By: Gentle Culpepper
I have this friend, his name is Clay. He is a soldier who abides in the pretty wasteland we call Terra. Clay is a righteous minister of the cloth. His primary mission in life is to minister to the masses of flesh one soul at a time. There are souls who run from God, as Clay did for many years. Today, the old vet runs to him. God is eternal. We are temporary creations pasted to God’s vision of unconditional love. This is Clay’s testimony. You will not be bored. Clay loves us all as the Creator does. I put this story to paper as my old friend rests his bones in the small bar that sits in a small corner of the universe. It smells of bleach. Clay is very shy. My name is Rain.
Hear the tale of my old comrade Clay. He used to serenade the birds on cool spring mornings when he lived in his baby teens. The birds would sing back to him. Pigeons, sparrows, robins would join in the winged chorus. The singing stopped when Clay was shipped off to Vietnam on a silver bird without his permission. The youngster had no say in it. The giant bird was composed of lies and twisted politics. This bird did not sing, it whistled. Clay returned home two years later. The warrior from the urban hills was unharmed physically. He did have a few wounds lodged in his heart, his soul. The young man is a veteran of a strange and pointless war. Clay had imported a bizarre confusing malady called Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. It was called battle fatigue during Korea and WW2. It is a toxic brew of confusion, anger, guilt dominated by an orgiastic fog of depression. PTSD, a sinful curse perpetrated on the innocent souls of a broken destiny. The monster, as Clay called it, was kept in a small cage at the rear of his brain. During a lull in medication change, Clay let it out by mistake. The soldier of the faith, the wandering soul of blind affection for mankind initiated a medication change that waltzed him to the fringes of reality. Clay walked a road scorched with tired feet. Depression is incurable but it can be tamed somewhat by pills and more pills called antidepressants.
The lonesome cleric was ingesting a pill called Mirtazipine. However its agonizing side effect was weight gain. Clay was ingesting pounds by the minute. He wanted a release from the fattening drug. The old saint decided to desert the Mirtazapine. The cage was slightly ajar. The monster smiled a grin born on the eve of destruction. The beast started to gorge on Clay’s sensibilities. It sucked on his brains through a straw made of bones and dust. The stench of lifeless death pulsated throughout the bowels of eternity.
I consulted with my favorite psychiatrist, Dr. Anthony Fits, a short happy man. We con- versed in a vision of calm hysterics and mutually agreed upon Zoloft, a popular drug. This is easy, Clay thought. He began taking the pill. This is cool. This is love from the streets of paradise. The eternal spirit stood next to Clay, loving him, nurturing him. The spirit was alive, burning through the blood of the ages. Clay stopped taking the drug that was bloating him.
The air was clear with smog in the city of Atlanta. Clay had walked the Lord’s path for awhile; no alcohol, no weed, no weekend partying till he dropped. In the waking hours of his supposed victory something was about to go horribly wrong.
Clay carried a suitcase full of compulsive obsessive behavior. He owned two of everything: Two raggedy cars; two dull knives; two broken revolvers; two brands of antidepressants. There was this backup drug, a guardian drug, a sentinel drug. It sucks up the monster when the primary drug misses a step. This drug Gabapentin stands out against all the wrongs and misgivings in Clay’s world. The Christ invented this brown pill for him. Clay ingested 1200 milligrams of this drug daily. It bought life with the sun and the sweet rain. However through the years, a problem arose out of the shadows. Gabapentin was cool, but its potency waned during the course of the day. The solitary man had to replenish his courage every four hours in order to keep his sanity functional. During his sleeping hours the capsules died quietly, serenely. The living death free from bondage would be waiting when he awoke. Depression does not smile. It has huge sharp teeth that bite into your spirit. The disease is the invention of fallen angels. Depression attacks the will to live. Zoloft was taking forever to kick in. The backup drug Gabapentin was useless.
