Lying alone in a hospital bed in the psychiatric emergency ward gave me much more time to think than was healthy. I wasn’t suicidal when I was admitted, but I was certainly getting more so now, approaching my second day in two different beds. The camera at the ceiling continued its unblinking stare. A restlessness twisted the bed sheets like ropes. I considered using them to suspend myself from the suspended ceiling, but it looked no stronger than the last time I tried. Surely I would go crashing to the floor, documented by the camera, and would earn a strapping to the bed, snowed under by a Haldol and Ativan cocktail.
The crone of a PAO (psychiatric assignment officer) had listened to what I told her about the waif and was able to talk with her sensitively and knowledgably. She ordered the security guard to stay away and convinced the waif to take a good piss. I could hear her in the next room, a hot stream detonating against the resonant toilet bowl and a relieved groan. The waif went straight to her bed and fell asleep. The crone ended her shift without releasing me and I knew that I was in for hours of more waiting and a need to repeat my performance to the next PAO.
Having little else to entertain me, I began to recount my recent adventures: the fruitless search for a bridge, being impugned by Joy, being abandoned by Carol, the arguments and final betrayal by Natalie, the betrayal and loss of Paul. There was little in that record to give me hope. I thought about when I began this blog, how I vowed to write until I understood where my patients got their hope when they said they got it from me. I was going to write until I figured it out. Well, I’m no closer now than when I started.
I actually thought of praying, since there was little else to do and I felt I should be doing something, if only so I would stop thinking. I had few illusions it would make any difference. I could remember the silence that had returned the last time I called to the heavens and had no reason to believe that hospital walls would ring with the voice of God when the starry sky would not. Praying would just prove my point that I was alone in this; that every particle in the universe continued to run away from each other long after they were expelled from their cozy pre-big bang home by a force that has long since locked the door and gone to sleep.
I actually got down on my knees and folded my hands like a little kid getting ready for bed. I would scrupulously adhere to every form so that no one could say I wasn’t doing it right. My knees, other than the elbows, the only boney part of me, objected to being turned into a pair of feet, but I regarded the pain as nothing other than a sacrifice on an altar. The knees objected further that they were being made to carry my guilt as well as my weight, in addition to a camel-breaking straw of faith.
I was surprised that I could find no words of my own in this posture, as if the cat snatched away my tongue and was munching on it on the back stoop. I suppose I would even have more to say then than I could find now. I borrowed a few words from a trusted source:
“Why, oh why have you forsaken me?”
I regretted those words as soon as I said them. Who the heck says forsaken, anyway? Only someone being dramatic. Also, I decided I didn’t want a response. Not here, not now, not this way.
Bad ancient Greek playwrights had a stage direction they used to rescue them from bad plots: Deus ex Machina: lower the god (Deus) down on the stage with a crane (Machina). The god would punish the wicked, reward the faithful, solve the insolvable, explain everything, and give the bad play a happy ending. That was the only kind of god that could appear for me at this moment, so I didn’t want it. I didn’t want a god I could summon at will. That kind would do me no good.
I was getting ready to rise from my knees, no easy task, mind you, when the new PAO appeared at my door. I was embarrassed that he saw me praying and knew that he would go back and write in the chart that I was religiously preoccupied. That would surely get me a few more days in the loony bin.
“I dropped something,” I said, as if I had anything that hadn’t been confiscated that I could drop.
“Let me help you up.”
He looked like I would if I lost a hundred pounds or so, stopped most of my bad habits, and kept my hair gray. Certainly, he might be sympathetic.
Unfortunately, he said, “I suppose you think you’re clever.”
For further reading: Experimental theology Peterrollins.net