by my perception, despite that fact that I wan’t close to her, or hardly even had a real conversation with her, well- this is the real gem that a place like Fitzmary 2 leaves within into your perception. I sometimes think her aggression was justifiable, and other times I think it wasn’t; but perhaps this is the whole point. She may just have been a crazy woman on a ward having a delusional outburst; but I did sense reason there, and I did sense a point.
But then again, I was just another crazy woman on a ward- so who the hell knows?! Those four walls lend a certain tone, and a slight shadow of their own; we women walked within them, and therefore could never entirely block out their impact and their weight.
Matilda was the one who pointed this out to me.