Sunday, November 11, 2007

Chapter 6 ~ Emergence

Photo by Brendon Stuart
The emergency room was at the back of the hospital. The waiting area was large, with seating for maybe 30 people. There was a television tuned to The Oprah Winfrey Show mounted high on the wall in the corner and two bored looking viewers sitting on hideously upholstered chairs. The nature of their emergencies wasn’t readily apparent. The woman held a baby whose nose was running. The man, seated a few chairs away, seemed to be dozing. Perhaps they were waiting for loved ones inside. A woman barricaded behind a plexiglass window took my insurance card and heard my explanation that my son had a bad cut on his hand that needed to be stitched up. She said she’d call his name before sliding the window shut. Lawrence and I stood near the glass doors in back, being careful not to step on the pressure-sensitive area which caused them to slide open, sometimes glancing outside with longing to the TV-free parking lot hemmed in by eucalyptus trees. Eddy flitted about the room. First he stood on a chair in an effort to turn off the television. “Eddy, I think people are watching that. You should ask them first,” I advised him anxiously, but the potential conflict never materialized since the set turned out to have no external controls. I wondered if the woman behind the plexiglass made all the viewing decisions, or whether there was an Orwellian Central Control office somewhere in the basement. We hadn’t had TVs in the hospital’s Planning and Marketing Department when I’d worked there years before. After realizing he had no power over the television, Eddy sat down on a chair and leafed through a People magazine, chuckling to himself. Then he focused on the television again for approximately two minutes. “Do you honestly like this show?” he asked the woman sitting next to him, who didn’t respond. Next he came to stand near us, first bouncing nervously on the balls of his feet, then closely examining the pattern in the carpet and following it carefully with one dirty big toe. When he stepped outside for some fresh air, I looked at Lawrence with alarm, trying to communicate telepathically: What is wrong with him? What is happening here? But Lawrence didn’t return my look or offer up any theories. His face was blank, unreadable, and thirty seconds later Eddy was reentering through the glass doors.

When his name was called a few minutes later, Ed let out a big sigh, as if he had been waiting for hours, and eagerly followed an older nurse with glasses and orange hair through a heavy, locked door. We trailed behind. She led us down a wide, white hall to a large room at the end which seemed to be both a storage and a treatment area. There was one big bed on wheels; two flimsy plastic chairs; formica counters covered with random pieces of equipment; two large machines with dials, buttons and tubes on wheels; and a second, smaller bed surrounded by a heavy plastic curtain hanging from rails affixed to the ceiling. That side of the room was unlit. “Why don’t you sit up here,” the nurse patted the closest bed. Eddy obliged her, hopping up energetically. When he pulled his filthy feet up onto the clean white sheets and crossed his legs, Indian style, I cringed. Lawrence and I sat on the two plastic chairs and watched.

“What happened to you?” she asked as she took Eddy’s hand in hers and began unwrapping the white, gauze bandage.

“Oh, the usual,” Ed smiled. “I put my hand through a window.”

The nurse didn’t seem alarmed, and didn’t ask another question. “My son walked through a plate glass window one time,” she said, and proceeded to tell us about his drunken college years at Chico State. Eddy simply ignored her, closing both eyes and breathing conspicuously, taking long, deep inhalations through his nose and exhaling the air loudly through pursed lips. I felt discomfited by his rudeness, and tried to make up for it by feigning attention to the nurse’s story, smiling companionably and nodding whenever she turned her gaze to me.

“Oh yeah, that’s a good one,” she pronounced when she had the hand unwrapped. “You’re definitely gonna need stitches. At least 10. Maybe more. But it’ll be awhile before the doctor gets around to you. Do you want some water or something while you wait?”

“I don’t know. Maybe,” Eddy opened his eyes a slit. “What have you got?”

“Well, nothing really,” the nurse admitted. “Just water.”

“What kind of water?”

“Just regular old water from the water cooler. Nothing special. I could bring it to you in a paper cup.”

“I don’t know.” Eddy apparently considered this a serious decision. “Let me think about it.”

