Flight of the Dodo - 23. Chapter 23
It was my next to last morning in the psych ward at North Park General as I walked out of the little laundry room after putting my clothes in the dryer. I looked around the dayroom and saw there weren’t any empty tables. That meant sharing a table with someone, but even that looked iffy because as hard as I looked there was only one table with one person and that was that crazy lady who was knitting without needles (which could be used as weapons) or yarn (which could be used as a weapon). I think we had a run-in on my first day, but that could be a false memory. I was having a lot of those lately because all the electroconvulsive therapy treatments really messed up my memory. It is very unfortunate Dr. Kaiser was unable to shock me out of that crazy delusion about New Zealand with medication. There were all these memories that didn’t connect to any other memory. It was like static in my mind and it was rather annoying.
"Edvard, find a place to sit down," a loud voice said.
I turned toward the sound and saw one of the psych aides staring at me. Staring wasn’t allowed in the dayroom because most of the very mentally ill patients took offense to being stared at. Only staff was allowed to stare. I looked around me and saw the two young men who played cards without cards (which, I suppose, could be used as a weapon) at a table next to the table with the crazy lady who was knitting. I went over to that table and stood quietly beside the empty chair furthest from the crazy lady who was knitting.
“Do you mind if I sit down?” I asked.
The young man named Bobby looked up at me and said, “No, go right ahead.”
“Thank you,” I said and pulled the chair out and sat down in a way that I wasn’t looking in the direction of the crazy lady who was knitting.
“Know how to play gin?” the young man named Des asked.
“Isn’t gin a liquor you drink?” I asked.
“No, gin rummy, it’s the card game we’re playing,” Bobby said.
“I don’t know how to play any card games, besides you are not using cards at all,” I said. “I’m sorry, but my mental illness doesn’t permit me to do that.”
“How smart are you?” Des asked.
“Supposedly, I’m very smart, but my mental illness keeps getting in the way of me trying to be smart.”
“Whew! Did you hear that, Des?” Bobby asked. “And all this time we thought we were being smart to play gin without cards.”
“Well, I’m smart, in fact, technically, I’m a genius,” Des said. “And so are you, Bobby.”
“Yes, but, technically both of us are LSD psychotics or that’s what the shrink said,” Bobby said.
“Yeah, too many bad trips,” Des said. “Your deal, Bobby?”
“No, I think it is yours,” Bobby said, “but, I’ll shuffle the cards.”
“Good enough for me,” Des said.
Bobby did the movements as if he was shuffling cards and then he said, “Ed, cut the cards.”
I look at where his hand was. It was as if he was holding something, but I didn’t know what to do.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know how to cut cards,” I said.
“Cool, no prob,” Bobby said.
Bobby made a movement as if he was taking back whatever it was he had been holding. Then he made other movements that might have been cutting the cards, but since there were not any cards on the table I didn’t know what he was doing. I suppose that is what is called seeing things, but I think for the two of them it was mostly being delusional.
“What do you two do for a living?” I asked as if to make conversation.
“Hush, we’re playing gin,” Des said.
“Can’t talk and play gin at the same time,” Bobby said. “Too complicated, so if you’ll excuse us, we’ll be ignoring you.”
“Okay, I guess,” I said.
Edvard, time for your visit with your psychiatrist," a voice said.
I looked around and saw Psych Aide Ray standing in front of me. I thought about what he had said and tried to process the information in a logical way, but then realized that was a silly thing to do. It was a simple statement and only required me to stand, so I did.
“Took you long enough,” Psych Aide Ray said.
“I was thinking about what you said and then realized that it didn’t require too much thought,” I said.
“Yeah, right. Come on, we don’t want to keep the doctor waiting,” Psych Aide Ray said.
He started to walk away and I decided it would be best if I went with him. It was so close to me leaving this psych ward now wasn’t a time to hinder his progress. One of the unwritten rules of this psych ward was don’t contradict a staff member for any reason. Of course, there were exceptions and now was probably a good time to exercise one of them.
“Excuse me, but could I use a toilet before I go to meet Dr. Kaiser?” I asked.
“Yeah, okay, but don’t take too long,” Psych Aide Ray said.
Since we were going to go past my room, I was allowed to use my toilet. I went to the door, but it wouldn’t open. That was strange because patients were not allowed to go into their rooms without permission of a staff member. I went back to the door to my room where Psych Aide Ray was waiting for me.
“Excuse me, but the door is locked,” I said.
“Are you sure?” Psych Aide Ray asked.
“I turned the handle, but the door wouldn’t open.”
“Okay, let me check.”
Psych Aide Ray walked into my room and went to the toilet and shower room door. He did the same as me and then knocked on the door. He said, “Hey, Benjamin, what are you doing in there?”
