Friday, 11 October 2013

Street Talk: Bruce From The Psych Ward.

There's a mixed bag of people in the mental hospital. A lot of them have given up hope, a lot have hurt themselves, and a lot just want to die already.

Bruce was none of those things. I first met him as I was being admitted. Walking past him sitting at the telephone he looked up at me and started singing a song which included the words "Baby, be mine, love, heaven." Irritated the hell out of me immediately.

I went straight to bed. Bruce just kept singing, pretty much outside my door. At dinnertime I watched him eat a huge amount of food, slurp it round his plate, dribble. He asked me if I had any money, I told him no. He asked me if I wanted one of his beanies.They were pretty cool so I said yes.

"That'll be ten bucks."

I told him I didn't have ten bucks. "Ok ..... five bucks."

I watched him do the beanie-thing to people the entire time I was in.

Bruce sang. A lot. He was also on the phone a lot, would sometimes sit there carrying on a conversation with nobody at all. I think it made him feel important. He was in his sixties and lived with his mother, who would send him a parcel EVERY day. Usually consisting of change for the phone and another beanie.

Most people were cranky at Bruce - he'd go into peoples rooms and steal their stuff. He'd throw things around, get argumentative and have to go into time out. I went off at him once ... it was like dealing with a toddler. I was trying to talk to Dave on the phone, Bruce was deliberately being loud so I couldn't hear. I screamed into his face:

"Just because you're pissed off you've wasted your entire life - SHUT THE FUCK UP."

I felt really bad about it afterwards, for being so mean. All I could hear was him agreeing. "Bloody oath I've wasted my entire life. Of course I have. Who wants to buy a beanie?"

He kept carting around this Scrabble board but nobody would play with him. One night I sat opposite him during dinner, he told me about winning the karaoke championships at Blacktown RSL in the eighties.

"Tell me any Johnny Cash song and I'll sing it." 

And he could! Over and over again he'd tell me I had to get a Decree Nisi, to get Dave out of the way so he and I could be together. We had a game of Scrabble, watching the words he formed and how he calculated the scores just in his head really quickly ... I realised he was whip smart. Alcohol had done a bit of a number on his brain but he was still there.

I sat there and told him he was sharp as a tack. He just mouthed a shhhhhhh with his fingers, smiling wildly. His eyes glinted because I saw him.

The next day, a lady from church came to bless us all. I politely sat out, but when they were doing the Our Father, Bruce kept scolding me to say it.

"Bruce! I said that prayer enough in my childhood. I don't want to say it now ok?"

Always walking around giving somebody something he thought they needed, he came over to me and gave me this:


Don't Worry Be Hoppy! Best card ever. Bruce asked for it back. I said no.

After a while I graduated over to the other, less intense side of the unit. Bruce missed me. I missed him so much I bought a beanie off him for $30. He ordered a pizza with the money then sat on the phone talking for an hour.

Every so often I'd see him.

"Give us a kiss sweetheart. Slip the tongue in."

He asked me for my address and I gave it to him. I wonder where he is now. I hope he's ok.

Previous Street Talks:

1. Noelene the Young
2. Megan the Mouse
3. Harpal the Australian
4. Darren the Artist
5. Jo the Interesting
6. John the Telstra Guy
7. Michael the Photographer
8. Peg the Lady
9. Jeff the Preacher Man
10. Andres the Cobbler
11. Honey the Prostitute
12. Mark the Masseur
13. You the Blog Reader
14. Jo the Podiatrist
15. Casey the Uni Student
16. Dream the Horse and Carriage Driver
17. Tamas the Hungarian Accordionist
18. The Dignified Trolley Ladies
19. Alex With The Studded Hot Pink Belt
20. Leaf The Fallen
21. Bel Of The Library
22. Jay And His Big Issue
23. Emma The Adult Shop Cashier
24. Teena, Saver Of Dogs
25. The Luna Park Face
26. Gary The Missing
27. Kristen at the Elephant Bean Cafe
28. Uncle Paul
29. Jess The Mama
30. The Two People At The Checkout
31. Alfie The Pourer
32. Breaking The Rules With Captain Starlight!
33. The Woman In Line At The Bakery A Few Weekends Ago
34. Dog The Dog
35. Julia Gillard The Person
36. Nancy The Badass

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