Amy was beautiful and always gave away her arrival with the forcefield of urine-stench that warded off predators for a good solid 6-8-foot radius. Those rank molecules were not contained solely by the black duster she wore day in and day out, nor in the white blouse that she never changed- not even in the elegant long black pin-around skirt that fortnightly alternated with the denim miniskirt, for the odor continued to penetrate the miserable air even in the showers.
Of two things I was certain: one- that Amy had been seriously overmedicated at some point, leaving her shapely legs unable to adapt a normal standing pose, and two- that there was more to Amy than met the eye.
Carrying a perma-stench was a grevous sin, unlike- for instance- shitting your pants. Sure, one might stew for half and hour or so during shift change, but shit was an inherently temporary state. With shit, eventually, depending on your perceived level of competence, someone would either come along and clean you up or berate you until you cleaned up after yourself. With urine, eventually, stuff dried.
By affirming my vegetarian diet somewhere in the shuffle of intake paperwork, I’d foolishly assumed that I had kosher in the bag. So comfortable and homey was the system that I didn’t even know from which end to begin my rant when the day came that my tray came out with a sticker on the side reading “BEGONIAS- VEGETARIAN” and bearing a steaming fried catfish filet.
Such are the times that testify to the utility of the trays being served by through a slit in a steel door, visual contact between patients and food first being made through Plexiglas and (if the tech is so kind) drawn blinds), requests for condiments being heard (or not) through a hole drilled through. Presumably, there was some rhyme or reason behind the restrictions placed on the number and variety of condiment packets issued each patient: the mind reels at the possibilities: Secret hallucinogenic properties of a sugar rush acquired from the consumption of greater than four packets of sugar in a single sitting? A magical midnight feast drawn together of mixed jelly, mustard, aspartame, and pepper? Generally the reasons behind condiment rationing weren’t so exciting: most often, they were simply out of stock. Occasionally, the serving tech would deem the requested condiments inappropriate for meal congruence and deny them on a whim.
Sometimes, they would decline to serve an entire meal to a patient whose behavior was, in their opinion, not suited to the kitchen on a unit of a high-security state mental hospital.