18 December, 2016
I have been here exactly seventeen years, five weeks, four days, six hours and twenty seven minutes. Although that first day seems to be quite vivid in my mind, the reality is that I vaguely remember the details of my arrival. I recall seeing the top of the building as we drove in. Who "we" is remains a mystery. Other than that, I'm not sure exactly how I ended up here. Was I committed or did I come here voluntarily? I don't know. I can't get a straight answer from anyone. My family is gone, either dead or moved away.
My designation is Patient 51, so called because of the number on my door. My room consists only of essentials. A bed, a sink, some kind of contraption on the wall, a small closet, a bedpan, a large window and two doors. One leads out or in and the other is connected to an adjacent room. I'm not sure if it's occupied. I've never seen or heard anyone else.
My hygiene is adequate. I bathe every two days although a little privacy wouldn't go amiss. My physical health is acceptable, I suppose but my mental health is in a state of serious decay. It's not because of dementia or some other ailment, it's from lack of stimulation. My mind is completely stifled. There is no conversation, no TV, no radio or music. I am not permitted to have paper or pen. I don't know why. Time has become irrelevant. There is no purpose to the days and no hope for the immediate future.
Sometimes, if I close my eyes, I can imagine myself walking along a country road at sunset. No sounds except for birds and cows in a distant field. That's far better than being in my room with the bare walls and neatly made bed. I don't clean my room, an orderly does. If I had my way, it would be left a mess. She doesn't look at me while she's straightening out the bed sheets. I try to get her attention but to no avail. It's the same day in and day out. Someone else brings my meals and he's just as unfriendly. He smiles but I know he doesn't mean it. He never says a word, it's like I don't even exist.
There's a recreation room downstairs. I'm permitted to spend one hour there each evening. A large couch overwhelms the space with some wicker chairs parked nearby. There's a desk and chair in the corner. I was usually there alone until one day a young woman appeared. She wore a hat and sat at the desk writing a letter. When she was done, she read it aloud, slipped it into an envelope and then sealed it. This would become her daily ritual. It sounded to me like she was writing the same letter over and over. The words became familiar with her repetitive recital.
An orderly named Shane once confided that the woman never addressed the envelopes so they remained unsent and unread. He kept them in a drawer held together with string. He never opened them. There were soon so many of these letters, he had to start a new drawer. The young scribe's name was Victoria. She hated the shortened version Vicky but she said her family called her that. "Don't call me Vicky!" she barked. It was the only time she ever said anything to me. One day she stopped coming and that was that.
I see a therapist once a week. His office is one story below my room. His name is Dr. Van Gogh. He says he's not related to the artist. He asks too many questions and never gives me answers. No matter what I say, his response is "How does that make you feel?". I have learned nothing about myself and he seems distracted half the time. I once sarcastically asked him "How do I make you feel?" and he said I was being obstinate. I didn't know what that meant and when I asked him, he told me the session was over.
Sometimes I wonder what I would do if I was allowed to leave. I have no idea what the outside world is like. I have no skills and no money. As miserable as it can be in here, I think the alternative would be worse.
One day, about a year ago, dinner consisted of chicken, mashed potatoes and peas. The meal was cold as usual but I was so hungry I didn't care. While exuberantly chewing on a piece of chicken, an old filling got wrenched out of its socket. The pain was excruciating but I said nothing. I have always had a fear of doctors and dentists, basically anyone who is going to prod or probe me. I remained silent for a week until the pain was so great, I couldn't sleep. I told the nurse and she said I would need to see the dentist. An appointment was set for nine the next morning.
The dentist wore a mask across his face and tinted glasses hid his eyes. He had bad breath which I thought was strange for someone in his profession. He grunted and mumbled "hmmmm" and "aha". I asked to be sedated but he said no and told me to shut up and sit still. That morning, he extracted four of my teeth. I was on a liquid diet for twenty four hours. At least I had no more fillings, I thought. That was something.
I have bandages on my arms and I don't remember why. My room is much smaller now and my clothes are so tight I can't move. There is no light save for a small square cutout in the door. When it gets turned off I walk down that country road. The sound of the cows gets louder and my father greets me with a smile at the gate.
If you would like to keep up with my meanderings, sign up to subscribe to my blog at the bottom of this page. Peace.