More journal. No hedgehogs today.
June 1, 1992, 11:25 a.m.
I got a new roommate today. Her name is Marissa, and she’s not from this plane. She’s from the Seventh Galaxy! Her soul originated there. Her apartment is filled with evil demons. And she was locked up for centuries because of heresy! The inquisitors wore black robes and hoods!
She has these really freaky drawings on her desk, along with several sheets of yellow paper, on which is written what I wrote above.
Same day, 8:48 p.m.
Chris got her diagnosis today. I was wrong about the disease—it’s Huntington’s Chorea, not Parkinson’s. They’re keeping her here and letting her go on pass to Rush Presbyterian to get a second opinion. She seems okay—smiling and talking animatedly—but she has talked about suicide before, so the staff is keeping a close eye on her. I feel bad, but what can I do? Be a shoulder to lean on, I guess, and an ear to bend. I’m so wrapped up in my own problems right now, though, that I’m afraid I’m not very sympathetic. This is the same disease she saw eat away at her father and his mother, so she knows the effects. She said that when they gave her the diagnosis she went into shock a little: her ears were ringing. She might, she said, live off unemployment for a while. Travel maybe, while she can.
James, the self-proclaimed murderer and Green Beret, has turned out to be a fake. It appears that he likes to say that he’s killed people—in fact, he might even believe it. He was a heroin addict, though. He has track marks up and down his arms.
Smokey has started throwing tantrums whenever he’s on the phone with his mom, because he misses her so much.
Jeanette called yesterday. Gary talked to her, I guess, and Marla was upset this morning because she didn’t get to.
It’s amazing how much Vernel has improved since she’s come here. She’s an amazing woman, although I don’t think she knows it. She keeps writing her baby’s father, spraying the envelopes with perfume. She writes letters like I do—writing them first on scrap paper and then rewriting them. She likes to think that she’s a person striving for spiritual and mental order and depth, but it’s her innocence that gets me. She likes everyone, and speaks her mind, and is always trying to improve.
I wrote to P. yesterday, trying to put down on paper what I couldn’t say to him. I did my best, but I get the feeling it’s not enough for what I’ve put him through. P. is very delicate, very sheltered. He’s understanding but doesn’t understand; he doesn’t have the equipment to, really. I hope we can always be friends, if nothing else. Or, well … I’m not even sure it’s necessary we be friends. I just don’t want him to look back on our time together as a mistake.
We had a lasagna dinner tonight, Ward W-3 did. We were supposed to invite family and friends, which I didn’t of course. I helped make the salad. Afterward there was a lecture on bipolar disorder, none of which was pertinent to me.
Marla has really made a lot of improvement since she started hanging out with Vernell. Vernell and Marion and Marla and Benette hang out a lot, playing cards and talking. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned Benette before. She’s about 50, and her schooling stopped in sixth grade. She can’t read. When she leaves here, she’s going back to school, she said.
But back to Marla. She still talks to herself out loud sometimes. If you say, “I’m really pleased that I got a pass today,” she’ll say, “Pleased, pleased, pleased to meet you.” But she smiles more. And when she gets too loud with her self-talk, Vernell will say something to her and she’ll stop and smile like it’s a joke.
Chris is writing a mystery in which George is killed. It’s really wretched as far as the description is concerned. And the plot too, for that matter.
Last night, Marla and Vernell and Marion and Eric were playing rummy, and Marla was singing gospel songs. Eric got a kick out of that, saying that he’d gladly come to whichever church Marla went to, just to hear her sing. Later the priest stopped by to give Communion, even though it wasn’t midnight yet. Eric got a kick out of that too. He said it must have been Marla’s singing that brought him.
Alex, by the way, is very religious. He’s very screwed up too, apparently. At the last community meeting he said (out of the blue) that he had a hard time keeping track of time. Sometimes he thinks it’s two years ago, or a different season. Dr. Roy (cool lady, hair in braids) said that it’s easy to lose track of time in the hospital and that maybe we should hang a calendar in the unit. I may have misunderstood, but I have a feeling Alex’s problem is bigger than that.
There have been a lot of new patients coming onto the ward lately, too many to keep track of, and very indistinguishable. One’s young, another’s middle aged, another’s old. They’re all shy. All black. All women. I wonder if they’ll take on personalities after I’m gone.
One new patient of note: Mr. Roosevelt is around 60, plays the piano extremely well, and talks nonsense endlessly. He wears a brown corduroy jacket like E.’s and is missing his two front teeth. During the lecture tonight he kept interrupting—once when Dr. White was talking about grandiose ideas manic people might have. He said, “You’re up there standing there talking and I know more than you about the subject at hand. Like if I said that, that’d be grandiose?” The doctor flushed and said that it might be, but he was sure there were some things Mr. Roosevelt knew more about than he did, like the piano for instance. From there, Mr. Roosevelt went off on a severe tangent, one that I couldn’t understand at all, since he talks fast and mumbles, though I probably couldn’t have followed even if he had enunciated. I think he started talking about the Baptist church and their rites and ceremonies, and he even mentioned the cavalry once. Dr. White said that Mr. Roosevelt had illustrated a point he had made earlier, about flight of thought, but Mr. Roosevelt protested. He made several like comments throughout the lecture.