Ice-Induced Psychotic Episode: A (More or Less) True Story

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3.

“Do you want to come in the ambulance with your partner?”

“Fuck no! He’s not my partner. He’s my housemate.”

“After you park, just come into Triage in Emergency,” Pete replied.

I felt a rush of adrenalin as I drove along High street behind the ambulance. It was the best I had felt all day. How was I going to give all this up to go to work behind a desk?

***

I got a park outside the hospital in the street. It became a clearway at three, which gave me an alibi for leaving if, after two hours, I’d had enough.

“Are you his next of kin? He doesn’t have anyone listed,” asked the triage nurse on the other side of the plexiglass.

“No, look, I’ll organize for one of his friends to give you a call,” I said. The whole misadventure had begun to reek of guilt by association.

Minh was strapped to a gurney on the other side of the triage station. He’d been given a white hospital blanket, most of which was pulled over his face. The veins in his hands stood out as he wrung the blanket between them.

His slender, hairy legs, the only part of his body that was free, kicked out into the air as if he was fighting off something that was trying to eat him.

“If you want to sit in the waiting room, we’ll call you when he’s ready.” God only knew what that meant. I was hungry; I fed a couple of dollars to the vending machine and got nothing in return.

I wanted to tip it over, but once you lose your temper, it’s hard to get it back. And I had an undetermined wait ahead. I sat and flicked through a few gossip mags until I felt sick. Then, I fiddled with my iPhone.

“Richard, Minh’s ready to see you,” said a nurse, appearing from the double doors. “Do you want to come through?” The security guard eyeballed me as I went past.

‘Ready’ meant that his gurney had been wheeled into what was fundamentally a cell. No windows, just florescent lights glaring from the ceiling, sweeping down the high, grey plastic walls. I sat down on the solitary chair, injured leg stretched out. Minh’s blanket was still pulled over his head. I wished I had one, too.

“How you feeling?” I asked the shivering lump. Minh pulled the blanket back to expose a pallid, mangy face that was streaked with tears. His eyes were red-raw.

“I feel so empty,” he said, words falling like shrapnel out of his constricted throat. “I wish I could end it all.” Deep sobbing from the pit of his chest. I put a hand on the part of the lump where I believed his leg was.

“There, there,” I said, “It’s okay.” I thought I was useless; that statement proved it.

“Here’s a chicken sandwich, Minh,” said a nurse, handing him a flimsy paper plate that bent under the weight of the food. He took the plate, peeled the sandwich open and peered between the slices of bread. He threw himself back on the gurney with a keening wail.

“It’s processed!” he cried.

***

 “Hi guys,” said the doctor that appeared in the doorway. He snapped his fingers and pointed at each of us. “I’m Rush.”

Rush was Indian; about thirty, tall, thin and immaculately-dressed. He came and stood between Minh and me, crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall, lifting one foot up to support himself.

“How are you feeling, Minh?”

The blanket came down and Minh stared out, billiard balls for eyes.

“I hate myself and I want to die…”

Rush had a lanyard hanging around his neck. ‘Pradeshewan Amerasekera – Alfred Hospital Psychiatrist.’

“We’ve given you a lot of Valium, and it hardly seems to have been enough to tickle your toes. Are you on any medication?”

“Pristique,” said Minh.

“Pristique,” Rush said.

“It’s all an elaborate scheme… and you two,” Minh pointed a finger that swung from Rush to me and back again like a rifle barrel, “Are in on it together. I might be a cracked-out little gay man, but… I know you!”

“Where do you know me from, Minh?” Rush put his hands in his pockets. Minh’s pointed finger extended; the arm stiffened like it was a hunting dog.

“Tim’s party!”

“Tim?” said Rush. “You got a last name for me there, Minh? There’s a lot of Tims out there…”

Minh sank back, blanket over his mouth, muttering.

“Can you tell me anything about Minh’s history of drug use, Richard?”

“Look, I’ve only know him for about six weeks; we live together. He’s pretty much just moved in.” Rush gave me a tight-lipped, compassionate grimace.

“He told me just after he’d moved in that he was a recovering ice addict, and I can’t say that I was thrilled, but I understood why he didn’t tell me, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. And he’s been fine – until today.”

The moaning became louder. With the blanket pulled over his head, he looked like a Halloween ghost.

“He drinks, but I noticed the last few weeks that he’d been drinking more and more, and the other night, he drank an entire bottle of vodka on his own. And then, I got a weird phone call from him this morning and I came home to find him freaking out.”

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