Where the Lost Mind Wanders
an account of my break from reality
Preface: The following is a mixture of current writings and those during my initial psychotic break, my schizoaffective diagnosis, my stay at a mental hospital, and the accounts following. Each image shown is something I’d created from this time in my life.
tl;dr just scroll through and see some drawings from my psychotic past.
There’s a blue box I keep in my closet. On the cover, written in red sharpie, are the words “AJ MANIC ORIGAMI”. It’s filled with scraps of paper folded into various shapes, a black notebook, and a manilla folder.
Every few months I pull this box out to examine the contents, trying to piece together the logic behind the diagrams and symbols written on the graph paper residing in the folder. There is a clear order to them, there is some sort of logic, some semblance of a conclusion — some kind of meaning that now evades me.
I do vaguely remember the conversation with Ryan, one of my best friends, just before I had furiously written the entire document down in a single, sleepless night. I was told by my doctors to no longer smoke weed, as its hallucinogenic properties might trigger a serious psychotic episode, not unlike the episode that landed me in a mental hospital not long before. But I did anyways. Though I don’t remember the exact state I was in at that particular time, I know I was significantly manic.
We were high, having the kinds of conversations you have when you’re high. I tended to dig into logical fallacies and abstract philosophical questions at this state. I don’t know how it started, but it ended with the idea of diving a square into thirds. That was all I really remember. I don’t remember where Ryan went after that point but I remember my mind racing. Suddenly something had become so clear to me. Some amalgamation of religion, science, and art — all coming together in some magical mathematical proof. Something I believed was ultimate truth. Something I believed would change everything.
I’ve written the “beginning” of this story half a dozen times, each in different states of mind — each with different beginnings. Details change and are forgotten. After so many years it feels almost like a myth. Something passed down and reinterpreted to myself each time I revisit the stories. Though my psychosis was severe enough that I believed many, many, strange descriptions of reality, I was lucky enough to still be able to document a lot of what was going through my mind at the time, in different ways, with different mediums.
The problem with a beginning to this sort of thing is that there really isn’t one. It’s like trying to remember exactly when you’d fallen asleep. It’s a blur, a subtle gradation from sane to insane. Though a few times I was able to feel the effects of a new psychotic episode as it began; such as forgetting my right from my left, a unique meaning for the numbers on my watch, a heightened sense of my surroundings and color — once the symptoms begin to take over it’s already happened.
Even if I did know the exact moment my brain decided to eject from reality, I still wouldn’t be able to explain exactly how and why it did. My dangerous consumption of coffee? My nearly nightly marijuana intake? The strange girl I had encountered at that party? The girl I fell in love with attending school across the ocean…
But it all seemed to be the case that day. That day it all folded over itself. Be warned: the following was written by a much younger and extremely manic version of myself. The diction is that of a maniac describing the thoughts of a maniac experiencing extreme psychosis. Tread carefully.
I never know how to start things. I seem to work from the middle out. Which in turn leaves me with a lot of guts and no skin or bones. A worthless piles of mush that someone may one day run electricity through to reveal my potential genius or, more reasonably, my madness.
I’ve always been fascinated by madness. To me, it somehow signified truly pushing your mind to it’s limits. When the idea of what your senses perceived to be reality just slip and you can truly create in a boundless world. Yet I’ve always feared insanity, somehow I knew my mind was capable of it, but I never actually found myself trapped in a tiny stone cell carving unintelligible markings on the walls screaming “You fools! Don’t you understand!?”
Well, until I did.
I remember that day well. I think…I think It was just the night before when Ryan and I had played a game in which the both of us smoked a fair amount of marijuana and tried to find pictures in the shadows of my backyard. I remember wanting to tell Ryan about something I was working on involving the idea that you would need at least four points in space to create a three dimensional object. Three points would always be 2 dimensional. I think there were colors involved. The numbers, they were all wrong.
Anyway, I found a tie fighter in the flower buds that had floated into the pool. Ryan found Godzilla in the palm tree. The points were all coming together. It was like- like they were proving my theory. Like I had come up with something so extraordinary that life itself meant to prove me right.
I stared at the water for a long time. The reflection of the fan hanging from the balcony looked vaguely like a planet with a comedically sized space station protruding from its surface. I rotated my head to the right to see the giant egg shaped light bulb hanging from under the gazebo. It looked like some glowing being. Some being that had been sitting in the same place for so long that he had warped the fabric of space itself. The repercussions of enlightenment. A being so powerful and so wise that his ultimate conclusion is to just do nothing.
The tiled turtle at the floor of the pool managed to sit just perfectly at one of the edges of the upside-down gazebo reflected in the water. Like a pet the glowy-egg-being was watching over. He’d been there so long that the turtle must’ve been long dead. I wonder if he even knows…
I had decided to redesign language itself. A bold mission, but I felt to be a worthy adversary. What emotion could a simple shape convey? What power could it have? Many, I thought, and I would know.
