|By Max Rabinowitz|
|The first thing I learned was to get to the medicine room in a hurry. By pushing smaller kids out of the way I could make sure that I wasn't the last in line- that's the kid who usually got his head busted. The first few days found me on the tail end of the line, but after three beatings in one week, I made myself one of the best at skidding down the polished hallways and, if necessary, shoving someone else to the floor so that I could get well up into the front. The floors were waxed like glass. That coupled with the dope coming out of the medicine room made it difficult to move fast.
Our attendant was Mr. Robeson. He was about thirty years old and one of the first black people I'd encountered up close. There weren't any in my neighborhood and the ones that I saw from a distance I assumed were freaks. Why else would they be black? I got some black friends now, but they are different too, though not in the same way. Mr. Robeson wasn't very big, not very smart either, but he was strong. I could attest to that fact personally because the first time he hit me I flew thirty feet across the floor. In comparison to Mr. Robeson's black, almost purple skin, some of my friends had different complexions. Bobo's was sort of light brown, almost like a deep tan, while Iron Man had a dark brown skin. Even Boston Beans wasn't as dark as Mr. Robeson, but he had pink and shiny spots all over. He once told me that it came from getting cut all the time, that the big spots were from his mother burning him with a frying pan. I didn't believe none of that shit. Mr. Robeson's lips were also funny, much bigger than anyone else's, almost touching his widespread nose. Frankie had a nose similar to that, but he got his when Mr. Robeson broke it. Mr. Robeson was sure a rotten man. I learned most of my dirty language from him, like "Mr. Robeson is a prick motherfucker."
Some of the guys in the medicine line had to take liquid medicine. That was because they'd been caught throwing their pills in the toilet bowl. Sometimes I would do it too. Mostly though I enjoyed taking the pills because I never knew what they would do to me. Once I took some greenies that were fantastic. One minute I was standing and talking to Frankie and the next WHAMMO! I was on the floor. I wasn't sleeping or unconscious, but I just couldn't move. Frankie didn't think it was so funny and helped me up. He was older than me, thirteen or fourteen, maybe even fifteen.
It was a long walk down the hallway to my room. I don't know why everyone referred to their quarters like that. It wasn't really "my room" for a number of reasons. It belonged to the state, plus I shared it with Iron Man. Iron Man was a good roommate, mainly because he didn't piss or shit in the bed like most of the kids. We keep the room neat and Iron Man showed me how to make up the bed, real tight and without wrinkles. We took turns washing the floor too. He was fair about that even though he was bigger and older than me. He was thirteen, two years older than me and a real teenybopper. Some guys didn't clean their rooms unless Mr. Robeson made them do it. We even washed our walls, Iron Man and me. I liked doing that because he would grab my legs and lift me over his head so I could reach the top with the rag.
"My room" wasn't all that big. There were two beds with a space between them about a foot wide. On the back wall we had a window that was covered with bars. Naturally, the front wall was dominated by a steel door, with a little window in it so that the attendant could look in. They really didn't do it though, especially the night attendants, because they were too lazy to shine their flashlights in every little window. We didn't have any sinks or toilets, so if we needed a drink or to take a piss, it was tough titty. When they locked the doors at four o'clock that was it! They wouldn't open the doors again until six o'clock the next morning, so we had to use a lot of restraint. In an emergency I once saw Iron Man get down on the floor next to the door. There was a small two-inch gap and he put his pisser there and squirted it out into the hallway. In the morning he mopped it up before Mr. Robeson came on duty, which was around eight o'clock.
I used to get scared at night because of the dark. Iron Man used to tease me, but he had been there five years and said that he'd rather face the dark than the daytime and Mr. Robeson. Somehow I came to agree with him.
I wasn't crazy like most of the kids there, but I heard a voice in my head once in a while. It sounded mostly like Boston Beans, low and quiet, always the same phrase, you'll remember… you'll remember," over and over. Sometimes it would get so overwhelming that I would crawl under my bed until it went away.
