ARCHWAY CHRONICLES: CHAPTER XII


I wake still in a haze, but the first fact that comes into focus is that Full Metal Jacket is still playing. I guess it was somehow on repeat?

Time to prepare for yet another cold walk, today in rain that seems closer to hail than any type of liquid. Off to the main building for roll-call. More ‘news’ from Kirk, more hands to shake that I’d rather rip off clean, proceeding to fondle with the bloody remains.

Apparently the two local football teams are playing each other this weekend apparently. They call it ‘The Showdown’.

I honestly couldn’t care any less about it, but we are in Australia, and one of the teams originally hails from Port Adelaide – the shitty area we are currently located in. The excitement seems infectious, I must have had inoculations as a child.

This morning though we are told that we’ll be having an unplanned group meeting, involving all of us. Last time this happened I was the target without realising it, and before this one was to start I walked briskly to my room under an innocent pretext. Door closed and locked, I opened the little bottle of magic still stashed in my boots, and ate at least ten pills.

I want to be calm; I need to be calm.

Breathe in, breathe out.

In through the nose, out through the mouth.

But the events of our last meeting will not leave me alone. I feel as if an angle grinder is not only whirring inside my head, but that also if I were to take one to my head with bloody results, my mind would still not stop spinning.

Before I know it everyone is in the shared lounge, talking about last night’s ‘incident’. This is deja vu. But damnit, I took a tablet that knocked me out, what could I have possibly done overnight? I was barely conscious! Singing in the shower at 3am again seems out of the question since the anti-psychotic drug comatised me for at least 12 hours.

This can’t be the issue, surely?

No, everyone is talking about an incident of some severity that I obviously slept through. I have nothing to report when asked, but it certainly sounds like physical harm was involved. Bugger, did I miss a fight?? That could have provided such much needed light entertainment.

More grievances and worries about future relationships between residents and staff are discussed, further leading me to believe that some sort of physical altercation has taken place, seemingly between a member of the staff and a resident. Safety in particular is discussed at length.

Later in the afternoon, yet another another group meeting is called for in the shared lounge area. Again??

Thankfully not, as coloured pieces of paper and felt tip markers are handed around the room as if we are in kindergarten. In yet another bizarre display of the passive aggressive nature of the therapy dished out here, each of us has a different coloured piece of blank A4 paper. We put our name at the top of it, and hand them around the room clockwise. Suddenly I am presented with a light blue piece of paper with the name Melissa at the top.

I don’t know who Melissa is.

Without anyone else’s comments to come to my aid, I am searching my memory, digging through all those roll calls that I was rarely mentally present for. It finally clicked, I don’t know her at all but I now remember who she is. An older, kind lady who I probably would have gotten along well with were it not for the fact that we reside in different buildings and therefore share different lounge rooms.

“Caring and empathic” is what I write down, a guess based on her age and knowing she has children who visit.

Before I have the chance to finish that thought, we are told to hand the pieces of paper again around the circle. I really feel as if I have regressed to pre-school, as I take the pink piece of paper from my right.

Kym, it says at the top.

Shit.

I am not ready for this; I need to get creative. But how can I determine any positive characteristics from any of this passive-aggressive hyperbitch’s behaviour towards me?

I feel so awkward.

I am Stuck.

My extreme hesitation to add a word under her name feels like an insult towards her, which it very much is, but I struggle to find something nice to say about the insane person whose piercing demoness eyes I can feel staring through me from my left.

Fuck it, let’s jump head-first into this game of cat and mouse, of forced friendships (that can’t be too close of course), of relentless judgement. Of passive-aggression.

Recalling the coffee incident, I find one characteristic from that bizarre adventure that I could argue actually exists, and is a positive.

‘Organised.’

This is the best I can come up with, though as I pass the sheet of paper along the word ‘strong’ occurs to me as less of a… sly insult, as her outburst days ago about the coffee is all I really have to judge her on. She lectured me on how the ‘system’ works regarding coffee; therefore she is organised. This is my logic.

Admittedly though, I’d love to be in close attendance when she reads that word Organised, certainly knowing that it came from me.