I began with the numbers. Simple. Yet daunting. Numbers already had so many evils and goods associated with them. The holy 3, the evil 6’s, the 12 disciples, 1 God. They also had many meanings to me, a self-proclaimed musician: the minor vs. major 3rd, the harmonious 5th, and, my favorite, the mysterious, dissonant, major 7th.
Yet with so many numbers, there are so few. Only 10 definitive ones. How silly, I thought, there is so much potential for a greater idea of numbers. One that expressed their true meaning, their true power. I would defeat the numbers. Stand over their burning shells atop a mighty mountain, lighting bursting behind, holding up the stone tablets with my new beautiful numbers engraved upon.
I got to 17 before my own world filled my tiny room until my head was pushed gently under by the collapsing roof. When gods and demons became more real than I could have ever imagined. When science fiction became fact. When faces turned to shapes and colors and places became the ports from which my mind decided to flee and leave my body behind in reality.
Inside the aluminum shell of my computer was my cell. Above are the numbers. The holy, life shattering numbers. The ones I carved into the liquid crystal display with my plastic keys. And so I did. I stood upon the archaic, false, blasphemous numbers of old. Pressing their faces into the mud as I grinned a grin of victory.
The whole idea of these numbers was that they are a 7-base system, the 10 was replaced by the 7th number and started at 11 thereforth. To me, they represented the creation of matter. A single particle splitting itself until it had enough pieces to create a new particle, made up of 6 parts of itself. Soon these would become the stones I threw at reality when my own became too much to bear.
It hit me all at once. Seven. The holy number. The ultimate number. The number of a tired God. I must’ve hit on something correctly. I must have figured it all out. Using this as an excuse I delved further into the depths of my mind.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free”
From my numbers I generated the sequence 5–13–23. I honestly don’t remember how. But I did. And I did what any man would do in my situation: I Googled them. And so I was swept away to Biblegateway.com at Galatians 5:13–23. This verse spoke to me in the most glorious way. Had I not only defeated numbers, but the bible itself? Was this the code? The magical code that the original writers had carefully placed inside the bible to save us from itself?
I must tell the others.
“I think you’re making up your own logic for your own world,” my good friend Christopher told me when I revealed to him my magical numbers.
“Maybe you’re right,” said I, “but people who think like me think like this.” Of course by “people who think like me” I meant me.
“You can explain science to me, I’ll explain art to you.” I snapped. And that was the end of that conversation.
The next day I woke up and went to work at Starbucks like any other day. It was an odd day. Exceptionally clear and beautiful. The roads seemed to end at the mountains which appeared so close I felt I could reach out and touch them. It seemed as if my whole world was digitally projected onto the windows of my car.
I barely remember work at all that day except for the event that occurred on my break. I decided to take a walk around the parking lot. I wandered into the gas station next door, then out again to the pumps, over the curb, to the tables in front of the store. On one of the tables there lay 3 or 4 stacked newspapers with a pair of glasses perched atop and a dog chained to the chair. Curious, I sat down nearby. An old man walked over from seemingly nowhere and sat down. “You’ve wandered into my vicinity, you must be seeking guidance.” I remember him saying, although I’m sure my brain altered my memory of the exact phrasing.
“I suppose I am.” I replied.
We had the oddest conversation, although I barely remember much of it. He first asked if I had a device in my ear, which I did not. Then we talked about his being in the air force, in the same company from the movie Top Gun. He asked what sorts of books I read, which I readily replied with 1984 and Brave New World. He seemed to understand. I acquired his name, Bob; and his dogs name, Mickey. I told him I was learning japanese. He told me some people write from top to bottom. I said I believe there is a country that writes from left to right. “No one does that.” he said sternly. Da Vinci did, I thought.
“Look!” He shouted and pointed to the skies. It was the day of the air show. “The Blue Angels!”
I looked. There they were, flying so incredibly close to each other. They made nearly a perfect diamond shape.
“There’s six of them, but they only travel in fours.”
This phrase spoke to me somehow. It just seemed to fit.
I had to go back to work.
During the last few hours of my shift I kept glancing back to the window to the porch. I could see the dog still chained to the chair. Had I imagined Bob? How could he have spoken so clearly to me about my life? How did he know about my numbers? Where did he come from? Was that God himself? How long had he been waiting there for me? Was he waiting distinctly for me?
As my shift came to an end I received a message from my friend. “come to the park.”
My mind warped. What kind of cruel joke was this? What were they planning at the park!? How did they know about Bob and Mickey?? Somehow I knew they knew everything.
I thought of Bob. How he was just sitting outside, waiting to catch a glimpse of his blue angels. If he was God, he was just waiting to see his own creation play out. What a sad life, I thought. His friends had not asked him to come to the park. He was alone. Sad, and alone.
“Where are you going Bob?” I manically exclaimed as I rushed out the door. He grunted. I remember at this point yelling “Trust me! Well, actually, don’t trust me!” I don’t recall what it was exactly I wanted him to not trust me with.
And so I was off to the park. I seemed to jump instantly from my store to my neighborhood. A new power of mine I assumed. I wondered what it was exactly was waiting for me at the park. I looked around at the signs, all of them pointed directly to the park. The markings on the ground, the positioning of the cars, all arrows to my destination. I looked over my shoulder. A man in a white welding mask was standing behind some sort of device, a sort of tracking device it must’ve been.
