THE ARCHWAY CHRONICLES: CHAPTER XIV
Today has been a strange one so far, and comparatively, that is saying something. Earlier Chris and I were smoking at the designated area as a group meeting was called over the PA. Luckily I seemed to have the ability to walk in a straight line, but my relatively well-adjusted mental state wasn’t prepared for what was said to me as I was halfway up– Kirk told me in a dead serious voice: ‘this meeting doesn’t concern you’.
There is no chance that this could be good news. This is a first I was told by Chris, who has been here for months. An unscheduled group meeting with two residents excluded, without a hint of subtlety.
What?? How is this not… Discrimination of some sort? Halfway up those stairs and I’m told that the meeting just happens to not ‘concern me?’
Well, colour me paranoid, but this has me staining my jocks. And now Chris and I sit… Awaiting our fate. This is getting beyond weird.
The meeting obviously does concern me, and Chris it would seem. We sit and smoke and chat as the meeting that obviously is about us continues; thirty minutes have gone by and they are still in there, they must be having a blast, and one helluva bitch session. Who knows what these lunatics are saying about us.
Another thirty minutes go by and Chris and I are becoming increasingly paranoid. Chris begins to tell me how he completed his first ‘step’, an initiation ceremony really. Despite being asked… Well, forced, really- to bare all in front of everybody, including the staff, for ten uninterrupted minutes, without blaming anyone or anything at all bar himself, it seems that his story of attempting to slit his wrists due to his depression instantly alienated him from most of the residents. He is the only one who is starting to see what I think I am seeing – that every person here is thoroughly indoctrinated. There are no religious overtones (apart from the fact that this place is run by a church), but the combination of the horseshit MRT therapy and mandatory group sessions, the obsession with routine and ritual, and all the other insanity, has everyone brainwashed. This really is how religions are born.
Let’s be real: This place is some sort of cult disguised as a rehab clinic, run by The Loving Church of Anglicare. My desperation to get clean blinded me, how did I not see this earlier? There may not be a charismatic leader, no, here the desperation and subsequent tunnel vision of an addict wanting to get clean is used to fill their mind with the moral code bullshit that is MRT. Considering the amount it costs us to stay here and the amount of money they must save by feeding us slop that is almost certainly obtained for free, Anglicare is surely making a killing when it comes to the bottom line. And as Anglicare is a church, all this profit is tax free, naturally. And of course, anyone in Australia who knows about Anglicare knows about their disturbing past that they have done everything in their power to bury.
No wonder this place has been described as the Anglicare Money Making Machine. I would love to know what these unqualified ‘staff’ are paid to essentially act like incredibly judgemental pig-whores who are astoundingly ignorant to the realities of addiction, not to mention mental health, and any person with half their skull occupied knows the two almost always go hand in hand. This is Certainly Not what was advertised when I first read the literature about this place.
Everyone is finally filing out of the building and down those stairs after what must have been one helluva angry, pissed off gossip session that lasted at least an hour. Unsurprisingly, both Chris and I are shunned, barely anyone is willing to look at us, let alone talk, and incredibly, not one person joins us to have a cigarette. Not a soul. That fact more than anything worries me considering everyone here smokes, copiously.
As the rest of the residents go about their business, avoiding us like lepers, our paranoia is now turning into conspiracy theories. Chris has become too close to Alise apparently, and of course a close relationship of any kind is against The Rules. The way he is talking, the staff seem to be acting as if the two are fucking like rabbits hopped up on crack. He is getting kicked out, he is convinced. Given the direction our Paranoia is taking us, I can’t help but agree if what he is being accused of is true. Chris understandably wouldn’t mind being kicked out, if it weren’t for the fact that like me, he promised himself, not to mention his partner and child, that he would stick it out for six months. His problem is that they won’t talk to him until he has accomplished this, so if he is booted, he has nothing and no one to go home to. I believe everything he has told me about Alise because I have taken the time to get to know him. His overall behaviour is most certainly acceptable when compared to my apparent actions that have annoyed everyone here. Saintly in fact.
What the hell were they talking about for over an hour? A lecture on the dangers of close relationships in a ’rehab centre’?