A second nurse, young and blonde, entered the room with a clipboard. “Mrs. Thibedeaux?” I nodded. “Would you please come with me?”

I looked hesitantly first at Lawrence, then at Eddy, reluctant to leave the room. “What’s the problem?” I asked her. “Why do you need me?”

“There’s no problem” she smiled reassuringly. “We just want to get some paperwork completed.”

The two of us walked down the hall to a small office with a desk and three chairs. After offering me one, she settled in across from me, the clipboard at the ready on her lap. “Can you tell me how this happened?”

Suddenly, I felt wary of her authority. What might happen as a result of this interview? They couldn’t take Eddy away from me, since at 18, he was already considered a grown up, right? And the policeman at CSM had said he wouldn’t press charges, so they couldn’t send him to jail, could they? I felt uncertain of my position, and glad that I didn’t have much information to give her. I hadn’t been in the men’s room when the window was broken; I’d been safe at home, far away from the scene of the crime. Still, I chose my words carefully.

“I don’t know exactly how it happened,” I said aloud. “We were just sitting at home when we got a call from our son, asking us to pick him up. He said he’d put his hand through a window.”

The nurse made a note on her clipboard. “Where was that?”

“We were at home in Sunnybrae. He was up at CSM. There were police officers there when we arrived. They made a report and everything. They wanted him to get into an ambulance, but he refused. So we drove up there and brought him down here.”

“Why did he put his hand through the window?” she asked softly, looking up from the clipboard with obvious sympathy. “Was he involved in some kind of a fight?”

“Well, no. That’s the scary part.” I felt suddenly that I could trust her. She sat attentively and respectfully, radiating concern. She looked both sweet and young. It was a relief to be in a private room without Eddy listening. It would be an even greater relief to finally say out loud what had been troubling me. “I’m really worried about him,” I confessed. “He says he doesn’t know why he put his hand through the window. He says he wasn’t angry or upset, that he just wanted to. He says it felt good.” I didn’t care that I was beginning to cry in front of a stranger. I thought maybe she could help. “I don’t know what’s wrong with him. He’s acting strangely. I’m worried about his mental health.”

“Well, you should be,” the nurse said simply, as if Eddy’s unbalanced mind was plain as day for any passerby to see. “Has he always been like this?” She handed me a box of Kleenex. “Have you had trouble with him before?”

“No. Not at all. I mean, he’s always had a difficult personality—argumentative and stubborn—but he’s never been crazy before.”

“What do you mean by ‘crazy?’”

“Well, just doing crazy things, like putting his hand through the window, and thinking crazy thoughts. He seems to be a little paranoid. He’s got secrets. He’s evasive. And he has ideas that just don’t make sense. A week ago he told me he had decided to be homeless. I know he took some hallucinogens a few weeks before that, because he told me he did. Do you think they caused something to go wrong in his brain?” I felt distracted by a bit of moisture at my left breast. When I looked down, I was appalled to see a big damp spot spreading over my tank top above my left nipple. I pulled my outer shirt over to cover it, looking up nervously at the nurse. I was relieved to see she wasn’t paying attention to me. She was busy making notes.

“Well, the first thing to do is to take care of his hand. After that…I’m not certain,” she looked up from her clipboard. “Tell the doctor what you’ve told me when you see him, okay? See what he advises you to do.”


The nurse attached her pen to the top of the clipboard and pulled it up against her chest, effectively closing the interview. Still, we lingered in the office for a moment longer while I blew my nose and wiped my eyes.

When she finally opened the door, I girded myself to return to Eddy’s bedside. I could see him at the end of the hall, clearly framed by the doorway, sitting like some dirty outlaw Buddha on the top of his bed. His legs were crossed in the lotus position, with the bottoms of his feet pointing upward; his hands rested on his lap, palms up; his black clothing stood out in stark contrast to the bright white environment. I thought at first that he was staring at me with Charlie Manson eyes, that he knew exactly what I had been telling the young nurse, and considered it a betrayal. But as I drew closer, I realized with relief that his eyes were shut. When I heard his deliberately slowed, excessively noisy breathing, my fear evaporated.

