Inpatient Intermission: Reports of Ghosts and Right Angles
“Am I a torn up tattered, worn-out piece of fabric, not suitable to stich up a rip? Because I’d like to be tightly braided, gold and silver bracelets, the kind you like to wear around your wrist. -Out of Range
I understood what people meant by the term “hell” as that of a summer day and night cycle. It’s associated with a feeling, not a black ship. I understand on an intuitive level why people kill themselves. Time in the arms of something too big, rising. It makes perfect sense. There’s no way you could feel worse than that. But you could always feel better. The loyalty of a pet, coffee and a cigarette, watching your own shadow at sunrise, a look, a laugh and a wink. Synchronicity surrounds me as its older than I am.
Acts of service. I used to scoff at it. Love languages. laugh at the silly new age labels in books my generation is obsessed with. Here I realized it actually *is* true. I had to unlearn that about myself and accept my language and of those around me. To let it in, recognize it and not say no and allow myself to integrate it with others. Awakening from post-nihilism is an astounding experience. The art of humbleness is even more appealing. Gratitude. Reliability. Now I embrace it. I understand it. Small sounds of acceptance. Touch. Doing something nice for somebody in secret, without letting them know it was me and not letting anyone else know what I did in anyway or form, trying to take credit for it, takes its own form of intoxicating buzz.
I can only give and on occasion receive pleasure. This makes me a wonderful dream type lover. Giving pleasure becomes my food. Consideration and gentleness I show after, my desire to stay close, intimate. I am resoundingly gentle and caring afterwards when so many others will be uneasy, distant, no eye contact, creating constant accurate insecurities. And she could somehow intuitively tell that wouldn’t be me. If she were to ever ask me my favorite part, it would be her eyes, glistening, holding me whole. It would be her clingy vulnerability on her part and the gentle intimate care of my own.
I liked Wade. I liked Wade a lot. He’s direct, to the point, matter of fact kind of guy and I say that with impunity. He can be terrifying or protective or jovial and festive in a moment. He 100% reminded me of Denzel Washington in Training Day. Tall, calmy imposing, with crispy clean clothes that always seem to fit just right. There’s a level of zen this guy exudes. You can tell by his shoes. Not a spot on them, always a small hand towel on his shoulder, always a gold chain around his neck. I liked him because he was kind to me from day one. Maybe it was pity, but it still felt protective. I considered him a friend.
Wade wasn’t in for drug abuse. He was in for a dirty piss with his parole officer. Of all thing’s alcohol, the day after his birthday and that considered his parole in violation. So, he had a choice, go back to jail or go to rehab for 30 days.
Wade did 25 years in prison for trafficking cocaine and had been free for 9 months before his violation. He left the trade and went back to focus on his life, family. a lot of time to make up for. Wade worked in Medicare, providing services for people in need and also owned two barber shops in the Bronx called, “Kings & Queens.” He walks around with the looks of a businessman, all about his paper, always planning his next (legal) move. I again had no idea how old this man is. He could be 38 or 60. 9 kids including grandchildren (good God). 8 girls 1 boy. Married for over 20 years. I could tell a lot of people relied on him.
As you see on tv, jail tends to self-segregate into groups. People usually stick with their own unlike rehab where everyone is forced to be together. Thus, creating friendships that otherwise would never exist. I think that’s a great thing. the men I met in here were nothing short of extraordinary. That is until the playing cards came out and everyone left to play spades. I didn’t know how to play so when everyone else would leave, I usually stayed in the tv room occupying myself with some kind of distraction. Until one night Wade came in and asked if I wanted to play, he’d teach me the ropes, give me some pointers and be my partner. I think he was always trying to get me out of my own mind. I would just sit in the common area or my room for hours on end writing until my hand went numb. One of the worst feelings is isolation (especially in here) and he made it a point to have me participate with everyone, to feel welcomed. Again, he was kind.
In the tiny “creative room” was where everyone played every night before medication handouts and lights out. It was loud and a silly sight. Several men all sitting around two different tables, bidding, slamming cards, getting into petty arguments and laughing their asses off. I say it was a silly sight because the tables were no more than 3 feet off the ground and the chairs were for children. Everyone’s knees almost touched their chins. The room was covered in amateur watercolor paintings, solved 500-piece puzzles and wooden sculptures of animals clued together and painted by former patients that were neatly organized on a shelf. I painted a deer and a giraffe the day before and put them with the rest of the pack.
