After losing my job at Pizza Hut, everything started to list to the left. Next time I saw Bekah we talked about it.
“I lost my job.”
“How?” she said.
“I crawled on top of the salad bar like a puma and swiped and roared at the customers.” I said it just like that. With the lack of passion that you just read it with.
She looked at me and blinked. “What?”
“I crawled on top of the salad bar like a puma and swiped and roared at the customers.”
“What?” she said again. I just looked at her.
What I was hoping for, I did not know. Would she explain it to me? Would she laugh? Would she walk out, finally seeing how crazy I was? What exactly would you do if told this by the man or woman you were in love with?
“Do you want me to say it again?”
“Why would you do that?” she said. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Thought it would be funny.” Please, I was saying to her, please make sense of this for me. Please tell me I am not cracking right down the middle and pouring out into the world one big goop of insanity and mayhem. Give me something. I was begging her. Give me anything, any hope.
She took my hand and led me into my room. She closed the door behind me and sat me down. “There was this guy once who graduated college. His parents, his aunts and uncles, they all came to the graduation. Afterwards he was given a car by his parents as a graduation gift. They let him drive to the fanciest restaurant in town and they all walked in for the most expensive and richest meal in the city.
“He broke out into a run when he got in the restaurant. He jumped up on a table, leapt off of it and grabbed the chandelier, and he swung back and forth screaming in bliss and joy. This is a true story,” she said.
I started crying.
“This is what happened to you. It’s called a euphoric episode, and it is a symptom of bipolar. This is pretty extreme. Most bipolars never get to that stage. They never reach this level of mania. But that is what happened. This is not your fault. This is your disorder. You had no hand in this. It is an imbalance of chemicals in your brain. You need help.”
“I can’t afford doctors. I can’t afford meds,” I said. “Especially after yesterday. If Grease has anything to say about it, I will never work again.”
“I can get help from my mom,” Bekah said.
“Your family hates me. Your mom hates me. She will not move to help me,” I said. “She will let me burn.”
Bekah wrapped her arms around me. “You’re wrong. She doesn’t hate you. She was just upset at the break up. But we can get around that. I can call her right now.”
She grabbed the phone. She made the call. She told her mother what had happened, and on the other end of the line, silence. Nothing at all. Then a snap of some collection of words I could not hear.
“He needs help. You can make a call and get him a doctor. Can you call your contact?” Bekah said. “Please?”
More talking. It did not sound good at all. This woman was raging. She was yelling and gibbering, and Bekah looked dejected and beaten.
For about three minutes. Then something broke in Bekah. Some last bit of tolerance that she had in her system for her mom’s attitude about me.
“Mom, there is a man here in need of help badly. He is lost, and his mind is out of control. What I am asking you for is what I would ask for from you if any stranger was in this kind of trouble. But it is not some stranger, it is the man I love. So, ask yourself, would you do this for a stranger? Would Jesus ask this of you for a stranger? Because this is not a stranger. So, decide. Come up with an answer for yourself then get back to me.”
Bekah hung up.
She closed her eyes but did not cry. She had said she loved me, and it made me feel awkward. It made the entire room awkward.
See, we did love each other. We loved each other more than anything in the world. But we did not know how to anymore. What had been the easiest thing we had ever done when we first got together was now nearly impossible. When we had gotten together back in August of 1997, loving her was the first thing I did in the morning. It was the last thing I did at night. It was as simple as walking, as fulfilling as eating a meal. Loving her made breathing easier. It made thinking clearer. Loving Bekah was a defining thing. I could be anything to anyone, but I was love for this one person. Loving Bekah and her loving me was a thing I had taken for granted for so long.
I had told myself in tiny ways for the last year and a half that no matter how bad things got, I could always love Bekah. But now I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to touch her. Didn’t know how to make her ring. I used to be able to do that. I would touch her face, touch her hair, and her entire soul would ring like the chiming of a bell. Now that never happened. We had lost the ability to even hear the words “I love you” spoken by one of us. And we were scared of it.
We were both terrified that if we pushed the issue, if we spoke of loving the other, that something horrible would happen. In my mind, if I said to her that I loved her she might explode about Sapphire. If she said it to me, I might erupt about her parents calling me the corrupter. We were both so damn scared that any affection we showed for each other would spark an argument.
