My ears are starved, my heart and mind quiet. When I arrive at the class, there is a woman, the group leader, holding a black boom box, which must have been from the 90s. She has a slipcase book full of loose CDs and a stack in plastic cases, many cracked, the clear plastic now lined and milky. She’s passing them around the group, who are regarding them with a mixture of excitement and suspicion. The task at hand: to pick a CD, a song on it, that means something and play it. We’re going around in a circle – they choose songs that remind them of school, of kids they’ve lost, of kids they’re barely holding on to, of love they once had. As the songs play, each person leaves the green room, the circle, their place in it, and floats up, up and away, outside, up into the sky where they find their old memories, old lives waiting for them with open arms. With forgiveness. For a moment they’re not mad people sitting on plastic chairs in a circle with other mad people. They’re real, warm flesh-and-blood men and women with lives, with people who love them, who have once, many times, looked at them with recognition, with respect. Who don’t tell them when to eat, how to medicate themselves, don’t ask them to pare themselves open like a rotten fruit in front of strangers. They are safe, a different kind of safe. They are normal. Just like everyone else. It’s the most glorious three-and-a-half-minute escape from behind the wire and walls. And one that ends almost as it begins. The dying seconds of the song, the fadeouts that they know so well getting quieter and quieter until it’s over, the spell broken. Now, once again, they’re just a mad person sitting on a plastic chair in a circle with other mad people. They pass to the next person, and their minutes of magic begin now.