The day of his release from the hospital, Mike had agreed to help him clean up his flat. It was even worse than he remembered it. Mike said nothing; he just grabbed some bin bags and threw out all the garbage and broken glass.
“You should probably check out my shoe closet.” Noel pointed to his bedroom. “Why? Did you throw up in there? Oh. Yeah sure. Any other places?” “Kitchen. Top shelf in the Cocoa Puff boxes.” Noel proceeded to work on the living room; sorting out paintings and putting some of his shelves back up. After a few hours the flat was clean again. “Thanks Mike. You want a tea?” “Yes, that would be good.” “Hey, it’s getting late, do you want to stay here?” Mike smiled at him. “Sure.” Noel was glad that he said yes. He really couldn’t bear being alone right now.
A few days had passed since his release. He mostly spent those lying on his couch and watching “Project Runway”. Julian was calling him everyday to check up on him. Dave texted constantly and even Rich took up his phone, mostly to send him pictures of his face and videos of him dancing. He was glad that he had his friends.
His solitude was broken on a Friday. When he opened the door, Julian, Mike, Rich and Dave were standing there, all looking concerned at him. He invited his friends in and made tea.
“Is this an intervention?” He asked smiling awkwardly.
“I think you need to be sorted out.” It was Mike who spoke first. “I am sorted out. Haven’t had a drink since… That night.” He looked at Mike’s unconvinced face. “And before you ask, also nothing else.” “You still need a safety net.” “I promised Julian that I would call him, if I was in danger…” “You also promised me that, when I found you behind mum and dad’s house.”
He didn’t want to think about that night. He was out with some girl, who took off with - in her words – someone better. He’d just kept on drinking without her and couldn’t remember his address. So he went home to their parent’s house, banging on the door. Only Mike was home and found him, lying in the bushes. They didn’t talk about the incident; Mike had just asked him to give him a ring when he was out of it. He never rang him and Noel felt bad about it. He felt bad about a lot of things lately. He even tried to write a letter to Dee. Not to get back together, but to apologise for his behaviour. “Hey Dee…” was all he could think of. Mike was looking at him, waiting for a reply.
“What do you suggest?” “Therapy.” Mike said firmly. He thought about it for a few seconds. “Laying on a couch, meddling about my little problems seems a bit pathetic to me.” “Drug overdose, getting pissed every night and fucking people you don’t even like… I wouldn’t refer to such things as little problems.” “Hm…” “Come on Noel. It’s not that bad. I’ve spent some time in therapy.” It was Rich of all people.
“You are American Rich. It is not a big deal there.” “How dare you! I’m a Cockney!” Noel laughed and the others joined in. “But seriously, it really helped me, sort some things out. It is not that easy being me. I came to accept that I’m weird.” “You struggled with being weird?” “Of course. All the guys around me were Footballer’s. That is the American version with pads and helmets. I was the chubby kid with the crazy voice, high school was hell. But then I discovered mood stabilizers and a nice doctor who listened to my problems and cured them.” “You are on medication?” Julian asked, clearly puzzled. “Yeah. How do you think I manage to stay this calm and sophisticated?” Another round of laughs. “We don’t suggest this to get rid off you Noel. We are your friends and we care for you. And we really think you need help.” Dave words broke the laughter and Noel sighed. “Fine.” They all got up and hugged him.
A few days later Noel cursed his friends for sending him to this place. He had a bad feeling when he walked in and saw the clean almost sterile look of the hospital. When he walked out of the admission office, he was greeted by a scruffy looking orderly that took his suitcase and threw it onto his bed.
“We need to search your things. Do you wanna stay or wait outside?” “Why would I want to go when you are messing with my stuff?” He didn’t answer. “Could you please open your bag?” He took his tweezers, his phone, his keys, his wallet, his deodorant, his hair products, at least those with butane in them, and his scarves. He also took his iPod.
“Why you need to take this away?” “Safety reasons.” “You think I’ll hang myself with the headphones?” He didn’t answer. “Alright, I think we are done. Dinner is up in thirty minutes. Do you have any allergies?” “No.” “We will bring your food up tonight. Tomorrow, you can sit with the others in the dining room.” And out of the door he went. Noel sat in front of his meal, but couldn’t bring himself to eat it. He was deep inside his own head when the same orderly came back and took him to his first meeting with the head physician.
