It’s a bed he thought not the best bed but still a bed. First time he’d woke up in a bed in a long time. Granted the circumstances were far from ideal but it was a comfortable sleep. It definitely beats a cold cell and a thin blue jizz stained sleeping mat. Or, a kick from a drunken lout whilst lying on freezing cardboard, sleeping bag soaked in kebab and piss in a shop doorway.
He had a window, noticed no curtain rail for obvious reasons but the crisp autumn sun cracked the sullen darkness of the room and he returned his head to the pillow. His mouth and neck still raw from the piping hot gravy and beans he had lathered them in. A dressing and antiseptic cream treating the wound, again he thought it could be worse, it could always be worse. The room was neutral, hazard free and naked walls surrounded him. He was content. He couldn’t remember the last time he was content and well rested having eaten the previous day. Someone was definitely looking down on him, looking down on him favourably. Superman was a more realistic answer than god he thought.
There were voices down the hall outside his bedroom door, they sounded real. The door was about three metres from his bed, a wooden door, heavy duty with a circular strengthened window through which the nurses could see inside. As he listened to what sounded like the rattling of a trolley being driven down the narrow corridor he drifted off again.
When he woke the bed sheets were damp from his sweat, it had started. The cravings for the brown, the thoughts of how he ended up here started being clouded and swallowed by the thirst. He started fantasising about holding a cup of gravy granules, access to a kettle. Roast beef. Yorkshire puddings. Pie. Chips. All smothered in sweet sweet gravy. The transformation was underway, the calm figure snoozing solemnly under the white sheets. He was being replaced again. Nervous energy charged through his limbs like greyhounds released from their traps, a frenzy of activity in pursuit of the bunny. Could he put a muzzle on it? Could he bollocks. Swinging his feet out of the iron framed bed he made a line for the door in his pyjama bottoms and white t shirt, both two sizes too big for him.
He could smell burnt toast as he opened the door to the corridor and followed his nose. If there was going to be any gravy here it was going to be in the vicinity of the kitchen. As he approached the kitchen door he could see two shadows extinguishing themselves from the entrance. This was going to have to done the hard way and interact to some extent with others. Walking with the brisk staccato steps of someone carrying a piano he tried impossibly to peer through the walls as he approached the kitchen to count those that might stand between him and a tub of the brown stuff. He was threadbare physically but fearless and ready to fight to get his fix. His tracks suddenly stopped by a voice from behind him,
“Graham, slow down there’s plenty for everyone.”
He turned to see a psychiatric nurse smiling at him. He hadn’t heard his name in what felt like a decade.
“Who told you that?”
“What? Your name?”
“We got it from one of the police officers who brought you in last night.”
“Who knows me? Who warrit?”
“Try and stay calm you’re safe in here, the officer’s name was PC Fletcher he said he had met you before when you used to live in Doncaster town centre.”
“Never heard o’him sounds like a rate cock socket.”
“Would you like some breakfast? Some toast maybe?”
“Shove your toast up‘yer arse you daft slag, am after some gravy.”
With this reply he turned and continued on his mission. In the kitchen he wasn’t able to forage for the gravy. Instead the storage was through to a smaller room, where the food and cups of tea were being prepared, all visible through a small open window. The cupboard hole in the wall, separated the other patients all sat there solemnly, eating their toast and jam from the two ladies toasting and stirring. He approached the hole.
“Morning son, what can I get you? Nice cuppa?”
“I want gravy.”
“Can’t help you there love, you can have a cup of tea and some toast if you want though instead?”
He wasn’t to be deterred by the friendly nurses offer, instead of taking her up he climbed into an opening in the wall. The nurse a little alarmed but clearly not seeing this type of behaviour for the first time hit the mobile alarm all staff carried with them. Within thirty seconds two more nurses arrived at the locked door of the kitchen were let in. Graham meanwhile had picked up a blunt bread knife and began wielding it whilst screaming and demanding gravy from the two women in the kitchen. They were used to erratic behaviour but this was a new one for the two of them. As the first nurse opened the main door to the kitchen Graham had started ransacking the contents of two cupboards that were unlocked. As he was in full gravy mode two male nurses burst on to the scene to restore some order. The sun never sets on a psychiatric unit.
“Graham put the knife down; we don’t want to have to get the police involved do we?” Said Tom an avid Wednesday fan, the ink owl on his upper arm sneaking a peak at the latest trouble maker,
“Tell us where you keep it an’a will?” Implored Graham.
“Graham we don’t have any gravy, listen are you going to put the knife down?” With this second request Graham erupted.
“Me names Gravy you bastards!”
He had turned from the cupboard and was facing the two male nurses with the other two female nurses stood beside them – reinforcements. Graham crossed the line and lunged towards one of the female nurses and was quickly tackled and restrained face down on the kitchen floor. It hurts having your face pressed into a tiled floor.
