Real zombies aren’t dead. They just wish they were. They won’t eat you; well, probably not, anyway. Ever since Ronald Reagan closed down all the state hospitals, and oh, yes, he missed a few; anyway, a lot of the real zombies are sleeping in the woods now, and panhandling at traffic lights. Many of them are starving. They need a little money, so they can eat. I leave them alone.
There are guys and gals with real drug problems, who can’t hold down jobs. Some are so addicted to cocain, it makes my nose run just to think about it.
The president cut all the federal social programs a few years back, to make the rich white people feel better about their stock options, before he died of old age. He was only an actor, you know. He wasn’t really much of a statesman. I say this, with a zombie brother who’ll probably hop an airplane, just to wear me out about my opinion of zombies and presidents.
I used to be a zombie. Sometimes I become one again. They were giving me Thorazine and Haldol in the state hospital when I flipped out for your sins in 1972. I know. To you, the past is over. I was going to be a high school band director, and a married man. None of that ever happened, because I went to someplace Walt Disney only dreamed about. That old man never saw colors like that, either. My career never happened, and my girl married someone else. Try making a past like that go away in your own head. My head won’t shut up about it.
I took Melaryl for twenty years, while the top of my head, and my forearms baked in the summer sun every summer, due to my photo-sensitivity to the sun reaction to the major tranquilizers. I don’t take major tranquilizers anymore, but I still struggle to be in touch with reality on a regular basis. I still struggle with my moods, too. My broken dreams drive me to write things like this.
There was a time I could neither speak nor write. I owe it to myself to write what I know.
You will think me a mad man, and you’re correct, I suppose. I was certified insane in a state hospital for the better part of three years, after running out of safe havens elsewhere. I was a smoke hound, and the town drunk for awhile there. I was a drug addict, and am still a schizophrenic. My doctors work very hard to keep my mind on an even keel with medications and therapy. They monitor me regularly. They have to. My illness can send me into a tailspin at a moment’s notice.
But this is supposed to be about zombies.
I knew a guy named Randy, who went to high school about the same time I did, back in the sixties, but in a different town. He and I ended up on the same back ward in a state hospital in his hometown, breathing the same stale air, going nuts in the same crowded space for a number of years together. The doctor let us go out on the town together one day, after I’d gotten sober. He knew that town like the back of his hand. Randy had spent his whole life there.
Randy took me to his mother’s house, way down the street from that state hospital one day. We were only in our thirties then, and walking was easy in those days. She wasn’t home. He’d grown up there, but no longer had a key to the house where he grew up. He and I never talked much, even though we were on the same back ward together for a long time. Randy was a loner, and mostly I left him to it. Randy was not the sort of person to tell stories. That’s more my speed.
One day, Randy got good and hopping mad at being locked up on a back ward in his early thirties, when he hadn’t even been convicted of a crime. He started banging things around on the ward. Randy lost control and got violent that evening. I stayed away from him. After awhile, he came up to me, real meek and mild. Randy asked me to call an ambulance. He’d broken both bones in his right forearm. I didn’t have the money for the pay phone on the ward, and didn’t realize I could get 911 without money.
The old staff lady was holed up in the office, behind a locked door, for fear of her life. She had already opened up all the dorms, and locked herself in the office, because Randy was flipping out. He eventually got his arm set in a cast. After he broke his arm, he calmed right down. That sort of thing could happen to anybody in a place like that.
I got sober there, and got discharged to a psychiatric halfway house. I saw Randy years later, wandering the streets of his old hometown, disenfranchised, with a straw hat on his head. Randy just looked like he wasn’t even there. His skin was baked in the sun, as if he’d been a farmer all his life, or a homeless person for all the years I’d been sober. I wanted to speak to him, but thought it wasn’t a very good idea. Randy didn’t even recognize me. He just wandered past me at the Post Office.
Then there was John. John was on the same back ward with Randy and I when we were all in our early thirties. John was a lot different from Randy. John was really addicted to cigarettes, and was very much a mama’s boy. John knew some song he used to sing all the time, about how much he loved his mother. John was a monstrous hulk of a man, of about six foot four. They let him go outside one day, and the Police brought him back, for knocking on people’s doors, asking total strangers for a cigarette at their own front door.
He had a lot of bigoted ideas about the Aryan Race, and used to talk German to me all the time. It was a funny thing. I never studied German, but always understood John’s German, whether I agreed with him or not. We used to tell the most hideous jokes with each other sometimes. We’d laugh until we cried. I always figured that’s why they call it a laughing academy. You get so bored you have to laugh at nothing sometimes, just to keep from going batty.
After I’d been out of the state hospital awhile, I had a job in that little state hospital town, in a little flower shop. Big John had grown a long, bushy beard. With that imposing stature of his, he could be a frightening visage, to those who didn’t know him. He was a pussycat. One day, I went outside in the course of my daily duties, and John was waiting for me outside the flower shop. He said my full name to me, the way he’d always done in the state hospital.
I said to him, “Hi, John. How are you?”
He said he was fine. I told him I had a little job, trying to earn a little money. He repeated what I said, as though he was having difficulty believing, or understanding what I said. I told him I had to keep busy. I was sorry I didn’t have time to talk.
John left me alone after that. I guess he just wanted to be certain it was me.
Sometime after that, my boss got a little tired of my stories about my mental illness. She wouldn’t pay me right, and eventually laid me off altogether. One day she married a rich man, and sold her flower shop. I moved away, and never saw the big man with the bushy beard again. I think his mother is dead and gone by now. I know mine is. I know how it is to lose the most dynamic individual in your whole life. That’s who my mother was to me, since I couldn’t marry my girl.
I just wanted to answer all this crap about zombies. The real thing is something I leave alone anymore, unless I have to go back in a psych ward to get my medications adjusted. That happens to me now and then. I never had a zombie try to eat me. I’ve had them knock a tooth out of my head, and stuff like that, though. If you want to know how to act around a zombie, just treat them with respect, like you expect of anybody, yourself. They’re really only people, you know.