Ordinary Joe. That's me. Except it's not, not really. The cries of those who have died echo constantly in my head. That's why I'm in the asylum - for the drugs, to help me forget, to help it stop.
It's a pity it doesn't work.
This blog is my diary, after a fashion. My own personal therapy. Views, 'insights' and stories about those I meet and my experiences in the asylum.
Well, I dislike them, at least. I always feel as if I'm under the spotlight and picture myself restrained, with someone pulling a cover off a row of gleaming torture instruments.
Why are torture instruments - scalpels and clamps and the like - always so clean in films? Are they not wanting you to get a nasty infection whilst pulling your fingernails off or removing your thumb from the knuckle down?
Ain't that sweet of them?
Interviews. I don't like them. I remember one I had. I forget what the job was actually for, but there were three people facing me. It was early days in my jobbing career. Probably only my second or third interview. There was a window behind them, with horizontal blinds left open. The sun was shining in the window and the blinds, as I moved my head, kept causing me to be temporarily blinded and left in darkness as my eyes struggled to keep up with the sun dipping in and out. I could have kept my head perfectly still, but didn't want to appear stiff and uncomfortable.
Instead I appeared, probably, as if I wasn't in control of my eyes or I had a weird nervous tic. Needless to say I didn't get the job.
When Connors interviewed me prior to entry into the asylum, it was more informal. He acted as a friend. He smiled and offered me tea and biscuits. His voice was soothing.
So, rather than an out and out predator, lunching on my discomfort, Connors was prowling. Circling. Choosing the best time to pounce.
Letting me walk into his trap.
Only right, therefore, that I choose to give others some of this medicine. OK, so it's not Risperdal or even Paracetomol, and it may well not (read 'won't') make you feel better, but hey, I'll enjoy it, and that's what matters.
Of course, here in the asylum, it's difficult to interview anyone other than the other residents. Granted, in a good few cases, that'd be quite fun, and I may well do that, methinks, but how about others? How about you?
I can't do that in here. I can't even do that on this blog. As much as I feel I'm sneaking about writing this diary, I wouldn't be surprised if they (or 'THEY') knew about it - although talking about it now sort of negates any secrecy, doesn't it? Hey, I'm in an asylum. I'm meant to be crazy, though we - you and I - know the truth about that, don't we?
Anywho. I've managed to do one. An interview. Shhh, don't tell anyone, OK? I managed to ask the lovely Jan Ruth a few questions, just off the top of my head. Of course, as I'm unable to put anything like that on here for fear of reprisal or victimisation (not just of me), I had to find somewhere else. It was easier than I thought. I simply hijacked another blog.
If you fancy a few words with a (supposed!) lunatic yourself, chuck me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll try and let you sneak in too. Don't blame me if, once you're in here, you can't get out, however. Them's the risks.
It feels a bit dangerous, you know. I can feel the adrenaline prickling through my veins. I'm being naughty!
It's a race. Not just any race - a horse race. Not just any horse race - one of the biggest. Not just any biggest horse race - the sort that gets ordinary people, who never walk into a bookies at any other time of the year and never switch the television or radio on to listen to the commentary of any other sporting event, to place a bet.
Now mental patients, asylum residents or (as certain orderlies call us) 'The Animals', are not normal. Ignoring my own... I suppose... PARAnormality, my friends are a little different. They see the world through a stained-glass window, one which casts assorted shades upon the world within and without. In more than one case, that window is shattered, or at least cracked, and the view is warped - a distortion of reality dragging the mind on a rollercoaster of reason with psychosis are its sick bag.
The orderlies thought they would give us a little fun and excitement. Nice of them, no?
They ran a sweepstake. Let everyone take part. A fiver of their allowance to pick a horse. Sat everyone down. Changed the TV over from MTV to Channel 4.
And they're off.
Of course, the orderlies had their fun. They prompted and cajoled. Pushed and conspired. They weren't idiots. Well, that’s debatable, but they're not naive. They knew.
At first, there was silence. A hush that is almost never heard - though hushes are generally not heard anyway - in the Recreation Room. All eyes were on the screen. A hands were clasped together, either in anticipation or prayer. All eyes were wide.
Rainbow Hunter. That was the first horse out. Brian, one of the Cornercopias. It was his horse. His five pounds. His chance to run free.
He cried. The tears were silent at first. They raced down his cheeks as the equine combatants raced around their track. Then the sobs took over and his body shook.
The orderlies laughed. Their first victory.
