In the M.D.’s chair
My clock announces five to eleven. It is mid-morning rather than night. I know this because there is daylight.
Overnight I’ve come up with radical strategies in space exploration, gathering manganese nodules on the sea-bed, closing gaps in national security, more computer modelling, water resources and 3D underground mapping.
On a mission
A man on a renewed mission, I head to GEC to share my proposals with the Managing Director. He isn’t there but his P.A. says I can wait in his anteroom.
Anteroom? I’m not going to wait in some poxy ante-room. Doesn’t she know who I am? I push open his door, swan in and sit in his plush black leather swivelling chair. His copies of the Financial Times and Sporting Life are neatly folded on his desk… at least they are until I start making my selections.
A question of manners
Clearly he isn’t coming. Fancy not having the grace to meet me. We’re talking here of basic principles of courtesy.
At the bar
I jump up and swan back past the startled P.A. and make my way to the Social Club bar. I’m sitting there expansively owning the space around me when my friend Tom Priest comes in.
He’s heard I’m behaving strangely, whatever that’s supposed to mean, and has tracked me down to the bar. He has one purpose in mind: to get me to hospital. I banter wildly as he pushes and pulls me through his own department, Personnel.
His concern for a friend over-rides the personal cost to himself in effort and embarrassment. He cajoles, bullies me and bundles me downstairs to the car park.
In his car I realise how utterly worn out I am. Sleep, oh god, how I need sleep. Images, phrases, places career around my brain. I know nothing. I understand less. Confusion sweeps over me in waves and, as broken as a nursery rhyme egg, I put my head in my hands and weep.
“We’re putting you in a room of your own Marc, just here. We’ll give you an injection to help you sleep. But first we need to take all your belongings and clothes from you. Don’t worry, you’ll get them back. Tony here will sort you out with a pair of PJ’s.”
I wearily undress and climb into the pyjamas. It’s like climbing a very high mountain.
Relief, cries my mind. Grant me rest. Sleep, grant me sleep.
A lifetime later, the door opens. Footsteps approach. I have no strength or desire to struggle as the needle goes in.
An oasis approaches; a well of sweet, sweet water. Oh, relief.
Someone leads me out of my grey cell across the corridor and into a bigger grey room. We go around a tall shiny wheeled cabinet and I am encouraged to sit at a table. A tray of food appears in front of me. Cornflakes, toast, marmalade, tea. I gaze blankly at my breakfast.
I pick up a spoon, poke the cornflakes with it and put it down. The spoon is heavy. My eyes are heavy. My head, my body and my world are heavy.
I look around at the other inmates. They’re of all shapes, sizes and ages.
Suddenly a word comes into my mind. “Insane.”
I am insane – these people are all insane.
An old man with an enormous hairy pot belly sticking out from beneath a woefully short pyjama top, Rice Crispies all down his front. Insane.
A young woman with glasses; by her on the floor, two crutches. Insane.
A young man with only two teeth in his mouth, slurping horribly at a cup of tea. Insane.
A tall angular man with a long angular nose and bright intelligent eyes. Insane.
An old, old woman muttering away to herself. Insane.
Others, some in pyjamas and some of them clothed, some normal-looking and some of them not, but every last one of them insane.
“Everything OK, Marc?”
“You’re not insane, Marc. You’re ill, and you’re going to recover.”
“Recover… recover… when?”
“I don’t know. But it could really be quite soon. Now, eat up, we’ve got to take the dishes away soon.”
I manage to eat the Cornflakes but not the toast. The patients finish off their breakfast and light up cigarettes. No-one speaks.
An old man with a Santa-type beard starts beating his chest with his fist. No-one takes any notice. The room fills with smoke. We sit. We do nothing. The TV is on. I don’t understand what ‘The Wide-Awake club’ or why its members repeatedly sing ‘We’re Wide-Awake.’
Stupor and cigarette-smoke reign.
Medication – poison?
A young man with a crew cut arrives pushing a chest on wheels; he opens it. “Pills!” he shouted. “Daisy, pills!”
A young woman stands, goes over and receives some pills. She swallows them. I watch as one by one the insane go up for their medicine.
“Marc, pills,” says the man. I shake my head in an attempt to eradicate the drowsiness between my ears and behind my eyes. I get up and walk to the pill dispenser.
“Hello, Marc, my name’s Sam, I’m the charge nurse here. Three pink ones for you and one red one.” He holds the pills out.
“They’re not poisonous, Marc, they’re good for you. Go on, take them. We’re not trying to do away with you, we’re trying to help you.”
I take the pills, put them in my mouth, roll them under my tongue and poured the proffered glass of water down my throat.
“Let me see in your mouth.”
I open my mouth.
“Lift up your tongue.”
I do so, revealing the pills.
“Come on Marc. Why would we want to poison you?”
He passes me another glass of water. I swallow.
“Let’s have another look.”
I open my mouth again.
“Good, all gone. That’s it, Marc. Thanks.”
I make my way back to my cell, flop onto the bed, sleep and half-sleep for hours, days, maybe even weeks.
Gradually the dosages are decreased and slowly I start to emerge from the drowse.
That’s all for today, folks. Please return – I’ll be posting regularly, Marc