I heard all of the names before. I heard it called the loony bin, the but house, the funny farm and flight deck. But led by a nurse, I walked through a set of white double doors with a squared wire-meshed window at the top section of each one. On the other side of those doors were white walls, white floors, and white ceilings with fluorescent light fixtures shining from overhead.
The doors to the patient rooms were the color of lightly stained wood and their frames were painted in a dull version of beige.
I was escorted down a long corridor with a nurse’s station on the left hand side at the end of the hallway. A green leafy plant stood in a rusty colored pot on the shelf that was about eye level to the nurse seated behind the station.
There was a series of clipboards next to the plant and a cup with several pens inside. I suppose the pens were for any of the doctors or nurses to write down whatever it is they write down in places like this. I assumed they believed that was safe and no one was ever stabbed with a pen before. Otherwise, they would probably keep the pens or other pointed objects on the underside of the desk
One thing was for sure…..there was nothing funny about this farm.
I went into an office and sat in a chair with steel legs, a wooden armrest, and a brown seat cushion with a brown cushioned backing.
“We just want to talk to you,” the nurse said.
“We want to understand what’s going on. So there’s no need to worry. The doctor will be with you shortly.”
Waiting to be seen, I looked around the room. I looked at the pictures on the wall and I looked at the bookshelf.
The room’s floor, walls, and ceiling looked the same as the outside corridor. I could hear the humming of the overhead light fixture and the sound of slipper-covered feet being dragged across the floor.
I was able to see out into the hallway from my seat and the sound of scuffling feet came closer, and closer.
Within minutes, I watched as an unshaven man with wild gray hair passed the office. He was wearing a red and black, flannel robe. The knot around his waist was tied loosely over his hips and the crazy old man’s bare chest was exposed. His eyes looked as if he was vacated from reality and the old man moved slowly in his detached state.
They call that walk the Thorazine Shuffle. They used Thorazine to keep the lunatics sedated, and in my previous days, I knew some people that ran wild in the Psych Ward just to get a dose.
The orderlies held them down and the doctor would inject them with the powerful drug. At first, they would try to fight the drug and enjoy the high, but Thorazine is overpowering and in the end, the patients I knew just moped around like that old man with wild gray hair.
And as I watched that man slowly move by, he stopped in front of the door. He turned to look at me with white drool leaking from the corner of his mouth; he stared for a minute, and then he turned forward again, and continued his shuffle.
I thought to myself, “I ain’t staying here. I don’t care what the doctor says, I ain’t staying.”
Maybe this was a result of my paranoia, but I always felt as if I were being watched on camera when left alone in a room.
I felt as if someone was watching; maybe they were watching me on video or from behind a mirrored glass, but either way, I felt like someone was always watching, and as they did, I imagined someone was taking notes on my behavior.
I figured the nurse left me in the room to see how I would respond.
“Maybe they’re waiting for me to crack,” I thought to myself.
“Maybe they’re testing me to see if I’ll run out of patience.”
But my wait was not long.
A shorthaired woman wearing bright red lipstick and a blue knitted sweater walked into the room. She was carrying several folders with lose sheets of paper slipping from the sides of her pile.
I noticed she was wearing a wedding band in front of an oversized engagement ring. The woman was middle-aged, but when she spoke, I believed she spoke in a way to convince me she was able to understand my youth.
She introduced herself and then she explained, “I’m going to ask you a few questions, is that okay with you?”
She went on to tell me who she was and what she does.
“So why don’t you tell me why you’re here today?”
“I’m here because the nurse brought me into this office,” I told her.
“Have you ever been in a place like this before?”
“You mean on flight deck,” I asked.
The woman laughed. “I didn’t know people still called it that.”
“Yeah, this is flight deck alright….but I bet there are more arrivals than departures in a place like this.”
And as expected, as I answered her questions the woman sat behind the desk and took notes on my answers and behavior.
“Do you have a drug of choice,” she asked.
“I have a few of them,” I told her.
“Do you drink often?”
“Do you drink alone,” she asked.
“I guess so.”
“Did you ever have any blackouts?”
“None that I can remember.”
She asked me, “Do you feel paranoid?”
Defending myself, I responded, “What are you trying to say?”
“Do you feel like people are out to get you?”
“What do you mean…..are you trying to find out if I think I’m crazy? Well, I’m not crazy!”
“Then why do you think are you here,” she asked.
“Because the nurse brought me here!”
The woman began writing and there was a stall in her questioning. I heard nothing else but the sound of moving air and the tip of her pen scribbling onto her notepad.
She resumed, “When was the last time you used?”
“What did you take?”
“Cocaine, mostly. “
“Was that it?”
“No….I also used heroine and a little bit of speedball.”
“Do you feel sick, or are you going through any withdrawals?”
“No,” I told her.
Then she asked, “Can you tell me about those red marks around your neck?”
With a smirk, I answered, “I was having a really bad day.”
As the woman questioned me, I began to look around the small office. I took notice of the woman’s expression as she spoke and I felt as if we were worlds apart.
Then I heard the sound of a young woman screaming from her room. Her screams were the sound of mental anguish and her cries flooded the hallways of an otherwise locked ward. It was not the cry of regular sadness or from the prick of a needle; it was the sound of intense and emotional pain. It was the sound of deliriousness, mixed with a young girl’s soul pushed too far over the edge.
The woman behind the desk stood. “Would you excuse me for a minute?”
I was just a stupid kid. I thought everything was a joke.
But all of a sudden, the joke lost its humor…
And I say again……There was nothing funny about this farm.