I slipped back into the room quietly and sat down next to Lawrence on my flimsy plastic chair, placing my hand in his. A few moments later, a doctor entered brusquely, followed closely by the older nurse whose son had gone to Chico State. “Let’s take a look,” he picked Eddy’s hand up from his lap unceremoniously. “We’ll need novacaine,” he told the nurse, who turned to leave.

“No. I don’t want any drugs,” Eddy interjected.

“Believe me, you want novacaine,” the doctor continued, turning around to look at us and smiling sardonically. “You’re going to want to be numb when I stitch you up.”

“No, I’m not. I don’t want any drugs. Don’t give them to me.” Ed withdraw his hand from the doctor’s grasp proprietorily.

“Look, if you don’t have novacaine, it’s going to hurt like hell,” the doctor said impatiently. He wanted to impress Eddy with the force of his authority, with his imminent ability to inflict pain, but when Eddy remained unimpressed, he looked at us again.

“Eddy,” I made an effort to convince him. “The doctor knows what he’s doing. He’s done this a thousand times. If you don’t have novacaine, you aren’t going to be able to keep your hand still while he’s working on it.”

“I think I can hold it still,” Eddy insisted. “I can hardly feel anything in that hand right now anyway. Why don’t you try it first without novacaine and we can see how it goes?”

“Look, I don’t have time for this.” The doctor dropped Ed’s hand angrily back in his lap. “I’m not going to stitch it up if you don’t have the novacaine, so think it over.” He turned abruptly and started to leave the room.

“Okay, okay!” Eddy gave in at the prospect of more waiting. “I’ll take it.”

“Good. The nurse will prepare a shot, and I’ll be back in a little while.” This time the doctor really did leave, and I stood up to follow him down the hall to the nurse’s station, where he picked up a folder and began looking through it intently, ignoring my presence just two feet away.

“Excuse me, doctor,” I began hesitantly. “I wanted to talk to you in private because I’m concerned about my son’s mental health.”

“Yes, I can understand that,” he said without looking up from his chart. “How old is he? Eighteen?”


“When I’m done here, he should be taken across the hall for a psychiatric evaluation.” He shut his folder for a moment and looked me in the eye. “But the problem is, since he’s 18, he’s got to go voluntarily, and if they decide they want to admit him, he’s got to agree.” The doctor smiled then, a big toothy grin, as if he’d just delivered funny news. The nurse who’d interviewed me sat beside him and looked up regretfully, as if apologizing for the doctor’s rudeness.

“I don’t know. I can ask him. I doubt he’s going to want to do that,” I said hopelessly.

“Good luck.” The doctor was ready to move on.

“How long do you think it will take to stitch him up?” I tried to hold his attention.

“He’s not first in line. He’s going to be here at least an hour and a half. Maybe two. But if you talk him into it, Jill here can put a call in to psychiatry, to let them know he’s coming.” He indicated the nurse, who nodded with encouragement.

When I left the station and slowly made my way back to the room, I considered the most tactful way to put the suggestion. “Look Eddy, we think you might be crazy, so we’d like to take you across the hall for a few tests” didn’t seem a good option. I liked the clinical term that the doctor had used. It sounded less insulting—more empty. Still, I expected an argument, and when I entered the room, I tried my best to act casual, directing my first comment to Lawrence.

“The doctor says it’s going to be at least another hour and a half here, and I’ve got a phone interview set up for 5:30 for that damn freelance job I promised to Mandy. Unfortunately, I don’t have the number with me, so I can’t call and change it. I was thinking I’d run home and take care of that real quickly, if that’s okay with you.”

