“Mister Robertson shrieked like a wounded bird until he couldn’t make a sound, sobbed like a child, threw himself on the rapidly cooling body, filled with welling regret, clutching, rubbing his face against Uncle Peter’s stiff hands. The phone rang in his Uncle’s living room but he didn’t hear it. The fists banged on the door, he didn’t notice.”
Dr. Spritely spoke to the circled group of patients, his hands clasped and brow furrowed. After years of tedious and uninspiring work at the poorly run State Mental Hospital, his voice only wavered when he spoke about this patient, his pet project, George Robertson.
“The hands were pulling him away before he realized he was being touched and grabbed a lamp, swinging, hoarse but screaming.”
Dr. Spritely rose to his feet for emphasis.
“He screamed, “Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me! Don’t touch him! Don’t touch him!””
Walking the circle, Spritely was a combination of preacher, teacher, and cheerleader. The excitement in his voice filled the room with something not often felt in places like these, joy. The Compulsives stopped picking scabs, The Schizos ceased their muttering, even the Catatonics seemed vaguely moved.
“It was a rubber bullet that brought him down and led to the discovery of the letter which led Mister Robertson to his new home, the reason for his fear, and the beginnings of his victory over it. You all know this about him, you’ve been learning about him in group for months. We’re here today in the day room together to celebrate Mister Robertson.”
“Since he’s been here he has come to understand the origin of his fear. He has recovered the memory, on his own, that his Uncle spoke of in the letter. He remembers now, waking up in the arms of his stiff mother, unable to get away, dead by her own sad hand. He forgives her. He knows she never meant to hurt him. She was sick, like he is. But he has made a different choice.”
He stood behind the seated George Robertson, a small and slump-shouldered man with rapidly blinking eyes.
“Today Mister Robertson will be touched, for the first time since they brought him here, sedated and afraid. Even more importantly, today Mister Robertson will be touched willingly for the first time in his conscious life. He’ll be touched by all of you, imperfect people helping each other to overcome fears and angers and embrace your unique selves!”
Miser Robertson rose, as if he and Spritely had rehearsed this moment. At first he stood cautiously, hands clasped at his stomach, shoulders drawn toward chin, teeth clenched. Dr. Spritely waited as he took three deep and shuddering breaths. First Robertson let his hands drop to his sides, relaxing muscle by muscle. Next he opened his eyes wide and looked at the people in the circle, broken people, his people. Finally he raised his arms in the universal gesture of a hug.
Spritely sprang into action, calling the patients forward.
“Gather round, Stage One Patients first please. Remember these are loving touches. Carl, don’t you bite him!”
Mister Robertson was crying, eyes closed softly, his mouth open in a childlike smile.
“Yes, Mister Robertson, yes! Yes! Smile, Mister Robertson! It feels good, doesn’t it? The hands are showing you love. There’s no hurting here.”
The good Dr. Spritely took a moment while his patients were occupied to wipe the strands of hair back from his damp brow, and slyly adjust his erection. Touch Therapy: 1:15pm to 2:00pm, was his favorite 45 minute scheduled block of every Wednesday.