Excerpt from the book “Evergreen”
Ted had kind eyes, celeste blue, clear, honest and true. The kind of eyes that really look at you passing no judgment. Smiling eyes that hold your gaze when you look into them. They weren’t bitter; there was no resentment, only sweet sorrow. His eyes could have been brutal, hostile, filled with hatred and resentment. Nope. Ted’s gaze had a kind of sorrow one keeps to themselves, not wanting to burden others with the sordid details of killing fields.
I understood Ted, even though we were worlds apart and yet, spoke the same language. He was a veteran, wheelchair bound with no vocabulary. He didn’t need to speak or fill in his whole sordid story.
Ted and I met in the loony bin where I was moving at supersonic speed, and he wasn’t moving his legs at all. He didn’t mind my overzealous, out of control personality. I did, but he could give two shits. Mania does that, speaks for you flying out of your mouth arrogant and foolish. I hate it, it’s disgusting and embarrassing, the nonsensical shite that comes from one’s mouth is cringe worthy. It doesn’t matter that everyone says it’s not your fault, you’re the one waging a war inside your head.
Ted wages an ugly kind of war inside his head, it’s not his fault, but he didn’t look at me sideways. He smiled understanding my plight. Ted has been nominated for a Purple Heart. That’s what the talk around the ward was.
Was it true? Maybe, probably, most likely. But, hey who the hell knows when you’re dealing with a bunch of colorful souls.
I said I’d go to the ceremony, even though I’d probably still be locked up or drugged, or too slow from the drug induced coma. I liked Ted; he made me feel less alone, less crazy, less manic. We’d eat dinner together sometimes, without saying a word.
Lots of particulars from my time inside have gone missing, much like the mad me since I’ve returned home. One specific night, I remember well. I won’t soon forget it.
The nurses were busy with this or that, some bullshit chatting, or charting. As if. If you ask me, I never saw them work very hard. It was bedtime, we waited forever in silence, no one came. Lazy assholes.
Fuck it I was nuts; I’d do it. I wheeled Ted down the hall to his room, parked him close to the bed, and locked the chair. I’d done it a million times.
I’d helped my dad out of his wheelchair and into his hospital bed with my mom and his nurse. My father was at home, not being pulled and prodded by strangers but deeply cared about by his loved ones.
Ted was surrounded by assholes who mostly didn’t give a shit and probably wouldn’t remember him. Wouldn’t remember Ted with the icicle blue eyes or the gaze of steel. They most certainly would forget when the next round of crazies showed up.
I carefully and gently helped Ted into bed, hoisting his legs up into a comfortable position, and covering the blanket over his exposed skin and bones. It felt like the most normal, natural thing I could do. It did not feel insane.
Ted smiled, and I nodded.
Intimate moments, the ones that make up and sustain a lifetime, matter most.
Ted is not dead, even though I may never see him again. He is a man who served his country, brave and stoic. I won’t ever forget his simplicity in the most complicated, ugly situation on a psyche ward where involuntary patients are treated like second-class citizens, and celebrity selfies fill society’s fascination. Seems pretty backward, fucking crazy if you ask me.
*Names have been changed for privacy.