The Cave

By Williams, C. K. | Chicago Review, January 1, 1996 | Go to article overview

The Cave


Williams, C. K., Chicago Review


I think most people are relieved the first time they actually know someone who goes crazy.

It doesn't happen the way you hear about it where the person gibbers

and sticks to you like an insect:

mostly there's crying, a lot of silence, sometimes someone will whisper

back to their voices.

All my friend did was sit, at home until they found him, then for hours

at a time on his bed in the ward,

pointing at his eyes, chanting the same phrase over and over. "Too much

fire!" he'd day. "Too much fire!"

I remember I was amazed at how raggedy he looked, then annoyed because

he wouldn't answer me

and then, when he was getting better, I used to pester him to tell me

about that fire-thing.

He seemed to be saying he'd seen too much and I wanted to know too

much what

because my obsession then was that I was somehow missing everything

beyond the ordinary.

What was only real was wrong. There were secrets that could turn you

into stone,

they were out of range or being kept from me, but my friend, if he knew

what I meant, wouldn't say,

so we'd talk politics or books or moon over a beautiful girl who was

usually in the visiting room when we were

who mutilated herself. Every time I was there, new slashes would've

opened out over her forearms and wrists

and once there were two brilliant medallions on her cheeks that I thought

were rouge spots

but that my friend told me were scratches she'd put there with a broken

lightbulb when she'd run away the day before.

The way you say running away in hospitals is "eloping. …

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