The voice placed the most peculiar emphasis on each word, and in all of my life I don’t remember ever having heard such a deep, distinct, yet intrinsically soothing voice. The owner set his tray down, and sat across the table from me. He had dark skin and a visage that easily suited his authoritative, albeit kind tone- both of which I could see easily rivaling even the most iconic of Hollywood’s many voices; and for that brief moment the gnawing restlessness of my mind was quieted.
“Maximus-or just Max-” he offered his hand, “Most people are simply too lazy for those two burdensome syllables. And may I inquire as to your birth certificate’s title?”
“Kelly,” I reluctantly obliged.
He looked to be about my age-24- but carried an air of someone much older. We made small talk about the weather, the atrocities of the various wards and its faculty for a few minutes. I got the impression he cared no more for the kind of conversation than I did. He was clearly a highly intelligent individual, with a particularly calm and level energy.
“So why are you even in here?”
“Fair question,” he looked puzzled. “I suppose I should ask you the same thing.”
“And you’re on 2 South? You appear by my limited analysis to be more lucid than anyone where I am, in the West ward.”
“Yeah I guess that’s where they put the ones they think are more ‘socially adapted'”
I laughed. “Really. And here I am, solitude preferable to most human interactions, because I’m ‘socially adapted”
“Or just a decent enough actor around here. Cillian is the only one who can see half straight, unfortunately for us,” he added. “just take the pills and keep your head down..I know…” He was reminding himself; and for that moment I sensed a flash of dissociation. Ah.
“Hmm..” he resumed methodically consuming his meal, periodically and inconspicuously slipping one cookie after another into his jacket pockets. That was a damn good idea. There was no food permitted in the rooms or hallway, but everyone did it anyways.
“Let’s see. All I know is I went over to a friend’s house and next thing I know I woke up here. Nothing to confess. Your turn.” That same insanely calm demeanor.
“Holy shit,” I laughed. “Just suicidal tendencies for me.” I pocketed a few packets of salt.
“Oh, well that’s always a wonderful way to spend a Friday night.” he stashed another cookie. ”
There were a few minutes of silence, during which the racket of the boisterous manchildren brought back the same familiar static in my awareness.
“What is crazy anyways…” he began, as though verbalizing what he had therein been contemplating. Taking another bite, he stared out the window at the door of 2W. “It’s all their assessment of what a highly relative normal even is. Frankly I think what most define as normalcy is insanely asinine in its characteristic contentment with the same goddamn unfulfilling routines and unquestioning relinquishment of passion, in return for only a passing favor- replacing the invaluable peaks and valleys with the comfort of ‘just doing it’ all anyways, not permitting ourselves to ask why- because that would be nihilistic or existential and *that* could likely then be referenced somewhere on page 763 of the DSM-5. No, normal people are crazy in all of their own unique, fucked up ways. So yes. I am on 2 South because I am out of my head, just like the crayon- eating motherfuckers who made the rules.”
I couldn’t help but smile, “A normal reaction to an insane system- or something like that… You’ll be out of here in no time Maximus. I can tell you’re very good at the necessary charades.”