Lawrence nodded distractedly, and for the second time that day I felt grateful to him. I knew he didn’t like hospitals any more than I did—probably less. Still, I figured it was his turn this time. When the children were little, and more prone to accident, I was always the parent at home who had to race them to the hospital, adrenaline pumping. I remembered the time when Eddy was four years old and broke open his forehead running into a door frame. In another part of this same emergency department, a benign-looking nurse played a little pattycake game with Eddy to lure him into crossing his arms over his chest before she strapped him into an upper body restraint—a kind of mini-surfboard with wide Velcro panels across the front. “You shouldn’t be in here,” the doctor had told me then, “because parents often faint.” I assured him that I wouldn’t create any problems. In case of fainting, I would sit on the floor, where I could murmur encouragement without getting in the way. After strapping him in and laying him down, they placed a cloth over Eddy’s eyes, which was a mercy, but that didn’t prevent me from seeing the size of the needle they were planning to use on his tiny face. The doctor held a foot-long cylinder of anesthetic up to the light and squeezed out a drop of liquid first—just like in any B monster movie. Three nurses moved to the table to hold down his little legs and steady his head. When the doctor lowered the syringe to Eddy’s forehead, it seemed the screaming would never end.

Things would be much calmer this time. Still, I was glad to miss the sewing up.

After Lawrence gave me dispensation to leave the hospital to make my phone call, I pressed ahead with my campaign of manipulation. “Eddy,” I began in a light tone, “the doctor thinks that after you’re done here, we should go across the hall for a psychiatric evaluation, and I agree with him. What do you think? Would that be okay with you?”

Eddy took a moment out from his noisy meditation to look up at me.

“Sounds like fun,” he grinned.


Back at home, I found Eddy’s little brother Henry reading on the couch in the living room, Jason leaning impatiently against the counter in the kitchen.

“Eddy and Lawrence are still at the hospital,” I said breathlessly. “They haven’t stitched him up yet. I just came home to do a phone interview,” I explained to Jason in a rush. “It’s supposed to start in 10 minutes, so I’m going to go review my notes and then make the call. After that, I’ll come out and give you more details.”

“How long is the interview going to take?”

“I don’t know. Maybe a half an hour.”

“I kind of need to get going. I’ve been waiting here for you or Lawrence to show up so I could give you the check for the Toyota and get the pink slip.”

“The pink slip? Crap. I’m not exactly sure where that is, and I don’t want to look for it right now. Why are you in such a hurry?” I gave him a meaningful look. “You should stay here, anyway. You should stay here to keep Henry company while I go back to the hospital. He doesn’t like to be alone. And after they stitch Eddy up, we’re going to take him across the hall for a psychiatric evaluation, so it’s going to be a long night.”

“No. That’s not going to work out.” Jason ignored my unspoken appeal. “I’m supposed to go to Susie’s tomorrow, and I’ve got to drive the Toyota home to Marin first and pick up my own car.”

“Why do you have to drive your own car to Susie’s? Why can’t you just stay overnight here and drive the Toyota? You’ll be much closer.”

“No, that doesn’t work. My brother’s waiting for the Toyota, and I want to drive my own car.”

I wanted to ask him if he wasn’t worried about his good friend, Eddy, who was physically injured and apparently losing his formerly brilliant mind. I wanted to ask him if he wasn’t worried about me, the older woman he’d been slathering with generous attention for the better part of two years. I wanted to ask him if he wasn’t worried about Henry and Lawrence, two members of his recent second family with whom he’d made a habit of eating dinner once a week. But I was still hurt by the rejection and abrupt cessation of Jason’s visits, so I didn’t ask again. I found the pink slip. I signed it. I accepted the check. “Bye,” I said tersely. I didn’t walk him to the door.

The phone interview took about 30 minutes, as expected. In addition to teaching high school English, I occasionally do freelance writing for Mandy, who runs the Marketing Department at the local hospital. She pays well, and I like having the extra cash. Tonight’s interview was with an expert on menopause. “What about untimely lactation?” I asked her after I’d finished my regular list of questions. “Can hormonal changes related to menopause cause a woman who isn’t pregnant to produce milk?”

“Not usually,” she answered. “Why do you ask?”

“Because I’ve noticed a little liquid coming out of my one of my nipples lately. I’m 50, and I’m undergoing a lot of stress at home. But that’s normal, isn’t it? Just a symptom of menopause?”

“No, that isn’t normal,” she told me sternly. “You need to go have that checked out.”

