St. Maarten has a grey-white gate. The building itself is a white tile
building. It reminded me of when we went to New York to visit Marilyn's
parents, one of whom was a nurse.
Feb 1, 1957. New York. St. Lausanne. Hundreds of people are milling outside. The nurses were leading the patients out to the gate. And the patients crawled about the gates moaning. Others were standing. Alot of them sat down. But it was peculiar how they did it; it was as if something had given under them; something short of a collapse, only quicker, wary. As if they had been shot by a very soft bullet; a bullet of snow. It was eerie, how they were sitting or lying in the wet puddles. They were emptying the hospital, shutting it down. The violent ones were moved to another facility. The rest began sleeping in the parks, driven from the parks, they slept under bridges, corners, shivering, crawling into boxes, living out of cans. Nervous as cats, unable to make sense with their words or to defend themselves with the shield of sanity we hold in front of us.
I spoke to a few, at the instigation of Marilyn's father and mother. They wanted me to be compassionate and unafraid. So I tried to talk to them.
But words had some other meaning for them, round and hard in the mouth like candy, not something you share. Somehow the bridge between their minds and their mouths had been burnt; in the fire, their tongues have been shrunk, scorched, twisted, their minds, elongated, coiled, wound back.
Even then, I knew it was cruel, this evacuation. I cannot imagine how they planned it, or how they neglected to take the weather into account. They were emptying the wards in the dead of winter, end of January.
A man was fingering his head, which had been shaved, moaning gently. And then I noticed that it was not only him; there were five or six patients who had dents in their heads. Circular dents, perhaps three inches in diameter, as if their heads had caved in. One man had two large dents in his head; his whole frontal area had been carved out. It was some sort of surgery where they sawed out sections of the skull. Is that what a lobotomy was? I had always thought that they had left the skull alone, drilled tiny holes.
I could almost feel it in my skull.
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