Magazine article WLA ; War, Literature and the Arts

Who's Crazy?

Magazine article WLA ; War, Literature and the Arts

Who's Crazy?

Article excerpt

What couldn't be saved would be tossed out into the street. Lenny packed each box tight with his belongings and placed them near the door of his apartment. He had less than a week before a sheriff would escort him away unless the VA could convince his landlord to drop the Judgment of Default. The thought of stepping into their clinic got Lenny trembling, but even his lawyer thought there was no other way. Pins and needles danced along his arms; his hands shook. He could not work for very long. Already the boy dashed across the edge of his vision in a blur of tan shorts and brown limbs, taunting him with his presence. Lenny pressed a palm against his brow. He refused to see.

In the bedroom, pill bottles were strewn among piles of unopened mail and empty take-out containers that littered the floor. Lenny searched through the trash for his Seroquel. Each month the VA shipped him a box of antipsychotics, despite his repeated requests to cancel the medication. Dr. Milstein was not one to be challenged. Lenny found an orange vial and screwed off its lid. He felt better without the drugs in his system, though their withdrawal was hard to endure. But it was never long before he found himself turning to them again. He sat against the edge of the floor mattress and placed one of the white, oblong-shaped pills beneath his sneaker, smashing it to pieces. Then he swallowed a fourth of the drug and lay against the bed, waiting for it to take effect. It was enough to calm his nerves, make the boy disappear from the doorway. Look at me, look at me, the ghost seemed to say. He was a willful little shit, just as his own son, Marcus had been at that age. Three maybe four or five-Lenny couldn't tell without really looking at the kid. But instead he turned his face into his pillow, away from the mess of the boy's head. A dank, animal stench filled his nostrils, the unwashed, despairing smell of Lenny's person that lived in the sheets. Everything slowed inside of him; a sleepy indifference took over, steadying his thoughts. Soon he'd rise again, have to clean himself up for the meeting with his social worker. Look presentable. Even if he hated leaving home. The government monitored his every move outside. They'd kept him under surveillance from the moment he left Iraq. He could feel it.

Lenny carried the Judgment of Default with him to the VA clinic. Jamaica Plain was a brief subway ride from his apartment in Somerville, but he detested the area-the urban grittiness of the broken-down neighborhood, complete with street-corner thugs and frequent shootings, lured him back into near-combat mode. The medication could keep him calm for only so long. But the outpatient center was only a short walk away, and this much forced him into check. Big Brother was watching. Soon Lenny found himself before the building's grand entrance-a multi-story circular complex made of glass and steel pillars that gave an unnatural light to the rest of what resembled an ordinary municipal building with the Department of Veterans' Affairs aglow in somber blue light. An American flag snapped to the wind in furious accord. He'd not been here for a good six months, and then the heavy scaffolding had been up for a good two years. The dramatic contemporary design didn't sit well with Lenny; it seemed out of place with the rest of the ghetto that it surrounded, and he wondered how long the structure would last unvandalized. He passed through a number of security clearances before making his way through the lobby, also sleek with new renovation; the marble floors and cherry wood panel walls made Lenny wonder if he was underdressed for the occasion of meeting with his social worker. He checked in at the front desk and then took the elevator to the second floor. The waiting room was filled with others like him-clean-cut men in casual dress who appeared to be in their mid to late twenties. Men who, by society's standards, appeared normal and wholesome. Then there were the others who sat apart. …

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