SANATORIUM RIO DE JANEIROStephen was in an ambulance with his brother Hezekiah, but wasn't hurt. Neither was his brother. He was in an ambulance for the first time in his life, to the best of his recollection. He was coming to a certain house and he could easily remember the sign that read SANATORIUM RIO DE JANEIRO. His fellow inpatients had always talked about nice trips home in an ambulance, but this time he knew that ambulance was taking him to be institutionalized in that place, surely it was another psychiatric hospital, among the others in which he had been hospitalized. Again! Unbelievable! Again!
Stephen was taken to a certain room in which a (presumed) lady doctor was going to examine him. His brother Hezekiah was always there.
"Do you have stains on your body?" Asked she. Stephen thought he had misheard her.
"Do you have any stains on your body?" She said that again. He hadn't misheard her. She seemed to be serious. But why would she ask about stains on his body if she was a shrink? That was a mental hospital, not a dermatologist's office. Was she kidding? Or maybe she was trying to look like a real physician? (Because psychiatry had no scientific basis, therefore a psychiatrist was not a real physician in Stephen's mind) Then Stephen thought, "Well maybe her intentions are good."
And Stephen started showing his stains.
"I've got a stain on this arm." Said he showing his left arm, "No, it's on the right arm." Concluded Stephen now showing his right arm, on which was the mark of the vaccine he took when he was a child. Then he remembered the stain he had on his penis. He hesitated for a second and thought, "Well, if she's really professional she'll check my stain and there will be no fuss. For fuss would just prove that their whole business was buffoonery. (A doctor was supposed to see naked people) Then he pulled out his penis, "Well, I've got a stain here, you see? I'll turn it over so that you can see it better..." They got startled and a great agitation began.
Next thing Stephen knew he was being taken upstairs by a white guy with teeth that looked like a rabbit's. That guy looked like the squirrel nurse from the Psychiatric Center D. Pedro II. Their teeth particularly resembled. And probably the rabbit guy was a nurse too. While Stephen was led up the stairs he couldn't stop playing on words, always trying to be funny. But when he tried to capture the attention of the rabbit nurse to something funny the nurse just said, "Sure, sure... Of course. I know Stephen, Yes..." Always looking straight ahead and smiling and grinning, letting show his big white teeth.
Surely the guy had led Stephen many flights up and finally the rabbit nurse showed him a bed and told, "Lie down there!"
Stephen lay down, because he was cooperating all the way. He wanted to get this over with as soon as he could. He wanted to do all that his brother Hezekiah wanted. He wanted to do all that they wanted him to do, so that that trial would finish and they should discharge him.
"Put your arm there!" Told the rabbit nurse. Stephen did what he was told, always in a good mood. He was kidding all the time, but seriously willing to collaborate.
Stephen lay there relaxedly, because if they wanted him to be still he would. He would do anything they wanted just to be discharged as soon as possible. He was waiting for his brother Hezekiah to come and take him home.
"Put the other arm there!" Told the rabbit nurse again. Stephen obeyed easily. but then Stephen noticed that the rabbit nurse had tied his right arm and was tying his left arm. He stirred in surprise, looking for an answer.
"What are you doing, Marcio? (Marcio was the name of the nurse) You're tying me! Why are you doing this?
"Let me tie this arm." Said the rabbit nurse nonchalantly.
"Ok, but you're gonna untie me right away, aren't you?"
"Yes," answered the nurse.
The rabbit nurse wasn't as good as his word and didn't untie Stephen's hands. Quite the contrary. He cowardly tied Stephen's legs under his protest.
"Hey, Marcio, you said you would untie me! Let me go!" Complained Stephen, appalled at what the rabbit nurse had done. Stephen was tied to a bed and the rabbit nurse said, "I just tied you for you to calm down. When you calm down I'll untie you."
"Look, Marcio, I'm talking to you. That clearly shows that I'm under control. Just let me go. I was just kidding! I won't kid anymore! I won't mess around anymore," begged Stephen. "There's no need to keep me tied down!"
"When you calm down I'll let you go." And the rabbit nurse walked away.
BREAK LOOSEStephen could see exactly how he was tied: his wrists were tied, but along his body. His hands could go up about thirty centimeters (one foot) and with some effort his hands could reach his mouth. His legs were tied too. There was a rope around his waist and around the bed, therefore he couldn't raise his body too much.