Had my friend hired this man? Were they watching me? Was he even my friend at all? Some sort of demon..
I turned rashly onto the first street I could. The signs all kept taking me to the park, now against my will. Bumper stickers, flags, street names. All directing me to my doom I had decided at this point. I drove just past the parking lot to the park when I knew It was all over, I made a U-turn and floored it away from the park.
I thought for what seemed like an hour, but was only seconds, about what I was doing. Was this true insanity? Or was I right about my mad ideas? Had I figured out something that the world couldn’t know? Or was I about to end up in a small, white padded room for the rest of my life?
I had to make a decision. And quickly, for soon I would be on a freeway on a mad run for my life away from the demons that had now possessed my friends.
No. Ryan was my friend. He was not some demon, he couldn’t be. Whatever mad ideas I had, I could share them with him. Nothing could stop me.
I relaxed and journeyed back to the park. It was the day of an eclipse. I had just missed it. Another oddity in the madworld I had apparently applied citizenship for.
I decided to stay up late that night even though I was to open at a completely different Starbucks the next morning. I told my friends to wake me up at 5, I knew they would still be awake.
“AJ, wake up. Not waking up on time is one of my demons.”
I definitely hallucinated this voice. I know because I asked my friend later if he had said it that morning and he had not. I got dressed quickly and was off to work.
This store was a disaster. It was nothing like the clean and very organized store I was used to. The cup dispenser was broken. The sleeves and sugars were in arbitrary places. I was forced to write the orders on the cups instead of having them conveniently printed out for me. I couldn’t cope.
I remember feeling almost drunken. Bumbling about the store. Confused by the slightest thing. Unable to speak clearly. The manager kept calling me “Mr. Sunday” because he said I always visit that particular store on Sundays. I rarely visit this store.
I was asked to leave early.
It’s hard to say what exactly I thought from this point on. Because it was so much. I didn’t just believe that “they’re watching me” or that there was some sort of government conspiracy against me. I just believed that I had figured it all out. It finally all made sense, somehow. And something somewhere was trying to stop me.
There were times I believed I was the only person living in 3 dimensions. Times I thought it was my job to stop all the people that thought they were gods in the world. Men like Bob, who waited for a vulnerable boy like me to come around and pounce, filling our heads with blasphemy. There were times when I believed that at the creative people in the world were literally the creators. It was our job to stop the businessmen from corrupting the earth with money. I believed I had the power to stop time for just seconds. Other times I believed that I could speak to the computer in pure binary. I felt like I could control pure love with just my guitar. The voices in the radio spoke directly to me. I quit my job at some point in the madness. And this was all in a days time.
When I was taken to the hospital as soon as my friends and family had decided I had lost my mind, I believed I was being taken to a space station to be launched into space. Then, after I hadn’t gotten launched into space, I believed that a girl very far away had hacked into my cellphone and laptop and set all this up for me to somehow in some backwards psychotic way in order to regain my love.
I felt the need to tell every single person the story that my friend and I had come up with the night we smoked.
I trusted no one but Ryan. The girl I loved was off at school in Scotland.
I woke up 12 hours later in my bed after they sedated me at the hospital. I felt dreary most of the day, perhaps the after effects of the tranquilizer. I felt like the day before was all just a dream. But the voices in the radio still spoke to me.
That night I decided Ryan and I should go to get cigarettes. And I decided it would be a good idea if I ran there. My moms boyfriend gave me 10 dollars and I was off. Ryan tried to get me in the car, but I decided I was better off alone.
This was my test. I knew it was. It was time for the gods to hear me out.
So what’s first?
The 10 dollars in my pocket. Money is demonic. Just as I had decided this, a kid on his scooter turned down the street I was running on.
“Hey kid, you want 10 dollars?” He did not respond. I pulled the 10 dollar bill from my pocket, rolled it up into a tiny ball, and threw it on the ground before him. I didn’t bother to turn back to see if he had picked it up or not. I was already working on the next aspect of my test. Up the street. A left. A right. My body grew tired. My mind never rested. I decided to stop for a moment atop an electrical box. I looked at the trees growing in the center divider. The one directly in front of me was completely leafless. Aha! I though, and continued onward. I passed a few graffitied stickers. They must have been planted by the gods themselves, encouraging me onward. No, not this time. I would defy the gods. I darted across the street to the streetlampless dirt walkway on the other side.
It was time for another decision. What would Jesus do? I thought. Just as I finished a stream of cars turned into my vision. towards the light! I nearly ran straight into the headlights when luckily my sanity chimed in saying “that will kill you.” So I looked for another light. There! In the sky! The north star, though it probably wasn’t. I looked down towards the ground again. A dark pathway through the trees. What could be hidden in this beyond? It was a scary thought. But my journey would not end here, and I ran straight into the darkness.
Branches and leaves filled my vision. It was enlightening. Beautiful. But, again, my body grew tired. But there! The light! A lamp on a house nearby. Was this Ryan’s house? Had I completed my test?