When the interview was over and I was ready to return to the hospital, Henry said he wanted to come, too. I wasn’t surprised, since as the youngest child, he had only rarely been left alone, but I was wary. I wished there was somewhere else for him to go.

“Couldn’t you go to a friend’s house?” I asked him. “It’s probably going to take a long time. After Eddy gets stitched up, we’ve got to take him for a psychiatric evaluation.”

“What’s that?” he asked.

“That’s when they try to figure out if you’re crazy.”

“Eddy’s not crazy.”

“Well, hopefully not. But he’s doing some pretty crazy things, like putting his hand through a window. So it’s a good idea to try and figure out what’s going on with him.”

“Why did he do that?”

“I don’t know, Henry. He says he just wanted to.”

“Sounds like Eddy,” Henry laughed. “I’m coming. I want to see him.”

“Okay,” I relented. Maybe Henry’s presence would be restorative. Besides, I didn’t have any other ideas.


Back at Mercy, Eddy and Lawrence were just being released from the back room into the emergency department lobby as we walked in from outside. “Hey, Eddy. Let me see your stitches,” Henry rushed up to say.

“Nah. It’s all taped up.” Eddy waved off his little brother like an annoying insect.

“How many did you get?”

“I don’t know. Eight maybe.”

“I still got you beat then,” Henry beamed, brandishing his palm, where a long, thin line snaked across the surface in the wrong direction, reminding me of the day he had swung excitedly around a slender tree after school, not noticing the nail that was protruding from its trunk until it had sliced open his hand. “This one took 12,” he boasted. Eddy batted the hand away as he looked out the glass doors to the parking lot and noticed that the sun was setting. “What time is it?” he asked.

“About 6:30.”

“Maybe we should go home and eat something before we go across the hall,” he suggested. “Dad was telling me about the delicious pesto pasta he made last night.”

“No, let’s go straight across,” I countered. I was worried that once he got home, he’d change his mind. I remembered time spent on the family “ranch” when I was a child—just a lot of muddy acres and fences in Atwater, centered around a dusty one-room shack and corrugated tin barn. Whenever we arrived, the first order of business was to round up the horses that we intended to ride. We children would walk slowly out into the fields, closing the pasture gates gently behind us, holding the bridles behind our backs.

“I’m sure this is going to take awhile,” I commented. “I can run home to get a bowl of pasta for you while you’re being interviewed and bring it back.”

That idea seemed to satisfy him, so we settled into a little four-seat group around a coffee table near the elevator, much as if we were going to have tea or play a board game. Moments later, a woman with long brown hair and a placid face came out to talk to us. She paused a moment, looking from person to person, apparently confused. “Are you looking for Eddy?” Lawrence prompted. “That’s him.”

“Oh, I see. And the rest of you are…?”

“The rest of us are here with him. I’m his father, that’s his mother, and that’s his little brother.”

“How nice that he has such a supportive family,” she smiled. “What I’d like to do is interview him alone first. Then I’ll come out and get you, and interview his parents alone. Then we can all come together and discuss what we discovered. Okay?”

Eddy seemed a bit reluctant. “I’m a little hungry,” he said. “My mom was going to get some food and bring it back to me. Can she come back with it while we’re talking?”

“Sure. That’s no problem.” The woman smiled encouragingly. “Just tell the nurses you have something that you want to bring back.”

She waited for a moment as the four of us sat there. Then Ed took the initiative and stood up. We watched as she pressed in a code to open the heavy door to the back rooms on the other side of the lobby. Ed was still barefoot, and I vaguely worried that he would step on a contaminated needle. He turned and waved to us as he passed through the door.

Going home to get the bowl of pasta was a welcome distraction. When I returned, they let me easily through the door. I walked back to find Eddy alone, lying on a bed with thick chrome railings. He seemed to be sleeping. “I brought your food,” I said softly, not wanting to wake him.

“Oh, thanks.” He seemed groggy. He didn’t reach for the bowl.

“Where is the woman who took you back here? I thought she was supposed to be interviewing you.”

“She already did that. I don’t think I gave the right answers.” Eddy smiled sleepily. “She’s in the next room now, talking on the phone. All this is getting boring. I’m ready to go home.”

