There were thirty-eight patients on the bus the morning I left for Hanover , most of them disturbed and hallucinating .
An interne , a nurse and two attendants were in charge of us .
I felt lonely and depressed as I stared out the bus window at Chicago's grim , dirty West Side .
It seemed incredible , as I listened to the monotonous drone of voices and smelled the fetid odors coming from the patients , that technically I was a ward of the state of Illinois , going to a hospital for the mentally ill .
I suddenly thought of Mary Jane Brennan , the way her pretty eyes could flash with anger , her quiet competence , the gentleness and sweetness that lay just beneath the surface of her defenses .
We had become good friends during my stay at Cook County Hospital .
I had told her enough about myself to offset somewhat the damaging stories that had appeared in local newspapers after my little adventure in Marshall Field & Co. .
She knew that I lived at a good address on the Gold Coast , that I had once been a medical student and was thinking of returning to the university to finish my medical studies .
She knew also that I was unmarried and without a single known relative .
She wasn't quite sure that I felt enough remorse about my drinking , or that I would not return to it once I was out and on my own again .
This had worried her .
`` I read those newspaper stories about you '' , she had said .
`` You must have loved that girl very much , but you couldn't have meant it when you said that you wanted to kill her '' .
`` Why do you say that '' ? ?
I asked .
`` I was full of booze and , well , a drunk is apt to do anything he says he'll do '' .
Nonsense ! !
I grew up in an Irish neighborhood on Chicago's West Side .
Don't tell me about drunks .
You're not the kind to go violent .
Were you in love with that girl '' ? ?
`` Would it make any difference to you if I were , Mary Jane '' ? ?
She met my eyes , suddenly angry .
`` I wouldn't have gone into nursing if I didn't care about people .
I'm interested in every patient I've helped take care of .
When I think of people like you , well , I '' --
`` You what , Mary Jane '' ? ?
`` You are young , intelligent , have a whole lifetime before you to make something worth while of yourself , but you mess it up with whiskey , indifference , self-destructive attitudes .
I don't blame that girl for breaking her engagement with you .
Was she pretty '' ? ?
`` Oh , yes '' , I said , feeling annoyed , `` she was very pretty .
You don't believe that I'm going back to medical school and finish , do you '' ? ?
`` Why should I ? ?
I've worked this ward for three months now .
We keep getting the same ones back again and again .
They all mean well , have great promises to make when they are about to go home , but drinking is their sickness .
You've not seemed like them , but maybe you are .
You've treated your stay here like a big joke .
It's not a joke to be sent to a place like this or to Hanover .
I wanted to go to college , too '' --
`` Why didn't you '' ? ?
I asked .
`` Chicago has some of the best '' --
Her eyes flashed angrily .
`` That's what I mean about you , Anderson '' , she said .
`` You don't seem to know much about reality .
I'll tell you why I didn't go to college ; ;
I'm the oldest of six children .
My father's a policeman and makes less than seven thousand dollars a year .
There was no money for tuition , for clothes , for all the things you apparently take for granted .
Nurses' training here doesn't cost anything .
They even pay me six dollars a month .
I think it's a good deal .
I'm going to become a good nurse , and I've got two baby brothers that are going to have college if I have to work at my profession until I'm an old maid to give it to them '' .
`` Do you have a boy friend '' ? ?
I asked .
`` That's none of your business '' , she said , then changed the subject .
`` What about your father and mother , don't you think of them when you're in a place like this '' ? ?
`` My father and mother died when I was two years old '' , I said .
`` My aunt raised me .
Aunt Mary died when I was doing my military service .
I have no one but myself to worry about '' .
Something in my voice must have touched her deeply because her anger passed quickly , and she turned away to keep me from seeing her face .
`` I'm sorry '' , she said .
`` I don't know what I'd do without my family .
We've always been so close '' .
`` Tell me more about them '' .
Her eyes became bright as she talked about her father and mother , aunts and uncles , cousins .
Listening , I felt cheated and lonely as only an orphan can .
When she had finished I said :
`` Your dad sounds like a good father and a good policeman .
I'll bet he wouldn't be pleased if a rumdum like me were to ask his daughter for a date -- I mean , after I'm out of the hospital , a month or so from now '' .
`` My father is a sergeant of detectives and has been attached to Homicide for five years .
He's a pretty good judge of character , Anderson .
I don't think he'd mind too much if he were sure you'd decided not to be a rumdum in the future '' .
`` What about you ? ?
How would you feel about it if I were to ask you for a date when I get through at Hanover '' ? ?
`` If I thought you were serious about going back to school , that you'd learned something from your experiences here and at Hanover -- well , I might consider such an offer .
What about your that girl you were going to kill '' ? ?
It suddenly seemed very important to me that Mary Jane Brennan should know the truth about me -- that I was not the confused , sick , irresponsible person she believed me to be .
