“What’s ‘aggravated perjury’?” I ask. He smiles his crazy smile. “That’s just like regular perjury, only the judge was real aggravated.”
Before anyone can get up, there is a total eclipse. Emanuel’s hulking figure has emerged from his office and is now standing in the door like a blackhole sun. All the guys are silent. There’s no horseplay. The football is no longer being tossed in the air. Even crazy Baz looks as clear-eyed and respectful as a deacon.
The Day Hospital is not really a hospital. Not even a ‘hospital.’ It’s just a large one-floor building like you might see on any college campus. Having cleared the last step of the staircase, I’m standing on new ground, facing the entrance. The first thing I notice are the doors—normal glass doors like any office building would have—not the heavy locking double-doors I’ve become used to. Inside there’s a long hallway with a desk at the far end. I roll along with my stuff past closed doors with little signs that say things like “Anna’s Group,” “Claire’s Group,” “Drea’s Group,” then past what looks like the entrance to a large auditorium. It reminds me of the first day of elementary school, walking through the long hallway looking for a room with my name on the door and feeling lost. I guess hearing ‘hospital’ made me think of zombies hooked up to some kind of anti-junkie machine, calibrated perfectly to eradicate each one’s particular longing. The only piece of medical equipment I do see--sitting unused on a battered old thrift-store table--is an automated blood pressure cuff, like the ones they have at pharmacies. There’s a woman behind the desk, older, but with large red-framed glasses and a warm, open smile, and a lush paradise of platinum curls flowing around her head. Probably nice shoes too. She stands up and comes around the desk toward me. Tasteful weathered-brown slingbacks. I knew it. It’s a gift I have, you see.
I’m feeling completely hopeless and sorry for myself when I hear a noise from the hall that sounds like someone choking a goat. Bleeeeee-aaaakkkk, goes the sound. BLEEEEEEEEEEEE-AKKK. I wonder if Angel has gotten loose from the quiet room and is trying to kill someone. It’s too calm out there though. No Dr. Hush on the intercom, no staff running down the hall. The sound comes again louder. --BLEEEEEEEYAKKKKKKKKKKKKKK--
“I have to go to a discharge meeting with my wife and the social worker so I may be leaving you this afternoon,” I say, with the certainty of all delusionals. I can tell Bo hasn’t processed anything I said after books. He’s high out of his mind and still living on junk-time, which is to say, no time at all. Sometimes you say about a guy who’s high “he’s feeling no pain” but what you really mean is he’s feeling no time. I turn and leave him sitting there, still pawing through his shorts. I need to go get some coffee so I can be razor sharp for my parole hearing.
“I talked to Jessica today--” says Jonah. “The ladies hate her,” I interrupt. “The ladies hate everyone,” he says in a mournful voice, “that’s why they’re ladies.” He looks up just as Lindsey the amateur porn star leans over our table, spilling a bubbling brook of blond curls over her shoulders. She gently sets down a cup of steaming coffee in front of him, just like a waitress. “Two sugars, two creams?” she asks Jonah. “You know how daddy likes it,” he replies, winking at her as she turns to go back to the women’s table before they band together and kill her.
In the morning I’m up early, refreshed by Tranxene sleep and feeling only slightly the Suboxone-tamed opiate withdrawal. At morning medication I greet the med troll like an old friend, grateful to have her as my dealer. After giving me all the boring meds that sustain my life, and which I don’t care about, she dumps the Suboxone into its dainty white paper cup. I smile at her and gladly take the cup, beaming with happiness. Just before I toss it back I notice a problem. There are only two pills here. There should be four. “Oh wait,” I look at her as concerned as a surgeon examining a diseased organ, “I’m actually supposed to get FOUR, I think?” She gives me that we-are-sorry-to-inform-you look. “No honey, you get two now. Doctor tapering you down so you can get off that one.” This is deeply problematic. I don’t want to get off ‘that one.’ I want to stay on ‘that one’ forever. ‘That one’ is the love of my life, the only thing that stands between me and the void of despair and death.
“Listen to this!” I kneel at the head of his bed, flip through my Rilke book and begin reading: Oh speak, poet, what do you do? --I praise. But the monstrosities and the murderous days, how do you endure them, how do you take them? --I praise. Mildly intoxicated and brimming with euphoria and motivation, I think this poem is a profound commentary on both of our situations. If we could only learn how to praise…
Out at the nurse’s station, I see Gay Chuck Berry sitting back in his chair, his green Giorgio Brutini faux alligator dress shoes not dulled a bit by the harsh fluorescent lights. “Joe,” I say humbly, “I need to get a razor and some shaving cream or soap or something.” I am still trying to be on my best behavior to all the staff so I can get out of here as fast as possible. He looks away from me as usual. “Whacha need that fer?” he asks the ceiling, suspicious. “My skin--I have bad eczema, seborrheic dermatitis.” He finally looks over at me, annoyed. “I’m from Alabama, sir.” “It’s a kind of rash,” I say.
Odes and Beginnings The taste of your mouth and the color of your skin-- skin, mouth, the fruit of those swift days, tell me, were they always by your side? through the years and journeys and moons and suns and earth and weeping and rain and joy-- or is it only now, only as water leaves your roots bringing to the dry land swellings it did not know, or in the lips of the forgotten jug the taste of earth rises in the water. I don't know, don't tell me, you don't know either. Nobody knows these things. But if I bring all my senses close to the light of your skin you fuse like the acid smell of fruit and the heat of the road, the smell of corn being stripped, the honeysuckle of pure afternoon, the names of the dusty earth, the infinite pefume of the country: magnolia and brush, blood and flour, the powdery moon of the village, newborn bread: oh all your flesh returns to my mouth, you return to my heart, return to my body. and I return with you to the earth that I was, you are the deep spring inside me. Now I know how I was born. ~Pablo Neruda (version by Chris Jansen)