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Room F

By Lia Woodall

This is a strong piece. The use of the newspaper clippings, the official reports and the
specificity of the location and time strengthens the piece. The incident is beautifully told,
and the use of the direct quotes from conversations, from text messages and the believable
accounting of what dialogue has taken place is effective and compelling. . . We expect that it
will be hard before it gets better, and the ability to make that clear without sensationalism is
quite impressive. This is a powerful piece, and in many ways it allows us to understand some
of the complexity of mental health and public institutions in America. The author employs
innovative techniques, and treats the subject with depth and feeling.
— Judge's Comments, Kwame Dawes


“Operator, I’ll accept the charges.”

     • • •

     The emergency room at the hospital is sterile and sleepy in the afternoon light of Saturday, January 29, 2005 in Las Vegas. That morning I saw the sun rise in Denver.

     I spot the nurses station and hurry toward it. Calibrate my tone to polite, try for appreciative.

     “I’m here for my sister.”

     “Room F.” The nurse points to a dimly lit hallway. “First left.”

     I find my sister around the corner in a crowded corridor, groggy on a gurney, its long side saddled up to the wall. Tacked to the plaster above her torso is a yellow sticky—“Room F.”

     F for fucked.

     Her brown hair is buzzed close at her temples; the longer section at her crown is flat and matted against a collapsed pillow. Her face has gone slack; her mouth a dry well of side effects from some unnamed drug. Shallow breaths pass over cracked lips.



About the Author

Lia Woodall’s award-winning essays have been published in Literal Latté, Sonora Review, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine and South Loop Review. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and recognized as a Best American Essay Notable 2014. She is currently at work on a book, Leaving Twinbrook: A Memoir of Duality, about the loss of her twin brother to suicide. She lives in Houston with her husband and two cats, and is newly a Grammy