Sunday, February 3, 2008

Chapter 18 ~ Lost

Photo by
Brendon Stuart

Eddy made it through the end of the semester at CSM, living on his own in his apartment at the eco-commune, being transported to school and to counseling appointments by his father, who reported to me that our son seemed to be on the mend. I didn’t see much of him for two or three weeks.

When school was over, he and his father brought his things back home.

“Are you going to stay here for the summer?” I wondered.

“No. I’m moving to Berkeley for awhile,” he said breezily. “I’m going to check out various places to live so I can get set up for the Fall semester.” He seemed a little too bright, a little too glittery, but on the same planet as I was. I could talk to him. I could understand what he was saying. I was glad to hear he had some kind of plan.
“Where are you going to stay?”

“At a co-op.”

“That’s cool. Are you going to Rose’s co-op, to Lothlorien?

“No. To a different one. To Stebbins. But that’s the one she’s thinking of moving to. That’s the one she got assigned to for next semester. Can you give me a ride there tomorrow? I’ve got kind of a lot of stuff to bring.”

“Sure.” I was glad to go along with him to check out the environment, to get the address, and to have an idea of where he would be staying. I knew better than to ask too many questions. That would likely provoke him. But by offering a ride I could get most of the information I wanted without asking.

In the morning, it took forever for him to get into the car, as usual. He carefully packed a storage trunk with special cooking utensils like a juicer and pressure cooker, plastic bags full of health food, clothes, an old stereo system and record albums he had culled from Lawrence and my collections. He brought his $1,600 bike, along with several bottles of wine he had recently helped bottle at a winery owned by a friend of Kay’s—a woman my age who had befriended me and Eddy during long nights playing Settlers together at camp, at first, and later at our house in Sunnybrae or hers in San Jose. I said nothing about the wine, although there seemed to be too much of it. The drive up the Peninsula, through San Francisco, and over the Bay Bridge was fairly quiet. When we did speak, it was short and sweet.

“Where’s my check for $994.83?” Eddy wanted to know.

“It’s in my purse.”

“Good.” Eddy had closed his own bank account at Wells Fargo, and had his money transferred into mine. The bank had told him that would be easiest and quickest. For a few giddy moments, I considered keeping this money as a means of controlling his wanderings, forcing him to check in. But when I suggested it, his vitriol was so pronounced that I gave in immediately and wrote the check.

“How’d the last few weeks of school go?” I asked as Eddy dug through my purse to retrieve the check, then folded it and and zipped it into the top pocket of his backpack.

“Good. I passed all my classes.”

“That’s great, Eddy. So I guess this means your transfer to UC Berkeley is secured, right?”

“Right. I think so. Although there’s an admissions officer that is giving me trouble. That’s another thing I have to clear up while I’m here.”

“How’d you find this living situation at Stebbins?”

“On Craig’s List.”

“I’m surprised there was an opening.”

“Apparently there are a lot of openings in the summer time, because people move out and go back home. I’m rooming with the manager of the place.”

“That’s cool. Then, if you like it, can you get a room there for the Fall semester?”

“No. I don’t think so. That’s a more official process. You have to go through the central office and everything. Right now, I’m just ‘fishing,’ which is what they call sleeping in somebody’s room and paying them directly. I think Stebbins is full for the Fall semester. But I’ll find something, Mom. Don’t worry.”

“Okay,” I tried not to show any lack of faith, feeling glad he was sounding so capable and confident and had expressed concern for my feelings.

When we got to the address, we found a three-story stucco house on the quieter, north side of campus, far away from the boisterous scene on Telegraph Avenue. We parked in front, and both got out for the unloading. Eddy managed to get in the front door without a key by talking to some people lingering in the littered lobby. We propped it open, and began carrying in his stuff. Eddy picked up and balanced the heavy steamer trunk on his head, which seemed dangerously unstable.

“Are you all right with that? Can I help you?” I asked worriedly.

“No. I got it.”

“Are you sure you won’t drop it? It doesn’t look very secure. Let me help you.”

“No Mom,” he said more firmly. “Go ahead.”

I grabbed a few miscellaneous bags and closed the trunk on his precious, disassembled bike before we walked up the short steps into the hallway, where Eddy asked how to find room 201. It was up more steps, of course, and down a cluttered hallway. When we got there, we found the room was locked and no one answered our knock or call.

