Friday, May 24, 2013

BELLEVUE c.2013 by St.Orr

c. 2020 by Steven Orr

Peter woke up early Sunday morning at 5:30 a.m., April 28, 2013. He heard a voice and it wasn’t God.
“Throw yourself in the East River. Go on, do it. You know it’s time. It’s time to kill yourself. Well, what are you waiting for? Throw yourself in the East River. Do it now.”
It was a cold dreary morning too, so it was a good day for it. He thought he needed to talk to someone, as he’d never heard this particular voice before. Almost sixty years old, he hated what he did for a living, which he referred to as turning tricks. He did massage with happy endings. Recently, he’d lost a rich, older “patron of the arts” who’d been offering him rent assistance the past few years. Now, he was three months behind in the rent. Various collection agencies had been calling relentlessly every day leaving nasty messages. Even his landlord, a former Vet, had begun threatening him. "I carry a gun and I'm not afraid to use if I have to, to force tenants out who don't pay--I'm just warning you." He made no bones about threatening Peter after the first 30 days without paying rent. This year had been one of the worst on record for massage clients, their numbers slowing to a trickle. His heart really wasn't into it anymore. He stopped advertising online; that spelled quick end to any gay male masseur's practice who wanted to keep seeing clients and making money.
Ever the creative one, he’d all but stopped directing Off-Off Broadway plays. Occasionally he still managed to pick up a pencil and sketch or draw. Now it was an effort to even get out of bed. Finally, he’d heard this voice, the voice telling him to kill himself. It really spooked him. He called the Suicide Hotline.
“I want to go to Bellevue. I need to talk to someone. I think I need to talk to a psychiatrist. I’m hearing this voice, it’s telling me to kill myself. But I’m afraid they might lock me up if I go there. If I go to Bellevue, will they lock me up if I just want to talk to someone?”
“No, they can’t keep you there against your will” said the operator from the Suicide Hotline.
As soon as Peter got to the Bellevue emergency room and asked to speak to a psychiatrist because he was hearing a voice in his head, they moved him up to the Psych unit on the second floor for observation. The nurses referred to this as Purgatory, for it was where they put patients before moving them up to Hell up on the tenth floor, a locked Psychiatric unit with beds, for longer, overnight stays.
In a small, dingy, dressing room, the nurse instructed him to take off his shoes, his belt, wallet and keys. They took his picture and put it on his very own ID bracelet that they affixed to his wrist. “It was the worst picture I’ve ever had taken of me” said Peter later. It was at this point when he discovered that he couldn’t leave Purgatory.
“You can leave as soon as you see the doctor,” said the Philipino nurse. Just wait a little while, see the doctor, then you can go.”
Meanwhile in Cannes, female whores were arriving in droves for the big film festival. Some girls got as much as $5K for an hour. “It’s really only like 5 minutes of being with somebody unpleasant if you think about it” one girl confessed unabashedly to a writer from The Hollywood Reporter.
Back at Bellevue, however, Peter was not a happy camper. “What are you doing?” he was yelling at the nurse as they took his things. “You mean I can’t leave? I want to leave. I don’t want to stay here! I was told I could leave at any time. I just wanted to talk to someone. I want to leave.”
There were lots of homeless men in purgatory. The entire unit smelled like dirty feet.
 In Cannes, meanwhile, many female whores were acclimating themselves on private yachts where they would be called upon to serve. Numerous parties took place on the yachts. The girls loved Arab clients the most, for they had so much money, they just threw it at you without even counting. A girl could make $30-40G in a week if she was a good.
Back in Purgatory, one of the patients, a homeless man, wrapped himself up in white sheets and wandered around, a kind of Lawrence of Arabia on acid.
Right next to Peter was an ancient beat up pay phone. This was the only mode of communication on the whole unit. As it turned out, he became a kind of temporary secretary, answering the phone and sometimes even taking messages for the patients. Even in Bellevue, his talent for co-dependency came shining through.
On his second day in Purgatory, a new patient joined the ward. He was a young, cute preppy looking white boy, early 20’s, a college kid by the looks of it. Peter assumed he was sane, because he was white and preppy and because he also seemed genuinely shocked too when they wouldn’t let him go. Like Peter, "John" only wanted to talk to someone. Peter and John commiserated on how unfair it was that they were both being kept prisoners. How dare they keep them here against his will. Peter had found a comrade. They were both agitated and pacing. “How dare they lock up sane people. This is outrageous—we’ve got to do something,” they protested to each other and to anyone who would listen.
John suddenly stopped. “I can get us out of here” he said to Peter, “I’m a doctor.” Uh-oh, thought Peter. “After all” said John, “it’s not over till it’s over. I mean really, you know. It’s not over till it’s over, it’s not over till it’s over…it’s not over till it’s over…” He kept repeating the phrase again and again, as if stuck in some bizarre Performance Art monologue. He definitely wasn’t as sane as Peter first thought.
There was the picture attached to the bulletproof plexiglas wall of the nurses’ station. It was a poster with the headline “Missing.” On the poster was the picture of a pretty, smiling young girl. The poster caught John's eye. “I know her,” John said, staring intensely at it. “I know her, and I can save her, I really can. Nurse, what’s this girl’s name, the one on the poster? I know her and I can find and save her.” He was tapping on the bulletproof Plexiglas now, getting more and more agitated.
Quietly in the corner a beautiful young black boy with glasses was sitting very still. Whenever the phone rang he would plaintively ask,  “Is that the doctor? Is that the doctor calling for me? I’m waiting for a bed upstairs. The doctor is supposed to be calling me so I can be moved upstairs.”
After about nine hours, Peter got to see a psychiatrist. After their talk, another nurse returned his belt, wallet, shoes and keys. He got to keep his ID bracelet with the horrible picture.
All this had happened three weeks ago, on a cold dreary Sunday, near the end of April. He was talking to his friend, Steve. “ I thought I’d told you about all this. Wow, I didn’t tell you? My sense of time is messed up. Three weeks already. I thought I'd told you.”
“I really liked the psychiatrist. Of course I’ll never see her again. She put me on three anti-depressants." "Which ones?" asked Steve. "Pacil, Laltuda and Wilbutrin" replied Peter. "I don't really get hard anymore." "Jesus, no wonder" said Steve. "But I do feel much better; I mean I’m not happy, but I can function. Things don't seem so hopeless. And I don't hear that voice anymore. Oh and I may be moving. This old Jew who draws at the Center on Saturdays, he’s also a gay historian. I’ve known him for years, since I’ve been booking the models there. We got to talking; he’s taken an interest in me. He wants to help me. I told him all about what happened. Last weekend, he took me out to dinner. He’s not rich but he owns a whole townhouse on Morton Street in the West Village. His family left it to him. He’s offered to rent me the entire first floor for a thousand a month. It would be private--he said he’d never go down there. I would have my own private entrance. Of course I’d have to be a whore there too and turn tricks, but it’s really ideal. I would have my own separate space. Well, there would be strange men coming in and out.  I would have to turn at least ten tricks a month to pay the rent. I hope he’s OK with that. Of course I’d have to tell him I'm a whore. He’s just getting to know me. Oh and I'd have to cool it on "the Jew" thing. He already came for a massage the other day. He even tipped me! And I didn’t even have to give him a Happy Ending. No, really, I didn’t.”