PTSD consumed Clay, mocked him. He prayed for a cure that would pull him out of the pit . What was this mysterious malady that haunted the man; stalked him through time? The illness chewed on his toes and fingers. It stung his eyes. Depression had started out as a whimper. Clay would practice a little self-pity after a night of sudden sadness. The illness would fade into city traffic on a hazy day. Sadness could be swept away with a healthy dose of sour mash whiskey. Through the years this nagging infirmity had grown into a creature with its own ghoulish thoughts and concepts. The years arrived, lived and died in the cool of the morning sun. Clay could not control his sickness with loud laughter or a pint of whiskey. The proud veteran’s will was being sucked out of existence. He could no longer feel the wind and rain on his face. The man needed help. His sister Renee whisked him at lightning speed to the VA hospital in Decatur, Georgia. Clay had lost track of himself. His identity had been reduced to a pebble on the beach. The cosmos had abandoned him. Somehow he had lost his joy. He was here, there, nowhere.
The nurse was very civilized. She recognized Clay’s plight. The angel of the night took Clay’s blood pressure before running off to look for a psych. There were sick vets sitting in plastic chairs resting in their borrowed silence. Clay and Sis were ushered to a secret door. It was locked. Presently a young man exited the silent door that sat at the edge of the world where the Lord lives sometimes. He had a gentle smile. The sight of the doctor, this stranger was a comfort to Clay’s burning sadness. The sister’s eyes were worried. She thought she had lost her brother. Clay prayed for a wonder pill that would pull him out of the pit. The doctor was young, pleasant.
“Hello, my name is Doctor Goldfarb, what seems to be the problem?” Clay’s story began. Clay told one half of the story, his sister told the other half. The tired warrior told the doctor about the medication change. The psychiatrist looked at Clay’s face. He had squandered lost dreams of self respect. The light in the room was bright. Darkness filled Clay’s eyes. He could not face the public. Clay was too lazy to die. His Gabby’s had failed him. He told the doctor about the failings of the med change. The doctor calmly said: “Would you like to come into the psychiatric facility?” Clay knew he meant the nut house. Clay, the veteran, soldier, burned out shell of humanity gladly accepted. He had grown tired of abusing his razor thin sanity. It was all he truly owned. His clarity , identity, lay bleeding in a cloud of dust composed of brimstone. There was that door that led to the other side of reason. A minor calm draped Clay in a shroud of comfort. This euphoric dilemma did not last long. Clay’s sister vanished into the evening fog. Clay walked through the silent door. The perpetual hum of the hospital stopped.
The glare of bright lights was frozen. Clay surveyed the tiny pieces of flesh that had once saved the world in different spaces of time. Exhausted veterans lay around Clay dreaming, sleeping, resting, hiding from the steamroller society that put them in the tank. They ignored Clay’s presence. He was glad. Clay thought about his cable bill. It was somehow tied to his dysfunction. It is a national conspiracy to defraud the common man Clay thought. The ex soldier, drowning in middle age, was now an invalid whose mind had taken a step back into the unspoken void. Clay could not compete in the real world; nor did he want to. Dick Cheney could eat men alive. Richard Millhouse Nixon could try and steal America and lie about it. Not Clay; the man who lived in the bushes. He was once immortal, but no more. The soldier of the realm who couldn’t look at himself in the mirror. His armor had big chunks bitten out by shades of darkness. Clay stood in the middle of the storm. His eyes were red. The drugs were gone. He was a victim of cell phones, wiretaps, invisible bombs.
Clay rested on a gurney, adrift in the sea of blood. Christ beside him comforting, loving him. The lost hero lay still on the gurney frozen in the scent of sterile alcohol. The floor waiting for, something to happen was neatly waxed.
The paramedics finally arrived without fanfare. The roaring crowd of approval was extinguished. Clay was given a ham sandwich. Clay doesn’t eat ham but this one went down easy. He was lifted without smiles onto another gurney. The EMS wizards of the sick and perishable push their diesel monster through traffic unconcerned with the fates of the day. The truck glided through the streets with confident fluidity. The truck that heals stopped at a series of brick buildings. It didn’t look like a hospital or church. The structures looked like a maximum security prison which is what it was.
The paramedics carried me into a brick building without a sign. “The food is good”— that was all the couriers of mercy said to me. They were gone in an instant to secure the next victim, another survivor of the carnage that engulfs us all.
