NEW OAKLAND PSYCHIATRIC UNIT
It was a Tuesday, no Wednesday, Thursday? Jackson sat against the brick wall of the New Oakland Psychiatric building, smoking a cigarette while the rest of his group ate their lunches inside. He had made a habit of coming outside to this spot every day at lunchtime, as it was the only alone time he got during the day session. Soon the rest of his group would trickle outside to chain smoke cigarettes and chat through the rest of lunch break, at which point he was under an obligation to try and socialize by therapist's orders.
Do you know what it feels like to have a bad morning in psych group? Bobby, the resident psych ward veteran in group who does not stop talking, even when the therapist is walking out the door, admitted to the group that he had swallowed a bottle of benzos two nights prior in an attempt to kill himself, then disappeared out the back door mid-session. Rob, the guy who hasn't said a word since Jackson was admitted to group, except to emphasize that he loves the Philadelphia Eagles, stood up and took off his shirt towards the end of the morning session, displaying for group the bullet wound and surgery scars from where he shot himself through the chest in a suicide attempt two weeks ago. It was an improbably powerful moment for Jack, but it also triggered old secrets that Jackson should not have been thinking about.
It was a beautiful day outside, at least. with great white cotton candy clouds floating across a sky of robin's egg blue. The dog days of summer had set in early in Metro Detroit, and the ninety-five degree heat beat down on Jackson as he wrote in his journal on the blacktop outside the building. He could hear the traffic rushing by from I-96 through the alley. Across from the building there was a two story house with grape vines on the side and a garage out back, where there were always four to five cars parked; the rumor going around group was that the residents were somehow involved with the Mafia. Jackson put his headphones on, and played the same song he played everyday at this time -- Stand of Oaks, "Heal".
He picked up a white rock from the concrete and began clawing away at the redbrick wall of the psychiatric building, writing the lyrics to the song. He had already covered the brick wall in several of these chalk-like phrases with lyrics and thoughts during his time in group: "The voices say RUN"; "Hello darkness my old friend"; "I was born in the middle, maybe too late, everything good had been made, so I just get loaded, and never leave my house" (this one had taken him two lunch periods to complete); "the idiotic chattering laugh of a girl unstrung with hideous fear". He had found that last one written upon his arrival, and Jackson loved it.
He scratched away at the redbrick wall with the white rock, the rock crumbling as he wrote, like a pencil growing dull against paper:
"And we're painted like the Warriors
You gotta Heal"