visiting hours

At about quarter of one this afternoon, I was bringing raw fish and coffee into a psychiatric hospital. Let me back up.

One of my friends has bipolar disorder. Usually this condition is managed quite well by medication, but every now and then the veneer cracks and he ends up in the hospital, which is where he’s been for the past few weeks. His mom called over the weekend to tell me that he could finally have visitors.

One of his friends brought framed group pictures for his bedside table. Another brought magazines for him to read. I brought his favorite sushi for lunch. The staff member who unlocked the door sheepishly informed me that she couldn’t allow me to bring in any plastic bags or glass bottles. I unwrapped the miso soup from its carryout bag and poured the green tea into a styrofoam cup. I know she’s just doing her job, but how can this be my friend who has to have his plastic and glass confiscated? This is better than yesterday, though, when he told me that he thought he might be dead. I just laid down next to him and rubbed his back and told him everything was going to be okay, that if you can see trees outside and pillows on your bed and people that you love, then you’re alive. I know that all he wants is to be back to normal, working, emailing, playing his guitar. I’ll write him a note telling him I was there and that I’ll be back tomorrow, because sometimes he forgets. I won’t cry until I’m back in my car.

The coffee was for a guy staying down the hall whom my friend has gotten to know during his time there. This guy is very nice and had put in an order with me the day before, only if it wasn’t too much trouble. Hot coffee, despite it being about 135 degrees outside. I guess it doesn’t matter what the weather is like outside when the air conditioner is cranked inside and all the windows are closed. Locked, but let’s not dwell on that. Cream, six sugars.

Later on in the day, after leaving the hospital, I was getting coffee again, this time for another friend and her mom, on my way to spend time with my friend’s new baby. Medium iced decaf, cream, splenda, something about coconut. No sugar. Six sugars? I don’t drink coffee, so anytime that I pick it up for someone, it always seems infinitely complicated.

These two friends were only about half an hour away from each other, one getting used to being a new mom, the other thinking about getting better and going home. I stopped in to visit and be thrilled or devastated, as appropriate. And either way, bring coffee. I may get the order wrong, but at least I’m there, I guess.

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