Oasis in Hell

Justin had taken so many steroids he had gynecomastia to the point of lactation. Milk was coming out of his man tits.

His head and eyebrows were shaved. He talked a lot about the algorithm, psychological warfare, hacking. He loved Norwegian black metal and binge watched macabre music videos on the TV in the living room. He spent most of his life in places like this.

Amanda (or Karen or whatever white girls name was) barricaded my black friend in the bathroom. She accused him of being an agent. She was so hostile and crazy you didn’t know if she was yelling at you or one of the voices in her head; these outbursts would happen incessantly, virtually all the time.

She would become possessed at the drop of a hat. Her trauma manifested as regression, projecting itself out as rage, but there also was a heavy undercurrent of entitlement. She dressed like a nine-year-old—hello kitty apparel, ubiquitous pink, backpacks and graphic shirts with rainbows, smiley faces, sunshine, unicorns—it was something out of a horror film.

A celebrity’s ex-wife got caught with five phones. She never stopped being surprised that this wasn’t the country club. She wasn’t satisfied with the private chef and complained of being served “jail food.”

She looked like misery and meth but once upon a time was beautiful. Drugs aged her rapidly and all but destroyed her mind. Every day was replete with complaints and punctuated by name drops. She lived in her own reality (show), her own delusion.

Phil was my best friend there. When he first came, he heard a voice telling him to burn the house down and consequently ran. He got as far as the gas station before he was sent back to the psych ward. He came back to the house a few days later, finally stabilized on meds.

We ate together, worked out together, went to groups together, even slept in the same room. I remember his last day there he ordered Taco Bell and Sno Balls for everyone. Phil was from Beverly Hills but didn’t name drop; he was devoid of entitlement. He was smart, kind, sensitive and funny.

One day he wrote a poem in group and it was so moving and powerful that I was surprised by how much of an effect it had on me; it came naturally to him but he didn’t think much of it. I always tried to tell him he was special. Don’t trip on her, you’re the prize, so on and so forth. It was hard to tell if I was ever getting through to him.

I wonder about this stuff a lot now and no matter how many times I told him how much value he had, I wish I would have said it more. If only I found the right words that would have finally resonated and catalyzed a different reality, but that didn’t happen. All I have is tainted memories, grey bubbles of regret.

Delusion breeds more delusion; obsession is a juggernaut. I continue to rack my brain for something I could have done that would have prevented my friend from killing himself, but I should know better than anyone—it’s a futile endeavor.

The month he committed suicide I got 5150’d and they kept me for ten days. I texted him when I got out. The last thing he ever said to me was: Jeez

What happened?

Shallow waters are ripe with prey.

The oasis is a mirage, a false harbinger of life.

Justin would never hurt anyone, he would make himself bleed.

Who always beat me in ping pong

Phil with the green BHCC hat, on the phone talking to his grandma

we’re walking through the Norton Simon; he’s making me a quesadilla

We’re both standing at the edge of a cliff

We’re at the movie theatre in the mall
The new top gun is playing
He’s asleep in the seat next to me

I never texted him back.

I never responded.

Everything else is minutiae
Deadly window dressing
A manufactured mirage.


Abraheem Dittu is a Pakistani-American writer and poet from Los Angeles suffering from mental illness. He’s been published in Cultural Weekly, The Squawk Back, The Song of the San Joaquin, Inscape Magazine, Blue Door Quarterly, Flypaper Magazine, Abstract Magazine TV, Ascent Aspirations, The Pointed Circle, Five 2 One Magazine, The Free Library of the Internet Void, Rigorous Magazine, Holy Shit Journal, Bluepepper, 7500 Magazine, and The Oxford Summer Academy Review.