Time is like a millipede in this place; each leg a moment swinging as the tiny series of shell sectionals bend across a vast terrain that from the point of its myopic antenna is both infinite and nondescript.

Except for the code oranges…

Maybe on the fourth day of my own stay, Malieke was there in our room. He was standing by the windows and broke out in song. He had quite a nice voice. He sang a few bars and then to my shock turned to me and said, “Do you know that song?”

“No. It’s nice though.”

“You don’t know that song?”

“Nope. Sorry.”

“It’s an old one.”

He turned back to the window and I figured we were done. But then he started rapping—just for a few minutes. It was like that thing he kept mumbling to himself over and over, came out. It seemed like relief.

I said, “Is that yours?”


Again, he looked out the windows. He started rubbing his head like usual. He walked away from the windows towards the door and stopped in front of our trash can—which he did not use. He turned to me, lying on my bed, “Do you know how old I am?”

“No,” I replied. And that was an honest assessment. Put him in a business suit instead of pajamas and I still wouldn’t have known.

“I’m forty-one.”

“Guess what?”


“I’m forty-six!”

He smiled. We both chuckled. “We look young.” He said with the comforting smooth voice of a jazz musician being an MC.

“Well, Thanks.”

“We got the gray but we look young.”

Melieke was slightly shorter than me but might not be if he didn’t hunch over so much. He would hold his left hand on the back of his head and rub it back and forth to his forehead over and over again while he emitted this grumbling sing-song rap. It had a wandering melody to it; it was gravelly too though. I could never understand any of it. We spent hours and hours together in that sparse white room and I could never understand him. When he spoke, it was a miracle.

I’d catch a piece now and then. It seemed to me like he was repeating some oral history to himself. I could hear refrains some times. And now and then it would crescendo from a low mumble to a full-voiced, even shouting moment. “I said I don’t care if she says it ain’t got that what don’t need no dolla’ for!” Then he would drop out again, mumble-singing.

Now and then you’d hear something like “stab a bitch” but other than that first night with him I was never worried about my safety. If anything, I was worried about him. After seeing him eat out of the trash can in our room for the first time I could sense that some tragedy had occurred. Eating out of the trash takes a certain amount of will—though I will tell you, I have made the calculations, I suppose. Getting through life can be difficult.

I’m thankful for Melieke. My first night in the asylum was terrifying. They poked me, prodded me, gave me drugs I didn’t want and then put me in a dark room with a man who was screaming at the top of his lungs. Melieke mumbled at night. Now and then he shouted. Did I? I don’t think I did. But then, there was no one ever of a mind to tell me if I did.