Shouts And Mallomars

Bonnie Bernstein

bonnie bernstein

bonnie bernstein
New York, New York,
November 02
Starving Writer
Quirky, Edgy Authoress, Phanatically Baseball Lite. Writing the great American smutty memoir. Bonnie's words can be found in places like TheFix, YourTango, Modern Love Rejects, Salon, Petside, Babble, Perils of Divorced Pauline, Newsday and NYResident. Lisa Belkin wrote about Bonnie in Motherlode and Anderson Cooper interviewed her. Follow Bonnie on Twitter: bonnieb_writer


Editor’s Pick
APRIL 6, 2011 12:01AM

“Lady, You're In The Psychiatric Unit.”

Rate: 18 Flag


I retched over the toilet and heaved a whole bunch of nothing.  I slumped to the bathroom floor and watched a roach run by.  As I pulled myself up, the nausea returned.  I opened the window and looked out from my fourth floor tenement apartment onto Ludlow Street, heart of the hipster Lower East Side.  The polluted New York City air calmed this home girl more than any country breeze ever did.  At the time, I was a divorced 45 year old Jewish woman living the single years I never had when I was younger.  I had married at 22.  In this urban party world here, at 8:30 on a Thursday night it was still early.  But the college kids were on their way to Piano’s.  Ludlow Guitar, Pink Pony and Max Fish were all lit up.  And the businessmen were going to Palador’s, downstairs from me, to get drunk.  I heard someone singing scales.  A woman at the corner of Ludlow and Stanton Streets pulled down her pants and peed on the fire hydrant.  And, I sensed that pukey feeling again.  I jumped up like there were bed bugs in my American Apparel black leggings.  As two more filthy crawling bastards scrambled by, I pulled back my long dyed black hair and again tried to throw up into the thunder mug.  Bupkis came out.  My body convulsed. 


I gave up and walked into the living room, which was also my kitchenette and bedroom.  The second room of the two room studio had neither furniture nor a window.  The main area had only one porthole, with a broken air conditioner that blocked the view of the stairless fire escape.  I sat down on the only thing I had, besides a suitcase for my clothing, a crème colored vinyl couch my twenty year old son found on the street and I looked around at the sour milk colored blank walls.  I had just moved home from living in upstate New York for the past four years.  I doubled over as pain came back in waves.  I called my kid.  At the time, he lived on his own on Grand Street, the other side of the LES.  There was no answer.  I wondered what the use of having a cell phone was when I couldn’t get through to him.  I hung up just in time to scream from the cramp that felt like a dagger hitting my right side.  My four dogs were so scared by what was happening that they hid in a corner, cowering on top of each other.  I wondered if I had a virus, or maybe food poisoning.  I thought I might have eaten something earlier that did not agree with me.  I was at Radio City Music Hall.  It was an orientation lunch.  I had been hired as a tour guide.


I was getting dizzy.  I tried to contact my son again.  I decided to go to the emergency room.  Light headed, I left my traumatized puppies and flew down four unvacuumed flights of stairs.  I raced the roaches to the hall lobby, with the mail scattered on the floor and the garbage waiting to be taken to the back of the building.  I exited in the front and was greeted by more stinky air that relaxed this once upon a time Joan Jett wanna be.  A rat jumped out to exchange hellos as I stepped onto Ludlow Street.  I jumped, then shrugged because it was a normal happening in the hood.  Not thinking straight, I walked in the street against one way traffic to get a cab.   I felt like vomiting the danish from hours ago.  A 300 pound man on an adult tricycle zig zagged by me.  His radio blared, “You’re way too beautiful girl.”  At that moment, I really wanted to purge the poisons.  I was exhausted.  There was no car service for me.  The kids were getting in and out of them by Dark Room and heading over to Living Room and Cake Shop on the next block.  I turned back at Houston Street.  I was sure the bouncer at the French restaurant would help me.  He knew my child.  Between the stomach ache and that yucky feeling, I cried to him that I wanted to go to the ER and I needed a taxi.  He took charge and got me that hack down by Katz’ Deli on Houston Street. 


