At age seventeen, I was a Paul Simon song: a rock, an island. I was Dostoyevskys underground man. I was Camuss Stranger, who only needed his neighbors howls of execration to complete him.
I was a zombie, undone by a woman I’d met in New Orleans. I was a diamond with a flaw, as described by an Okie girlfriend who, until I told her otherwise, thought that “The Diary of Anne Frank” was a work of fiction.
The only thing I failed to see myself as was clinically depressed.
Later, I figured it out, and decided, as a clinically depressed person, that it made sense to pursue a career helping psychotic people.
In the middle of the Day Room, Dexter Troutman is playing air guitar. He asks: Remember when we had groupies? Remember when thousands screamed to see us, to touch us? Dexter strums a ripe chord, throws back his head, and sings: “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me!”
Remember the hotel suites, he asks, thousands of square feet of penthouse, each of us floating through our own psychedelic space, the sitarist sitting on the floor in his hairy chest and BVDs, playing ragas that lasted for days?
I remember, Dexter, I sigh.
Dexter launches into a wild air solo, windmills his strum arm, but he slips on a gob of phlegm Walter Mac Henry has left on the floor. Dexter Troutman goes down, hits his head on the linoleum-covered cement. He’s out cold.
I gently take his guitar from where it lay across his body and play a few bars of Let It Be before I rush to the Chart Room for help.
Mitchell Grabois works appear in magazines worldwide. Nominated for numerous prizes, he was awarded the 2017 Booranga Centre (Australia) Fiction Prize. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and as a print edition. His poetry collection, “THE ARREST OF MR. KISSY FACE,” published in March 2019 by Pski’s Porch Publications, is available here. Visit his website to read more of his poetry and flash fiction.