Try to imagine that. Loving a person so much but being terrified to show it because you were afraid they will yell at you, bring up bad things that happened in your past, or in her case, she feared I might just deny loving her back. We loved each other dearly, but were too scared to express it.
Think about that. Really take a minute and look at what that leaves you with. Where do you go from there? I know the answer. You go nowhere. You can’t go away, you love them too much. You can’t make it better, too much has happened. You can’t go up; you can’t go down. You are locked in place.
We were right back where we had been with Sapphire. In love but unable to make it all work. We could not put it all back together. I could never take a nap with her in public again. Could not dance with her ever again. I could not picnic in the floor with a bucket of chicken. But I couldn’t stand to be without her either. I was not done loving her. I had already proven that I couldn’t move on. She had proven the same.
So here we are. Desperately in love, with no way to express it. Sitting right beside each other on the bed with no way of holding one another. Unable to go back. Unable to go forward. So here we stayed.
She looked at me and apologized. I am to this day not sure if she was apologizing for her mother being unwilling to help me or for saying out loud that she loved me.
Her mother did call back. It took about twenty minutes. When she called back, she wanted to talk to me. She yelled at me for a while, about what, I do not know. She didn’t mention the break up. She didn’t mention my manic attack. She said nothing about her daughter or her own lack of love for me. But she did yell at me for about five minutes.
Then she told me what I was going to do if she helped me. She said I would let her down. She said I would mistreat her doctor. She said I would be disrespectful. Said I would not try to get better, and that I would waste everyone’s time. She told me in every way that I was a waste of her time, and her daughter’s time, without using those words.
Then she told me she had talked to her doctor in Columbia at the hospital she had been diagnosed at and had asked for a favor. She said she didn’t know why she was doing favors for me but she had done it. She told me to be at the hospital in Columbia at six in the morning in two days. She said if I was a second late, she would never talk to me again and no one in her family would ever have anything to do with me again. Then she said, “Try not to embarrass me.”
That was the first time I was admitted to a psych ward. I packed a bag. Clothing. Toiletries that I knew they would take away from me. I packed a knife I knew they would not let me have, but I would have felt unsafe in a building without a knife in it. Whether they had taken it from me and locked it away or not, I would know it was in the building.
They put gloves on and asked if they were going to get poked with needles if they reached into my hair. They checked my hair. They stripped me down to nothing and looked at every inch of my body to make sure I wasn’t sneaking in drugs. I am pretty convinced that after hearing about the puma, Hymnal thought I was using drugs. They examined every stitch of clothing I had brought with me and they handed me back a set of clothing.
I had to sign a few papers. Basically, telling them I would stay until they said otherwise. I signed a consent for them to treat me. And an agreement to take any medications they prescribed. They read me a lot of rules. They told me what they were going to do. Then they told me again. Then they sent me to my doctor.
I have always trusted doctors and treated them with respect. It was not hard to do the same with this one. She was friendly, she was kind, and she knew her shit. She talked with me for about an hour the first time, then she prescribed me medications based on what I had told her.
The first thing she did was give me a heavy sedative to put me to sleep. With this medication in my system I slept for about eighteen hours. I found out when I asked later that I had admitted to sleeping two hours in the week prior.
I remember waking up and it being night time. The room around me was silent. One of the rules was that I was not allowed to disturb anyone who was asleep, or anyone at all in any situation, really. Well, I grabbed my book and I walked out into the commons area.
We had little rooms with one roommate, then there were rooms where we did our classes and therapy sessions, then there was this one big room where we all sat to play games and hang out, to eat and to get our vitals checked every three hours.
That first night I read Conan and got a little relief from him. He was powerful and stubborn and creative, and when the book described him as a pacing, hunting cat, I burst out laughing. The laugh was a bark. It was high and it did not sound sane at all. The staff ran to me. They had two big guys flank me instantly and two nurses approach me, when they asked why I had made the sound.
I looked up at them and said, “I’m a puma.” Then I broke down into sobs. It was a moment of pure lunacy. A moment when the crazy person sees their insanity and they laugh at the helplessness they feel at that moment.
The big guys stood close for a while until they were shooed away by the oldest nurse. Then one nurse sat across from me while the other sat beside me. The one across from me held my hand. The one beside me spoke soothing words.
I remember calling Bekah. I remember that I woke her up because it was four in the morning.
I told her I loved her. I’m not sure she believed me, but she didn’t yell at me.
I called it a win.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 2: Normal Street.