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)
Dinner is early in the evening and afterwards there is nothing to do. My roommate is gone, probably over to Cottage C to get some crazy pills. I try to read but I can’t focus on Rilke right now. My head is still swirling with anxiety and depression and the withdrawal that I can almost feel, like standing in the surf with an ocean current pulling at my legs, pulling me back out into the depths. I wonder what the moon is doing in the sky right now. I wonder if any of my friends think of me when they get in bed, just before they fall asleep. Who am I kidding? They hate you and you deserve to be hated. What you did to her…wait…what did I do again? A voice that is my own asks, want to see the slideshow? Bob Forrest Dr. Drew
In You the Earth Little rose, rose so tiny, at times so small and naked, it seems I could hold you in my hand, as though I could take you like this and bring you to my mouth but suddenly my feet touch your feet and my mouth your lips; you've grown. your shoulders rise like two hills your breasts pass over my chest my arm barely circles the thin line of the new moon that is your waist: in love, like sea-water, you've come undone. My eyes can scarcely measure the vast sky, and I lean down to your mouth to kiss the earth.
When I get back to where my room is, I decide to duck in and pee off some of the gallons of coffee I’ve had during the morning. This is MY place, my sanctuary. They’ve taken away my phone, my keys, my wallet. This room is the only thing I have left that is just mine. As I burst through the door I see there’s an enormous intruder in black clothes poking around on the table. “Oh I’m sorry,” mumbles the giant in black. “You have a Rilke book.”
Two Kinds of Shouting When you decide to sincerely follow the path, that's when the Devil begins shouting in your mind. "Don't go that way, naive one! That way is suffering and poverty. There is no food or love on that road. Think of your friends back home. Everyone will hate you. You'll be sorry." So you say, "I'll follow God tomorrow. Or possibly the day after. There's still time." O noble wanderer, The shout of the devil is the shepherd of the miserable. While the shouting of the Beloved protects travelers on the Way. These two voices cannot be followed at once, as a drop of the sea of sweetwater can never mix with a drop of the sea of salt. ~Rumi (version by Chris Jansen)
When the bell dings for VITAL SIGNS I notice there is a new zombie in our line. She is a short middle-aged woman with sweatpants and a bulky gray sweatshirt. The left half of her face is wine-purple and her left eye is fiery red. It looks like she’s been split down the middle by a lightning bolt from Zeus and turned into a mythological creature that’s half-human, half-corpse. She looks like the dead crash victims we would take to the morgue when I worked in EMS. Sometimes an ER nurse would go with us and we would have to draw blood for toxicology: You put your two fingers on the chest and walk them over toward the left shoulder, letting your fingertips trace along the smooth ridge of the rib. You take a very long needle on a syringe, just like in the movie Pulp Fiction, and stick it straight down in the chest, deep down into where no needle, no penetrating metal of any kind should go--into the heart. You pull back until fresh blood is sucked up into the syringe’s vacuum, and you take that and label and bag it carefully because it’s often critical evidence. The body you just leave.
I pull myself up to sit on the edge of the bed, my head hanging down in my hands like the tear-woman. The laughter, screams, and psycho music from the TV room abruptly go silent. I hear the phone slam down and footsteps in the hall. I haul my leaden body up to peer out into the hallway. People are leaving the dayroom like after a movie lets out. I hear someone shout QUIET TIME!! I’m restless. I feel the withdrawal like a distant radio playing terrifying music in the background…What if you’re fired? What if you’re divorced? What if you have to move and your kids forget what your voice sounds like, forget they ever had a dad? Who will take care of Poozybear, our guinea pig, and make sure he gets his vitamin treat every day? What must your friends be thinking, talking, gossiping about?