“Well, hello Mr. Fielding.” “Hello.” “I’m Doctor Jones. I’m the head of the department. I just wanted to go over your schedule with you.” “I have a schedule?” “Of course. We will tackle your problems one by one. First we have one on one conversational therapy. Then you have group therapy, arts and crafts, musical therapy and also exercise.” “Exercise?” “Mens sana in corpore sano. A healthy mind in a healthy body.” “A pretentious fuck speaking in a dead language.” Noel thought. He blocked out the rest of the conversation and went back to his room.
While trying to sleep he heard screaming from outside his room. He approached the door, peaking out of it. In the hallway there was a young girl arguing with the scruffy orderly.
“I go to sleep when I fucking want to go to sleep!” “Would you please lower your voice young lady?” “Or what huh?! Do you think I’m scared of you?!” “I think you are a very sick girl, who needs a good night sleep.” “Argh!” She screamed again and slammed her fist into the wall.
“Nicole! Nicole I need a female!” A nurse came rushing to the pair, restraining the girl with a swift move. They struggled for a bit until the nurse produced a needle and jammed it into the girls arm. She immediately calmed down and laid quietly on the floor. “What happened, Louis?” “She was sitting outside her room and I suggested that she should go to sleep. She didn’t take it too well.” “I told them, she should be supervised today.” “Why?” “Her parents cancelled their visit again.” “Oh no, not again.” He scooped up the girl and the nurse checked out her hand. “At least one finger is broken from what I see.” “It could’ve been worse.” They took her to her room and Noel shut the door. This was too much for him.
The next morning Noel was not feeling well. He skipped breakfast by hiding in a bathroom stall and went straight to his first meeting with his therapist, a woman in her early thirties in a colourful dress and a lot of bracelets around her arms. She had olive skin and dark brown eyes. “Hello Mr. Fielding, I’m Doctor Cruz.” He shook her hand and sat in front of her. "You did not eat breakfast this morning." "I wasn't hungry..." "If you are worried about being recognised, let me assure you, all our patients take our confidential agreement serious. You are not the first public figure in here." "Oh." “So what brings you here?” “I had an overdose. But that wasn’t the problem.” “An overdose is not a problem?” “Well I didn’t die.” “Please tell me what happened.” He recalled the events of that night, telling her every detail. After he finished, she raised an eyebrow.
“Did you induce vomiting?” “No, I was in my living room and my mate kinda dragged me into the bathroom. It started there.” “Then you are very lucky to be alive. You could have choked on your own vomit if your friend didn’t get you off the sofa.” He already knew that but wasn’t keen on admitting it to himself. They talked about the girls and the drinking for a while until their session was finished. She gave him an anamnesis to fill out for their next appointment. Then he had some hours to kill until lunch.
He sat by himself in the dining room, when a hand appeared in front of his face. “Hello there, new guy.” It was the girl from last night. She sat in the chair opposite him and smiled. She was cute, Noel thought. Petite, pale, with long black hair and bright green eyes. She couldn’t been older than 20. “Just a quick heads up, you cannot wear this shirt around her.” She pointed at his chest.
“What? Why not?” “Skulls, crosses, crows, everything that is a symbol of death. There are a lot of people in here who tried to off themselves. Makes them remember it. That’s called a trigger.” “Right.” “Also I don’t know if you do that, but if you have scars on your arms or something you are not allowed to wear T-Shirts. Scars are also a trigger.” “Why are you telling me this?” “I don’t know. Still a little wasted from the injection I got yesterday I guess.” She laughed and extended her unbandaged hand to him.
“I’m Noelle by the way.” “What?” “Noelle. What are you called?” “Noel.” “Shut up, really?” He nodded. “Don’t you hate your parents for that?” “A little.” “My sisters are called Ekaterina and Aleksandra. Which adds insult to injury in my opinion. Do you have siblings?” “One. His name is Michael.” “That is hard too.” She looked at her watch. “Oh, it’s time for art therapy. Are you coming?” She didn’t wait for an answer and just took his arm and dragged him with her.
“What is that?” Noelle asked, looking over Noel’s drawing. “That is a picture of a wolf.” “Why is he wearing a suit?” “Well, he is a Mod.” She giggled. “A Mod wolf? Does he drive a scooter and listens to “The Who”?” “That is mandatory.” “Can I have this?” “I trade mine for yours.” Noelle had drawn a grey figure with a tailcoat and a kilt. “Okay.” They exchanged their paintings.
