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?
In stark contrast to her patient, ass stuck in an old chair, head in his hands, his eyes suddenly leaden, Dr. Laha is a ball of goddamn energy. She fidgets and flops and adjusts herself in the chair and flips through the file on the table that must be my chart. Even though her dark eyes burn with intelligence, I size up her floppy figure, her clothes, her manic demeanor, and wonder what kind of quack they’ve stuck me with. An Indian doctor. Probably went to med school in the Black Hole of Calcutta and they let her in the states on quota. Whoever takes call for a place like this must be a fucking loser. Whatever. “I’ll be your doctor,” she says. “I’m a board-certified addictionologist. I graduated Harvard Medical School and did my residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as a fellowship at Johns Hopkins. I’m also a certified yoga teacher.” Ok, so I was wrong. I try to feign a condescending attitude. Well of course, I don’t belong here with this riff-raff. Shouldn’t we grab lunch and discuss neurology and our shared pity for addicts, those horrible patients. I try to rally my strength for the pretend insouciance of a fellow Ivy-leaguer, “Color me impressed,” I say, my body stiffening in a show of faux-formality. That’s all I have. One last rep in the gym of being a fake human being. I sink back down, re-defeated. “How much do you drink a day?” she asks. Suddenly…
This crush of bodies, the rush, the line, the techs with their black metal detector wands--I know I’m stuck in a mental hospital in Smyrna, but it feels like a cruel parody of going to the airport.
"There’s a girl with long straight black hair and black clothes and little red lines all up and down her arms that I think are cute little smiley sticker-tattoos. I look harder. They are razor cuts, and not just a few, but a dense, red rose-thicket of wounds."
Odysseus encounters the witch of the enchanted medroom and sights the demon of precipitated withdrawal just off shore. He considers the possibility of synthesizing Dilaudid from shampoo and decides to pay a visit to the damned in the underworld known as Cottage C.
In this episode, Chris J. gets his first dose of detox meds and dreams of the enchanted isle of Manhattan. He meets the quirky Dr. Laha and learns that looks can be deceiving.