It was dark and rainy.  The cabbie said, “Where to?”  I screamed because the agony was unbearable.  As I arched my back, I was still obsessed with thinking that I had food poisoning.  The driver probably thought I was just another heroin addict.  There were so many around here.  I might have liked a toke or two on occasion, but he didn’t know I hated needles.  A right turn placed me back onto Ludlow Street.  The bridge and tunnel kids were yelling, running and darting past honking horns.  The bright lights made me squint.  I squirted out, “St. Vincent’s Emergency Room.  Yes, St. Vincent’s, please.  You know how to get there, right?”  The discomfort was back, rolling in like a mac truck and then it subsided.  Right turn on Stanton Street by the Wine Store outside where the woman had urinated earlier, and it started again.  As we went past Orchard Street, I felt like I was in labor sans baby.  A right turn onto Allen Street gave me a stabbing pinch in my back.  As we crossed Houston into the East Village, a tall black man walked in the opposite direction toward Domino's Pizza.  He proclaimed: “This is not a sanctuary.  This is a mortuary.”  I was so light headed that I started to wonder if we were going in the wrong direction.  St. Vincent’s was in the West Village.  As we went up First Avenue, I began to wheeze from the misery.  Between his cell phone calls and the loud foreign music from a CD, the cabbie shouted at me. “You give me a headache.  Be quiet.”  At that moment, I wished I could’ve horked all over the back seat.  I believed any ER would do.  He dropped me at Beth Israel Hospital at 17th Street.  I paid him the ten dollars and wondered if I tipped him.  I looked back.  He was gone.


I walked the block and a half in hopes of getting some help.  There was a guard at the glass entrance and another one at the end of the long hallway.  Now it felt like someone had stabbed me in the back.  I had more waves of queasiness.  There was a black woman with a butterfly pin behind the bullet proof window.  I gasped out a “Help.”  She answered back, “Gotta wait your turn.”  She continued her conversation about dinner with the person in front of me.  I couldn’t eat or drink.  All I could consume was the gunk I had sniffled up from crying.  It was finally my turn.  Name.  Address.  Phone.  Social.  Insurance.  Bracelet around wrist.  “Your number, I mean, your name will be called,” she mumbled as she looked over at the wall clock.  My head spun and my left hand leaned against a blood stained light green wall.  It looked like at least 100 people were waiting for medical care.  They were all speaking different languages.  I thought I heard Spanish, Yiddish, Hebrew, Chinese, Arabic, Russian and English as I fell into a chair that had just become available.  The person who was sitting there had been taken away in handcuffs.  Next to me was a Hasidic man in a black hat and coat with a white beard.  The torture of the spasms returned.  I doubled over and yelped. 


I went back to the bullet proof window and asked, “How long will it be?”  The butterfly pin lady who had registered me yelled back, “Don’t know.  Could be hours.  Can’t say.  Not my job.”  Two guards stood nearby.  With burning indigestion, I stumbled back to the waiting area.  A pregnant teenager and her two young daughters had taken my seat and were eating egg foo young.  The duck sauce was making me pallid.  My phone rang.  My boy’s number came up on the caller ID.  I dropped the blackberry.  A Russian guy with blood dripping from his forehead eyed my smart phone.  I tripped while I snatched it back, and bile came up and stopped between my chest and throat.  I screamed, “I need a doctor,” to no one in particular.


I banged on the door that I saw someone go into.  Patients would say: “That’s where ya go when your number, they mean, your name’s called.  No one eva come out again.”  I cried out, “Help.  I’m in pain.”  I slinked down to the floor by a urine puddle with a jabbing sensation in my lower back.  The door opened.  A nurse with long blonde hair, dressed in a flower top and pale blue pants came out.  She told me, “You see these people here.  They have to be seen before you.”  All 100 or so.  I had trouble breathing.  I gasped about the pain and the need to throw up.  I told her I had asthma.  She answered back, “You’ll have to wait, dear,” and slammed the door shut.


Again, I called my son.  I finally got him.  I told him how sick I was, where I was and that they wouldn’t see me.  He said, “Stay. You gotta be seen.”  He had never been to an inner city emergency room before, so he probably thought I’d get medical care right away.  I called 911 from Beth Israel Hospital to complain that they would not see me.  I banged on another door.  Someone yelled, “You’ll have to wait.  We’re all sick.”  I started to hyperventilate.  I couldn’t wait any longer.  I kept thinking about all the people ahead of me and my back pain, nausea and wheezing.  I came to blows with the door again.  Tears rolled down onto my favorite purple dress.  My nose dribled dribles down my chin.  The nurse came out, followed by another woman.  They led me in.  The door swung shut. 


