How to Fold a Paper Crane in 9 Steps

Step 1: Start with a square piece of paper, fold along the diagonal lines, and open it back up to its original shape. Answer quietly without blinking when they ask you questions like “Have you self harmed before?” or “When was the last time you attempted?” When it becomes too much, stare at your jeans, scribbled with dry marker ink, and listen as your parents argue with the hospital administrator. “She's not actually sick,” your mother protests in scrambled English. “She is just having a bad day. Sometimes children just like creating problems.” Step 2: After flipping your paper sideways, take two opposite corners and fold inwards so you have a small square. Watch as your sister, tired and worn from lying next to you all night in the ER, waves a teary, red-faced goodbye to you. “I'm all out of fight,” she says. “But I promise you that they will get better, and so will you. It just takes time.” Nod numbly as she closes the door behind her, rushing to catch up to your parents in the car. At least they can go home. Step 3: Make sure that your paper is flipped so that the closed edge is at the top. Fold the flaps inwards to match the middle line on both sides. Sit silently in the empty, cold, suicide-proof room assigned to you. Don't forget to slip on the sticky socks they hand you if you want to avoid a lecture. The brochure said your parents could bring your things over, but you don't know if they ever will. In this moment, though, let everything go. Breathe. Realize that you are finally alone, free of doctors who are very concerned but think you can definitely get the help you need if you would just wait a moment, please, and nurses who rush to hand you your lunch like you'll end your life over a missed hamburger. Step 4: Fold the top on both sides and open your paper back up into a small square. Wake in the hard cardboard bed and thin blanket sheets after a technician bangs on your open door. Get up and follow her to a day room of teenagers laughing over a puzzle board or staring blankly at poster-filled walls. There is another technician waiting for you and smiling at you and asking you how anxious you feel. Walk over to a table with a stack of empty notebooks and breakfast menus. Think about how awful you slept and how little time you had to prepare in the morning with the toiletries they gave you, but remember: this is your life for the next week. Step 5: Take a flap at the bottom and flip it back up so it lies against the top fold you just made. Smooth it against the middle crease. Do this for both parts and both sides until you have a long diamond. Reluctantly go sit with the main group after they ask you about a book a night nurse gave you. This is a meeting like no other you've had, and it is only expected how comfortable they are asking, “So what are you in for?” Step 6: Take one middle edge of a diamond leg and fold it inwards towards the closed top. Repeat for both parts and both sides until it is a spearheaded shape. Listen as they tell you the hospital gossip. “I saw Jenna snorting crushed anxiety pills in the bathroom before she left,” one giggles. “You can't tell anyone who the former patients are!” another scolds, smiling. “We don't really do much all day, just sit around and talk and color poorly like this,” the last says. Eat your grits and wish desperately that you had more to say. Step 7: Fold opposing flaps inward so that you are left with two peaks on the top and two other flaps on the bottom. Write “Fun story: I'm not actually dead” letters and wait hours for a therapist to arrive with a bundle of temporary tattoos. Another one comes later with a guitar and an iPad of music. “Can you play ‘Something' by the Beatles?” you request because it is the last thing you listened to before they took your phone away. She says yes and starts singing and you think God, I hate this song. Step 8: Flip one flap up and bend it at its edges. Repeat for the other flap until you've made wings. After a lukewarm tuna sandwich and a final group therapy session about mosaicing your feelings, go into a room by yourself and wait as your first psychologist probes you. “How long have you had depression?” he asks, all kind eyes and nervous energy. You've never actually had therapy before and soon you're talking about Virginia Woolf and failing calculus and Twitter and your father and watching the cars rush through the street like ants crawling up a hill before stepping right in between them. Step 9: Fold the two peaks outwards. Take one and bend it to form a head - you now have a crane. Meet your bubbly personal nurse who hands you melatonin pills and compliments your dragon tattoo. Outside time and dinner are over, so everyone is either watching an old film or playing cards, all itching to wash up and sleep. Soon an administrator walks over, a new boy with a bowed head in tow. “Hello,” you say to him and stick out your hand. “My name is Joy. So what are you in for?”


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