With those baby blues and torpedo breasts, Nurse Ratched annihilated the testicles of unsuspecting men. Not only did this living doll possess an unholy beauty, but also the power she exuded instilled terror into the hearts of men and women who had the misfortune of crossing her path, myself included. My damn birthmark still burned every time she was in spitting distance.
You don’t remember me, do you? It’s okay. I was forgettable. Not like her. I was the timid, unnamed medication nurse with the permanent red wine stain screaming down my chest. Sometimes when at I was home alone, I stuffed my bra, barked orders, and practiced her glassy, unflappable smirk in the mirror.
When I was a novice RN, she took me under her wing. She taught me that the unit must run like clockwork. Anyone who stood in the way of this precision would be dealt with accordingly. Our “juggernaut of modern matriarchy” devoted her life to creating a unique therapeutic environment. Her techniques seemed barbaric, cruel and unorthodox, but they were effective. She stopped at nothing to heal her patients.
Case in point: Patient McMurphy, a malingerer and sadist. Under his influence, a dozen patients and the doctor started exhibiting more symptoms of unresolved Oedipal complexes and pervasive misogyny. Because Nurse Ratched was like a mother to us all, she received the brunt of their misguided anger, guilt, and shame. Despite the unfair treatment, she maintained an air of professionalism.
McMurphy’s transgressions led to three casualties and countless traumas. Even after he stripped her and almost choked her to death, she would not give up on him. His successful lobotomy was a testament to her tenacity. If she couldn’t obliterate his balls, she would ice pick his brain.
Someday, I wanted to be just like her.
Elaina Acosta Ford lives in San Francisco with her husband, son, and dog. She is a writer, a psychiatric nurse (one that does not condone the practices of Nurse Ratched), and a drummer. Her work has appeared in The Denver Post, Akashic Books’ Thursdaze Series, and Milk Sugar Literary Journal. Her first book, Something Close to Happiness: The Something Close to a True Story of a Psychiatric Nurse and Rock and Roll Drummer, is something close to complete.