Stephen knew that he was taking his medicine and wasn't defaulting at all. His mother was personally giving the medication to him. So why his brother Hezekiah insisted so much on taking Stephen to the psychiatric center? Stephen had gone to the mental hospital with his brother Hezekiah, because he trusted that his brother wanted to treat him, examine him, and not institutionalize him. What a mistake. What a naivete. He should have known better. Stephen had been waiting for Hezekiah to come and take him back home, but now he could see that his brother would never come. Not to take him home. Never.
Stephen's hands could hardly touch each other, but they could touch his mouth. Stephen had to free himself, therefore he had to be patient. He was a Kung Fu fighter, a martial artist and he had been trained to such a situation (though he had never thought that in a period of his life he'd be tied down so frequently. Quite the contrary. He thought that would never happen, he thought that was impossible to happen.) He'd better relax his muscles first. The other times he had been tied down he hadn't attempted to escape much, for the nurses were always passing by. But now the Rabbit Nurse had left him alone.
First Stephen tried to loosen the rope round his wrists with the tips of his fingers. He pulled the ropes carefully and slowly. Those were colored ropes, like martial art belts, like karate belts. But the ropes were somewhat tight and it was just hurting the tips of his fingers. Therefore he switched to a new strategy. He started to nibble and pull the ropes with his teeth. It was working! Soon the rope round his right wrist was loose! Now with a little help from the tips of the fingers of his left hand he completely freed his right wrist. His right arm was free!
He thought it would be easier to free his left arm now that his right one was free. What a mistake! The rope round his left wrist was tighter! Much tighter! He wondered if in the effort to free his right arm he hadn't accidentally strained too much the rope round his left wrist and consequentially tightened it. A miscalculation. Then Stephen found the easier way out. Since he couldn't free his left wrist he just loosened the ropes as much as to make him comfortable. Instead of insisting on freeing the left wrist he decided to relax. The ropes were so loose as to allow him to sit down. There was a rope round his waist too. That made it difficult for him to untie his feet, but anyway he could sit down comfortably enough. Then he grabbed the book that was stuck in the pocket of his T-shirt __ a pocket book. And he started to read it. Relaxedly.
ENTANGLEDStephen read almost 2 pages of the short story Monte Verita. (It took longer than one might think, for Stephen wasn't fluent at reading such text.) Stephen found that the Rabbit Nurse was taking too long to return. He had promised that he would be back right away to untie Stephen. therefore Stephen decided to put the book back in his pocket and got on in his attempts to free himself. Well, only his right arm was free. All the rest of his body was tied to the bed. He had succeeded to make it loose, but... He thought that if he made a strong pressure against the bed it might give way and break, which would eventually help free him. He was aware that he might get seriously hurt when the bed broke, but it was worth the risk. Then he lifted up his body the most he could and let it go down with all his weight, force and pressure. To no avail. He had to face the fact that that was an iron bed, a very firm bed. That would work if that was a wooden bed.
He had noticed that the ropes were very well entangled. The ropes went round the poles of the bed and were tied to the feet of the bed, where Stephen couldn't reach mathematically. However Stephen had another idea based on pressure. He would project his body from the bed to the floor so that the weight of his body forced the rope till it gave way. He proceeded to do just that. But something went wrong. The bed was too tall. About 50 centimeters. Stephen didn't get to the floor! He hung from the bed, stuck in a very unpleasant position! He wanted to get to the floor, break the rope through the pressure of his fall and try to go under the bed to reach the feet of the bed and untie the ropes.
Hanging from the bed in an uncomfortable situation Stephen regretted what he had just done. He tried to climb onto the bed again. Now he realized that he was more comfortable before. He was tied, but he had already freed one arm and could sit down and read, but now... now he was more entangled than never! That just because he wanted to bite more than he could chew. Maybe he wanted to prove that he could free himself completely like he had never seen nobody do. Sheer vanity. Sheer pride. Now he was paying the price for it. He was hanging from the bed in a very unpleasant position. He could hardly move, let alone read the book.
Eventually two inmates passed by and Stephen called out to them.
"Hey, free me. Please!"
When Stephen saw those inmates a new hope grew in his heart, for he was sure they would free him.
"Why, you're almost there. Keep on trying and you will free yourself all alone," one of them said. And they walked down the corridor out of Stephen's sight. Stephen thought it over for a while. He realized that he was being naive. Those fellow inmates wouldn't be willing to get involved. And the nurse wasn't as good as his word. The lying Rabbit Nurse hadn't kept his word. The Rabbit Nurse hadn't come to untie Stephen right away, like he had promised. Well, Stephen pouted in revolt and irony, and folded his arms (he could do that, at least!) Pouting, arms crossed, Stephen waited.
