“See the one in the corner? She came in late last night. One of Dr. Pinden’s. Came banging on the door, honest to God – practically demanding to be let in.
“Not too many trying to get in are there? We’re trying to keep them – JOHN IT IS NOT APPROPRIATE TO KICK THE CHAIRS! Lord, trying to keep them in. She seems like a quiet one.”
“Yeah, but she don’t follow directions. Must think she’s special”
Inside the Psych Ward
Lynn had finally broken. None of the pieces would fit back together again. It seemed some were missing. She had begged her mom to come and stay with the kids so she could check her self in to the hospital.
“What do you mean you’re depressed? For God’s sake, Lynn, what do you have to be depressed about? Stop this nonsense, snap out of it and take care of your children. I can’t come all the way up there and … hello? HELLO?”
Her friend agreed to keep them but they would have to come down to her house. She felt disconnected from her body and couldn’t will it to move in the direction she wanted. It wanted to stay in her bedroom. It had brought the kids in there too and had them play with their toys. It would run downstairs, fix something quick like soup or cereal and run it back up so the kids could eat. Lynn was alarmed at this behavior and used all of her will to reconnect with her body and meet her responsibilities. Something, some voice inside of her warned that this was serious and she needed to get the kids to safety and herself to the hospital – now.
The buzzer rang and the door opened where two people in uniforms stood waiting. They led her to a room with a desk and two chairs, told her to sit and left. She had no sense of time. Her doctor appeared in the room looking irritated and asking her questions rapid fire, scratched something on a yellow notepad and slammed it into a folder. He tied off her arm, jammed a needle into her flesh and left. She wondered if she was better now. A nurse was telling her to follow but she was having trouble keeping up on weakened legs. The floor tile seemed to be moving from left to right and back again, making her attempts at walking so difficult. They came to a room and she was told to wait there until the aide came. She hoped she would know when that happened. She wasn’t familiar with nurses or aides and she really wanted to rest. She was empty and had no more to give even though she was expected to. She crawled into the bed and pulled a cover over her body and head.
“OH MAN – are you trying to get lock up? Get outta that bed!! Hi, I’m Jenny, guess we’re roomies. Here let me help you up. Group starts in three minutes. Did they take all your stuff from you? Do you have any smokes?”
Lynn was glad this person didn’t seem irritated and tried hard to remember if she had cigarettes. A large lady entered the room with a green plastic bag and told Jenny to go on to group.
“My name is Janis and I’ve brought some of your things for you that you can keep. The rest have been locked up and you’ll get them back when you’re discharged. We’ll go over the rules now and the schedule but I’ll leave this folder for you so you can read over it again and get familiar with how we do things here, all right?” Janis seemed to understand Lynn was empty and her tone was kind and patient. Lynn nodded as she explained that patients were not to lie on their beds except at night and were expected to participate in group and activities. Meals were served in a small dining area located just across from the nurse’s station. There was a coffee pot, small frig with milk and juice and you were expected to clean up after yourself and dispose of paper cups and empty ash trays if you used them. She could have her cigarettes but she must go to the nurse’s station to ask for a light or ask an aide. She could not have her lighter, her comb was locked up because it was a rat tail and had a pointed end, she could not leave the ward so she wouldn’t need to ask for any money until her doctor gave her off ward privileges, she was expected to shower and dress every morning and pajamas and robes were only to be worn at bedtime. She was excused from group now but needed to go out onto the ward. She was not to be in her room unless she was using the bathroom or getting something from her belongings, other wise she was to socialize and participate in ward activities.
Lynn did as she was told and went out into an area that held a television, sofa and several chairs. There was a ping pong table, an area that looked to contain arts and craft items and a glassed off area that she would learn was the music room that two people at a time could use to listen to the stereo. The coffee area had a large table that could seat eight to ten people and there were stacks of paper cups and thin tin ash trays stacked next to the coffee pot. Down the hallway she could see doors to rooms, all open, except for two. One had a door with a small window containing a mesh screen between the panes of plexiglass. Another closed door had a small opening and a window with a covering that could be slid to the side to allow viewing inside. About twelve people were sitting in a semi circle at the far end of the large area, apparently in group. They were not quiet as they spoke and had to be told to stop interrupting each other by a woman in a uniform who Lynn would learn was the head nurse. Two aides were in the immediate area sitting close to the group. Lynn opted for the television area where there was only one individual. He was frantically switching channels and muttering something she couldn’t make out. He was dressed in suit and tie and bright orange slippers.