To this day I wonder why they called that place a hospital. If you got sick you had to get well on your own again. The only kind of doctors I saw were the ones who asked simple questions about my mother. They also gave out weird tests to find out if you were stupid or smart. My two personal doctors were named Masti and Greenburg. They were two very strange people.
Doctor Masti was a very pretty lady, who always asked me if I liked it there. When I told her about Mr. Robeson she said I was fantasizing and that attendants didn't act that way. I told her that the pills weren't helping me either. She said that I didn't understand and that the medicine would help me in the long run. Most of the time she gave me pictures and asked me what they reminded me of. I usually said that they didn't remind me of anything. She didn't believe me so I started making up stories that would satisfy her. I think she was awfully dumb for a doctor. Boston Beans agreed with me. He said there was a special program where people went to learn how to be dumb.
Doctor Greenburg was the dumbest guy in the whole world. He always told me I wasn't crazy and didn't belong there, but that I would have to stay because my mother didn't want me. His favorite game was to give me some silly dolls. There was a mother doll, a father doll, a boy doll, a girl doll, and even a baby doll. There was a little house on his desk for the purpose of putting the dolls into it, as if they were a family. He never really paid much attention to what I did with them, like having the mother cook supper and stuff like that. I got his interest one day though. I put the baby doll inside the oven in the kitchen part of the house, then put a knife in the mother's hand and had her stab the father doll. He asked me why I did that, but I honestly couldn't tell him. Doctor Greenburg had a trick way of looking at me that I tried to imitate. First he'd lift his eyebrows until they almost touched his hairline, then he'd slowly lower the right eyebrow back in place. I always thought that was neat trick, but I could never get one eyebrow to stay up while the other one came down. He was fat, too. My guess was about four hundred pounds, but Iron Man told me that he weighed a mere three hundred and ten pounds. Either way, he was definitely heavy duty. He always referred to me as a "bright lad," but sometimes he would mumble something and when I didn't understand what he'd said he would get an attitude. He even cried a couple times because I didn't understand him. I liked him for the most part and I missed him when he left. Frankie and he had to go because a supervisor caught him playing around with one of the girls on the second floor. I knew the girl in question. We called her Evie, although her real name was Yvonne, and she was so ugly and skinny that I wouldn've messed with her on a bet. She left soon after Doctor Greenburg, but I learned later that it was just to the adults' building on the other side of the hospital grounds.
After a while I was allowed to go home on weekends. My mother or father would pick me up on Friday and bring me back Sunday night. At first going home was great, but then the weekend visits deteriorated into mostly bad scenes. Whenever I would tell my mother about the things that happened in the hospital she would accuse me of lying. Nobody believed me and eventually I gave up trying to convince them. My brother and two sisters stayed away from me, except when they called me names or snickered. I hated them all, except for my middle sister. She was the only one who didn't make fun of me. Sometimes she'd cry when the others picked on me, but she was too little to help me.
We lived in a huge house in Queens. There were two floors and a basement. The neighborhood was predominantly Irish and Italian. There was one kid across the street, Joey, who was really nice. He was mainly my brother's friend, but he would never join in when someone picked on me. I talked to him a lot and he was the only person who paid attention when I told him of the things going on in the hospital. It made me feel a little better to know that at least somebody was concerned. Once I told him about a kid named Stanley who cut off his pisser with a razor blade. He believed me! I had told my mother the same thing earlier and she called me a liar. Stanley died because there was no medical assistance at nighttime, and no one ever explained where he got the razor blade in the first place.
My Sunday return to the hospital was always the same. The attendants would wait until my parents said goodbye and left, then tell me to strip naked. I would then have to stand in front of them while they examined my clothes. Then they examined me, made me raise my arms, my balls and after I bent over one of them would put on a rubber glove and pike his finger in my asshole. I don't know what they thought would be up there, but if I could have managed it, I would have shit on whoever was digging around in my ass.
