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Image by Ahmed Nishaath

My roommate had schizophrenia

cw: schizophrenia, hallucinations

silhuoette photo of man under clear blue

He’d gotten into a motorcycle wreck.

He said he didn’t have schizophrenia before the motorcycle wreck.


He said the voices came after the motorcycle wreck.

He said he was wearing a helmet,


but the helmet was shattered.

He said he should have bought a better helmet.


I remember how he said shattered.

He said shattered like he was shattering the word.


He said the voices started after that.

He said now the voices were always there,


telling him what to do.

I asked if the voices ever said anything about me.


He said no.

I went back to playing solitaire with a pack of Scooby Doo playing cards.


It was the only deck in the psych ward.

I kept losing.

[when they put you in the room in the back]

cw: isolation, psychiatric hospitalization, psychiatric abuse

When they put you in the room in back

after you tell them you’re suicidal,

they forget about you.

And the minutes were chambers.

And the hours were creatures.

And the day was a pill.

And they’d come into the room

and open a cupboard

and take something out

and close the cupboard


and go back into the hallway

as if I didn’t exist.

And then someone realized

I didn’t have a security guard

so they gave me a security guard

who stood outside my room

while I did nothing

and then he sat

outside my room

while I did nothing


and the seconds were crows

and the minutes were knees

and the hours were toothless

and the day was shaking

and finally

when the EMTs came

they tied me to the gurney

even though I wasn’t violent

and they tied me to the gurney

even though I’d done nothing


except say I was suicidal

and they drove me to the psych ward

and made fun of me as they drove,

an EMT and the student EMT he was training,

saying, I hate these types.

They waste our time.

We could be taking actual calls

instead of being stuck back here

with this fucking guy.

And I was that guy.

Image by Gonzalo Kenny

RON RIEKKI’s books include My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Loyola University Maryland’s Apprentice House Press), Posttraumatic (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle), and U.P. (Ghost Road Press). Riekki has edited eight books, including Here (Michigan State University Press, Independent Publisher Book Award) and The Way North (Wayne State University Press, Michigan Notable Book). Right now, the poet Sharmila Voorakkara is telling me a children’s story on the phone while I’m typing this—and it’s a good story!

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