“Does it have a name?” “I call him Smooth. He is an anteater, but also a butler.” “I like the way you think.” She looked at him in disbelieve. “What, do I have paint on my face?” “You are the first person who said that about me.” “Most people are pretty ignorant when they meet unique thinkers.” Noelle smiled at him. She had a beautiful smile.
After art therapy, it was time for exercise. Noel tagged along, even though he never had any desire to do sports, apart from tennis or football. And he wouldn’t start now, just because he was locked up in a mental institution. Noelle had the same approach to things so they sat beside each other in the garden, watching the others do Pilates. Noelle took her mp3-Player out of her pocket and flipped through the song menu.
“Why did they let you keep your iPod anyway?” “I’m on a secure level. You’ve got to ask your therapist to level you up, then you can have it back.” “I could really use some music now.” She gave him one of her ear buds. “If you don’t mind my earwax, you can have a go at this.” “What are you listening to anyway?” “”The Who” mostly.” “Bring it on.” They were listening to “Who’s Next” through the whole exercise hour.
A few days later, Noel and Noelle were inseparable to the point where it annoyed the staff, especially Louis, the scruffy orderly. “Noelle, could you please come with me?” They both got up. “No, I mean the girly Noelle.” No movement from the two. “Alright, could the Noelle with two X chromosomes please follow me?” “See you later.” She said and followed Louis. Noel went to see his therapist Doctor Cruz.
“How are you doing, Mr. Fielding?” “Good. I think I’m better.” “Well, I have another impression.” She said, in a serious tone. “What do you mean?” “You’ve been quiet in group therapy, and you are not participating in any programmes besides art.” “I don’t really like exercise.” “That is not the point. Therapy is about sharing, stepping out of your comfort zone and addressing your issues.” “I tell you everything you want to know.” “No, you talk a lot but without revealing anything.” Noel was stunned. He really thought he was brutally honest with Doctor Cruz.
“There is another thing we need to discuss. Your involvement with Ms. Sorokina.” “Who?” “Noelle.” He felt stupid. He never asked for her surname. “What about it?” “You seem to be influenced by her behaviour.” Noel laughed. How could a 20 year old girl be a bad influence on a grown man? Well at least when he was not madly in love with her like that bloke from “Lolita”. He never read the book but saw the film, which was just awful.
“You should limit your contact with her.” “I don’t think that would help me. I like spending time with Noelle.” “Do you have any romantic feelings towards Ms. Sorokina?” “What? No! I just like her. Why does it always have to be sexual when a man and a woman are friends?” He always preferred the company of women to men. Except for Julian, Dave and Sergio he only had girls as mates. “Mr. Fielding, I don’t think your therapy will succeed if you keep up your friendship with her.”
Noel sat on his bed and listened to some of the old crimps he and Julian made up. Louis was kind enough to return his iPod to him. He wasn’t such an arsehole after all and even admitted that his kids were fans of the Boosh. Of course he couldn’t tell them that he was on his ward. When Noel suggested to Louis that he could just sign a piece of paper for them he shook his head. “They are not idiots. When I come home with it, they’ll know where I got it from. But thanks anyway.” There was a knock on the door.
“Yes?” It was Noelle. “Hey.” She said, pushing the door wide open. She just stood in the doorway, awkwardly. “You can come in if you like.” “Nope, regulations. When two patients have genitals that can fit into each other the door has to remain open and the talking has to be done like this.” “Really? Those are the rules?” “If you get off drugs, you need to ease the withdrawal symptoms. Sex is a great way to do that.” “Speaking from experience?” “That is not my first stint in this institution. It is actually my fifth.” She sounded sad and Noel wanted to hug her. But he was sure this was also against regulations. “Well I can’t talk like this, let’s go outside.” They sat in the garden together talking about everything and nothing.
“They don’t think I should be with you anymore.” Noelle mentioned. “I know. Doctor Cruz told me.” “She is a cunt. Was my therapist when I got here the first time. She is into celebrities.” “What do you mean?” “Well she only treats famous people or in my case relatives of famous people.” “Your parents are famous?” “Well, they are loaded. Russian oligarchs.” “You are kidding me?” “Nope. Ever heard of Alexej Sorokin?” “That bloke who owns 50 percent of Topshop?” “Most guys know him from owning half of the British football league. But yeah, that’s him.” “You are definitely shitting me.” “No, I’m serious. Here look.” She took out her iPod and opened the picture folder. “See this is him with me, my mum and my sisters.” There was a family resemblance, he could see it. “Okay, I believe you.” “Well good for me. What I don’t know is why she wants to be your therapist.” “Can you go online with your iPod?” “Sure.” “Go on youtube. Type in “The Legend of old Gregg”.”