I walked towards the lamp and was stopped abruptly by a fence covered in spider webs. Ah spiders, Ryan’s worst enemy. I hesitated only briefly before defeating the wall and I arrived at the base of a culdesac. That wasn’t the end then. I must still have to make it to the gas station. There will be my answers.
Again, I was off running. The street names urging me forward.
Jesus would never wear a hat, I thought, and I took off my newly purchased Dolphins hat and gently placed in at the center of some driveway. And these shoes, they don’t define me. So I removed my brand new vans and placed them in a garbage can nearby. How far would I go? How soon before I was no longer a shoeless hatless man, but a naked crazy person? My shirt could go. It was sticky from the trees and people run shirtless often anyway, right?
As I exited the neighborhood I came across some flowers. I decided to make a small bouquet for no particular reason. I was walking at this point and I came to the corner of a large intersection. There was a car stopped at the corner next to me. I waved to the girl inside. She flailed her arms wildly in a definite “no”. I tried to explain through the window that I had no intention of doing whatever it was she thought I was trying to. I motioned my crude bouquet to her as a peace offering. She cupped her hand over her mouth and in her eyes was pure fear.
I threw the bouquet to the ground. That must not have been part of the test.
I was now at a crossroads, literally. I could either wait for the crosswalks, or make a break for it across the center of the intersection. I knew I would be able to make it. I was good at calculating the time between the traffic lights. There were no cars coming, and the rest were all stopped. I would make it. And I did.
I quickly rushed to the gas station. I knew I had completed my quest. I reached for the door handle, relieved.
Ryan was nowhere in sight.
Had I missed something? I was at the end, I was sure of it. I had walked as jesus through many turmoils. This had to be the end. Maybe I did miss something. I was still in my jeans. Was that what I did wrong?
I walked out into the parking lot and removed them. I noticed a black car out alone in the middle of the lot. It wasn’t Ryan’s, but maybe my mind was playing tricks on me. I was already aware of a few of those tricks. I approached the vehicle. There was a boy and a girl inside. I knocked on the window.
“Hey do you have an extra shirt I can borrow?” I was beginning to realize how crazy I sounded. “If you don’t it’s ok. I lost mine.”
They shook their heads.
“What about some water?”
I left their car empty handed. It was just then that the police showed up.
I was then taken to a mental hospital as a 5150. It was the first time I’d ever been in real handcuffs. I was taken to Canyon Ridge, a place I’ll never forget.
These are two different accounts of the same event, as told by me. The first was written in the hospital on a yellow office pad I convinced them to give me after I filled my moleskin. The second is an elaboration after returning home.
her eyes red with glory “these are the winning numbers to the lottery, are you ready?” written in orange crayon were the numbers 1 to 13 on the bottom of a page torn out of a patient rights pamphlet her arms flailed wildly and strangled her own neck until she passed out near the doorway of a solitary confinement chamber
. o 0 O 0 o.
I stood on an empty plane of existence close enough to see the atoms making up the walls that stood between myself and reality
sleeping in the bed before me I saw myself tattered and tattooed asleep soundly. What a peaceful state of mind I felt.
the boxes with my name engraved below the wooden shelves encased my newly forgotten memories and I could barely see the dark tunnel below me
“STAND DOWN CITIZEN. I HAVE THE LIGHT” my skin tightened around me and it felt as though my eyelids rounded my entire face so I could see behind me. Confused, I ran, collecting empty sheets of paper as I fled.
I arrived at a broken bridge the lights still flickered in the distance but the voices fades and I was alone.
I sat on an empty plane of existence. The sun appeared suddenly and was gone just as soon as it came.
“YOU THERE. WHAT IS YOUR FACE.” my sunken eyes turned to the man he floated towards me “THIS IS NOT YOUR PLACE. GO!” his chest glowed a pale orange a moment only and he fell at my feet.
The explosion lasted a lifetime and I ran through a thicket of dark matter over the bridge and fell into the broken bridge.
“AND HERE WE SEE THE ATOM”
“where am I?” I asked my voice echoed as it might in a small sanctuary
“where do I go now?”
nowhere in particular
my eyes opened slowly at first but the light of the room collected my thoughts quickly I stood
the room was a pale blue a beasts attire on the closet openings and he spoke
“THE GLASS HERE SEPARATES US. BUT NOW YOU MIGHT SEE HOW I LIVE. BE WARNED. YOUR SIDE IS YOURS. MY OWN MIGHT BREAK US. STAY WHERE YOU ARE. I CAN ONLY WARN YOU ONCE.”
just because it’s not for you
doesn’t mean it’s not for god
and I don’t mean for God
I mean forgotten
What an interesting device this is. A small plaque on the wall with a single button and a dime-sized hole to left of it. Of course, a button’s only purpose is to be pressed, not doing so would undermine its entire existence.
