by those who could not
“How are you feeling?” has become a loaded question. “How am I meant to be feeling?” is his usual response.
There are those who are ‘okay’, and those you should ‘stay away from’, and one of the ones to stay away from is a slender young man with big eyes and a thick beard, wearing a makeshift dress. His moods can change, like a sudden thunder storm on a hot afternoon. There are others as well; don’t look, don’t talk, don’t acknowledge.
This is the only time I’ve been in a psychiatric ward. When you walk along the corridors you can hear screams and yells drifting down from higher floors. “That’s the high security women’s floor,” one of the ward staff explains. “Everyone on this floor is voluntary. The ones up there aren’t.”
We do crosswords on our visits. He’s better at them than I am, so really: on our visits, I watch him do crosswords. He pretends that I’m contributing by asking me what I think a word might be, before rapidly filling it in while my mind is still a blank.
We don’t know how long he’ll be here. Technically he can leave when he wants. Technically. We don’t know what will happen if he tries. Will they just shift him to one of the floors where people scream?
It’s unsettling how neutral the ward staff are; even to visitors.