The conspiracies grow to near delusional levels, including but not limited to the monitoring and recording of our every conversation, as well as possible visitors; I made the mistake of vividly describing my hallucination from a few days ago, which has triggered increasingly delusional thinking from both of us- unsurprising when two people with bipolar are talking about conspiracy theories while being actively ignored by every person around them. We begin to agree on the reasons for being visited- we have been chosen, for something. Their intentions we do not know, but we will know when we see it. Our speech is rapid and the ideas are coming from all directions.
Another announcement comes over the PA. Another group meeting, barely an hour after the last one finished. Neither of us move, considering we weren’t welcome a couple of hours ago. As everyone else files up the stairs like sheep stoned on tranquilizers, Kirk invites us to join the party. I don’t think I can handle another session of passive-aggressive idiocy, but it would seem that I don’t have a choice.
We hesitantly stand up and make our way to the lounge room. There is no way that this is going to be positive in any form. With everyone already seated, a waiting jury, we enter the room and are greeted by deadpan faces as no one bothers to welcome us, or to even talk. The room is filled with silence thicker than tar. Is Chris right? Are these fuckers conspiring to have us removed? Are they conspiring with the visitors? And if so, why?
The assistant manager Catherine, who I haven’t had the need to deal with yet, finally breaks the silence, and it is instantly apparent that this is going to be different from the other group sessions that preceded it. The passive-aggressive approach has been lobbed into the trash from beyond the three point line, as this woman I have met maybe once suddenly launches into an attack directed squarely at me. There isn’t going to be any confusion this time ‘round, the slurs hurled at me are as direct as possible, coming from what feels like every resident in a rapid-fire fashion. The continuous attacks are thick and fast with a fire rate of insane proportions. It seems nearly everything I do bothers someone. There is no understanding in this pit of garbage, ignorant of my illness combined with withdrawal symptoms from hell. Every move I make is too intense. Or my sense of admittedly dark humour offends someone.
Ugh, fuck this culture where pathetic people have this new-given right to be ‘offended’. A step towards censorship as the phenomenon increases. I honestly don’t understand the concept of being offended. My brain isn’t wired like that. But these sheep sure do, as everything from the way I walk to the way I talk to the way I eat is painting me as a detestable person.
Despite sitting next to Chris, we don’t have a chance to talk at all as I’m perpetually chastised, the group making it seem like I am a paranoid schizophrenic who is about to become violently psychotic. But… There is perhaps five percent of truth behind what these insane fuckers are launching at me, and I finally decide it is time to offer my two cents.
“Why are you all exaggerating and lying so much? Almost none of this is true. Why are you all talking to me like this? Who have I hurt? I haven’t verbally attacked anyone, I’m doing try my best to be a good person. Everything Kym has said I know for a fact to be false, I barely eat anything at dinner so the notion that I am leaving ‘stacks’ of dishes for others to clean is FUCKING BONKERS!”
As my final words echo, the room falls into a dead silence. I think this is the first time I have been assertive in any way since I got here. Probably because I am beginning to see what lies behind the curtains. Everyone is looking at me as if they are seeing the devilish transformation I saw in the mirror the other day. I slap my face with my palm inside my mind as I realise that I have just painted a giant, glowing neon target on my back, chest and forehead. Well, in reality I suppose I just made them brighter.
Despite the spontaneity and therefore lack of thought behind my outburst, it is of course true that most of the lies are coming from Kym, my good friend the Hyper-Bitch. She is either more of a bitch than I originally thought, or she is completely delusional. And here I was, just over a week ago, thinking her inane complaints about coffee were a little crazy. The stories she is telling now are worthy of publication within a collection of short stories written by insane alcoholics. Worryingly though she has also managed to coax others into making up stories, one claim from an obese woman in a pregnant-lady floral dress was that she heard Alise moaning in the room next to hers. When this subject came up I became silent. Why a close friendship isn’t tolerated here will forever confound me, and I am fairly certain that Chris isn’t that stupid. He is a smart guy, he wants to stay for the full six months. Not to mention he has nothing to go home to, and no money as he is paying rent for an empty house as well as 433$ a fortnight here. This is a man who needs rehabilitation more than I do. Yet these bumbling morons are belittling him for forming a friendship?
More accusations are thrown at Chris regarding Alise, and like myself, he has no chance to talk as the ‘issues’ are piling up quickly, and they all revolve around his friendship with Alise. Did they fuck? Is Chris really that thick? Did they get closer than he was telling me?
Despite having her name thrown around among the allegedly most serious issues, Alise has not uttered a word. The paper planes have stopped flying for the moment, it feels as if everyone is now waiting for her to finally weigh in on the situation.
