July 25th, 2024


I have no name

Paul Greenberg

By Paul Greenberg

Published Dec. 27, 2017

I have no name

News report: First responders are worried an increasing number of psychiatric calls in Northwest Arkansas will tax emergency resources. "We're all like: 'What are we going to do?' " said Jim Vaughan, division chief at the Springdale Fire Department. "It's become the biggest change recognized (among emergency departments) in the last five years." Agencies are handling more low-risk psychiatric calls, which often are threats of self-harm or suicide and family members calling 911 because they are worried loved ones are going to hurt themselves. ... Rogers paramedics and emergency medical technicians will likely respond to 700 such calls by the end of this year, Fire Chief Tom Jenkins said. That's up from about 545 such calls last year, and 134 in 2009. --Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Page 1B, Dec. 18, 2017

Yes, sir, if you say so. Our little state, you say, has the 10th highest suicide rate in the country. I really wouldn't know. Haven't kept up with the news or anything else since I can remember when. The news is always the same to me anyway. Like everything else, it doesn't matter. Yes, it used to, I think. But I'm not sure you'd recognize what I do as thinking. Everything is so cloudy where I am, man. Or burning hot. Or freezing cold. I can't tell the difference any more -- if there is a difference. Yes, sir, I would be glad to answer your question any way I can, but what's that mean? I can't remember. And to be honest with you, and I'm honest with everybody, even the thugs who beat me up and take whatever they want out of my shopping cart, or maybe the whole cart itself. I can't even be sure any more if I'm the one who's being robbed or doing the robbing. And if you did tell me, I'm not sure I'd remember. I'm not sure of anything anymore. And that includes the name you just said was mine. I can't remember. Did I ever have a name, or was it just one I made up? And how would you or anyone else know?

I just want the pain to stop, that's all. For that matter, I'd like everything to stop. For the screen behind my eyelids just to go blank. Like a television set going dark or maybe all white. Makes no matter to me so long as I and it go away. They say there's a God somewhere, but if so, why has He forsaken me to this life that's no different from death? Or is God Himself as alone as I am? You tell me, man, you got all the answers and I don't even have the questions. Not anymore. I just want to get away from this crowded world, so far away I won't miss it or be missed. I'm supposed to call a hotline if I'm in trouble, but I can't seem to remember the number any more than I can my name. Did I ever have one?

The firefighters, the cops, the paramedics, I love 'em all. Call 'em and they'll come running. Except I can't remember their number any more than the name I used to have. It does come back to me in flashes during my daymares but somehow that makes it worse. I've been kicked to the side of the road so many times I can't tell whether I'm on the road or deep in the ditch. I love ya, man. But fat lot of good that does you or me, y'know what I mean? Sure, you're all good folks; but what good can you or anybody else do me? Take me to the emergency room yet another time? Only to be released yet again and start the whole living hell all over again? Can you spare a few bucks for another pack of cigarettes, or maybe something with a more narcotic effect?

By now I can't even remember all the things I want to forget. I mean no harm, but then again I don't seem to mean any good, either. You tell me, fella, what's the good -- or the bad -- of it all anyway? I give you people a false name only because I'm not sure I have a real one. I know I've got a lot of friends out there, or maybe they're enemies who'll take what little I've got, including a name I no longer have. Just call me whatever you like. I'll settle for it. What choice do I have in my so-called life? You tell me, friend. Once I had friends and family, a name and an address, but I'm not even sure of that, not any more.

My name? You people keep asking me that. OK, I'll tell you. My name is Legion. Just look around and I'll be there if you bother to look.

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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.