Thursday, June 16, 2005


Group is definitely the best part of the week because it’s the closest we come to actual bona-fide socialization. A big guy named Marty (it seems like the guy in Marty’s position is always named Marty—what is that called? An archetype?) carries in a big stack of paper cups from the water cooler and usually brings in a pitcher of sugar-free punch. We all get to sit around in our folding chairs and either talk or not talk about our problems, depending on how we feel. And the best part is there’s no way the evaluators can get pissed with their little clipboards if we don’t feel like talking because that’s the whole point, to put us in a comfortable environment. I don’t know if any of them have ever had the experience of being forced to wear open backed hospital gowns or being on suicide watch for a week or having one’s own feces hosed off of them with lukewarm water at four in the morning, but if they haven’t, I’ll be the first to let them know that none of those experiences are what people would call “comfortable,” so it seems kind of ironic (is that the word?) that they’re so attentive to making group a comfortable environment. Now what the evaluators don’t know, clipboards notwithstanding, is that those of us who choose to talk during group (our tongues apparently loosened by the safe, comfortable environment afforded us) is that many of us have developed very advanced methods of communication so that we can chat amongst ourselves about all sorts of forbidden subjects and all sorts of contraband materials without anyone (well, the evaluators) suspecting a thing. For example, June, a frazzled woman who cuts her own hair and occasionally sets fire to small animals, compulsively taps her feet. What they don’t know, however, is that she has concocted her own virtually indecipherable form of morse code, understood only by Walt, an ex-army communications officer who drowned his wife. June taps Walt all sorts of things and often, right after group, while the rest of us are slurping up more than our fair share of sugar-free punch, those two are doing it in the janitor’s closet. Ryan, a guy who got a big triangular chunk cut out of his eye at a truck stop, rarely speaks at all. But he says volumes worth in the way he moves. He’s got a pretty basic affirmative/negative pattern down by the way he jerks one ankle over the other knee, though it just looks like fidgeting, and while the evaluators just think he’s babbling incoherently and are telling him to be quiet, if you look really closely at the short hairs bristling on his face where his beard used to be, you can actually see they’re spelling out words and phrases, just like those magnet toys that would let you write and draw mustaches on a funny guy’s face. Group is way more fun than the officially sanctioned social activities the evaluators put on for us, like the dances, where it’s pretty much the cafeteria with the lights turned down a little bit lower and some crepe paper dangling temptingly from the ceiling fans. During the dances, we have to listen to old cassette tapes, which is depressing enough, and nobody’s pelvises are allowed to touch (nothing scares the evaluators more than the thought of the mentally ill reproducing). They think we’re having a great time holding one another awkwardly at arms length while Amy Grant screeches on, but really, we’re just waiting for our next opportunity to express ourselves (amongst ourselves) in a comfortable environment, where the evaluators are happy because they’re writing all sorts of presumptuous nonsense on their clipboards and we can feel like we’re young again.

1 comment:

Katiett said...

Have I mentioned that I'm feeding your account to my LiveJournal now so I can see the exact moment that you update?

This is the happiest day of my life.