My roommate had schizophrenia
cw: schizophrenia, hallucinations
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
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.
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!