“She needs more paper and colored pencils.”
Two men stood behind a large window, observing a young woman in the adjacent room. Bent closely over a pile of white pages covered in detailed drawings, she meticulously added lines to her images. A supply of pencils was scattered haphazardly across the table. A closer look showed that there were patterns even in her disorder.
“Is it safe to give her pencils? Would something, uhm… less a potential weapon be better?”
Dr. Gleason removed his glasses and cleaned them with the hem of his lab coat. Replacing his glasses, he jammed his hands into the coat pockets. He tipped his head sideways, his ear almost touching his shoulder, then twisted his neck around until the other man heard a load cracking.
Only after getting his thoughts in order did Gleason respond to the question.
“Initially, we offered her paints, but there was a concern about the brushes. Would the blunt ends be used to stab the staff or other patients? Her OCD tendencies precluded the use of finger paints.”
Asher Vinson, though considerably older than the woman they were watching, still exhibited a familial similarity. His face was mere inches from the window, so close that his breath left an occasional misty circle on the glass.
“I suppose crayons raised the same issue… hard blunt ends being dangerous?”
With a dismissive flourish of his hand, Gleason forestalled Vinson from expounding on his question.
“No, it was the smell of the wax. She has a sensitivity to certain smells.”
Reluctantly turning from watching his sister, Vinson waited expectantly for further explanation.
“Once she was given the pencils, we found that her proprietary feelings toward them prevented her from using them in any other manner than in her artwork. She would no more allow them to touch another person, than she would give up her drawings.”
“What do they all mean?” Vinson took in the hundreds of abstract pencil sketches taped to the observation room walls.
“We don’t know.” When Vinson didn’t ask the inevitable question, Gleason continued. “She still doesn’t speak. We feel confident once we unlock the meaning behind the drawings, we can make real progress in her treatment.”
“Until then, what? Keep providing her with art supplies?”
“Yes. The staff has difficulties keeping up with her demands. If she runs out of paper or pencils, she can become quite agitated.”
“Of course, I see.”
While the two men discussed financial matters, Tansy continued to draw. She could hear them behind the glass, and pretended they were tiny mice scratching at the wooden baseboards, trying to get into her room.
Picking up a small, blue plastic sharpener, she put a new tip on her tangerine orange pencil. The sky needed more shading to look right.