Prelude (explanation of the title page), The Scale:
I made 10 hours of time and a half today suffocating in a small hospital room with an innocent woman who thought she’d been rat-poisoned by a Wal-mart worker who followed her from Chicago because she’d won the lotto and the slithering Wal-mart lady was after her for the only four pennies she had left.
I took care of this woman but by “care”, I do not mean I bathed her. I did not help her with anything, really. I sat with her for 10 hours trying to keep her mind occupied on the cartoons; and off the clock or the window, or the thoughts in her head.
This is nothing new for me;
…Nothing new and not because I work there. I mean of course I’ve come across some crazy stuff in the eight years I’ve worked in healthcare: Thrown across rooms, bitten, kicked; punched; you name it.
That’s not what I’m really talking about.
In fact, being around those people takes me farther from my work and closer to the door where I left my proverbial baggage, next to the time clock.
And if we’re going to be brutal here, that old baggage is actually the thing which dragged me here to start.
At one time, yes, this was something new. Back then, (young and stupid) (audience nodding heads) I thought because I was so drawn to these people, I should help them somehow. I could devote my career to understanding them, their behavior; set up some nonprofit thing for other peoples’ old proverbial bags.
But now I know…
They don’t need some stupid .org, generously gifting 20 percent of proceeds to research (salaries of researchers). No psh! please… That makes them seem like monkeys or rats or something, minimizing them to their disease. I mean do we know these people? They aren’t monkeys. They aren’t that at all. They are actually far from foreign.
We, the “normal”, are just as screwed up and strange. It only so happens, I’m pretty good at speaking their language. or making their food,
12 deviled eggs
32 oz muddy black coffee
1/2 carton cheapest menthols
2 French bread pizzas
2 mg valium for a midnight snack
Let me tell you a little more.
I’ve been rather vague and when I am being vague on purpose,
I also tend to be long-winded. Forgive me.
Introduction, The Overhead Compartment:
My brother, who died when I was 12, suffered from manic depression, a life marked by season, pulled by weather… Inducing unmanageable moods.
Mike’s genes gave him this; brought down by his father and his father. Sadly, I knew very little about what ailed him, growing up. as a young girl, I don’t think I even knew he suffered.
When he died, I determined to know more. I wanted to understand this complicated mind. At the age of 13, I stumbled over a very enlightening book: Touched with Fire. It examined the dumbfounding link between madness and genius, citing case after case of remarkable people terrorized by voices and moods beyond their own power. While it was a bit too researchy and grownup for my pre-teen mind to wrap itself around, it also changed the way I saw the world and its aesthetics. Mike was a profound artist…could have easily been an architect, an engineer. He had these mystically detailed drawings…that just came up and out of the napkins he drew them on. his mind was magical, however troubled, as I came to understand.
And so are the minds of these suffering people…plagued with severe bouts of emotion, wretchedly damaging thoughts screaming at them and no one to turn off that damn noise. God, I’ve been there. Haven’t you? Not every day, I mean I don’t think rat poisoning is running through my veins but …I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some things that weren’t there a time or two.
Think about it
Well, it just blows me away…to live in this alt-reality. I wonder at what points in their lives they lucidly comprehend truth.
Or is it them who see perpetual truth, unwritten before us? Only explained in pictures, even those we don’t get. Truth so big that words are not heavy enough. colors they vividly impress us with, our knuckles pale for grasp. We fall short.
Chapter 2, Checked
My mom sat me down in the middle of a mall (where we’ve always shared life-altering conversations) one day and told me,
the person I thought was my (schmuck-for-a) dad actually wasn’t, and my real father didn’t know he had a daughter (which I later discovered was also not true, lol).
Before you jump up with an oh my god or what the hell…don’t worry, there was, in her well-laid defense, strong justification for the whitening out of facts.
Shortly after my parents split (never married), my dad turned out to be sort of a creep. One day she was at the mall in San Diego with toddler Mike. She tells me the whole time at the mall she felt followed…Looking around, feeling uneasy. At one point, she turned around and he’s right there, my dad, Joe.
