by Susan Lloy
“Straightjacket. That’s what I’ll order if you keep this up and I’m sure you won’t like it much either.”
I was restless, it’s true. The halls were paced over and over, the nursing station at Emergency frequented time after time.
“How much longer? Can’t wait any more. I need medication. A pill. A shot. Anything! If you don’t give me something I’ll make a complaint. My psychiatrist is staff here and when he’s through with you – he’ll give you a kick up the ass like it’s the biggest dick you ever wished for.”
My words weren’t kind, but then again, I was under duress. Restrained. Ugh. However, I decided to heed his advice and silently trolled the corridor eyeballing patients. Calculating urgencies. My psyche was bruised from the overindulgence of mood enhancers and mild hallucinogens. Sleepless nights. I felt like Lady Macbeth and my brain bled tears as if they were raw exposed nerve endings. I held court with myself sustaining solitary conversations that ran day and night, blurring the boundaries of light and darkness. So goes the ritual of mood.
A young junkie rocked her arm, which was a deep red – almost purple – swollen like an active volcano waiting to erupt. An abscess. It was raised, perhaps four inches from her puncture site. It scared me, I could end up like her. My head rested between my knees and my palms at the base of my skull. Sound and light were the enemies now. Capsules and liquid meds the allies. Occasionally I lifted my head and confronted the nursing station with glaring pleads ‘When?’ On and off I heard muffled comments, Mademoiselle Energy, laughter and hushed words. Scrubs and white lab coats turned to me, distracted and for a minute their eyes met mine. Often moans and sighs, fast-moving stretchers and the clicks of heels on hard-polished floors assaulted my covered ears.
After several hours a young man approached me. An orderly with a wheelchair stopped and said, “Lets go.”
“I’m perfectly fine for walking.”
“Just get in please. It’s procedure.”
We travelled a corridor. Coloured directional signs were mounted on walls: Surgical, Medical, ICU, Psychiatry and so on. We waited for the elevator, heading to the psych ward, which was six floors up. My tour guide was rather emotionless and barely said a word. No doubt he needed a rest as well. He rang a bell, a nurse opened the door and he handed a chart to her.
“Come this way.”
I got up from the wheelchair. The orderly had disappeared through the door already.
“You’ll be staying here.”
It was a small rectangular room with space for only a single bed. No furniture and empty walls. A porthole in the door replaced a window. I must have really pissed off that ER intake doctor, because he had slotted me for the violent section of the unit. It wasn’t long before the nurse approached with medication.
“Here, take these.”
I didn’t even ask what they were.
Whatever she handed sedated me enough for a few hours of slumber. The door to my room wasn’t secured and I could navigate between the sitting room, dining area and cigarette roost with ease. My own psychiatrist came soon after and questioned me in the private confines of my enclosure.
“You know, I feel that these compounds are very similar to vitamins and they’re helping my illness. Don’t you agree?”
“I’m not sure about that Grace, however, you’ll be transferred over to the other unit. You don’t belong here.”
Within an hour I was moved across the hall where I had a normal-sized room with a proper window and bureau for clothes that I didn’t have. There were a few patients in the sitting room and the television was annoyingly loud. I sat in a chair. It didn’t take long before another inmate approached me.
“Yeah. Via the lockdown.”
“Know it well. I’m Karl”
“Don’t you find that television aggressive?”
I headed in the direction of the set and turned down the volume. The woman sitting opposite immediately put it back to where it had been. I lowered it once more. When she went for the third time I sternly stated, “Leave it alone. Or I’ll put your head through it!”
She mumbled inaudible words and slowly trudged along out the door to an unknown location.
“Consistent. That’s what she is. It’s always deafening. She doesn’t involve herself with any of us. I think the more thunderous – softer are the voices.”
“Yes. There are many poor things here.”
“Why are you here? You seem absolutely normal to me.”
“I was digging up a tree in Westmount Park. They arrested me. So I ended up back here.”
“Oh. So you’re a regular then?”
“And you? First time?”
“It is actually. I’ve had a few suicide attempts, but always with a noose. Never had the guts to kick the chair over. What if I fucked up and ended up with a broken neck? Why can’t things be simpler? For instance, if I had a driver’s license – I’d simply rent a car, go to a nice spot and gas myself. But it wasn’t suicide this time. I overdid it with drugs and endured weeks of insomnia. I just got so sick of myself. This never-ending restlessness.”
“There are easier ways.”
He got up and rummaged through his pockets and handed over a few pods. These are pods from the Black Locust tree – Robinia pseudoacacia. There are also Honey Locust trees in the city. The Honey Locust is more beautiful.
Karl held bean-like pods. The backs were darker. The fronts were a shiny warm silver. Thin bands stretched horizontally on one side with raised seeds attached. They were intricate, as if woven embroidery on a period dress.
“They’re lovely. How’d you get them?”
“I’ve been here a few weeks now and have more privileges than you. I can go outside for cigarettes and air”.
“Why were you digging up a tree anyway?”
“He told me to do it.”
Karl tapped on the side of his head.
“He’d been at me for weeks. He said it was wrongly positioned. It required optimum light, cloud cover and asylum from the wind. The cool breath of the stars and the moon’s crafty grin. We enjoy nature’s riddles and truths. When I get out of here I’ll calibrate myself according to the number of seeds on each pod that are always random. For each day I’ve been in this hospital, I’ll subtract a week’s worth of medication. The Honey Locust seeds are edible, but not the Black Locust’s. They’re poisonous. Effortless.”
Six months later I was back for an intentional overdose. I hadn’t managed to locate the Black Locust trees that are scattered throughout the city, but funny enough, I had the same Emergency doctor.
“I think the last time I was here I was rather rude. Sorry.”
“Not a problem.”
He came to me with a long plastic tube. “Open…”