I sat down.  There were bright lights.  It was cold.  Questions were being shot at me.  I was gagging.  They yelled, “Can’t help ya if ya don’t answer.”  I was relieved when they finally said, “We’re gonna help ya.”  They led me by my elbows, through another door, down a hallway and had me sit by a row of chairs.  I was quiet, though I knew the pain would be back.  A woman with a security badge around her neck leaned right in my face and said, “Someone will be with you shortly.”  There were two uniformed guards nearby.  The achy illness came back with my doubling over.  A black man sitting next to me asked, “What are you here for?”  I said something about food poisoning.  I still thought it was just that.  An elderly woman, sitting alone, looked over.  The man looked puzzled.  He questioned, “Why are you here?”  I looked confused and naively said, “I need medical care.”  He answered back, “Lady, you’re in the psychiatric unit.”  At that moment, I finally leaned over and vomited a whole lot of brunch food all over the floor.


I wiped my mouth across my purple dress and looked up in shock.  I wondered why the flowered topped nurse and her accomplice would do this to me, send me to a madhouse.  I guessed that was why no one ever saw anyone who went through those doors ever leave.  So I may have made a fuss to see a doctor,  I was still physically sick, not mentally ill.  The nausea subsided because of the upchucking of my guts.  But it still felt like someone had stabbed me in the back.  The room was moving from side to side.  A single bulb in the ceiling swayed back and forth.  The black man repeated, “Lady, you’re in the psychiatric unit.”


There was no time to think, look around, take it all in or to remember the wallpaper pattern.  I was trembling, as if I hadn’t had enough chocolate.  Though my breathing was better.  I didn’t know how it was possible for me to have a great adrenaline rush.  I stood up, stepped over rat feces and started walking in a mad rush.  I left the vomit all over the floor behind me.  No one stopped me.  Not the security guards.  Nor the woman who talked in my face.  No one.  I kept up the rapid stride.  I looked down and just missed stepping on a syringe with my Dolce Vita boots.  I thought to myself, “No one’s going to medicate me to a stupor.”  No psychobabble mumbo jumbo.  I needed to find out what was mutilating my body.  I was not getting it at this hospital.  I heard voices.


The elderly woman who looked over at me before yelled, “What she gonna do?  Where she gonna go?  I’m leavin’, too.”  Then she slumped back into the chair.  Someone else questioned, “Can I do that?”  The answer was, “No, you can’t!”  Black man shouted, “Ya go girl, get out while ya still can.”  The nurse came by with a tray of small cups. 


I raced through sharp turned hallways.  I exited through the door no one ever leaves back into the ER.  It was still crowded.  People gazed up at me, sighed and then looked away.  The sick.  The injured.  Some would still be waiting there for care in the morning.  Homeless Coffee Joe, so called for shaking his cup at the corner of Avenue B and Sixth Street, every day and night, would be dead by morn of diabetes.  Someone else would take his place.  Bye, bye security.  There was no sight of the flower topped nurse or her buddy.  Black woman at the bullet proof window, the one with the butterfly pin, said, “One down, one hundred to go.”  I guessed that if you leave, it would be less than if you came.  I was out of here and onto the street.  As I headed back toward First Avenue, I inhaled the befouled air, believing that it was all I needed.


But the back pain and light headed feeling overtook me.  Two people banged into me.  I turned around.  Were they men or were they women?  Their appearance puzzled me.  Hey, one of them looked like my son.  They waved in unison.  Dizzy, I waved back, then tripped.  My hands and knees fell to the sidewalk, where, from the looks of it, coffee had been spilled earlier.  The milk and two sugars made me green around the gills.  People stepped over me.  I heard a woman’s voice cursing, “Fuck.  Fuck.  Fuck this shit.  Can’t this fuckin’ ho get the fuck outta my fuckin’ way!”  I was afraid Beth Israel’s doctors would come and get me.  The cell phone, which just missed something that smelled of vinegar when I fell, rang.  I was hoping it was my son.  It was 911.


