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

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“What happened to your knee?” asked Rush.

“I fell out of a helicopter.”

“Really?”

“I’m an SOG policeman.”

“Tim Ireland!” said Minh, pulling the blanket down to his chest and clutching it there. “Tim Ireland’s party! And you were dressed as a woman!

“Fuck,” said Rush, “I was hoping you weren’t going to say that.”

I laughed so hard, I almost came off the chair.

“It was a nineties party,” said Rush. “I went dressed as Monica Lewinsky.”

“It’s okay,” I continued, coughing to clear my throat. “I had to go to a fortieth birthday a few years ago. It was a drag party. I went in a wedding dress; it was the only thing I could find to fit. I couldn’t get shoes – I’ve got size fifteen feet – so I wore thongs.”

“Oh, I got shoes,” said Rush. “I found a size twelve pump with a four-inch heel.”

“I know,” said Minh. “And you could dance in those things!”

Minh lay on his back, legs in the air, blanket wrapped around him as if might have to use it at any moment to either hide or defend himself.

“I told you – I might be a cracked-out little gay man, but I’m not crazy!”

“We’re going to give you some more valium and let you stay here until you sleep it off,” said Rush. And to me: “We’ll probably keep him here overnight for observation, and give you a call tomorrow so you can come and pick him up.”

I pushed myself out of the chair and stood. The knee strained against the brace. It felt hot. Angry.

“Do you want me to get a doctor to look at your knee?” Rush asked.

“No thanks,” I said. “I’ve got a doctor.” I went and saw a mate of mine who is a doctor any time I get injured. If I go see the squad doctor, there’ll be a record of what’s wrong with me.

“If you’re sure,” said Rush. I imagined him in a blue dress, heels and a curly black wig with a pearl necklace and smiled.

***

The silence in the empty house felt like a roaring. I cleaned the place top to bottom, stripped the bed, changed the sheets, and did three loads of washing. The washing machine was ticking away on the third load by the time night had fallen. I picked up the telephone.

“Hello?”

“Hi,” said Kat. “It’s me.”

“How are you?” I asked.

“I’m okay.” She’d answered; all I had to do was go slow and if I was lucky, it might kindle into a conversation.

“How you feeling?”

“Fine.”

“I thought I should give you a call. I thought I saw you today. At the hospital.” I felt a sudden relief when I realized this was true.

“What were you doing at the hospital?” A note of concern entered her voice.

“My housemate. He’s a fucking ice addict.” I thought of Minh that afternoon and the way he looked; the look in his eye. Psychological agony. I’d overlooked it at the time. I’d been too busy laughing at the transvestite psychiatrist.

“Why on earth would you have an ice addict as a housemate?”

I began to spin the story out to her, feeling a sudden surge of excitement as the whole sorry mess came out as comedy. The washing machine, having finished its cycle, emitted a series of chirrups.

“Can you hang on a minute?” I asked. I needed both hands to pull the bed sheets out of the machine. It was then I realized that Kat had hung up.

I hung out the sheets and emptied the vacuum cleaner. Then, I remembered Minh used to burn these incense sticks in his room from time to time. So I lit one in there, just so I could smell the hint of it in the hall.

I went into the lounge room and put my leg up on the couch and unlaced the brace. The skin was white with little raised dots from where the eyelets had pressed into the flesh. It was bordered by two angry red scores, above and below the joint. Perhaps if I went to sleep with the brace on, I thought, it might improve by tomorrow.

I couldn’t sleep. So I put on one of Kat’s trance albums down the hall in Minh’s room, pulsing down the hallway like a friendly noise.

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