I roll on the hard mattress and sigh. Outside the tiny window it is dark but there is no way I can sleep, I’ve slept a good portion of the day already. My head is pounding and I have the shakes.
I am detoxing. I would relapse just to stop the shakes, but I can’t. I am stuck on the psych ward and besides, I have no clue what I am detoxing from. My amnesia hasn’t budged. It’s not fair. Why couldn’t I remember the high and forget this?
I am in lockdown, on the secure side of the psych ward. It’s just for tonight, they assure me. I have been here before and apparently I have a reputation for causing trouble. I would try to deny it, but I can’t remember and scars criss cross both of my forearms.
The lockdown unit consists of six small rooms along one side of a rectangular lounge area. The rooms each contain a single cot bolted to the floor and a heavy metal bound wooden door with a tiny window and latches on the outside. The lounge contains a single table, a bench on one side and a couple of heavy foam chairs. The far wall has a large plexiglass window into the nurses station, so they can keep an eye on us.
Dressed only in a pair of hospital scrubs and blue footies, I make my way out into the lounge. The lights have been dimmed in the lounge but the nurses station is still bright. I stare into it and spy a clock. It’s eleven thirty.
Two men are sitting on the foam chairs by the table. I slide onto the bench. Tim is heavy set with short brown hair and ears that stick out. He seemed friendly at supper but his pupils are huge and his eyes glassy. There’s something disturbing about those eyes and I wouldn’t want to be alone with him.
His mother came during the evening visiting hours and she told me he’d been a bright boy once, but he had been in an accident in college and had a serious brain injury. He’s never been right since. It’s sad.
James, sitting next to him, isn’t so much sad as scary as fuck. He’s spent eight years in prison on drug charges. He’s been out two years. These days he is alternating between being a homeless drunk and a petty criminal. He’s got a bunch of faded prison tats on his forearm. Several of his bottom teeth were knocked out in a fight some years back and he has an annoying habit of running his tongue over the gaping space where they were.
He looks at me, his mouth half open. I can see the tongue making its round. He shuts his mouth and starts on his favorite subject. “This fucking place,” he says. “My doctor says I am supposed to be on Oxy, ten milligrams every four fucking hours. ‘Don’t let the pain get ahead of you.’ That’s what he says. And this fucking place…”
His psychiatrist won’t order any narcotics for him in part because he’s an addict and in part because his doctor is a mythical figure. “Until you remember the name of the doctor who prescribed the Oxycontin and the pharmacy that fills it, the psychiatrist on call isn’t going to order it,” I heard the evening nurse tell him. He’s been on sporadic curse filled rant ever since.
“Yeah, this fucking place,” Tim agrees. He is facing me but I can’t tell where his eyes are focused. I shiver.
Still muttering about “this fucking place” James stands and goes to the window. He knocks on the door to the nurses station. A male psych tech answers and James talks to him for a minute.
He walks with a swagger as he comes back to the table. I can’t help but think it’s a pretty agile walk for someone in crippling back pain, but I keep the insight to myself. “This fucking place,” he says as he sits. He gives me an appraising look, one that raises goosebumps on my back. I definitely wouldn’t want to be alone with him.
The door clicks and opens a bit. The male tech leans in. “Ain’t none left out there,” he says.
“What?” James explodes. “There were three bananas earlier.” He is referring to the small kitchenette area out in the main lounge. We get to go around during visiting hours, as long as we are good.
“Somebody must have eaten them,” the tech says.
“Goddam fuckers anyway. They can walk out and get a snack whenever they god damn want and we are all cooped up back here. It ain’t fair, I tell you.”
The tech just shrugs. “I can see if there’s any graham crackers in the station.”
“I don’t want no god damn graham crackers. I want a god damn banana.” James climbs to his feet. The tech pulls back slightly. James ignores him and goes to the window instead. He pounds on it. The sound echoes through the station, startling the night nurse, who had been bent over a computer. “I want a god damn banana!” James yells. He turns back towards Tim and me. “This fucking place. It’s worse than jail, damn it.”
I can’t imagine jailers handing out bananas at eleven thirty at night, but again I hold my tongue.
“You need to calm yourself,” the night nurse commands through the window. “You are waking everyone up.”
“Fuck that, I want my Oxy,” he shouts back at her, “and a fucking banana. I came here to get help, but you guys don’t do nothing.” He beats on the window, “god – fucking – damn – it!”
“It’s like jail in here,” Tim agrees.
“What is you want, James?” the nurse demands. She is in the doorway now.
“My meds,” he yells at her.
“Your doctor hasn’t ordered Oxycontin.”
“Then fucking let me out. I’ll go to a damn hospital that cares.”
“You are on a forty eight hour hold,” the nurse replies, “you know that.”
“You think this place can hold me? Fuck that.” He starts toward the door. The nurse steps back and slams it before he can get to there. He starts to beat on it and shout more obscenities through the smaller window in the door. He calls the nurse all sorts of foul names and starts to threaten her with all kinds of violence.
I glance towards my room. I want to dash for it, slam the door and barricade myself inside. I don’t dare move. Tim is watching me, his glassy eyes bright. He is mouthing the same obscenities as James.
I don’t know if he thinks of me as a co-conspirator or a hostage, and I don’t want to find out. I sit frozen, hoping neither guy notices me. Watching the nurses station out of the corner of my eye, I see the nurse on the phone talking to someone. Another staff person arrives and talks to the tech.
James is pacing at the front of the lounge. He alternates between cussing at the nurse through the window, beating on the window and lecturing to Tim and me. “This fucking place. They don’t care. We are gonna fucking bust out. Fuck them!” It’s a mutiny, over Oxycontin, court holds or possibly, a banana.
He pauses and looks at me. The adrenaline has him excited and his eyes are filled with lust. That’s what this is really about, adrenaline. “I know people that will put us up the night. We can get a hotel or something,” he says.
I shiver. His eyes harden. There is no way I am going to a hotel with him. I look away.
I hear a soft click. The side door, towards the back of the lounge, opens a couple of inches. A man’s face peeks in.
The nurse is back at the window. The tech is standing at the door, the new staff right behind him. The nurse starts talking and James rushes the window. He hits it hard enough to make the plexiglass bounce and the nurse pull back.
The side door opens more fully and two security guards enter, another nurse with them.
“Go to your room,” the nurse tells me and I make a grateful dash for it. I shut the door behind me and watch from the small window. The side door starts to swing shut but then is pushed back open as two more staff show up. The nurses station door clicks open.
I see Tim going past my door. He is yelling obscenities and arguing, but he’s backing away from a guard.
“You can talk to staff about that in morning,” the guard tells him. “Right now you need to go to your room.” Tim refuses while continuing to back up, right into his room.
James isn’t going down so easily. I can hear him yelling obscenities, followed by the sounds of scuffling and more obscenities. His mutiny is rapidly becoming a rout.
The two techs and a security guard drag him past my window and to his room. The nurse follows them, a hypodermic needle in her hand. With a resigned shake of her head she disappears into the room after the men.
I sit on my bed. The nurse is back a few minutes later, standing at my door. She has a cup of water in one hand and a paper pill cup in the other. “I brought you a sleeping pill,” she says.
I refused it earlier. With guys like James and Tim back here, I planned to sleep with one eye open.
James starts banging on the door to his room. He’s been locked in. The male tech goes by. He will watch things tonight. I nod and take the pill. As I lay on my bed I hear James shouting, “all I wanted was a fucking banana!” I hope the pill will kick in soon.