He shouts for the groupies to get away, that he isn’t going to have any more sex, that he’s sick of it. He wants nobody near him.
An eighty-year-old lies nearby on a gurney; I’d later find out he was an artillery forward observer during WWII. He’ll tell me about a time on a sub where they had to descend so fast that every person slid down the floor until they were all piled on top of each other against a wall, bones broken, a man’s back pressed up against his open mouth. Nostalgia.
The schizophrenic thinks he’s a Brit pop star. He has the accent and everything. It feels real, except he’s from Alabama. He’s ODed on everything he could find in his grandmother’s bathroom cabinet and the bad news is grandmothers have a lot of medicine.
A paramedic keeps yelling for Ringo to calm the hell down or he’s going to call the cops.
The cops are already in the room.
Schizophrenics don’t need any more noise. They already have enough in their head. You want to give them quiet, reassurance, tell him the voices aren’t real.
A woman throws her curtain back. She looks like her makeup was put on while riding a bouncing motorcycle. “We don’t want to have sex with you!” she yells, “No one does!”
No one else seems to exist now. The schizophrenic Beatle is captivated by a woman he keeps studying as if she’s the Virgin Mary.
“I need to set fire to the room,” he says.“No,” she says. She’d come in for suicidal tendencies, wanted an HIV test.
Psych patients, you’d be surprised, in hospitals tend to be the lowest priorities. We shove them in rooms until all of the patients needing immediate care are treated. Because we don’t know how to treat psych patients. E.R.s are not for psychology. They’re for controlling bleeding, keeping an airway, making sure the heart keeps beating.
The security guard motions to me, holding up four fingers. I’m not sure what it means. Four seconds and he’ll shoot? There are four of us near the patient who could all tackle him at the same time? Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?
I know not to move. A finger being pointed can turn into a gun. Schizophrenics take normal stimuli and twist it into new ways you wouldn’t believe. The schizophrenic looks at his Virgin Mary as if he’s found his mother.
“I hear a man’s voice,” he says.
“So,” she says.
“There’s a demon here,” he says.
“I’ll kick its ass,” she says, “Sit.”
“Wasps,” he says.
“Sit or I’ll let every demon in this hospital on you!”
He sits. “It’s a bad day,” he says.
She puts an arm around him and security dives. I join them. The doctor tries to slip in a needle. We’re all pressed against the wall. The difficulty of breathing.
Above us, the prostitute looks down, goddess-like. The white of her gown, celestial.
Ron Riekki's books include U.P. and The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (a 2014 Michigan Notable Book). He has books upcoming with Michigan State University Press, Arbutus Press, and Finishing Line Press.