`` There are things about me that I can't tell you now , Mary Jane '' , I said , `` but if you'll go out to dinner with me when I get out of Hanover , I'd like to tell you the whole story .
I can say this : I'm dead serious about going back to school .
As for that other girl , let's just say that I never want to see her again .
You will get to come home on long weekends from Hanover , won't you '' ? ?
`` Yes , I'll get one overnight a month '' .
`` We'll go up to the Edgewater Beach Hotel for dinner '' , I said .
`` Do you like to dance ? ?
They always have a good orchestra '' .
`` I like to dance '' , she said , then turned and walked away .
There hadn't been anything really personal in her interest in me .
I knew that .
It was just that she felt deeply about every patient on the ward and wanted to believe that they might benefit from their treatment there .
Now , riding this hospital bus , feeling isolated and utterly alone , I knew that she was genuine and unique , quite unlike any girl I had known before .
It seemed the most important thing in my life at this moment that she should know the real truth about me .
It was a fantastic story .
Only two people in the state of Illinois knew that I was entering Hanover State Hospital under an assumed name , or why .
It was unlikely that any girl as sharp as Mary Jane Brennan would believe it without proof .
But I had the proof , all documented in a legal agreement which I would show her the moment I was free to do so .
As the bus turned into the main highway and headed toward Hanover I settled back in my seat and closed my eyes , thinking over the events of the past two weeks , trying to put the pieces in order .
I wondered suddenly as I listened to the disconnected jabberings coming from the patient behind me , if I had not perhaps imagined it all .
Perhaps this was reality and Dale Nelson , the actor , was delusion ; ;
a figment of Carl Anderson's imagination .
I had come to Chicago from New York early in September with a dramatic production called Ask Tony .
It was a bad play , real grade-A turkey , which only a prevalence of angels with grandiose dreams of capital gain and tax money to burn could have put into rehearsal .
No one , not even the producer , had any real hope of getting it back to Broadway .
But because it was a suspense gangster story of the Capone era , many of us felt that it might catch on for a run in Chicago , continue as a road company , and eventually become a movie .
Such optimism was completely unjustified .
The critics literally screamed their indignation .
Ask Tony was doomed from the moment Kupcinet leveled on it in his Sun-Times column .
We opened on Friday and closed the following Monday .
Out of the entire cast I alone received good notices for my portrayal of a psychopathic killer .
This let me in for a lot of kidding from the rest of the company , two members of which were native Chicagoans .
We were paid off Tuesday morning and given tickets back to New York .
I felt lonely and depressed as I packed my bags at the Croydon Hotel .
It seemed to me that my life was destined to be one brilliant failure after another .
I had been among the top third in my class at N.Y.U. , had wanted desperately to go to medical school , but I'd run out of money and energy at the same time .
Then later I had quit my safe , secure five-a-week spot on a network soap opera to take a part in this play .
It seemed to me that I was not only unlucky but quite stupid as well .
I knew that I'd soon be back working as an orderly at the hospital or as a counterman at Union News or Schraffts while waiting for another acting job to open .
It suddenly occurred to me that I did not particularly like acting , that I was at some sort of crossroads and would have to decide soon what I was going to do with my life .
I closed the last bag and stood all three at the door for the bellboy to pick up , then went to the bathroom for a drink of water .
The telephone rang .
When I answered it a voice too dignified and British to be real said , `` Is this Mr. Dale Nelson , the actor '' ? ?
`` All right '' , I said .
`` Why don't you bastards lay off for a while '' ? ?
`` I beg your pardon , sir '' ? ?
`` All right .
This is Dale Nelson the actor '' .
`` Good .
I'm calling you , Mr. Nelson , at the request of Mr. Phillip Wycoff .
Could you possibly have lunch with him today ? ?
His car could pick you up at your hotel at twelve '' .
I smiled .
`` You'll send the Rolls-Royce , of course '' ? ?
`` Yes , of course , Mr. Nelson '' .
I started to say something else appropriate , but the man had hung up .
I finally went downstairs to the bar off the main lobby where most of the cast were drowning their sorrows over the untimely passing of Ask Tony .
They all bowed low as I approached them .
`` All right , you bastards '' , I said , `` the great actor is about to buy a drink '' .
I laid a tenspot on the bar and motioned to the bartender to serve a round .
He had just returned my change when the doorman came in off the street to page me .
I walked over to him .
`` You Mr. Nelson '' ? ?
He asked .
`` That's right '' .
`` Mr. Wycoff's car is waiting for you at the east entrance '' .
I followed him out through the lobby to the street .
An ancient Rolls-Royce , as shiningly impressive as the day it came off the ship , was parked at the curb .
The elderly chauffeur , immaculate in a dark uniform , stood stiffly at attention holding open the door of the town car .