WHEN THE BED IS A BEDLAM-DEATH BEDOnce more Stephen was tied to a bed. His wrists hurt. His limbs hurt too. After uncountable times in which he had been tied down. When he showed the bruises on his wrists to his brother Hezekiah he was surprised. (Bruises caused by the ropes that were tightly tied around his wrists)
"It's for your own good." That was the laconic reply he got from his brother. Another time when the nurses tied him and he proposed a talk about it they gave the usual line, "of course, sure...," and left him alone and tied. And, of course, never talked to him. About anything.
Well before they had said that it was a serious symptom of madness, when Stephen cried that he was god. But their actions were above the actions of a god. They said that something that hurt his body was for his own good. God, at least, gave free will, but they forced him to stay in the mental hospital, they tied him down by force and seemed to be sure that it was for his own good. They were acting as if they were much greater than God, for they decided what was good for other people. And from all that Stephen had seen and experienced he told himself over and over again that... surely they didn't know what they were doing.
How could that be for his own good if his body was pricking, completely numb and he couldn't sleep because of the pain in his body, caused by the ropes? (They tied him in the noon and only untied him in the next morning.) How could that be if they almost hung him accidentally when they tied him?
Now he was sure that many people died in those mental hospitals and nobody knew about it. He had asked for help to his brother and he only realized that his brother wouldn't believe him even when he showed his bruises. What had the doctors said to Hezekiah? Had they instructed him that Stephen would try to convince him of some things? Had they said that Stephen didn't know what he said? Would his relatives believe in what the physicians said and refuse to see Stephen's pain? Couldn't they see that there could be no cure to the mind by force? When they forced patients to do the things they only developed mistrust and dread and no medication could cure that.
Stephen could see that, but they couldn't. This time he was sure that he was the most sane in that whole situation. He had the intelligence to understand those absurdities, but, apparently, they hadn't. God, how was it possible that nobody contested the things that the psychiatrists did?
Those physicians always said that the patients shouldn't get involved too much in religion, but psychiatry seemed to be a religion in itself. For there were no physical examination, therefore no scientific basis. The doctors barely saw their patients and got to give diagnosis, just like clairvoyants or sightseers.
Tied to a bed Stephen knew that he shouldn't blame people. He knew he had his share of fault in his situation. He knew that in the first place he shouldn't have fought sleep in his first seizure, and afterwards he shouldn't have defied the treatment the way he did. His brothers Hezekiah and Zacchaeus seemed unable to do anything for him, though Zacchaeus made many efforts.
As a matter of fact Stephen knew that he was the greatest coward, but people were too egotistic. A family would always be reluctant to deal with a serious mental diseased person. They'd rather leave them in a mental hospital than to be forced to give him the special attention that he would need at home.
Tied to that bed Stephen could imagine how sad the death of his uncle Cry-baby must have been. Alone, forgotten. If he died there the psychiatrists would only say that he just had a violent seizure and killed himself. For when he himself told the psychiatrists that he had been tied down arbitrarily they pretended that they didn't understand and said, "You're confused, you're speaking indistinctly..."
If they tried to make themselves believe that a patient would complain as a symptom of a seizure instead of maltreatment, they would never let show the tragedies that happened in the mental hospitals. People might die there, but they would always conceal it, as it was. For they were egotistical. They seemed to believe that if they let show the flaws of the mental hospital their image would be stained. They seemed to be very afraid of staining their image. They were egotistical and vain, for the lives of people were worth more than their image. Or at least should be.
That was a sad death to face. If he died when the nurses choked him they would tell his relatives that he provoked his own death by some accident caused by himself. And his relatives would believe, like they had believed when uncle Cry-baby died. It was evident to Stephen that they didn't bother with an investigation on the death of the inpatients. No coroner watched to check the causa mortis. People died in the mental hospitals and took the blame! People would say that the mentally ill people were weak and killed themselves. There would be no investigation.
IN BEDLAM, IN BED LAM, IN BED LAIN, IN BED SLAIN...He wondered how long it had been going on. How many people had been choked and tied to beds. Surely many died, for sometimes the body can't resist misuse. Stephen knew that if he died in that mental hospital his relatives wouldn't even try to find out how he died and would wholly believe the words of the doctors, as they had never believed his words of complaints and pain. Had Stephen's relatives inquired about the death of uncle Cry-baby's? Of course not. Maybe, in their hearts, they were relieved to be discharged from a mentally diseased relative who brought them many problems.