“Okay, okay. But we’re going to have to talk to her first. Here’s the pasta, if you still want it.” I put the bowl down on a counter. “I’ll go see if I can hurry her up.”

In the next room, I found the woman talking on the phone, and a man looking at a computer screen. She saw me in the doorway, and held one finger up to indicate that she would only be a few moments. “The parent is here now. I’ll call you back.” I heard her say into the mouthpiece. Then she put the phone down and gave me a big smile. “I see you’re back now. Good. Let’s go get your husband. I think it’s time for us to talk.” After walking with me back to the waiting area, she shepherded the two of us into a small office across the hall from Eddy. Henry, she said, should wait in the little alcove adjacent to the computer room where I had earlier seen her on the phone. The brightly-lit alcove contained a couch, a few chairs, a wall of closed cupboards and a closed circuit TV, broadcasting back a black and white picture of the alcove. Henry didn’t look delighted by the idea.

“Can’t I go sit with Eddy?” he asked.

“Sure. I don’t see why not.” Her manner was gracious, non-threatening, and Henry visibly relaxed a little before she closed the door to our room.

Once inside, she asked a long series of questions about Eddy’s childhood, personality, and behavior to date. Lawrence and I took turns supplying the details, sometimes in perfect agreement, sometimes disputing a minor point. I reiterated my theory that Eddy’s present state of mind was temporary, and had been caused by the use of hallucinogenic drugs.

“Even if it was, he hasn’t taken any recently,” she said, “at least if we can believe what he says is true. So what we’re dealing with here is not a drug reaction. What we’re dealing with here is a state of mental instability that needs further study and review.”

“Listen. I had something very similar happen to me in college,” I informed her. “I took LSD, and I had a nervous breakdown that lasted for a few weeks. What they did for me at the time—what my father did for me—was give me tranquilizers. Can’t we just get some tranquilizers for Eddy, and see if his condition improves once he gets a little sleep? I’m pretty sure he hasn’t been eating or sleeping at the eco-commune. I’ll bet with a little food and sleep, he’ll be good as new.”

“That sounds good to me, but it’s not what the doctor is recommending. I’m not the doctor. I’m consulting with him on the phone. Dr. Hu feels pretty strongly that Eddy should be admitted to the hospital.”

“Admitted?” said Lawrence. “Wait a minute. What does Eddy think about this?”

“I haven’t asked him.”

“Well don’t you think you ought to?” He was getting mad.

“Frankly, at this point, it isn’t up to Eddy. It isn’t even up to the two of you. If the doctor thinks he should be admitted for observation, then he’s going to be admitted.”

“But we were told that it had to be voluntary!” I protested.

“That’s true when there isn’t any perceived risk to himself or others. But since Eddy hurt himself, the doctor sees a risk of further injury.”

“Wait a minute,” Lawrence tried to put his foot down again. “Where is this doctor? How can he make a decision when he hasn’t even met Ed? What do you think? You’re doing the interviews. Doesn’t what you think matter?”

“Well, I’m inclined to go along with you. If Eddy were all alone, I’d say he definitely needs to be admitted to the hospital. His thinking is confused. He’s having visual and perhaps auditory hallucinations. He’s harmed himself and seems to be both paranoid and psychotic at this point. There’s evidence of grandiosity. But since you are both here, and willing to care for him—since he obviously has a supportive family—I think it might be appropriate to release him into your custody. Who knows? You may be right. Maybe all he needs is a little rest. But as I said earlier, I’m not the doctor. I don’t make the decision. It’s up to him.”

“Can we talk to this doctor?”

“Sure you can. Let me see if I can get him on the phone for you.”

She rose to open the door and we spilled into the hallway as if expelled by the pressure in the tiny room. We found Eddy and Henry both in the brightly-lit alcove. Ed sat on the floor, his legs crossed mediation style. He was holding his injured hand in the air before him and staring at it intently. Henry lay on the couch, his hand over his eyes. Their images were mirrored in black and white on the small TV screen. Lawrence followed the woman to her phone by the bank of computers while I went into the alcove with the boys.