The kindergarten merry-go-round continues, but my patience has been given a medicated boost as I can feel the calmness of clonazepam washing over me. There is absolutely no way I should be allowed to have these tablets at all, and I am still trying to figure out why my room hasn’t been tossed upside down after it seemed clear that someone knew I’d stashed a bottle away.

Or perhaps they did without my knowledge; given my current state, I wouldn’t have noticed if my room was not how I left it. If this is the case, then it would seem my hiding place worked wonders.

Lost inside my head, now overwhelmed by the absurd amount of pharmaceuticals swimming in my cranium, I slowly lean back and melt into the couch I am sitting on. Suddenly I feel like acting nice. My ability to creatively think of positive things to say about people I barely know or dislike has sky-rocketed; no surprise, as any anxiety I had when we first started this activity has been neutered.

I add more friendly yet vague descriptions, picking adjectives at random: empathetic, supportive, motivated. I am not even remotely trying to match these to the people I am writing about; apart of course from the few people that I don’t despise.

But concentration is becoming more difficult. Why did I swallow so many fucking tablets? Ah, the warped contractions of the mind that comes with being a filthy addict. I knew taking too many tablets would render me a near useless bag of flesh, yet I did it anyway. Again.

As my eyelids begin to fight gravity, it seems we have already made the rounds, and I find myself looking at the baby blue piece of paper I originally scrawled my name on.

Unsurprisingly, the page is filled with seemingly random compliments – all anonymous of course. I look at it closely though and can see a pattern. These people don’t seem to despise me as much as I thought. In fact, unlike any of the ‘staff’ that ‘work’ here, most residents seem to acknowledge the problems I have been facing– not only that, the piece of paper I am looking at is filled with smiley faces and words of encouragement.

Perhaps this is more passive-aggressive behaviour at work? But reading comments like “keep up the hard work Jordy!” and “Keep your chin up, don’t give in!!” not only make me feel more accepted, it also makes me feel incredibly guilty about the meaningless one word answers I left on each sheet I was handed. That feeling passes after about ten seconds, and I again smile to myself as I realise that I am perhaps not hated; that more of these folk seem to understand my struggle than I had realised.

Comforted by this thought, I again lean back and become one with the soft couch I am sitting on. And now completely oblivious to any judgement, as everyone files out of the room– most probably to the smoking table– I barely move apart from tilting my head back and staring at the pretty spider-web like patterns that are crawling their way across the ceiling like the roots of a tree spreading as if cranked on amphetamines.

I begin to smile stupidly, but am snapped out of my stupor by Andy. I look at him and he is looking up, surely wondering what is it about the ceiling that is fascinating me. I hold in the laughter as he begins to talk. I try to listen and nod when it seems appropriate, and he is soon gone from the room, leaving me to myself. I eventually wander to my room and crash into bed, curling into a comfortable ball as I continue to enjoy the feeling of calmness mixed with minor hallucinations that seem to be growing in effect.

It turns out that I should have listened to Andy earlier. Not that I was capable of doing so, but would have been useful. Andy is busy organising his arrangement to leave this place, after putting himself here willingly.

For smoking pot, lest we forget. And he isn’t even going home! No no, he needs a halfway house to cool off before he can be around people who, gasp!!, smoke marijuana, in this state of Australia that is very well known for its incredibly high number of growers and subsequent cheap product. I honestly wish him good luck if that is where he wants to point his life towards from here, but I feel like he will run into some hurdles that he may not be expecting.

Or has this place done its job and sufficiently prepared him? All the repeat visitors here are alcoholics, perhaps he will flourish.

Ugh. Ugliness abound. What would I know? An armchair psychologist classified in absolutely jack-shit, rambling about another person’s choice to stop using a drug.

Jesus, that is why I am here.

Reeling this in to the point at hand, which is that I no longer have anyone to play music with, which isn’t a problem in itself – weren’t writing anything, just jamming – but something is telling me that his stature within the place; well-liked, well-behaved, has almost completed his lengthy stay… these characteristics will likely net you a bit of leeway– in our case, it had been that we were allowed to play music at loud volumes for an hour a day.

