XI — Letters
Letters. The writing on the brown envelope said: photocopies as requested. If stapled together: back and front of same sheet. I’d read them once. But that was when I was in the hospital and I was sat with her and the psychiatrist. She was somewhere else that we couldn’t get to. Me and the psychiatrist, a youngish woman I can’t clearly remember, sat opposite her. She wore a gown that tied up at the back that I supposed they’d put her in. A white gown or maybe cream, with small flowers on it. We sat with her whilst the psychiatrist went through the protocol; determining how needy she was. She was needy enough I figured. The bandages on her arms said she was needy enough. The hospital was familiar to me, though the name had changed to something more restful. And we were in a new wing; the old quarter having been sold off as up-market housing. I wondered if that bothered the house-buyers: as they slept in A-wing the criminally insane slept in K-wing.
The psychiatrist asked her how she felt. She took some time to reply but finally said she didn’t want to be here. Though her eyes never flickered. Never had a flicker of life in them. The psychiatrist asked her what she meant by ‘here’. She paused again. She didn’t want to be ‘here’. I made a mistake in life. I will never do that again. Of course you will. And I could see me talking to the policemen after I’d kicked down the door because I’d looked through the window and saw her with a knife to her wrists and I had kicked down the door and wrestled the knife and the broken cups away. We both got her blood on us and then I sat on her and called her sister and called the police and the ambulance and I wasn’t there because I couldn’t stand that. Walled that off. Policeman said I had done okay and put his hand on my shoulder. Didn’t feel okay. It couldn’t be scratched. An itch between two fingers. Wanted someone to take control of me. In that empty house. And the doctor that assessed her said: can you go home? Will you be okay if we give you some tablets? And in one of the greatest moments of lucidity in my life I said to the doctor that in no shape or form or in any way willing or otherwise was that a possibility. The doctor saw sense. She didn’t want to be here.
I visited her every day. She was on some tablets keeping a barrier around her. I’d go in and find her room. Laying on the bed. But not there in spirit. I can remember what it’s like when the body gets de-animated and the spirits goes elsewhere. I’d heard that. But I’d eventually coax her up by explaining we could go and make a drink in the kitchen for ourselves. We could sit at a table and frame off the insanity and we would have a cup of tea and even though we wouldn’t say much, the structure was there. Something she could relate to. Something we could relate to. I would talk to her about a spider I’d seen making a little web. The rain. Nuts is what it had all become. Next to a power line the cool morning air; sat under a tree. I’d thank her for the tea. Nuts is what we’d become. Though we tried to ignore that. I wanted her to rescue me and just walk out of there and carry on.
After a while I came to recognize the other patients. Or whatever you call them. I remember one kid. A young man with sparkly eyes and dark brown hair; a little stubble. He smoked like it kept him alive. Never saw him without a cigarette butt burning his Yellow fingers; dropping the ash. I spoke to him three or four times and eventually he started to come up to talk when I appeared. He relaxed. One day we were all sat in the TV room. The drug addict girl. The skeleton lunatic who always looked at the floor. Her. The crying woman. Some others.
I sat by the dark haired boy and asked him what he did. He worked on a farm. Used to enjoy driving the tractor. Then he started to go distant and rambling on about the corn. Said something about driving with his Dad and a shotgun. Put his fingers to his head and made a whooshing noise. I sat down with the brown envelope ready to open it up, a long time later. It says on the envelope ‘DS’. These are just photocopies of some letters that I read a long time ago. Just before I open the letters up I want you to know that I know how confusing you think it all it is when you stop and think about it. That we fear the same things. So I’ll open the letters and read one: Dear. I never know what to say. It doesn’t help that I’m in a hospital-set up situation. Maybe when I get home I’ll bounce back on form. How are you? How is everything going? Hospital this time is becoming a very positive experience; meeting lots of people and having a relaxing time. My drugs are making me feel battered. My head is recovering from a very severe mental illness. The drug kit is high. I think my drugs need changing. I need Slim-Food. I am sorry that the paper quality isn’t higher this time sorry. There are floods everywhere. The letter is important but I’m lying on the bed and there’s a pen in my mouth how this letter is important but I’m lying on a bed. I’m staring and I can see the bed cover. But I’m confused because I don’t know. I fell off the bed. This is a monkey. Have you seen help: let me out of year? This is a grandmother. Yours sincerely.’ Language tries to slither away. Tries to make something of it. A novelty, though that doesn’t do it justice. I see the words shrinking away before me as they make for the border. It’s all somewhat monotonous. There is, after all, a finite arrangement to take up. It’s just that we can’t detect the operating system. I told you that in several different ways.