My name is Donovan and I am twenty years old. I am a Colorado native and I currently attend the University of Northern Colorado’s Center for Urban Education in Denver. I am majoring in Elementary Education with a concentration in English as a Second Language. I love the field of study and can’t wait to begin my life as a teacher. I work as a babysitter at a gym’s day care service. It is to my understanding that children are the answer to many of the world’s greatest inquiries and I’ve dedicated my life to their welfare, their education, and the projection of their voice. I have a sister who I love very dearly. She is on her journey to becoming a refined American actress. My father is a public servant and my mother works in the field of independent architecture contracting. They both inspire me to live by respectable morals and standards every day.
Although this text serves as a sort of an abridged assessment of my short life, I’m more interested in speaking to the title. From June 14th to July 20th I was held in a mental health hospital, in the process of being diagnosed with manic depression or bipolar disorder. What led to my hospitalization was what psychiatrists refer to as a “manic episode”. I displayed all the signs of this disorder by losing sleep, living fast, talking faster, and acting as though no force against me had a chance to prosper. Amazingly enough, in my manic stupor, I looked at myself in the mirror and didn’t recognize the person I saw. More importantly, the people who became my close friends (although only having known me for a school year) didn’t recognize the person they saw. And most striking looking back now, my condition was so serious that I would talk on the phone with people I’ve known for years; they didn’t recognize the voice they heard. They knew it was Donovan, but it was another version. A darker, disconnected, and disgruntled Donovan. So he does the only thing he thinks he can do. He calls the police. This process of mental analysis was long, difficult, and tiring. If the reader is willing, I’m more than willing to tell my story. These are the Memoirs from an Alternate Hospital.
I am in Greeley at the time. It is summer; all the vice and temptation that could have pushed itself into my circumstances has, and does so in a dramatic way. So I call the UNC Police Department. I am tired, stoned, confused, and scared. By an interesting circumstance, the officer I end up contacting is the very same person who wrote me a citation for marijuana possession during the previous school year. She asks if I’ve been sleeping, what will show up in my system as far as illegal substances go, and if I am willing to go and get some blood work done. Initially I say no, marijuana, and maybe. I tell her to meet me at my house, I will have made my decision by time of her arrival. When I get there and she called, at least four squad cars accompany her. Besides smoking weed I have broken no laws, so I am highly offended. I argue with the police about every hypothetical of the future incident including if I am to be placed in hand cuffs and if I must ride in the back of the car. The answer to both of those questions was yes. And when they pose the question, “can we take you?” I say, “no.” I return home, change into some workout clothes, and head to the football fields to work out and clear my cluttered and unstable mind. While there, I realize I have not discovered anything about myself, I made much of an attempt to do so, and most pertinent to my current circumstance- I can’t imagine going on like this. I go to the emergency call box by the field. I tell the dispatcher to send the officer I had called before. She came, I am placed in handcuffs, I am put in the back of the patrol car, and I head to Northern Colorado Medical Center. I sign paperwork without reading it and sit down with a nurse.
Thinking back now, I can imagine wishing that I did something different, but I don’t know what that would be. The police officers who’ve brought me here had told me earlier that I could leave at anytime, and if I wanted to, I could call them for a ride home. They stand beside me for the nurse’s evaluation. I can gather that they did so for two reasons: my comfort and everyone else’s security. It is simple to imagine that they’d been through this before and if that is the case, surely there have been some people in my position who have tried to flee once they find themselves within the confines of a hospital; the feeling of being anywhere against one’s will will prompt the most diligent, patient, and resilient human being to posses an intolerable craving for freedom. Then I am escorted to the east wing of the ER for blood work and further evaluation. I never see these cops again. And I won’t say that during my time here, I’m not planning on contacting them. I walk into a room with an automatic door reminiscent of the entrance. I didn’t realize it then, but I am beginning the toughest journey of my life.
It’s June 13th, late. Exactly five days before my birthday, I gather myself in a hospital room. Notwithstanding being there for many other reasons, my current presence offers an atmosphere of uncertainty, unawareness, and unsettling worry. The door is unlike any I’d ever seen in a hospital. It looks like the kind one would see at some kind of store. A sliding door, the room’s opening is separated in two glass panes with a border consisting of some sort of metal. One side slides closed as the other acts as a base for the portal’s structure. What is clear simply by looking at the opening is that it is capable of being closed, but not at the wishes of just anyone. There is some outside procedure to close or open it, and I doubt that the door’s state will find itself in my control.
A nurse or some other person with a different medical employment designation enters the room to draw blood for analysis. Both my ride and I know what is in my system. So the proceeding doesn’t phase me. That is done, so I sit and wait for the next step. I am informed that I’d be visited by a psychiatrist. I’d been in therapy, for a good amount of time before this visit. So I assume the meeting wouldn’t be anything untried. The doctor enters the room like a doctor: clear desire to be of use to my predicament, mature sense of professionalism, and a great deal of affability.
Before I knew it, the psychiatrist and I are introduced and the evaluation begins. I immediately realize how formal and precise the questions are as opposed to the questions I am typically asked by my therapist. My therapist would ask how I’m feeling. This psychiatrist is asking about the same thing, but with much more specificity. It’s like going through a symptom checker, but for your psyche. Do I ever think about hurting myself? Anyone else for that matter? Have I been getting sufficient sleep? Do I use any narcotics?
I answer these by my perception of honesty and reality as I understand it now. The doctor and I talk a bit longer, and eventually he left. Now I’m blank. It’s like that feeling a student gets when he ponders the potential results of a recent assessment he participated in. The transfer of that feeling to my circumstance is if I’m okay. Did the doctor find something wrong? Did I not answer the questions like a healthy person would or should? After a while, when presented with these inquiries, one will finally ask themselves, “Am I Crazy?” People throw the word around constantly, but rarely do they wonder what it means, feels like, and looks like to be crazy in its true “clinical” form. To actually be mentally deranged. To be mentally far-gone. To have the train of your thoughts completely derailed, indicating that a reconstruction of your psychological “vehicle” would be a long, strenuous, and exhausting endeavor. I certainly can’t imagine it, and even if I come to have that ability, I never would have thought I’d ever find myself in that state. This state.
After the “brain test” I don’t recall seeing anymore of the medical staff for a purpose of evaluation. To me this means I am waiting for an answer. What’s been going on with me? What do I do about it? When can I leave? I do not receive an immediate response to this seemingly internal inquiries didn’t feel like I got a response. When asking about the progress of this whole thing, I am told that my medical information was being processed, insurance is getting sorted out, and they are waiting on a decision from the doctor as to how I should be helped. This update is satisfying. For a while.
It’s getting late. I suppose that it was late when I arrived, so I correct myself by saying it’s getting really late. I was tired when I checked in, but hospitals have a way of making you especially tired. The nurses and women working the desk in the ward are all trying to convince me to try and get some sleep. Having been up for far too long already along with making the decision to go get myself mentally checked out, I opt to stay awake until I know exactly what is happening.
I wait, wait, and wait some more. It is uncomfortable. It’s that quiet task of trying to get your anxiety to subside while remaining patient that anyone who’s ever sat in a hospital awaiting results can relate to. A man once gave me a piece of advise regarding the patience needed to enter the field of theatre. He said, “hurry up and wait.” In this instance it is easy to say that I am quite far from the feeling of being an entertainer of sorts, but it would be a lie if I don’t proclaim my feeling of being on display. The entire front wall of the room is practically a giant window. No place for me to hide. But I suppose there’s no place for them to hide either. An attempt made by the staff to come after me for any reason would be seen and acknowledged by myself, almost immediately. Finally, a nurse enters. She lets me know that the doctor would like to keep me here for overnight observation. Then he enters and gives me the news himself, as if somehow to ease the blow. “Try and get some sleep” He requests. I suppose he had to say try due to the universal understanding of how difficult it is to sleep in a hospital. All but the patient exeunt.
Once they are gone, I can only generate a single thought. I do not want to stay here overnight. Period. I want to go home. But when the psychiatrist says he’d like to keep me, it doesn’t seem like I have much of an option otherwise. The only other option I have is to give someone a call. There’s a phone in the room, and I have the number for the officers who brought me; who also claimed to get me if I didn’t want to stay there. I remove the business card from my pocket, pick up the phone, and dial. No answer. I hang up. I figure I wouldn’t bother leaving a message as I’m unaware of the number needed to reach me in the room. Said fact also gives me cause to call again. I do so. No answer. Now I begin to worry. The cops are my ride here, my ride home, the only support behind my decision to come to the hospital in the first place.
