Sin… if i must…

“Love me, if you must.”

My sister told me that once. I didn’t get what she meant. Loving a sibling or a parent – even ours – was just something that was inbuilt, wasn’t it? You loved by default, didn’t you? You could choose your friends but your family had their claws into you until the day you died? Even if you had a big falling out and didn’t speak for years, wasn’t it true that blood was thicker than water?

I know many families had spilled blood, so surely they would know.

She’d been crying. Joy, that is. I tried to comfort her, as I always did. She was prone to bouts of tears. I always thought she was hormonal. That it was a woman thing. I’m a man. That’s how we think. Women’s thing are women’s thing’s – a NO-MAN’s land of mood swings so big you’d feel you were on a bungee cord and strange stocks of things-with-wings in the bathroom cabinet. They have PMT, we have man-flu – equally debilitating in their own way.

It wasn’t until much later, long after I’d read her letter, long after she had killed herself, that I understood why. Many rivers had flowed under the bridge of life, with us as pooh-sticks floating along, dipping and bobbing with the current, since that day. When I finally realised, it was too late.

But back then, on that day, when my sister was had tears streaming down her cheeks and her eyes were puffy and red, I had no idea of the wave that threatened to wash her, and myself, away. No idea of the immensity of what she faced and what I soon would.

I always felt good around my sister. Everyone did. At the time, when she would be crying, I would wonder why she could be sad when she seemed so happy and popular. Bit of a no-brainer now, after her letter and suicide, and after my own experiences. Back then, however, the world was normal. The world spun on its axis and we were clinging on hoping not to get thrown off. Same shift, different dilemma.

I’d asked her what was wrong, she, as ever, told me nothing. I used to say that I knew that wasn’t true, but over time I simply put my arm around her and waited for the tears to stop. Occasionally they wouldn’t for a long time.

This time seemed different somehow. We hadn’t seen each other for a while. A good few weeks. She was leading her life, I was vegetating in mine. She was ‘in the area.’ I didn’t know she’d been out of it.

She’d been distant, something Joy could never be accused of usually. She was sitting on my sofa, oblivious to the cup of tea – one sugar and a hint of milk – burning her fingers. The television was on, but Joy was not. She’d been paused and I could see the II mark on her brow as it furrowed.

The tears started on their own. The was no sobbing, no wretched weeping, just silent tears tip-toeing down her cheeks.

“Can I do anything?” I asked her.

“Love me, if you must,” she said.

I told her that of course I would, she was my sister. It went with the job.

She didn’t smile. She didn’t say a word. The tears slowed, but she didn’t wipe them away. She simply drank her tea, gave me a hug and and left. It was the last time I saw her.

It’s a grey day today. The sky outside the window is overcast. The mood in the recreation room is too. Even my thoughts are cloudy with a hint of rain. It’s days like this when your mind rides the ripples of the sea of melancholy and you end up feeling sea sick. It’s days like this when you figure things out.

“Love me, if you must.”

She thought I loved her, not because she was my sister. Not because I liked her. Not because our parents were as much use as an umbrella in a hurricane. She thought I loved her because I had to. Because everyone did. Because she wasn’t just Joy – she was joy.

She was wrong, but I didn’t get chance to tell her. It wasn’t because I must, it was because I did.

Probably best, in future (if I have one), to not let the chance slip by again.

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Sin… nowhere…

Everybody has to be somewhere. You can’t help it. Wherever you are is always somewhere. If you’re lucky, you’ll find that your somewhere is Somewhere. That’s if you’re lucky.

Mostly, though, I wish I was Nowhere.

At night, if you haven’t done anything that day to warrant being strapped down tighter than a duck’s billabong, or be used as a human dartboard, complete with a double top and bullseye, you could almost feel like you were in a sensory deprivation tank. The lights are out. The padding on the cell walls mutes all sounds except your own breathing… or crying. Even your bed is cushioned to prevent you hurting yourself, either accidentally or otherwise.

‘Lights out’ means exactly that. The lights go out and nobody, because in here we’re all nobodies, is home. The world winks out in the blink of an eye and the skip of a heartbeat. If you wave your hand in front of your face (difficult if you’re sedated or strait-jacketed) you won’t see it, and if the Boogeyman is standing in front of you pulling his ears and sticking out his tongue, you’ll be none the wiser. You could be in a coffin or an aircraft hangar and either way would still feel claustrophobic – the darkness surrounds you, holding you still, wrapping you up. Its hand is hovering over your mouth in case you cry out, ready to suffocate the unwary. As your sight is taken away, your ears open up like flowers to the morning sun, trying to capture every ray of light or whisper of sound.