I picked through the broken wine bottle pieces for my phone.  A man said, “Ma’am, where are you?”  I tried to explain about the psych ward.  I was still feeling barfy, but I would not go back.  I was walking along First Avenue, going downtown.  I told him I would be okay, and not to worry.  To that, he responded, “Where are you?  We will pick you up.  Get you some help.”  I wouldn’t go back.  He continued, “We’re on First Avenue.”  The ambulance was close by.  I could hear the siren.  Near Stuyvesant Town.  Near Beth Israel Hospital.  Except for the street, car and store lights, it was dark outside.  I felt so alone.  I looked up into an apartment window to see a fist fight between two girls.  One yanked the others hair.  There were screams and people pushing.  911 was still on the phone, “Promise we won’t take you back to Beth Israel, wherever you want to go.”


I heard the ambulance, and started to shake.  The world was spinning out of control and trying to crash.  “Come get me,” I told them.  I think by then I was at 14th Street, by Papaya King where you can get a 99 cent hot dog.  People stood and stared as two white men, dressed all in white, led me by my elbows into an ambulance.  I was shivering.  The lights were too bright.  They wrapped something around me.  It felt tight.  I started saying, “No. No. No.”  They said, “We’ll take you wherever you want to go.  Don’t have to go back to Beth Israel’s psych unit.”  They tried to calm me by saying, “Ma’am, don’t worry, ma’am.”


The ambulance started moving.  I told them, “Take me to the nearest ER, please.”  We headed uptown on First Avenue, right back toward Beth Israel.  Between gasps from the stabbing pain, I asked, “What hospital?  Please, no psych ward.”  They kept saying, “We understand.  Don’t worry.  Don’t worry.  We understand.”  I was tired.  “Bellevue,” they said.  Scared, knowing it was also a psychiatric hospital, I panicked, “that’s, that’s…”  “Don’t worry, they have the best…”  I fainted.


My arms and legs flailed as I punched a make believe Nurse Ratched figure.  My body bounced back and forth as my mouth fought something placed over it.  My eyes scrunched up at more bright lights.  The banging noises made me jump.  I heard footsteps.  Muddled human voices barked, “Another one…” “Now what…” “One more hour…”  I wondered who they were and why they were doing whatever they were doing to me.  I surmised that I did end up back with the lonely old woman and the black man  after all.  The loony bin.  As I closed my eyes, I felt isolated.  My son had no idea where I was and neither did I.


I heard a swishing sound.  Two hands held down my left arm.  I shook as an icy, cold needle stabbed my vein and I wondered if it was a sedative.  I started to feel lousy again.  The nausea rolled up through my chest, from stomach to throat and it stopped to choke me.  I opened my eyes to find that I was alone on a bed, in an all white room.  Everything was sterile looking, the curtains that covered the glass wall, the counters, the cabinets.  It all smelled like an alcohol swab.  Clean and quite bright, a covered light bulb stood still in the ceiling.


If I had some valium being pumped in through the IV, it wasn’t working.  My pulse was beating like a train wreck waiting to finish a downhill crash.


A man in his twenties, wearing a light blue shirt and light blue pants, walked in.  He identified himself as a resident at Bellevue Hospital just in from Nevada.  I muttered to myself, “Psych ward.”  He must’ve heard me because he answered back, “Emergency Room.”  He explained that I needed oxygen when I was brought in because I had trouble breathing.  He said I was dehydrated, hence the IV was filled with glucose.  I thought to myself, “could it be possible that someone was helping me”.


Future Doc questioned me about my symptoms.  I rattled off about the nausea, dizziness, lower back pain.  I started rambling regarding the possibility of food poisoning, saying, “Early today, had something to eat.  Nothing since then.”  He felt my lower back, on the right side.  I screamed, “That hurts.”  He told me, “It’s not food poisoning.  You have a kidney infection.”


I began to relax when I realized there was a name for what was wrong with me and that it had nothing to do with psychospeak.  I said to myself with a bit of relief, “Kidney infection”.  Me and Mary Kate Olsen finally had something in common.  The newspapers said that she had just gotten over that.  The pain got bearable as I became calmer.  I needed to call my son to tell him.  I looked around for my cell phone and all I could see were needles and vials.


The newbie doc left the room as the nurses took over.  One held my left hand.  I noticed rings on her fingers.  Our eyes met as I felt a needle pierce my right arm.  I heard cracking sounds.  I jumped.  I squeezed real hard.  The hand holding nurse bit her lower lip and cursed, “Damn.”  I looked over and saw that the other nurse missed my vein and the needle snapped in my arm.  The small, slender, rodlike instrument was hanging from my skin. 


