In the “parallel world” which Susanna and her fellow patients inhabit, she says, things happen that had not yet happened in the world from which they all came. When they do finally happen in the “real world,” Susanna and the rest of the girls find them familiar, because similar things have already been “performed” in front of them. Susanna offers as an example of this phenomenon: “the story of Georgina’s boyfriend, Wade, and the sugar.”
The parallel world of the hospital is a place that is removed but not divorced from the “real” world. Susanna demonstrates this for the readers by invoking the eerie coincidences and strange echoes that reverberate through the world of McLean, mirroring the goings-on of the outside world.
Georgina and her boyfriend Wade met in the cafeteria, which the women’s ward and the men’s ward share. Wade is good-looking and full of rage. Georgina explains to the other girls that Wade’s father is a spy for the U.S., and Wade is angry that he will never be as tough as his father. One day, Susanna, suspicious of Wade, decides to try and find out more about Wade’s father. Wade tells Susanna that his father lives in Miami and knows who killed JFK. Susanna does not believe a single word out of Wade’s mouth—after all, Wade is in a psych ward, just like the rest of them, and often acts out so badly that he is restricted from visiting Georgina for weeks at a time. Wade speaks often of two of his father’s friends, Liddy and Hunt, and describes them as men who would “do anything,” but refuses to go further into specifics. Shortly after he tells Susanna this piece of information, Wade is locked up on his ward for bad behavior.
In the world of the psych ward, everything is suspect. Wade’s proud declarations of his father’s power and “toughness” read as delusional—symptoms of schizophrenia or another disorder which inspires a break in one’s perception of reality. Susanna attempts to investigate Wade to deduce how credible he is, but is unable to take him at his word, and sees him only as another “crazy” person just like everyone else on the ward.
To comfort the distraught Georgina, who misses Wade badly, Susanna suggests redecorating their room or cooking something in the kitchen. Susanna and Georgina go to the kitchen to make caramels, but as Susanna lifts the pan of caramelized sugar off the stove, she spills its contents on Georgina’s hand, burning her. While nurses rush to attend to Georgina, Georgina does nothing—she just stands still and stares at her “candied” hand.
The incident with the sugar burning Georgina’s hand seems to be disconnected from Wade’s story, but the moment in which Georgina stares blankly at her hand as it becomes “caramelized” haunts Susanna, and stands out as a memorable and bizarre moment.
Susanna writes that later, during the Watergate hearings, a man—she can’t remember if it was E. Howard Hunt or G. Gordon Liddy—said that, every night, he held his hand in a candle flame to reassure himself of the fact that he could stand up to torture if push came to shove. Susanna imagines that after the sugar incident, Georgina’s nurse surely wrote in Georgina’s file that Georgina “lacked affect after [her] accident,” while Wade’s surely wrote in his that he was continuing with a “fantasy that [his] father is [a] CIA operative with dangerous friends.”
In a strange and uncanny turn of events, it is implied that Wade was telling the truth all along about his tough spy father and his powerful friends. The confession on the part of one of the conspirators in the Watergate scandal includes an anecdote which mirrors Georgina staring blankly at her burnt, “candied” hand. These two coincidences mirror happenings in the outside world, and yet Susanna knows that the nurses will never believe Wade and will denote Georgina’s behavior as “crazy,” even though a sane man will soon appear on television talking about how he voluntarily engaged in the same behavior. The injustices of the perception of the mentally ill are revealed in this passage as Susanna merges her perception of the two worlds she’s straddling.