My Army

Art’s* playing his guitar with Lyndyrd Skynyrd again. With his eyes closed, his arms flexed and strained from his effort to get every note right. Head down, his beard touched the unzipped area of his camouflage army jacket. Because of cargo pants, Art is able to bring just about everything he owns “…just in case” he gets put in jail like the last time. They starved for the winter that time and it snowed twelve feet. It was horrible and life changing for him.

Karen* motioned to him because she couldn’t be heard over his ear phones blaring in his brain and asked him to turn it down as we were having our morning meeting.

Dropping his air guitar and removing one bud he let her know he doesn’t listen to rap because he loves everyone and rap promotes gang violence. He adjusted one of his three bandanas encircling his thigh a little tighter and repositioned his silver belt wrapped around his heavy jacket and paced the room slowly with his boots thudding gently against the tile.

Of all the characters I’ve grown to like in “The Back of The Vegetable Drawer“, he is my favorite. Without a mean bone in his body, he goes through life in his own fantastic world. Art fools you at the beginning of each sentences with his hippy accent because you expect a mundane, angry, antisocial man and he is the opposite. It’s just that Art sees the world differently and sometimes it’s scary or dramatic and awe-inspiring. He is gentle and speaks about caring for all his friends at group and how he doesn’t want to see anything happen to them, especially if they’re being poisoned by the medicines.

He thinks I’m his crossing guard from elementary school.

I kinda’ dig that idea and sometimes I want to see his world.

Wandering from one building to the next, he is one of the few “consumers” ( we are consumers now and not clients or patients) permitted to do so…his schizophrenia makes it hard to sit down and in one place for very long. His additions to group when he is able to relax are always fun, sweet or bizarre.

Like I said, my favorite…

There are so many wonderful, rich and thick characters here. Like, Angry Rachelle* with her bleached hair and high heels that she teeters on and click-click-clicks through the room as she storms away. Someone’s always pissing Rachelle off…I try not to sit next to her. She takes up two chairs with her in one and her huge metallic purse in the other. Sometimes we choose to stand against the wall when there are no more seats left because to ask for the other chair is like poking a bear with a stick. I’m allergic to angry bears with bleached hair.

Then there is Doris, Sweet Pleasant Doris*. She is such a love with her dyed blond hair and seasonal themed cardigans. Doris always says something pleasant; not once have I seen her get upset when others get annoyed with her. She reminds me of Edith Bunker but with a better wardrobe. I love her shawls too, but the sweaters kick ass. Yesterday she wore her winter scene one that’s black with red cardinals on a snowy background.

Ken* has Bipolar like myself. He has attempted suicide many times and almost succeeded. To meet him, you would never know, with his affable appearance. Ken always greets people in passing and often runs the meetings because he is articulate. He writes and is encouraged to get a book out there. I look forward to being one of the first readers because this quiet man speaks volumes.

These are just a few of the wonderful people who have helped my arrogant, terminally unique ass through this episode. I am no different, they accept me for who I am and freely give much-needed direction and experiences. They share them without asking for repayment or expectations of social servitude.

Each gives out of compassion. They feed and clothe the “poor” in a special way no one else would be able or willing. I need what they have; the supplies they hand to me are my weapons and my comfort. I hope, in some way, I’ve given back to them.

This is my army and we all fight our own demons for each other.

We should all be so lucky as to have any one of them in our lives.

Thank God.









*Not their real names



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