I begin to get angry. I envision myself simply grabbing my things, calling the officers, and walking out the front door. I grasp the attention of a nurse and tell her that I’m not willing to stay overnight. I would rather go home, call my parents in the morning, and sort things out in the comfort of my own familiar environment. I am ordered to remain in my room, and that she’ll talk to the doctor. I wait. She never returns. I have to figure out how I can get out of here. I am uneasy and very frustrated. I decide I’ll try and call again. I pick up the phone and press a trembling finger upon the button corresponding to the first number of the contact. I hear nothing. No dial tone, no sound of buttons being pressed, not even the faint sound of my own voice in the receiver as I said hello over and over again, as if in an odd attempt to restore function to this defunct appliance by means of spoken demand. I hang and pick up the phone up again. Nothing. I asked a lady at the desk what was wrong with the phone. She gives me an odd answer, and tells me to wait for the nurse to come back. In my room. At that moment, it was made clear that she wants any and all communication to take place with me within the confines of the doorway to my designated room. She will speak to me from her desk. And I will remain in the doorway.
The nurse hasn’t returned, and I painfully come to realize that she probably will not. The phone is cut, and I am tired of this whole situation. Now, I am very irate. As my mother would say, “I am fit to be tied.” I begin yelling for one of the staff members to get a doctor, to put the phone back on for me to use, or to let me leave. I am visited for the first time by a security guard. He tells me to remain in my room. As I retreat further within my temporary domicile, I watch the automatic entrance slide nearly closed. The opening is now no more than two feet wide. Earlier I felt worried, angry, and tired. Now I have the worst feeling that I would experience while being in this hell of a care-facility. I am scared. I am alone. To my knowledge, my parents are unaware of what is happening to their son. My roommates sort of knew. The only people fully aware of my situation are the cops who brought me, and the guy who “evaluated” me. All I could do now is cry. I’m tired, upset, scared, but most visible- I am crying like a little boy that has lost his parents in a mall. Like the young chap I don’t understand the nature of my surroundings as presented in the circumstance. I am by myself in a place I’ve never been alone in before. I want a familiar face. Most of all, I want my guardian angel, my savior, my father, my mother, my sister to come scoop me up like they did when I was just a boy myself.
When one cries about something that’s happening that they perceive as negative, said person will eventually begin feeling infuriated. They’ve lost control of a situation. They had all of it then before they could look up and address the conflict, they lost all of it. I am pissed. I walk to the cracked door still respecting the desk worker’s wish for me to remain in my room. I say, “get me the fuck out of here.” Once again I am met by the security guard. I was told, more sternly this time, to move back from the door and wait. I go and sit on the bed, but I am still very irritated. So I yell. “Get me out of here! Put the phone back on! I want to see that motherfucker (doctor)!” This continued for just a few minutes, and someone entered. They opened the door completely. A doctor comes in, but he isn’t the one I saw earlier. That doesn’t matter. This is it. I’m leaving. I’ll go home and figure this all out tomorrow. It is an ungodly hour. I can’t take much more. The doctor directs me to grab my things. I am being moved to another room. I am lost. When I ask why I am being relocated, he told me that it is because the current room had medical equipment that wasn’t needed for me anymore, but could be needed for incoming patients. Almost as if I have passed the initial stage. I move the next door down.
This room is dramatically different. It is bare, and I have never felt more unsettled in a surrounding than I do now, in this room. The door to this room is more like the entrance to a house, but it has qualities that I’ve never seen before. It was made of ultra-thick wood, with a small window that couldn’t be more than a half-foot by half-foot in size toward the top of it. Inside the room, there are no signs, no chairs, or anything that isn’t a bare necessity. The bed is flat, and has buckles on the sides. A pillow sits at the top. The only other thing in the room is a TV with a camera above it sitting in a wood case. The nurse tells me I should try to get some sleep. She leaves and ever so slightly cracks the door on the way out. The room she left between the latch and hook of the door was so slim, that a creature as small as a mouse would open it further if he slipped through the crease. I’m not sure of many things at the moment. I don’t know where the doctor I initially spoke to is, I didn’t know if I’ll use the phone again, I don’t know if my parents knew where I am, and I don’t know what to expect. What I do know is that the door in this room locks from the outside, those buckles on the bed are for straps, and if any of the events from the past couple hours are indicators- I’m not going anywhere.
June 14th. That’s the date but it’s certain that most people don’t recognize the fact until they wake up at an appropriate hour that morning. When you lose sleep, you lose track of time and I will come to find out today that you also begin to lose stability. People tend to take mental stability for granted. The essence of living with manageable stress, a sense of self, and “normal or healthy” ideations is overlooked because many simply live this way on a day to day basis. It’s difficult admitting now that I was not there at the time, and worst of all-I didn’t realize it.
I’m in my new room, and the vibe is everything but comfortable. I realize then where exactly I am, and the implication of what occurs in this type of place facility. Now I know, that I’d better watch my moves. The staff placed me in this room simply to gain an overwhelming sense of control. It was different in the previous domicile where I would get frustrated and yell out at the nurses due to the unbearable irritation as per my circumstance, and they would calmly tell me to go back in the room- accompanied by the cold glare of a security guard. Now, I feel that if my instability reveals itself again, the consequences can and will be dire. The nurses might strap me to that bed in an effort to subdue me and even worse, they might sedate me against my will. I know then and there however, that if someone tries to strap me to that bed and give me the needle, they’re going to have to put their training to work. I will have absolutely no problem cracking a motherfucker (regardless of gender, height, age, etc.) in their damn mouth. I brought myself here and I’ve made no obvious threat against anyone or exhibited a desire to harm myself. Simply put, I’m not having that shit. Period.
The situation itself added to the feeling of mania. I didn’t want to stay here before, and now I know that I desperately need to leave. I make the promise to myself that I will not sleep until I leave the building. In retrospect, that decision only made the hole I was in deeper. But it was necessary. I am not falling asleep on an unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar hospital, inside an all but familiar isolation room. I sat on the cot and thought about what I could do. The door is still cracked. They decided not to shut it which, in the grand scheme of things, is a big deal. So I open it a little more, and I sit on the floor in the doorway.
The nurse who’d been at the desk for the duration of my visit begins to show me compassion. After all I am young, scared, and maintain a disposition that indicates my presence to be out of the ordinary. She informs me that she’s working out my medical information. I never thought to, but I should have asked her to contact my parents. I assume she did though because I didn’t have all of the information she needs and the only other people to provide it would be Mr. and Ms. Fountain. She tells me again I should try to rest. I told her I can’t and on the floor I remain.
For every second I am in this room, I become more and more uneasy by means of an exponential growth pattern regarding the aforementioned sentiment. Along with this odd mixture of fear, anger, and anxiety, I become more and more tired. I figure I would simply wait until a decent hour of the morning, then go home. But that obviously isn’t the case. I wonder what I will or can do to get out of here. Some of these ideas that come to mind are destructive, violent, and unlike anything I would find myself normally doing. I have to remain patient. But the atmosphere is making it difficult.
As I sit and wait for some answers and the next real life Nurse Ratchet, a patient in a room across the hall emerges. He starts walking toward the exit. Before he can get very far, the nurse asks, “Where are you going?” Puzzled, as if she’d asked him the name of the 14th Vice President of the United States, he replied, “I’m going out for a smoke.” The thought that immediately enters my mind is, “why the hell haven’t I done that yet?” Their dialogue provides an upsetting answer. The nurse retorts, “you can’t have one right now, you’ll have to wait. Please return to your room, sir.” Instantly enraged he exclaims, “I was told I have to wait two hours ago! I can fucking tell time!” And as if the curse summoned a force of suppression, a security guard appears to escort him back to his room, still hysterical and in desperate need of nicotine. I couldn’t blame him. He was here before me, and I’m dying for a square.
The incident with the young man opened my eyes to the operation of this ward. If he is correct in the assertion that he’d been waiting on a cigarette for two hours, and is still told he couldn’t have one, it is apparent that those types of privileges are granted at the staff’s discretion. The patients will really doesn’t make a difference. They are running the production, and the nurse continued our scene. She asked with a smile, “can I get you anything to eat?”
It is a loaded question. Here I am, in the psych ward of a hospital ER. I’m not comfortable sleeping here so what makes them think I want to eat there? I am hungry, but I don’t want to read through the hospital menu looking for something I can stomach. I’d been in the hospital with my mother before, and the food was a joke. Not only that, my unstable mind can’t invite the risk of eating something that could have been tampered with or added to for any reason. I continue to do what I have been for upward of six hours now. I wait. Now I find myself tired, hungry, sad, confused, irritated, concerned, and more than anything- uncomfortable. So in my manic state, I decide to investigate. I feel that what is happening to me is somehow wrong or unethical, and if I can gather the evidence of maltreatment in this hospital then reveal it to my parents or anyone else for that matter, this situation will be eradicated.