Noelle was laughing like crazy. “You really had no clue who I was, when you first talked to me, huh?” She shook her head, still shaking with laughter. “How on earth do you come up with those ideas?” “I don’t know. Me and Julian just think about stuff together and this comes out.” “Are you on Acid while writing?” “No, we tried it once, spent six hours looking at a spider. We didn’t go near the laptop.” “That Julian, is he your boyfriend?” “No, but there are many of our fans who write pretty disturbing stories about us, bumming.” “Bumming?” “Gay Sex.” “I can see where they got that idea from.” “Yeah, we didn’t really wanted to go into this direction but it always turns out quite homoerotic.” She laughed again and leaned her head against his shoulder.
“Hey YX Noel! You’ve got a call!” Billy, the daytime orderly yelled through the dining room. “Cheers Billy.” That was his new nickname now, at least among the staff.
“Yeah, Noel here?” “Well look who’s alive...” It was Julian. “Ju! I’m so glad you called, what is up?” “What is up?! For two weeks you are in there and no call! We were worried sick!” “That is not my fault, they took my phone! And this one here, can only receive calls.” “There is this new invention, called a pay phone.” He missed Julian, even more when he was berating him. “They also took my wallet and my keys and my hair products.” That should get him some sympathy from his friend. “So how’s the outlook then?” “It is flat, but I like a challenge. I use a lot of finishing gel…”
“The outlook on your therapy you berk!” Julian snickered. “I don’t really know. They tell me, I’m not opening up enough. But I talk all the time. They also don’t like the company I keep.” “Have you become friends with a serial killer or something?” “Don’t be silly, the stabby ones are all in Broadmoor.” “So who is this new friend then?” “Her name is Noelle.” “Noelle? Oh come on!” “What? You never met another Julian?” “Alright, I’m sorry. Listen, can I visit you there? I really want to see you.” “I would like that. Why don’t you just come by at visiting hour next Thursday? Four till eight.” “Sounds good. Shall I bring something with me?” “Yeah! Finishing gel! And flying saucers! Oh and strawberry shoe laces!” “And maybe a calling card?” Julian suggested. “Yeah. I should really call Mike.” “You should. See you on Thursday. Bye.” “Bye Ju.”
When he returned to the table Noelle was already sitting there, obviously back from her session with doctor Cline. Her face was almost expressionless but he could see from her glassy eyes that she had been crying. Before he could ask her what happened she said “Well you seem happy.” “Julian is coming for a visit.” “Is he?” She looked unconvinced. “What?” “Well don’t get your hopes up. People say they’ll visit and they never show up.” She just walked away, leaving him puzzled.
Louis was giving out the evening medication, when Noel approached him.
“Hey Louis.” “What’s up?” “Can I talk to you for a minute?” “I’m busy.” “Well when you're finished then.” “Yeah, wait over there.” After the last patient received their night time meds, Louis sat beside Noel on the bench next to the counter. “What do you want to talk about?” “Noelle.” “Oh dear. Come on, I need a smoke.” They walked out into the smoking room outside the hospital. “What is up with her?” Louis lit up a cigarette and looked onto the ground. “That was what I wanted to ask you. I mentioned that my mate is visiting me and she just walked away.” “What?” The orderly looked worried. “Have you seen her since?” “No.” “Shit! Shit!” He ran back into the hospital and Noel followed him.
“Nicole, have you seen Noelle?” “No, why?” “Fuck. We have to find her.” “Is something wrong?” “I don’t hope so.” They made their way to her room, still accompanied by Noel.
“Noelle, are you in here? Noelle, I’m coming in!” The door was jammed. Louis leaned in and pushed it open. Something broke on the other side of the door. “Noelle! Answer me!” Louis screamed into the room. They entered and turned on the lights. The girl was lying on the floor, in her own blood. Nicole approached her, pressing her hand against the deep cut on Noelle’s throat. Louis pressed the emergency button and screaming for the doctor. Noel didn’t move. He was just standing in the doorway watching his friend.