[continued from the previous entry]
I wipe my lips of hot soup, devour bread, wolf down a dish of chopped fruit, and finish that off with a cup of tea. I’m getting weary of wearing these plain institution-issued outfits. But I hardly have the means to buy any threads of my own.
The lobby area of a 1940s-era mental ward is just what you’d imagine: a couple couches, end tables, mismatched lamps, and several tables where I find fellow patients often playing cards. Usually poker. Hard tiled floor. There’s a large Zenith “Trans-Oceanic” AC-powered portable shortwave radio sitting on top of one of the end tables. Having been a shortwave radio fan in the 1990s before the Internet arrived and began wiping out the need for such long-distance broadcasts, I am fascinated with this vintage shortwave. Or, I suppose, vintage to just me. Fairly new to everyone else here, of course. I start thinking about all the news stories that hadn’t yet happened that would be carried over those airwaves in the coming years.
Tonight, in this cozy lobby, I’m listening to a radio drama program called Quiet, Please. Per the radio announcer, this episode’s title is “Don’t Tell Me About Halloween.” It sounds like an audio pre-cursor to the Twilight Zone as I listen to the host character describe his creepy evening with a witch and the Salem witchcraft trials. I’m drawn into its supernaturalism and think about my own dark twist of fate that, for all intents and purposes, is supernatural. I would typically only find these program clips as an mp3 on old-time radio download sites. Now here I am, listening to this live.
The surrealism makes my mind reel.
Yet the simple dialogue between the protagonist and his witchy wife, coupled with sporadic odd sound effects and sci-fi musical interludes, appeals to me for some reason. I wouldn’t want to watch color television or browse the Internet, reminding me about home. Listening to this program and its story unfold distracts me. I find myself curious, if only to enable me to momentarily forget about my problems.
I’ve had many bad moments the past few weeks, but I’m thankful that I haven’t revisited the horrific mental state I had when I attempted suicide a couple weeks ago. I occasionally get sick and heave into the toilet, my sleep is erratic at best, and the periodic visits from the resident mental counselor hardly help. Though being fair to him, I doubt the best shrink in America could fix my head.
There’s an older man, I’d say around 70, in a button down shirt and glasses sitting in an adjacent chair as I’m curled up on the vinyl couch.
I introduce myself.
He introduces himself as Ted and immerses himself back into the Quiet, Please dialogue, chuckling here and there at the dark humor. I wonder why he’s here, in this place.
My stomach burns into knots as I think about Amanda, with her sandy blonde hair and green eyes. The boys, Nicholas and Connor. The buddies at the pub.
I quickly force myself to refocus on the radio, trying to keep up with the plot. An organ blares from the program and the lead voice actor talks through his encounter with some other woman named Candace. Ted lets out a combination of a grunt and chuckle. I’m not following the story that closely and not particularly interested in how it all ends. But as “Red” said in The Shawshank Redemption, in prison – which is my overall life at the moment – a man will do almost anything to keep his mind occupied.
Ted and I chit-chat in between gaps in the radio story.
I wish this program would run all night.
I don’t want to go back to my room and let thoughts flood my brain again.