When you have lived with the blinds closed and you have watched the night become the morning – your eyes wide with both fear and relief – you understand. You can see the sickness once you are well. You can see it in the way a person moves. Sometimes they have fingers that flutter and eyes with pupils wide. They are eyes that need and need right now. Other times, you see a different sort of sickness. The kind that lives in your head – the blinds that are closed even if they are open. The eyes that dart back and forth because they are confused and they are scared. The hands that hold the body which rocks back and forth or kicks while the mouth screams. These are the people.
I really hate sitting in these waiting rooms; all the chairs look the same, with the same dread-locked pattern of melancholy blues and manic reds. The paintings are abstract in that they are not so much art as they are void of art. They sit stagnant on the yellow walls and watch the patients tap their feet, one two three four, the dance of the mentally ill.
I am alone in the waiting room today, save for a large woman who eyes me suspiciously. I am always nervous before the appointments and so I feign asthma and use my inhaler. It doesn’t much work for anxiety, but it calms my nerves just thinking it might. I finger the magazines for a minute but quickly stand up. I cannot sit still here. I walk to reception and use the alcohol based sanitizer. I wonder if my Doctor will think I smell like alcohol. I wonder if I will have to explain I have just used the pungent sanitizer in the waiting room.
She is five minutes late and so I read the billboard. Apparently “The Mood Swing Orchestra” needs guitarists and singers. No experience required. I wonder how one can have an orchestra with people who cannot sing and people who cannot play guitar. I am guessing that if you’re crazy enough you don’t really need to play the guitar: maybe you can just cradle it in your arms and smile at the crowd; Thorazine buzzing throughout your brain.
A large poster screams at me, “YOU CAN QUIT SMOKING.” I laugh under my breath – if you have arrived at this clinic quitting smoking is likely at the bottom of your to-do list. Brushing your teeth is a good place to start.
A sign is taped to the reception window: “ANY VIOLENT OR DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOR WILL BE PERSECUTED.” The patients at this clinic are usually on so many medications they can hardly walk never mind exhibit any abuse. Furthermore, I question if they understand what persecuted really means. It sounds close to executed.