I press the button. The hole glows a murky orange masked by a small circular gate. They must’ve known I was coming. I produce a cigarette out of the crumpled box in my pocket. Strange they didn’t take this away from me. They didn’t even pat me down when they handcuffed me and put me in the back of the police car. I could’ve had a bomb, or worse, some kind of secret sensor that tracked all the movements in and out of said police car. I could have sold that device for millions. In fact, maybe I did plant this device already. I don’t really remember where I got it.
I press the non-smokable end of my cigarette into the hole and press the button. The crackle of burnt paper and tobacco. What a great sound. Was it being transmitted out of the hole? No. I see the lit cigarette. It’s seems very real to me. At least right now it does.
Hm. This box feels a little different. The text seems smaller. I remember crumpling up the box earlier in the event that my mission is compromised and they might try to poison me with my own cigarettes. What a dastardly plan.
I stare around at the patio. It’s dark. I’m alone. The whole area feels sort of like a small park you might find at the end of an alleyway. A lone table lit by a single streetlight. The sky looks real enough. Could be a biodome though. Something to invoke some kind of emotion out of me. Who knows what sort of technology this place is capable of.
it’s basically telling me to. Is that the joke? Or is this some sort of test. A test of will. Do I run? No. But it doesn’t hurt to try the door anyway. I give that sort of look around people do before they say the N-word to a close friend. I press the bar. Locked. Not really surprising.
“Got another?” Chad? Oh wait, no. I don’t know this person. “Sure” I respond without much choice. A heavily tattooed man with that posture like he hasn’t seen light in years. Ghosts in his eyes. I hand him a smoke and he turns and walks away. Not even a thanks. Maybe there’s something to these cigarettes after all, and he knows it. Does everyone know?
I wander back into the waiting room. Or is this some kind of cell?…I peek into the tiny window on the door to my left. A padded isolation chamber, straight out of a movie. I always assumed these rooms were at the bottom of some high security prison. Somewhere you have to unlock the floor in the elevator with a key.
It doesn’t feel so scary looking inside from out here. There’s a boy on the bed in the very center of the room. One tattoo was visible on his leg: a crow on a gravestone. The rest of his body is covered by the straight jacket.
There’s a larger woman sitting on a chair behind me. She reminds me of someone I knew from church years ago if she was homeless and had a meth problem.
“Hello.” I respond.
“Do you want to know the winning lottery numbers?”
Of course I do.
“Of course I do.”
She almost magically spawns an orange crayon and motions to me for something to write on. I have a pamphlet from the rack near the the entrance of this waiting cell. It had some pretty terrible artwork depicting different kinds of mental states. I could do much better. Maybe they’ll hire me to rework all their pamphlets. That could be a fun project.
Oh right I’m about to learn the winning lottery numbers. I hand her the pamphlet and she’s off.
Not quite what I was expecting. But maybe she has a point. I hear people talk about “what are the chances that life could just randomly exist all of the sudden et cetera, et cetera.” But really, what are the chances of anything happening? Would it be more magical if 13 random numbers…Wait. 13? I thought it was 6. Maybe they changed it.
“Anthony Gonzalez” I hear over the intercom. The room isn’t very large. They could have just raised their voices a bit. I reluctantly walk over to the desk. A woman behind what I assume to be bulletproof glass. Liz? She looks so much like her. The aging didn’t do her well. But in her eyes I can still see her. She must be trapped in this place. A place devoid of time. How else could I see so far into the future? Just behind this glass 50 years must’ve passed. How long have I been in here? I look down at my hands. Still young.
A dull looking man escorts me to a small room. Weak minded, I can tell.
He begins scrawling down information on some absurdly detailed form. His hands are moving quickly, his letters skew and start becoming just scribbles of nonsense. I focus harder on his hand movements. Sporadic now. The form is covered with ink. I look up at him
“Alright, that’s it.”
“Can I sleep in the confinement chamber?” I ask. After all, how many people get to say they’ve slept in a solitary confinement chamber? Probably more that you’d think I guess. He seems taken aback by the question. It’s a simple yes or no.
“I suppose we can arrange that…”
The form is now, somehow, perfectly readable. Some kind of invisible ink I assume. He was trying to throw me off. I wonder what information he did manage to extract from me. in fact I don’t even remember saying a word.
The chamber was surprisingly warm, both in temperature and color. I felt safe. Unless…no. I promptly lay on the bed and pass out.
I stood on an empty plane of existence
close enough to see the atoms making up the walls that stood between myself and reality
sleeping in the bed before me
I saw myself
tattered and tattooed
what a peaceful state of mind I thought
Gasp! (Well not really that sound exactly. I guess it might be more like AWUHH! It seems like there should be a better way to spell that onomatopoeia.) I’ve never had the pleasure of almost drowning, but I assume my awakening was similar to the experience to being reanimated. A new bed. A new room. I vaguely remember talking to a woman out in a nice garden with a tree. She asked me all sorts of questions. A dream? Perhaps. Where was the chamber?
“This is a whole new place with new faces and names.” I hear in my mind. The line repeats itself in my head.
Oh I have one of these. I got it at IKEA. Nice little square compartments. Better than a shelf in my opinion, because you can sort vertically and horizontally. These gym shorts seem far too big for me.
