It was raining cats and dogs when I entered the mental institute. On opening the door, the patient immediately sprang towards me. “I’m not who you think!”
There was agitation and pain in his manner and eyes.
“Tell me then, who are you?”
“I’m not who you think!”
“Well, who aren’t you?”
“The one they think I am!”
Find out who he is…
It was lovely weather. The torrential downpour late in the night paved way for a tranquil morning with a gentle breeze, overcast sky, and a wayward raindrop falling every now and then. The atmosphere was a sea of tranquillity. The patient sat on the floor at the foot of his bed. Legs folded, eyes closed, he embodied the tranquillity all around him. Had I met him somewhere else, I would have taken him as the source of the serene atmosphere. But this was a mental institute.
Meet the Loony…
My tireless legs and tired mind took me to an unknown part of the town. A narrow road separated a row of dilapidated houses and a wasteland, neither deemed worthy enough to be lit up by streetlamps. The darkness around me was intimidating. I tried finding the spotty obsessed lover in the sky, but he was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps musing about giving up, finding solace in Clapton blues to forget her blue face.
My foot hit something hard and limp and I went tumbling to the ground. A thump and a cough resounded through the abandoned houses. I got up at once, for I hadn’t coughed. A man lay in the middle of the road, arms folded under his head, gazing dreamily at the sky.
Meet the nighttime daydreamer…
I saw a man scampering like a dog with his tail between his legs. Having walked similarly a few minutes ago myself, I knew the reason for his unusual gait. But his robes piqued my interest; a patient was allowed to roam outside after sunset.
“Hey, how come you’re here?” I inquired.
“Ahhhh, sweet God, I needed that. Are you happy now?” he said with a sharp tone.
Lecture him on public urination…
We’re All Equal
Meeting a patient confined by a straitjacket was strangely appealing. It was the first time my erstwhile idea of a patient in a mental institute came alive. Despite the synchrony between my mental picture and the patient in front of me, I trod cautiously. Unpredictability was the only certainty within these walls.
“Hi there! Mind if I have a word with you?”
The patient stopped pacing and turned to face me. Her eccentric braids flew and whipped her throat. The sound of a flagellant’s instrument echoed through the sombre quarters, her purple lips stretching in a sinister smile. I gulped.
Take a look, cautiously…
“Hi, there,” I greeted with the best smile I could manage.
“What do you want?” The words were intermixed with a sigh. The night outside the cell was intrusive, silent.
“I’m just going around visiting patients for a project, to know about the…their…um.”
“Madness,” he said turning towards me. The springy bed didn’t make any sound as he turned, doing its bit to make the room dingier.
It was my first day of interviewing patients at the mental institute. The sign outside the door said ‘Bullet for My Valentine’.
“A heavy metal band,” said the ward boy accompanying me.
“But why is that written under ‘Artist of the Day’?”
“The patient behind that door can only speak through song lyrics,” came the response in an incredulous voice. The ward boy couldn’t believe the absurdity behind my question. I was amazed that despite having worked in the facility for years he could still be struck by absurdity at all.
A person breaks his neck and dies in the most ridiculous manner. He chooses to recount the tale to a small audience in return for getting a chance of avenging his death. But what awaits him is more than laughter.
The window was open just enough to let in the cool air. The attic was empty save for its two occupants.
“How long will you continue sitting there brooding to yourself?”
“What else is there to do, Tony?”
“I don’t know, get a life maybe!”
I turned to look at Tony. He lowered his head and put his hand on his forehead. The ridiculousness of his suggestion embarrassed him more than it surprised and humoured me.
“You know that’s not possible,” I said. I moved my hand from under my chin and let my head drop. It was difficult to look at Tony from the position my head was in, but displaying my broken neck helped me make my point.