In a previous entry, I talked about an eccentric man named Jim that I had met on my way back from Winnipeg. Well, Jim is just one out of many bizarre encounters I have had with strangers. Strangers who treat me as though we have already met many times before.
I’ve often wondered why I seem to attract the oddballs. And I use that term “oddballs” with affection, because God knows I can be quite odd. Maybe they’re sensing on some level that we share this in common.
Today I want to talk about a man I met during my first hospitalization named Joe. Joe was a patient. He was perhaps in his sixties. I remember our first encounter. I had sat down at the dining room table with a newspaper. Flipped through it, looking for signs or hidden messages. (I was in the hospital for a reason.) Then Joe walked by and tapped a picture in the obituaries. I looked at the picture and my heart twisted. It looked almost identical to my father.
Now, I should mention that during my first episode I was seeing the same assortment of faces everywhere I went. Sometimes I was lucid enough to know that this was just my mind playing tricks on me, and other times I believed these people were shapeshifters or aliens or were even wearing disguises. I remember sarcastically commenting on a man I thought was following me wearing a disguise. “Nice moustache.” I thought it was obviously fake but in hindsight it probably wasn’t, and he was probably puzzled and maybe hurt by my comment.
Furthermore, I should also mention that my father’s name is Joe. Coincidence? Who knows? I sure didn’t. When Joe pointed at that picture, I quickly formed a thought that my real father had died long ago and the person who raised me was some sort of alien vampire creature pretending to be my father.
I tried to avoid Joe (the patient) because he was always muttering to himself and it seemed like if any of us in that ward were crazy it would definitely be him. But then at dinner, Joe motioned for me to sit beside him. Manners kicked in and I obliged.
He didn’t introduce himself but I had gathered his name was Joe from the many times I heard the nurses say “Stop doing that, Joe.”
Instead he started by saying, “I know who you are.” I didn’t reply. And he said, “You know who’s in that picture right?” I nodded. I was intrigued.
Joe went on to babble about various things, none of which I understood. It was only after listening to him talk for twenty minutes that he started to become a bit more lucid… Or I started to become a bit more crazy.
“I know what’s going to happen to you,” he said. I sat up, suddenly attentive.
“What’s going to happen?” I asked.
“Oh I would never tell you that,” he said. I must have rolled my eyes. He explained, “No one should know their future. That would be terrible. I wouldn’t do that to you.”
I sat back in my chair and folded my arms grumpily like a disappointed child. Joe rocked back and forth and looked out the window, then finally said, “You want to know. I’ll tell you.”
What he proceeded to tell me didn’t make sense. He was telling me things that I will do but using the past tense, as if he had already seen this all happen before. Here are some of the things he said:
“You’re going to slay all the vampires.”
“You wrote the code. The code that everyone uses. It was stolen from your locker, remember? You put it in your locker and they stole it.” (A notebook of mine was actually stolen from my high school locker.)
“The economy is ruined. Because everyone is giving away their stuff online. It was a good thing, what you did. But it ruined the economy.”
“You won a million dollars, at the horse race, because you bet it all on the black stallion.”
“You’re going to be the first Pope.”
“All this land belongs to you. It’s smaller now but from here to (can’t remember) belongs to you.”
“It’s all police officers now. Undercover cops. They’re everywhere. He’s a cop, they’re cops.” (He pointed out other patients in the dining hall.)
“They brainwashed you. They took you up on the Soviet shuttle and brainwashed you, because you knew too much. That’s why you’re so confused.” (At this point I remember looking out the window and getting a surreal feeling, like I wasn’t on Earth anymore.)
“They take dirty pictures of you. You’re in the suite room right? With the big window? That’s so they can take pictures.” (He pointed at planes flying by the hospital through the window. Also, I was in a suite room by myself at that time.)
“You’re Justin Bieber.”
As you can imagine, I wasn’t able to understand what he was saying. I still don’t. To be honest, I doubt that he understood it.
As he was talking, I distanced myself from him and a disturbing thought occurred to me. What if this is my father in the future? If he develops Alzheimer’s or something, and he ends up here in this hospital alone and confused like me. I felt saddened at that thought.
I remember at one point, Joe asked me if he could hold my hand. I agreed and we held hands. Just as Jim had, he started to cry. I sat quietly, feeling touched by his vulnerability and compassion. Then he said, “I could get in a lot of trouble for doing this. Nobody is allowed to touch you. All those people you’re scared of? They won’t touch you.”
“Thank you,” I said. Whether or not his words were true didn’t matter at the time. I felt comforted. I will always remember Joe.