The flower shirted nurse took her broken fingers to find the resident.  The needle snapping nurse tried to repair the vein situation.  Blood was dripping down my arm onto the white floor.  I screamed, “Don’t touch me!”


As the doc in training removed the stabbing instrument, he yelled, “Why wasn’t this done through the IV?”  The monitor showed my blood pressure rising.  I was wheezing, coughing and trying to get off the bed.  He stopped me and drew the blood, himself, through the IV.


Dr. Newbie asked if I could walk.  I answered back, “After that horror movie scene I just lived, I can run.”  He told me I needed to give him a urine specimen.  He detached the IV and walked me and my Dolce & Gabbana knock off handbag into the bathroom.  I closed the door and turned on the light.  There was blood splattered everywhere, the walls, the sink, the toilet.  Whatever vomit was left in me came up to my mouth and I gulped it back down.  I thought to myself, “I don’t want to throw up into a crime scene toilet.”


I opened the door and showed a nurse standing nearby the new interior decorating.  I didn't think she liked the paint job because she had a horrified, ashen look.  I was led back to my room.  The resident explained that there had been a riot earlier.  The patients yelled and threw bed pans.  There was a stabbing.  They were upset by the long wait for medical care.  The police had to be called in to make arrests.  What would my twenty year old son have thought?  He probably figured I was still at Beth Israel, finishing up seeing a physician.


The resident said that I still needed to give a urine specimen and that I could use the bathroom in the “Other Emergency Room.”  I wondered to myself, “Psycho ward?”  I was still shaken from the Beth Israel experience.  No.  The other ER was for those arrested.


The resident and I, with my fake designer bag from SOHO, walked out of the ER past past the civilians.  We traveled through the hallway filled with police and handcuffed men sitting on the floor.  They looked at me, I looked away.  “Meow.”  Whistles.  “Hey babe, I’ll take care of ya.”  “Leave her alone.  Could be your mother.”  “I’ll make her my mama.”  As we turned the corner and stood at the entrance to the restroom, the resident said, “You’ll be all right here. “  I fell in love with my young doctor.


My knight in shining armor, a Derek Shepherd kinda guy straight from a Grey’s Anatomy scene, walked me back to the white world.  You know, the one with the bloody bathroom.  We passed through the arrested world with the spotless plumbing.  The coppers and the men in handcuffs leaning against the cold floor were still there.  I looked at one.  “She’s mine.”   Another.  “No, she’s mine.”  He looked at the doctor and then at me.  “Wait for me.  I’ll take care…”  I heard a loud noise.


Before Dr. Shepherd could push me back into my room, I turned around to see the guy in cuffs who wanted me to wait for him slumped over.  He was holding his chest.  There had been gun shots. 


My knight in shining armor told me that usually people with kidney infections are treated as inpatients with a full round of antibiotics.  He saw me gasp.  He answered my request to get out of Dodge by saying that he trusted that I would take the medicine at home with total rest.  Future Doc also recommended that if I was still feeling ill I should come back to the hospital.  I nodded back at him with a little voice in my brain saying, “Oh, yeah, right”.


After the first round of meds and the equivalent of bread and water, a very tired but exhilarated me was outta there.  I visited the candy machine to find something my still weakened stomach could handle.  As I got to the lobby, my boy called.  Finally, we were able to talk.  He could not believe what had happened to me.  It was several hours later, around two am.  My son wanted to pick me up, but I couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital scene.  There were still people outside going to the bars and delis in the area.  Still, I promised him I would take a taxi home.  I reached into my pocket.  There was a ten for the cab.  My last Hamilton.

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Wow. What a horror story. I wish I didn't believe that can happen. But I know it does!
This is intense, riveting and beautifully written. What an experience! Rated.
Yikes! I am glad that even in a horrible hospital they can tell the difference between psychotic and sick.

All I can say is Wow. I couldn't stop reading.

Holy sh*t is all I can say! I hope this is the start of a novel!
Your descriptions made my skin crawl. I wish you had been channeling director Stanley Kubrick instead of actually going through something like this. R
What an ordeal! Happy you came out the other end. Rated.
What an ordeal! Happy you came out the other end. Rated.
thank you everyone for your comments -- they have meant alot to me
Oh My God.. What a nightmare.. But you told it well.. with nice ironic twists of humor...;)