I look for anything that could get the people involved in my hold up here in trouble. I don’t know what I’m looking for; but I know that when it is something I need, I will recognize it. I take up the nurse’s offer for food. Maybe there’ll be something off about it that will be recognized through smell, taste, or presentation. I start looking around the room. It must be illustrated that there is absolutely nothing in here. No heart rate monitors, no cabinets, no posters, no paint on the walls. I suppose this is necessary to ensure that I won’t make good on my fantasy to grab some object and head for the front door, weaponizing the item if necessary.
The food arrives. Nothing is odd about it. It makes sense now that the nurse wanted me to eat because the sensation of a full stomach might help me sleep. I drink the entirety of the soda, and eat a bite or two of the sandwich. I can’t overindulge in the food due to a desire to maintain my internal promise of staying awake until released. Then, out of nowhere and as if me eating earned me brownie points with the staff, the nurse tells me I am leaving.
I assume I am going home. Finally. I am told my parents were contacted, and are fully aware of my discharge from the hospital. The nurse instructs me to wait, and I’ll be discharged in no time. I am ecstatic. I’ve made it. It’s over. My patience has paid off. But somehow, I still want to look further into my soon to be former environment. So I keep exploring the room. The size of it: wall to wall, ceiling to floor, door to rear. I find myself staring at the bed. For some reason I was kind of surprised there was a pillow as even though it was a bed, it didn’t look proper for sleeping. I pick up the pillow, examine it as though I’ve never seen one before, then proceeded to remove the case. What I found sickened, scared, and confused me.
The pillow read in green marker: We Love Our Nurses! Return For A Reward! I don’t know what this means. I’d never had the experience of being in what I now know as an isolation room. Some institutions call them “quiet rooms”. I had an idea of what went on there, but I didn’t understand the writing. Return for a reward? This is very confusing and I don’t know what to make of it. I can imagine however, that I may be more blissful in an ignorant stupor regarding my discovery.
I gather my few possessions in patient belonging bags. A nurse and security guard walk me out to the parking lot. I am advised that an ambulance will take me home or anywhere else; I just have to speak up during the commute. This is comforting because the best case scenario is heading home to my parents in Denver. I get in the ambulance. Like all else leading up to this, the ambulance is otherworldly. I’ve never been in one before, but it seemed out of the ordinary. There’s a back seat where I sit that’s separated by a thick glass partition. It was only the driver and myself. She fires up the ignition the car. Before any time passes, we’re on the road.
Although I am glad to leave Northern Colorado Medical, I am disgruntled by an observation I just made about the driver. Before I provided her with any directions, she headed for the highway. It seems appropriate because I want to return to Denver, but I can’t shake the feeling that no matter what my wishes are, she already knows the details of our destination.
June fourteenth. Early morning. It’s nearly ninety six hours until my nineteenth birthday and this has been everything but a normal birthday week. It’s hard to get a grip on the sentiment of my recent circumstance, but it certainly is not celebratory. I’m tired. I’m homesick. As complained by many of the children I work with in the present, I want my parents. I just want to go home. But I suspect that desire will not be obliged.
From the moment I stepped into that ambulance, I felt relief. Although the sensation of that feeling was and still is sort of comforting, I find myself with a lack of control. I am bid that all I had to do to dictate the destination is speak up. I can go home. I make the request frankly because I am in absolutely no mood for chit chat. I notify the driver that I want to be taken home. I receive no answer, not even a gesture of eye-contact to indicate a successful transmission of my wishes. I make aware the driver of my address. She returns no answer. She simply continues to drive. Notwithstanding the recent events potentially being an indicator of why I would fight to be heard, I do not protest.
As we ease on down the road, I begin to notice something peculiar. Along side the ambulance while we ride are several assorted SUV’s. The vehicles are a variety of different makes and models, different colors, different destinations, and different drivers. The cars all seem to have a connection. They pilot their automobiles in a motorcade-like fashion. All the drivers eventually made eye contact with me and all of the license plates had some sort of military endorsement. Navy, Air Force, Marines, you name it. In my mind I find them watching me, protecting me, and guiding me to the next phase of a serious situation. I feel guarded and important.
Time passes and I sense the trip is near a conclusion. I did not however, expect a happy ending to this shit storm fairytale. Just as I reach the peak of my cynicism regarding the past X amount of hours, we are finally at a stop. It is not a familiar building, it is in a part of my city that I do not recognize, and most importantly- it doesn’t seem like home. Here and now, I come to find I wouldn’t be going home today, and I didn’t need anyone to dictate that fact to me. If someone were to question the details of my return I’d be without an answer. This i hard to swallow because I’d already been in a worst-nightmare for some, and I made my trip without the love and support of my family. I need to see them soon. This is quickly becoming the predominate wish in my situation.
I exit the ambulance. The fatigue I am experiencing was profound. Many neurologists and physicians can explain much better than I that when a body is deprived of rest for an extended period of time, not only will the mind begin to deteriorate, but the fatigued individual will begin falling into what is called micro-sleep. This is a phenomenon commonly experienced when driving while extremely tired. The eyes can remain open, but the brain sort of checks out. It’s sort of like a car speeding down the street without a driver in it- wildly dangerous. I am weak, vulnerable, and manic. I am in no place to enter this building properly. But based on the demeanor of the driver and other person who met us in the driveway, I don’t have a choice. I came a long way, and there’s no turning back. I didn’t exactly recognize the nature of my surroundings, but I didn’t care. As dictated by the driver and the one man welcome committee, I enter the room and I am not forced.
I am placed in a small room that could be perceived as a basic office. I wait alone for a moment, but not a while. Shortly after I am seated, I am met by a kind lady. She is a doctor who apprises me that she has some questions. Before we started, it is mentioned that I need to sign some paperwork. This is odd. But I don’t care. I sign it all and read not one clause, one disclaimer, or one glance into the meaning of designations like “Certified Patient.” I finish the paperwork feeling accomplished but even more confused; then comes the next evaluation. The doctor asks me similar questions in comparison to my evaluation from the night before. There is however, a subtle difference. She must have already seen my chart from the night before, and attained an idea of where I was at mentally. Even though she asked me what was going on and how I was doing, it is made clear that she already knows.
I’m led out of the room after my brief and unrevealing conversation with the doctor. We head toward an elevator and rode it upstairs. I know, that although I am truly unenlightened in my situation and the place it has driven me, I know I will never forget the layout of this building. It held many qualities reminiscent of a hospital, but something was off. The floor I am led to is the designated location for what the people there refer to as, “Adult Unit One”. Naturally, the only people I see here are eighteen years old or older. All the people in the unit seem like your average people to me. Men, women, and assorted young adults walked about. All with a distinct and unique internal monologue that emanates from their equally distinct visage. To see all these folks is comforting. Being a bit of an extrovert, I find myself most comfortable among people. This eases my anxiety in a major way. I gather that I’m relatively safe, settled, and able to just exist for a moment.
I haven’t looked much into my surroundings beyond its inhabitants simply due to an unrelenting need to sleep. All I know is that there is a desk in the middle of the unit, sort of a bird’s nest for the floor. It’s hard to identify everything or anything else; my profound weariness made visual exploration of the Unit like trying to find a blue M&M in the Pacific Ocean. One of the ladies helps me check in my medical records and such, put on a wristband with my medical ID along with my name and medication to which I am allergic. She then escorts me to a closet for some well needed necessities: scrubs, socks, toiletries, and blankets. I grab what is needed and she shows me to my room. I do not question much about what is going on during the process of being admitted. I owe this mostly to the woman who is assisting me. She is tall, beautiful, and has a smile that is melting away all of the anxiety and uncertainty plaguing my presence and psyche. I mind being here a lot less when she speaks to me, listens to me, keeps an eye out for me. I am quickly made at home. After my past couple days, I could use a little bit of that good old home feeling.
I put down the few things I have and sit on the bed. It must be like I am speaking to the nurse who is with me without an audible utterance. I have not said a word to her; I am in fear of revealing an attraction to her or any other interaction that was undesirable. We sit in silence for a moment. She glances over at me and says, “we’ve still got some stuff for you to do to help us understand what’s going on a bit better. But we can do that soon. Try to get some rest, I’ll wake you up for dinner.” As if she had asked me to perform brain surgery, I said, “okay. I’ll try.” She looks at me with her delicate leer, I reciprocate. Suddenly I am pleasantly drowned by a wave of relief. Just to be shown a bit of kindness and compassion eases my weary mind. As she exits, she remarks, “see you soon!”