Iron Man always stayed up on Sunday nights so I could tell him how my weekend went. For some reason he never went home for a weekend. I usually told him about my family, what we had to eat, and most of the time I would make up things just to make him happy. I even told him my family loved me and missed me badly, but we both knew that was crap because if they had cared about me they could have removed me from the hospital. Anyway, I liked telling him stories because they helped us both forget about the hospital.
One morning, in the middle of the week, we came out for breakfast. As usual, we got in line, picked up our trays and started through the food line. Suddenly, Boston Beans began to stutter like a machine gun, and we all knew what that meant. Everybody scattered because Boston Beans was going into one of his famous fits. First he would stutter, then grab the nearest guy and proceed to beat the hell out of him. He grew extra strong during his seizures and usually beat someone up very badly. On this particular morning he didn't get anybody, as we all moved out of range to fast for him. So he grabbed a whole rack of metal trays and started throwing them around. Billy got bashed over the eye and started bleeding profusely. Frankie ducked to late and got a tray across the back of his head. I got hit on the shoulder, but it was Iron Man who received the worst punishment. A tray caught him sideways on the top of his head, tearing a whole piece of skin loose. The blood ran down the back of his neck like water from a faucet. For a minute my roommate just stood there, stunned, then he let out a wild yell and what ensued was one of the worst sights I had ever seen, in or out of the hospital.
Iron Man leaped on Boston Beans' back and they both tumbled to the floor. Boston Beans punched Iron Man several times in the face, but my roommate wouldn't let up, even though his nose and mouth started bleeding. One attendant stood behind the food counter, but he didn't make a move until it was too late - then he moved real fast. Iron Man got his fingers into Boston Beans' eye, probed and dug until he could pull it right out of its socket. Iron Man pulled until the muscle snapped right off and blood gushed from the vacant hole that had been Boston Beans' eye. He then jumped up and started stomping Boston Beans into oblivion. Once, Frankie jumped in and tried to pull Iron Man off, but all he got for his trouble was a sore ass as Iron Man tossed him away like a limp rag.
The attendant behind the food counter finally made a move. He was tall and had long arms like a gorilla. He was relatively new, only around a week or so. Most of the other attendants simply grabbed you and threw you across the room. Mr. Robeson would punch you, or else hit you with a chair. The new man's name was Grenoble and once he made a move he got into the fray quickly. He first tried to grab onto Iron Man, but my roomie spun out of his grasp. Then Grenoble flattened his hand and slapped Iron Man on the side of his head, though not too hard, yet not so soft either. I watched in amazement as Iron Man tumbled into a limp heap. It wasn't until much later that I found out Grenoble was a karate expert.
By the time other attendants arrived there was blood all over the floor. Iron Man moved a little, moaning slightly, but Boston Beans just lay there, making no sounds or movement. His torn eyeball rested against the bottom of a table. We never did get to eat breakfast that morning.
Iron Man didn't return to the room for two days. When he did show up again I could tell he had undergone a series of shock treatments. Mostly he walked around like a zombie. I tried to talk to him, but there was no response and after a while I gave up. He was just like a vegetable, a baby, and if I hadn't fed him he wouldn't have eaten. I also washed him and changed his clothes. I didn't mind because we were roomies and friends.
I tried to find out from Doctor Masti about Boston Beans, but she wasn't giving out any information, other than to say that he was hurt bad. The attendants had picked up his eyeball and it was my thought that they could sew it back in place. Later, the nursing supervisor Mr. Littelli told me that it couldn't be done. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, he told me, because Boston Beans was dead. For a while I felt sick to my stomach, then after a time I began to think that maybe Boston Beans was better off. After all he couldn't have gone to a worse place.
Soon Iron Man's memory returned. When I told him that he'd killed Boston Beans he only laughed. He told me that it wasn't the first time he'd killed someone. He'd also killed his mother and father when he was only eight years old. This shocked me, but it explained why Iron Man was never allowed to go home on a visit.