Shannon O'Connor


When I came to this place with the men who had me tied down on a stretcher, I looked at the building, and it appeared to be a castle, with turrets and towers, made of stone and glass.

"Am I a princess?" I asked one of the men in the navy blue suits. "Is this my castle?"

He laughed. "Yeah, you're a princess."

They took me into the building and questioned me. I wanted to know whom I was reigning over if I were to be the princess in this wondrous land. They put me on the locked unit.

As time went on, I realized I could not leave. The masters made me drink strange things, and I was not allowed to go outside alone. They took the shoelaces off my shoes. They took away my necklace. I wanted to go somewhere pleasant, because the unit was not. I realized I was not a princess in a castle. I was locked up.

But I couldn't handle the shipwreck I had become. All I ever dreamed was of love, but nobody would even look at me. So I tried to end my life. That's why I was here. I yearned to fly away.

"Why can't I go home?" I said to the masters.

"You're not ready yet," they said from behind the glass wall. I felt as if I had to scream to make them hear me.

Around the hospital, not a castle, there was no wall. In the movies, and in novels I had read, there was always a giant wall around hospitals with guards and dogs and lights shining in the middle of the night. But around the castle, there was nothing but a small rope. I gazed at it while we went for recreation; some people smoked, but I breathed the smoke-filled air. I looked at the trees blossoming. I dreamed of escape.

I decided I would try to run during lunch. I needed money to get farther away, but I didn't have any. I heard young people sneaked to the subway to go to my town, went to a bowling alley, and looked for drugs. Pink dishrags held their Reeboks together. The last place I would go was my town. I wanted to go somewhere I was anonymous, and could start a new life, like Rhode Island or Georgia. I could be a waitress at a diner and wear a pink uniform and chew gum. Or I could go to France on a boat and work in a bakery and wear too much eye makeup. I knew I could learn French if I were there.

I imagined stealing one of the masters' wallets to get money. I hoped these people were rich. They were in control of our lives, so why wouldn't they be? If I were like God, my wallet would be bursting.

A glass partition separated us from the masters. There wasn't a way I could steal their money. I thought if I lured one of them to my bedroom, I could pick his pocket.

I asked a young master with aqua eyes if he could fix the window in my room.

"The windows don't open," he said.

"But it is open," I said.

"How can that be?"

He came to my room. I tried to take his wallet, but he caught me.

"Don't steal my money, princess," he said, grabbing my hand.

"But I need to leave," I said.

"You can't go until you're ready. I have to report you. You're in trouble."

"I don't want that. You can't!"

The masters put me in the quiet room, tied my hands and feet to the bed, face down. I screamed and cried and my butt was itchy and I couldn't scratch it, and I had to go to the bathroom and they wouldn't let me, and I wanted to leave the castle where I was not a princess, nor would I ever be as long as I was not the one in control.

I would never be anything; I would never escape. I would spend my life screaming for them to let me out, screaming for love. I screamed so much I fell asleep, and dreamt of floating on an ocean of blueberry yogurt sprinkled with orange peels.


Shannon O'Connor holds an MFA in Writing and Literature from Bennington College. She has been published in The Wilderness House Literary Review, Oddball Magazine, Meeting House Magazine and others. She lives in the Boston area, and enjoys drinking coffee, yoga, and reading while taking public transportation. She can be found sharing her opinions at