What the Nurse Said

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Updated: August 6, 2019

Interview by Roberta Umor

Well, since you asked, but I don’t usually talk about my patients, the Head Nurse frowns on it, but heh, she frowns on everything—and what a frown she has! Like shutting the sun out of a room, everyone suddenly gets dark. She’s bon vivant as hell in the nurse’s break room, but on the floor! We ante up meds for the depressives after she walks through a ward! Believe it.

So, any ol’ way, what was it you asked? Oh yeah, about helping ol’ Swanny with the draft. Swanny, that’s what we all call him, residents too, don’t know why, just heard one of the orderlies call him that once, so I did too and it seemed to cheer the ol’ boy up so I kept doing it and pretty soon everyone was calling him Swanny. 

Any ol’ way, you gotta have a nurse or orderly when you use the computer—the one that’s got wifi, we got plenty of them for residents to play games on and such, but if you’re gonna do anything connected outside, then you gotta have “staff accomp’niment,” that’s what they call it, the doctors, so … I was taking Swanny down to the one wifi computer—they keep it locked in a “private” room just behind the nursing station so we can keep an eye on it—and outa nowhere one of the permies—that’s “permanent resident”—pops up suddenly and wants to talk to Swanny, all urgent like, and private, he said, so I gave them a moment together in the hallway, though I was listening in just a few feet away. They were talking about some other residents, whose names I didn’t recognize, Matthew and Luke, I think they said—well, it was the permy said that, spoke the names, Swanny just nodded and listened. From what I could gather they were looking for a coupla’ friends of theirs—friends of Matthew and Luke, I guess—named John and Mark. Seems John showed up but not Mark, I couldn’t hear where they showed up, just that they did and now they were waiting for one more, for Mark, I s’pose. It was all hush hush and secret-like with Swanny nodding a lot but not saying much, and then the permy was off again, hunkering down the long hallway toward the cafeteria. I asked Swanny what that was all about but all he would say was something about “the old team”—that’s what he called it—getting the old team back together again, I think. He wouldn’t say no more but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why it was all hush hush and secret-like, though sometimes the residents treat perfectly innocent stuff like it was a secret to keep from the nurses when we already know all about it. Know what I mean?

Any ol’ way, that was all that happened on the way to the computer, since you asked. That all you wanted to know?

Yeah? Well, sure, that’s simple enough, no hush hush secrets there! If that’s what you wanna hear, okay then. So, we got Swanny logged on to this website where the drafting is done, and then he watched these names come up on the screen and when his name came up—his team’s name, Yuma something, I’m sorry, I don’t follow baseball so for me this coulda been nothing more than some computer game he was playing, though he certainly behaved like it was real. I just didn’t know enough of what was going on to ‘preciate it. But, any ol’ way, he would type in the name of some player and then wait and watch the screen until his name came up again, his team, I mean, Yuma, and then he’d type in another name. All pretty simple. That what you wanted to hear?

Oh yeah, we were in that room for a coupla’ hours both days, Saturday and Sunday. This draft thing took a long time, and it had these long boring periods—ten, fifteen, even twenty minutes—when nothing seemed to be happening, except that Swanny would watch the screen and sometimes write down some names. And sometimes he’d fall asleep. That was funny! He’d slip off, like they all do, sitting in his chair, the same one I wheeled him down to the room in, and his head would slowly like s-i-n-k on d-o-w-n ’til his chin touched his chest and then he’d start snoring. He’s a right good snorer, that old boy. He’d be sawing away ’til I nudged him ‘cause I’d seen his name come up on the computer screen. Then he’d wake up with a jerk and mutter something like, “Yeah I see it,” like he knew all along it was his turn, and he’d consult one of the lists he was making and type a name onto the screen. A minute later he’d nod off again.

That’s when I’d study the screen, trying to make out what was going on while I waited for his name to pop up. You know how it is when you get an email or a text on your phone and a notice pops up? It was like that, only it wasn’t email, just his name popping up, probably inside whatever program they were using for this draft thing.

Any ol’ way, what I could figure out was there was these teams all over the world—I saw the names of places I recognized, like London and Amsterdam and Havana, along with places in the states, like Bakersfield and Fargo and Kalamazoo—and each of these places was picking ball players, I assume—we all know Swanny was once a manager or something of a ball club in Arizona. He even tried to escape from here once to go back there and run the club! Imagine that—Mental Patient Escapes to Manage Ball Club! Film at 11! Just remembering that makes us all laugh.

Any ol’ way, I figgered it was ballplayers that was being chosen by these various places for teams that must play ball in those places, though who ever heard of baseball being played in London or Amsterdam or Scotland? Something crazy going on there, you can bet. But once, while he was snoring away, his name popped up on the screen and I wondered, Should I wake him up? But he was snoring and so content that I didn’t and then that message, with his name, appeared again, like it was demanding an answer, so … I’ll tell you this long as you promise never to tell nobody, okay? Okay then. You swore. So … what I did was I looked down at the list he had written and picked the most interesting name I could find and just typed that in to the line after the prompt. Jesus Torres. I mean, I’m not no Jesus freak of nothing but a ballplayer named Jesus, well, you gotta admit that’s kinda cool, isn’t it? Jesus Torres. Sounds like a … a … whadda you call it when you say something just for effect? Like “Jesus Joseph and Mary,” what’s that called?

Jesus Torres

Exclamation! Right, thanks. Well, that’s what Jesus Torres sounds like, don’t it? You drop a glass and you shout, “Jesus Torres!” That’s a cool name, I think. Good one for a ballplayer. So that’s the one I picked. I guess you could say I drafted that guy. That was fun.

Any ol’ way, after that, after my pick, he was snoring up a storm, so I rolled him back to his room and then went and  me some lunch down at the cafeteria. I was hungry. All that drafting stuff, that makes you hungry, I guess.

Say what? The permie? Oh yeah, he came by on Sunday, while Swanny was sawing z’s, left a card for him. I don’t know, maybe a greeting card, maybe just something someone found lying around—the residents pass the weirdest shit around, like they were giving each other gifts or something—maybe a baseball card, that’d make sense, I know several of the older residents swap those and I heard Swanny had a stash in his room once, but I think the orderlies took it away from him. Don’t know why, I wasn’t working here then, but usually they remove stuff when it’s causing conflicts with the other residents. You know, petty jealousies and envy. They’re always accusing each other of stealing stuff. Most of the time they just misplace it.

Huh? No, I don’t know what it was precisely. He left it for Swanny in an envelope. I could tell it was a card or something like a card, but that’s all. I wasn’t gonna go reading a resident’s mail. They got precious little enough privacy as it is. Go reading their mail! That’s rude.

That all? That what you wanted to know? 

Camarillo State Hospital

Well, Swanny hasn’t thanked me yet, but he will. Mostly he’s been sleeping. But he will. Always does. In his own way. Gave me a poem once to thank me for driving him to a local high school ball game. I read it, it was sweet, very pretty words, but, well, I didn’t understand it, not really. But I liked the sound well enough. Very pretty.

Any ol’ way, that’s about it. My shift in the Women’s Ward starts in a few, so I guess I better head on out. Bye now.