But get this, he says to her;
Why did you follow me here?
(… uh… ….)
No … you followed ME here.
My mother locked the deadbolt after that day, even slept in her living room with a baseball bat.
Fast forward, 16 years later… Phoenix, the middle of another mall, my mother and I sat. In my hands, I cupped truth and irony (the irony, an entirely separate blog post lol). Months later, I set out to find this man, Joe. After all, he had the right to know about me.
After writing to several Pitkat’s (his last name) across the country, I finally found my father (relatives I’d apparently written to found him for me). He wrote me a letter. I knew it was coming, this letter I’d been waiting and hoping for…still checking the mailbox that day, it seemed so out of the blue. On yellow legal pad paper, Joe explained to me, he’d been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when attending the University of New York, years ago (majoring in English and Art History…what I also majored in at the time).
Creepy mall story, finally made sense.
The genius and magic once glittering around mental illness, as I perceived it, quickly faded into a murky hopeless pit with vacant eyes as I endured a year or so dabbling in father-daughter relationship.
Joe marveled me, nonetheless, with his fascinating talent of turning this tragic, deep, dark disease into something…almost, beneficial. Indeed, his mania seemed to get him a lot of things (leather couches, drugs in the mail) and out of a lot of things (prison, state hospitals, guardianship). I could never figure out if he was just manipulative or if the poor man was being told by several scary voices in his head to be this manipulative. Either way, being schizo had its perks, at least for him. Innocent by the name of his disease yet guilty by the genius behind the scheme. Every untruth worked to protect him.
And so be it, shit. If you have to live with shadows and the phone talking to you all the time, my God, have a beer. Ya know? Collect political buttons, blow a lot of money. Whatever. Take your drugs, get your government check. I can’t say I wouldn’t!
It’s survival. There are these schizophrenics who seem to be in this state of survival, often. Like pigeons, they rummage and never stay in one place for long. They know they need shelter and cigarettes, food on occasion and all of these they’ll find because they have to. They don’t have the capacity to live in a society based on earnings; career; monetary success; picket fences. Money would never be their friend; in fact it would kill a dying man. And drugs don’t really help either because their mind is the thing which is already high.
In its raw, frazzled state, genius abounds and so in its natural wild, this creature transforms canvas to art. puts its stamp on life that says: THIS IS WHAT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND. And we the “normal”, stand before it in pencil skirts and legal pads, criticizing a level of genius we know nothing about. (Written off simply, insanity) In museums and studios across the globe, we buy framed complicated concepts and hang them on our walls so that we appear more genuine and sophisticated.
Meanwhile sleeps the loon in its empty sea of padding, overmedicated, tamed by tazer now after the weeklong episode which finally manifested into the painting which you spent 7000 dollars on. But they’ll get better. They have lots of doctors blending precise concoctions of antipsychotics for the individual, an art itself. Somehow, these ungrounded spirits settle into their illusions…Befriending, if possible, the spiders and snakes, shadows and voices. Befriending the enemy, still never sleeping sound without its haunt.
I don’t want to help them anymore,
but when I’m around them, as they should stumble into my rocky ascent, I want to know how they can help me.
So I always start with the universal truth: Art.
Do you paint, I asked the woman?
Her eyes lit up. It seemed to bring her the most joy in those ten hours; sharing with me, the beauty she creates – the light she’s made for her darkness.
I don’t try to understand anymore. I don’t have to know how she’s helped and why she’s here with me and not the other way around. I watch the clock as she watches cartoons. I look for the door, eager to claim my proverbial baggage, get the hell out of here.
Getting the hell out got me here, watching the clock, the door. There’s no rat poisoning coursing my veins but my father’s blood taught me something. Mike’s suffering, the book I read, the dizzying list of illed people I’ve met, from it all I’ve learned. Winged things live in the most vivid spectrum; they live inside the rainbows we chase and we’ll never get that close to the truth. We don’t fly.