Not everyone who drinks is a poet. Some of us drink because we’re not poets.
-Dudley Moore, in “Arthur”
Twenty-three days. That’s how long I’ve been in this piss-hole. I have a life, I have things to do. I need to be home. I should’ve been home a week ago. Twenty-three days. I need to see Rusty.
I’ve been in some places. Bad places. This place is the worst. We eat shit on a shingle—and that ’s spotting it points—three times a day. We wash walls and mop floors—that’s called “therapy” here—then we get lectures on where we went wrong.
The first thing I’ll do when I leave is find Rusty. God only knows where he is by now. They won’t let Rusty come here, of course. They don’t call this jail. There’s no bars or guards—the rooms are called “dorms”—but I’ve been in jail; this is jail.
I’m not free to leave. I’m not free to walk out the door when I please. I sure as hell would if I could. I need to be home. I need to see Rusty.
This was all a mistake, anyway. I’m not suicidal. I’m a fighter, I fight. You punch me, believe me, I will punch back. But I need to be home. I need to be out in the world again. Or I need to be out of this piss-hole, at least.
People see smoke, they think fire, I get it. But some fires are intentional. Fires are set on purpose, sometimes. I don’t mean like arson. That’s something else. I mean when they do it to get rid of all the dead debris. Enrich the soil, make space for more trees.
I shouldn't have told them here about Rusty. Take my advice—if you are ever thinking of—you know, hurting yourself, for Christ’s sake, don’t tell anyone. You’ll end up in this place, or somewhere just like it. And once you’re locked down in one of these places, they say when you can eat and when you can sleep. You can’t wipe your behind without their o.k.
Out in the world, you take things for granted. Simple things, like eating and sleeping. Changing your underwear. Changing your mind. They change your mind for you, in places like this. No freedom of choice, like you have out there.
See, out in the world you don’t write on the walls. People write on the walls in places like this. I’ve seen things on walls I couldn’t repeat. I saw one today that was actually quite pretty. Poetic, and sad, and it wasn’t just written. It was etched, it was carved. Took some effort, not to mention some planning—like those fires they set on purpose sometimes.
Twenty-three days; they just came and told me. Get packed, you leave in the morning. Home, thank Christ! Where my clothes and my bed are and where I can eat with a real fork and knife.
No sharp objects here. Okay, I get it. But like I said, I’m not suicidal. Sometimes we just need to clear our debris. Enrich our soil, make room for new trees.
Besides, in the end, it hurts no one but me. At home, I have bandages, alcohol—and Rusty. It’s sort of a joke. He’s not. It isn’t; rusty, I mean.
I don’t know who put those words on that wall. But they used something sharp. Whoever it was didn’t write them with a pencil or pen. They carved those words. To be read, to be heard. To be taken in.
It makes you real, when you know someone hears you. Same thing with me. When it’s warm and red. When it’s sharp and it stings.
What hurts, is real. What bleeds, is alive. Something is cold and wrong with the world.
Whoever it was, I think they were right.