Friday, April 4, 2008

'The Man' Tales - My Story

Today I am posting a short story I wrote about that time in my life as it portrays it perfectly. I'm not sure how to label this post - it is true so does that make the short story fiction? I really don't know.




THE MORGUE

The man of my dreams sat on my right holding my hand. The woman I had played ‘Maid of Honor’ to, sat on my left, holding my other hand. I sat in the middle, pegged down like a tent in a strong wind. A small man with indeterminate ancestry sat in front of us, his dark eyes searching my soul. The surrounding room was small and muffled with a fish-eye in the door, while the pale green walls that were meant to soothe the psyche mixed discordantly with the faint smell of antiseptic. I could hear the whisperings of cushioned feet passing on the other side of the door and the incessant sound of someone crying. The small man rubbed the dark circles around his eyes with both hands and resumed his staring. I stared back like a deer caught in the headlights. Words burbled out of his mouth and I turned towards my dream man with a questioning look on my face, my own mouth wet and slightly askew. Raising my eyebrows I shook my head slightly. I couldn’t understand the man’s heavy accent and the crying was beginning to get on my nerves. The man burbled again and I looked down into my wet lap with embarrassment at my inability to understand him. With a final soul-searching stare he stood and left the room, leaving us sitting awkwardly. The crying sound that wrapped around us seemed to emanate from the walls and descend like fog from the ceiling. A wingless angel appeared and put something sharp into my hip, then vanished through the fish-eye. In a little while the crying eased off and I closed my eyes, overcome by the tranquility of silence and the drug.

It was the crying that put me in there in the first place. It had been going on for days and I just couldn’t stop. With red swollen eyes and chapped nose I wandered up and down the long sterile hall dropping sodden Kleenex like cookie crumbs. Nameless creatures hunted me continually and then stood ominously by as I swallowed baby-colored pills. Time stood still and my mind wandered away, sometimes ricocheting off the other wraiths who drifted down the long hall, sometimes not. Then one day in a moment of brief respite, the oppressing clouds parted and I noticed the girl. She sat with her legs crossed under her, her blank eyes staring into space, while a long line of drool reached from her lower lip to disappear somewhere below the table. She had silver skeletons and jeweled crosses woven into a skinny braid that hung down beside her pretty face. Somehow these were relevant, but at the time I didn’t know how. I sat down in front of her and offered her a watery hello. She continued to stare into space while a bubble formed on her lip and began the long slide to her knee. I knew right then and there that we were going to be friends for life, and we became inseparable, the crying woman and the drooling girl.

As time passed I began to realize there was more to a day besides the long hall, the pills, and the sessions with the man with the heavy accent. During those first couple of months I thought I was waiting to board a cruise ship decked out in hospital pajamas and housecoat. However, once that delusion subsided I slowly became more aware of my surroundings. I watched with mounting horror the stream of residents happily whisked through the heavy doors at the end of the hall, returning with their heads lolling on their shoulders, their tongues protruding slightly. As the second hand swept around the bald face of the clock, they would eventually emerge with jerking smiles, slowly speeding up as if they had been electrically juiced. On movie night we sat stuffing salty popcorn into our laughing mouths as Jack Nicholson played us on the idiot box in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The dawning knowledge didn’t help. The psychos wandered aimlessly while the vultures circled nearby, their little white cups filled with pills for every conceivable ailment of the mind and body. The rituals never varied as every morning I sat with the man with the heavy accent and talked, and every afternoon I sat in the circle of the mindless and was talked to. These sessions were like hawks caught on a thermal, the words hovering in the air, unable to find a stable surface to settle on.

My obsession started innocently enough when my lifelong morbid fascination with death suddenly surfaced after the mysterious disappearance of a ward mate. This fascination sprouted and took a strong hold on the barren landscape of my brain and in a moment of inspiration I decided to enlist the help of the girl. I found her in the lunchroom chewing on her seventeenth croissant. A slight adjustment to her medications had stopped the drooling and put everything edible in peril. With snacks nearby we huddled for days in corners and on our beds trying to devise a plan to escape the hall and begin the long arduous search for the dead body repository. In the end it simply came down to asking the man if we could leave the confines of the hall. After three long and vacuous months of life in a corridor a simple stroke of the pen finally released me from ‘close’ observation. The freedom to discover what lay beyond those heavy doors that had been part of my prison was now mine. After all the planning and anticipation, my first venture was accidental and solo. I had wandered off the hall, completely forgetting about the girl and our secretly laid plans. After all, according to what passed as my brain, it was just another day. My mindless wandering soon turned into mayhem and the fast pace beyond the doors terrified me. Luckily my little plastic bracelet helped my rescuers return a sobbing and frightened lost person in pajamas and slippers to ‘the hall’ where the circling vultures had miraculously turned into hovering angels who administered the calming medications. As a result, it took about three days to stop that damn crying again, then it was right back to the drawing board. This time I didn’t forget the girl.