She looks directly at me before launching into her accusations.
“Two days ago we had agreed to work through our MRT stuff together, but you wouldn’t stop drinking coffee even though I said you were worrying me. I eventually became so uncomfortable and tired that I wanted to go to bed, but you didn’t listen and kept trying over and over to get me to help you understand it. I tried to leave at least three times, but each time you got all angry and I was scared to do anything but say yes to what you wanted. You eventually passed out and I was able to sneak into my bedroom.”
This certainly is at odds with what I recall from that night. But I am forced to admit to myself that my memory can be hit or miss wildly, and that I have no chance of knowing if she is joining in with Kym on the exaggerated lies, or if I did act like that towards her. I certainly drank too much coffee that night, can it cause memory loss of this nature? What I do know is that, even if drunk, I am not the sort of person to ever act like that or to put anyone in such an uncomfortable position. Perhaps I am misjudging, but I am going to back my own internal logic and knowledge of my personality against a story that sounds so unfamiliar I refuse to believe any of it, other than wanting to work with her on our Homework.
The following extended pause leads me to think that I am to offer some sort of rebuttal. But I feel overwhelmed by accusations that simply are not true.. At least, there is a high chance of this.
80/20. Or maybe 70/30. 60/40?…
I’m losing faith in my sanity.
“I know I drank too much coffee that night, as I wanted to be able to focus on the MRT stuff. That’s why I wanted to spend that night working on it, but you are talking as if I had an ulterior motive and acted like a semi-rapist! Past those two facts – the coffee and wanting to go through the booklet- everything else you have just said is bullshit. Can anybody here able to say that they saw any of this shit being flung at me?”
The obese woman from earlier, whose name I still do not remember, suddenly pipes up as if she just remembered something that she hadn’t known a few seconds previous.
“I saw you that night Jordan, you were acting pretty strange, and-
“Strange? STRANGE?! That is against The Rules as well is it? Acting STRAAAANGE? Did you see me talk aggressively to Alise or make demands like she is suggesting? Or is acting strange my only crime? I’d have thought by now most of you fine people would consider strange behaviour to be the ‘norm’ for me.”
I few people snigger quietly, and instantly I see sharp, disapproving looks towards them. It is quiet again. But not for long, as I hear another voice launch into gear. We were right. This is a conspiracy, and it most certainly concerns both of us. I feel so horrible for Chris knowing that I have a loving family and small group of friends waiting for me outside, and despite the promise I made to myself, I am fairly certain that my family isn’t happy with this place so far and wouldn’t lambast me for wanting to leave. But Chris has so much more to lose if he decides to leave early, and a chance to rekindle his relationship with his family if he succeeds. I can’t say I envy his position. I hope my trial is over, its Chris’ turn next.
The obese woman in the pregnant-lady floral dress continues: “You might think that is funny Jordan, but the way you act actually bothers a lot of people here, not just Alise. I think I’d be right in saying that most of the women here feel pretty uncomfortable around you, especially if alone.”
I see nods of approval from around me and could not be more baffled. I am certainly strange, intense, weird, yes yes and yes. But to the point of making every women here uncomfortable?
I feel as if I am on trial, accused of sexual harassment. I thought that particular accusation was aimed at Chris.
Let’s think about this. Was I right the other day? Am I really hearing things that defy what the person is actully saying? Was the conversation with Chris earlier anything like I remember?
I continue to hear how I hit on Alise several times in inappropriate ways, again none of which matches my personality at all, nor my memory.
Then again… Bi-polar does tend to warp one’s personality, it essentially flips it 180 degrees during a hypomanic episode. And it does affect the memory quite well. But during my many episodes of hypomania and indeed mania, I was again simply too nice. Too intense maybe, but never to the point of being within a football oval’s worth of harassment.
Then again… I know what mania is – a complete separation from reality. Psychotically delusional, believing things that just are not to true, and this is obvious to anyone else. The one episode I had lasted for three months, and I was worrying everyone I knew.. I am told. No sleep for ten day stretches… on no drugs at all. Is this happening again? It did happen last time after an attempt to quit opiates cold turkey. Am I manic right now?
