SMILE (Part 7) – or Psych Ward Friend Frenzy

14Jan13
From the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"

From the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

Friends – 

Murray’s big and bald and has been here a dozen times.  He walks around the place like he owns it, a swagger and brave face, even though he’s depressed, on suicide watch. He calls me kiddo, and tries to throw a spoonful of peas at me during dinner.

He’s had Thorazine and Lithium and Depakote and Seroquel.  He’s so old he’s taken MAOI inhibitors and was unable to eat grapefruit without having a toxic interaction between the two.  He’s been taken downstairs to the Shock Shop, hooked up to heart monitors and electrodes and had volts of electricity pumped through his body. “I won’t let them scramble my brains this time. No way, man.   I’d rather die.”

Jenny is thin and quiet.  She’s a college student.  She’s been here on and off for the past two years.  Nothing seems to work: meds, raw food diets, yoga, therapy, energy healers. Her parents are scared, look all dazed with thick wrinkles around their eyes that make them look like those sad dogs you see on greeting cards.  They visit every night and bring her magazines and pink and orange fingernail polish she’ll never use. Her nails are too chipped and torn from years of worry.

She wears sweats and baggy shirts and smiles when Murray speaks.  He likes sitting with her, tells her stupid stories that make her laugh.  He’s married.  His wife never visits.  He’s married but not for long.  Like most of us.

Murray teaches me the secret of the hospital menu: how to double your portions by writing “X 2.”  “Two burgers, two chick patties, whatever’s your pleasure,” he says. The eating disorder girls ignore him. “Eat, why don’t ya?” he says and shrugs his shoulders. “They need their own place, always doing sit-ups and looking in the mirror.  The rest of us want to break those stupid things.”

The three of us sit together at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It reminds me of being in high school, where your friends save a seat for you at their table all protectively, like you’re somebody, like you’re important.

“You have no idea how great it is here on Station 30. Now, Station 22 is for the crazy, crazies! Like the guys who bang their head against the wall to get the demons out.  Here, we got a bunch of downright depressives and the staff wants to make it all cheery and happy, like a fucking little kid’s birthday party.  Well, except for those eating disorder girls. They’re just lame and worry about gaining an ounce. No cake for those losers!  Anyway, you can get away with so much here.  Station 22, they’ll toss you in a padded room in a heartbeat.  True.  Totally true. I went in there manic as hell once and slam!  They pushed me in that room until I stopped laughing and started crying.” He’s like a stage actor with wide, sweeping gestures, and expressive eyes.

Jenny laughs.  Chews a bit of chicken.  She hardly eats, and I wonder if she should be sitting with the eating disorder girls drinking Ensure, too.  But she’s a regular here like Murray, so the nurses are pretty wise to their charts and histories.  I’m surprised the two have never crossed paths before.  So are they.

“We both were here back in November, did you know that? We missed each other by seconds last Thanksgiving,” he says.

“I know.  My parents checked me out the Wednesday before. They didn’t want me to be alone,” Jenny says staring at the table.

“I came in late that Wednesday night for the same reason,” he says and throws his hands in the air like an exclamation mark.  Jenny puts her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide and bright. I think I hear her laughing, but all I can see is the way her shoulders shift, a small quiet shudder that could easily be mistaken for crying.

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6 Responses to “SMILE (Part 7) – or Psych Ward Friend Frenzy”

  1. My God when is the book coming out?

  2. I look forward to every entry, Lennon. Keep em coming.

  3. 6 sm

    You sure have a way with words, lady.


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