Sunday, October 28, 2007

Chapter 4 ~ Window

Photo by
Brendon Stuart

A week after the homelessness argument, I got a call from Eddy around 2 in the afternoon.

“Hi Mom”

“Eddy, Hi!” I gushed, relieved he wasn’t still angry, glad he’d made the effort to call. “How are you doing?”

“I’m okay,” he stretched out his words, a sly smile in his voice. “But I need you to come pick me up.”

“Come pick you up? Why, honey? Where are you? What’s going on?”

“I’m up here at CSM and there’s all kind of shit going on,” he started to laugh. “There’s broken glass everywhere and policemen and an ambulance they want me to get in, but I don’t want to get in it. I’d feel much more comfortable going home with you.”

“Omigod—an ambulance?” My heart immediately began to race. “What’s happened? Are you all right?”

“I’m fine, Mom. Nothing much has really happened. I just have this cut on my hand. It was bleeding a lot, I guess, but they bandaged it up and now I want to go home.”

“Why is there glass everywhere? And policemen? Are you in trouble? What did you do? Why don’t you want to get in the ambulance?”

“Look, we’ll talk about all this when you get here, O.K.?”

“O.K. Yes, O.K.” I was pivoting on one foot, looking around the room for help, eager to rush out the door but held back by a need for more information, like a car with both its accelerator and its brake pedal pressed. “Where are you, exactly? By the bus stop? How can I find you?”

“Wait a minute, Mom,” he redirected my attention. “This lady wants to talk to you.” He handed the phone to someone I imagined was wearing a white dress and a nurse’s cap with a red cross on it.

“Hello, Mrs. Thibedeaux?” No one ever called me that unless a child of mine was in trouble. My name is Jo Kasten. I kept my maiden name. “This is Mrs. Malatesta. I’m a nurse here on campus. Edward has a very serious laceration on his hand and definitely needs to go to the hospital to have it stitched up. For some reason, he doesn’t want to get in the ambulance. But if you are coming to get him, I just want to make sure you understand that this isn’t something he can nurse at home. He needs immediate medical attention.”

“O.K. No problem,” I responded crisply. My head was beginning to clear. “We’ll take him right to the hospital. Can you tell me where you are located on the campus right now? It will take about 15 minutes to get there. Will he be all right until then?”

“He seems to be fine at the moment. He just doesn’t want to let us give him the attention he needs. Let me put Officer Colchis on the phone to give you directions.”

I felt a wave of dizziness as another person—a man this time—got on the phone. “O.K. Mrs. Thibedeaux. Let’s see if we can get you oriented. You know the administration buildings on your left as you curve around to the west side of the campus after coming in the main entrance?”

“Not really.”

“You’ll see them…”

I didn’t understand the directions he gave, but I copied them down anyway. I couldn’t bear interrupting him to ask a question, or lingering another minute on the phone. I took his cell phone number in case I got lost on the way and hung up as quickly as I could.

Jason was standing nearby, reminding me of something. I was angry at him, and embarrassed, and ashamed. Had it really been only two months since I’d propositioned him in his car? We’d been sitting in a parking lot out by the airport, watching the planes take off. “Why don’t you kiss me, Jason?” I’d just barely managed to ask, gathering all the sexual energy that had been careening around the interior of his vehicle over the past two years and compressing it between my two lips. He hadn’t turned to look.

“I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” he told the windshield. “I don’t think Lawrence would like it.” And then, after two years of coming over every week, playing the cello for me, taking me to the symphony, conducting long conversations over the kitchen table, luring me to ultimate Frisbee games, beating me (and occasionally losing to me) at chess, emailing me original poetry and amusing me online with pithy comments over instant messenger, the 28-year-brainiac had abruptly halted our relationship. I’d only seen him once since then, when Eddy brought Jason home for a visit, and Jason brought along a fat, mute, blonde, teenage girlfriend. He only happened to be on hand today because he was buying our old Toyota for his brother.

“What’s going on?” he asked now. His body was familiar—big head, broad chest, short legs and long torso like an overgrown dwarf—but his attitude was not. He was cool, uninvolved.

“I don’t know. Eddy’s up at the college with some kind of injury and he won’t get into the ambulance. He wants me to come get him. You should come with me.” My plea came out in a rush.

Lawrence walked into the living room from the kitchen. I had the directions written out on a scrap of binder paper which I was waving around in my hand. “Eddy’s in some kind of trouble up at the campus,” I told him frantically. “He wants me to pick him up, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to find him with these directions.”

“Let me see,” Lawrence snatched the paper out of my hand and looked at it critically. “You want me to drive?”

“Yes! Come on! Let’s go!”

