I wrote the following for an assignment last year. This was hard to write, I’ve still not been able to read it without crying. God breaks our hearts for him. It’s whether we decide to keep it broken or to let him fix it. enjoy
“In Lincoln, Nebraska, just a few blocks south of O street and 70th, on the east side of the road sits a large structure. Entering the gargantuan structure involved me driving around back and entering into two giant and well worn down doors. Within a few seconds, we were met by the caretakers.
The caretakers each assigned with individual tasks. There were caretakers that would register you, some that would wheel you around in wheelchairs, and a couple that would check your Identification armbands to ensure you were in the right spot. Each one wore green, red, blue, and white uniforms for the floor they worked on. Their faces all blurred together in my memory. The only feature that stands out to me is the caretakers’ reluctance to smile. They would laugh and joke, but smiling was not seen in this prison of suffering. The caretakers’ lack of smiling really set the mood for the holding area.
The holding place is is where we received our identification branding that weeded out those who would be staying and those who were just visiting. These branded items were worn on our wrists. These armbands were a white color and plastic feel overshadowed by the black burn on text. Often I entered crying as the caretakers would ignore my sobbing. This holding area reeked of hopelessness. This large area contained many benches evenly spaced and able to sit three people comfortably. In between each bench sat tables with magazines with no reason for how they were placed. To this day the area is a memory wished forgotten. The pain and suffering on everyone’s stressed face was as thick as a ten foot snow drift blocking your front door. Sooner or later the caretakers would call your name and escort you to your room, your prison cell of abandonment. We hated the holding area, as we hated our prison cells of dreams abandoned.
I could not be lucky enough to be on the first floor, those close to my age often resided here. The caretakers always took me to the 5th floor to be with those 50 – 60 years older than me. My 19-year-old mind contemplated, “I have to room with THEM.” This would often make me burst out in anger at my caretakers, “SHUT UP! I WANT A ROOMMATE WHO’S MY AGE.” Riding up this elevator required caretakers to swipe a special blue and pink key card. By this time I often sat in a glazed stupor of liquids pushed into my body. Caretakers yanked and pushed me in in my chariot of sleep.
The end of the elevation journey consistently was greeted with a sound *Ding*. The caretakers always told me it was very calming. After hearing it for what seemed to be 10,000 times, all I wanted to do is rip the bell out of the elevator. This sound to this day makes every hair on my arm stand up. The doors would open and we got wheeled out into the big long hallways with a plethora of rooms.
Each room, no matter which one you looked at, was the exact same. Each floor’s rooms were exact copies of the one next to it. This was problematic for the inmates on the 5th floor, good memory became optional for the inmates staying. I knew this is how the animals felt when getting loaded on the Ark. We were divided up two by two.
As you entered the room from the enormous long hallways you noticed a big heavy wooden door. I often wondered if it was meant to keep an army out, or me in. This door was one of the closest things to freedom available inside the giant structure of discarded will to live. With the door open, you could see people moving to and fro, some noisily, some quietly. Sometimes you’d be awakened by loud commotions of panic and despair. This usually was accompanied by loud beeping, wheels grinding on the tiled white floor, and then silence. The halls would fill with weeping, sobbing, and mournful tears of missed chances.
Once I saw see faces of joy and hope when a baby was born a few doors down from our captivity. The mother went into labor and delivered before they could have her in the delivery room. Most often you’d see the unmoving faces of the uncompassionate caretakers. How can you see all this and show absolutely no emotions is still a mystery to me.
You could tell their only goal everyday, to make it to the end of their shift. Conversation with each caretaker was based upon whether the person wanted to ask anything besides the standard three questions.
“How’s your pain today? Are you feeling nauseous at all? Have you gone to the bathroom today?” each caretaker asking the same thing, every time, with a monotone attitude.
The giant wood room door, for the detainees, was nearly immoveable when closed for the detainees. If the door was closed, and it took all my energy to open it. I became forced to decide if it would be worth opening it and most often I left it closed hoping our caretakers didn’t forget us.
As you walked past the big door a wall extended all the way to the other end of the room. The color of this wall, a light tan, often is referred to as a soothing color. After an extended time you realize that the color was not soothing at all. The walls beamed a color of despair and pain. This wall is considered a big waste of space, with only a few items that break up the monotony. Two whiteboards evenly spaced to make it seem symmetrical at first glance hung on this wall. With time, you’d notice that the spacing was off. This is due to how the nook of bathroom, sink, and closets were set in the room. All I wanted to do is rip the whiteboards off the wall in pure anger and frustration and fix both to proper equal distances.