Unlike what some may expect, we weren’t creating the audible chaos one might assume from junkies in rehab playing around with a drum-kit and an amplifier. I am sure though that most, if not all, the folk here don’t appreciate the volume, despite the fact I felt we were playing some good stuff.

Trying not to think about this, as it hits 5pm– our designated noise-making time– I grab the sticks and proceed to make as much noise as possible. Rhythmic noise, but noise nonetheless. There are no guitar melodies to match the spastic beats I am playing as physically hard as possible, the more noise I make the more conscious I am of how different this is to playing with someone on guitar. I eventually stop when Kirk walks into the room trying to yell at me over the noise.

I was right, damnit.

I catch the cymbals and make out the very end of what he is saying as the ringing in my ears gradually dims.

“…so we need to have a quick chat.”

Fan-bloody-tastic.

“It’s after five isn’t it?” I ask innocently.

“We’ve had complaints from businesses next to us. We’ll have to shorten it and make it 5:30 to 6.”

Really?? I do my best not to bite his head off with a stream of obscenities. Not to mention, why have a fucking drum-kit here if I can’t play it? Does it match the colour of the curtains?

Now snapped out of the mood to play, I leave the lounge area and slam the wooden and glass door as hard as possible behind me. I thank Buddha as I fail to hear the sound of broken glass.

I see One Eye sitting by himself at a small bench that I haven’t noticed before. It is almost hidden, a grassed over path winds around some of the few trees here, and the bench itself is under a veranda. He is smoking and I’m out, he’s usually pretty generous.

As soon as I sit down though he begins talking in a tone of voice I haven’t heard from him before. “Dude, that was pretty fucking loud” he aggressive tells me. Yeah, NO SHIT. Drums are loud by nature, most people realise this. Suddenly I am standing up, waving my hands erratically as I erupt like like a proper cockhead of a volcano.

“Oh? I didn’t realise drums were FUCKING LOUD MATE! Can you explain to me why there is a drum-kit here if people like you are going to bitch and moan about an hour of noise? Is it offending your weak fucking sensibilities? It is a bit of noise you arsehole, get THE FUCK OVER IT! I’m not playing the damned things all day. Get some fucking headphones you piece of shit. Go wash that sand out of your vag.”

“But mate, this is a rehab cent-“

“OH FUCK OFF YOU CUNT. SUCK MY HAIRY BALLS, AND GROW SOME YOURSELF!!”

Woops! So much for trying to have people dislike me less.

I have decided to embrace this therapy that they use here. Some I disagree with, but I need to at least try and save face in this goddamned nut-house. And new resident Alise is feeling similar, so we have decided to spend tonight figuring this shit out.

A few points from what we have been given:

  • To begin the escape from difficulties and problems in your life, and to take control of your life, you must admit you are the source of the problems in your life. You must admit that you have been living your life in disloyalty.
  • Choose to trust yourself and how this program can help you. Also choose to trust others in the same situation and have faith that you can overcome your problems.
  • You must become adaptable to circumstances and conditions in which you find yourself. You must come to understand your beliefs often get in the way of your happiness and you must learn how the world operates. You must learn there is wisdom in following rules.
  • You must fully assess your present life and become totally aware of all things that make up your life.
  • You must assess all the relationships in your life and start working to repair them and the injury you have caused others.
  • You must begin helping other people, especially those who will give you nothing in return.
  • You must make goals and then act and think in accordance with them.
  • You must give up always being right about the way the world is and the way the world should be.
  • Never give up. Never concede failure. Concede mistakes and always learn from them.
  • Come to recognize your negative, unethical attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Recognize them and then work to systematically eliminate them.
  • Become firm in your conviction to ethical behavior. You must become more involved with other people in both meeting your own goals and helping them to meet theirs.
  • Reassess your life’s master plan with the purpose to become the best person you can be.

Jesus, that is a lot of “You must…” points…

There are a lot of challenges to my morality and beliefs here. This is what I’m not quite liking so much. My values and morals were never changed by drug use. I did bad things, because my brain and body wanted pills more than anything else. My brain was willing to rationalise the most irrational behaviour. It wasn’t because I was going against my moral code; I knew this at the time for fuck’s sake! I hated myself, severely, as I stole money from family members to fund my habit.