I now really have no idea what to believe and what not to believe, what words to believe, what I see, what I smell, touch, taste. My body is going into seizure mode as my brain goes into sensory overload and I stare at the ceiling for what could have been thirty minutes, smelling and hearing things that I know aren’t there. But they sure make one anxious. More so considering this situation. That thirty minutes could have last if not for my minor seizure of becoming absent from reality being interrupted- I am overwhelmed by the sudden influx of sensory input.
More words are thrown at me, but the logic is falling apart and I am losing track of all my alleged misdemeanors. Is this entire session entirely about me?? Did they exclude Chris from their first session purely because they know he is the only friend I have here?
Apparently I am insistent on a friendship that she believes is ‘outside the boundaries’ of what Archway allows. The goddamned Rules. Okay, I need out of here, this cult-like atmosphere is becoming increasingly apparent, these people are brainwashed, seemingly believing things that aren’t real. Or… does that notion describe my current mental state? How the fuck do I tell?
Tying into the last accusation is that I am guilty of the crime of niceness. First this trash-hole tells me I am isolating myself too much from other residents, that I wasn’t socialising enough. At least that is what I remember them telling me. I’m pretty certain. Yet now I am being too nice? Is a friendship of any kind between two different genders completely taboo? I am closer to Chris and even Bob than I am to Alise.
“And those weren’t moans of joy you heard Marge. I was crying after I managed to sneak away from Jordan while he was making his…. Well, I lost count of how many coffees he made”
The assistant manager interjects. “You’re aware that this is considered an attempted overdose, Jordan?”
“Uhh.. I didn’t know that was possible with coffee…”
Kym decides to add more to the conversation, “You act like you are still on drugs. You talk about bizarre subjects that make people uncomfortable. We see you walk and you have balance less often than you do. You play music loud, you have bothered everyone with your drumming, and I’ll again say that none of us feel comfortable around you.
Alise adds, “You have constantly asked for us to ‘hang’ and get to know each other. You even asked me to join you back you your cell, and you didn’t take no for an answer for ages. What is wrong with you?
Kirk finally pipes up after what felt like a three hour trial. “Okay, I think we have all heard enough for now. Jordan, you can see Stephanie tomorrow. Chris, come have a chat with me when you can.”
What in the sweet, sugary fuck has just happened? I take my cue to leave as the rest of the group stays, their eyes slowly following me out the door that leads outside. I need to figure this out somehow. My inability to talk to woman is laughable, but I think back to my many hypomanic outbursts over the years, and the opposite was true. Now that I think more about it, I did try to chat women up, often acting so intense and chatty that at the end of a long conversation involving mostly my incessant yapping, I would never get a phone number. These memories are sounding depressingly familiar to what I was just accused of. I think I need to leave this place as soon as possible and see some sort of psych doctor. No, I think I need to pop into a real rehab facility, one specialising in keeping epileptic aliens disguised as people sane enough to function close enough to humankind as possible.
After the increasingly Kafka-worthy Trial of Archway mercifully finished, it was already past our normal time for dinner. As if breaking any routine was also against The Rules, even for staff, we are quickly herded to the kitchen and dining area for a late and brief ‘dinner’. Only Bob is willing to join Chris and I, and he sits down and I apologise profusely for my outburst at him about the drums the other day. He looks at me strangely, cocking his head like a confused dog, asking me what I am talking about. How… What? This isn’t… There is no way that was a dream, does he not remember it? Or are these visitors planting memories into my mind?
I want to sleep but I can’t. Increasingly paranoid. The conspiracy was real, it was really really real. And the conspiracies were just the beginning; here they are, I am hypomanic. Shit shit shiiiit the music is speeding up and slowing down again. Syd Barret’s voice is sounding alien even by his standards, the album sounding truly from another dimension, rather than from another planet. I eat some clonazepam, 15 tablets down the hatch, but I know it won’t have any effect, I won’t be sleeping tonight. But no matter, they do use sleep deprivation as torture, but in my case it seems to trigger a alteration in consciousness, which I am course a fan of; I bet they’d have a laugh trying to use that kind of torture on me. And it is certain that apart from a few select nights, I have had very little sleep indeed. I need to be taking seroquel regularly but considering my efforts last time i tried that, I am somewhat hesitant to try it again. But I need something to calm my brain down. Please slow, please. The fan is about to fly off the ceiling.
I feel as if in a horribly edited and extremely unsettling film with several important scenes that have been cut out, tasked with retrieving them, for many memories need to be knocked loose like so many diseased teeth.
