I was staying at the Atrium Medical Center psych ward when I pissed the bed one night because they basically coerced me to swallow some Trazodone. My body doesn’t do antidepressant sedatives for whatever reason. A switch gets flipped deep inside my abdomen, a kind of green light for my bladder to disobey the rule of urination law.
I woke up on a soaked mattress, a twin-sized bed pan. At least my roommate, who was a magician at hiding meds in his mouth and crushed and snorted Oxys every evening, was still zonked out. He was as close to legally dead as a person could be without being assigned the unfortunate Code Blue.
I was a 39 years old man on a 72-hour suicide hold that morphed into a two-week hold because I was either too crazy or too homeless to be released. Or both. I ended up here because I walked from the lonely, unsympathetic, streets directly into a police station. I was terrified of where I was mentally and could visualize the endgame, the path to nevermore. Being an addict and a depressive and a desperate animal, seeking the help of the police seemed like the right thing to do. The only thing to do. A phone call, a gurney, and an ambulance ride later, here I was. The only positive thing about the current situation was that my time was actually up; I was about to be loosed upon the streets of Ohio again later that day.
There’s not a cool way to deal with a pissed bed. The nurses were all young and intelligent and hauntingly attractive, so telling them I had an accident was not a plausible option. Shit, that would’ve been a permanent suicide hold. Hey, Jackie, can I have Frosted Flakes and a blueberry muffin for breakfast? Oh, and I peed all over myself last night. Hmu, girl.
I threw the sheets and blanket in the washer. That was one benefit of living in sad city, we could wash our own stuff, though sheets drenched in body fluids wasn’t a typical load. The real problem was the stained mattress. A Rorschach of urine in the middle of the bed. And the nostril-melting smell. I turned the mattress over, but Mr. Liquid Gold was not so easily foiled. Hello, it said, I’m still here, Bub. Fuck it, I’m gone in two hours.
I was scheduled to go live in Dayton, forty miles north, at a halfway house/rehab type of place. I’d never been to Dayton, had no plans on going there. I just agreed to it to get out of the Atrium Arcane Asylum. I had a baby daughter, and though I was never going to be gifted a World’s Greatest Dad t-shirt, there was no way I was leaving town. She lived with her mom in Hamilton. Dayton? No can do.
There wasn’t anybody left to say goodbye to. Well, maybe LPN Debra, a beautiful monster who, knowing the residents were banned from smoking, always informed me when she went to her car for a quick cigarette. Wanna come? Hahahahaha. Maybe I’ll smoke your locked up Marlboro 100’s. Savior every drag. I bet you’re just dying for one. Wanna come? Hahahahaha.
God, I wanted to make love to her evil.
The two people deserving of a train station moment were already gone. Daniel was a twentyish guy with an opiate addiction. He went through detox there. It was difficult and uncomfortable to watch another person tumble into physical agony. He was a human shell, less than a zombie. He would surface occasionally, mummified in a blanket and shuffling down the hall, his body distressed, a broken boy in a broken world. But he got better and better as the days crawled past. He eventually emerged from his hellish cocoon a rejuvenated, handsome, witty millennial. We played Uno and Scrabble together and talked about life and addiction and everything in between. Freed from his master, Daniel showed us all that a kind, rainbow-souled, charming gentleman lurked within. When he went home, I sat at our table and cried because I didn’t want him to leave. I cared about him like a son. I was traumatized by his departure before he even slipped through the glass doors.
Jessica was standoffish, melancholy, angry, tattooed, and silent. She was hard to figure out and even harder to get close to. She was aloof, a loner hiding out in sad city. Her husband would visit and bring their two daughters. Jessica never seemed to be present in any situation. The kids laughed, her husband talked, and she looked distracted and comatose. Like they had happy blood and she had spiders swimming in hers. I tried small talk with her at the decaffeinated coffee pot here and there, to no avail. But everything changed out of nowhere. A few of us were outside in the tiny, fenced courtyard, chilling out in the healthy spring air, when she walked up to me and asked, Do you want to play HORSE?
What? She wanted to play a basketball game with me? What? I never would’ve guessed the mute goth girl liked basketball. And she had a solid jumper. I was impressed. Eventually, she opened up about alcohol and adultery and trying to cut her wrists and debilitating depression. She said she didn’t know if she had more scars on the inside or the outside. Jessica joined Daniel and me at our table for card games, snack attacks, and lengthy, meandering conversations. We were the mentally ill three musketeers surviving in the psych ward forest. On the day she left, she gave me an extended, emotional hug and wished me well. I cried then, too. She was odd and awesome and ornery and misunderstood. I wanted her to stay and shoot some hoops with me until life made sense again.
When I gathered my personal effects and signed some paperwork, the nurse called me a cab, one supposedly headed north. As I walked down the hall toward the exit, I thought about Daniel and Jessica, how I was glad they wouldn’t know about their older friend pissing the bed like a child, even though I’m sure they would’ve laughed at me in a good way, a loving way, and how I really needed their laughter right then. I needed them and the desperate snorting from my roommate and the nurse fucking with me about cigarettes. I needed all of it because I was going to tell the cab driver to screw Dayton, drop me off in the concrete heart of Hamilton, Ohio.
Just take me home.
Chris Milam lives in the bucolic wasteland that is Hamilton, Ohio. His stories have appeared in Lost Balloon, The Rabble, (b)OINK, Jellyfish Review, WhiskeyPaper, Ellipsis Zine, and elsewhere. You can find him on Twitter @Blukris.