The three of us hurried into the car with barely controlled anxiety. Lawrence drove, I sat in the passenger seat, and Jason sat in back, his big head obliterating half of the rear window.

Conversation was minimal. Lawrence drove quickly and efficiently. “I’m pretty sure Eddy’s O.K.,” I said without conviction. “He sounded O.K. on the phone.” My voice trailed.

Once on campus, Lawrence had no trouble following the directions and was the first to spot the ambulance, tucked away, down a steep driveway, behind a grove of tall redwoods, much farther from the entrance than I had imagined it would be. I’d been annoyed with him lately for his stubborn domesticity, his unwillingness to take me out to a concert or a play, his general lack of enthusiasm, his often dour mood, and his complete refusal to be annoyed by or even notice my flagrant flirtation with Jason, but now I felt a wash of gratitude for his reliability.

As we pulled into the lot, my eyes immediately locked on Eddy. He was standing alone, although there were people all around him. He seemed elevated on a small mound of earth. He was dressed all in black, spattered with streaks of mud and dried blood. He wore the expensive waterproof pants he had purchased at REI in preparation for forest dwelling which made a loud, crinkling noise when he walked. He had a bicyclists’ tight, shiny top on, and a black windbreaker was bundled carelessly on the dirt at his feet. He was barefoot, and his feet were filthy, streaked brown. His hair was tangled and unwashed. He looked skinnier, still, than the last time I’d seen him, yet still handsome and imbued with a kind of charismatic energy which drew me to him, but seemed to be keeping the other people off. A nurse stood a few feet away from him, not touching or speaking to him. Other official-looking people—two paramedics, a police officer, a security guard—also stood back.

I hurried out of the car and was the first to reach him. Both Lawrence and Jason proceeded more slowly, preferring to assess the situation from afar. “Hi Eddy. We found you! How are you doing honey?” I put my hand on his arm. He pulled it away from me nervously. He didn’t want to be touched.

“I’m good. Let’s get going.” His eyes were bright. He seemed strangely happy for a person in his situation, as if merely amused by all the commotion he had caused. He noticed first Jason, then his father, standing near the little black Nissan and immediately began walking toward them.

“Wait a minute,” the nurse stepped forward. “I’m Stacy Malatesta. I believe we talked on the phone?” She didn’t have a little white hat with a red cross, but she held up an identity badge she was wearing around her neck. I glanced down at it and nodded. Eddy stopped reluctantly.

Lawrence was moving slowly towards our uncomfortable conclave. “I just want to make sure, once again, that you’re taking him to the hospital. I’m not sure why he doesn’t want to get into the ambulance, he seems to be experiencing some kind of fear of authority, but as long as you’re taking him directly there, I won’t object or intervene.”

“Oh, yes. We’ll go right to Mercy Hospital,” I assured her, intimidated by all the manpower assembled here on Ed’s behalf. “Unless you think we need to go to Stanford.”

“No, no. Mercy should be fine. They have a full-service emergency room there.”

Eddy nodded his head and started walking away again, towards the car, carelessly leaving the crew of emergency and law enforcement officials behind him. I felt distressed by his lack of manners. “Thank you,” I told the nurse sincerely. “Thank you very much for helping him.” I began to turn away, to follow Eddy, but she put a hand on my shoulder.

“It’s wrapped up pretty well,” she said. “It should last him until he gets to Mercy.” She seemed to have more to say, but hesitated. “He’s pretty agitated. You might try to find out what happened. He was very evasive with all of us here.” She had short hair dyed blonde with black roots and cloudy, blue eyes. She was about my age, overweight, probably a mother. I felt her concern for Eddy open up a new avenue of fear in me.

“Thank you,” I said again. “I’ll ask him. We’ll take care of him. We’ll find out what’s going on.”

A man in uniform stepped toward me with what looked like a ticket book. Lawrence was shepherding Ed toward the car. “We’re not going to press charges, considering the circumstances,” he said. “Your son seems to be confused. But he will have to pay for the broken window.” He tore off the top sheet on his ticket book and handed it to me. “That will cost around $260. You’ll be getting a bill from the maintenance department of the college. They’ll tell you where to send the money. But if you don’t send it on time, we’ll be visiting you again.”

“O.K. Of course,” I took the paper nervously and put it in my pocket. “Thank you for not arresting him. Where is the window?” I looked around. “What did he do to it?”

“The window’s not here. It’s over in the men’s bathroom. We’re not sure exactly what happened, but we know that he broke it. He admits that. A janitor saw him acting strangely in the bathroom, then a security guard noticed him walking around, bleeding. But when he approached him, he tried to say he had just fallen on his bike.” I saw Eddy in the distance, grouped with Jason and his father behind the car. The trunk was open, and Lawrence was taking the front wheel off Eddy’s $1,600 bike. Like the special hiking and biking clothes, the bike was brand new, another in a short spree of extravagant purchases he’d made after giving up his Toyota because he didn’t want to pay the car insurance bills. I wondered once again whether we should have given him such easy access to his college fund.