And then it hits me. As I have been writing I have been pondering, considering this Extremely Strange saga that I’ve been through. I’m beginning to realise something important. Something of great magnitude that I now realise I was warned about; the hallucinations, the vibrating reality, the incredibly colourful and unreal world that I have plummeted into. Diving through looking glass, flying balls-first into a nightmarish world of Wonderland. This all makes sense now, as I am the son of God, in all his forms. I am some sort of messiah, and this gibbersh, this speed-fueled diary, must be read by everyone. Anglicare is to be exposed and I am the key to it all, to bring the disgusting Church down. Hopefully I can save some poor children from being diddle by a fucked up priest. Wait, a regular priest. My bad.
I need to get out of here, spread the word intended for me, Bill Hicks and his philosophy, his teachings, this is what I need to do according to our conversations through the false barrier of life and death, and this strange journey will amaze the world, it will inspire and lift peoples’ spirits higher than ever thought possible, I suddenly want to talk and talk and talk, but no one is awake, not to mention no one can stand the sight of me, so I shall continue my epic story.
It has been decided: I am leaving this place, and I can already tell that cleanliness is now guaranteed! I can already feel it, the cravings are just gone. Why put my mind in a vice with mind altering substances, I am high on LIFE right now! Bill is gently guiding me, and he was never wrong. Why stop this incredible feeling? I am SUPERMAN! I’m on ecstasy, mushrooms with a hint of cocaine all at once, only the incredible feeling of the latter does dissipate, leaving me desperate for more like a true, full-time junkie.
Wait, that was supposed to read as the junkie feeling of the high doesn’t dissipate. I don’t want this to end, that is certain. Was that a Freudian slip? A line certainly would increase this amazing feeling, but then again, so would a heroic dose of mushrooms. I am in Port Adelaide, but the chance of hopping the fence again and finding a dealer of mushrooms or cocaine on the streets isn’t high- they aren’t exactly the most popular mind-altering substances sold on the streets. I’d have a better chance scoring some oxys or xanax, but downers are the last thing I want now, I want to go higher, and HIGHER! I want to touch the stars and bring them down from the heavens as gifts for my family and friends.
Perhaps it is worth a shot. I might find something. I’m not going to be sleeping tonight, that is now certain.
It is now close to midnight, perfect for walking through a suburb such as this one. Nothing can go wrong, remember, I am a messiah. I have cheated death many times before, I should be dead. Recounting the numerous times where I should have died or at least ended up in a hospital, I never suffered one injury or illness, only ending up in the Emergency Care unit once, completely unharmed. Morphine and general anesthetic isn’t a safe combination it seems. My parents still won’t tell me what happened while I was out, making me think it was pretty serious.
Fucking tangents. Back on track. Thinking back on all this behavior from my past has convinced me further that Bill is watching over me, making sure that no ill comes to me until it is my time to depart this realm. A serious car crash involving my plowing into a stationary car at 60 kilometres an hour, a crash that involved three other cars due to the impact being so severe. I remember it distinctly, passing out at, or going on ‘the nod’, at the wheel of my courier van – where the crumple zone is your legs – and I remember seeing the car I hit at the last second. But Bill was watching, and as I was unconscious, the car drifted slightly to the right. This meant that the impact affected the passenger seat only, I was completely unscathed. If I’d had a passenger, they’d probably be dead. The photo of the van is not a pretty sight. But despite being a full-time junkie, I always stuck to my rule to never to drive anyone while on that stuff.
This all means that nothing out here can possibly harm me, as I have the energy provided by a ten hits of meth, so at the worst I can just run. I’d rather not give my untested, limited martial arts skills a try on the dark streets of this scummy suburb. But I do have the strength to fight five men, not to mention the knowledge that I have a true Saint watching over my every move. Perhaps that could be fun.
Time to move, time to utilise my honed-to-a-point ninja skills. Having noted the creaky spots in the floor, I again slip out unheard and jump the back gate. The fucker is tall but I can fly like Mike at the moment, all it takes is one leap onto a wheelie bin and another to grab the top of the fence, pulling myself up and over, dropping onto my arse on the other side, of course not suffering any sort of injury, and now on the outside of Archway once again, it is time to begin the hunt. How can I enhance this incredible feeling? How can I fly higher? How can this feeling take me further away from the angry hornet’s nest that is Archway and into the land of preaching? Into a place where I can change the world’s perception of reality, and help them see the light.