Barstad, James Benjamin



James Barstad ONE "Life sucksr That was the one thought going through my head, when I realized that I was in a mental institution. I had bounced off of a couple cars, cut myself a couple times, and my girlfriend's dad thought I was suicidal. Of course, I wasn't. I was just upset, and expressing myself in the only way I knew how. I wasn't crazy\ Regardless, I was tricked into going to the hospital with him. Once there, I was locked in a room. Then, since they didn't have enough bed space in their looney-bin, the police were called and I was taken to Eastern State Hospital for an evaluation. I settled in for the weekend and decided to make this a fun experience, something to tell my grandkids someday. I played pool with the local patrons, watched TV and chain-smoked. A pretty girl and I conspired together to convince everyone that we were brother and sister, and were there because we had killed our parents. I was amazed at the gullibility of the clientele, but I later learned that the medication they were on was designed to better facilitate their acceptance of suggestions. We played up the con for all it was worth, some cheap entertainment besides checkers and Uno. Two interns were bum rushing a rather large Native American man down the hallway, bouncing him off the wall every few steps and throwing elbows for good measure. I told them, "Hey, you shouldn't treat him like that. He's only mad because you are hitting him. How would you feel if someone was bouncing you off the walls?" They said, "Here then, you deal with him!" and they threw me into a padded cell with the guy. The door locked behind me. I quickly assessed the situation. This guy was about 230 pounds, with long, dark, greasy hair, and a pock-marked acne scarred face. He was obviously a chronic alcoholic, with a puffy, red nose and a red spider web splashed across his face. What really caught my attention, however, was his agitated state and the discrepancy between his size and my 102 pound frame. If he decided that I was going to take the brunt of his anger, I was going to have my hands full trying to stay alive. When he spun around to swing, he was shocked when he saw me, as he was sure that he was going to have to fight against the two interns that brought him. He said, "Where did you come from?" I said, "I am from Spokane. My name is Jimmy. It's nice to meet you." 1 I don't remember his name, because all this happened when I was sixteen, and I am almost 48 years old, now. What I do remember is that I was scared half to death, but we found some common ground and had a nice conversation. I discovered that we both thought the two interns were assholes and needed to have their asses kicked. We both hated the fact that we were locked up in an asylum. We couldn't wait to get out of there, and we were both going to drink beer when we left. I found out where he would camp when he was free. It was one of the common sites for vagrants, near the Spokane River and the train tracks that would take them in and out of town when the urge developed to move along. I knew it well, as I had been there before. It was close to one of my favorite swimming holes. I assured this guy that we would celebrate our release from the nuthouse at a future date, although I was sure that I was going to be free long before he would. Sometimes you can just tell certain things about people. Once we were focused on the future, we were no longer in the present. A sort of mist came over us, something that I have heard called bliss or ecstasy. It was calm, quiet, and relatively pleasant in that padded cell from that moment forward. After about a half-hour (I had to estimate, as there was not a clock in the cell, nor was there one in sight of the small door window) one of the interns came to see if I was still alive and opened the door. He was amazed at what he found. I told him that both of us were ready to come out of the 'time-out room.' I explained that if he would just talk to the guy and treat him like a human being, everything would work out fine. A little respect goes a long way. He was only angry about being beaten. Who wouldn't be? I sat in the dayroom and hooked up with my 'sister' for another round of macabre details. The demise of our 'parents' became more grotesques with each recollection of the night before we arrived in Eastern State. For some reason, the patrons all agreed with us that our parents had it coming to them. If they had been our jury, we would have gotten away with murder. Even the heinous nature of our description seemed warranted. They were hideous parents. Maybe they were just being agreeable; again, their meds were conducive to agreement. About twenty minutes after 'pill line' another mist fell over the population. Again, it was very calm and peaceful, but there was an extra wave of giddy happiness in the mix. Low giggles could be heard here and there around the room. It seemed like everyone was in on the joke. Eventually, I got the punch line, and was giggling right along with them. It was in the air. I started to enjoy this time of the evening after a few days, as everyone was so jovial and carefree. After lights out, I found that I was having a hard time falling asleep. This was normal for me (I slept every third day), but usually I could find plenty of things to keep myself occupied. Now, I was locked into a room with only a book and my thoughts. I told one of the nurses that I was having trouble getting to sleep, and she brought me a small pill, barely bigger than the head of a pin. It was 15 mg of Thorazine, and it put me out. I slept about three days, and had a six-day hangover after that. Even though I needed the rest, I really don't want to feel that hangover again! My mother and brother came to visit me once. My mom told me, "We don't have crazies in this family! You need to straighten up, right now, and come home!" This was not the first time in my life that I realized I was in it alone, that nobody but me was going to make or break it for me. She was concerned about what the neighbors would think. I quit caring about their opinions long ago! I think the purple, blue, and green hair showed the entire world that their opinions were unimportant to me. Although the food was not bad, I had already had enough of the restricted yard access (none, whatsoever). The patrons were not very good for conversation, at least not in depth conversation, and that is what stimulates me the most. My 'sister' was moved to another ward, where she could be observed more closely, so I was without any partner in crime, or anyone to whom I could relate in any serious definition of the word. In short, it was time to go. While it was supposed to be a weekend stay with an evaluation, I did eventually get to see the doctor. I still don't know exactly how long I was there, whether three or ten days. The shrink and I spoke for a few minutes, and we both agreed that I did not need to stay for an extended visit. So I did as my mother requested; I 'shaped up and came home.' I phoned home and waited for my ride to pick me up. Thus ended my trip to the psych ward. The first, last, and only trip. That is, until I came to prison. Now I live there.

Author: Barstad, James Benjamin

Author Location: Washington

Date: 2016

Genre: Essay

Extent: 3 pages

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