That cell at C.A. Dillon School, the odor, the roaches, the chaos in my mind dulled to an annoying din with Haldol and Cogentin -- this was my personal teenage hell. I celebrated my 16th birthday there. When most boys my age were newly licensed drivers, dating, and looking forward to the prom, I was languishing behind a steel door, broken already when I hadn't yet begun to live.
My closest friend at Dillon was Kevin Martin. The two of us were housed on the same wing -- Wing 1, I believe it was -- for a while. We would be the only two left behind in our calls during the day while the other kids were at school, and he would talk to me from behind his door and try to rouse me from my drugged, lethargic dream world. At one point we were going to break out. When one of the staff members entered the hallway to let us out of our cells for showers we were going to jump him and take the big brass key that would open the door at the end of the hallway. Once outside we would climb the fence and sprint away to freedom.
It was a stupid idea and I was in no condition physically for fighting, climbing, or running. Staff caught wind of our plan (they likely heard it from us as we had to yell to hear each other) and came to move me to another wing so Kevin and I would be separated. I armed myself with two sharp pencils, fully intending to stab one or more of them when they stormed my cell. When the door opened they came fast, rolling in four deep, and though I tried to bury a pencil into the neck of the first guy, he somehow managed to grab my arm. Before I could bring the second pencil into play, the second staff member had my other arm and they were both bending my wrists in painful ways while yelling for me to drop the pencils.
When I finally relented and dropped my weapons, the four of them carried me by my arms and legs to a cell in Wing 3. Once they'd succeeded in locking me in I immediately stood up on the bed and pissed on the wall, and then, having relieved myself, I stepped down and proceeded to bang my head against the door repeatedly.
Five minutes later when they returned with the heavy canvas strait-jacket, I could only laugh and hold out my arms as they slid it on and fastened the straps in the back. Already exhausted from the earlier struggle, there was no way I could resist now.
When fully strapped in I realized the strait-jacket is just an ingenious torture device, probably invented by the same person who invented the rack and thumbscrews. My arms were wrapped tight around my body and held in place by a vertical strap along the front of the garment. The sleeves were pulled around back and strapped in place along with a number of other straps, but most painful of all was the strap pulled up between my legs and buckled tight in back so it dug into my crotch. Aside from the obvious pain in my groin, the combined pressure from the tightly cinched straps bent my lower back in a way that made any movement painful.
For the first 15-20 minutes I stood there singing old Pink Floyd songs, pretending not to be bothered at all, but slowly the pressure and the pain began to build until my groin throbbed and my spine felt as if it might snap. After a couple of hours of this torture they finally removed the strait-jacket. I was moved to another cell -- one that didn't reek of piss -- and there I promptly fell into bed and went to sleep..
Looking back on these events from within the confines of yet another cell, I feel a profound sense of sadness. At that point in my life I knew only rage, a white-hot inferno that no modern pharmaceutical could quench. I wish I could travel back in time and talk sense to that angry, screwed up boy in that strait-jacket. The medicine he needed the was not Haldol, restraint devices, or locked doors and fences. What he needed was real talk combined with a heavy dose of love and understanding.