The whiteboards are our only form of communication from caretakers besides their three questions. Caretakers would write their names on the board. This signified they were assigned to us for the next few hours. I would see, Michelle, Bryan, Joe, Riley, Mary, but no faces to associate with them. Often the name would stay the same for weeks. I found them to be preoccupied with interacting with each other instead of doing the duties they were entrusted with.
Hanging in between the two whiteboards, a small color television, providing the only form of entertainment in our room. I would hardly get a chance to use it as my roommates controlled the images on the screen. I could at least control the volume on my side, but tuning it out, impossible.
At the far edge of the whiteboard wall, extended a wall parallel with the hallway. This wall featured two thirds windows extending from the ceiling to right below our hips. These windows brought in sunshine or gloomy clouds. Clouds fit the moods of the torture we experienced. The view featured nothing spectacular. On Eastern side the building you would see the concrete jungle of a parking lot. On Northern side, the buildings across the street. This didn’t keep us from looking out of the window. The view contained images of freedom. I would find the blinds closed, my roommates only liked to see what they could experience.
Each of my ten roommates always occupied the window side. This angered me. I didn’t want to talk to my roommates because of this. I can remember one name of my roommates to this day. Anton, died slowly, painfully and lonely. Anton, 92 year old man, at one time stood a strong 6 foot 2 inches. In his state while staying with me, he when he could stand, was at most 5 foot 9. His face beamed a well earned life. He’d always look over at me during his morning inspection and would wink with a grin.
I forever will remember his last words to me, “Kid, you don’t let this place kill you.”
It took him nearly twenty minutes to push down the pain from the growths in his throat and lymph nodes to say those eight words. I wrote them down on anything I could.
If you stood directly under the television, looking out, you would notice two identical areas for the captives to claim. The areas are mirror images. Depending on what torture devices you had, you could see tubes, machines, and devices hooked up into the wall. Down the middle was an 80 percent privacy curtain, which you still could see shadows on the other side. We really didn’t need privacy. We’d really given up thinking we were even citizens. I often pondered if I had become the object of someone’s sick enjoyment.
Pushed up against the back wall was our beds. Each bed was exactly the same. On the sides, cages that elevated and declined to keep us in our beds as much as possible. These cages had controls for volume of the television and a button used to request a caretaker’s assistance. A bright red button with a red square cross on a white background seemed more useless than a screen door on a submarine. The caretakers would respond, when they felt like it, if they felt like it. The bed became another way for the caretakers to torture us. And the caretakers would come in while we were sleeping, adjust the bed to a different position, and leave without a reason and often without looking at us. Waking us up without excuses or apologies I imagined as a game for the caretakers. I imagined them sitting out at their counter pompous and arrogantly keeping track of how many times someone jumped as they started the processes. While the bed moved up and down, it would make loud, cranking, grinding, and squeaking noises, these noises disturb me to this day.
Directly next to my bed, sometimes on my right side, sometimes on my left side, was the restraining device. It made obnoxious beeping noises every 30 seconds, or when I became disconnected from the power too long. An awkward grinding, clunking and suction noise could be heard every five seconds. Every two hours it would *ding, ding, ding* so our caretakers would come check on us. I wanted to run from it, but if we did, they just connected us back to this device. A companion for many captives, we pushed, pulled or carried it with us. I named mine, Ivey. This definitely brightened my mood if I remembered why I was attached.
To my left are the closets for our personal property. This closet had an air tight seal to keep our personal effects safe from damage. I wondered what it would be like to hide in there, always knowing it wasn’t big enough for a human being. This made me question if I was still human.
On the back side of the closets a wall with a mirror could be found. Directly below the mirror a sink sitting at waist level. The mirror was used as an unintentional reminder of the agony we have been subjected to. All we cared about was that we were upright. We’d usually walk by this mirror never looking. We didn’t need the visual confirmation that we looked worse than we felt.
Directly to the right of the mirror and sink, a light wooden door. In this door a bathroom and shower resided. You could comfortably fit 10 people inside this area. The Shower smelled of old mothballs and Lysol cleaner. The darker tan walls often made me wonder if I created to be in this eternal suffering.
Turning around from the mirror was four feet of cabinets that occupied from the bathroom wall to the entry door. We were told blankets, pillows, and gowns needed from time to time would be in there. The only problem was that they were always locked, so on cold nights we were tortured waiting for warmth from promised blankets that would never be accessible from the non-responsive caretakers.
