May 27, 2006

Letters From Lem #8

Filed under: Letters From Lem — Twin A @ 8:14 pm

Todd,

Today an excort showed up and walked me out of 20 East, down some elevators, through a long bustling corridor and up another set of elevators to Bellevue’s Outpatient Chemical Dependency Clinic.

The clinic is close to ground level, and I could smell dirt and grease and sunshine through the propped-open windows; a three-dimensional odor of Manhattan that I had almost forgotten. I drank some freshly brewed coffee and sat next to Joyce, a gigantic black woman who pointed to a piece of paper and made me run to a relapse group down the hall.

I sat at a huge table and for the first time, listened to a somewhat coherent round-table discussion of various peoples problems with addiction. Sure, some eccentric personalities dominated, but the conversation wasn’t run off the rails by the ravings of a lone wacko the way they so often are on 20 East.

After sitting in on a Patient Government group (where the patients discussed cooking up group meals and maintaining the communal garden), I was surprised to find myself in genuine conversation over a lunch that hadn’t been re-heated. It was served up soup-kitchen style and as Al Green sang “Help me mend this broken man” in the background, I chatted with Charlie and Antolin, the men sitting across and to the right of me. I explained to them that I was on a visitor’s pass from 20 East, the psychiatric ward upstairs. I braced myself for the inevitable flinches.

Charlie smiled, “I was on 18 west.” “I was on 17 west” added Antolin. Just take it easy, go with the flow, don’t fight it, they advised me. Antolin went on to describe the relationship between spirituality and bipolar disorder. His prosed link was persuasive: both topics involve our volatile relationships with our own unconscious minds. Antolin left me with his buisiness card, which described him as “spiritually sensitive.” On the back of the card was printed a small blue circle and the words, “Look at the circle and ask any question. Trust the response you get. keep on asking questions.”

I was escorted back up to 20 East. I looked over a care package I had received from some old friends in Chicago — the nurses had confiscated everything in it except a book two issues of the Onion and some greeting cards, which they had opened and read. Shakeer and Felix snuck out of my room to smoke a cigarette. I kept my eyes on this piece of paper — I gotta keep my nose clean if I’m gonna spring this joint.

More to come,

Lem

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