Bobby carries a unique sense of self that functions independently of the rest of me.
His job was to figure out how to survive into adulthood.
To survive, Bobby had to hide his intellect.
He adopted a thick geechie accent.
He was tough and not afraid of his Mother.
His goal was to get away from her and his first strategy was to force a psychiatrist to commit him.
“One day I found a book called, “By Reason of Insanity.
It was all about this guy who goes crazy and stabs his wife 47 times with
a butcher knife..
He gets sent to the loony bin.
Most of the book was about the people he meets in the hospital.
Some of the people scream and see things that ain’t there.
But the hospital also had food and a school.
I thought hell, check it out!
I got Momma to take me to see a shrink.
The psychiatrist Momma took looked like Mr. Spock from “Star Trek”:
“Is there anything you’d like to tell me about yourself, bobby.”
“Yeh–I think I’m queer.”
“Why do you think that?”
“Well–” I looked up at him and said, “I think about boys when I-you know.”
That got me sent up.
The shrink told Momma that I needed to go to the state hospital for “observation.”
I got all excited since that seemed almost as good as going to New York.
The hospital had a place for kids.
It was a tall red brick building with locks on every door.
When Momma an’ me got there, Momma suddenly got very polite, and she gave me permission to smoke.
When the doctor came to meet us, she acted all scared, like she was talking to Grandma.
“Ya’all treat my baby good!” she cried.
Then she called me darling, and left.
This hospital was nothing like the one in my book.
It was all shiny inside and Muzac played all day long through little loudspeakers in the ceiling.
Everyone looked numb.
I made friends with this other queer who was a year older than me.
He was a rich kid who went on and on about how he hoped the doctors could turn him straight.
Here I was, fifteen and already out.
I thought this kid was crazy and said so!
“Listen!” I said, “That ain’t never gonna happen. So get over it!”
Well he hauled off and slapped me!
Then he got so upset about slapping me he started to cry.
A nurse came over to give him some pills.
She gave me an evil look.
Like I had picked up that boy’s hand and slapped myself!
I thought she’d like me better if she had to give me some pills, so I asked for some.
“Why do you think you need medication, Bobby?”
“I think I’m seein’ people that ain’t really there.”
“Be sure you tell that to your doctor.”
“Tell me a little something about your childhood.” the doctor said.
“Well it ain’t over yet!” I said.
“True enough.” he smiled. “Why do you think you’re here?”
“I guess ’cause I’m queer.” I answered. “Howcum you ain’t got no people screamin’ around here?”
He smiled again. “Do you feel like screaming?”
That shrink really thought I was crazy.
Now I knew I wasn’t, but I reminded myself that for these folks, queer was the same thing.
When Momma came to visit she always put on the good behavior that she wore for Grandma.
I said, “Momma! These people gonna do some kinda shock treatment on me!”
“They’ll do what they can to make you better.” she said. “I hope you’re smokin’ like I said you could.”