It’s as if now I can get some rest. Thank God. I can’t imagine how much more serious these first days will be if I stay awake. I put the sheets on the bed, I crack the door, I lay down. Just to relax my body and mind for a second felt wonderful. I’m coming to appreciate this very moment. Right here, on this bed that’s dressed in plain white sheets that cover a tacky baby blue mattress that sits on a wooden and stationary frame, I can be at peace; even if the sentiment lasts but for a brief instance. At least I am in a place that’s much less threatening at first glance than the last place I’ve been. I lay awake with my eyes closed, doing the best I can to calm down, I feel myself turning inward. I ask my conscious, “Where am I? What is this place even called? Do my parents know where I am? What am I gonna do?” My inner voice, for the first time in my life, did not answer. It is as if it died, and now I must face this experience without any internal power of speech to give warning regarding the future consequences of my present actions. Anyone who has ever experienced mania can tell you about the outrageous influx of thoughts that you’ll have, and when you’re truly trying to get rest, how hard it is to quiet your own mind down. The voices of my psyche remain loud, but there is a subtle difference between this unbearable torment and the power of consciousness. I hear the voice of myself, my family, and most of the people I know. I hear advice, ridicule, criticism, and praise. But then, to intensify this episode, I begin to hear what I am imagining these people are saying now, given they somehow hear of my current affliction. The voices became like a hearing in congress or parliament. A cluster of opposing voices, tones, concepts, and standards clashed until it started to feel like I couldn’t breathe. I begin to breathe heavily and sweat until I am interrupted by a soft and somehow familiar voice. It’s the nurse. That angel who got me to just lay down for a while and take a breather. She said, “come on in to the common room if you’re joining us for dinner!” I softly replied, “thanks. Gimme a sec.” She heads down the hall. I rub my eyes that look like I’ve been losing sleep for years and stand. I move toward the door. My first true experience in this mysterious place is about to take place.
It’s about a day or so since I made the decision to voluntarily submit myself for psychological evaluation. My uncertainty in the time frame stems from a diluted concept of time during the onset of mania. I find myself feeling relatively settled. from what I understand regarding what I’d been told before the ambulance ride, my parents are aware of my present situation; I can expect to see them soon. The combination of meeting the breathtaking nurse who initially assisted me in the process of touching down in a room far more reminiscent of a dorm than a cell happened to warm me up so to speak. My thoughts unhurriedly begin to slow down. The fear and anxiety starts to subside as I truly do not have the energy to project these sentiments either physically or mentally. Not anymore. I exit my room.
I am starving. I’ve reached a point beyond hunger. Physiologically speaking, I’m in an unhealthy state. I make this assertion purely based on the notion that if one can’t recall the last time they really ate, it’s been too long. Before heading to the common area, I want to take a moment to observe. So I do just that. All the other people convened in a gathering place central to the unit. Some smile at me as they pass, some don’t. Some make eye contact with me as they pass, most don’t. Some walked by me without making a sound. Some made it clear they wanted to be heard. Before I know it, everyone has headed to the pre-dinner meeting before me, I still explore Adult Unit I.
My room is built to accommodate two people, but I’m the only one assigned to the room. I like that. The room is equipped with a bathroom, two beds, and a desk. When you enter, there are windows on the back wall, bathroom and beds to the left, and a desk against the right wall. When you walk to the doorway of the room, you are presented with two options. Like many of the options with which I will be presented while here, there is a right one and an option that leads you to a dead end. If you take a right turn out of my room, you’ll walk to the last room on that part of the floor, and a big double door with a camera on the top left corner. If you walk left, you’ll go to the rest of Adult Unit 1. I was in the Co-Ed hall. There are hallways designated to each gender as well. Although some could find this rat maze of a habitat fascinating, I am most alarmed by what I see, and would see right in front of me for weeks to come as I exited my domicile.
There it is- the door. It was not the same color, didn’t have the same handle, and didn’t approximate itself to my room exactly as the door from Northern Colorado Medical Center did. It was still just the same. It was heavy. There was that same window on it. And it was more than obvious that it could be locked from the outside. All that was in that room was a bed. No pillow. Just four walls, a door with an observation window, and a bed. Like the last, it wasn’t made for sleep. And perhaps more daunting than the first door to an isolation room that I ever saw, the window seemed smaller. Right then, I made myself a promise. Just as I watched my step when first put in the isolation room at NCMC, I’ll watch it here. Grimm as it seems, I knew then and there that the only way I would end up in isolation again would require me being removed in a body bag.
I heard the last call for dinner, so I walked down the hall to meet everyone. Oddly enough, the room I arrived in was pleasant at first glance. It would bring unhappy, manic, regrettable memories. But there was a design aesthetic that was easily appreciated in that space. The room was open and had big windows opposite to the entrance. The view overlooked C-470 and the Denver skyline. I felt far from home for the majority of my time there, but at least I can look at the most beautiful city in America. I must have been mesmerized by the view I was enjoying because it took a tantalizing voice to bring me back to the present. The voice called my name, then the question, “are you eating with us?” I turned around and there she was again. The nurse who stole my immediate trust. I replied in the affirmative and went to my place to be led to the cafeteria. After all, at this point wherever this woman was, I wanted to be there too. I stepped into a single file line, and we headed downstairs.
When we arrived at the cafeteria, everyone got trays and remained in line. They knew this process much more than me, so I figured it would behoove me to claim a seat, watch the protocol, then follow. I sat at a table next to the kind woman who brought us down. As much as I was observing the wide assortment of people, I was observing her. Her blonde hair, her beautiful smile, and those eyes that allowed my mind to calm down. She reminded me of Carrie Underwood. I always had a thing for beautiful blonde women, and she fit the criteria to a T. We will provide her with the designation, Nurse A. Appropriate as she was the first nurse I made a connection with it.
She asked, “aren’t you going to eat?” Once again I replied in the affirmative and explained that I’d feel more comfortable getting food after everyone else had gotten theirs. To no surprise, she was understanding. The line died down, so I stepped up. I got my food, and sat back down. I ate like a bird, I was starving, but not for hospital food. I imagined my mother’s native dish lomo, or my father’s exquisite hot wings. Before much time passed I found myself finished, so I put my tray up. Nurse A called out for all of the smokers in the dining room to come get cigarettes for a break. This destroyed me because I didn’t have any, and I desperately needed the calm caress of tobacco. I asked her what the process of getting cigarettes here was. She told me that they would have to be brought to me by a visitor, then they will be added to the collective box of the unit. I asked if I could bum one from another person on the unit. She said, “Sorry, we’re not allowed to do that.” It was upsetting, but not devastating. I returned to my seat, quietly awaiting the opportunity to truly make an attempt to sleep. Just as I sat, Nurse A called my name with that lovely and intoxicating tone of voice. “Donovan” she said, “We were supposed to throw these out when she discharged, but we have some cigarettes a former patient left. You’re welcome to them.” She closed her sentence with a endearing smile as if to say, “I got you.” I took one. And we went outside.
People were talking while we were smoking, but I didn’t hear them. I didn’t care what any of them had to say, it’s been a fucked up few hours. I smoked this cigarette in a fashion that I could imagine a president doing so. I took long drags. I held them long. And I blew that smoke out slow. I did this for a while until I felt the burn of the amber come close to my fingertips as the filter began to flatten. I put it out. Then headed inside. I was light headed and I loved it. Even when negative, a familiar feeling has a way of grounding you when staring in the face of adversity. We headed upstairs. Before I went to my bed, I looked Nurse A in her baby blue eyes and said, “goodnight, thank you.” “My pleasure” she said. And I retired. I climbed into bed and shut my eyes. All of the recent events flooded my mind as I tried to rest. I tossed, turned, got out of bed, got back in, sat up, and laid back down. I laid there for a while. It would have been easy to endure this insomnia if it were just a racing mind prohibiting my slumber. But just as I felt my eyes getting heavy beyond the ability to stay awake, I heard screaming. Clear as day. It couldn’t have been any of the people I had just dined with, no. These were the cries of desperation- from a child.
Although I had arrived to bed this evening at a decent hour, I was prohibited from getting rest. The feeling of being settled drained from my body when I heard the screams of distress from a nearby child. Having experience working with children allowed me to become sort of immune to a child crying, but this was different. A kid will cry for nearly any reason. They will scream, throw a fit, and be overly dramatic; but when their well being is in jeopardy, the outbursts are different and the difference is quite noticeable. The voice I heard was hard to distinguish as a boy or girl. My difficulty in determining this person’s gender tells me that whoever this person is, they are young and they probably shouldn’t be here.