“How’s it going in here?”

“Very well!” Eddy answered brightly. “I’m healing my hand. Are you done with your discussion? Are we ready to go home yet?”

“I don’t know Eddy. There’s some question. The woman is saying she thinks you should stay in the hospital for more observation. What do you think about that?”

Eddy leapt to his feet in a single motion. “I don’t know, man. Everything’s getting a little jumpy here.” He started pacing back and forth. “I was fine on my own. I felt really peaceful in the bathroom. I put my hand in the toilet, and watched the blood swirl down the drain. It was like I was vibrating at the optimum level or something, and I could hear the underlying music. But then all these people started getting in on the act, and I’m losing my connection. I think that other nurse put something in my water.” Eddy looked at me with irritation. His eyes were shining. I could feel some kind of heat pouring off him. Then he tilted his head to the side, spotting something behind me, and I turned to see that a security guard was now standing in the other room. What was he doing there? Surely he hadn’t come because of Ed. He wasn’t looking at us; he was leaning casually on the counter. Maybe he was just visiting while making his rounds.

“Just a minute, Eddy,” I tried to calm him. “Let me go talk to Daddy.”

In the next room, I found the woman on the phone, a man staring at a computer (was he monitoring the alcove?), the security guard simply loitering, and Lawrence standing anxiously by.
“Listen honey, Eddy is getting worse and worse in there. He told me he put his hand in the toilet up on the campus and watched his blood swirl down the drain. He thinks he’s spontaneously healing his hand by staring at it.”

“What are you saying to me?”

“I don’t know. Maybe they should keep him.”

“Are you willing to let them take him against his will?”

“I don’t know, honey. I’m scared. He’s acting so crazy.”

“Well I’m not willing to do that. He’ll calm down once we get him home. As soon as she gets the doctor on the phone, I’m going to try to talk him out of it. What is that security guard doing here?”

“I don’t know. Maybe they called him to keep an eye on Eddy.” We looked at each other with unbelieving eyes.

“Okay,” the woman interrupted our commiseration. “I’ve got Dr. Hu on the line. Why don’t you take it in the other room?”

Lawrence followed her across the hall to the small office where we’d been interviewed. I returned to the alcove. “Daddy’s talking to the doctor now, Eddy. He’s going to try to talk him into letting you come home with us.”

“It isn’t up to the doctor, is it?” He was still up and pacing.

“They’re telling us that it is.”

“Why are you doing this?” Henry blurted out from his prone position on the couch. I could hear from his voice that he had been crying beneath his hand. I wasn’t sure who he was talking to—me or Eddy—but I felt tremendous guilt anyway. Why did we bring him? Why did I let him come? He was just a 14-year-old boy. He shouldn’t be exposed to this.

“Doing what, Henry?” I tried to soothe him. “Don’t cry, honey. What’s the matter? There’s nothing wrong.”

“Why are you letting them take Eddy away?!”

“Henry! We’re not letting them take him. We’re trying to talk them out of it.”

“Why did you bring him here in the first place? He isn’t crazy! Why did you tell them he was?”

“Henry!!” I was stunned. He had almost never yelled at me before. “I didn’t tell them that,” I equivocated. “I just said I was worried.”

“Do you think I’m crazy?” Ed lunged suddenly in the direction of the security guard, who flinched, but didn’t leave his spot at the counter. Henry moaned and turned to face the wall. I put my hands on my forehead as if to keep my thoughts in check and crossed the hall to the office. Inside, I heard Lawrence talking calmly to the doctor.

“We think he just needs to come home and calm down a little…We disagree.” He looked at me and shook his head.

“Can I talk to him?” I whispered.

“Look doctor, my wife’s here. She wants to talk to you.” He handed me the phone.

“Dr. Hu, this is Eddy’s mother. I know you’re thinking you’d like to keep him here for observation, but I’m not sure that’s going to be the best thing for him. What I’d like to do is get a prescription for tranquilizers. I’m pretty sure once he’s slept he’ll settle down.”

