The routine never varies here, so I was startled when there was a knock, followed immediately by a key turning in the door. “It’s not time for breakfast yet,” I told Henry, the massive attendant.
“Get dressed anyway,” he told me. “The Director wants you in his office in fifteen minutes.”
I’m a little slow on the uptake because of the meds. “What does he want? Did somebody report me for a violation? Am I in trouble?”
He just shrugged. “I don’t know. Whatever it is, I’ve got half a dozen other patients he wants to see after you, so get a move on.” And he slammed the door and left.
There wasn’t time to shave or shower--not at the rate I move nowadays--so I just pulled on my clothes, which was a struggle, because I’ve gained twenty pounds since I came here. I was still combing my hair when Henry returned to escort me to the head man’s office.
To my surprise, the Director, who has always had an air of knowing what reality is, and he’s quite comfortable in it, thank you, looked a bit flustered. “Charles,” he said, “you need to pack your things. You’re being released at 10 AM.”
That stunned me. The wheels in my brain roll through molasses, and it took me a while to process this unexpected turn. “Today? This morning? After all this time? What’s going on?”
He looked decidedly uncomfortable. “The Board has reviewed your record and decided there’s reason to believe your diagnosis is.. um,,, inappropriate.”
“My paranoia? Those ‘crazy conspiracy theories’?”
He flinched, then nodded.
“When I thought somebody was listening to my telephone conversations? And reading my e-mail?”
“And recording my Internet searches? And tracking where my car went?”
He was looking increasingly awkward--a word I never thought I would apply to someone so self-assured. Another nod.
“And those new members inside our environmental group chapter that I thought were government informers?”
“And those people taking photos of our Occupy movement at the park? And my suspicions that feds were gathering info on us and then sharing it with the banks, and the university, and the local police?”
He squirmed. “Yes.”
“And the secret police--the NSA--lying to Congress about collecting information on millions of U.S. citizens?”
Yet another nod.
“And our government’s snatching people off the street without charges and not telling their families where they are or allowing them any legal representation and then hauling them off to secret sites in chains, with sacks over their heads, and torturing them repeatedly?”
Now he was actually sweating. “Yes.”
“And the President’s having a list of people to be murdered using little remotely-guided drone aircraft?”
He just stood there, red-faced.
“And those same drones being deployed all over this country to spy on us?”
Once again he said nothing.
“But you’ve told me all along that I’m sick!” I pleaded. “That I have ‘systematized delusions’ driven by ‘irrational fears and anxieties,’ that I’ve been seeing ‘threats that don’t really exist’!”
He gave a nervous cough. “That judgment is now inoperative.”
“No longer in effect.”
“I know what it means. You’re saying all those bizarre things are actually happening? That I’m not suffering from delusions?”
“Documentation now exists to substantiate all of those occurrences,” he said, his hands beginning to tremble. “When they’re facts, they’re obviously no longer delusions.”
My hands have been shaking for years now; I recognized the symptoms. “I liked your version of reality better,” I reassured him. “There was always some comfort in thinking maybe I was crazy.”
“‘Reality’s just another word for someone else is screwed,” he said, with some sadness, then came around the desk, shook my hand, and wished us both good luck. My time was up.
© Tony Russell, 2013