Nuthouse We’re all one shitty day away from the nuthouse, he says as he lifts the shimmering Coors Lite bottle to his lips, his hand just barely trembling. He’s been to rehab three times on his dad’s dime, and he’s finally learned to stick with beer now that his dad has been dead for two years. I think of the abandoned asylum out in Medical Lake where, once the psych ward shut down, a Westside university funded a breeding facility for monkeys. Scientists injected the animals with AIDS before testing experimental treatments and drugs. I think of my great grandmother who spent most of her adult life locked up in some brick building in the countryside for hysteria back in the early 1900s. She probably just had OCD, like I do. She was probably just a woman who got sad sometimes, or angry, or too fixated on one thing to care about brushing her hair or fixing lunch for her husband and the kids. Maybe she said something so unforgivable that people decided she was crazy—the truth is like that. I see her standing at the window, dark hair down to her waist, the same hazel eyes as my mother and the nose with a hump at the bridge, the upper lip a bit larger than the bottom. It didn’t matter that she was beautiful, or maybe it did. Maybe the orderlies pitied her more, touched her shoulders and back and arms more than they needed to, unafraid of her mind because her body, her body was something they understood.
-- Janelle Cordero is an interdisciplinary artist and educator living in Spokane, WA. Her writing has been published in dozens of literary journals, including Harpur Palate, Autofocus and North Dakota Quarterly, while her paintings have been featured in venues throughout the Pacific Northwest. Janelle is the author of four books of poetry, including Impossible Years (V.A. Press, 2022).