I didn’t hear a response. Psych Aide Ray knocked on the door once more and repeated what he said before, but there was no response.
“You stay here,” Psych Aide Ray said as he walked around me and went out the door. After a while, I saw him at my door. “Come with me, I’ll take you back to the dayroom. You can use one of the toilets there.”
I wasn’t certain, but I felt something was wrong because Psych Aide Ray didn’t open my door. Maybe that old hippie had locked himself in the toilet and shower room. I knew that was against the rules in this psych ward. After we arrived in the dayroom, Psych Aide Ray went to the nurse’s station and I went to the table where the other Psych Aides were sitting.
“I need to use the restroom,” I said.
“Why didn’t you use the one in your room?” Psych Aide Charles said.
“The door was locked and Psych Aide Ray went to the other room. After he came back, he told me to use the restroom in the dayroom.”
“Oh, shit, you wait right there. Hey, you guys need me?”
“Yes, Benjamin Walker, has locked himself in his bathroom,” one of the nurses said.
“Oh, shit, this isn’t good,” Psych Aide Charles said as he stood. “Stu, take Edvard to the can.”
“Tom, no cheating while I’m gone,” Psych Aide Stuart said. “Come on, Ed, let’s go to the restroom.”
I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t asked a question, nor was I requested to give an opinion. This was simply a procedure accomplished in this psych ward. I was concerned that Dr. Kaiser might be getting angry because I wasn’t in the interview room with her, but because something must be wrong with the old hippie, my appointment with her was suddenly less important than what was happening in the old hippie’s room.
Of course, Psych Aide Stuart unlocked the door to the dayroom restroom and opened it. He stepped aside to let me go in first and he followed me. Psych Aide Stuart closed the door and stood beside it.
“Go on, do what you need to do,” Psych Aide Stuart said.
I had been in this psych ward long enough not to be embarrassed because I was being watched while I used the toilet. I finished, washed my hands, dried them, and said. “Okay, I’m done.”
Psych Aide Stuart opened the door and went out first. I followed him and waited for him to lock the door.
“Go sit at a table,” Psych Aide Stuart said.
“But what about my appointment with Dr. Kaiser?” I asked.
“Damn! If it isn’t one fuckup around here, it’s another.”
That was one thing I didn’t like about being in this psych ward. The psych aides were very free with their language. They were always swearing anytime they thought something went wrong, but I had learned that just because they swore it didn’t mean they were mad at me. It was just their frustration with working in this crazy place where sometimes everything went wrong all at the same time, like now. I had my appointment with Dr. Kaiser, but between the dayroom and the interview room there was the room occupied by that old hippie who I finally found out was named Benjamin. I remember one of the psych aides told me the old hippie named Benjamin was suffering from major depression.
“Wait up here,” Psych Aide Stuart said. He walked up to the door to the old hippie’s room, looked in, and then walked to the psych ward door. “Okay, come on up here, but don’t look in Benjamin’s room.”
That told me the old hippie was probably dead and Psych Aide Stuart didn’t want me to get upset over it. Frankly, I didn’t care one way or another. Dead was like being asleep forever, except you no longer breathed. Psych Aide Stuart was standing at the psych ward door and I walked toward him, but I did glance into the old hippie’s room. I saw him in there lying on his back on the floor and there was a towel over his head. Obviously, Benjamin’s face wasn’t something to look at and that was okay with me. I came to the door, but Psych Aide Stuart had already opened the door and I walked through it without stopping.
“I told you not to look into Benjamin’s room,” Psych Aide Stuart said, “but you did it anyway.”
“Yes, I’ve never seen a dead person, except for my Gramma Phyllis, but that was at her funeral. I was wondering what he might look like,” I said. “They had a towel over his head. I guess that was to hide something unpleasant to see.”
“And you’re satisfied with what you saw?”
“Yes, and I’m sorry I didn’t follow your directions, but I wanted to see what a dead person looked like.”
“Okay, I’m cool with that.”
I saw Dr. Kaiser standing outside the door and then I saw a man in white pushing a gurney toward us that a sheet folded up on it. There wasn’t a sheet spread out on the gurney. I surmised that gurney was coming to take the old hippie named Benjamin down to where they keep dead people.
“Could you open the door for me?” the man pushing the gurney asked.
“Dr. Kaiser, do you mind if I help this gentleman?” Psych Aide Stuart asked.
“Somebody die?” Dr. Kaiser asked.
“Yes, the patient in the room next to Edvard.”
“Okay, go ahead, I’ll leave the door open. Come along, Edvard.”
