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.
“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.