And so it went.
As horse after horse dropped out, resident after resident had their own drop-outs. Whether it be with fists of fury, as Brendan Blessed, who believed himself to be an angel and who had an almost permanent broken leg due to thinking the imaginary wings on his back gave him the gift of flight discovered when James 'Don't Call Me Jim' Carton's horse was pulled out by the rider. James, never Jim or your face would take, sometimes, weeks to recover, lashed out at the closest thing to him.
Or whether it be in manic misery, the way both Edna and her sister in everything but reality, Mabel, dealt with their steed's failure to complete the course. They're cries drowned out the commentary and the shouts from the other patients yelling for them to be quiet. They huddled on the floor in each other's arms, shaking, their tears becoming a flood that made Brian's seem a meagre tributary to their Nile.
Seventeen horses finished.
Half of those were chosen by my compatriots, the winning three included.
Mine came third. Bender Benny's was second. Luscious Lucy's mount stormed in at first.
Not one of us ended up collecting our winnings, not least because, when Auroras Encore proved odds in such a race were the stuff of dreams (meaningless and with as much substance as air), individual losses and successes merged into a collective furore that swept the room like a tsunami.
Four hours later, order was restored, thanks to the kindness of Jeremy, the dominance of Dr. Connors and a unhealthy dose of whichever drug was your respective version of finger-licking-chicken. The orderlies had smiles on their faces for hours after that. They'd had their fun. They'd split the proceeds. They'd massaged the maelstrom that a room full of patients can become.
I wonder what the collective term for a group of lunatics might be. I'd wager on 'A Stampede'.
The Grand National.
A race. Not just any race, but one which can take your reason, plonk it on the back of a horse and hurl it around the asylum.
I like steak medium to well done. Can't have blood coming out of it. I'd feel like a vampire or cannibal. And proper chips. Not the frozen or oven ones that taste like soggy cardboard. No, proper, sliced from the spud, fried CHIPS.
Of course, if you're on a certain side of the Atlantic, that's crisps you're thinking of. Or thick fries. What do you call them? The weightier siblings or the French Fry? I remember, when I was younger and just being introduced to the fast food fury, that I thought it was kinda cool and sorta sad that our nation's favourite food was being called something else.
Hey! It's American! Fries! How cool!
Hey! It's American! No way can they change the name!
So I'd alternate by wanting to call them all fries, even when it came with batter coated haddock, to refusing to refer to them as anything other than CHIPS!
But, I'm from Grimsby. The home of fish'n'chips. It verged on heresy to a child who'd been weaned on deep fried everything.
Anywho-be-do. Steak and chips. Or bacon. A well done bacon and egg butty. Bread bun, sliced open, a better-bit-o'-butter, and some bacon and a fried egg.
Where I used to work, with a certain furnace I'm planning on becoming very intimate with, Friday was Butty Day. As it was situated in an industrial area, there was a mobile kitchen that would deliver for free if your order came to more than £10. As such, with various requests for my own delight or sausage and mushroom and more, they'd drop them off at the entry turnstile at 10am. Washed down with a nice cuppa, it was the perfect way to welcome in the weekend.
I miss that. They wouldn't, methinks, fancy delivering to an asylum. All those crazy people. Then there's the actual residents. If it had occurred to the orderlies, however, and if a similar franchise operated nearby, they'd take great pleasure in hungrily devouring such delicacies right in our faces. Taunting with moans and yums and dribbling chins.
I don't think I'll mention it.
Saying that, my stomach is threatening to tell them itself. It's started to grumble and groan. Like a distant thunder, its rumbling could well create a storm if anyone tried to force the reason for my stomach's verbosity.
I'll have to think of something else. Football. Like 'proper' chips, I mean 'proper' football. The sort played with, no less, the foot. Soccer, if you must. Again, like fish'n'chips, it was invented by this fair country of mine.
Two days isn't a lot, is it? A flash in the pan of life, even for us mortals who exist for fairly short periods, two days isn't much. It's loose change in the pocket of a lifetime.
So how come February seems to be such a short month? How come, while only 48 hours exist between it and the likes of April and June, it feels as if we're cheated by the speed with which February comes and goes? Even more so when it's sandwiched between the mighty January and March, who clutch their extra days tightly lest an errant wind snatch them away.
Is February the runt of the litter? Last one out so the rest took all the meat? Does it have breathing problems and always get pushed to the back at feeding time?