The screams I heard reminded me of something you would hear in the middle of a firefight. The intensity and nature of the outbursts were reflective of a person who was being mistreated. The voice said, “Get your hands off of me! Leave me alone! I’ve done nothing wrong.” As the cries intensified, reached their peak, and began to taper off, I heard the voice begin to call for their parents, their friends, or anyone close who could be of assistance. I couldn’t stand by and listen to this any longer. I have an immense care for children and their well being so my conscious wouldn’t allow me to be an idle bystander to the injustices this mysterious minor endured.
I walked out of my room and headed for the front desk. I realized it was late because there was nobody else exhibiting an awake presence on the unit. This confused me. How could I be the only one hearing this? Maybe the sounds were at a frequency that only my ears could detect. Maybe no one cared. Or maybe everyone else on the unit was in such a deep sleep that no one could hear the cries even if they wanted to. I asked the employees at the desk what was happening. I was told that there was a bit of trouble with another patient in the unit parallel to ours in the building and the disruption would cease in due time. This answer didn’t comfort me. I understood the sentiment they were trying to portray, but I didn’t get an answer regarding the age of the troubled patient or what the trouble was to begin with. I was told to head back to bed. I would have tests to complete in the morning. Whatever. I guess I’ll have to live with the bullshit answer I received from the orderlies. It wasn’t the first weak response I had gotten, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
I reentered my room and laid down. The cries had stopped, but I was still unsettled. If someone that seemingly young could be found in such a state of fear, I could be as well. This made it extremely difficult to sleep. Just as that voice had called for their parents, I began to feel the sentiments of that desire as well. I can’t imagine going through this trial of uncertainty much longer without the support from my parents. I tossed and turned in bed as I made an attempt to decongest the traffic of thoughts that was flooding the highways in my mind. My attempts to clear the madness were futile and before I knew it, morning had come. I was visited by an orderly and was asked to visit a nurse in an exam room for some procedural tests. I wiped the sleep from my eyes and exited the room to oblige the request.
I met a duo of people in the exam room. It was early morning. At least much earlier than I usually find myself up. My fatigue had become less severe as even the ability to lay down and close my eyes served as a form of rest. The orderly and nurse told me they would be taking blood for examination and I was to engage in a skin check. They took the blood. Then I stripped down to my boxers for them to check my skin. They looked for bruises and tattoos. It was a necessary procedure to ensure that my visit there left no mark, at least any that could be seen by the naked eye. Before much time passed, the exam was over. So I exited the room.
By now, the rest of the unit was mobile. People were walking about, some smiling, others talking to each other, but the majority had a look of exhaustion on their face. I couldn’t say I blamed them. I’ve been around not even twenty four hours, and I’m already tired of being here. I started to gather that everything in this building functioned in a routine. All the others had their blood pressure taken, had small talk with the orderlies, and partaken in a cup of mediocre coffee. Suddenly, in the middle of this exhibition of daily occurrences on Adult Unit One, one of the orderlies called out, “Time for group! Everyone head into the common room please!” I watched, still feeling like the new kid on the block as all the other folks converged into the designated group therapy room. I followed them.
I sat in the back of the room as I was still quite ashamed of being in this place to begin with. Everyone had their own story, and unlike the outside world this was very evident. The gentleman who called the routine morning meeting told the group his name, position in the Unit, and how he was feeling from a 1-10. I learned for the first time one of the official designations of an employee on the unit other than nurse. This guy was referred to as a Behavioral Health Advocate or BHA. He told us that any questions that we had about our time here could be directed toward him and he’d gladly be of assistance. Similar to Nurse A, he had a demeanor that was quite friendly, so I felt a bit more comfortable in group. Before I knew it, it was my turn.
My name is Donovan, I’m nineteen years old, and on a 1 to 10 scale I’d say I’m feeling like I’m at a 2 or 3. The BHA asked, “Why so low, Donovan?” I replied, “I don’t know why I’m here, I haven’t been able to sleep, and I need my parents.” The kind gentleman nodded as I spoke and when I finished responded, “I understand, bud. Before the end of the day, I’ll help you with that. Ok?” This put me on cloud nine. Someone was actually going to help me. I was going to have some concrete answers and that would give me some peace of mind. But just as quickly as it came, the state of feeling content diminished.
“Before breakfast” the BHA said, “don’t forget to visit the med nurse for medication.” This initially didn’t worry me because I’d never taken a regimented medication in my life, and didn’t see a need to now. So I began to aimlessly walk around the unit. Sooner before later, the med nurse had seen all of the members of Adult Unit I. All but me. She called my name, and I went to address her. She pulled out a binder with my name on it. She indicated that I had been prescribed several medications. She then asked if I wanted to take them. This was the first time I truly felt I’d been presented with an option. I asked if I absolutely had to take them. The nurse said no. So without much thought, I refused to take medication. I knew I had something going on, but not something I needed to prevent or cure with medications. I would realize later, that the exercise of this basic patient right would keep me in this place for much longer than necessary.
June 16th. It is about 72 hours until my 19th birthday. My mind is cluttered with irrational ideations regarding my current circumstance. I am not sure of where I am, but I am beginning to revert to a behavior I engaged in while at NCMC. As I did there, I begin to investigate. I am still unsettled by the things I heard during the first night of my stay, so I am starting to look for answers. What is this place? Who was that child? What happened that made them feel so afraid, so distressed, so helpless? As with most of the questions I will come to ask now, I direct my inquiries to the BHA’s. We just had breakfast and are enjoying one of four daily smoke breaks. I look over at the gentleman who presented the notion of assisting me with the task of building an understanding of my current predicament.
I ask what I am doing here. He replies, “You’re on an M-1 hold.” My confused facial response gives heed to him elaborating. “It’s a 72 hour hold” he added. “You’ll be evaluated by a Dr. here and he or she will determine when you will discharge.” This news is disconcerting, but valuable. At least I know now how long I should expect to be here. I drag my cigarette one last time, then rub it back and forth against the warm concrete to put it out. I place the butt in the designated receptacle, and head inside.
It is summertime, and I find that being in a place where I can’t freely go outside to be depressing. The inability to breathe the hot Rocky Mountain air, to hear the sound of a birds wings supporting it’s flight, to see flowers happily taking in the sun all calls to me in a major way. I know this call will get louder and more distinct as my stay will continue. One thing is made certain today, I should be home for my birthday. We arrive back on the Unit and all of the inhabitants dispersed. I go to the desk and ask when visitation time would occur- if at all.
My eyes are met by those of yet another soft and stunning woman. “Visitation occurs tomorrow from 5-6 PM.” She says quite wonderfully. The match of the tone in her voice with a precious smile adorning a goddess-like face she keeps brushes into me. Her aura is like a beacon of heavenly glow. It feels odd to gather myself in a place with such a profound wealth of gorgeous women. Nurse A had captured me during my intake, but this new orderly has her own specific and unique allure.
I am going to see my parents tomorrow. This news makes me ecstatic. Seeing my folks will surely enlighten my current mindset. I’m more than excited. Given the recent happenings I can expect for my mood to get much better than this; but quickly, this truly breathtaking dame asks, “are you going to participate in the afternoon group? The unit either goes to the courtyard or indoor gym. There’s basketball and other fun stuff. I think you’ll enjoy yourself.” I tell her, “I’d love to.”
An insignificant amount of time passes while I get lost in the orderly’s provocative gaze. Sooner before later I hear a call from one of the staff members and get into a single file formation as practiced during breakfast. Role was called, then the unit departed. Today we are heading outside. As with my first experience venturing out into the courtyard for a smoke break, I notice the large and intimidating walls that outline the yard. The kind that makes the idea of attempting to scale it to gain freedom quite daunting.
I take a moment to appreciate and indulge in the fantastic pleasures of Mother Nature. I feel the warm embrace of the sun press its intoxicating touch against the back of my neck. I tilt my head back in a motion of praise for this beautiful world I live in. I see birds exercising their magnificent aviary talents in the mile high atmosphere. Rabbits run about fancy free, looking for their next adventure. Bouquets of flowers in the courtyard dance in the relieving breeze. This is summer. No wonder people ache for it so badly during the barren and gray winter months. Suddenly breaking me from my time of mystified reflection, I am passed a basketball. All of these recent experiences have been quite foreign, but this is familiar.
