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Tuesday, March 06, 2007


by Rochelle Ratner

Use duct tape. Secure the wrists and ankles, wrapping tape around several times. Make sure the astronaut's hands are tied behind his back. Duct tape, once started, rips easily. Talk softly but firmly while restraining him. Or her. Say you are doing this to insure his safety.

Was it The Bell Jar? David and Lisa? I Never Promised You a Rose Garden? She's fairly certain it was The Bell Jar. There was a scene near the start of a woman packed in ice to calm her down. Better than shock treatment, she supposes. Her aunt got shock treatments for years before she killed herself.

Once the person stops screaming or crying or flailing about, offer a Haldol pill. This should dispel whatever monsters are in his arms and legs. If he or she refuses, feel free to crush the pill and inject it. Remember that anti-depressants take weeks to become effective, and therefore won't be of use here.

Haldol. Mellaril. Tuinal. She's been on all the antipsychotics around in the early Sixties. The doctor told her they were sleeping pills and, like the child she was at the time, she believed him. She gulped Mellaril that time she tried to kill herself. She should have realized then there was something wrong.

In the Fifties, when she was growing up, wives and mothers kept their psychiatrists hidden in their closets. Divorce was all but unheard-of, and one couple who separated then tried to reconcile was killed when their house caught fire. In the Fifties, when NASA compiled this 1000 page manual, astronauts were heroes. John Glenn was elected to congress and was close friends with the Kennedys.

Everything in that manual was based on the Army's guidelines, then never updated. She read an article in yesterday's paper about how soldiers in Iraq with severe but not life-threatening head wounds were being observed for a day then rushed right back into battle. Surprise, surprise. All in the mind. Shock.

Love him. Feed him. When you aim that high, carry food that makes you smile. Curry dishes brought by the son of an Indian. The imitation sushi with pre-packaged salmon and wasibi sauce brought by the Russian. Wasabi squirting everywhere. The smell uncontained. Better to have taken along dried wasibi peas. That would be her comfort food. The spice heading her headache off somewhere between the nose and eyes. She used to think it was sinus, but knows better now. And she used to dream of a space helmet contraption, air conditioned, keeping her cool in summer. Everything would have been fine were there not this heat, these hot flashes.

She travels too, you know. Her plane delayed nearly three hours, a later plane getting out on schedule while she nurses a few grapes in the lounge. She understands what the astronauts must feel, waiting for shuttles that don't take off. Just waiting. She understands anger, she understands disgust. Then to find a woman already in her seat, a computer case there's no room for, all because she waited until her row was called: she understands Haldol. But at least they get to fly off into a sunset, weak though it is.

Rochelle Ratner's latest poetry books include Balancing Acts (Marsh Hawk Press, 2006), Beggars at the Wall (Ikon, 2006) and House and Home (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003). She is the author of fifteen previous poetry collections and two novels (Bobby’s Girl and The Lion’s Share) both published by Coffee House Press). More information and links to her writing on the Internet can be found on her homepage.