Lunatic Fringe

Anyone else remember when they used to let you smoke in the “Behavioral Health Unit”? The Portsmouth “Pavillion” used to have a “smoking room.” Seriously! It wasn’t really a room, more of a plexiglass enclosure in clear view of the nurses station. It was like ten by twenty feet with a folding cafeteria table and matching chairs. Standing room only. As long as you were inside and they could see you, they didn’t give a fuck what you did.

Cigarette lighters, shoelaces, belts? Not a problem. Thirty of us puffing away. I don’t even think it had any ventilation. Borrowing butts from each other, “I’ll get you back tomorrow…” Where the fuck were we getting all these butts? I came in handcuffs, the cops didn’t buy me a carton. You weren’t allowed to have cash… Where the fuck? Was Marlboro sponsoring the asylum? Did we all have numbers on our backs? Some kind of race to the end?

I didn’t spend much time there. I was busy walking, walking, walking. “V” Shaped hallways. Left wing for men, right wing for women… Filled to capacity… My bed was always empty. I was always walking, walking, walking. Stopping in for a cigarette and a minute of bedlam. Where the fuck did they come from?

Yeah, yeah, that was where we ate our meals. That is how I met everyone. One at a time, once in a while. Always together, always alone.

I remember everyone but only one. P==, She was on top of her game but when she came back from electroshock she was lame. She had to relearn and remember everyone’s name. Every day the same. Until one day she sat by the elevator with her head slumped in her customary aftershock position. Nobody noticed! When the door opened she rolled out. Her moment of opposition. She escaped from the mental hospital in a fucking wheelchair!

The staff was livid! We had the telephone line going… Passing along scraps of information. Ear to Ear to Ear. The dusky ward lit up with manic laughter. Adults acting like kids who grew up thinking the underdog always wins. Just for one night the inmates could run the asylum. We were all so happy, but she didn’t get far, they got her, caught her, hiding under a car. They dragged her back in and the next day she had to begin learning everyone’s name.

The next day I escaped in a different way. I used my brain. I sat down and calmly explained to the doctor why I should be allowed to leave. I can’t believe he believed me! I can’t believe I believed me! I also can’t believe I got a bill in the mail because insurance doesn’t cover discharge “AMA” (Against Medical Advice) Smoke up Johnny!

People who know me for years think I do this shit on purpose. Like I just don’t care. It’s a fifty/fifty toss-up, what ‘s better on or off your medicine.

Ruined my credit for 20 years. Inpatient treatment for manic episodes and psychosis doesn’t come cheap.

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