Might As Well Live (Part 1)

“Razors pain you, rivers are damp

Acids stain you, drugs cause cramp
Guns aren’t lawful, nooses give
Gas smells awful, might as well live!"

~Dorothy Parker

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to find yourself in a real-life version of Alice in Wonderland, Borges and The Wizard of Oz all rolled into one, i can tell you. I can tell you that being crazy isn’t really as hard or as far from you as you might like to think. If you’ve ever found yourself alone in your apartment at some indefinite hour of the day or night (indefinite because time, at least for you, has stopped), with every road, door, avenue and window seemingly closed, every friend incapable of helping (or so you think), every hope exhausted because you are exhausted…if you’ve ever woken up out of a sort of half-dream with a bottle of pills or a razor in your hands wondering, what the Hell am i doing, how did i get here?

Then you know what i’m talking about.

And where do you go from there? Well, i went to a psych-ward for 8 days. The road back to “sanity”, for me, was a place where time seems to move in some kind of drug-induced zig-zag of sleep and guilt and tears and hysterical laughter and people who smear their shit on the walls and talk to creatures who aren’t there (but happen to be sitting right next to you if they were, so you never know if someone is actually speaking to you, or the 8-foot yellow talking banana-slug named Hector that lives in their head); it’s listening to screaming for hours on end, and it’s horror and surreality that you can’t pay to see in the movies.

I didn’t exactly get the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion to help me find my way back to myself, but i did get the Tattooed Man and the Giant with the Terrible Scars – among others – and i’d take them over any stupid overgrown feline or overstuffed ragdoll, anyday…

“So, what happened to bring you here?”
“I guess i had this idea that i was going to kill myself.”
“Did you have a plan?”
“What was it?”

In the ambulance, the driver plays old ’80’s dance music. Flock of Seagulls. When we arrive at the hospital, the biggest black man i’ve ever seen with horrific, angry scars covering his right arm helps me off the stretcher and into a small room with a desk. He asks if i can walk OK. I tell him i’m fine, tasting the irony of the words. I sit down, feeling like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck. People are shouting somewhere in the background, a girl is laughing like a bloody lunatic somewhere nearby (jesus where the fuck did these people take me?) and i don’t know what to expect next. I wait for someone to show up. I hope to God it isn’t some stern old goat who wants to shoot me up with something chemically labotomizing.

Instead, a man with tattoos covering his arms comes into the room and sits across from me, looks up at me and smiles. I guess he’s Boricua. He looks like someone i’d talk to on the street or on the L, or let bum a smoke from me; someone i’d talk to when i was feeling normal – possibly find cute, i can’t tell in this state.
When he asks me questions i start to talk; I don’t know if what i did was really so much a plan as it was a sort of…repetitive, obsessive thought in my head that i didn’t so much decide to act on so much as it decided to act upon me. Or, almost anyway. I try to explain this to Tattooed – try to explain how everything seemed to sort of collapse beneath me all at once – i stare at his Ink as i talk, too embarrassed to look him in the eyes at first; until at some point, i decide he doesn’t think i’m some kind of an asshole, or beyond pathetic and therefore beneath his ability to give a shit. I certainly feel like a pathetic asshole. I tell him more about myself in the space of what seems like just a few minutes than i’ve told anybody in a long time. History.

“Tell me about your history…”

I talked, he wrote; losing my job, Hunter’s OD and resulting stint in rehab, mental institutions, rehab, and so on…my health, the frequent pain, the constant insomnia…the metal desk bangs against the wall as The Man with the Tattoos’ pen drags against the paper – screeching metal legs as he yanks the desk away from the wall – the banging stops. Terrible lighting, florescent, and yellow walls. Hardly seems calming to somebody with frayed nerves, that combination of piss yellow and flickering washed out buzzing lights…Tattooed has finished writing. He looks up at me and smiles. He asks if i’m from Chicago; we talk about cooking fried plantains and garlic and he smiles; “You’re going to be ok. I can tell.”
He hangs out with me until the nurse comes so i can change, saying something about that particular process to make me (surprisingly) laugh as he leaves, suggesting he’d stick around to help me disrobe, but…

They take my clothes, my smokes, my ID, etc. The Giant with the Terrible Scars comes in and hands me a gown and some scrub pants – “I went downstairs to get you the pants, you lucky, girl – i don’t usually bother, but i figured what the Hell…you’ll be more comfortable with them, anyway.”
I thank him as the nurse closes the door between us so i can change. I open the door, and somebody takes me to the cafeteria on the unit. I sit alone, i eat something – i don’t remember what. I’m too scared to know what i’m tasting – everyone around me is muttering to themselves or smells like shit or has a lost, haunted look in their eyes – a look i suspect i have myself, which doesn’t help matters much. After i eat, someone shows me my room, and my room-mates.
“Not the kind of girls you can talk to, you know…they’re…well…schizophrenic. Very,” the nurse tells me.

I spend about three minutes in the room before i decide the TV room might help distract me from the eerie noises coming from my new room-mates. It’s not too crowded in there, so i sit down and try to focus on the noise coming from the television as opposed to the noise on the unit. I’m not there long before i realize someone is trying to talk to me. It’s the Giant with the Scars;

“So, what are you in here for?”
Suddenly i’ve lost my ability to articulate, surrounded by the lunatics. I can’t wrap my head around the idea that i’m more like them than i care to admit. I stare at him mutely. My eyes feel like teacups.
“Don’t worry about it, girl…you tell me later when there’s not so many people around.”

I nod, relieved that there are at least two other human beings in this Hellhole with me…but still, i don’t sleep much that night.

Might As Well Live (Part 1)

Cory Monday

Chicago, United States

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