And failing.

There is nothing. Silence and darkness wander hand in hand along the meandering path of your senses.

You can almost hear, if you listen very carefully (which you can’t help but do), your nerves crying out, your body attempting to fill in the blanks left behind by the absence of everything. Then the floating begins. What’s left of the world falls away, even the sensation of a bed beneath you, and you’re left with nothing to anchor you to this plane of existence.

Some scream. Some daren’t. I will admit to both at one time or another.

Even then you can feel Connors’ spectre hovering by, ensuring this Nothing is still no escape.

The nights, where even your heart is afraid to beat lest it makes a sound, are the closest one can come to Nowhere. When there’s nothing left in or around, you must surely be in Limbo. You can forget, for a second or sometimes as long as a moment, that you’re not.

Then the realisation that it’s just dark and you’re just laid or strapped to your bed and it’s just a few hours until the world begins again hits you.

And you’re Somewhere once again.

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Sin… exterminate…

Exterminate! The Daleks brought that word to life. Of course they didn’t invent it, but they might disagree. I understand them to be quite egomaniacal so they may well claim the word for their own. Well, they do it with worlds, so why not words?

I wonder if Dr Connors is a Dalek. He has a tough outer shell which I’m sure houses a shrivelled beast. He has cunning plans which, I wouldn’t be surprised, include world supremacy. Well, maybe that’s taking it too far. A world with Connors in charge would be a world flushed down Life’s big plughole. I have a feeling that Fate stuck her fickle finger right up her nose and Connors was the green, crusty bogie she wiped on the toilet wall of the world.

He could be, you know. A Dalek. I’m sure I saw an episode of Doctor Who where they managed to merge with a form more human than a can of aerosol on wheels. They don’t have feelings. They are only interested in power and the domination of the masses. And if they can’t bend you to their will, they will EXTERMINATE.

In Connors’ case, he will throw you in Room 101 for a while, pump you full of the drug of the day, on special offer from his pharmacy of choice – The Internet – and wrap you up warmly in that jacket with the nice fancy straps attached. Then he’ll roll away waving his sink plunger and pledging death to the Doctor. Unfortunately he doesn’t mean himself.

Oh, to have a sonic screwdriver tucked away in my pocket. Oh, to have a pocket!

The person who designed our outfits in the asylum certainly wouldn’t have had cameras flashing and supermodels striding along any catwalk. I think a two year old picked up a crayon one day and the stick man with his square, loose fitting clothes that fitted in places they shouldn’t and didn’t in places they should, was taken as the template for our pseudo-scrubs. We looked like extras in a low budget hospital drama, where the sets wobbled and the scripts limped. One thing that two year old child had forgotten to include was pockets.

So even if I did have the Doctor’s (Who not Connors) fancy tool in my hand, I couldn’t have tucked it anywhere – at least without walking funny.

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Sin… purple princess…

With the help of some purple paint and three imaginary friends, Luscious Lily tried to change the world.

Lily, of the Luscious kind, was probably one of the more outgoing patients I’ve met. Well, less probably, more certainly. She was never backward in coming forward, said what she thought and danced almost all the time. Even on the days when MTV wasn’t on the TV, and after Tuesdays had died their dismal death, Lily de Lush seemed to have a song constantly in her head. Her feet were never still, her hands waved as if she was part Mexican and her body swayed to a beat no-one could hear but her.

And she was away with the fairies.

The phrase could have been coined – two pence or otherwise – especially for her. Lily’s entry into this non-exclusive club was her genuine belief that, when dusk fell and all was quiet, a secret doorway opened in her room and the elves and pixies came to take her to play. Whether that room was at her home or in the asylum, the door would appear and playtime would begin. She would, apparently, spend her time in this other land, snorting fairy dust and dancing.

How she managed to get her hands on the purple paint, I have no idea. To my knowledge, you could get any shade in the institute as long as it was white. The only place that had anything other than blinding was the nursery, but that oasis of greenery was off limits to all except when visiting dignitaries or big money spenders were around and it had to look like is was being used for the patient’s therapy. Which it wasn’t. I can’t imagine – and I can imagine most things – that there had been an odd tin of Precocious Purple, vinyl silk, lying around in the corridor. She managed to get her hands on one though. Somehow.