Or, is it the black sheep? Getting into trouble and blaming its siblings? Small and sweet looking, so you'd never do that, would you Feb? Didn't think so.
We had our own February. Well, the month belongs to everyone, of course, but in here, in the depths of the asylum, February was alive, Johnny Five. And, most probably, holding out for a hero - much like all of us.
February. Small, red-headed, dimpled. Petite, you'd call her. She only came out of her shell during this particular four week month. Otherwise she barely spoke and remained huddled down within herself, as if her body had gone walkabout and her shadow was keeping her seat. I don't know why she was so different when January waved goodbye. Perhaps she was sympathetic to the month's plight. Maybe she identified with the baby of the year.
But, come the dawn of the second month, her body returned and February bore fruit.
She was a minx. It has to be said. A minx. Her double entendres had entendres and her normally dark eyes sparkled. She would have the other residents fighting over her affections, literally in some cases, as she flitted and flirted about the Recreation room. And she would smile at it all.
February was flanked, permanently when she had her brief bout of blossom, by two other residents. These were quiet and unassuming usually, but, again, changed when she awoke. The one to her left (they never mixed up their positions) took it upon himself to take a name that he thought would portray himself as a beast of a man. Someone you wouldn't want to mess with. Hulk was already taken, so he chose, being a Clash of the Titans fan, Gorgon.
His associate, right was always right, didn't quite get the gist of this. As such, he couldn't understand why we all laughed when he called himself 'Zola'.
They kept their little live-wire safe from the throng of admirers and held those who might have a grievance at arm’s length. Not that grievances were common in here. We were all as sad as each other, so there was little to cause animosity really. But, unfortunately, when you have nothing, even a little popularity is as valuable as a decent meal or warm fire. Or Rolex or winning lottery ticket, for that matter.
It all livened up a month lost after January’s New Year kick-off. As is the norm for this place we don’t call home, the fleeting burst of colour paled quickly. February faded, to be replaced by Anna, red-headed, dimpled, and small in every sense of the word.
Gorgon became Gerald. Gerald liked to play cards with an invisible deck, but never won a hand. Zola morphed into Brian. Brian liked to beat Gerald at cards.
Two days. It’s not much, is it? Why does it feel like a lifetime?
Is there a thief about, sneaking in the shadows, snatching months from under our noses as we live our mundane lives? I wonder if the petty stuff is seconds and minutes. Did he start on those and work his way up to days and weeks?
Do the Time thieves break the big-'time' when their confidence prompts them (with a whisper in the ear - Confidence can be sly like that) to move on to months? Do gangs of them plan heists of years, with only the decades reserved for the Mafioso of Time. Don Clock himself. No-one messes with him or his. Hulking in the background, a shadow across the years, taking the decades from the unwary, the wasters, those who squander the precious gift of Moment.
I imagine Don Clock, with the numbers etched across his face like ragged scars, in a bare room. There's a table in the centre. A bare bulb hangs low. Plans and drawings and notes are strewn across the wooden surface. The ultimate prize. Not a century. Not even a millennia. No.
But then, is time such a commodity? One that CAN be stolen? That it's precious, I don't deny. That it's squandered, well, I'm guilty of that myself. As I'm guilty of stealing it from so many. But death is my weapon of 'choice'. The Don and his minions and pretenders-to-his-throne don't murder. They let slip the dogs of wear. They slide it from beneath us whilst we have our heads stuck firmly in the television.
If, indeed, Time is such an object.
Is it, instead, a river that we float upon? Sometimes the flow becomes polluted and the worry lines on our foreheads multiply in sympathy. The is no Don. There are no thieves. There's rocks and rapids and the occasional waterfall in our paths that speed it up, causing us to hang on tightly lest we get overturned and drown, but it continues, ever, to the great Eternal Sea.
Perhaps it's neither. It's a being of itself. Monumental. Eternity and immensity blur to become one. Time. It sits and plays chess, like the gods of old, with us as the pieces. No, not chess. A cosmic Angry Birds, flicking each of us into a future we can't see and can barely control.
I don't know.
But January. What happened to January? Christmas was five minutes ago. Now, next Christmas is five minutes hence. Blink, and you'll miss it.
Do people still make them? Do those that do, actually believe that they'll keep them? I wonder.
How many will cut down on the fatty foods or cut out the cigarettes? Who will pass on just one more chocolate from the Christmas surplus? Possibly more than I think. Probably less than I'd hope.