She remembered getting a shot, realized it was no longer difficult to walk and she felt a strange calm although her mouth was extremely dry and her arm had a knot and a bruise forming at the injection site. She rubbed it mindlessly and walked over to the coffee area pouring the thick liquid into a paper cup. She sat it on the table and went into her room to get her cigarettes. She stood outside of the nurse’s station which was glass enclosed and tried to catch the eye of one of the three nurses inside so she could get a light. Two were engaged in what must have been a hilarious conversation as they looked over charts and burst into laughter at short intervals. The last was on the phone and though Lynn swore she had looked at her, was now staring down at the counter as she spoke.
“Could I please get a light?” Lynn spoke in the direction of the nurses who showed no recognition of hearing her. The window was open so she stepped closer to it and repeated her request, slightly louder this time. “Excuse me, could I get a light for my cigarette, please?” She felt someone near her and heard a “click”. Turning, she saw one of the male aides that had been seated by the group.
“You won’t get them to help you. If you need something ask me or Joe, he jerked his head in the direction of the other aide. I’m Mike and I’m on until 4:30. Group is almost over so if you want a seat to see the tv you’d better claim it now.
“No,” Lynn exhaled, I mean thank-you no, I’m having coffee. Thank-you, Joe, I mean Mike?” She quickly took a seat in the coffee area and gagged at a sip of the lukewarm stale liquid. Chairs were stacked and a menagerie descended around the tv and a few came toward her, including her “roomie.”
“OH! You did have smokes, give me one, huh? I get money this afternoon and I’ll pay you back.” This said as Jenny shook two cigarettes from her pack.
“Who the Hell didn’t make fresh coffee?” A small framed man dressed in blue jeans and a western shirt turned and glared at Lynn as he dumped the coffee and began to make fresh. “You have a maid to make your coffee – you can’t ell when it needs dumped and a fresh pot started?”
“Yes, I mean no, I mean I didn’t know”, Lynn felt her face growing warm with embarrassment.
“Oh lighten up Zack, she’s new, how’s she supposed to know everything? You always have to start something don’t you asshole”?, this from a tall, heavily built person that could have been either a man or a woman. “I’m Pat” the speaker extended a hand to shake and Lynn reluctantly gave hers in return. “Anyone gives you trouble you come to me, hear?” Lynn nodded in the affirmative and was startled by the harsh laughter from the group, each holding paper cups, waiting for the coffee to brew.
“ Gimme a light will ya?,” a young boy who looked more like he should be asking for a cookie or some candy reached for the one in her hand, lit his from the end and returned in it a motion so quick and so smooth Lynn wasn’t sure if it really happened. He saw his opportunity as the others attention was drawn to loud voices in the tv area and filled his cup then moved quickly toward the music room.
“Oh wait, James, I want to come too. JAMES, let me get a cup – wait for me.” Jenny pushed ahead of an older lady who clutched a bag containing knitting materials, got half a cup and ran after him. The lady reached into the frig, retrieved a container of chocolate milk and headed for the nurse’s station in hopes they would let her have her knitting needles outside of the time set aside for crafts. It would depend on how busy staff was if they could spare someone to guard her “weapons” from those who would pilfer them.
Lynn saw there was about a cup remaining and quickly filled a new cup. She rinsed out the pot and started a fresh one brewing. She drew another cigarette from her pack and wondered how she would get more. The noise from the tv area continued and both aides and the head nurse were now there surrounding the man in the suit. His tormented cries sent chills down Lynn’s spine, reminding her of an animal with its leg caught in a trapper’s cruel device while razor edged spikes tore through its flesh. Another nurse came from the station carrying a syringe and soon the man was a crumpled mass half sitting, half lying in the chair, staring blankly at the tv screen that now rested on a channel that the other residents seemed to enjoy.
“Can I get a light off your cigarette?” Lynn asked this of Zack who had sat next to her at the table.
“No.” He still held a grudge that she hadn’t played by the rules about taking turns making fresh coffee. There was always supposed to be fresh coffee available to the residents and the only time it went stale was when group time let it simmer on the hot burner or when they were on lock-down. At all other times there was supposed to be fresh coffee, everyone should realize that, new or not. “It’s against the rules to light one off of another unless it’s your own and you’re chain smoking. You don’t know anything do you, stupid?”
Lava hot anger climbed from the pit of her stomach where it had been laying dormant and made its way to her mouth. “Hey, fuck you Tiny”, she reached for Pat’s cigarette, lit hers and stood over his chair daring him to respond. A rush of pleasure surged through her, rage long stuffed into overflowing containers was traveling through neurons awakened by the medication that was force fed to her vein. Lynn grabbed the cigarette from Zack’s half open shocked mouth, ground it out in the ash tray and delivered her second shot. “Look’s like you need a light there Zachey boy!”