Hollow Halls — Haunted Walls

Robert G Liberty
©May 9, 2010


For many, it is the precursor
to a journey into terror
and doubt and loss of hope.

Recognition of the beginning of the journey
comes with crushed hopes,
shattered dreams,
 a desire to end living,
 a want to disappear.

Suicide becomes the driving thought during waking hours—
A solid, physical, chest-heaving, representation
of the reality of attainable death—
To Hell with what comes after—
just let it be death now.

Never wake up,
Never open your eyes to another
pain-wracked day.
When every moment is pregnant
with what might have been—
What should have been.
And the mundane mocks you
with its jagged indifference.

People talk at you and you wish they wouldn’t.
Help is offered to snap you out of it.
They can’t know you cannot snap out
of the bear trap chewing deeply into your ribs,
crushing your heart and forcing endless sighs.
And with each sigh, a step nearer to doing your death.

And once awake, against your want,
You engage again in the inner dialogue
that pits your innate logic against the skewed
and selfish reasoning that espouses
getting out of bed and shambling to the bathroom
to your waiting release.

To simply swallow a fistful of colorful assassins.
Which, when taken as prescribed
are a boon to your health—
But, by your intent, and with sincere hope,
will deliver you senseless and
unconscious before the horrendous kick
of the heart attack stops all your arguments.

But what of the indignity of being found
by EMS strangers on the bathroom floor,
covered in vomit, flaccid and pale as a fish,
in your dirty underwear, stinking body weeks
past its last shower? No! Not that way.
Ands so the inner dialogue keeps you alive another day.

Another day you devise another best plan
You scheme to take all of your pills
and a bottle of water with you
one afternoon when there’s nobody watching you,
because nobody trusts you now…
And you walk to the biggest, wooded park you know
Not too far, but far enough.

And you will walk up the crest of the highest hill,
across from the pedestrian walkway—
Find a quiet and rarely traveled concave in the depth
of the loamy woods and lie down looking up
through the trees and stare up your god and wonder
what he thinks of your plan.
And you ponder this before you take the next step
that will deliver you into his hands (will he turn his back on you?)
or into Hell or Purgatory or whatever awaits.

The cushion of your disappearance
will muffle the impact of your suicide
for all those left behind,
and that will be your gift to those who love you.
Their not knowing for certain will offer prolonged,
if faint hope, but you will already be dead
and beginning to return to the earth.

You spend your whole day in bed
dreaming this scenario, until
an ambulance arrives and you are transported
quickly to emergency
Because while you were dreaming, you were swallowing
pills like punctuation marks to your thoughts
and had the ambulance not arrived when it did,
you wouldn’t be writing this cautionary poem.

After days of fog and mist and muffled voices
And the savage prick of IV needles, you remember
the taste of the charcoal cocktail they forced into your stomach
to bring up the remnants of whatever pills remained
And you begin to decipher voices in the din of ambient noise
And realize the voices are aimed at you,
but you are too embarrassed and terrified
to listen or comprehend, because you are not sure
if you are dead or alive
And if alive, why are they all so cold
and indifferent to you?

Except for the questions, they rarely speak with you.
You are not fully human until some psychiatrist gives the nod
To his coworkers and underlings—
And then the smiles begin and the baby talk
And its all “how are we feeling today,” and
“We nearly lost you. Your family was insane with worry.”

In the second week it’s decided that you can go home
if you sign up for Day Treatment and agree to supervision
while outside the hospital.
You agree to anything to get out of what is a cross
between a madhouse and a prison,
But before you can sign any papers
A panel reviews your case and informs you
You are not bi-polar or schizophrenic
Two things that never crossed your mind anyway.
But you are severely depressed,
clinically depressed.
And you may have been suffering
chronic depression since childhood.
“Can you recall any childhood trauma
that may have affected your development?”
a smarmy, middle-aged woman asks.
And I think, Did you ever meet my father?

I am free, but I am broken for six months,
Visiting both a psychiatrist and a psychologist
Three times a week until they determine
I’m a safe bet to stay off the suicide express.

It’s been a year since then
and I’m feeling close to how I did
before the troubles.
I take the medications and feel more level,
I attended Day Treatment for four months
It probably did me more harm than good,
But my psychiatrist warned me that would happen.

I still see the psychiatrist once a week
More for a chinwag than anything else
He’s more than satisfied with how I’ve overcome
The things that brought me to seeing death
As my only solution to the mountain of woes
Crushing me into a little ball of dirty lint.
And I like talking with him.

I see options that I never would have a year ago
And I know I’ll take advantage of as many as I can.
But it’s a bittersweet win,
Because all those days I walked down the halls of the hospital
From the first terrifying unknown
To the days when my spirit grew in strength and confidence
I still had to pass through a hazy,
other-worldly, maze of corridors
Designed in some cruel hell,
where beds and cots and gurneys
dirtied the halls like litter in slum allies.

And no matter how much healthier or happier I felt
entering the main hospital doors
When I came face to face with the
discarded husks of humanity in those halls,
my heart reminded me of why I came in the first place
And I remembered that after I was
pumped of poisons and porcupined
with bags of fluid and tranquilizer,
I too, was relegated to a hall for hours or days
until there was a place to slot me in

But walking past these sad remnants,
twisted in their flimsy sheets against the cold
and indifference of the hollow halls,
questioning, hopeful and excited eyes,
couched in ancient faces,
either puffy with disease or gaunt with coming death,
I sensed their questions as their eyes sought out mine
for the briefest moment.

“Are you here to take me home?”
“Are you my son? Can we leave now?”
“They are awful mean to me here,
danny or billy or john or alan.
You wouldn’t believe how they treat me.”

I wish for a heartbeat that I could be
all their sons and relieve their anguish and agony.
And I know I can see their spirits
or their souls or whatever wraithlike thing
clings tenuously to the dying body below.
And the spirit is anxious to be free
of that lump of skin anchoring it to this world.

And that makes me think of suicide again
and what kind of advantage it might offer.
Under the right circumstances…