Clay, sweet avenger of justice found himself encased in a small room with a flat screen TV hanging from the wall. It was turned off.
Clay hadn’t seen it all, but he had seen enough. Billboards, smog, small dogs, mankind walked the street drenched in obscure apathy. The entire world screamed in agony, while the father smiled an all-consuming affection for us all. Two chairs sat quietly in the tiny room. Clay sat there subdued without spirit, saying, thinking nothing. He would survive, but when? Fifteen minutes lived and died when a nice looking brown lady entered the room with a fixed smile. She sat down but didn’t cross her legs. Clay could not smile. He just sat in that plain chair staring at the brown woman’s smile glued to her face. The lady quickly asked Clay a group of questions: Where do you live Mr. Clay? Who do you live with? Are you suicidal? Clay had to think about that one. It seems if I were suicidal wouldn’t I be dead?
Foolish questions persisted: Was he homicidal? Clay whispered I haven’t killed anyone today so I’m good. “Do you see things Mr. Clay?” “Like what?” “You know, like spirits.” Clay couldn’t lie. “I see them all the time. I have visitations.” The nice lady didn’t flinch. She kept typing on her computer thingy. Suddenly, she arose abruptly, took her smile with her and vanished into the hallway. Clay was left alone with his thoughts. He had a few: screaming souls could be heard from the depths of Hades. Clay could see it all from his little chair. Swollen bellies, bullets boiled in anger flying through the air. Bombs exploded across the sea, in his mind. Clay could see it all.
A different woman came in. She wore the same smile as the last lady. She gave Clay a pillow and a thin white blanket. He followed her down the empty hallway to a dormitory. The sign hanging on the door said Geriatrics. Clay had no idea what “geriatrics” meant. He would soon find out. The lady with the stolen smile rang a bell and the newcomer with the burned out mind was ushered into a room that held a group of elderly human’s captive. Clay was in a dream. Some folks walked in a circle with those thin blankets hanging off of them. This is the place where families stuck their old parents, aunts, uncles, random acquaintances. The ancient souls that had sustained America through years of pain and heartbreak teetered on the edge of sadness and fear. Wars were fought, demonstrations held. Saints were slaughtered. The residents were all here, trapped in fog of lifeless death.
The patients were mostly white, tired. A few black folks were sprinkled in. they wanted to go home.We all did. Clay was led to a bed made of cold steel. No one spoke to Clay except a hillbilly named Gary who was trying to kick the pill habit. It wasn’t working. He was giving his doctor fits. Gary craved his pills in a loud voice. He lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains, grew his own food. He could have been Davy Crockett’s great great grandson.
Five hours escaped, died.
A tall doctor approached Clay. He could have played center for the Lakers in his younger days. His name was Dr. Shaw. He said Clay was depressed. Clay knew that. Clay was lost. The Zoloft was taking its time sinking in. The monster begged, howled to be let out of his cage. The good doctor took Clay off of his meds.
The man was naked in the mind, no protection, no Mirtazipine, no Gabapentin.
There was nothing to protect Clay from the monster.
The beast escaped.
Clay was lying on his steel bed. The storm bolted out of his head. His mind rang with waves of sludge from the sewer.
My name is Rain, remember? There is no way to explain depression if you’ve never had it. Depression is not a physical pain. It is a nagging intense feeling of death incarnate. Its having your head in a microwave turned on high. You can’t think. You can only breathe. The sky was blue. Clay felt this presence of a comforter that kept his eyes straight. The spirit gave Clay the will to conquer the day.
The doctor, a learned psychiatrist, plied Clay with all kinds of new pills. Clay watched the patients, walk, sit, talk, cough, eat. Clay had no appetite . A little blonde nurse, Sandy, made him gulp down a tuna fish sandwich. The ancient one with Alzheimer’s had no idea, where or who they were. A strange woman kept looking for her purse. “It’s in the safe” someone would say. “Oh.” Five minutes later she would be asking for her purse again. Sharon had to get her nails and hair done for a wedding that happened 20 years ago.
