The Crystal Palace (Revisited)
(Column: Ward Stories)
Samuel Pirro, whose work many of you may have already read in the Morningside-Westside Bulletin, or The AMI/FAMI Reporter, offers us his "Ward Story" in this issue. For those of you who have "been there," you know Samuel Pirro and others writing ward stories are writing of very real experiences; unfortunately, too real. Here's Samuel Pirro's extraordinary ward story: - Cindy Sostchen, Editor
I sit alone, on hold, in a narrow hospital room.
An interminable wait, during which my panic mounts incrementally, until a tall, young psychiatrist enters, all arms and legs, bent over, attacking the floor as he strides-bulls toward me, chart in hand, scowling ferociously. He does not speak to me. He scans my chart. He lifts his pen from his pocket to take my history. The man does not know my history has already been taken this night.
For an instant, I am back inside the curtained picture-taking booth at Grand Central, hunched forward. The machine whirs as over an infinitesimally small number of seconds it fixes me. Afterward, extracting the strip, startled-puzzled-exultant, I look upon three different me's. Each begging for a history. As, veritably the time-traveling man, I happen every minute, second, millisecond.
"Is it Spring 1977, or Spring 1976?" I ask now, timidly, my voice breaking. At some level I know it is Spring 1978 and that I lost her. That it ended badly for all of us, most of all for me, but I am hearing as well echoes of that earlier spring, the real connectedness, however tentative, and I am overwhelmed with the pain and loss. And with terror.
For this man does not answer me. He continues to scowl. I want to run from him. I begin to sing, loudly, angrily, to the tune of "Red River Valley." But a different set of lyrics that tell of betrayal.
Still the psychiatrist continues to scowl, and now, backing away, he scrawls in the chart. Whereupon, having never spoken a word, he turns and leaves. Whereupon, they come for me, stick me with the needle and lock me in the room for the night.
In the morning, duly mortified, my cheeks puffed, hanging--the Haldol faceover--I sign myself out.