Beginning in 1889, the Southwestern Insane Asylum thrived in San Antonio. The facility occupied 640 acres and could hold 500 patients.
Excerpt from The Last Bordello:
“Ticktock, ticktock, they’ll put you under key and lock,” she’d said. Lucinda had made good on her threat.
Too skinny from institution mush, my skin peeled off a layer at a time. Curled on top of a thin, lumpy mattress on a rusted bed frame, I traced the scratches on the wall made by another’s bloodied nails, the dark red stains proof of another’s determination to escape a world unworthy of its inhabitant.
Earlier, the attendant had pushed my forehead back and forced open my jaw. Unnecessary effort on his part. The medicinal haze thickened. I found myself calm but without spirit.
Strange how I felt erased, yet without the rubber remnants to remind me I once existed.
Any bits of green paint that had remained on the wall, I peeled off the first day. I didn’t know if I had been there three weeks or three months.
The cell remained still, inactive, and almost empty. A bucket to catch my excrement. The bed, fetid like the bucket; the whole place a shit hole.
A cockroach scurrying across the floor would have been a welcome sight. Or a black widow working tirelessly to create a fine net to catch its prey. I stared at my idle hands.
I wanted to float outside where flowers bloomed, where the great oaks of San Antonio provided shade from the sun. The rattle of trains and trolleys would have been welcome sounds over the never-ending cries and moans of despair.
Despair. “Do not cry. Do not cry,” I told myself. But tears came anyway. It didn’t matter. If they heard, they never came.
My eyes blurred as if I were drunk. I trembled like the women escorted to surgery before their reproductive parts were cut away and discarded like the contents of my shit bucket.
I heard the click of a door key. It wasn’t mealtime. They had already drugged me. What did they want? Confusion—as potent as a heaping spoonful of laudanum laced with arsenic.
The attendant in white stood firm, stoic. “Come with me.”