|A Novel By Max Rabinowitz|
|I wasn't always in that hospital. There were weekend passes and holiday passes and even summer leaves if I was good enough and had someone who cared enough to have me in their home. During these times I must have seemed to others as if I were truly mad. I would spend hours and hours just staring at the ceiling, daydreaming, but without any thoughts going through my mind at all. Actually I was just taking in the peace and quiet, enjoying the release from the twenty-four-hour-a-day tensions that I always faced at the hospital. If anyone were to ask just what the hell I was doing I would usually respond with a snarl or a curse, unless they persisted in their efforts to enter my sphere and then I would react violently.
On the other hand, if I wanted to exert myself, even the tiniest bit, I could be the nicest guy in the universe. As I grew older I began to realize that - I was a schizophrenic, but an intelligent one, and that made me capable of altering my personality whenever I felt like it. Not many persons can claim this ability and I don't know whether or not I should be proud or ashamed of having it myself. There are times when it comes in handy and others when it is a handicap of the first order.
The big minus in having so many colors when playing the chameleon was that after awhile I began to forget just who I really was. I could and did shift into these personalities so quickly that I sometimes lost track. It caused many regretful problems. I had but one person that I could truly be myself with and that was Steve. But even with him there were times when I would take on another personality. Steve was capable of knowing when I had done this and would instantly call my attention to it.
My multiple personalities also played a great role when dealing with my family. The tightrope that I was forced to walk never threw me. With Mom I would be one way, with Pop another, still another way with my sisters and brothers. Of my entire family, just my middle sister Bibi had a partial understanding of Max. She didn't know on a conscious level what was going on, but she was one of those sensitive persons who worked on feeling and emotions. We weren't as close as we would have liked to be, but as the years progressed we became as close as we ever could.
I've never managed to meet another guy like Steve, either. Of the thousands of men I've come into contact with there hasn't ever been another like Steve. Maybe I should count myself lucky to have had at least that one friend, but somehow I have this thought in my mind that I'm unfortunate for having had only one friend.
Once, when I was much younger, there was a pretty girl named Diane. I told her I wanted to be something when I grew up. This was long before I became a criminal, long before I went to prison. Diane knew something about me, not very much, because she was my sister's friend and not really mine, but she told me I could tell a story and that perhaps I should become a writer. She asked me to include some trees and grass for her in my books, and I promised her that I would. I thought I had forgotten about that but when I sat down to write this I remembered.
I know that this is a wandering and disconnected story, but my life has been a wandering and disconnected life, filled with lost opportunities and misplaced chances, and with good times that were very good and with bad times that were very bad. I've been told that a story should be written in chronological order and that to wander around like I was lost wasn't the way to write anything publishable. Yet, even if this was never to be published I still would have written it, if only to say what I truly felt for just this once.
Now I wander again . . . my mind doesn't work just as it should nor has it ever done so. Segments of my life flicker back and forth like scenes in an old silent film. I wanted to write all about the different crimes that I had committed, but there's no need for me to do that. They are all a part of public record and anyone that is interested can just go down to the courthouse and look them up.
It's easy enough to tell you that I have been arrested and charged with the entire alphabet of crimes: arson and assault; burglary, breaking and entering; counterfeiting and coercion; disorderly conduct; extortion; forgery; grand larceny; homicide; impersonating an officer; jaywalking and juvenile delinquency; kidnapping; loitering; manslaughter and murder; non-compliance with a law enforcement official's orders; obstructing justice; possession of drugs, unlawful weapons, drug paraphernalia; quackery (faking at being a doctor or offering a false cure for a disease); robbery shoplifting; trespass; unlawful entry; vagrancy; weapons, etc. There weren't any "X,Y,Z" crimes or someone would have accused me of them too.
Yet, in spite of being charged with these crimes I have never once been convicted.
Ironically they managed to convict me of the one crime that I didn't commit - murder. For this I was sentenced to twenty years in prison, and now I sit in my cell, wondering how they could put me away for the one crime I didn't do.
I don't want to get into all the crimes of my past because that isn't what I wanted to write about. I wanted to let somebody know how things were in that damned hospital, but my mind jumps like some kind of Mexican Jumping Bean and I get sidetracked. A taste of that hospital would make anybody crazy and I am no exception. The fact that I am still sane enough to be able to write most of this down is a constant source of amazement to me. Most people I know who survived that hospital are so wacked-out they cannot do anything at all with their lives. Not many became catatonics, but most lost track of every bit of moral conduct they might have had before going there. The pressures of simply surviving were so great that one had to revert to his basic animalistic nature if he was to prevent serious damage to himself. Everyone found that out right away.
Because the contrast between life in the hospital and life outside was so great, many of us who stayed there for any amount of time became schizophrenics. There was one set of values for living in there and another totally different set of standards for life outside. If, as frequently was the case, somebody mixed them up then he was in deep trouble.
The tightrope that we all walked swayed back and forth in the breeze. In that hospital a small thing like "Please pass the salt" was enough to have the whole can thrown in your face, but if you just grabbed it out of someone's hands when in a restaurant on Second Avenue you were considered an animal. Who can blame some of us if we were a bit nutty after having to live like that?