Saturday, May 23(?), 1992, 9:24 p.m.
I want to cover two issues today: the other patients here, and my parents’ visit. To discuss the patients, I will simply list them and jot down a few notes of relevance, or complete irrelevance, perhaps. [I’m going to use actual names, rather than initials, for the patients, since the initial thing is going to get too confusing with this many people.]
Helen: Tall, slim, a real lady. She tries to help the other patients whenever she can. She talks frankly, she’s friendly. She likes to do other patients’ hair and has taken under her wing Ivory.
Ivory: 15, has apparently grabbed a few male workers here. Subject to bouts of depression and maniacal good moods—shuffles, head down during the low times, giggles insanely during the up.
Jeanette: An older lady (middle aged), maybe in her late 40s. Has a smooshed-down face and wears wide glasses with black frames. Has the sweetest, strangest voice, which I could listen to for hours. A very nice, grandmotherly lady who seems to like everything.
Joe: Grossly overweight, recipient of a new haircut that might be forgivable on a 10-year-old, has strange facial tics. Apparently is a guinea pig for a new drug, the effects of which are unknown (makes him make strange faces?).
Smokey: Must be 30 or so, even though, as Jeanette observed, he seems like a little boy. His body is deformed, almost, and he seems to have a variety of things wrong with him. His parents come to visit every night—and really, they seem nice enough folk—but all Smokey can talk about is the different hospitals he’s been in, and their exact locations around
Vernel: Overweight, with a round afro, which accentuates her round face. Talks to herself (loudly!). Snores just as loudly. Obtrusive at times, but always well-meaninged. Has asked to buy one of my books (Jung, no less) from me. Carries a dictionary with her and, noticing that I keep a journal, decided to work out her own thoughts on paper,
Chris: Taught me how to play backgammon, which she learned herself and played often in college. Is friendly to everyone. She has a slight speech impediment and also seems not to be able to hear very well.
Heiko: A former grad student at U of C, now a shuffling, foot-tapping, silent mess. Never changes clothes.
Eric: A friendly, smiling man with a walker. Appears to have no problems, other than, perhaps, being a little dense.
Audry: The other undergrad here. An English major (third-year transfer student), she mostly keeps to herself. She seems kind of silly compared to everyone else—using her hospital stay and an R and R session to catch up on her studies.
Mr. Matthews: The oldest patient at W-3. I’ve never heard him talk, though I have seen him break into tears. Bearded, bespectacled, most of the time in a wheelchair and hospital robe. He frequently has visitors, who talk to him, but of course he can’t respond.
Judy: An older woman, probably in her 50s or so. Hardly ever talks, and when she does, she sounds like a three-year-old. Acts like a three-year-old too. Prays before and after each meal, and crosses herself too. Usually stays in her room, unless the nurses take her out to eat or watch TV.
George: A mountain of a man, with a wild head of hair and just as crazy beard. Never talks, or, at least, speaks infrequently. Oh yeah—wide, crazy eyes too. Very strange.
Jori: My roommate. Hardly ever speaks to me, but has been leaving the room a little more often, at least. Reads a lot—books of the top-seller-list variety. Has two kids. Former coke user. I’ve been tempted to have a drug chat with her, but I haven’t worked up the nerve. Seems friendly, pleasant face.
Marla: Overweight, high voice, bleached hair held back with a plastic yellow headband, wears fluorescent pink lipstick. Married. Always the same outfit or (upon occasion) a variation on said outfit. Likes to sing, and has a very good voice.
Cynthia: Meek, middle-aged. Not much to add to that.
There are 21 of us altogether, so I must have missed a couple. If I think of them and think it’s important, I’ll add them later. But for now I want to write about my parents’ visit.
Everyone here was very concerned about how I would react to seeing my parents. It was no big deal, actually. My father is acting kind of strange I guess. Different. Nice, but different. Nice is different, actually, for my dad.
When I’ve talked to my parents on the phone, all our conversations have been about neutral subjects: The pets, television programs. We actually discussed some real issues today, which was strange and uncomfortable and confusing. We talked about what was in store for me next year and this summer. My options, as they saw them, were either to go to [a community college] next quarter or back here. I hadn’t considered [community college], so that was a new possibility. And they were basically in agreement with me about finding a job this summer and going to a therapist. So I have plans, and I have support for those plans, which is what the doctors wanted. They were more into me taking it easy this summer, though, whereas I’m looking forward to pushing myself.
I did confess my drug use last quarter, which they knew about, of course, so their reaction wasn’t too bad. I brought up the idea of an AA-type support group (XA?) They thought it was a good idea.
I’ve been having—not flashbacks, really, but thinkbacks, maybe. Or wishbacks. Setbacks, definitely. I’m fine now. I’m fairly happy. Right now I’d characterize my mood as content—sitting here listening to Joe and Jeanette talking about their grandmothers, watching Ivory walk back and forth in the hallway across the dayroom. When I get a visitor I’m happy. I was happy to see Mom and Dad. I was happy to see I. I was happy to see A. Little things make me happy. Not HAPPY. Just happy.
So when I think about X, or how I felt when I was on X, it’s like I’m already getting nostalgic for it. Wasn’t that great when I went for walks with J. around the quads at night, or when I played solitaire by candlelight, or when we went to Medusa’s or when we were listening to [embarrassing techno-emo crap]? Oh god, it’s making me sick right now, thinking about that. And what’s bad is that I know that as happy as I think I was, I was a billion times happier. My sober brain can’t even process it. Maybe it is a kind of flashback, because right now I can almost summon up the feeling. It’s great and scary at the same time, feeling how I used to feel. Diluted, of course, but the same basic feeling nevertheless.
This has been a long entry for tonight, but I’m still not tired, and there’s more I want to say.
Something else that needs my attention, although not my immediate attention, is A. I’ll only be here a few more days, and he’ll be leaving campus soon too. So there’s not a chance for anything between us right now. But maybe sometime before I leave for home I’ll tell him how I feel about him. I do like him. He should know that, I guess. Maybe that would give him some much-needed confidence. I think he likes me too, although I’m probably wrong, or at least not as right as I think I am. But I’ll tell him that I like him—jokingly—maybe ask him when we’re going to start our family. And we’ll write over the summer. And he’ll refer to me as that dysfunctional girl who used to like him, even though I’ll always have a little crush on him, but we’ll remain close friends even though I’ll go to school across the country and date other guys, and he’ll date other girls and we’ll remember the “Net” [The “Net”? That's adorable.] fondly and nostalgically. Ahh. I’m looking forward to it already.
Audry is sitting at the table next to me, writing furiously. I’m sure that she, too, views this as An Experience. I dislike her immensely, maybe because I see parts of her in myself. Those are the parts I want to rip out and feed to wild animals.
I’d prefer a million Helens and Chrises talking about nothing than one Audry, pouring out her wretched little heart onto paper with furious strokes of her gold-embossed pen.