“Hey! That side is your side and this side is mine!”
A beast of a man. Roughly shaped like Sully from Monsters Inc., storms in. Startled, I drop the shorts. Now it makes sense why the right side is empty and the gym shorts are too big for me.
“Hello.” I say calmly. I may be small but I’ve got dexterity. I’d slip away from his clutches easily.
“Eduardo.” he reaches out his hand. They must’ve assigned me a friend. I shake his hand. I immediately visualize the germs from a thousand doorknobs jumping from his palm to mine. In between my fingers and even under my nails. Pulling my hand away I could almost feel a sticky film stretching away like the cheese on a pizza in a 90’s cartoon.
Anyway, I immediately wash my hands. I’ve never really had a germ phobia but I can’t be too careful here. This might be some kind of sick human experimentation center. Sounds exciting. I wonder what they’re looking at me for. It must be important. Eduardo must be my new bodyguard.
After the brief introduction I’m left alone again in my new room. I can’t believe they’d think I wouldn’t get the Portal 2 reference. If this is a game, it’s one I’ve already played. Although there isn’t any art on the walls. I’ll have to fix that at some point.
what a beautiful blue
came into my view
she’s grown so intriguingly
fond of me too
and i’ve shown her my warmth,
my heat, and my storms
and i’ve shown her my love
and i’ve shown her my form
and yet still she stays
just a distance away
when i reach out to touch her
A frail little man. His hands trembled holding the lighter up for me. They didn’t let us have our own for obvious reasons. There’s one of those lighter devices on the wall just to the right of him. Must be broken. Or, more probably, someone had misused the device. Poor guy must’ve burned his fingertip right off.
I wander over to the round table with my newly lit cigarette. There are cameras everywhere. 1…2….3,4..5……6. 6 cameras. Just in this tiny enclosure. This was where I had that conversation with that woman in my dream. I guess maybe it wasn’t a dream at all.
A few young adults are sat at the table that I climbed on top of in my dream. I mean. It wasn’t a dream. You would think that being in the actual location would bring all of it back to me but instead it just clouds the memory. I swear it has a different… tone. I don’t remember her name. I can’t even remember her face.
Eduardo is here at the table. He seems calm. Less beastly. Everyone has their cigarettes in hand.
“These are all we got here.” one of them says to me. A larger woman. Very auntly. “Brenda.” she reaches out her hand. I reluctantly return the gesture. Again, I peel my hand away as if it was stuck in old chewing gum. I address the rest of the table with a witty and humorous remark as I join them.
“What’re you in for?” Chad asks me. Wait. This still isn’t Chad. He looks much healthier now. Maybe it was the lighting.
“Going crazy.” I say. “Just completely losing my mind.”
“Haven’t we all.” A few breaths of laughter follow Brenda’s statement. I sort of feel offended. I mean, there is a difference between breaking a few plates in a fit of rage and stripping down to your underwear in a messianic delusion, running through a busy 4-way intersection as a demonstration of your newly found divine power.
No need to compare tragedies I guess. And I’m much better now anyway.
A long drag of my cigarette. It’s almost refreshing. Like a ice cold bottle of Coca-Cola®. I procure my notebook from under my arm and open it to the first page.
If found, please return to
My own humor amuses me. I wonder if they think that I think that I’m George Clooney. What a hilarious delusion that would be.
They only allowed me to have one of those small pencils, the kind you get at mini golf. I mean. I could still do some damage if I wanted to. I guess every precaution must be taken in a place like this. Even if it is really just a facade of safety.
“So, you’re an artist?” The girl to my right says to me. Very beautiful, but with a kind of repressed sadness in her eyes.
“Yeah. I mean I always have been. I’m trying to get a job as a game artist.-”
“Oh you like games?” A pudgy, but well groomed man. Bandages on both wrists “Check out this place.” He immediately commandeers my notebook and writes “BLIZZARD ACTIVISION” on the page I was on. First of all: rude. Second of all, how would an aspiring video game artist possibly be unaware of one of the largest video game companies on Earth? He might as well have suggested that I drink water when I’m thirsty.
I say none of this.
“Oh. Cool. Yeah. I’ll check that out.”
“Draw me!” The beautiful girl suggests. Her name is Dot I discover. I fiddle with the tiny pencil in my hand. I’ve never wanted a real drawing pencil so much in my life.
I nervously begin to draw the shape of her face. It’s wrong already. I start to add some stylized lines to maybe remedy the drawing. Maybe it’s not a pencil I really need, but an eraser.
“He thinks I’m ugly!” She begins to cry. I try to explain that it was merely a mistake. She won’t listen. People come out to the patio and escort her away in tears.
What a strange place I’ve found myself at.
“Smoking break is over!” Someone yells from inside. We all put our cigarettes out and return to the facility.
you’re good. get better. stop asking for things.
Visiting hours. I’m a bit nervous. I’m not sure what to expect. Will I be receiving instructions? So far I think I must be here to help these people see. See what it is that I see so clearly now. My notebook has everything I need to prove that my quantum diagram will-
“Hello.” It’s Alan’s father. It’s definitely him, but…older. Much older. He gives me a smile. I return the gesture.
