It is not as bad as everyone says it is really. I rehearsed that phrase for at least ten times. That was what I was going to say to my family this afternoon when they came to visit me. I lit my fourth cigarette. It is so weird that when certain things are taken away from you and all you have is smoking, you do it a lot. And I mean a lot. Smoking is the only thing that keeps the time moving, a welcome distraction. It also helps with the nerves of being in this place. I do not know when was the last time that I was calm enough to breathe properly. With smoking, it slows you down a bit and you breathe normally for a while. That’s my reason anyway and I guess I am sticking to it.

I am not alone in the courtyard. No one is ever alone here. There is a girl in the corner and she seems to be reading something. I have never introduced myself to her so I do not know her name. She is so thin I can see her ribs sticking out from the heavy coat that she is wearing. Well she is always wearing that thing. She must be cold all the time. She is the worst to watch when we eat. I sat down opposite her once and I could not help watching how she ate. She sliced the egg into such a tiny piece I thought it was a mistake. But she put it in her mouth anyways. But the way she put it in her mouth was strange. She seemed to lay it on her tongue and tried not to have it touch her lips. She then closed her eyes and began to chew. Her eyelids were moving as if she was really trying to concentrate. She could have been counting. I tried to eat but she kept doing the same thing. By the time I was done, she had managed to eat a mouthful for a normal person. She had then left the table. I have never sat down next to her again, it is frustrating. I am sure she has her reasons but I do not need to watch her do that.

“Hey, can I have a skafe?”

“Hey man. Who calls it a skafe anymore.”

I turned to look at skip. Skip has been here longer than I have. He is tall and always wears the same sweatshirt. I always wonder if it ever goes in the wash. He was just wearing it this morning when we were doing exercises. I do not know why they call him skip. I have never asked and he has never volunteered to tell me. Skip is one of the few people here that I can have a smoke with, without losing my mind. Most of the time when they put him on new medication, he seems to bounce off the walls. But It usually only lasts for a few days. And then he is back to his normal state of stooping and skulking when he walks. This has happened a few times that I have been here. His mood swings. I heard some girls gossiping about him in the Television room. Apparently he is a special case, he does not respond to medication for too long. It works for a while and then the shrinks are back on the drawing board. I would not have believed the gossip, but I have seen him change, it is very sad to watch sometimes.

Skip is a good guy though and he has an amazing ability to pick up on people’s moods. When I do not feel like talking, he does not talk either. When I am chatty, he responds.

“Ah well you know me.”

“yeah. Born too late.”

I handed him a cigarette. And I had one question to ask him.

“skip. How long have you been here?”

“two years.”

“what? Are you serious?”

I looked at him for a moment and he looked back at me and just shrugged.

“That is a long time skip. Don’t you want to go home?”

“Sure I do. But I have to stay here until they can sort me out.”

“Like a suicide watch?”

“Something like that.”

“That’s heavy man. I had no idea.”

“Its cool.”

He looked down at his shoes as he smoked. I was leaving in a few months and that was hard enough, but two years was a long time. He must have been through a few groups of nut cases in this place. He must have seen it all.

The cigarette I was smoking suddenly made me feel weak and nauseous. I had to go and get ready for my families visit.

“Have to go skip. See you later? I might be getting more smokes later.”

“Thanks china.”

I walked away laughing.

To get to our rooms from the smoker’s yard, one must go through the dining area. I walked past the table for tea and grabbed an apple. That’s the other thing. When I am not smoking, I am eating a lot. I am sure I have gained shit loads. Anyways that’s the least of my worries. I walked through the dining area and started climbing the stairs to get to the third floor. There was a lift but I am very sceptical of them. I always imagine being trapped in there. Suffocating! Stairs where ok, the exercise was good. I rounded up to the second floor when I met Mildred. Mildred lives on the second floor. The second floor is reserved for manics. Mildred is not just manic, she is all sorts of things in my opinion. I have seen her walking the hall ways naked. She talks a lot too. All night long sometimes you can hear her muttering and pacing the walls, until one of the nurses gets fed up probably and gives her a shot. She always screams and then you hear silence. The walls are very thin in this place.

“I saw him today.” She grabbed my hand. She had a tight grip.

“Finally, you saw him. Good for you Mildred. I am sure he was happy to see you”

“Yes very. Look you must come tonight. He will be back.” She looked around.

Sarcasm was completely lost on this girl. I yanked my hand away and she grabbed it again.

“They don’t want me to see him you know.”

“Mildred!” One of the nurses was coming down the flight of stairs. Mildred looked up at her and ran away.

“Are you ok dear?”

“I am fine she didn’t hurt me. Excuse me.”

I walked around her and bounded up the last flight of stairs. I walked past the television room and headed for the nurse’s station. I was hoping they could give me something to calm my nerves. My family was coming and I was getting nervous.

“Hi sis Doreen. It is almost my medication time and you know my family is coming right? Can I have it early today?”

Once you have been here for a while, you start appreciating medication time. They dose us up pretty good in here. The afternoon medication is the best. You can just sit in the television room and be a bit mindless for a few.

“Sweetie, it is your lucky day. Since this is your first family visit. I will help you out my lovey.”

“ooooh thank you.”

She went to the back room to get my medication. This visit was not going to be so bad after all. I took the pills and swallowed gratefully. I went to my room and put the shower on. As it steamed up. I undressed. As I lifted my shirt I was shocked to find I had no hair. I looked in the mirror. Yep I was bold, freshly shaved this morning. The medication works quickly. I smiled and thought yeah! It is not that bad here.

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