Sunday, May 25, 2014

Mike's Story Part 31 - Prelude to Bellevue

By Jenna Orkin  

   We were at a pizzeria, killing time before Mike's doctor's appointment in a neighborhood run by the Mafia.  I knew this because my husband had lived there when we met and when I had voiced misgivings about moving in, he had assured me the Mafia kept it safe since they didn't want any unnecessary visits from the police.
   So when four guys stuffed into their shark-skin suits sat down at a table across from us, I was reminded of a story about a little boy whose first full sentence was, "My father is a respectable businessman."
   "Dolphins are the only mammals that have recreational sex," observed one good fella.
   "And monkeys," Mike interjected. "Baboons throw wild parties."
   I wanted to show Mike the finer aspects of New York - the landmark streets of Brooklyn Heights; the Central Park zoo where tropical birds flew freely overhead, alighting on the finger of anyone with the patience to wait.  My hope was to melt his aloofness but he would have none of it, remaining determined to hold fast to his hate as though it was his last vestige of identity.   Anyway, on Ativan, he subsided onto the bed before even getting dressed.
   But one night after he'd been in all day so determination trumped lethargy, we went to see Apocalypto. The movie was great but when it ended, everyone poured out of their respective theaters at the same time, piling on top of each other on the narrow escalator.
   "What would happen in a fire?" Mike exclaimed. "We're not going back there."
   Saturday was grim as Mike described himself ending up in Bellevue, drooling, in a strait jacket.
   "Dress up," I suggested.
   He put on a black shirt and black pants.
   "A little depressing, you think?"
   He changed into his blue dress shirt over a red turtleneck.
   Nonetheless, as he packed his bag (medical records, toothbrush, copy of Crossing the Rubicon,) he moved with the somber air of a man embarking on his final journey, just as he had before departing for Venezuela.
   I went with him partly because he was afraid of the NYC transit system, more because he was afraid of being swallowed up by the mental health system. As a backup witness with legal clout, Ray promised to meet us there.
   Only one visitor was allowed in the waiting room so I accompanied Mike while Ray sat outside reading the Sunday Times Book Review before dozing off.
   Mike was given no-stick blue slippers, an across-the-board policy against patients who kicked.
   Ahead of us was a Cooper Union student, a slight girl with bloodshot eyes, flanked by two roommates. Over the next several hours, fragments of her story unfolded: Boyfriend troubles; boyfriend's father, feeling responsible, had called 911. The roommates knew nothing about the situation although the cops talked to them accusatorily.
   Another woman was brought in with her hands behind her back. The handcuffs were removed, leaving indentations on her wrists.
    ("She's fat," Mike explained in a whisper.) 
    In an abusive relationship, she had finally lashed back at her boyfriend.
    "Just my luck," she moaned several times over the course of the evening, "it was right in front of an FBI car."
   The two female cops advised her to speak calmly to the judge and explain what she had just told them. They were attractive, particularly the blond whom I privately dubbed Brunnhilde and who captured the imaginations of both Mike and Ray.
    "When I was young, I would have gone ten rounds with her," Mike said. "She must get chased around the station house."
   Another prisoner was brought in, cuffed to a wheelchair.
   "Smith and Wesson 45," [I'm not sure that was the brand] Mike said, referring to the cop's gun.  "I was in LAPD," he continued.  "I used to love the [he named another gun.]"
   "Yeah?" said the cop.
   "You were in LAPD?" asked Brunnhilde.
   "Yeah. 'Til I found the government dealing drugs. I had a website where I published some articles about it.    I also wrote this."  He pulled out the copy of Rubicon.
   "See? Here's my picture." He held it up next to his face, mimicking the smile in the photograph.
   "Oh yeah," said Brunnhilde. "You wrote that?  Wow.  Can I see?"  Then, perusing the book, "I'm going to get this."
  The cop with the Smith and Wesson 45 shook Mike's hand.
   "Yeah, the government is involved in a lot of bad shit," said Smith and Wesson's partner.
   "If I had it to do over again," Mike said, "I wouldn't go into narcotics; I'd stick with homicide. You see some bad shit but at least it's clear."
   Mike and I had discussed this. No matter which department he started out in, I maintained, he would have followed its path to its origin and uncovered corruption at the highest levels of government, where all roads lead.
  He agreed, which seemed to alleviate one source of angst. ("If only I hadn't started out in Narcotics.")
   Bellevue was surprisingly reassuring; his doctor, who looked like a dark Apollo, was subtle and concerned; the bureaucracy smoother than the Kafkaesque nightmare he'd envisioned.
   He speculated that this was because New York ran on the labor of the poor. "Bloomberg knows this."  Thus it behooved the city to take care of them.
  The doctor, like a previous psychiatrist, proffered the tentative diagnosis of bi-polar.
   "One thing she said clicked," Mike reflected later.  "She asked me if I'd engaged in risky behavior, spending money I didn't have, risky sexual behavior. I did spend a lot of money I didn't have, but I don't know about risky behavior."
   "The burundanga ladies," I reminded him, without raising the sore point of the female employee who'd filed suit. 
   "That was risky behavior.  That was the day that Nicolas Maduro and Chavez endorsed the 'no plane' theory. I'd warned the government it was a trap so when that came out, I realized the upper echelons didn't even know I was there.
   'I just didn't care anymore.
   'And I used to walk down some pretty God-forsaken streets in Caracas hoping someone would say, 'Your money or your life.'"
   He opened his arms wide in imitation of what his reaction would have been. "Take me."

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