BY ANDREW MOODY
It’s been a few weeks since I absconded from the Acute Ward. I was registered as a missing person, and the police texted and called me every hour I was AWOL. Wandering on aching feet throughout London, I couldn’t get a hotel room because of Covid 19 measures, meaning they only accepted card payments. I’m a homeless psychiatric patient on benefits, like most of us, I don’t have a credit card. It was easy to abscond from the ward, I had unescorted leave, I simply withdrew £200 from the cash point at Sainsbury’s, bought a one day travelcard from a nearby newsagent and got a bus to Bromley. I had half an hour head start on the nurses, they wouldn’t know I’d escaped until I was well away. On the bus I called around to see who could get me weed, my old dealer from the area hung up on me, not knowing who I was. Eventually I got through to a friend I’d made in the Secure Unit from earlier this year, he texted me his postcode and I took a taxi to his house, which took forty minutes. We scored some weed. Sitting by the Thames, he rolled a joint for me, and I told him about my Somali ex girlfriend Khair as the weed entered my system, giving me a rush, imagining holding her in my arms.
“She’s pregnant,” I told my friend.
“Is it yours?”
“I haven’t seen her since last November,” I said. “She was an escort. The father is in Glasgow, where she moved. He did time for selling cannabis to children.”
“Sick, man. If it was me I’d smash them both up.”
I offered him the joint. He shook his head. “I’m fine with beer,” he said. He had bought a couple of Desperados from the newsagents when I was buying Kingsized Rizla. A large Navy boat cruised past in front of us, carrying a military crew. The last time I’d smoked weed was about six months before, when a patient in the Secure Unit sold me a small joint for forty quid. Going rate in a place that more resembled a prison than a hospital. I waited until my escorted leave the next day, my cigarettes were hidden in a crop of bushes outside the hospital. My escort was a black nurse near to retirement. As I lit the joint, I could see the pungent smoke drift his way.
“Are you smoking cannabis?” he asked, looking concerned. I finished the joint in ten straight pulls, standing at a distance from him
“It was a menthol cigarette,” I lied. Lying had become natural to me for a long time by then. I lit a cigarette, felt the initial rush of the weed, thought about Khair, about holding her in my arms.
I spent the night in cabs back and forth from Central London to Bromley, as soon as my Mum woke up she started calling me. I was tired and drained and running on sugary energy drinks, making my fingers tremble as I I smoked badly rolled joints, wasting most of the gear. My feet were ripped to shreds from a flare up of psoriasis. Eventually I got so tired I paid for a cab back to the Acute Ward. The staff were relieved, and after the standard UDS, I tested positive for cannabis and spent the next two days in bed. I submitted my article on my escape to my editor, he liked it. Upon release it got a good audience, including a lot of prominent Scientologists who I had profiled objectively back in 2015 and stayed in touch with. Brian Daniels of the anti psychiatry organisation CCHR gave me a gentle lecture about weed smoking featured in the article. Mum told me later that a WPC trying to reign me in during my escape had been reading my published articles online.
“She said ‘you know something, he’s a really decent writer!” Mum told me.
One of the Lived Experience Practitioners, (staff who had once been patients), told me:
“If I had been offered the chance of a free walk around London when I was in jail, you know I would have jumped at it. I do understand.”
When my weekly ward round arrived, I wasn’t punished badly. My leave was restricted to two escorted half an hours a day.