I’m writing a book. There, I said it. Not quite sure if it’s going to be a straight-up memoir. Perhaps titled, as someone joked, “Not Another Bipolar Memoir”. Or, the book might be a combination ‘memoir/personal-essay-with-action-tips” kinda book. Either way, as I write it, I’m going to, from time to time, share excerpts with you. I love the idea of having a friend like you (‘cause that’s how I think of you) getting a peek into what I’m thinking and what I’m writing. 

I don’t have a date set for the final draft, or a publisher (if I go that direction) in place. But as a valued reader, I value sharing these pieces with you. If you have thoughts about them, resources that might be helpful as I get closer to publication, people you think I should contact or just general cheerleading comments and encouragement – email them my way! 

This piece is pretty self-explanatory. If it’s not, then I need to do a major rewrite! Read on and hope you enjoy it.

Cute Guy in the Psych Ward

One month in on A2 at Lion’s Gate hospital – A2: the acute psychiatric ward. By the way, there is nothin’ cute about a psych ward.  I’m following this blue line down the middle of the hospital hallway. It leads to the smoke ‘garden’. That’s where all the chain smokers hang out. I never smoked before until I got here, but the cute guy from room 17 lights up every 35 minutes. I won’t see him otherwise. I don’t think he knows I’m alive. I must be invisible. Oh, don’t ever say that to your doctor: ‘IN-VISIBLE’. Red flag phrase for psychiatrists.

Anyway, I’m in the smoke ‘garden’ wearing those regulation blue hospital PJs, sitting on one of those flimsy white plastic patio chairs.  One leg is shorter than the others, so I’m trying to find my balance and at the same time trying to be all flirty while I look at Sam. That’s his name, Sam, the cute guy (red hair, pulsing biceps) who undoubtedly has a girlfriend. I know his name because we’re all assigned orderlies for the day and it’s posted on a white board with our names listed under them. Wednesdays I’m with Liam. So is Sam. Isn’t that cute? We’re a couple without even trying. This is my manic hypersexual ‘super’ logic. 

“Can I have a light?”  I lean towards him, careful not to topple over. A silky hand carries his Bic lighter close to my mouth. I inhale, the flame flares and cigarette ignites. I cough. “Thanks.” And I cough again. Not quite the impression I wanted to make. 

Despite the giant hedge of fir trees running the circumference of the unit, the grass of the smoke garden and beyond is scorched. Rays of late afternoon summer sun lasers through the foliage onto the top of Sam’s head. His red hair lights up like sparkles in a snow globe. 

And then? Out of his mouth comes poetry, snippets from his therapy journal. His words make me think of tangerines and the smell of sandalwood. He says these things and I just laugh. Like a lunatic. NO. I mean really like a lunatic. And he looks at me like I’m crazy or something “‘cause,” as he tells me “it wasn’t supposed to be funny”. And there I am with my burning butt of a cigarette feeling like an idiot, a crazy woman, thinking about the tie-dyed sunsets of India. And then, guess what Sam does? He leans back, takes a drag of his cigarette and smiles.  For the next 5 minutes, we sit in comfortable quiet, staring at each other, waiting ‘til our smokes die.

© Victoria Maxwell

19 replies
  1. Roger Smith
    Roger Smith says:

    You are off to a great start Vic. You have drawn me in. I cannot put your book down …….well it is still in formation. You have always had a great writing style with lots of humour. That is what will keep folks reading – humour as well as thoughtful observations. Keep writing. You will have a Best Seller on your hands. Well done! You are off to a very good start.

  2. Diane Murphy
    Diane Murphy says:

    I love hearing from you. I’m sure your book will be terrific. I for one will purchasing it.
    I met you in New York City many years ago at a luncheon. Do you have any plans of coming back to New York or New Jersey?

    • admin
      admin says:

      Thanks Diane! I’m hoping to come back at some time, but no immediate plans. If you have any connections to corporations, organizations or universities sent them my way!

  3. Deanne Mineau
    Deanne Mineau says:

    There’s great courage in all your communications. It’s freeing and it’s moving. Thanks for this. Keep going. We need your openness.

    • admin
      admin says:

      I can’t thank you enough. I’ve wrestled with starting this book but it’ll see the light eventually! Really appreciate your encouragement

  4. robert wotton
    robert wotton says:

    Victoria, I enjoyed the easy flow of this brief sample of your writing.
    The piece was shorter than I expected, so maybe I did not find all that you had written. Anyway, I look forward to reading more of your work. Robert

  5. Esmee
    Esmee says:

    I like it! You draw us in right away, and we very quickly sense that things are going to be “different” in A2. Love the way your writing flows, and of course you can’t go wrong with humour! I’ll be watching this space.

  6. Kathleen Kusel
    Kathleen Kusel says:

    Victoria, enjoyed the excerpt of your upcoming book. Your style is easy to read, at times I had to reread as you write fast! OK I share your bipolar diagnosis and can keep up.
    Keep writing as it will be a great addition to the world’s understanding of mental illness.


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