I catch the ball. The tactile sensation of palming that sporty material brought me back to a simpler time. A time when I would play games in my cul de sac as a child, exercising my childhood expertise in the field of fun until I had to go to bed. This feeling of nostalgia is ecstasy. And I’m not awful at basketball, so now could be a good time to display some skill. This place doesn’t feel like prison, but I am receiving looks of hostility from other people on the unit. Perhaps draining a couple of deep threes was just the activity I needed to instill the understanding that although I’m young, I’m not to be fucked with.
I do so. I dribble, set, fire, score. I go a few more times. What’s beautiful about this sport is that there is sort of a dance that goes along with successful play. The movement, the grace, the mindset it takes to play this game can truly make a man an artist. That is how I feel. As any true artist, I heard an array of criticisms and praise. Some of the male members of the ward make snide remarks. My attention is grasped however, by the comments of the beautiful nurse and the orderly she was partnered with.
I finished playing, and she tells me, “you’re very good! Did you ever play in high school?” I say, “not at all.” “Well you probably could have” She replies with a truly engaging smile. I thank her and sit beside her to catch my breath. The feelings that have been predominate in my recent psyche are nothing like what I’m feeling now. Instead of feeling paranoid, anxious, and distressed I find myself enjoying a feeling I’d been recently deprived of- admiration. I felt appreciated, admired, and over all I truly felt desirable. Even the idea of being wanted is comforting. Before I know it. Recess is over, and the class heads inside.
The gorgeous orderly who first offered me the gift of exercise gives me some necessities for a shower that I now desperately need. I thank her, and head to my room. I close the door for the first time. Strip. Then get in the shower. As I wash, I hear the women at the desk. The remarks I hear remind me of some school gal conversation in a high school cafeteria. They’re talking about me. And it all seems everything but professional. Something feels uneasy though. Sometimes when I’m in the shower I talk out some of my thoughts. Not audibly, just an exercise involving mouthing out my internal monologue in an ultra soft whisper.
What unsettled me was that I can hear the nurses react to what I say. Can they actually hear me? Am I talking that loud? Is the door open? All of these questions enter my mind as I truly feel my privacy is being invaded. I’m not sure what’s is happening so I turn off the shower. I get dressed and the voices stop. I am confused. What is happening? Then a thought popped into my head. What if they can see me in here? I couldn’t be sure but I had to test it. I stood in the most center point in the room and waved. I waited after getting no immediate response. Then I tried again. The result was terrifying. As soon as my hand stopped moving, as clear as day, I hear one of the orderlies say, “Hi!”
Same day in the afternoon, I find myself dressed and sitting on my bed: petrified. The incident that has just occurred has successfully shaken me. If I am not mistaken, I have just been watched, observed in perhaps one of the more raw activities people perform on a regular basis. To make matters worse, the alleged perpetrators are all women; albeit the only words I know I heard came from a lady’s tongue. I am beginning to gather the feeling of violation. An example of emasculation not because of my bodily esteem, but by means of being examined like a specimen. A rat in a maze. The rat is not expected to escape the barriers of a terrarium. They instead are expected to eat, to make use of the body in some way, and most importantly- to behave
in a normal fashion. And like any true scientific test, there is a concoction engineered specifically to restore said normal state if it is not being embodied by the rat.
Not much time is passing. It is a sort of thick grasp the shock of a recent occurrence holds in the effort to pull time backward, slowing the seconds for the present. I imagine there is an interesting connection between this phenomena and the sensation of smoking. When you smoke, the grasp is on the other side of this game of tug of war among lapses in time that present seems to be losing. The strong force represented in the act of smoking tends to push an instant in the other direction. A smoker lives quicker both literally and figuratively, and they live in the moment. Part of mania seems to be an odd combination of both, with heavy traces of slowed time precipitated by living too quickly. Perhaps I can learn one day to implement balance into my life by making sure both sides of this competition wins. But it will involve me fighting and being defeated from both sides, making it obvious which juncture I prefer to place my psyche in. There’s one thing for sure, I need to find out just what the hell is going on. After all, I may feel upset and mistreated due to the nature of this ordeal; but like any decent person, these feelings transform into frustration.
As I begin to stand, a male orderly knocked on my door. The portal opened with no virtual resistance, as if it was ever so slightly unlatched. Eerily funny it is, how I assured myself the opening had been closed before by my doing. I suppose the door can’t ever really be closed due to a need to maintain control. Who knows when the time will come where someone may have to reach into my habitation and remove me? It seems best to leave it open for everyone to see and
hear. Or maybe cracked to provide a make-shift sense of privacy. The orderly asserts that the pre-dinner group therapy session is to commence within the next few minutes. If I am to participate in the group and in turn go to dinner, my presence will be required soon. Notwithstanding my shaken state, I oblige this order. The gentleman gave the order was a very regimented sort of fellow. His demeanor indicates an ex-military mindset which seems to be fitting for an institution that commonly finds its operation far from being in apple pie order.
I exit my room. I walk about the hallway that connects all the destinations of the floor. The idea of passing the women who’ve just succeeded in humiliating me was daunting. I find myself proceeding slower and much more conspicuously than I ever have here. When I arrive to the central location on the unit, I find that none of the women I had pegged as suspects are around. The orderlies working are unfamiliar; the alteration is an indication of a shift-change in the workplace. Just as I begin to make myself acquainted with the new faces presented, I see the BHA’s and Nurses from today’s lunch and earlier activities exiting. Nurse T and her beautiful colleague (for whom I now have no designation assigned) convene toward the vicinity
of the unit’s exit. Nurse T swipes a card by a reader next to the door to unlock it. As she makes her way through the exit, she turns and grabs my attention with her bright eyes. She offers a smile. I return the gesture. At this moment, the feeling of violation begins to depart. I revert back to the sentiment of maintaining a desirable presence. Her allure calls to me in this instance as all I can see in her eyes is a passion that I have only experienced a few times in my short life. I suppose it can be said now that perhaps the notion of being watched by this woman wasn’t the very worst thing. I’m drawn to her; and by the way she pressed her intoxicating regard toward me, the feeling was mutual- although possibly shallow. From this moment on, it feels like when I look at her there will only be one emotion occupying my mindset: lust.
My confused but enamored state precipitates a mindless wander into the group room. I sit down toward the back of the room, staring out the back window parallel to the BHA speaking. The magnificent Denver skyline is graced with a majestic array of brilliant hues from the clouds and sun that provide a true sight for sore and psychotic eyes. I am lost in the breathtaking vista and the equally sincere thoughts that stemmed from my most recent experience. There is not much to be said now about how I feel regarding my current predicament. It doesn’t matter much I suppose. All I realize is the fact that Nurse T is exquisite. It would be a lie to say that I don’t admire her in a major way. Her poise has excellent splendor, she carries the voice of a soul that has received love through its whole existence, and it goes without mention that her beauty and appeal is like that of a truly irresistible dame. A twentieth century Cleopatra, a present day Audrey Hepburn, a girl next door who makes sleeping in the neighboring abode (knowing her seemingly perfect body, mind and soul rests but a stones throw away from you) nearly impossible. I don’t know what will have to occur for me to engage this combination of want and need for her further, but whatever it is- it shall be done.
I find that this strong feeling possibly emerges from an experience I had a couple months prior to the present. I was at college wrapping up my freshman year and was invited by a mutual friend of my immediate circle of peers to attend a birthday party. The time was perfect. School is out. Winter’s bundling layers of female attire are shed. The beers are cold. Everyone is feeling an overwhelming sense of relief by finishing the year. This collegiate climate presents a perfect opportunity to hang out. I was summoned to this celebration by a female friend of mine on campus. A true character, she embodies the lifestyle of a student who is truly living it up. She tells me we might be going to her girlfriend’s birthday party. I asked her who’s party it was, and she indicated that we have had lunch in the dining hall several times with the lady in question. I mentioned that I thought she was quite friendly, and also very well spoken. My friend responded
by telling me that she’s single, and perhaps a good word could be placed on my part. I happily accepted this proposition and planned on my attendance.
Before I knew it, the night of the party had come. The group consists of a couple of cats from a residence hall close to mine on campus, the mutual female friend, and myself. We went with the intention of all the other party goers there- to get down. We arrive to the party and see all of the classic signs of a college house party. Girls on the front stoop search desperately for a ride from some less then willing boys. A crowd gathers in the backyard to engage in some cigarette smoking and friendly banter. And the most common feature: a loud but somehow muffled cacophony of party sounds erupts from the entrances, windows, and walls. This is my scene. I’m more than comfortable. I find myself with the soothing companionship of a well deserved beverage and join the party. Soon enough, my lady friend pulls me aside. We haven’t seen her girlfriend yet, but we both know that the anticipation of this re-introduction is killing me. She tells me, “I talked to my homegirl earlier. She thinks you’re cute and is very glad you’re here.” This news provides me with a unique sense of swagger to walk about with. The compliment is lovely and well placed. The corresponding fantasies of tonight’s possibilities with this beautiful young woman excites me. I have to see her, so we do just that. My friend and I enter the house. It doesn’t take long to identify the birthday girl in her enthralling condition. Partygoers engage in their own respective conversations, but the overall vibe of the evening is focused on this gorgeous young woman, just as it should be.