“We’re just here to make sure our daughter is marrying the right man.” He laughs, but it’s not a joke.
Suddenly my heart starts racing. Was it…was it him all along? Or them- The Academy. This can’t be. She’s not here… We were never supposed to be together. I’m in here because..because I’m the anomaly and I must be dealt with.
I look at the television. Kid Rock. We make eye contact and he tells me he’s sorry with his expression. This so much bigger than me, I realize.
I look back at Alan’s father. Such genuine delight in his face. The prosthetic looks so real. I’m truly alone in here.
My cousin Korey and his wife walk into the room. I dart towards him and hug him harder than I’ve ever hugged anyone. It feels like my feet touching the ground for the first time in a long time. I can’t help myself, I burst into tears. All this constant surveillance and these tests. But this. This feels so real… I thought… I thought I would never see anyone again.
I guess I should wash my clothes. I don’t even know how long I’ve been wearing them. Days? There’s a washing machine in one of the rooms in the hallway. I remember hearing a song playing from the dryer earlier when we had gone to the cafeteria for breakfast. I wonder if it’s a recording or is procedurally generated by the sounds of each load.
“SMOKE BREAK” I hear from the entrance to the patio. I prefer smoking my e-cigarettes but they won’t allow them in the facility. These breaks were something to do at least.
“You need to start getting your own cigarettes put in the box.” Brenda says to me.
“Oh. I didn’t realize…I thought it was some sort of pot.” Not as in marijuana. Pot like a potluck of cigarettes.
“Tell your visitors to bring some in next time they come around.”
I write it down in my notebook. I always seem to find the right page in a time of need. My notebook tends to work well with… Wait. What is this? I didn’t draw this. I remember everything I draw. Not these lines and circles though. This is that page I was developing my number system on. But these shapes are wrong. There’s no logic here, it’s just random symbols.
“They’ve been writing in my notebook.” I tell the others.
“They took my toothbrush!” Eduardo exclaims.
“They treat us like guinea pigs here..We’re real people!” Brenda half shouts to the nurse watching the door, exhaling smoke with her words. I watch the smoke linger and disperse into the air.
“I can’t draw smoke. I think that’s been my main problem all along.” I say while attempting to draw Brenda’s smoke clouds from memory. “I’m not ready yet.” The drawing is inaccurate. How could you possibly calculate every moving particle? I don’t even think of smoke as a series of particles. It acts like a wave reacting to itself.
There’s a drawing from one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks diagramming out how water interacts with the surface. These strange swirls that seemed to logically make sense, but weren’t realistic at all. It’s like there was a time when people couldn’t see things how they really were. They witnessed a completely different world. One we didn’t quite understand yet.
“What’s your tattoo?” Says Chris, the one with the bandages on his arms.
“Oh, it’s Jimmy’s spaceship.”
“Well..it’s a long story, but basically there’s Jimmy. He flies around in his spaceship. One day he comes across a planet with a giant space station coming off of the planet. It’s like…twice the size of the actual planet. Jimmy sees something wrong here so he docks at one of the ports.
‘I need to talk to whoever is in charge here.’ he says to the guard of the port. The guard shakes his head and points to another doorway. Jimmy reluctantly goes. At every turn Jimmy is redirected and redirected. He doesn’t give up though. He seems to be making some sort of progress.
Finally, somehow, Jimmy makes it to the center of the station. He walks through the door to see a gigantic room with monitors lining the walls. The room was so big and the screens were so tiny that most of them just looked like tiny flickers of color.
‘Excuse me sir, but you can’t do this. This station. It’s a disgrace!’
‘Shh!’ He shouted at Jimmy.
‘This isn’t right!’ Jimmy responds.
The man doesn’t respond again.
Jimmy gets in his spaceship and leaves the station. His ship is very powerful and he is able to fly directly into the sun of this solar system. He reaches the center and gets out to meet the guardian. The guardian glows a great yellow and sits at the bottom of a warped fabric of space, keeping the sun in it’s place.
‘Excuse me sir, but your system, it’s being corrupted by the people on the third planet.’
No response. He just sits. Quietly. Staring at something. Jimmy turns to look at what it is. A turtle. Long dead.
So Jimmy gets in his spaceship and never comes back.”
“SMOKE BREAK IS OVER.”
I gutted my friend
found the diamonds in his head
the I showed you a picture
but I noticed instead
his arms bound round your finger
eyes nearly dead
now my friend’s part of you
and I’m partly my friend
“Have you been sneaking weed in here!?” She nearly yells at me. Taken aback and slightly insulted I respond with a simple “no.” She gives me that look like she doesn’t believe me. I probably would have told her yes if I was anyway. Would she tell on me? Seems childish. The speaker enters the room and everyone goes quiet, thankfully.
I’ve been attending all the meetings since there really isn’t anything else to do around here. They don’t even have a piano. The addiction meeting has a interesting character running it. I haven’t ruled out the fact that he may actually be George Lois, writer of the book Damn Good Advice. In fact I believe all the “doctors” here must be professionals, seeking out the talent usually associated with the special-minded.
