Why was I traveling by bicycle? I hadn’t driven a car since I was 17, after having an almost fatal encounter with a Mack truck on a major east-west thoroughfare in Memphis.
When I went to Thorncliff College and lived in a dorm for four years in Westchester County, I didn’t need a car because I could take the train that runs alongside the scenic Hudson River to Grand Central Station.
Don’t know if she believed me or not, but the nurse sent me to a large room, essentially a holding pen, filled with men and women of all ages and all sizes. Each patient would be evaluated eventually and treatment–drugs and/or therapy–would begin. Being a well-bred Southerner, I attempted to make polite conversation with a muscular man, Douglas, a paranoid schizophrenic who had just been shipped over from a psycho ward in Connecticut.
He started talking about Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy… what a cool bus ride they had together.
Five minutes later, I was lying on the cold linoleum floor spitting out large chips of teeth and lots of blood. Several of the male patients came to my rescue; they pulled Douglas off of me and held him until a doctor appeared.
He drugged Douglas and escorted him into a room with a solid, gray metal door.
After his door was bolted, his bloodcurdling, scathing denunciations of me penetrated every room of that hospital.
Someone gave me an ice bag to hold on my throbbing cheek. Much of the attack is now just a blurry nightmare in my head. I was assigned to a bedroom only three doors away from his.
My skinny roommate, Melanie, sat on her bed with her knees clasped to her chin.
She looked like a praying mantis cut in two.
“Why are you here?” the frail, depressed girl asked.