My wing-lady and I approach her. Even in a place now where racking my brain for the most simple information and concepts is intolerable and unsuccessful, I can still see her fantastic countenance. The long brown hair she had wonderfully arranged graciously rested on her back,
offering a striking juxtaposition between her fairy tale curls and splendid figure. She sports an apposite floor-length sun dress.This festive garb played the instrument of her womanly curves with an ardent resonance. To say quite simply- she is glowing. She says kindly, “Hi Donovan! It’s great to see you, thanks for coming!” The gal finishes this remark by giving me a kind embrace. I reply. “ It’s nice to see you too. And it’s my pleasure. Thanks for the invitation!” This initial conversation is short, but I get the feeling that there will be another, quite soon. I retreat outside for a cigarette. Sometimes when presented with such an excellent presence such as hers, I find it necessary to take a moment to relax and reflect.
No time seems to pass (as it never does when one is truly enjoying themselves) and I am met by the enticing twinkle in her smile. I offer her a cigarette. She says she’d rather drag mine a few times than have her own, quite the classy method of flirtation. We engage in some basic small-talk. I remark that I am studying to teach elementary school; she is studying to be a journalist- perhaps a news anchor or correspondent. With that smile, I can’t picture a better suited candidate. I hate watching the news, but I think her ravishing facade could bring a beacon of light to the darkest of tragedies. We talk a bit more: mentioning age, interests, and current dating circumstances. We come to meet on the common ground that both of us are single, ready to mingle, and are not placing any emphasis on trying to turn a friendly occurrence of the present into a serious connection for the future. I took joy in an opportunity to just be friendly with a friendly girl. We conclude this outdoor tete-a-tete with a quick back and forth concerning our respective ages. She is turning twenty tonight. Being the tender age of eighteen I offer her a compliment in the format of asserting that she’d make a fine cougar in the college dating scene. She laughs and exercises her beautiful simper. There’s one thing being made obvious- we are enjoying each other’s company, and it seems that neither of us wants this engagement to cease. She informs me that she must return to playing host. I understand fully. “I’ll come find you in a while. Cool?” she says. I retort, “Absolutely. See you in a while.” She returns inside. I hear her being greeted by the cheers and celebratory greetings typically received on a birthday. I like this girl. This is going to be a lovely night.
I shoot the breeze with some gentlemen I’d met at another party, somewhere in town, and sometime in the past. We speak to the issues plaguing the lives of many a college student. We discuss the concept of going into debt for something that if one goes without, they will be greatly disadvantaged. The struggle of maintaing a healthy balance between youth-driven fun and adult routine is spoken about. Our panel of students also speaks to the growing need for understanding regarding the college student’s next step in their life picture. Questions like, “Where am I going? What the fuck am I going to do with a degree in philosophy? And how am I going to establish appropriate fiscal habits when I can barely keep a dollar in my pocket at this moment?” are asked. The main inquiry seems to involve the need for a clear direction and destination. Everyone is wondering where they’re going- a question that occupies the minds of countless people. Some seek out their calling, their purpose, and their future legacy for their entire lives.
As this enlightening conversation dwindles down, I begin to think back to the real reason I’m here. The birthday girl. Just as it’s time to look about for her, my wing-lady calls me in for the singing of a ceremonial birthday jingle and some corresponding drinks. I follow her into the house and into the living room to find her breathtaking girlfriend. She stands next to her roommates wearing an excited dimple. She blushes by influence of the sometimes overwhelming attention received during the celebration of a birthday. The shy look is adorable on her. I see myself getting lost in this kind lady’s features. The song is sung and a toast is made. The birthday girl takes the love and admiration from her friends and loved ones with a grace like that of
the princess and actress by the last name, Kelly.
A wise party patron turns on some music. Being the music junkie I am, I ask the lady of the hour if she’d care to dance. She accepts. We take a spot on the living room floor and proceed to trip the light fantastic. I had learned in our earlier chat that she is on the dance team for varsity sports at our university. So it is to no surprise that this young lady is quite aware of her allure, and she knows just how to make use of it. While the previous encounters of the night allowed me to take a glimpse into her persona and charm, this dance allowed me to admire one of her most valuable assets- her body. She’s shapely. Not like one of those (slip through an air vent on the floor) supermodels you see in a magazine. She has something much more special and arresting. She possesses the body of a truly healthy and ravishing young woman. Her curvaceous frame reminds me of the revolution America experienced by the uprising of self-affirmed, confident, and passionate women. A modern day Rosie the Riveter. But most prominent now, I see that she is quite the dancer. I can’t help but feel turned on by her amorous charisma.
The song ends. By means that are not important whatsoever, we find ourselves and a couple friends in her room downstairs. We rap with each other a bit, both literally and figuratively. I had gained a bit of a reputation as an MC on campus, and another gentleman who engages in the multifaceted craft of Hip-Hop was present. We traded rhymes and enjoyed each others friendly colloquy. Over this period, some substances are passed around. Not herb, but other substances. Those which I find myself gracefully not partaking in while refusing to pass judgment upon anyone who does- including this sensational girl. Her use intrigued me. She was quite the reserved type during the first times we had met before this night. I saw a calm and resolute demeanor in her, but not one of timidness whatsoever. Getting to see her on a bit of an adventurous side was, to be frank, very sexy. I know I have a wild side, and it’s great to see someone else’s. Sooner before later, the conversation had died a bit, and people began to gain interest elsewhere. Our gathering prepared to exeunt when I recognized my chance to make a pass at her. After all the small and not-so small indications displayed this evening, I had to give it a chance.
Maybe two minutes pass and it’s just her and I, in her bedroom, on her birthday. I had gotten her to fall back from the migration upstairs by informing her that I did indeed bring her a birthday present. She graciously accepted the proposal of bestowal and remained in my company. I instructed her to take a seat at her desk with her eyes closed. While sexually depraved scoundrels could take this bidding to be crude, I took the opportunity to take the night back to a middle school type of atmosphere. She obliges my injunction and takes her place. I look at her beautiful face. I love the look of a girl when her eyes are closed. Peaceful, trusting, and gentle. All sentiments that I received very well. I took a deep breath and asked her in a resilient utterance if she was ready. She replied like a child awaiting what is understood to be a sweet surprise. “Ready”, she says innocently. I stand from my seated position on her bed, grab the arm rests of her chair, and lean in. I kiss her softly; doing the best to exhibit my wish to be perceived as a kind and very lucky gentleman.
Somewhat like the Allies’ invasion of Normandy, my sort of half-baked plan was a success; and their seems to be no sign of figurative decay to the foundation of formality, friendship, or respect. She kisses me back. No. She reciprocates in a much more grown-up fashion, at least in comparison to my act that was oddly reminiscent of something you’d find at a Sadie Hawkins formal. I did so to reveal my utmost respect for her sweet heart, her body, and her company. I find that it was appreciated.
I collect myself under her on the bed, fully clothed. I will never forget how she placed her body with mine. The fashion by which she sat on my lap was conventional, but the placement of her
legs was memorable. She leaned on me, pelvis to pelvis. Her knees faced me and the lower portion of her legs pointed toward the edge of the bed. She slides her feet between the lower portion of my legs, the top part of which touches a spot just below my knees. It’s a position that can only be put in to play for one purpose: leverage. She moves her head down on my torso, kissing my chest. All the while I get the sensation of her smooth and wondrous hair on my neck and upper body.
She has the sensual persona of a celestial being. All of her moves and techniques are well placed, received, and perfectly executed. Slowly, as if it were to put a damper on the current happenings, she brings her titillating lips to my ear. She whispers, “we can’t have sex tonight. I’m sorry.” Many people reading into the situation would see the statement as a downer. I can’t. I’m lost in the sensation of just being around her. As cheesy as it may sound, I don’t care. I just want to be where she is tonight. I tell her, “That’s cool.” She displays a expression of relief and says, “Cool.” We kiss.
