Christopher is in a place where the vaguely recognized faces of undergraduates dress in scrubs and open doors that allow me to the other side. Apparently he was in a bad way one morning, riding with dad, on empty and worried that his nausea meant he could be in real trouble. They went to the emergency room and he was involuntarily admitted after some troublesome conversation.
Caught out of his room. What a terrible way to emerge.
Dry-erase boards read all kinds of stupid shit like: tend to your gardening. Read. Go for a walk. Play a game. His roommate sleeps in the “quiet room” for unknown reasons and one young man on the floor is always at real, live war. For several days my brother had to live in this environment with no word on why they felt he needed to stay or what kind of process he’d be put through.
The only thing he had was the yellow paper folded in his pocket for every day of the week. 7 a.m. therapy. 12 o clock lunch and meds. More therapy. Visiting hours. Dinner and therapy. Movie choice. So many questions and the horrible feeling that no one would receive his inquiries.
One doctor brought in a diagnosis and read it out loud in front of us.
“Okay, well, it rules out schizophrenia entirely: psychosis NOS”.
Chris turns 90 degrees towards me and says in a low, calm tone, “Did that guy just call me psychotic?”
The things I had to say about his living conditions, learned behavior and other probable causes for any angry outbreaks made a few eyes widen behind their clipboard. A pen started scribbling as I humiliated myself with a blunt summary of my twenty years living
with him and the half-wolves who tried to raise us.
Now they’re thinking that he isn’t so crazy and they’re asking if he can move in with me. Now it’s my fault for not being able to house him and I have to insist on group therapy and whatever social program that might be able to help my brother with the few, simple things that overwhelmed the both of us for half our lives. He hasn’t been able to get through and recover the way that I have – he just couldn’t take it.
We ate dinner at home without him, Brad taking his seat. Pointed ears visible to a keen eye, my mom put a hand through her hair and passed the green bean casserole. Dad, furriest of all and with large, dull fangs, sat there with us for the first time in a year and found ways to make little, offensive comments as though they were part of decent conversation.
“I don’t like green beans.”
“I don’t either, but I like them in this. This is good.”
“You could put peas in it, that’d be good. I don’t know why your mother didn’t.”
“It’s fine the way it is!”
“I really thought she would have.”
There was a glimmer of hope when Chris was released a few days later with an understanding that his condition was mostly environmental. Maybe they’d all seek therapy, take hard looks at themselves and try to make things better. I called the day after he was sprung just to say “hi” but Mom answered the phone.
“Chris is back in the hospital.”
The night he got out I had driven up there to drop off my friend Julie. He custom-ordered us some pizza but we could only stay a few hours. He was talking about wondering if we would take him to buy a PS2 and we just chuckled, dismissing his spontaneous attitude of the moment so late at night.
Apparently, after we left he took off with low-life Mitch who allowed him to drink until he was sick. Chris woke Mom up in the early morning hours, naked and yelling that he believed he was dying between vomits.
Mom yelled at him and went back to sleep. Sound asleep. She heard a man’s voice call and a light flash down the stairs, saying he was the sheriff and that her son had called 911 saying he was dying and that no one was home. Ambulance lights, a $400 house call that insurance doesn’t cover, flashed outside.
All I can think is that if I had paid him more attention, split my finances one more way and brought him down to entertain he might not have made those poor decisions.
But I’ve remained exhausted from the holiday panic, run down so far that I’ve had to fight an impressive head cold while diving into one of the busiest weeks in a long time – so I told Chris I’d see him soon. And look how that turned out.
He’s right back where he was only this time he’s being given oxygen and is hooked to an I.V.
One of the real kickers is that while Julie and I waited in the pre-stress unit room (as the minutes ticked closer to visiting hours), toward the end of Chris’ stay – Mitch walked through the elevators in front of us and proceeded, emotionless at the sight of me, to approach the phone and be allowed through the doors. The drug dealer got there first, signed in first. It really upset me and yet I said nothing, circling his name on the sign-in sheet and writing “drug runner” under his association field.
All of the severity had vanished from Chris’ face with Mitch by his side and it was hard to get a serious word in edgewise. I wanted to order him gone, screaming it at the top of my lungs, perhaps being admitted myself.
Mitch fell onto Chris’ bed, the only place there was to sit, and stretched out.
“I should really stay here. Square meals, TV, crazy people to entertain you, shit, yes!”
“Do you have the kind of money for that?” I asked, looking at the outfit he seems to wear every time I see him.
“Oh, yeah. Oh yeah.” And then the fucker winked at me, “You know my profession.”