“I don’t think benzodiazepines are indicated at the moment,” the doctor said in an authoritative voice. I immediately disliked his tone. “Your son has already harmed himself once. I don’t want to give him something that’s going to weaken his inhibitions. Who’s to say he won’t harm himself again?”

“He wasn’t really trying to harm himself,” I interjected. “It wasn’t like he was trying to commit suicide or something. He just put his hand through a window in a fit of spontaneity. He just thought for some reason that it would be cool.”

“I’m aware of that. And the fact that he sustained a laceration serious enough to require eight stitches, yet didn’t understand the seriousness of the injury, didn’t immediately seek help, tells me that he is a risk to himself.”

“I really don’t think he’s going to hurt himself,” I blustered.

“Don’t you? Why not? How will you feel if he does? You say you want to take him home, but who is going to watch him there? Are you going to be able to stay awake 24-hours a day, to keep an eye on him? What will you do if he just gets up and leaves?”

“I don’t know.” I felt confused. I was losing my confidence.

“Let me talk to him.” Lawrence took back the phone.

Back in the alcove, I found Eddy and Henry sitting next to each other on the couch. Henry rested his elbows on his knees and stared at the floor. Ed was sitting crosslegged again, with his back erect and his eyes closed, breathing loudly. I noticed that the security guard hadn’t continued on his rounds. I sat next to my children dispiritedly and wondered if the man in the next room was watching us on his computer monitor. Why did they need closed circuit TV, anyway? Couldn’t they just look at us through the door? And if they did need to spy, why did they put a monitor in the alcove? Wasn’t surveillance supposed to be secret? What good did it do when you knew you were being watched? I felt tired, frustrated, incompetant and irritated by the bright flourescent lights. “Dad’s still talking to the doctor,” I told them. “He’s not easy to convince.”

“I’m tired,” Henry groaned. “When are we leaving?”

“I’ve been thinking,” Ed said quietly. “Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to stay here. I mean, it’s all an experience, right?”

“Are you sure, Eddy?” I felt the tension draining from my body. If they were going to take him anyway, it would be best for all concerned if he wanted to go.

“No, I’m not sure. But I think so. I hear they can’t keep me for more than 72 hours anyway. So I’m thinking it might be fun.”

“Okay baby,” I whispered, kissing him on the cheek. “I’ll go tell Daddy.”

“Wait a minute. How long can they keep me?”

“Just 72 hours, like you said. That’s what the woman told me, too. A 72-hour observation.”

“Okay,” he nodded.

Lawrence was coming out of the office. He looked tired and worried. I went to him and put my hand in his. “Eddy says he wants to stay now.”

“Really?” His mood lightened.

I nodded. “He says he figures it will be an experience.”

“Well, I better get back on the phone, then, because I just convinced the doctor to let him leave with us.” Lawrence gave a small laugh. Then he walked over to the computer table and interrupted the woman who was conferring with Dr. Hu on the phone. “Never mind. He says he wants to stay now,” he informed her.

Once we were all in agreement, it still took another 20 minutes for them to complete the paperwork and get off the phone. We sat together in the alcove, under the tiny television monitor. Eddy seemed nervous, but also giddy, excited. He talked rapidly of random things that had happened that day. Lawrence made an occasional joke, as was his practice. Henry looked morose. I wondered if he would ever forgive me. Outside the alcove, another security guard came to stand next to the first one. Then the woman entered, smiling, and reassured us. “Everything is in order now. I’m sorry it’s taken so long. They’re ready for you now up on the unit, Eddy. I bet you’ll be glad to finally get into bed.” She indicated a big, black clock on the wall. It was almost 1 a.m. “Are you ready?” Eddy nodded.

“Okay son,” the first security guard finally spoke, stepping into our alcove. “It’s time to go now.” We all stood up and watched as Ed allowed the guard to take one of his arms. Once they stepped into the larger room, the second guard maneuvered round to take the other.

“’Bye honey,” I called after the trio weakly. “We’ll come to see you tomorrow.”

Eddy kept his eyes closed as he walked between the two big men through yet another heavy, locked, impenetrable door.

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

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