Foot down hard, I flew
A week later than I would’ve preferred
To see you
Bearing gifts of books and love
Cards from family – mine (and by extension, yours.)
Worried, anxious about what I’d find.
Would Nurse Ratched be presiding?
Would I find you unhinged – my dear girl, interrupted?
Would I be scared? A tourist? Attacked?
I pulled up, mind and emotions aflutter
Wanting to be there for you
Yet not knowing if ‘you’ were all there.
I was naive, my friend, and you taught me
In at the deep end, for you’d forgotten about my arrival
And laughed at my shock as one of your new friends told me
In broad Irish brogue,
How he’d tried to cut out his heart
Yet had no sense of anatomy and cut the wrong side
He’d do better next time, he said.
As though the ground were shifting under me
Waves rising, I floundered.
Should I laugh? And thereby condone?
Should I remonstrate? Offer a sane view?
I hedged and clung to the fence, trying not to offend or approve
Didn’t understand the gallows humour
But he’d already moved on.
You were giddy – not like I know you, but you, amplified
You were brash and crude
Overspilling with the force of your personality
The social conventions (and the gloves, and all bets) were off
You loved your presents
You loved the cards
You love my family and I’m glad that in a way, they’re yours too.
Then we chatted
And you calmed
Felt normal to me
(and I normal to you – I fitted right in)
Honesty and affection flowed
And I was glad you were alright.
You made us a cuppa
A stunningly normal occurrence in our relationship
Now juxtaposed by the lunacy of us being here
And gradually my edginess wore off
You told me about ‘your people’
And how being among them was good for you
As the day wore on, I became proud to be counted as one of ‘your people’
For they were like me
The guy you said was anorexic
“Cigarettes, tea and nothing else”
And four grown-up children nearby
None of whom had visited
The guy who punched and stabbed
To deal with the anger which consumed him
Who calmed down after an upset
When you hugged him and told him to make good choices
The girl you called ‘Virgin Mary’
Whose eyes were sad and whose smile was beautiful
Who spoke foreign languages with us
But kept leaving inexplicably
The guy whose Irish reminded me of Husby’s home
We talked Dubliners, accents, drinking and fun
He shook his head in confusion as to why
After nearly amputating his own arm
He still couldn’t get sectioned.
He didn’t want to go home.
Didn’t want the front door to close behind him
Incarcerating him with his thoughts and no-one for company.
These were your people
Bewildered by life
Just taking some time to rest
And recover from the harship
Of Being Them.
And the ‘nuthouse’
The ‘loony bin’
The ‘scary box of mad people’
Was a refuge
A haven of clean peace
(But for our laughter and singing)
It was Home
Those souls who struggled to manage ‘normal life’
Were nestled here like baby birds
Vulnerable creatures, helping one another to grow
Making each other laugh
Doing Good for one another
And I was jealous
For in the long-ago hours of my Darkest Times
I needed this
And knew not that it existed
I came to see you in the ‘place of crazies’
And discovered the kinship of fragile souls
For both of us.