I thought about making some resolutions. I could cut down on my fatty foods, but I'm not sure of the calorie content of slop. I don't smoke, so cigarettes are safe around me. I could, I suppose, be more positive.
But then, it's difficult to be positive when you've voluntarily put yourself in a mental asylum, feigning paranoia, because people have a tendency to die around you.
A little rude, that. Dying around me. That's a joke, by the way. There's really nothing funny about death. Or Death. He and I have had many a conversation on mortality and more, and he has a distinct problem when it comes to cracking a joke. Maybe it's the way he tells 'em.
But, even though the cries of those that are deceased due to me haunt my slumber and my days, I could, potentially, be more positive.
My friends, here, look to me for support. Whether I like it or not, I can calm and guide with barely a word. Perhaps it's because I'm the only sane one in here. Perhaps it's because of my accepting, tolerant nature? There are mightier powers than mine to judge. Whatever it might be, my friends call me The Reverend and ask me for a soothing touch - though we are all 'touched' in one way or another.
How am I able to be positive with them but not with myself? Why can I appease, please and put at ease those that suffer, but not when I feel pain too?
Perhaps because I am the cause of my own pain. I'm the Brutus to my own Caesar. The knife in my own back. The bullet in my own gun.
Et tu, Sinius.
Polly didn't choose to have her father become enraged when she discovered her pregnancy. Kenny didn't deliberately set out that morning intending to have a car accident. Penelope may have had too much to drink, but she didn't want to crash and lose her son.
Well, I don't want people to die either, but it happens. It happens because I am Sin. Spit in your eye, wish I could... fly.
I do wish I could fly. Sometimes I imagine I can. Soaring over the sea, arms outstretched, body at an angle so my fingertips skimmed the waters. Just like the seagull in the video I once saw at the top of the Blackpool Tower.
Then I'm suddenly home to roost back here. Fed scraps and slop. Cooped up.
I may as well be a smoker or chocoholic. If this is me being 'positive', I'm positively rubbish at it.
I resolve to be resolutely realistic.
I'll continue to just be me. Haunted but helpful. Sinful but sensitive. Perhaps it'll make me a better person.
I say apparently as the days blur into weeks blur into months, much like the sky as it descends over to the horizon. There's no actual delineated line where one colours decides to let the next have control of the sky so it can rest and wait until evening when they all turn their lights down for the day. Yes, night comes and day breaks, but even then they tend to be flipsides of the same coin. A miasma of loneliness, lethargy and lunacy.
It could have been August, except there wasn't, normally, snow on the ground. I may have been that the Day After Tomorrow had woken before its alarm, so decided to get an early start, but I doubted it. With the lack of decent heating in the recreation room, we could see our breath. It was cold.
Viola, she of the maximum Medium, convinced she was in contact with 'The Other Side,' believed her breath was her soul escaping. She spent the day chasing after it, attempting to push it back in her mouth, screaming every time she saw it spew forth. At first, this was a little funny. Then it was irritating. But, when Viola decided to use half of Mucous Mickey's toilet roll to block her throat and fell in a convulsing heap, it suddenly became serious and Dr. Connors decided to put the heating on.
Just to shake the chill off, of course. We didn't feel as if we were sprawled out on a tropical beach somewhere wondering where we'd put that bottle of sun cream or where the waiter was with our cocktail.
No. It was still cold, just a little less so. Enough so that our breath became an invisible escapee, sneaking out of our bodies to disperse, freely, in the air. Well, if only a small part of us could be free, let it be the expulsions of our lungs. Better that than nothing.
Christmas. Next week. Jeremy mentioned it, not realising, bless him, that it was just another day in the asylum. There was no tree. No tinsel wrapped the windows nor cards from friends or family adorned the sill. Presents would be in the form of a pill or injection. Perhaps a little electro-shock to spark up your day.
I have the cries of my Dead to keep me company. To reflect on family and loss. The season of goodwill, except I was good enough to take their will and trample it. Choke it. Destroy it. They remind me, daily, of that. And, to be honest, I am thankful. I should feel their sorrow. I should be suffocated with their screams.
'Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la la-la-blah-blah.
Be well, be happy, be warm. Cherish what you have and worry not for what you don’t. Fears can freeze your heart like the ice that covers the outside of the windows - a slippery coating that obscures the view of the vista beyond. Hopes can be like Viola's breath - a ghostly mist that slips through the fingers until it vanishes no matter how much you try to hold on.
How many lunatics does it take to build a snowman? None, because they already believe they're one.