What happened next was text book following a violent outburst. Graham was removed from the voluntary wing of the psychiatric hospital and rehoused in the newly built arm of the centre where those experiencing the more acute episodes resided temporarily. First he made a visit to the safe room with a complimentary injection into his leg to calm him down. What was in the syringe was anyone’s guess but considering he’d only been up an hour he dosed for a good 6 more laid on yet another blue plastic mat, sticky.
After stirring away from a rather pleasant dream he acclimatised to his surroundings. A nurse had to keep guard, monitoring movement and ensuring the patient didn’t swallow their tongue after receiving their latest cocktail of drugs. I guess the nursing equivalent of data entry. Graham stood up swaying a little, a 6 pint sway. He clocked the nurse straight away; she was young having only recently started at St Cath’s and Graham was the first person she had seen sedated, it made her feel a little uneasy but she was assured it was in their best interests.
“Nah then love, you gonna lerruz out am busting for a piss?”
“You’ll be out soon please try and be patient.”
“Patient, av bin in’ere all fucking day wi nowt to do am gonna piss me sen.”
“Graham there is a bottle in the corner if you need to go to the toilet, please use that.”
“Am not a fuckin animal, I wanna piss in a bog, lerruz out you stupid rug muncher!”
This wasn’t the first insult Emily had heard in her first three months, tame by comparison to most of them. The first time she received a tirade of abuse had her questioning her career choice but already her skin was thickening like a cooling pan of gravy. Her boyfriend was concerned when she mentioned she wanted to go into nursing specifically psychiatric nursing. To help others who had been through something similar to her sister. The nurses and doctors saved Frankie and she wanted to do something positive having nearly lost her to anorexia.
It didn’t mean he shouldn’t be concerned just because she had a good reason. He knew what an emotional and mental examination every shift was going to be working with the vulnerable, the catatonic, the schizophrenic, the manic and the psychotic. How does any person cope with that without being affected? Selfishly he didn’t want her to change; he fell in love with her when they met at university in Sheffield back in 2012. Version 1.0. He didn’t like the constant revisions.
He never voiced his concern at the pathetic remuneration package for all this personality re-aligning either. Instead he made her a cup of tea when she arrived back after her night shift on that Sunday morning, three hours late, no overtime. Yet another depressed patient had figured out how to get out without their consultants consent. The police statements, the questions the lack of sleep the heart wrenching image burned on to her conscience…another beautiful person hanging, lifeless. The thought of his mother finding out later that day just before she was due to come in and visit him made her feel sick. He listened. Tea wouldn’t do it. Nor would a 1% pay rise. Christ you could double her salary without making this worth it. He knew she was doing it for the right reasons but that didn’t change the fact that he was losing her one shift at a time.
“Graham please be patient, Dr Alikhan will be with you shortly.”
“Yeah I heard you, you daft cow. Please be patient waaa waaa waa. Am the gate keeper waaa waaa waa. Piss in me bottle waaa waaa waaa. Suck me tits Gravy waaa waaa waaa” He mimicked Emily making himself smile, she also struggled to keep a straight face as he continued his childish yet entertaining caged performance. The drugs had definitely worn off.
Graham calmed down and sat back on his mat on the floor. The door opened and in walked Dr Alikhan. His wait was over so was Dr Alikhan’s, a short stout Asian man with dark rings below his eyes. Emily thought either a keen drinking hobby or insomnia or both, she didn’t like him. He didn’t care, years of this had desensitised him. Made him unresponsive to the mental torture endured by many of his patients. He spoke briefly with Emily before cautiously opening the safe room and walking through the doorway before placing a NHS standard issue blue chair in front of Graham. Another nurse had joined Emily and they stood at the door.
“Hi Graham, I’m Dr Alikhan I need to ask you a few questions.”
“Fucksake av bin in ere all day can’t you just lerruz tek a piss?” Graham replied quickly.
“It will only take a couple of moments can you do that for me?”
“You’ve done well for your sen swimming over ere and that mekkin them believe youra quack but ur just a daft paki, now get out of me way am off for a piss.”
Graham stood up and started walking towards the door Emily and her colleague Ian stepped into the room. Graham stopped abruptly.
“Look you bunch of cunts a need a piss what dunt you get? Fine fuck yer!”
He turned away from the nurses with Dr Alikhan’s back to him on the sterile chair and quickly started to relieve himself on the worn suit jacket of the psychiatric consultant. Before long he realised what was going on and shot up out of his chair like he had been given a jab with a cattle prod. Disgusted. He walked towards the door and ushered the nurses out of the entrance and closed the door behind him. Graham continued to piss on the chair and screamed,
“Bring me some fucking brown an all you twats!”
Emily looked forward to her tea break and updating the rest of the overworked and underpaid.