Archive for October, 2008
Social Skills Training
I sit slightly on the periphery of the circle of three men trying to show that I want to be part of what is to happen, but also to let it be known that I expect them to do the bulk of the work. Henderson is the natural leader of the group because of his height and his exotic background. He is from the Caribbean, and despite his pronounced speech impediment, he has that lazy rolling speech that makes that culture so alluring. He has been variously diagnosed as a schizophrenic, an obsessive, and borderline psychotic, but he has come to me because of a head injury sustained in a street brawl. Across from Henderson is Roderick. Now Roderick is an interesting chap. He is a retired University professor who has rather than fallen from grace, taken a huge leap. He has been found sleeping on a park bench, unwashed, unshaven, and unloved, barely coherent. He has been medicated back to relative civilization but he has the tendency to fall into sudden mood swings and speak with copious quantities of spittle flying from his mouth. From Roderick there is only a low mumble as he stares at the floor and recites a poem from an obscure and largely unread 18th Century poet. The third member of our little circle is Peiter. As you could guess from the spelling of his name Pieter is from Germany. He is outrageously and rather ashamedly gay. The purpose of his presence in our little group is for Pieter to come to terms with his homosexuality in the presence of other men.
I start. “I think it would be a good stepping off if we first introduced ourselves and told each other something about ourselves. Something that we might not ordinarily share with others. Take a risk.”
There is an ominous silence as each concentrates on the frayed carpet in our dayroom. To my surprise Henderson is the first to speak.
“My name is Henderson – ,” he starts off but it doesn’t exactly sound like that.
“Roderick leaps in “Did you say Hyacinth. What sort of faggot, queer name is that. Your parents must have really, really hated you to give you a name like that. Is that how you got that black eye, queer boy?”
“He didn’t say Hyacinth, you stupid old fart, he said..”
Before the words are out of his mouth Henderson has leapt up form his seat and attacked Roderick who, in turn, is flailing his way towards Pieter, who is trying to escape from both of them, tears in his eyes.
They fall to the floor with a series of grunts and bangs and, within seconds, my little group of three are in full combat. I have only one option and I hit the panic button and, within the space of a few more seconds, the orderlies have removed the tranquillised combatants to their rooms.
I sit and survey the leftover battlefield. A solitary red slipper, probably Pieters, sits; the sole reminder of what could have been.