What is also itching my brain, my curiosity so to speak, is that this booklet…. it isn’t tailor made for my situation. In fact, there are many passages that are so… ‘catch-all’, that they are bound to strike chords with people as they are so vague. There is no doubt that some of this seems like some very helpful stuff though, and I will complete my sixth months here even if it drives me more insane than I already am.

Let’s roll with the punches.

Making my 30th coffee for the night, Alise and I are still trying to figure out what exactly we are supposed to do with this stuff.

But.. my speech is starting to slur.. The words on the pages are becoming incredibly hard to read as they refuse to remain still.. Each line looks like a wave, up and down, unpredictable like the ocean, I am having to correct every damned word I am writing right now, as my laptop has also come alive and is swaying from left to right. I look up and can see stars lining the ceiling. Alise is talking to me but the words aren’t registering. I am getting the feeling that she doesn’t feel comfortable around me.

Is it normal to drink 30 coffees in an hour period?

Time to make another one…. Very difficult. My legs seem to have lost about 50% of their function as I wobbled to the kitchen. Back now… Alise is eyeing me in a very odd way. Perhaps 5 spoons of coffee for one cup is a bit overboard? It doesn’t take long for me to drink it and my brain has now shifted gears. Everything is moving and shaking uncontrollably, as if an earthquake is shaking the building.

Suddenly I can hear Alise clearly.

Wait… no, it seems someone in my brain is lecturing me. My eyesight is losing focus quickly, as all I can I pay attention to now is this new voice that seems to want to help me.

“Remember, you are a messiah. You have wasted your fucking life. Finish this stay and then we can begin to heal the world.”

Fair enough. That seems to be the end of her contribution as my sight suddenly has returned to… acceptable levels of distortion. The earthquake is still rattling the walls, my laptop is bouncing on the table– I hold it down so it doesn’t jump off and destroy itself.

I look around and Alise has disappeared. The clock says it is 2:am. I think. Perhaps it is time to retire to bed and look at this MRT stuff at a later date. I can’t see myself sleeping though. Time for another coffee… nice and strong. I pick up my things and realise that carrying a cup of coffee, a laptop and this MRT booklet is an impossible task given that every time I turn to go around a corner, the world spins as I lose my balance and fall on my backside. Those stairs are again going to be a challenge.

I have grabbed my laptop first, for fear that this earthquake will destroy it. The booklet is small enough so I snatch that too, and begin my slow journey across the grassed area outside to my cell. Walking in a straight line is impossible, so I sloppily walk wrong-footed as I leave the kitchen.

Suddenly, I am in a new universe. The stars are communicating with me; unfortunately it is not a language I know or recognise. Suddenly the sky turns completely black, and every star disappears.

Alarmed, I continue across the grass and approach my nemesis – those fucking stairs! Jesus on a stick, they look steep. With only one hand to help me, I make my way up very slowly, one step per minute as the stairs too aren’t looking remotely normal, never remaining straight.

Finally I am at my bedroom. But all that coffee has gone through me, I suddenly need to piss so urgently it almost happens in my pants. In fact there was a little dribble I must admit. I again sloppily make my way to the bathroom to relieve myself, and then approach the sink to wash my hands.

I look into the mirror and almost scream. My face is contorted, my mouth is forming an incredibly scary smile and I can see my eyes bulging out of my eye sockets; pulsating, each eyeball swells and sways, the right then the left in a rhythmic fashion.

Already disturbed, I can now see horns protruding from my forehead. Combined with the awful smile and dysfunctional eyes, I am looking at a transformation of myself into Satan. The horns are vivid and sharp, and that smile. I shudder yet I can’t look away. I decide it is probably a good idea to brush my teeth after all that coffee, but the toothpaste is a bright pink, not white.

As I open my mouth to brush, in the mirror my mouth is opening wider and wider, as suddenly a forked tongue slithers out of my mouth and hisses audibly. My mouth is still opening wider and I suddenly fear that my jaw is going to break in several places.

I can no longer look, something is very wrong. I need another coffee.