There's something going on with me alright. Two years in this psychiatric hospital against my will says it all.
The guy with the Jesus beard is watching me intently, waiting for me to speak, waiting to scribble notes as I confess my madness I suppose.
He stopped me in the hall ten minutes ago and led me into this tiny box room with 2 stiff brown sofas and a withering solitary pot plant. He isn't one of the regular shrinks around here. I guess I'm a walking case history he can't resist.
The heat in the room is almost unbearable, as the blinds on the window have been open wide since we arrived. Eventually the learned man with the beard stands up and closes them, apologising for the lack of air conditioning. I reach out and pour some water from the jug that was already sitting on the table when we arrived. The jug is plastic and the cup is too. I take a sip of lukewarm stale water and although I have trouble swallowing it, I make sure I do. I need to replace the gallons of fluid I'm losing in perspiration already. My obvious distaste is apparent though, for he apologises on the behalf of the catering staff at the hospital. Haven't they realised its 78 degrees outside and a little ice wouldn't have been out of place ?
Well I'm paraphrasing of course. He didn't say that exactly but it's just how I would have put it.
The thing is he has no idea that I know exactly what's going through his mind while all this small-talk is going on. I am fully aware that he is watching every micro-expression on my face, every twitch from my head to my toes .They never get it, these shrinks, never will .They rely on their fancy books so much, get so caught up in science and psychology and the theories of men long dead and long criticised that they can't for one minute open their minds and think what if....
I learned that fact a long time ago. I have gone through this rigmarole so many times I bet I could tell you what he's writing in his little notebook:
Andrew Rogers, 29, history of paranoid delusions, possible psychosis. Unconfirmed schizophrenia? And so forth....
He gets tired of waiting for me to speak. He can only hide so much behind that beard. It's all in the eyes though. No hiding place in those windows of the soul. I study him closely. There is impatience there, but he has to remain as calm as possible with people like me.
Can't let the mask slip. Complete control. I'm sure that's the reason for the beard. It' s most likely serves as a barrier between him and the psychological predators, or anyone else who tries to turn the tables during these ‘sessions' of his. The analyser becoming the analysed. I am chuckling inside and it suddenly escapes from my mouth. He flinches, not out of fright, more out of renewed interest that my muteness has come to an end .
“Would you mind telling me why you're in here, Andrew?” he says, cocking his head to one side.
I suddenly feel a sliver of sympathy for him. I can't think why though.
‘What is the point of me telling you what I'm thinking?” I say.” You wont believe me anyway.” I fold my arms and look out the window.
He pauses, gathering his thoughts, choosing his words carefully . When you think about it, these shrinks don't do an awful lot of talking considering the money they get paid.
He leans forward in his chair. “Why don't you try me?” he says softly, a faint smile showing at the corners of his eyes.
I eye him suspiciously.
Something is out of sync here in this cramped room that's as hot as an oven. I was pretty sure I had been called here so he could lecture me about not taking the medication . They've tried everything possible in that department. I refuse every time. Save from hooking me up to a drip and releasing me of my free will, there's not much they can do. They explained that the pills would make me feel better, make the thoughts go away. No matter how much I tried to explain to the fools in white coats these were no delusions I was experiencing but reality, it made no difference. I was a loon, a nutcase, a freak.
The bearded shrink is sitting patiently now, perspiration glistening on his forehead.
“You have access to my notes” I point out , shaking my head in exasperation.” Do you really want me to sit here and go over this all again. I've been telling my story for 2 years now and no-one believes me. What's the point?” I am not too bothered about his reaction, I just want out of this over-heated torture chamber and grab a cool drink from the machine downstairs.
He clasps his hands together before speaking.
“Andrew I have read your notes with interest. I just wanted to hear your version of events man-to-man if that's ok with you. I am very interested in what you have to say. All I can ask is that you trust me on this?”.
I shake my head in disgust. These shrinks are all the same with their false sincerity and man-to-man talk. Trust! Who is he trying to kid. So now he thinks I'm mad and stupid!
I lean forward and look directly at him.
” Okay, then, here's the deal. Two years ago I was abducted by aliens, you got that? They took me away, experimented on me and brought me back to my apartment. Things were never the same after that. I had a complete breakdown. Of course when they assessed me in this nuthouse, it all came out. That's when I became fully incarcerated, labelled a freak. No-one believed me. They never will. They left their mark you know.”
I turn my right palm upwards to show him the scar they left during their experiments. A round 2 inch scorch mark. I explain to him that the shrinks even put that down to self-harm.
I pause for breath, and he says nothing. His face is expressionless .He looks out of the window briefly before turning back to me.
“Well” he says finally.” What would you say if I told you the same thing happened to me not so long ago?”
I study him curiously. It must be some sort of trick, has to be. He knows I'm not buying it. He's reading my mind now.
“This is no trick” he insists “It happened to me too. I believe you, I really do. We're not the only ones it's happened to. Maybe thousands all over the world too...locked up in hospitals like this!”
I sit back in my chair, watching him silently. There is something in those eyes, as I study them closely. I just know he's being sincere. I feel a flutter of excitement in my belly. Suddenly I don't feel so trapped and alone anymore.
“Can you get me out of here?” I ask.” We have to get this out into the open, let people know what's going on”.
As he opens his mouth to speak the door bursts open. Two security men flanked by a shrink and a nurse are in the room before I take my next breath.
The bearded guy, my new-found ally is being bodily lifted out of the chair by security and the nurse approaches me.
“Let's go Andrew” she says softly and I stand up.
” Are you ok?”
I look at her, look all around the room at the sudden chaos, dumbfounded.
”What's going on?” I demand “Will someone tell me?”
The bearded guy I mistook for a psychiatrist is resisting being led away by security, flailing his arms wildly and protesting loudly about being locked up for telling the truth.
The resident doctor approaches me now, a look of concern on his face.
“Andrew, I can only apologise for this incident” he tells me, exchanging a sidelong glance to the nurse.
“This man was admitted as a patient here today . He must have sneaked into the filing room and read your notes earlier. I guess you were a likely target for his ramblings. He is displaying a similar type of
illness as you, I'm afraid. He's unwell, Andrew, I'm sorry you were put at risk.”
I say nothing, the dark weight of disappointment weighing heavily on me again. For a few moments I had hope, someone on my side.
The bearded man I mistook for a shrink is being led away. He looks back at me, his eyes now vacant. As he disappears out of the door he gives a wave, right palm up. The round scorch-mark, much fresher than mine is plain to see.....