As I gather myself imagining the fantastic climax of this interaction, my fantasy is disturbed by the blank and regimented call of an elder. “Donovan” he says. “If you’re eating with us, please go line up,” I reply with an affirmation based on respect and gratitude for the orderly’s capture of my attention. I stand and exit. As I walk and new thoughts begin to refresh my mind from the focused reminisce, I know that I’ll never forget that refined and dignified young lady. It’s may be the first time she’s merged into the interstates of my sense, but it certainly will not be the last.
Just as I find myself enjoying the current circumstance, I am returned to reality. It’s dinner time, and the BHA in charge was leading the migration to the cafeteria. As per the most recent interaction with this orderly, I couldn’t help but recognize his military-minded demeanor. This intricate yet straight-forward persona deserves a fitting designation. I suppose it would be easy to remember him by a ranked moniker, Sergeant Sanity. He stands tall and gives a call. Adult Unit One is mobile yet again. The inhabitants of the facility are led, directed, and counseled by the Sergeant. He possesses qualities that remind me of my family. He is stern, respectable, not always approachable, but possessed a smile that was quite friendly. I come to find that he often makes jokes with my fellow subjects in an effort to implement a soft and more comfortable atmosphere to a rather dreary and disconcerting institution. His efforts are praised by both the human specimens and the orderlies. However, no matter how charismatic a person is or isn’t for that matter, not everyone will respect them, appreciate them, or claim to like them. The Sarge to me appears to be a stand-up guy. He is passionate about his work and he is not required to put forth much effort to prove the fact. His dedication provides me with a sense of security, calmness, and a sentiment that has been foreign to me in my current predicament -familiarity. I find all of these notions necessary for survival; that is, for the time I’m here.
Sooner before later, we are at the cafeteria door. I stand first in a single-file line of which in we are arranged; subsequently, I held open the door for the other involuntary patrons. The Sergeant commended me for the gesture and instructed me to fall in. As per my last experience in this room, I waited for everyone to get their courses and take their seats before I did so myself. The Commanding BHA is adjusting the tables and seats in order to create a clear pathway from the eating area to the courtyard, entrance to and from the mess hall, and back to the Unit. I offer him some assistance that is gratefully accepted. I move the last couple of chairs and tables to their respective places and positions. “Thank you” says the Sergeant. I reply with a welcoming visage as I take my seat, “Sure.”
By now, the majority of the community is seated with their meals, with the exception of a few stragglers that is. The Sergeant’s co-worker is correcting a woman who must have put ten packets of sugar in her coffee. I imagine there’s no caffeine in the brew, so it’s necessary to jazz up the jolt of the dull java to truly attain a stimulating effect. Another man was disorderly, and the state manifested itself in the context of cleanliness. He spilled and dropped food left and right. After a while, I imagine he will soon require a bib, sippy cup, and perhaps one of those bowls that is centered and positioned on a stabilizing axis so as not to release its contents. As I look at this guy, I begin to recognize a previous scenario in which he was present. It was when the Unit made an excursion to the courtyard. He made some sort of snide remark at a frequency that he supposed only his ears could detect. This could have been precipitated by jealousy, discontent, intolerance, or perhaps a combination of all three which causes him to make rude comments. It doesn’t make a difference to me anyhow. I am living plagued by difficulties stemming from the task of attempting to manage my own trials and tribulations. I have no time to waste by paying mind to this scraggly motherfucker.
I gave the scrub a final glance then stood to go retrieve my dinner. The only problem is that I suffer from a certain kind of hunger that food can not, will not, and should not alleviate. A certain special something is needed to satisfy my internal famine. The last foray I took into the world of yesteryear leaves a simple yet eloquent and vital desire within me. This feeling, if ignored, will erupt from my very being; I fear what the corresponding consequences of such an explosion will be, how it will feel, how it will sound, and quite importantly- how it will be perceived. To be frank, I’m dying for companionship. The tactile sensation of laying beside a lover, bodies connected, so close one would swear they hear their partner’s heart beating is something I desperately need; this connection I require is inspired not only by my needs as a man, but simply as a human being. However, this feeling of being with someone who provides you with comfort can also be applied to various relationships. Many men can think of a time that their father embraced them, consoling the frustrations of becoming familiar with healthy manhood. Personally, one person who could always calm me down and give me a sense of security is my mother. I would lay my head on a pillow that rests upon her lap. She would softly, and in true motherly fashion stroke my hair while she told me, “You’re gonna be fine, sweetheart.” Interestingly enough, all of these aspirations of togetherness do not involve sex. The fact is peculiar as I find myself in an age and mental state that ponders said subject often.
More than anything, I suppose I just want to have that feeling of being held. I want the feeling of holding someone else. The tangible commotion of being loved and having the opportunity to give love completely removes the pressure and stigma surrounding sex. In the imagined scenarios of intimacy, you grasp onto your loved ones, lovers, and others during this magical connection. I can not think of a noun, a problem, or an idea that could be more pertinent than the sense of admiration and care demonstrated by two gentle people. What is truly beautiful is that these forms of love are unique but happen to posses standards that are common to them all. The love a father has for his son differs from the love a mother has for her son and a woman has for her man. But they all involve the notion of taking care of someone. To let a person truly live as themselves in your presence. To have a respect and regard for a person that is uncompromising. These are the very things I need, and if they are not received, I will surely fall further into this downward spiral of unwavering psychological dysfunction.
Before much time passes, our allotted meal time has expired. Meanwhile, Sergeant Sanity rises from his post among the congregation of crazies to make an announcement. He quickly marauds the attention of the Unit and says, “anyone who’d care for a fresh-air break may get in line and follow me into the courtyard to do so. The collection of non-smokers walk into the courtyard, following the leader as directed. That gang exits, and the rest of the nicotine-addicted adult unit remains within the confines of the mess-hall, impatiently awaiting our opportunity to go and experience our saving grace of relaxation in this domicile: which is everything but comfortable or even tolerable.
In the interim of alternate breaks between the members of our adult unit: a fly on the wall, a bird fluttering along the pane of an exterior window-highlighted in the sun’s majestic beams, or perhaps a simple orderly in her designated seat can be witness to the profound restlessness the Unit exhibits in this short yet thorough instant. It is commonly known among folks who are afflicted by tobacco addiction that after sex and during vehicular travel, post-dinner cigarettes are perhaps the most wonderful pastime of this consumption rooted counterculture. The remaining Unit desires the chance to smoke and I can not blame them; to exercise the virtue of patience, I stand and walk to the coffee dispenser. Not for Joe, but for hot water to be paired with tea.
I scan the nearby teabag container for a desirable evening refreshment. The first single-serving package to capture my exhausted eye is produced by a Colorado native brand. The package is adorned with an affable grizzly bear, sleep-wear clad garnished with a relaxed and calm countenance. The brand’s particular endorsement remarks an ability to assist the consumer to sleep, at an appropriate time. The beverage reminds me a lot of my father, as it’s one of his favorites. My old man tends to struggle with insomnia due to the nature of his work. This occupation of his produces a cacophony of distracting and unsettling thoughts which naturally prohibit him from settling into slumber. Seemingly, he will toss and turn in his cot without it, so the tea has truly become an important part of his nightly regiment. I turn to the drink for a similar need. My mind has become an institution in and of itself and I am a lone prisoner. Like most institutions including psych wards and D.O.C.’s, it is quite difficult to put the mind at ease and get some rest, so I drink away, hoping and praying that I will be knocked out for the evening count.
As I get lost in the wonders of hot tea therapy, the time for smokers to enjoy the sweet embrace of their cylinder-shaped security blanket has come. Sergeant Sanity leads the deranged out the rear door. The congregation convenes to the courtyard for what the Unit Commander refers to as, “Smoke and Joke”. The beauty of this preparation via phrase is the sense of wonder as to what exactly this activity means. A similar sentiment surrounds the anticipation of most activities in this place, I find. A minute or two passes and I find myself outside, with a cigarette gracefully bestowed upon me (negating the parameters set by the facility in the first place), and an unwavering curiosity that has me quite anxious to see what is in store.
Our tobacco products are lit, the unit is calmed, and I find myself gazing at the Sergeant, awaiting instruction or direction for the aforementioned smoke and joke. The Sergeant looks at the congregation and remarks that this is perhaps the most free time we can enjoy on the unit. No predisposed notions regarding patient participation or instruction either. We are here to be in the moment, to simply enjoy ourselves, and over all- to make each other smile. This jubilant emotion can be cultivated through songs, blissful, reminisce, and of course- jokes. The Sergeant looks upon us and says with an ardent tone, “Anyone have any jokes? Songs? Good Stories?” A gentleman raises his hand to speak, finally an opportunity for some comic relief.