Laying in my bed, I found one part of this room where I found solace. I escaped my prison, my torture chamber, my cell of hope forever lost. I could look around this room and just see pain, sorrow, hatred, loss, anguish, and regrets.
There was a constant item in every room that always sat directly to my left. It didn’t matter which of the five rooms I occupied in this prison of torture beyond my age. These rooms of empty feelings, lost hopes, discarded dreams, cares I once had, or promises never kept; contained a constant that is overlooked by those who never stay. There in the corner, a light blue fake leather chair sat parallel with the bed. This chair contained wood trim running up and down the vertical edges and along the crown of the chair. The chair’s arms made of wood, stained dark cherry, now worn with it’s heavy use. This chair could be converted to a very uncomfortable bed. The Chair would also be a recliner.
But one night, one cold night on the last day of March in 2000, this blue chair helped shape and change my life.
I had not gotten my normal tray of food in the evening. My caretakers had decided I get a risky new procedure. Instead I got to smell the hamburgers, french fries and the peaches. Going nearly six weeks without food, much like anyone, my sense of smell heightened. I could smell the type of pickles on the tray, they were Vlasic dill pickles. The caretakers with a truly heartless gesture, gave me two gallons of sulfur and water which would cleanse my stomach and everything attached. It didn’t matter the flavor they said, all you could smell and taste was the sulfur.
I was allowed a phone call that night. I can remember I talked with my dad. Our relationship wasn’t the strongest. That night’s conversation was not memorable. I am pretty sure we just talked about when they would come to visit me the next day. The memory of how I felt after the conversation I still remember today.
I made peace with this night of my life as it felt like my last night.
I sat there with my mind racing and began to get angry. The longer I sat, the more anger festered. I started talking to God and challenged Him to prove Himself. I told Him I despised His lack of appearances in my life. I counted out the ways of how I was being tortured.
I screamed out in anger, “I am in so much pain, so much suffering that I would think death would be better than to continue, God.”
I finally closed out my talk with God with one statement, out loud, for all the world to hear me,
“God, I’m done. I hate you. Prove to me You love me.”
After this rant of blasphemous anger and truth, I laid down. Definitely not calm, definitely unable to accept this agonizing life, my anger lulled me to sleep this night.
Without reason, at 11:50 pm I sat straight up in bed. My anger was gone, and I heard my name. James August Mueller, is the name my parents gave me, but not the name I am addressed by. I heard the name that the caretakers didn’t know, or refused to call me. When I was a young child my grandpa would call me Auggie. When I was older I found out he wanted me to go by Auggie. The name was unique, and seemed to match my personality. I’ve gone by Auggie ever since. Auggie was the name I heard that night.
I looked around the room nearly out of breath. I inhaled two deep breaths and tried to regain my composure. Overwhelmed with emotions, this could only be compared to the day of my wedding. I have never felt such love, joy, peace, drowning kindness. I was basking in it, soaking it in.
I was pulled back to reality, as again, “Auggie.” Looking around I saw no one, looked over at my roommate around the curtain. Asleep and lifeless, I thought maybe he passed on, but quickly realized with his chest rising and falling he was just sleeping. I realized right then and there that God was talking to me. I can to this date remember exactly what I heard God say, “Peace, with you now, I’ve always been right here.” I challenged God as I knew what he meant, I screamed internally, “WHERE! PROVE IT.” Within a split second, I could feel God in that chair.
Any onlooker would just see a chair. If there was a fire, this would be the last thing you’d think to get out of the room. The whiteboards took precedence over this chair.
I leaned over, placed my head and arms in the chair, instantly being overcome with a flood of a thousand emotions. I was at peace. I knew exactly where God was the entire time I was prisoner in each and every room. In each room the chair was always in the exact same spot, facing the exact same direction. Towards the bed.
At the Saint Elizabeths hospital, in long term patient care, on the 5th floor consisting of Geriatric and Infant wards, I sat. This was a place consisting of patients receiving treatments for ailments of cancer, heart problems, internal digestive issues, and any infant sickness. That one cold night, I found my Lord, Jesus Christ, in a blue chair with the wood trim, sitting next to me.
The next morning, when nurses entered my room to prepare me for life altering surgery, they found me asleep with my head on the chair. I was wheeled downstairs without a word from my nurses, never to be the same again. “