Locked up

I’m not sure if I have a predisposition to insanity.

Or if it was my desperation for an alternative to the hetero-normative capitalist patriarchy that sought an alternative in my physical body

Or the weed I smoked with my girlfriend at the time.

Or the eastern spirituality course I enrolled in, with the beneficiaries of a colonial system in my country, (rich white people). I was a vegetarian at the time. I meditated religiously. I did my daily ritual. Plus group meditation. I volunteered at an NGO. I hadn’t smoked weed in a month.

The course opened with, “Through your mind in the bin, only once it was empty can it be filled. The Guru is your trashcan.”

My first week in hospital was spent in the emergency room. There weren’t enough beds. There were a limited amount of chairs for patients like me to sleep in. We took turns. It didn’t smell nice.

It was late. I hadn’t slept, this is normal during psychosis.A Muslim woman shared her KFC with me one night. I didn’t eat meat at the time, but savoured her kindness. I ate that battery chicken like it was communion. I think that’s how people in the past ate meat. Like it was holy.

Eventually I was put in a ward. They cramped extra beds into the small room and a security guard watched over us. I scared her with accusations of maltreatment and overcrowding and threatened to report her to the authorities.

All of us were put into the Emergency room.

The friendship I make in the cuckoo nest always seem the most sincere. We look after each other in our most vulnerable state. But I forget their names.

One girl there longed to leave the psychiatric ward of the hospital and be taken to the mental institution. She had been before. You get breaks to smoke. Which is great. She lost her child and hears voices telling her to kill herself. She wants help.

Another girl, both desperate and mad, combed her hair with the toilet brush because it was unruly. She explained that Lil Bow Wow was her boyfriend. We had a very practical conversation of how she could get hold of him on the internet.

Med Students in the emergency ward were belittling. Doctors brushed us off. They needed us to be taken to the psych ward just as much as we did.

There, the psychiatrists were cold. I don’t blame them. My stint into the ether, is their bread and butter. I stared at them as their wrote, measuring me against their textbooks. I wondered if we served their intellectual need to understand their own minds or to ease the emotional turmoil that we projected. I didn’t know if they were angels, hardened at the front line or self-pitying demons searching for a sign of redemption.

It was a mixed ward. Which was scary at night. Again in the ward, I had a chair for a bed. The toilets didn’t have doors. But we could have visitors.

I got treats. Colouring-in books and sweets. I shared it. I gave my shoes away to someone that didn’t have… I would do this every time I was institutionalized. A common act of crazy.

My mother with her own set of emotional ills, was distant. I wanted her affection. I refused to ever leave my prison unless I got it. Eventually I did. Which I think forced me into her heart in a way that hurt her, and didn’t allow me to stay there for long.

One of the guys was on a hunger strike. He wanted to go to mental institution. No one had been sent since I got there. Another time, when I was admitted into psych ward at another hospital, Groote Schuur we were shipped off every 3 days. I don’t know if this is because things had been improved in a year since I was first institutionalized or if it was because of the difference in hospitals. Groote Schuur was a much easier hell to be in.

Eventually they admitted him. I, now with my mother cracked and enough meds in me to realize how shit things were around me; told the nurse-mother- who was a nun, that I had tried out drugs and would never do it again and that I was so sorry. I was lying for the first time since being there.

She looked at me with kindness and discharged me.

A few months later, I was in Long Street, a trendy street in the middle of the Cape Colony. I was well dressed, smoking a cigarette on the road with a cool friend of mine and when homeless guy selling weed, called me by name. It was him.The hunger strike dude. He was happy to see me. And I was embarrassed. And awkward. And surprised. And happy to see him too.

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He didn’t want any part of my sanity. He came up to me smiling, those lovely movie leading man smiles, and when he got close enough, and I wasn’t able to say “what’s up” yet, he punched me in the face. I didn’t resist. I said I have ten dollars. He said I have a bag for you. I said that’s a nice cat you have with you. He said I don’t see no cat on me. I said I fell in love with my mother, and I want to be with her at night, and she wouldn’t know it’s me. He said likewise. He was stingy; far from giving a little extra, he scraped some off of me.

He said you need time off. I said this is my time out, I’m free. He said you need time off of your body, and weed isn’t going to help you at all.

I said I won’t smoke it, I’ll send it down the drain. He said you don’t have the money to spare.

I told him I knew and we both stared at each other meaninglessly for a second.

Is this a dream, I asked him. Did I never leave the ward? Am I still there now. In my head visions, real visions, of my hospital bed began to appear. Sure signs of crazy? Or was I really there.

Then I felt another punch.

Stop it he said. Thank God it was real. I wasn’t in hell. I was out of hell and into a new hell. He was there with me.

You don’t have money but you need a way out. Real out. True out. Not weed out and no outside of hospital out.

Mr. hungerstrike handed me bag.

This will get you out he said. Stop you from falling in love with your own crazy Mom. This bag is yours.

Is it as good as last time? I asked.

Not sure. I haven’t had any. Tonight I’ll try. You may join me.

I knew where he lived but I didn’t have his address. I visited him once for similar reasons.

Guess I will.

I reflected on my past journey but could not envision the end goal. There was no scrap of memory of his home, nor the road leading to it. Years ago I had caught glimpse of him staggering away from the facility, and then it was all an inky smear until I emerged in the smoky stink of his one room apartment, sitting on a threadbare couch and shifting ever so often to avoid the poke of springs.

I knew the way to his house only by muscle memory and so I set off. My feet upon stumbling over the cracked pavement on 8th street knew to swerve left into the alleyway. And then my hands reached without me, away from me, for the first wrung of the fire escape ladder by right ear. As I frightened the babysitter of the 3rd floor apartment and made the toddler in her arms babble with delight, I realised with a jolt that I had forgotten to acquire a housewarming present.

As I fell into the feline mindset and wondered if I should catch a rat somewhere near, for I know they would be plenty, he opened the door. He didn’t want me to be there. What do you want? He said to me. I decided to be ruthless. I did not want to let him escape the fact that we once belonged to the same institution and mind. I didn’t want him to forget that he was once a part of my madness, and my his. He did not have the right to escape while I could not. This is not psychosis. People are just afraid of such extreme difference to tolerate it. I am sure.

I said, I am sure you live in hidden wealth. Come on, what’s behind the wall? Do you have a lot of cash stashed? Do you pay them to keep you out, are you on some sort of mental parole? Why are you out at all? Why can’t you stay in like I did? They let me out now as well.

He decided that I needed a friend and offered to smoke with me.