Maybe it came through the secret magic door with her…

Anywho, once Jeremy (luckily it was him and not one of his illustrious colleagues) went to collect her the next morning, she was bathed in paint and her room covered in hand daubed musical notes. Lily was no longer Luscious, she was lavender. The paint dripped and smeared together to hide much of the stanzas, but it appeared that she had composed a concerto of some sort. No-one tried to piece it all together to find out if the opus was awful or genius. It, and she, were hosed down and scrubbed until spotless once more. When asked where she had found the means to make the mess, she insisted her friends, of which there were three, had given it to her, and that they had said she should write down the song in her head. She was bringing music to the masses, a song to the silent and colour to the crazy. Even though she spent a long stretch in Room 101, she was unrepentant. But then, her special doorway opened anywhere.

Strange. Weird. Bizarre. Pick your adjective. You couldn’t help, though, but be infected with the drum of Lily’s feet and you could almost be sure your heard the music in her head. It was a little like the overflow of noise from someone listening to music on the bus. You can just hear the beat and a touch of chorus. With Lily, if you were close enough, you could sometimes swear you heard it too.

And rumour, along with its brother-in-arms gossip, reported that she had once woken with grass on her feet. Seemingly from whatever field or meadow was on the other side of the door.

But that, dear fellow lunatics, was impossible. Much like causing a bus to smash through the window of a post office with the toss of a coin and the bite of a Big Mac. It doesn’t happen. Except it does. At least the bus side of things does. Hence my appearance within these hallowed walls. Who am I, considering the things I know and can do, to say that Lily, Luscious as she is, is nuttier than a bar of Snickers, all wrapped up in chewy caramel? Who am I, in fact, to say that any of the surrealities that exist in the minds of my friends are not actually real?

For all I know, when all is quiet and darkness falls, a crack of light starts in the wall. It opens wide and Lily’s gone to dance and play in the garden beyond.

But I doubt it. Probably, Lily, who is quite easily the most attractive patient in here, hence her Luscious pseudonym – red hair and green eyes that sparkle in even the brightest light – is a chicken short of a kebab and lives in a world all of her own invention.

To be honest, though, I don’t blame her.

To be honest… I wouldn’t mind visiting occasionally.

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Sin… all white?

Blue. My favourite colour.

Profiteroles, my dessert of choice.

Risperdal, my drug of enforced peace.

White… well you’d expect everyone to like white, wouldn’t you? Clean, crisp, pure. Can’t stand it myself. Strangely, my dislike of the colour turned up, tapping me on the shoulder and saying ‘Hi’, not long after I arrived here. I think it may have had something to do with the glaring ghastliness of pretty much everything around – the walls, the uniforms, the lights that burn into the back of your head like lasers in your eyes, even when they’re closed. I would think that could have an effect on your opinion of something.

It’s like, I used to like snow. Snowfall, snow scenes, snowballs and snow angels. Oh, and snowmen of course. I once pushed a small snowball down a hill with my family to try and see how big it would get when we reached the bottom. In the end, we couldn’t move it and it was bigger than us. I used to like crisp, starched white sheets on my bed. Now, I have them and I hate them. Now, if it snows, I would turn from the window and star at the wall. I would, but it’s pointless – the wall and the ceiling and the floor are as white as the snow.

In a blizzard, it’s like I am being suffocated by the total expanse of nothing.

But blue… what I wouldn’t give for a bit of blue. We have the sky out the window, when it’s not overcast. We have… erm… Nope, that’s it. The sky. That’s all the blue we get. You even find yourself looking into people’s eyes for a hint of another colour. But even they’re surrounded by white. Granted quite often, in here, that’s tinged with red.

Why do you think it is that they remove all colour from our world? Is it therapeutic? Meant to calm the savage beast? Red is the rag to the bull so remove any trace of that and its compadres? Do they think, if there a glimmer of green or an orchestra of orange, the inmates would take over the asylum?

No. It’s control. Pure and simple. A demonstration of what they can take away from you. They may profess to be able to give you back your mind, but in reality – something severely lacking in here – they strip you of everything you have and everything you are.

Possibly, it’s so they can rebuild you from scratch. An blank easel to sketch out the new, improved, you. Yeah, it might be that. And pigs soar through the skies big little fairy wings, their tails spinning like a helicopter’s.

If you don’t have anything left, you don’t have anywhere to go. You lose yourself in the void, stumbling at first to find your way, then acquiescing and resigning and merging yourself until you, too, become void. Then they have you. Then you are there’s and they can do with you what they will.

Ask Caroline. Ask Jersey. Not that they’d tell you. One from fear and the other from arrogance.

On my original ‘application’ to join the ranks of the insane, I pleaded paranoia. You may not believe me, given my growing belief that ‘THEY’ have plans that do not necessarily include the full well-being of the residents, but I’m not paranoid. I’m realistic and observant.

Being the only sane person in here, someone has to watch out for my fellow freaks.

Just because you’re NOT paranoid, doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get you. All white? I mean… all right…?

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