Wade announced that I’m his new partner and we call next game. I didn’t think anyone would be so thrilled I came to play but they were. They were happy I got my nose out of the books and learn something new, take my mind off things for a little. Wade sat across from me, spit fired the rules and tactics used to win. How to place bids, how to cut, when to use trump cards. The first round I was horrible. I cut wrong, I played the Joker and 2 of spades almost immediately. I didn’t get strategy. I asked too many questions. But he was patient. All the men at my table broke down the ranking of cards and what bidding (books) were and the point system.
For example, if the player’s bid is Seven and they make seven books, the score would be 70. If the bid was Five and the player won eight books, the score would be 53 points: 50 points for the bid, and 3 points for the three books. Thus, the object is always to fulfill the bid exactly.
Did you get all that? Awesome. Neither did I.
A few days of playing and I got good. I got DAMN GOOD. Other patients would ask to be my partner. But sometimes they would get mad that I was almost always winning and accuse me of counting cards (isn’t that the point?). It was always harmless. The room would uproar and the guys would throw up their arms whenever I slammed down the spade or last card that won the game. I understood why everyone did that. It felt good knowing you had the upper hand when tension was spiking so why not dramatically slam it down and make a scene? We’d laugh so hard, sometimes someone would throw their cards, argue bets were wrong or if someone was hiding cards. But the most important part of this? The comradery.
I’d sit back and watch everyone in the room. I would go deaf and see how for a moment, we forgot why we were here. Everyone was *happy*. For a moment in time, however little and fleeting it was, it didn’t feel like we were addicts or diseased or unlovable unforgiveable rejects each with our own harbored set of problems. For a moment we all felt normal, like ourselves, enjoying happiness brief as it may be. We were strangers in a strange land but we were strangers with a common bond, and we backed each other up, hugged each other when break downs occurred, regardless of who won or lost. I felt welcomed into a tribe. Everyone deserves a village.
The following afternoon I sat in the art room writing. Everyone is down on the first floor in an AA meeting except Wade and I. I have the radio playing some AM station where two talking heads are arguing about our political climate. It’s a white noise but it’s soothing and helps my hand glide across the pages. Wade comes in just to talk. About how his back is killing him from the beds we sleep on, the pills he gets for his high blood pressure are bullshit and how he wishes he had his medical marijuana here instead. Wade gave me a book to read since I’m the “resident book worm”. A confederacy of dunces. A Comedy written in the 70’s that surprisingly took my mind off of my current situation for several nights. Wade’s wife has come by to say hi. There are no visitors allowed so she stands on the sidewalk across the street just to see her husband. He tells me to come over and say hi. I smile, she waves. I can feel Wade’s eyes on me as he nudges my arm with his elbow. He feels sorry for me I can tell; he knows my reasons for being here and the weights pulling me down. He’s seen me cry a dozen times. Maybe this is his way of showing me some hope, some love. He knows how much I miss my home and everything that comes with it beyond reason to where I throw up daily from the worry.
His wife leaves and we watch a husband, wife, and their child on the sidewalk, walking behind their child and she pushes a broom as children do. It was innocent, uncoordinated, silly. We cracked some jokes about the kid and watched the family be just that, a family. My forehead was on the window and mumbled “huh ain’t that cute.” Wade nudged me and said;
“People come around my man. It’s terrible now for sure, but when you’re healed and so are the others, that opens doors to where people can come back and talk, maybe slowly try at things again. You love each other so much and that’s why it hurts this way. Don’t think people don’t miss you or think you deserve this. You puttin work here, give it some time. As dumb as it sounds, love always wins and this won’t be the defining moment that ended it all. Shit look at me. 25 years and I came back, got my shit together and made sure my loved ones had food on the table. Priorities my guy. This is a growing point and it’ll work itself out. I believe that anyway. Just come to my shop and get a haircut before you go home, you need a shape up, ya hair looking wild my boy”.