There were other units with younger folk. Insanity is a big business..
Clay spent seven days at Orchard Park. He called it a bonafide crazy house. It was named Orchard Park Hospital. Orchard Park had no emergency rooms, no operating tables. It had a few medical doctors but it was the psyches that ruled the day. It was a pure mental facility created to treat people with mental disorders. Paranoid’s schizophrenics, clinical depressants, drug addicts. Orchard Park was busting at the seams with people who harbored unstable sensibilities.
The season was fall. The grass shivered outside the big dirty windows. The monster was free to roam around the halls and corridors of Clay’s mind. He was living in the geriatric section. Clay sat in a chair feeling like a bowl of cold soup. The room was cold. He wrapped himself in a thin blanket. There was a nice assemblage of strangers with tales to tell. There was Patrick, a man in his sixties who had been on crack for thirty years. He was a small brown man who looked like a librarian. Bobbie’s son hung himself on Christmas Eve 2012. Bobbie suffers from blame and bipolar syndrome. He was yelling at the nurses when darkness dropped into the asylum. “MY SON IS DEAD. HE COMMITTED SUICIDE AND ITS ALL MYFAULT.” The nurses gave him a shot of some stuff that put him right to sleep. Bobbie became a teddy bear. The schizoid carried silence in a paper bag tied to his wrist. Clay cannot forget Carolyn, a black lady in her sixties who was a schizophrenic. She liked being at Orchard Park. The social worker told her she had no place to go. Her daughter didn’t want her. She was homeless. She refused to take her medicine. Carolyn knew the ropes. The doctor would not okay her release if she stopped taking her meds. That old woman was a witch with without a mind. She didn’t need one. My name is still Rain. I tell the story
Clay was in jail. The workers, nurses, attendants had keys. Clay had none. There was no way to escape. The black man with the shiny locks had people half his age telling him what to do. How old was he anyway? The medical assistants told the patients when to wake up, when to go to sleep. Orchard Park was a maximum security prison. The inmates were allowed outside to see the sky for 45 minutes. Cigarette smoke floats into the minds and souls of those who were burned out by survival, love. The monster slowly backed into his cage protesting all the way. The soldier was calming down. The fire that raged through his mind died down to a flicker. The doctor gave him a boatload of drugs to take: Lamotrigine, Zoloft, Parazin, and Trazadone. The survivor of the forgotten war slowly reentered the unreal world once more.
A young girl with tangled uncombed hair woke Clay up at six a.m. every morning. Her name was Jewel. Everybody wanted to go home, except for Carolyn. The social worker told her she had no place to go. The zoo outside the large windows raged on. The depression monster was back in his cage waiting for another run.
Seven days slowly passed. Clay trusted no one. His sister arrived on the second day with fresh clothes. The world spun alone. Clay was not on it. The doctor came in to see Clay once a day. He asked Clay how he felt. “I’m okay, doc when can I go home?” The doctor said, “Today.”
Clay ran to his room, collected his bags of clothes, waited for his sister. The man jumped for joy when his sister arrived. Awash in the joy of freedom, he ran for his car. Clay’s sister touches heaven with the tips of her fingers. God kept Clay alive. His son, the Prince of Peace, is Clay’s personal savior. Jesus encourages Clay to take his meds. The pills are synthetic, born in a lab. The ingredients cause vicious, sometimes bothersome, side effects. However, the basic elements that these life-saving drugs are composed of come from the ends of the earth that God made.
Eden is in chaos. Clay suffers from a chemical reaction in his brain that doesn’t suit him. These drugs are still a part of the world that God made. The ex-soldier-saint prays, in Jesus’ name to quell the bleeding walls of pain and injury that surround us. He is healed. The monster is in his cell. We are engaged in spiritual warfare. This war manifests itself on the spiritual plane where we live. The world is infested with pain, greed, murder on and on. The battle rages within and without. We must continue to wear the spiritual breastplate and wield the sword of truth which is the word of God. My name is Rain. The summer leaves melt slowly in the presence the cool, slow fall.