Anyway she must be a cop. She certainly has the demeanor. I don’t like the fact that they are targeting the mentally ill to extract information. They’re all broken here. It’s not fair.
I sit a few seats away where I can’t see her face. I’ve committed some minor crimes in my life sure, but I’m a changed person now. I just want to do what’s right.
“ADDICTION” George writes on the board. “What is it?”
I begin to draw, not sure where I’m going with it.
“When you think you need something that you don’t.” exclaims a girl in the corner. She was one of those girls that always stayed a few minutes after class to flirt with the lit teacher.
“Alright, alright. Not a bad description” says someone who may or may not be George Lois. His book was published by a company called Phaidon, their logo being the ancient greek letter Phi (Φ) which is used in mathematics as 1.618..etc, the golden ratio. Coincidentally, this symbol happens to be tattooed on my arm as the handle for a dagger from a long forgotten video game. I no longer believe in coincidences.
I start to speak, but stop myself. I smoked a lot of weed over the last year or so. I don’t think I would say this was “addiction” necessarily, I just liked the unconditional joy it brought. I guess it was a nice contrast to the deep depression I had been subject to for a number of years in my life. Anyway, this habit may or may not have contributed to my incarceration here.
“You did it! You broke me!” I can’t take these tests anymore. I don’t like the questions they ask me. They wanted to break me and they did it. My mirror goes two ways. My “congratu-fucking-lations!” There are 6 cameras in here and no one is coming to stop me or calm me down. I needed a breaking point and they found it. The floor underneath me sinks down a few inches. My body follows. “Is this what you wanted?” I whisper. I know he can hear me.
//how many notes until you can consider it a melody?
I remember my release day vividly. I was greeted by the soon-to-be love of my life, accompanied by my best friend, Ryan. We went to jack in the box. I had never been incarcerated before, but even being in only a week or so, I’ve never felt so freed. I really wish that would have been the end of it, but it was just another beginning.
My life for the next year or two would end up being a haze of scattered memories. I was having schizophrenic episodes every couple of months. The days I was manic bleed into my lower moods. I really can’t recall exact days or months in either state. I wish I would have written down exact events during this period, but instead I have a trove of art, poems, and songs that vaguely describe the situations I encountered.
There were times where I was hallucinating over the screen of my phone. Texts would read differently, sometimes with horrifying diction, maps would become skewed and bent to whatever narrative my brain was concocting. A lot of the time radio stations would seem to modify their inflection of certain words or phrases that seem to align with my life, situation, etc. I often believed that my entire room was being carefully monitored as some kind of initiation into an illuminati-type collective. I’m sure there are many more that I barely remember.
There is a certain unreal quality to being in this kind of psycho-manic state. It’s strange to explain. For me, it was very much like being in a video game. There were the regular crowds about doing their business, having little to no interaction with me. They seemed to be on a loop, at least in my eyes. But there were also these…characters. People so seemingly out of place — as if they were waiting for my approach, waiting for me to initiate their side quest.
There was J.J., the heavily tatted man whom I’d met outside a starbucks when he asked a friend why “this guy (me) was looking at [him]”. He eventually showed me to a nearby bus stop where he sees the ghost of his mother everyday. We met up with his friend, a thief, who strew his loot of the day across the concrete while dancing to my beat boxing.
There was David, another schizophrenic who believed I was an angel and introduced me to his other mentally ill friends so I could tell them my stories.
Rich, The magician who after entertaining some college students, revealed to me why he believed that UFOs are actually angels.
— Not to mention my first encounter with Bob and his dog, Mickey. It seemed to me to be the initiation into the rest of the world. The world beyond the perceivable.
There are many more, but most I have only fragmented memories of. I wish I had better documented these encounters, but it’s hard to say if that would mean anything. I seemed to find a new, interesting interaction every day. Something strange or offbeat that only solidified my beliefs at the time. Wandering the world without reason, only pure curiosity — seems to have led to these unusual experiences. Sharing these, however warped they may have become over the years, feels important to me somehow.
It’s been about 4 or 5 years since I’ve had a serious episode, now being on heavy medication. Though it’s often said that mental medication can leave you gray and emotionless, I’ve found myself to have lived a full and joyful life since. It’s definitely not perfect, but I am thoroughly grateful for modern medicine. I would surely be on the streets spewing wild nonsense had I not the fortune of doctors, hospitals, and a supportive group of family and friends.
This isn’t meant to be a PSA about mental illness, or have any real political impact, but more just to provide a small broken window into the mind of someone experiencing something often sensationalized. I’ll leave you with a few more scraps and images I’ve archived. Come to whatever conclusion you may.
?have you ever followed the white dwarf down the blackhole
?have you wanted to go somewhere you:ve never been before
.but when i got to the gateway the keeper said i shouldn:t go
.there are things in this universe humans shouldn:t ever know
.still i stumbled in
,followed by my sin
.don:t you know that i could wake up tomorrow and die
just before i
begin to live.