Originally written on February 14, 2006 after one of my many visits to the psychiatric ward of a hospital...
I sat in the dining hall at a window on the ninth floor with a cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I watched as plane after plane took off at the distant airport on the horizon. Flurries of snow were blowing and snarling in great swirls and eddies. Outside the room were two patients arguing over who could use the phone; one finally stomping off to go get a nurse to resolve the situation. The incessant drone of the television invaded my mind and was an ever present background noise. I got so tired of that damned television that week I was in the hospital.
My roommate I called Pops. He was an elderly black man in his seventies. Stark white week old stubble covered his chin, neck, and upper lip. In his younger years, he had gotten shot in his right arm and it had become withered and useless. It hung to his side like a mummy’s shriveled appendage devoid of life. He talked in code that I have yet to decipher. Our conversations were spent with him saying something and me asking him several times to repeat himself to no avail. I finally would just grin and nod in agreement. He would smile back and laugh a hearty and throaty chuckle.
Another fellow patient was a young 24 year old girl I will call Lacey. She was a classic manic depressive in the manic phase. She couldn’t sit still and was constantly talking to me, others, and herself. Her hands and feet were in unremitting motion. She also had a habit of showing her breasts to any who would ask or to whom she was attracted too. I got the displeasure of seeing them several times and just grew accustomed to it. I saw more naked breasts in those few days in the hospital than I could see in a porno.
There is a strict routine on a psychiatric ward. Up at 5:30 a.m. so nurses can take your vital signs. Breakfast at 7 a.m. sharp (usually the best tasting meal of the day.) Meds at 9:30 a.m. See the psychiatrist sometime between then and lunch to adjust meds. Lunch was at 12 p.m. which followed noon time medications. Art therapy followed lunch then vocational rehabilitation. Dinner arrived at 5 p.m. The patients would all huddle around the cart waiting for their trays. After dinner meds then free time until bedtime which meant most of the patients would gather around that noxious television and argue over what to watch. I would sit in the quiet dining area reading my books and thinking deep thoughts while I re-gathered my mind.
Medicare would only pay for five days of treatment so I drove the three hours back home and settled back into my usual life. The hospital now seems like such a distant memory, yet this morning, I was sitting in the dining hall eating breakfast as Pops mumbled and Lacey fidgeted. I was surrounded by people and commotion and now, once again, I am alone in this quiet apartment; alone with my thoughts and this bastard of a mental companion that is schizophrenia.