I walked into the room and sat on my usual chair in front of the desk. Dr. Kaiser came in and sat on her chair on the other side of the desk. Dr. Kaiser took that small box out of her pocket and laid it on the desk. Then she pressed the button on the side of the box.
“Okay, Edvard, it’s our last meeting together,” Dr. Kaiser said. “How do you feel today?”
“I’m okay,” I said.
“Are you looking forward to moving to Wyoming?”
“Yes, I’m looking forward to this major change in my life. Last night, my Uncle Ted came to see me and he told me that E3 had died.”
“How do you feel about that?”
“Uncle Ted said that he was in the hospital because he had a cerebral hemorrhage, which he said are caused by aneurysms that leak blood into the brain. Then Uncle Ted said that E3 had another hemorrhage in the hospital and died. I suppose it was God’s plan for E3 to die now that I’m moving to Wyoming and I won’t need his help anymore. So I guess I can say that I’m okay with E3’s death. I know this is going to be hard on Erika, Emmett, and E4 because I think Syl is quite crazy in her own way. She didn’t talk to me or say goodbye the day E3 drove me down to Western State Hospital. Plus, she wouldn’t come to see me or let E4 come to see me that time I was at Northern State Hospital. So, you see, I’m somewhat sad that E3 had to die according to God’s plan for him, but I think I’m going to benefit from his death because I’m moving to Wyoming to live on Uncle Ted’s ranch. Uncle Ted has already said that I’ll be able to learn how to ride a horse. That, also, sounds good to me.”
“I’m happy that you feel good about moving to Wyoming with your uncle. And I think you are probably right about your mother. I know she will probably have trouble in the beginning, but hopefully she will be able to handle the change in the family structure.”
“Yes, I hope that too, but I’m very afraid that my sister and brothers may suffer if Syl gets crazier than she already is. Do you know she won’t let E4 ride a bicycle because she thinks they are dangerous, but Erika and Emmett ride bicycles. I even learned how to ride a bicycle, but I had to stop because being crazy doesn’t work with riding a bicycle.”
“What do you think about riding a horse, if you feel you can’t ride a bicycle because of your mental illness?”
“That is interesting, but I think it will be okay because a horse in a live animal and it does the walking and running, all I’ll have to do is learn how to stay on while it is doing its thing.”
“Well, Edvard, I think I’m okay with your move to Wyoming. You seem a lot more lucid and that is a good thing for you.”
“What is lucid? Dr. Doyle at Northern State said I was lucid, but she didn’t explain it.”
“Lucid is another word for sane.”
“Oh, yes, that is interesting. Yes, I suppose I’m acting and thinking better, now. And I think I’ll get better and better once I’m in Wyoming. Personally, I think it has a lot to do with knowing my IQ is not 73. I’m smart and I need to think like a smart person, so, yes, I probably do sound lucid.”
“That’s good, Edvard, so I guess this is goodbye.”
“Yes, but I’m a little sad that I’ll no longer be seeing you.”
“You could write me letters telling me how you are doing.”
“Yes, that is a good idea, but I don’t have your address.”
“It’s on my business card and I know you have one of those.”
“Oh, yes, I have quite a few of those because I lose things all the time. So, yes, I’ll write you letters letting you know how I’m doing in Wyoming.”
“Well, I guess this is the end,” Dr. Kaiser said as she pushed the button on that little box. Then she stood and I did too.
“Psych Aide Stuart, I’m ready to go back to the ward,” I said. “Goodbye, Dr. Kaiser, and thank you for helping me become lucid.”
“Goodbye, Edvard, you take care of yourself.”
I walked out of the room and my eyes got all watery. I didn’t know why. I didn’t think I was sad, but in a way I was sad that I wasn’t going to see Dr. Kaiser ever again. That was okay, too, because life had to go on and I did feel more lucid than I had in a long, long time.
It was after visiting hours and Uncle Ted had not come to see me. At first, I was thinking he didn’t come because he had gone back to Wyoming without me, but then I began thinking that possibly he had not come to visit because in the morning I was going to be discharged from the psych ward into his care. He said he had a new pickup to carry everything I had in the apartment, so the reason he didn’t come to visit was because he was loading the pickup. Then there was the problem of doing away with the apartment itself. There were all those utilities to shut off and my library book that had to be returned. That made me think about what would happen if the book wasn’t returned. I finally decided that Uncle Ted would certainly return the library book. That was something I shouldn’t worry about. All I had to worry about now was trying to stay lucid. I liked that word. It was so much nicer than saying I wanted to work on being sane because the alternative was being insane and I was never insane. I was crazy, but I could be less crazy if I worked hard at being lucid. That was going to be my personal project. Staying lucid was a good thing. It demanded effort and I knew if I worked at this project, I could stay as lucid as I was at that moment.
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