Together we discovered by trial and error that evenings in a health institution are much quieter than the rat race that prevails during the day. We bided our time effectively and patiently. I guarded my food while the girl ate. As evening fell we would leave our destination clearly marked on the out-board with felt pen–“Out On A Quest”. We thought we were brilliantly evasive and full of subterfuge. At first we avoided the stairwells and searched the halls around the only home our tortured brains could remember. These forays proved incredibly daunting as the surrounding halls held back offices filled with files and paperwork and standing at the entrance to this labyrinth one’s gaze melted to a vanishing point at the other end. As I stood at this maw my quest suddenly felt futile, but my obsession would not let me give up. By day the girl fortified herself with food while I strenuously exercised my brain making little dolls out of empty cans and lace. When visiting hours ended and the fluorescent silence descended, our search would begin again. We would creep through the doors at the end of the hall and edge our way carefully along the hallways followed quietly by that eerie hum that huge machinery makes.

We drifted through the sterile surroundings peering closely at the nameplates on each door. Names such as Day Surgery and Outpatients we recognized in our altered states. However, with a simpleton’s fear and pounding hearts we hurried past Endoscopy, not daring to peer through the door’s little window. We climbed a staircase that wound upwards from floor to floor and came across a door that was marked Interspace. Goggling at each other in the dim light we pressed our ears up against it and reeled as the silence roared back at us. Had we stumbled on the place where they put the psychos who disappeared from the hall from one day to the next? Did windmills turn in the dark? My trusty squire wobbled unsteadily as we gulped air to strengthen ourselves. Afraid that we would be the next to vanish behind this mysterious door, we fled back to the hall, the quest suspended. What can I say–we were loony and we were getting nowhere fast.

As days piled upon days my mind chewed endlessly on my need to find the morgue. I could imagine the subdued lighting reflecting dully from the stainless steel walls, their huge gliding drawers filled with the cold cadavers who tossed up stiff on the outside world. White-coated attendants with green slippers would move soundlessly around gurneys, scalpels poised, their intent almost murderous. I tried to imagine where they would take me once I lay under that sheet.

A time came when I was almost ready to give up. It seemed we had searched every possible inlet and outlet. However, defeat wasn’t part of the plan so I had to keep trying. With a renewed resolution I found my friend, hauled her away from the refrigerator, and we crept out once more. With deliberation we returned to the bowels of the massive machine that continued to hold us within its gut. Walking down the now familiar path I suddenly noticed something we had overlooked before. Like iron to true north we headed straight for a nondescript door. Morgue was written on it in plain letters. With an enormous gratified sigh I turned to my companion to celebrate. As I threw my arms about her, something past her shoulder caught my eye and directed my vision to the nameplate on the door in the opposite wall. It read Cafeteria. Of course. It all made sense to me now. I cried with relief.

25 comments:

softinthehead said...

WOW Aims amazing writing. I was right there with you!

Stinking Billy said...

aims, for a true story they don't come much spookier than that. It seems to be finished and it assumes that the cafeteria door explains it all - but not to me. I demand that you finish it off properly, even if you have to draw little matchstick men to get the message through to my addled brain.

But fascinating writing, babba.

Mima said...

aims, what wonderful writing, it was really intense to read, so what it must have been like to experience I can't imagine. Sorry that you went through such tough times, and glad that you are back here with us now.

CrazyCath said...

Aims - that is the most amazing, clear (although not to you at the time) and bare insight into your feelings and confusion at the time.

You are an incredible writer. You are an amazing person. I got so much from this. The need to communicate in the simplest of terms with distressed souls and the need to recognise the effect of withdrawal from the real world. How that must terrify you when you return. I have some insight as I withdrew from reality, but the real world was still about me. I managed to avoid admission.

Aims, you have to publish. Really you do. Please do.

Biddie said...

This truly is amazing. Honestly.
I can't believe that you spent all of that time there and came out of it ok...Or did you? I was only there a few days when I convinced them to let me out. I made all kinds of promises that I never kept - about group thereapy and doctors and pills. It would take me another 3 or 4 years to get it together enough to see a doctor again.
I wonder how long it took you to feel 'ok?'
I worked in the morgue, but not in the same hospital that I had my 'rest' in. They didn't let us leave our little hall way, either....

Sweet Irene said...

It is a wonderful story and one I can identify with very much. I spent months in a psychiatric hospital myself on the ward for mood disorders. I slunk through the large building myself with a sidekick, discovering scarier people than us and possible places to jump off the roof. Those were heady days, man!

dawn said...

Awesome writing. It is really a look into a lost mind. I love the ending. It makes so much sense to me in a humorous way (but that is my sense of humour). My niece spent a month in a hospital ward in a catatonic state. She calls it her time at the spa.

I Beatrice said...

Powerfully done, Aims! I have read that one before of course, and was impressed then, but uncertain as to whether it was a personal account or a fictional one. Now I know, and though it saddens me deeply (and also brings back painful memories of my own), it also enables me to get a great deal more from the story.

