I’d like to say the room was silent, but it wasn’t. I could hear that obnoxious clock above the door, tick-tock, tick-toc, and Bobby chewing and snapping nicotine gum. Sandy, as usual, was crouched in the corner cooing to her Teddie. That must mean it’s time for group.
Oh. What is it now? Last time, they said checkers was too intellectually challenging for us. Maybe it is going to be Tic Tac Toe. Tim gets up and shuffled back and forth.
“Stop it, Timmy, will ya?” Bobby says. “Get out of the way. I’m trying to watch Jeopardy!”
“I can’t help it,” says Tim. “My medications make me do this.”
“You’re a liar.”
“Shut up, both of you,” I say. “That nurse is coming to do GROUP.”
Nurse Judy’s footsteps pound louder until she arrives, shutting the Group room door behind her. “Now, Patients,” she begins, “today you’re going to learn how to breathe. Breathing helps you cope when life is difficult. Hey, Tim, can you sit down, please?”
“He can’t!” says Bobby. “It is those drugs you give him!”
“Bobby, they’re called medications.”
“Tell Sandy to put her Teddie away. She’s acting like a baby.”
“Sandy uses her Teddie to cope. Tim apparently paces. What do you do, Bobby?”
He smiles at me, then, quickly gives the nurse the finger.
“Okay, Patients. Today we’re going to do deep breathing. Everyone sit like this. With your hands like this. Sit up straight in the chair.”
“I can’t. My meds make me sit crooked.”
“I said, sit up straight in the chair. Can’t you listen? Now everyone inhale. Like this. Mmmmm…. Can you do that? Now, hold you breath. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Okay, now, let it out, very slowly. That is how to breathe!”
“Patients, let’s discuss this exercise. Time to process the experience. Can someone tell me why breathing is important?”
“So we can smoke,” said Bobby. Now you couldn’t argue with that.
“Why else is breathing important?”
“If you don’t breathe,” said Sandy, “They will call Security and make you.”
Keith, who had been silent until now, sneers from the back of the room. “Shut up, Sandy,” he says.
“Okay,” the nurse says, “I want all you patients to sign this paper saying you attended group.”
I’m often afraid to sign anything, so after Group is dismissed, I approach the nurse and ask her, “What is that paper for that we signed?”
“Don’t worry,” she says, “It is just for insurance. Nothing you have to worry about.”
“You do not have to think about that, Dear. It’s so we can get money from Medicare.”
I keep my eyes on the nurses these days. I won’t stop staring at that one, as she stomps down the corridor all the way into the nurses’ secret hideaway station.