Psychosis: A loss of contact with reality that usually includes: False beliefs about what is taking place or who one is (delusions) ; Seeing or hearing things that aren't there (hallucinations).
Chapter 1 - Going Mad Isn’t So Bad.
'There, but for the grace of God, go I.'
That's the first thing that comes into my mind every single week when I come here to visit Brian. Okay, maybe the whole biblical reference is a tad cheesy, but it sounds better than, 'Fuck, I'm glad it's him, and not me in here!' Still, I can't help thinking that because it's the fucking truth.
We're all so stupidly naive when we're young. You feel like you don't have a care in the world. You go out almost every night; dancing, drinking, fucking but never thinking about the future. We all did recreational drugs - it was just a given, a part of the club culture. You know to stay away from the heavy stuff, the stuff that could get you addicted too easily - meth, heroin, that shit - and you figured you'd be safe.
Of course, everyone knows about someone, or a friend of someone who got some bad shit or who OD'd, but you never really believe it could happen to you. Only losers and idiots OD. Besides, club drugs like GHB, Special K and E aren't supposed to be dangerous, right?
Yeah, right. That is until, like me, you OD on them. Then, all of the sudden, those innocuous fun little club drugs get real scary. Fuck, I was in a coma for almost a week after OD'ing on GHB, for Christ's sake. I'm lucky to be alive. And, I'm really lucky that I don't seem to suffer from any long term problems.
Unlike poor Brian Kinney.
I think I can speak for the entire gang when I say than none of us expected Brian to wind up being one of those poor schmucks. Hell, he was the one who taught most of us the drug rules in the first place. I know Brian reamed my ass out about not following them after my own little foray to the ER.
'Never take drugs from someone you don't know pretty fucking well. Only do drugs when you're with friends - they'll take care of you if anything happens - anybody
else couldn't give a crap. Careful mixing drugs and alcohol; you're better off just drinking water so that you stay hydrated. And don't do Meth or Heroin, even recreationally, they'll fuck up your brain chemistry so fast you won't know you're addicted till they find your body cooling in a pool of your own vomit. But, otherwise, have fun.'
Of course, Brian was known to break his own rules on occasion. We'd all seen him being borderline self-destructive a time or two, but even then he was usually smart
enough about it to avoid any real problems. It was what Michael called Brian's 'Pain Management' process. It had always seemed to work for him.
Until that night when Justin got out of the hospital and tracked Brian down at Woody's.
Granted, Brian had already been in Pain Management mode for a full two months by that point. It had started three days after the now infamous St. James' Senior Prom, where Brian's favorite boy toy had his skull bashed in right in front of The Stud's eyes. Brian had haunted the hospital at first, but as soon as the doctors confirmed that the kid would at least live he was off, never to be seen in the hospital again.
From then on, Brian was off, drinking, drugging and fucking like none of us had ever seen before. While Justin slowly emerged from a two week long coma and then struggled through six weeks of rehab, Brian was completely AWOL. So, by the time Justin got out and finally found him, Brian was already a fucking fall down mess.
Luckily Michael was home from his temporary exile with Dr. Dave in the Great Pacific Northwest and already prepared to do Kinney-sitting duty. If Michael hadn't been there that night, Brian WOULD have died. Although, I'm not sure it wouldn't have been better if he had.
Instead, Michael watched as an already stoned and sleep deprived Brian took Justin home, then made his way back to the bar and proceeded to completely lose it.
According to Michael, Brian begged at least five or six tabs of E off random strangers either at Woodies or in Babylon. He also did a couple of bumps of something - probably coke - from some sketchy looking guy on the dance floor and then drank about half a quart of beam. The last time Michael saw him still standing on his own two feet, Brian was smoking a joint in the backroom while two skanky looking tricks were servicing his cock. The next thing Michael knew, somebody was dragging him off to the men's room where he found Brian collapsed face down in front of the wall of urinals.
The ER doctor's pumped his stomach, declared him okay and then sent Brian home. Physically, Brian seemed to recover just fine. Two days later he was back at work. From there, though, everything went downhill fast. Their final diagnosis was 'Persistent Chronic Drug-Induced Psychosis'.
According to the doctors, it wasn't just the OD. Maybe it was due to unexpected interactions between all the different drugs in Brian's system. Maybe one of the drugs he took was laced with something. It didn't help that his body was already so stressed out and depleted. It could have been simply that seeing Justin so hurt and traumatized combined with his own misplaced sense of guilt caused him to snap. But whatever the cause, the Brian Kinney we all knew, disappeared after that night.
Which is why I find myself here every Wednesday afternoon. I’m really the only friend Brian still has left. Michael, the guy Brian trusted with his medical POA, was the first to throw his hands up in defeat and run away. After the third time that Brian was arrested on the street and then hospitalized because of his threatening and erratic behavior, Michael had Brian committed. Michael says it’s too hard for him to see his best friend like he is now and that he can’t bear to even visit. I know that Debbie still comes by a few times a year - around the holidays, on Brian’s birthday and such - but other than that, nobody else bothers.
