Bubba helps at a mental hospital

Bubba was funny looking.  He had a big knot on the left side of his forehead that had been there a long time.  His body was fat in some places - mostly his belly, and skinny in others - his legs were like sticks.  His head, neck and face and hands were very dark from the sun, and the rest of him was sickly white.  When the police took him off the streets and to the hospital, his clothes were filthy, his shoes almost non-existent, and while he easily submitted to their arts, it took the orderlies and nurses several immersions to get the dirt off - everywhere.

All the same the smell lingered, for when you eat mostly from dumpsters, and drink too much shared wine, your skin acquires the ability to offer to the world the most pungent of odors, not unlike the stink of old sweat socks worn too often without washing.  Except, ... for Bubba, his whole body smelled that way.  The orderlies and nurses took to carrying small cans of air-spray and would frequently go around wherever Bubba was sitting, and try to clear the air.  Mostly the other patients would move away from him, and so it came to pass that he did obtain to the joy of being able to sit in the day room by a window, in the sun, and not have to talk.

As days became weeks and then months, his body lost its odors, and his shape changed a bit.  That he had fresh clothes began to lend him an air of being normal, sort of.  As long as you didn’t talk to him.   If you talked to him, ... well, he was the most rational crazy person on the unit.  He made sense - that was the rational part.  The thing was he didn’t see the world the rest of us saw.  He saw and heard invisible-to-others spirits. 

He also had this implacable way of being.  Silence it was.  Calm, quiet.  If you asked a question he answered, although far too often with just another question.  Otherwise he did not intrude.  You left him alone, he left you alone.  He sat in the sun, and took his meds, which didn’t seem to effect him one way or another, and ate his meals.   To the staff, he was polite and nice and if you inquired, well ... he thought and seemed to see things nobody else the questioner had ever meet did.

In the beginning, the doctors thought he was schizophrenic, although he didn’t talk to the air.  He just confessed to talking to invisible-to-others entities, if a relevant question was asked.   Depending on how the question was phrased, he saw ghosts, angels, demons, sprites, gnomes ... a whole menagerie of creatures no one else saw.  He was also religious in the way he spoke.  But that was not the worst problem.  Apparently before he became a homeless creature, he had been a professor of philosophy, and knew a great deal about the life of thought and the mind, and about science.   Even psychology, which at times was disconcerting to his doctors.  His logic then was often flawless, and as result - disturbing.

One of the nurses began to think he was a saint, although privately and just to her friends.

His main doctor found Bubba particularly perplexing.  The doctor tried to call him by the name which they learned from his fingerprints: John.  Bubba said, just once: “I’m not John, I’m Bubba”, and wouldn’t answer to John at all after that.  When the doctor asked him why he lived on the streets, given that he had been an educated man, Bubba just quoted the opening lines of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”  When the doctor pursued the matter, Bubba just shrugged.

A nurse asked him whether he liked living on the unit, and Bubba just said: “The company is nice, although I miss the speech of the wind.  Can I go outside today?”

A patient asked him if he thought he - the patient - was crazy, and Bubba said: “About as crazy as the moon.”

Once, Bubba leaned over the counter that separated those on the unit, from the nurses station, and pointing to a pile of spilled garbage by the overflowing trash can, said: “The littlest ones want you to clean that up.” 

A new patient, a woman, gravitated toward Bubba, and started asking him questions, telling others that Bubba was one of the wise men from the East in the Gospel stories.  She wanted to know what stars were, and Bubba said this: “When the Lord’s lovers make light, which they do all the time, the birth of light is like one of our fireworks shows, only even more precious and holy.  This birth leaves behind evidence of its passing, as it were, and human spirits live within this evidence between death and a new birth.  The really strange matter is that when our consciousness is in these places, it is not in space at all.  It is everywhere.  All around.  The consciousness of stars is everywhere. Wouldn’t you like to live in a luminous living everywhere, among Cherubim and Seraphim, while waiting to come back for your next life?” 

An orderly heard this and asked Bubba about what the science of astronomy proved, and Bubba said: “Children need fairy tales until they don’t anymore.  Isn’t the beauty of the stars enough for you?  Why do you need more?”

A social worker had to find out about Bubba’s possible plans for if he was discharged.  She asked him about how he would live, and whether he wanted to be on disability from social security.  He quoted, Matthew 6:26:  “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

When this was reported to the psychiatrist, he became frustrated and called Bubba in and said: “Don’t you think this religious stuff is crazy?  Nobody is like you, or sees invisible beings everywhere.”

Bubba answered:  “Is a rock sane?  A plant?  A wild animal?  Contemplate what you yourself believe.  You believe you are just some advanced kind of monkey, born in a cosmos that doesn’t care about you at all.  Why is that more sane that what I know, from experience, to be true?  Have you seen with your own eyes this big bang fantasy?  No scientist has, yet many believe it to be true, because some priests of the religion of science say it is true.”

Bubba went on, saying more words that ever before to his doctor: “You know what the real miracle is - the daily miracle.  God does not judge you for your confusion, or for the way you treat me.  And, neither do I.  You think I am homeless, but I’m more at home in those dirty streets than you are at home in your own body.  

“The only reason I am here is because a law was changed to make it more and more illegal for me to live outside of your approved ways of being.  I had harmed no one, stolen nothing and lived quietly among what some call the less fortunate, on occasion bringing the Lord’s Word to comfort them.  We slept on the streets, and some of us begged because we needed to smoke or drink, all of which have been basically taxed out of our means.

“Which of the two of us has the worst habits of life?  Is your marriage secure?  Do your children love you?  Does the competition in this work place give you gray hair and ulcers?  Are you afraid to go out at night in the dark city spaces? 

“And, you know what the real mystery is?  You are fully the right person, in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing.  Each of us has our needs, and the Love and Justice that gives order to all our lives, sees to it that if we need in this life to own a car, and have a skin disorder, that is what we get.  When the psalmist wrote, ‘the lord is my shepherd I shall not want’, he did not mean that everyone must be poor.  So you have your life, your career, your family and your friends and all those are that which you need - even the richest soul, as well as the poorest, wants for nothing.”

Three days later, the psychiatrist discharged Bubba from the mental hospital.  At departure they shook hands, after which a couple of the nurses, and a few of the patients hugged him.  Bubba was tempted then to go outside among the plants by the door, and find some dirt to lie down in and like a wise dog rub his body in it so he could start again to smell the way he needed to smell to fit into the place in existence he was meant in this life to fit into.  But he knew that they, who were watching, would not get the joke, and so he deferred, trying - a little bit- to at least appear to be in sync with the expectations of him that they needed to have.

As he walked away, the wind kissed his face, the ground caressed his feet, and the colors that light made wove delight into his open mind.