The insane asylum was ordinary, and that made it even more frightening. It was like visiting the dentist’s office. Their waiting room was plain and common, and it gave me the feeling that anybody could end up there.
My friend wanted to be a psychiatrist and I was just interested in crazy people.
“Andrew, it’s typically a neurochemical imbalance in the brain. This seminar will give me stories that I can write about so that I can get into Harvard.”
It was a status game for him and he was always competing. Sometimes, I felt like saying, “You can’t compete with me because we aren’t playing the same game, but I knew he had to believe in his beliefs, more religiously, than a religious person, so I didn’t say anything.
In the commons area, the insane were milling about, talking to themselves, watching tv, and doing what ordinary people do in society, which left me thinking that if enough time was spent doing ordinary things, it would lead to insanity.
I noticed a man writing furiously at a table, and I wanted to read his thoughts. He ignored me when I sat down.
“Can I read what you’re writing?” I asked.
He gave me a non-committal nod and I started his story. I laughed. It was unbearable. His words worked on me like that of a hypnotist, speaking to my subconscious mind like a hallucinogenic drug, bending reality, and telling me the truth of myself.
“You got to read this,” I said.
And my Harvard friend sat down. He started reading, but he wasn’t laughing. His eyes narrowed and teared up. His hands shook. It looked like he wanted to put the paper down, but he couldn’t. He was locked onto the words, sobbing, engrossed in the thoughts of a madman.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“I’m nothing,” was all he could say, stripped of his understanding and superiority, he was naked in someone else’s story. Our seminar teacher left him there for a routine checkup, and I heard later, they committed him for a short stay.
“These things happen in the hustle and bustle of society,” the head psychiatrist said. “Are you okay?” He asked me.
I thought about his question. “Yes, I think I’m fine,” I said.