I always figured I would end up in a clinic one day. Not in the type where Brad Pitt’s character in Fight Club might be found roaming about, but the Angelina & Winona kind of institution. So here I am, but not for the reason I so ambitiously envisioned when I was still young and foolish.
I find myself sitting in my room waiting for a nurse to come pick me up. Whilst gazing out of the window onto a well-kept lawn with sculpted trees, I notice the grass looks fake. It’s too leveled and healthy-looking. Obviously never trampled upon. No wonder, as patients aren’t allowed to go outside without supervision.
If I fancy some fresh air this is the protocol: I have to walk down a long, sterile-looking white corridor to the office of a man named Mr. Cleefen. Mr. Cleefen is the head of the ward. I knock on his door and wait for him to open. I tell him that I’d like to go outside for a stroll. He says “OK” and tells me to go wait in my room till I get picked up by a nurse. The wait is never longer than 15 minutes. He always mentions the 15 minutes part with great emphasis, widening his eyes slightly when pronouncing the words 15 minutes. He gives me permission about 90% of the times I request to go outdoors. I think he’s very concerned with keeping his patients happy and understands our need for leaving the building every once in a while. He’s a very decent man.
I like to go out at least twice every day, and have done so for the past eight days that I’ve been here. Every time I go see Mr. Cleefen, I clock exactly how long it takes for a nurse to come fetch me for my walk. The record wait was eleven minutes and 40 seconds. Yesterday I sat down on my room-toilet right after returning from his office and the nurse knocked before I even started anything. Luckily I don’t mind having people wait on me, so I shouted for her to wait a minute and took my time (three minutes and 21 seconds) to finish off and open the door. 3”21 is a pretty long time to be standing in front of a closed door but she didn’t seem to mind.
Yesterday the ‘she’ was nurse Matilde. Matilde is very nice; probably my favorite stroll-nurse. We went out and walked through the gardens, always careful to stay on the laid out paths and not burden the grass with our plodding. I’d much rather go out on my own but it’s not allowed. Something to do with safety. I don’t like the thought of not being allowed to do something simple as go outside for a walk on my own. Afterall I’m a perfectly healthy individual, both physically and mentally. I’m just participating in clinical medicinal research on human subjects for the money. And world peace.
This time around it’s for testing a medicine against chronic lethargy. They call the supervision-rule a safety regulation because there’s a slight possibility that I might have some kind of strange reaction to the medication they make me take three times daily. If that were to happen, obviously it would be much better if I weren’t lying in a bush somewhere all by myself with a foaming mouth, my eyes rolled back in my head and no-one to help me but a bunch of squirrels.
I might look like Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner perhaps, that scene where she goes crazy. But without the blonde wig. I could take a wig with me on my strolls of course, just in case. If you’re going to freak out on a laboratory adventure on you might as well do it in style I reckon.
Another reason they keep an eye on us is because we’re not supposed to be ingesting certain foods and drinks while taking the medication because they might mess up the test results. To name a few big no-no’s on the black list: chocolate(milk), alcohol, cafeïne, power drinks, grapefruits and – catch this – Sevilla oranges.
One of the patients, his name is Dick, is pretty big. Obese actually. I never saw him on my previous stays at the clinic and haven’t spoken to him yet. In fact I won’t get the chance to do so at all because he was thrown out of the clinic three days ago. He hardly ever went out for a walk but the evening before he was expelled he was found missing by the nurses.
We were supposed to show up at the counter at half seven for our nightly medicine hand out. He didn’t show up and when two nurses went outside looking for him they spotted him sitting by himself in one of the gardens in the semidarkness. Turned out, he sneaked out (thus impressively evading the camera’s) and was sitting there against a tree on the grass gorging himself with Milka chocolate bars, Pocket Coffee’s, cans of Heineken and … a net of Sevilla oranges. He had dug up the goodies from the hole in the ground where he had buried them just before his check-in five days earlier.
While I shouldn’t be in a clinic at all, this poor man was in the wrong one altogether. Oh the irony. I know it’s wrong but as most days are very boring here, events like these – tragic as they are – really make my day. God bless Dick.