I have only one negative observation, and that concerns the title. I would never, voluntarily, open and read a story that was entitled "The Morgue". There are some things in life which are, almost by collective association and consent, taboo I think....

Or perhaps it's a squeamishness all my own?

That aside - a tour de force!

Breezy said...

Oh really well written Aims

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Excellent writing, beautifully captured and enthralling from start to finish.

Crystal xx

aims said...

SITH - In reality I'm very glad you weren't.... :0)

Billy - I guess it was a throw back to my years of Soylent Green - when the people were the food...sorry Bill.

Mima - I have days when I am terrified that I will get into that state again and will be put back onto that hall...

Crazycath - Publishing is harder said than done I'm afraid. I have submitted this story a number of times - but no takers so far. I will not give up hope though...

I know for you - being a pysche nurse that you can absolutely relate to this. I hope you didn't take offense to being called a vulture at first....

Biddie - That hallway felt like a prison eventually. I will tell more about this time in my upcoming posts.

Irene - I am surprised how many people have experienced this. It is a sad statement about the world today. Eventually we all gravitate to someone even in altered states. I am happy to say that this person is still a very dear friend to me.

Dawn - I call it 'the bin'.

Dearest B - Well you have certainly got me thinking in another direction now. How does "Dame Quixote" sound?

Breezy - Thank you my friend.

Crystal - Thank you!! I have to tell you - it was hard to write - but a little fun at the time..especially about my friend..- all of which was true!

Daryl E said...

aims you are one extremely good writer.

got some muscle relaxants and now I feel almost human again .. thank you my friend for the suggestion!

CrazyCath said...

Aims - my God no! No offence. Remember, I have worked with the vultures! There are some brilliant nurses in this job, and some awful ones. Like any job. I took it to be your perception at being trapped also that showed them in that light.

No offence is taken at anything you write. It is your experience and I cannot say if it is accurate or not, only you can. But I can certainly identify with some and recognise a lot of what you write. As I said, the way you write conveys the confusion, the reality of being taken from the world and then thrust back into it.

It needs to be published. Keep trying.

Mya said...

I enjoyed reading this, although I know it can't have been fun writing/living it. You use some beautiful imagery, I particularly like the tent pegged and the hawks on thermals. Great stuff, very haunting. Did you find out what/where Interspace was?

Mya x

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

An amazing bit of writing. What a life you have had but I suspect that you know yourself so well now after everything you have been through.

You are as always a joy to read.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John-Michael said...

"like hawks caught on a thermal, the words hovering in the air, unable to find a stable surface to settle on." Wonderful stuff! You find hues and shades to add to the pallet, and the picture takes on new dimensions.

How I do enjoy your imagery!

Thank You, yet again.

merry weather said...

Powerful story, thank you for sharing it. It is good to open up this subject I think, it is something we often shy away from discussing or admitting. Which is not sensible, considering how many people are affected by mental health problems at some stage.

Mean Mom said...

My mother was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, many years ago. She must have felt a little like you. She was terrified at first, but once she understood what was going on, it wasn't as scary. She made a full recovery.

On a lighter note - I am inviting you to a tea party at my place, to pick up an award. Just a bit of silliness - not the award, though - that's great!

Lane said...

A full-on post Aims, taking us somewhere dark but told with crystal clarity and even a lightness.
I was thrown by the 'cafeteria' at the end but it doesn't detract at all.

aims said...

Daryl - So glad the muscle relaxers helped! I use to get back spasms that put me in bed for 10 days at a time. Horrible!! Couldn't catch my breath when they hit. Then we got a new mattress and couch - and I've not had one since! Oh...the little twinge maybe - but not a full spasm again!

Crazycath - I will keep trying - I promise!

Mya - Those are my favorite two images as well! And no - never did find out what was in Interspace...spooky...

MOB - At least you can always be assured of finding something different in this blog!

JM - I do love that image as Hawks mean something special to me - which I will reveal later.

Merry - It is indeed a subject which needs to be brought out in the open. Remember when unwed pregnancies were a taboo subject? And it came 'out'...now mental health has to as well!

Mean Mom - I'm so glad your mother made a full recovery! And thank you so much for the award and that cuppa...sorry I was the one who had to be thrown out of the party...

Lane - I was totally thrown by the cafeteria being across from the morgue...Really! Who would put them side by side?? And that is when that old movie about Soylent Green crept in....

Maggie May said...

Aims ..... you are such a good writer I am sure you could get this published.
A really chilling & spooky account.

Joy T. said...

Well darn, you should have come and asked me. I know where the morgue is :o) As always a fascinating look into the world that was yours. Can't wait to read more!

Popkins said...

You know I read this before, P, but I absolutely love it...it stands by itself. I can see a little movie and I adore the ending. As usual, we are all there traipsing along with you...drugged out...weirded out...feeling the same murkiness, confusion, fear, etc.

Good job, pal.

~marky~ said...

wow just amazing :) !! ur writing style is so unique , u bring the reader right into the situation... captivating stuff :)