I am sitting on one of the beige sofas – fake leather, probably plastic. Chosen for its ability to be mopped clean of tea, and sweat, and less savoury substances.
Next to me, Andy. Chain-smoker. Creator of some of the rather disturbing collages which hang on the walls of the stairwell down to the so-called recreation room.
Ahead, the doors to the lifts, and the other stairs.
The ones out.
I have had that exit in my sights for what seems like days, is probably hours. Time passes oddly here: in fits, and jerks, powered by visits, and ward rounds, and meds, and started each day by the little nursing assistant with her bray of: “Breakfast!”
I’m off, I tell Andy. Out those doors. Back to life, if not reality.
It is my lack of reality which brought me to this badly adapted set of rooms and corridors, its bland furnishings, and puce and brown colour schemes.
It is dull, dull, dull.
How is boredom supposed to calm me, when all this place does is make me want to escape to the Big Outside World which will almost certainly drag me back to Dullsville quicker than you can say Jack Nicholson?
My plan is hazy. I am at the black end of the colour spectrum. My mind is as flat and brown as the floors the cleaners are forever mopping around us.
Had I been at the other end, I would have been awash with ideas: each one a pinwheel or a merry-go-round, whirling with colour and song and popcorn smells and head-spinning motion.
On the beige couch, Andy takes a seat next to me. Today, I top his crazy like Everest tops Snowdon, like Jeremy Brett pips Basil Rathbone to the Sherlock Holmes post, like Pavarotti out-sings OneDirection … yes, all four or five of them.
Don’t go, Andy says.
Andy: who, in retrospect, probably had the same bi-coloured flavour of illness as myself. Don’t do it, he says. You know they’ll only bring you back. It will just make things worse, he says.
So I didn’t.
I was talked out of trying to leave a secure ward, by a chap who quite possibly had been pinging around them for years. Perhaps he still is.
I don’t know. The last time I saw Andy, it was to visit the sheltered accommodation he was staying at, a week or so after I was released. I took him some baccy, and a tobacco tin.
It was the least I could do.