Visit to a Mental Institution
By Carl Kopman
I was sitting on a wheelchair parked in the atrium of Peaceful Springs tearing at leaves on a potted Philodendron when my wife approached cautiously. I was expecting the visit but in a daze from the voltage they were zapping through my brain.
“Hi love,” she said. Her eyes did not show the same joy as her smile.
They were red, and worrisome, and tired. Her body sagged under the weight of her winter coat. But that’s me looking at it from now, back then, like I say, I was gonzo… out of touch…remote and uninvolved. I didn’t see anything.
“I said… love,”she said, “how are you doing.”
“Fine. I suppose…”
“Whaddya mean suppose…,” she said assisting me as I pushed to my feet from the wheelchair so we could walk around the grounds of Peaceful Springs.
“C’mon now, gimme a hug,” she said. I held my arms at my sides as she wrapped her arms around me.
“How long have I been here, a month now,” I asked.
“More than that love, two closer to three months. Are you feeling better?”
“Why did you put me here,” I asked.
“I didn’t. You did. You put your own self here, love. Remember, you thought I was dead, that I died kayaking. You didn’t want to go on living.”
“It’s all right, love,” she said. “I suppose it was a bit flattering, but really darling, we were quite worried about you… come let’s walk.”
“When can I come home.”
“Soon, dear,” she said.
It felt good to feel her hand and smell the cold air as we walked down a path of freshly pruned rose bushes.
“So what are you doing with yourself?” she asked.
“I’m writing a play.”
“Goodness,“ she said.
“It’s like everything I feel… Dr. Parades wants me to write everything I feel…growing old… disappointment, forgiveness you know, life,“ I said.
“Death, despair, guilt… same old cheerful shit,” she said and then she asked, “Why a play… you’re a plumber. You’ve always been a plumber.”
“Retired,” I reminded her.
“Yeah, but why a play,” she asked again.
“I was selected.”
“The Peaceful Spring Selection Committee,” I said.
“Big time! Quite an honor,” she said.
“Not so big. I was on the selection committee. We asked for volunteers …no-one volunteered… so the three us threw our names in a hat and … and I lost.”
“Won,” my wife chimed in!
“Who knows, maybe it’s for the best…. give me something to do before the next breakdown,” I said.
“That’s not funny,” my wife snapped. “Your breakdown has been hard on everyone.”
“No… No… I meant breakdown… like a toilet or a sink… Call me! Morris the plumber….”
“Oh, Stop it! I don’t wanna see you in that dark place again, where you go.… when… I don’t know..It’s too scary, dear. The last time….”
“No!… You don’t know,” my wife lashed at me. “You don’t know what it was like leaving the house afraid I’d find you dead when I returned home. ASSHOLE!!…” she shouted… “you’re a real asshole, you know that Morris. Whatever got into you?”
Her body was shaking. I held on for dear life.