Day Seven of Thirty Days of Writing.
Groups here tend to be minutes of emotional vomit. Being a joiner is hard and it’s even worse when you haven’t really got a choice; endless rants of bullshit, really, about how and why each of us is there. The kind of personal that makes you squirm worse than Michael Scott’s exploits.
Still it’s a chance to get things off your chest in without judgment. The one thing we all have in common sitting in this circle is we want to go home; as soon as humanly possible. So contribute. That’s the game. Each one of us, at least I am, is playing a game of chess — working to establish a count down of when we can go home—as masters of our own destiny. Even though the reason we’re here is due in part to some problem with the way we play the game. Coming back to the first person that ever taught you how to play, spending a few hours relearning, and then going a few rounds.
“I hear the voices sometimes, but only sometimes, and I can’t get them out. At night when I’m in bed they can get so loud I can’t hear my own stereo and they’ll just cut out.”
“Is it only at night?”
My attention is focused mainly on Jackson. He’s sitting splayed, legs out, arms crossed with an attentive look on his face but I know that look. I have the same one. He’s clocked out, in his own world or worlds finding ways to entertain himself while the personal, and mostly banal, babble goes on around us. One person at a time. One voice at a time. One seated chair that, despite the body, is really just an empty chair. Like Clint Eastwood talking to Obama at the RNC convention back in 2012 but some semi-salient voice responds. Jackson is somewhere I want to be. So I watch. We’re only two chairs apart in the circle and because, luck of the draw, we’re going counter clockwise, he and I are at the end.
The minutes tick past. The voices tick past. The bottle spins and finally lands on me — too bad there’s no make out session.
“Anything you want to share?”
“Want to…” I said letting a moment or two of silent anticipation build “Has anybody here read One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest?”
“This is about you, not any one else.”
“Then why do I have to share if I can’t talk to the people I’m sharing with?” the woman didn’t have much to reply with “If I’m going to divulge any thing to any one I’m going to do it the way I feel comfortable, not the way you want me to. Otherwise, no, I’m good. I don’t have anything.” and I sat there the same way Jackson was two chairs down. Legs splayed out, arms crossed, and waiting for an acknowledgement from the Master at Arms.
“Well,” she started “has any one read the book?” Jackson’s head peaked up.
“Yeah.” He said. First time I’d heard his voice. It was gruff. He was a smoker. He poked his glasses up with his middle finger and sat up right. I mimicked his movements and engaged the group again.
“Did you sit there in school, when you read the book, and ever wonder if you’d end up in a place like this? What character you might be? Would you be like McMurphy? The Chief? Billy? What would have to happen or what would you do that would get you put in a place like that? How bad would things have to be and what kind of fucking road would get you from that seat of educational innocence to a place that literally questions your own sanity? Your own agency?” I went on “Never really thought that I’d end up following in my mother’s footsteps. That was the first time I’d ever been in a place like this. It was to visit her.”
“What character do you think you are?” Jackson asked.
“That’s what scares me a bit more.” I said
“Do I belong here? Obviously. I’ve got the scars to prove it, but now that I’m in here, just being in here, and this is my second go, makes me look at myself, this setup, memories of the outside, all of you. I’m a danger in here as much as I am out there, but it flips. In here I become hopeful. There’s some goal of wanting to get the fuck out of here. To be able to choose. It’s the most important piece to all of it. To be able to choose. Take that away from me and I feel like I don’t belong in here.”
Everyone has their heads turned on me. They’re listening. Jackson too.
“So why’d you do it then?” asked the Master at Arms.
“Because I feel like a burden. That I’ve always been a burden. That if I did this and succeed I’d be making life easier for everyone I love and everyone I know. The logic there seems too good, too solid, not to be true. No one would worry about me. No one could get angry any more. The fighting and the yelling and all the needless bullshit that seems to trail me like toilet paper hanging out from my pant leg would just stop and everyone, for once, could get some fucking rest. Including me.”
“Do you still want to die?”
“I never wanted to die. I just wanted to stop being a burden.”
“So you still feel like a burden?”
“I’m breathing aren’t I? I’m in this place. I’ll get out of this place, I hope” taking a breath “and it’ll all start again.”
The looks I was getting. The all of a sudden attention.
“The worst of it was a couple years back. Hurting myself wasn’t even on the table.”
“What happened?” Jackson asked.
“I was living in Hawaii. I’d moved there after a breakup. Sold all my stuff and bought a one way ticket. One day after work I went up to the north shore to watch a surfing competition. Wasn’t out of the normal. But this one weekend” my chest is getting tighter and my breath is getting shorter remembering how I woke up that morning — the state of me — “This one weekend I woke up beaten on the beach. I don’t remember the night before or what happened but a couple walking on the beach found me in the tall grass bleeding. I’d been raped — ”
“That’s not possible. You can’t say that.” Mark, another group member broke in.
“That’s how the cops treated me. But the hospital said otherwise. They found cervical fluids on me, I’d been sodomized with something wooden and I was drugged.”
“You’re making this up. You’re a fucking liar.”
“No. I’m not.” and with little hesitation Mark leapt out of his chair and jumped on top of me. He continued to pound me, swing after swing, fist after fist, angrier and angrier. He’d gotten his hits in before a guard could come in and detain him, but for some reason another guard grabbed me too. I went from being attacked by one person to being restrained and dragged by another. He dragged me into a quiet room. It’s a room, with a raised metal surface and a cushion on it. The table has loops for straps but the straps are gone.
He slams me on the table and pins me down and waits for a nurse to come in. She’s got a needle.
“No,” I screamed “why?! I didn’t do any — –” and I was out.