Me, on the other hand, well, I feel like I owe it to Brian. I’m the only other person in our little gang who could ever understand what he’s going through. I’ve been there - sort of. Brian didn’t bail on me when it looked like he’d have to make the big decision about whether or not to take me off life support when I OD’d, even though I know he wanted to. I just couldn’t live with myself if I bailed on him now.
So, I drive the thirty miles out here to the Shady Glen Convalescent Center - a horrible euphemistic name for the looney bin if you ask me - every week and spend an hour sitting with Brian. I bring him what news I can about his friends and family. I listen to him ramble and complain and voice whatever random thoughts he has on his chest that day. I know it’s not much, but it’s all I have to offer at this point.
And every visit makes me glad over and over again that it didn’t happen to me.
“Ted’s back, like a heart attack!” I holler as I see my only remaining friend come into the lounge where we are led when we have visitors at ‘The Center’. “Ted. Ted. Ted. Ted’s head. Ted’s in my head. Ted.”
“Hey, Brian,” he replies, tactfully ignoring my babbling as he sits next to me on the couch.
At least he doesn’t try to touch me anymore. I hate how everybody seems to think they should touch me all the time. ‘Chiraptophobia - Fear of being touched’. That’s what it’s called. I remember all the names. They’ve labelled all my issues, all my fears, but can’t make them better. But hey, at least I know what to call them, right?
I’m trying to sit still and pay attention to what Ted is saying. Really, I am. It’s just hard to make my body stop moving. As long as I keep moving, then the panic doesn’t have a chance to set in. But I know that it freaks people out, so I try really hard to sit still. Right now I’ve managed to keep everything but my right leg stay still. If I concentrate really hard on that, I can stop it too, I think, so I try. I concentrate really, really hard and I do manage to make my leg stop bouncing but then I find that my right hand is now twitching. I don’t know which is better - leg or hand - so I stop bothering to concentrate.
“I brought you some cookies that Deb made for you, Bri,” Ted says, pulling a plastic box full of sugary death nuggets out of the bag at his feet. Ted knows that I can’t touch the box until it’s been wiped clean of germs, so he just leaves it on the table next to us, and I try to smile at him. I won’t eat any of them though. Who eats all the cookies Deb always sends me, I wonder.
“Carbs. Carbs. Carbs. No carbs after seven,” he already knows that you dolt, you don’t have to tell him again, I think to myself, but I can’t stop myself from voicing my old mantra.
“I know about your carbs, Bri. But, it’s not after seven. It’s only four in the afternoon, you know. If you wanted a cookie, you could have one,” Ted tries to reason with me.
Silly man, you can’t reason with someone who’s lost all reason. All reason to live. All reason to try to live. All reason at all.
I don’t want to waste this whole visit with my inane blathering though. Yes, I KNOW I’m blathering. I just don’t know how to stop it. I don’t know how to think anymore. But, I’ve been waiting all week for Ted to come and give me what little sanity he can pass along and I don’t want to waste my only chance. I slap my hand across my mouth to physically stop myself from speaking until I somehow manage to corral my words to where I want them.
“Gus. Gus. Gus,” I finally ask. I always ask about Gus first. My Sonny Boy. I really fucking miss him. I wish that I could maybe sometime see him again, but I know that’s unlikely. Thankfully, Ted always comes prepared with Sonny Boy stories.
“Gus is fine. He started preschool last week, you remember?” Ted launches into his first Gus story. “Lindsey said that he was so excited about going that he barely slept the night before. And he didn’t have any trouble at all when they dropped him off. In fact, apparently Lindz wanted to hang around a bit and see how the boy was going to do, but Gus told her to leave as soon as they got through the classroom door . . .”
“Way to go, Sonny Boy. Sonny Boy. Sonny Boy,” I say when Ted finishes his litany of Gus moments for the week. I’m so fucking proud of that boy. I wish I could have been there to see him start school.
“Gus. Gus. Gus . . . Mikey. Mikey. Mikey,” I always ask about Mikey next. I wish Michael would come see me sometime along with Ted. I know I probably can’t ever see Gus - I’d probably scare him - but why hasn’t Michael been here to visit in so long? I don’t know, so I make sure Ted tells me about my best friend too.
“Michael’s fine, too. His Comic Book store is doing really well, by the way. I got him set up with this new online merchandising software last month and he’s been selling shit over the internet like you wouldn’t believe. . . .”
“Gus. Mikey. Ted and Emmett. Ted and Emmett. Ted and Emmett.”