Would there be any difference if Stephen died? Of course not. Uncle Cry-baby was a valuable man, a worthy man who had fought against death all of his life. He was a very nice person and very mild and when he died in a mental hospital the relatives tried to find all kind of explanations for his death. they would say he died in the middle of the treatment. (What treatment? Electro-shock treatment?) They would say he was too old and therefore died. Stephen knew his uncle wasn't so old, otherwise they wouldn't have institutionalized him, but sent him to an old asylum or to an ordinary hospital, instead of a mental hospital. The truth is: his uncle wasn't senile. He wasn't so old, after all, his mother (Stephen's grandmother) was living and in good health.
Would they waste their time inquiring about the death of a lunatic? And now Stephen felt the horror of those who died there and were forgotten. he had got to know many of them. They were mentally ill, but Stephen could see that they had great character and he himself was the only one there that had a distorted character, for even tied down to a bed like the most miserable creature inside his heart he still felt powerful, he still felt like a god, and like a god he pitied on those cowards that left him there.
He regretted that they closed their eyes to what was done to people in the mental hospitals. Contrary to the general thought, in the mental hospitals were people who were, by far, more dignified than most people (that had never been institutionalized) out there. But many of those mentally diseased people must have died locked away. (As if they deserved some punishment.) And they were dying day by day as Stephen himself might die too.
But if Stephen died what would be the difference? He was so different from everyone that he was the rest that would make no difference. they tied people to beds and said it was for their own good, but he saw no reason in that and he would never tie a human being down to a bed out of cowardice, because they didn't want to give attention.
"Let's tie him down. This way we won't have problems and we'll leave him alone and he'll heal himself." Was that what they thought?
Before all that he was more and more convinced that his intelligence was, by far, greater than that of the doctors and most people, for if the doctors couldn't see the damage they were causing they weren't intelligent at all, they were asses. If they thought they had the right to lock people away for a long time without the consent of the person concerned they were repressive cowards with limited minds. Undoubtedly Stephen's intelligence was remarkable,fantastic before the limited minds of those who tied and consented to tie people to bed.
Stephen knew that whereas he considered his intelligence great, they considered him a vermin who their "intelligence" would cure and restore with the help of "technological" drugs. And still Stephen thought that he was a god, a god that couldn't do anything to those limited minds, therefore he wasn't necessary anymore. Yes. A god. Because in Stephen's mind "a god isn't that special, fantastic being that people think. Quite the contrary. A god must serve and not have privileges, a god takes all kind of pain in order to protect. A god is slave of nature. He does what nature tells him to do, for he must suffer for them with no reward. I will obey nature and die."
Stephen had great intelligence. What for? It brought so many problems and made him understand things that would be more comfortable to ignore.
"The end of intelligent men in the history of mankind has shown that intelligence is a problem. Jesus, for example, was an intelligent man and how did he die? He died like a vermin, crying, ignored by all. That's how the gods die. (other intelligent men died tragically too. Galileo died enclosed, alone, just because he discovered that the earth wasn't the center of the universe. And Einstein died tearfully, for people used his discoveries to send atomic bombs and make war.)
Now Stephen felt a certain empathy for Jesus. He knew that when he died people would say, "Poor man. He was weak. That's why he died."
But now Stephen felt sympathy for Jesus, for he knew how Jesus felt when he died ignominiously. But Stephen's death would be worse, for in one month his family would have him buried and forgotten forever, (Like they did to his uncle Cry-baby) for he hadn't done anything remarkable, quite the contrary, he had little education (seventh grade, elementary school), wore ragged clothes, laughed and fooled around like a fool and was irritable. Despisable.
He felt sympathy for Jesus, because he knew how Jesus felt and Jesus would know how he felt. (If he could see him in that moment.) The great difference between him and Jesus was that Jesus had friends (his disciples) who told Jesus' history after his death and fought for him. But Stephen hadn't any friends to turn to, and sure as hell his relatives would forget him as fast as they had forgotten uncle Cry-baby and they wouldn't make any attempt to find out how he really died.
What really made Stephen sad was to know the way people suffered and died in the mental hospitals. And to know that after his own death nobody would reveal those things, ever. Those pains would be forever buried. People would pretend that they lead a normal life, and in the meantime people would die and be tortured in the so-called mental hospitals. Arousing laughters when people passed along the sinister walls of the mental hospitals and heard the lunatics crying from the inside. Well... Stephen's death would be one of many. There would be no difference. That wouldn't make any difference.