Monday, August 14, 2006

The Ward

The Ward


I make a perfect omelet, utterly perfect, and want to show my mother.  She'd appreciate it.  But she wouldn't like it here; she'd flip out.  I look around, seeing it suddenly as she might see it.  People are lying and sitting on mattresses on the floor, naked or half naked, staring into space.  It's ugly, not sort of ugly, ugly, like an exposé a mental ward in some third world country.  The "residents" are beyond crazy, they're totally wasted.


As I watch, Bill crawls over and sticks his finger in Marsha's twat and starts twiddling.  Marsha doesn't appear to notice.  Marsha is naked and staring at the ceiling.  Bill is the only one in the room completely dressed.  It's his place; perhaps he wants to look responsible.  Not exactly my mother's idea of responsible, I giggle, watching him at Marsha's twat. (toit)


I collected the eggs from the dumpster behind the Forsythe-Street grocers, 11 of them cracked, smashed and oozing into the box.  The twelfth was shattered on the bottom in the slimy muck where I couldn't reach it.  I found limp broccoli and a half-rotted onion.  A hunk of mushy potato and a ripped pepperoni pack with maybe 5 pieces of pepperoni left in it, just slightly green.  I stuck everything in my shirt and took it back to the crash pad and dredged out the shells.  Tossed it in a pan I found in the alley yesterday.  No dishes or silverware.  I plunge in like an animal, burning my hands and mouth.  But I can't eat much; cramps shrink my stomach.  I rip the rest of it in pieces and stick it on the floor.  "Food," I holler.  No one budges.  "FOOD!"  I scream, so loud my throat hurts.


Bill continues twiddling Marsha, who lies so still I think she's dead.  Peter, Penny, Christian and Simon crawl toward the plate of food.  Penny gets there first and crams half in her mouth.  Then Christian gets a hunk.  They each snatch some, but Penny gobbles the most.


Penny is a dyke and a heroine addict.  Everyone here is strung out on something.  Coke, Methedrine, heroine, uppers, downers and everything in-between.  With me, it's acid.  I'm as messed as the rest, have no idea how I got here.  Perhaps Peter brought me.  I was on the streets begging.  It's cold in alleys and doorways in winter.  I had no coat.  The cold was sharp and bitter as my fingers and toes, then feet and hands went numb.  The hurting moved upward gradually, but the parts left behind stopped hurting.


Suddenly Marsha arches her back and starts screaming.  I think Bill is strangling her, but then realize she's having an orgasm.  Bill walks off sniffing his fingers and Marsha lies still again.  Her eyes flutter and close.  This is Bill's place.  He pays the rent, lets the rest of us stay here.  Gets money selling drugs.  He's older than the rest of us.  A lot older.  He's an adult.


Penny crawls over and touches my breast.  Strokes, searches for my nipple.  Finds it and rolls it between her fingers.  Reaches for my crotch.  I back off and look for Peter.  He's out on the fire escape in his boxers smoking a roach.  Penny's OK, blond and pretty, but I don't want to have sex with her.  I crawl out on the fire escape and Peter hands me the roach—there's hardly anything but papers left, but I take a toke.  It burns my throat.  I puke over the railing.  There goes my omelet.  I've been sick a lot lately. Getting skinny.


I feel another burning, a sharp pain, and a gush.  I'm bleeding, down there, from the crotch.  Bleeding hard and fast.  I bolt back through the window and tripping over Simon, Eric and Christian, stumble into the bathroom leaving a trail of blood.  Sit on the toilet, lock the door and close my eyes.  The world is pouring out of me.  Peter hollers to open the door.  I don't.  I'm lost in a wash of pain.


Pain and blood.  More blood.  Niagara.  I think there can't be that much blood inside me, but it keeps coming.  A banging.  Loud.  The door comes down and two men rush in.  I fight, scream, bite.  They order me to come out.  They are wearing uniforms.  The blood police.  When I won't cooperate, when I keep biting, they wrap me in a blanket, no not a blanket, a straightjacket, and put something over my face.  Something sweet. 


In a huge room at Bellevue charity ward, Peter, Eric and Christian come to give blood so I can have a transfusion.  Usually, they sell their blood to make money for drugs, so this is a sacrifice and I thank them.  The blood police ask where my parents are.  I say I have none, that I'm an orphan.  I cringe when I say this and hope my mother won't be struck down.  There is an old woman in the next bed.  She talks to me a little, weakly.  Manages something that almost looks like a smile when I talk back to her.


When I get out I might go home.  I don't tell the blood police that.  I do tell them, I holler and won't stop, when the old woman beside me starts gasping and then her eyes roll up in her head.  They don't come for a long time, and when they do, they pull a sheet over her face and leave her lying there beside me.


I was pregnant, they say, and now I am empty.  A little girl.  Gone.





Mary Stebbins

060814a, 050302c, 1st

for Goat-N

I am certain of nothing but the Heart's affections and the truth of the Imagination- John Keats

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