“Well, as you can see, I’m doing great,” Ted chuckles, it’s just this little joke we have between us. I always have to ask how Ted is doing even though Ted is the one visiting. You’ve got to keep them all in order, so I have to ask about Ted as soon as I hear about Mikey. “Em and Vic are still going strong with their new party planning company. I heard that they’re doing some big shindig over at the Country Club next month - a society wedding or something - and they’re both totally queening out over it, but I’m sure they’ll do just fine.”
“Gus. Mikey. Ted and Emmett. Deb and Vic. Deb and Vic. Deb and Vic.”
“Well, I just told you about Vic. Deb is her usual boisterous self. She sends her love to you along with those cookies. Did I tell you she’s been dating a fucking cop lately?” I like hearing Deb stories almost as much as Gus stories. She’s so alive. I wish I was still alive too. Hearing about Deb helps a little bit.
“Gus. Mikey. Ted and Emmett. Deb and Vic. Lindsey and Mel. Lindsey and Mel. Lindsey and Mel.” Don’t forget the girls. I need to keep track of the whole gang. Can’t forget the girls.
“Lindsey is doing really well at her new job at the Gallery,” Ted continues. “She’s busy setting up an exhibit for local new artists right now and then they have some big wig artsy fartsy type coming in from New York next month. You know Lindz - she’s over the top excited to meet the guy and keeps gushing about his ‘vision’. And, well, Mel is still gone and we haven’t heard anything new from her in a while, so I have no news for you about her.”
Gus. Mikey. Ted and Emmett. Deb and Vic. Lindsey and Mel. That's everyone. The old gang. All except for Him. But I can't ask about Him. I can't. Just in my imagination. Just in my memory. Just in my little world full of friendly psychotic delusions.
"Well, I'm going to get going now, Bri," Ted announces and gets to his feet. I'm actually glad he's leaving because Mrs. Levinson, the old biddy from room 219 just came into the lounge. She's fucking ancient. She has this one eye that never looks at the right place and she gives me the creeps. I used to think her eye followed me around everywhere - but that’s just nuts right? I try not to think that anymore even though I sometimes still dream about that fucking crazy eye. Hmmm. Is that ‘Gerontophobia - Fear of old people’ or ‘Cacophobia- Fear of ugliness’? I’m not sure. I’ll have to remember to ask Dr. Fields. Anyway, I’m glad that Ted’s leaving so I can get away from Mrs. Levinson and go back to my nice, safe, private room where I get to be all by myself.
“Is there anything I can bring you next time, Bri? Or something you need me to do for you?” Ted always asks this, bless his organized little accountant heart. I almost wish I had something for him to do - he’s always so fucking eager, you know. But they don’t let me play with money here in the looney bin so there's nothing for him to account. I’ve got nothing to do, day in and day out, but count and classify my phobias, so there’s really nothing I can ask of Ted.
“Nope. Nada. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing,” I shake my head and start to move sideways away from Ted, trying to get to the door without getting any nearer to Mrs. Levinson but trying at the same time not to let Ted know that I’m fucking afraid of a 90 year old woman. “Bye. Bye. Bye. Theodore of mine.”
I try to casually wave goodbye to Ted and then just leave the room like a normal person would. I fucking can’t do it though. I’m almost through the door, but I can’t move. I have to go back. I touch the doorknob. I touch the light switch and then I touch the name plate next to the door that says this is ‘The Lounge’ in case you were a complete moron and didn’t know this was The Lounge after having lived here for years. I see Ted smiling at my little rituals before he heads off down the hall and past the front desk.
"Bye, Lisa," I wave to the receptionist sitting at the front desk as I walk by. "See you next week."
"Oh, wait, Mr. Schmidt," she stands up, waving a piece of paper at me before I can get too far. "I thought you already knew - Mr. Kinney's being moved to a different facility this weekend."
"He is? What for?" I ask, grabbing the printout from her and scanning it quickly for answers even while the pleasant young woman rushes to explain.
"Well, I'm sure you heard about the merger and all. You know, MedCare, the parent company that operates this place merged with PAHealth. Well, part of the shake up is that a bunch of our long term care patients are being transferred to The Banks Convalescent Care Center across town. It's all there on the transfer notice, if you have any questions. I know Mr. Novotny was notified, but since he never contacted us with any objections, Mr. Kinney is scheduled to be one of the first transferred.
"Well, I'm sure Michael must be fine with the change if he didn't say anything," I offer, all the while suspecting that Michael probably doesn't give a shit anymore, if he even bothered to open the letter about the transfer. "But, unfortunately, that means you won't get to see my lovely face every week when I visit. Thanks for everything, Lisa," I dismissively shake the woman's hand then move off towards my car.
I wonder if it would be a total waste of time to ask Michael whether he made the effort to check into this new place or not? Well, I'm still the accountant for Brian's estate, maybe I'll just skip dealing with Michael and do my own investigating. Something tells me that good old-fashioned corporate greed is the moving force behind this transfer and I doubt Brian's going to be happy with the change.
At least the new place is closer to my work, though.