ladles on the backs of our heads

it was in a country called azerbaijan, which is not only tiny, but bordered by giants, or at least cuntrys big enough to deserve the name. we went there for a lot of reasons, but one of them was to visit an asylum, a place for the mental ill at ease to be interned. there were four wards that i remember. the women were separated from the men were separated from the children were separated from the criminally insane. the women told us that the doctors and nurses would steal the socks we had brought them, after we had left. some didnt wait that long, we saw a pair of doctors clutching pairs happily. they told us to come back soon.

some of the women told us that they werent crazy, that they had disobeyed their parents and had been sent here as a result. one of them says she refused to marry her parent’s choice husband. most had and would be there for years, decades.

the children were cute, but the only ones we saw were those in the TB ward, where they looked too thin and too the wrong shade. we didnt stay there long, one of the TB men began hugging us, clutching onto us. our guide hurried us out and we were glad for it.

the criminal asylum we were allowed to see, and i think the staff there were proud of it. there, men (all men) were treated like dogs. we were fortunate enough to see them fed. the exterior of the prison ward was nothing i remember, but inside they had meticulously recreated chateau d if, howling and haunting.

the dogs were dislodged from their cells by stout azeri jailers, who showed an affinity for their occupation i have yet to see matched. i wondered if they might be veterans of the asylum themselves, women who are brought in as prisoners and then gradually absorbed in the most taxing of activities. an army of abused and beaten, scorned by their mother society, recruited in hellish fashion to churn the dregs. they probably were just staff.

once all the men had been funneled like piranhas into the dining cell, illuminated by swinging balls of glass suspended from fraying strands of repo’d chord, they somehow produced a set of bowl and steel plate, one set per dog, magically replete with steel biscuit. the biscuits were themselves inedible, but once dissolved into the mealy soup the elder azeris were ladling out, the whole meal took on a porridge consistency. What would haunt us is the sound of the ladles, hitting the bottom of the bowls, depositing the soup, then immediately smacking the head of the attendant inmate. the azeri women walked down the tables isles, dip the ladle, fill the bowl, smack the inmate. walk down the isles, dip the ladle, fill the bowl, smack the inmate. a well oiled machine churning out grist.

Some Of This Story Has Been Taken With Liberty


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