St. Mary’s Hospital is a place for troubled people.
I am troubled by the need to remember and Doreen by the
need to forget.
Five North is the locked unit at St. Mary’s Hospital.
This is where we who insist on losing control must stay.
This is where I met Willis.
Willis is six-foot four and angry.
He storms the day room and the staff part like the red sea.
A day on Five North usually begins with a Community Meeting.
The patients usually complain about how cruel the staff is and the staff usually agrees.
Doreen raises a hand and asks why there isn’t more Christian broadcasting on T.V. and Nurse Sandra explains it’s a weekday and “that’s that.”
Then Willis stands and everyone stops to listen:
“Ah was always this tall!” he begins, “An when ah breaths ever-body feels the flame! Thass why they knows ah come from God! God cradled me then spit me out an ah rambled an’ ambled over Earth till ah found this place here an’ no one takes my rights away or I’ll be a dirty muthuh’ fuckuh! Ah gotta balls black bitch in the Fillmore. She hustle rides up here, she say, no matter what you say or what you do…they always a place in my heart for you…”
The staff question each other with quick little glances: can we calm him down without restraints?
Dr. Jeremiah London clears his throat and says, “Why are you so angry, Willis?”
Willis spits. “You look like the one thass angry doc‑tor! You look like you ’bout to tell me to shut up!”
Dr. London purses his lips: “No, I’m not Willis. But you are disrupting the meeting.”
“I ain’t disrupting nothin’!” Willis turns to me, “Am ah disrupting you?”
I shake my head: “No Willis. I like you very much!”
“See! Ain’t no‑ one disrupted but you doctor!”
A twitchy little nurses says: “I think it’s time to end meeting,”
Then I raise my hand, “Wait! We still got ten minutes! There’s a problem and I think we should work on it!”
Dr. London shoots me a patronizing smile: “What do you think the problem is? …Bob?”
“Well. There must be some reason we’re locked up!” I turn to Willis. “Why you locked up here Willis?”
“‘Cause ahm a six-foot four black man! An’ ahm smart!”
Doreen nods at a hallucination and says with slow sweetness, I have always thought that you are nice person, Willis. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you.”
Dr. London leans forward and looks at me intently: “It takes a great deal of courage to be here Bob, and I think something you can work on while you’re here is to remember why you’re here.”
<c> Rob Goldstein‑‑2014-2016