When was the last time you looked at a big map? Not a wall-size map, although you were probably in grade school the last time you saw one of those. Just a map of a region, like a state map of New York, or a map of LA. Remember holding one of those maps in your hands and locating yourself? North of Franklin Avenue, a little way up Argyle from the on-ramp to the 101, and in the larger picture, north of downtown, west of Beverly Hills, south of Burbank. Turn the map over to show the whole state, and there you were in L.A., north of San Diego, way down the coast from San Francisco, west of the Arizona state line.
These days, all we see are tiny maps on cell phones or GPS, everything miniaturized down to your immediate surroundings, as if your life consists only of right where you are. That’s the way it was in the Nut. The green walls of your nut room turned into a GPS screen…there’s the bathroom, through the door is the common room with its sofas and recliners and flat screen TV showing an endless loop of snow-capped mountains and puffy clouds against a pale blue sky, the rest of the nuts shuffling around in their bathrobes and house shoes, heads down like they’re looking for a nickel they just dropped. Nothing else there to catch your attention because they take away all your stuff when you’re admitted. Belt, wallet, driver’s license, money, pens, notebooks and of course all of your electronic stuff: cell phone, Kindle, I-pad, anything else you’re carrying around that connects you to the outside world. For that purpose, there were a couple of wall-mounted land-line phones…remember those?…down at the end of the ward in a zone where people could hear you if they walked by, but nobody did because they didn’t have any place to go. You were allowed to receive calls between 7:00 and 8:00 pm, just before Quiet Time. But who was going to call you when you couldn’t call out? Who would want to talk to you, anyway? What did you have to say for yourself at the end of another day in the Nut? Big news, folks: they just wheeled in a new patient, chin bobbing against his chest, nodded out on whatever they shot him up with Outside. Parked him over by the nurses’ station. You can see his fingers twitching, probably from the Thorazine, but who knows? Maybe he’s a musician playing a silent piano only he can hear. There’s lots of stuff only you can hear in the Nut rattling around up there in your brain, stuff you’re afraid of, stuff you’re afraid to tell anybody about, stuff from private zones in your head that sends shivers down your spine, stuff you’re afraid if they find out, they’ll keep you there forever.
It’s there all the time. It’s there when you’re walking around during the day, when you go to sleep at night, when you wake up in the morning. Every day you wake up terrified. You’re terrified when you look in the mirror that you look different, hollowed out, empty, less of a man. You’re terrified you don’t look different at all, that the guy you see in the mirror is who you really are. You’re terrified of your feelings. You’re terrified that you can’t feel anything at all. You’re terrified that you’ve ended up in the nut. You’re terrified they won’t let you out. You’re terrified they will let you out. You’re terrified of what will happen when you get out. Did anyone miss you? Will they still love you? Will the whole world know how far you’ve fallen? Will they even care?
Most of all, you’re terrified that you’ve lost those who you love. You’re terrified that you let them down. You’re terrified they won’t forgive you, because they depend on you, and where are you? In the Nut, staring at the green ceiling with the caged-in fluorescent light fixture, wallowing around in a fog of Risperdol.
How does it feel, Loosh, that you’re so far away from them? That you’ve fallen so far you don’t see how you’re going to get up? What are they thinking of you out there? How will you ever make them understand? What will you tell them when you get out? Will they recognize you? Will they still love you? Will these terrors ever go away?