Saturday, December 18, 2010
Fiction: Vows; the jabber in a psychiatric halfway house
She was right. I only worked, part-time at that, at a psychiatric halfway house, as Reagan destroyed California's public agencies. I was thinking of going back to school in psychology and figured I should do a test run. Not for me.
My halfway house was in L.A. in the nebulous Beverly Blvd./La Brea area (not pictured). This photo is of a nicer neighborhood a few miles away. But it's L.A.
It is no secret that there is a lot of jabber in the world coming from everywhere including the streets and the houses with their people and telephones and radios and TVs, all of them blasting at you day and night so there is no peace. I know none of these things, these inventions or these people, are really saying anything to anyone, let alone to you or me. This is a fact. Some of the people who live here claim otherwise. They slink up to me real nefarious, ask me if I’ve heard the message and then slink off. I walked into the communism room last night, with all these empty chairs but one and the TV going real loud and this guy sitting but kind of jerking towards the TV. He looked at me like I was an emissary of the third coming**the second coming is past tense to most of the people around here**and pointed like we had this shared secret knowledge, at the tube, then directed his eyes right into mine as if there was anything in his stupid mind to communicate. I said, “Shut up,” and walked out. I said it loud to make sure he heard me because if you don’t stick up for yourself it isn’t my problem.
The doctor comes here one day a week and prescribes meds and talks to our counselors and then leads this afternoon group I get to be in where he hears dreams. He knows what the dream symbols are for the week in L.A. I was telling him how before Isaac Newton invented the cat door, he probably let his cats meow in the backyard**he should have been more careful because the Egyptians would have thought twice about such an action. The doctor looked at me and said, “You know, you’re pretty damn crazy.” He’s right but maybe I shouldn’t be telling you this so soon because you will make some kind of decision about me and this will effect how you read this and I guess there is really nothing I can do about it, but I must be blunt.
Those words formerly mentioned, damn crazy, just don’t mean much. I can remember that before the hospitals and before this place, which isn’t so bad because we can walk in the facility or off and there is a Baskin Robbins five blocks away, I would have thought about those words. Back then I would have felt a certain way. But you know, as I said, it just doesn’t mean anything. I don’t say this because I am damn crazy, although of course I am. I just know that if I could sit down with you and come across, which to say make sense, communicate, I would understand you and you would be highly surprised to realize the glowing hub contained within me**my nonreactive core. So maybe the body would put you off more than the crazy. My mother is always sending me housecoats with short sleeves and snaps, of material like kitchen curtains in a mobile home. I like to wear slipper slip-ons**I have terry and the acrylic fur. I know here too that I would have thought twice about such garb in previous years and that you might back off from it, but again I need to say, none of this matters. So what if I am casual? This is L.A. Just look outside my window. Is that a palm tree? You better say yes or you’ll be crazy yourself. Pretty scary, huh? Huh?
So I thought about the jabber, how incessant it is and there is no escape because of the rampant subtlety. I did OK with school and school did OK with me even in twelfth grade, when I left. I used to want to be a lawyer, a woman one, because I know I would have been a whiz in the courtroom wearing spiked heels and with my present train of thought it is providence that refrained me from such dallying pursuits. Where is the jabber worse than in a courtroom? My sisters went big time and who cares.
The thing about the jabber, and I feel we are here talking insidious, is that IT CAN HAPPEN WITHOUT A SOUND. What about the guy who was watching TV? He didn’t say a word and he was shrieking at me. Stand in line some morning for meds. Pretend you are an oscilloscope or Geiger counter. Your needle will be going boing boing. These loonies are shuffling and pacing and you know their damn spines are creaking because half of their heads hang so low they look more like street lamps than humans. You would possibly say caged animals and I will be tolerant although let’s be honest**what do you think is hanging around out there with you? Everyone’s complaining is what I hear.
The drugs did me in and then my parents didn’t love me which I say without sadness because that is a fact. I would be dishonest if I said otherwise. And then there are my sisters, they’re famous, the Harpies. If you have sisters you need not pretend to be offended. Who needs them, picking and clawing when all I want is my fair share and I don’t mean of material goods although the terms translate in that way these days.
I did all this reading when I came down enough to walk to the library at Cam and got books from my friends, sort of like a jailed prisoner becomes his or her own defense attorney through reading, but it was more jabber. I could build a case any way I wanted, to wit: the drugs did me in or didn’t, my parents did or didn’t, or I could have been a super person overcoming all of this or maybe my being around to write this is just shows you what a super person I am. None of it is important if you don’t react to the term damn crazy because then the distinctions fall to the ground, like jeans, not too quickly or smoothly, but when they get there they stay and you can step out of them and get on with your life.
Cotto used to agree with me until he got hit by a car and died. He lived here, too, but he spent a lot of time on Sunset, reliving the memories of his youth but mostly making up episodes of the cool people. Cotto is not his real name, but he identified with the salami**you know salamis. He got me with it a few times, too. We can leave or keep sleeping here although it is easier to pick up our checks if we stay, so no one minded if Cotto hitched around or walked. We all tend towards great stamina walking all over L.A. And vice versa. My mother took me out once for a vacation but I ended up going to the doctor. She had arranged for two abortions and I guess got weary so there won’t be any more. I don’t care although I will tell you and you would never know if I didn’t, that I just went into the can-can’t room and cried like I did for weeks after I came back. What would be so wrong about a little me? No one seems to realize that although the machinations of the universe worked it out that I was not going to be smothered with affection in this lifetime, I still had a full supply to offer someone else. Most people say it doesn’t work like that. No one ever asked me. I was never asked and so even though I’d vote in favor of choice if I voted, I didn’t get a choice. So I stopped crying and snapped the judgment I wasn’t put here to wear an apron. OK. What next. You talking to the TV, shut up.
To stop the jabber I think of this painting I saw when I went to a museum. The painting is huge and was done in pencil so, OK, it’s not a painting. When you first blink at it, you think it’s the ocean, but then you comment, “There’s no give to those waves and no sound,” and your mind responds, “Sand’s quiet.” You imagine putting a foot down and you’re sure it’s sand, desert sand, high desert, low desert, but desert unless it is mountain top soil. I imagine myself walking on sand firm in the hot sun, the sun of way back when, of prophets ranting, zealots screaming, crazy enough to live here but working it out to their own satisfaction, yammering, “Damn these sandals!” And:
“I’ve seen eternity!”
“The Lord’s mighty strap is broken.”
“Eternity’s an island!”
“Keep it under your tongue.”
“It’s floating, you don’t**need**sandals.”
“You won’t need sandals!”
“Cupcakes cupcakes cupcakes cupcakes cupcakes.”
I know eternity, because I was there at my beginning. I’ve been alive when others have ended and I’ve gone on so I know something keeps going on. Eternity’s a sun in amber, held steady in resin, making you feel comfortable with your own lunacy. I get that picture in my head of the sand and the sound of my footsteps. Sandals, no sandals, island, no island, it doesn’t matter, because if I can walk, crazy, sane, jabber, no-jabber, I’m not really stuck.
Sarah Sarai, The Written Arts. King County Arts Commission, Seattle. April 1989.