“I better go,” I apologized. “I don’t want them to leave without me.” The officer and the nurse nodded their permission. In the background, the paramedics were already backing the ambulance out of its parking space. “Thank you again for helping. I’m sorry for all the trouble my son has caused.”

When I got to our car, the bike was stowed in the trunk and Jason was climbing into the back seat. I climbed in after him, leaving the passenger seat for Eddy to sit next to his father.

“So, where are we going?” he asked cheerfully as he pulled the door closed, as if we’d just picked him up for a casual date.

“I guess we’re going to the hospital, Eddy,” his dad answered in the matter-of-fact tone he used for almost any situation. “That must be a pretty nasty cut you have on your hand.”

“Oh, it’s not too bad,” Ed enthused, fussing with the white bandage, not offering any further explanation.

A reluctance to ask the obvious filled up the car. Eddy was bursting with energy, exuberant, a bit wild, not at all in the mood you’d expect of someone who’d just suffered a serious injury and a run-in with the authorities. Finally, my curiosity won over my caution. I put my hands on the backrest in front of me and leaned my head into the gap between the two front seats. “What happened here, Eddy? How did you do that to yourself?”

“Well,” his voice was brisk, authoritative, like someone getting ready to give directions to a group awaiting his instructions. “I put my hand through a window, man,” he said with a big smile. Then he stopped, as if taunting me, forcing me to interrogate him.

“Why did you do that?” I pressed.

“I don’t really know. I just wanted to.” Eddy gave a funny little laugh.

Jason and I glanced at each other in the back seat.

“Were you angry?” asked his father.

“No, not at all.”

“Are you on drugs?”

“Nope. I haven’t taken any drugs for weeks!” He beamed in an exaggerated and childlike way, as if showing off a good report card.

“Where were you? What were the circumstances?” I pressed him for details while Lawrence navigated the car down the winding, wooded road that led from CSM to Highway 92.

“Well, I was in the men’s bathroom. But first I was in class.” Ed finally seemed ready to tell us his story. “I was feeling kind of bored and disconnected, so I got up and went to the bathroom. And while I was in there, I noticed this hairline crack in the window. Then I realized what I really wanted to do was put my hand through it.”

The car propelled forward in silence. Lawrence turned left on Hillside and continued toward the highway. Eddy seemed to think he had given all the explanation that was necessary. “You sure you weren’t mad?” his dad asked hopefully.

“No. But I was definitely full of something—I don’t know what—some kind of emotion, maybe tension. I felt a big release when I did it, a huge rush. It was fantastic!”

“What happened next?” I asked heedlessly, before I realized that I didn’t really want to know.

“Oh, nothing. I…never mind.”


“Nothing. I was going to tell you something, but then I realized I didn’t want to.” He smiled mischievously. I sighed with exasperation.

“Why not? What else did you do? Aren’t you going to tell us what happened next?”

“I just sat there for a long time. But then the janitor came in, so I thought I better leave. I went back to the classroom, but the door was locked. I guess class must have ended while I was still in the bathroom. I was worried, though, because I had left my bike and backpack in there. Then I saw an open window—it was like it was left open for me. So I climbed through it and got my stuff.”

“You climbed through a window?”

“Yeah, man,” he laughed again, delighted with himself.

“Weren’t you afraid someone would see you and think you were a burglar?”

“Well, I guess someone did see me, because when I came out, this security dude started following me around. But he was doing it at a distance, like he was hiding behind bushes and shit,” Eddy laughed. “He was like a little cartoon character. It was great!”

“How long did that go on?”

“I don’t know. For awhile. Then he got another security dude friend in on the act and they came up together and asked me what happened.”

“Is that when the ambulance showed up?”

“Well, first I told them I’d just fallen off my bike. I wasn’t sure if they knew about the window or not, if they were in communication with the janitor guy. Then they called the ambulance, even though I told them not to. I told them I was fine, and just to leave me alone.”

Jason gave an explosive snort of disbelief.

I stopped questioning Eddy then, not sure what to do with the information I already had, and we rode on in silence for another 10 minutes until we pulled into the hospital parking lot. By this time a dread had descended over me. As we climbed out of the car, Eddy said he didn’t want to leave his expensive bike hanging out of the back of the trunk. Then Jason offered to ride it home to our house and wait for us there, so we left him in the parking lot, putting the bike pieces together, while Lawrence and I walked with Ed to the emergency room.

Read the next chapter HERE, or buy a paperback copy of Count All This HERE.

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