“That’s okay,” Eddy said nonchalantly. “We just have to find a place to stash this stuff.” He looked around, and decided on the end of the hallway, under a window. He parked his trunk there, after performing some acrobatics to get it down safely from atop his head, stashed his backpack and bottles of wine behind it, went back to the car to retrieve and reassemble his bike, and even laid out a sleeping bag and pillow on the floor.

“Why isn’t your roommate here?” I asked, while admiring his nestbuilding. “Didn’t he know you were coming?”

“Well, not exactly. I mean he knows I’m coming, just not specifically when. Don’t worry about it, Mom. I’ve got it covered.”

“Okay,” I said reluctantly.

Eddy walked me down to the door, after fretting for a moment over leaving his bike unattended upstairs. On the way out, we stopped to talk to two friendly students who gave us a minimal tour. We saw the cluttered kitchen where two women were working, a room in back for storage that was stuffed to the ceiling with miscellaneous boxes and junk, a front room with several couches where three people were sharing a ceramic pipe of pot. They looked up at me briefly, but must have decided I was harmless, since they made no effort to conceal the contraband. Every room was a mess. I didn’t feel particularly worried about the pot smoking or the disorganization—this was a college residence after all—but was made uncomfortable by the conversation Eddy was having with two hapless tenants. They would ask him direct questions, and he’d respond with vague, philosophical replies, which would give no information and put the burden back on them.

“How long have you known Mike?” a tall young man asked.

“I don’t know. How long does it take to know someone?” replied Eddy.

The young man paused and smiled tightly before continuing.

“Where did you meet him?” he tried.

“We haven’t actually met…”

Eddy’s evasive style of speaking made me nervous, reminding me of the night he came home having decided to become homeless almost two months before, but it seemed to be amusing the strangers—at least for the moment. I guessed he was flirting or showing off, since he’d been speaking normally in the car. I wondered how long he would keep it up, and if he would be able to make any friends here. I hoped it would prove a learning experience for him, in any case, but I was beginning to think it would be a hard one. I was eager to leave.
Eddy walked me out to the car, and gave me a long hug and big kiss.

“Good luck here, Eddykin,” I told him sincerely. “Remember, we’ve got the beach house in Santa Cruz early this year. So I’ll see you there June 16, OK? That’s in just over two weeks. Remember? Kay is coming down to play Settlers with us. We’ve got it for two weeks in June, and then again in August, when Jean and everyone else will be showing up. But in June, it’s going to be pretty quiet, so you could invite a few friends, if you want. Maybe someone you meet here,” I said hopefully.

“Okay. I’ll remember...I think. But just in case, call me on my cell phone to remind me.”

“Okay. I will.”

The next two weeks passed without incident. I didn’t call Eddy, and he didn’t call me. Rose reported that he seemed to be having a good time in Berkeley, but was sometimes acting like a pain in the neck. “He needs to stop talking about his mental breakdown,” she said. “He’s obsessed.” Still, she didn’t see him often enough to be bothered by his behavior. I tried not to think about him, and not to worry. When I did, Lawrence admonished me for smothering him, saying my overly attentive behavior was preventing him from growing up. I figured I could let it go, especially since I would be seeing him in two weeks.

When June 16 arrived, I went down alone to open the Santa Cruz house. Lawrence stayed home to work, Henry stayed home to play computer games with his friend, and Rose was busy packing for a road trip to North Carolina with her roommate. When I arrived, the house was quiet and empty, and though I had imagined I might read, or write, or otherwise enjoy the solitude of our little cottage by the beach, I felt terribly lonely, and almost immediately called Kay to invite her to come and join me.

Our house in Santa Cruz has been the scene of yearly tumultuous family reunions since I was 20 years old, when my mom went in with her cousin Frank to buy it with some money they had both inherited from my grandfather. It is a little one-bedroom cottage, just three blocks from the beach and six blocks from the Boardwalk. They bought it together, but my mother never got a chance to use it. She died of breast cancer before the next summer rolled around. Over the years, we developed a system for sharing the house with our cousins. We rented it out during the school year to students from UC Santa Cruz (Frank’s wife Sally handles this, as she is organized and efficient, unlike my passel of sisters). The rental income pays all the bills. Then in the summer, we split the months between our two families. We usually got it for August and two weeks in September. But this year, we had traded September for June. Since the schedule was new, and vacation time limited, no one except me had made plans to come. The place was empty, which was exceedingly strange. Usually, it was a madhouse. Every August, it would fill with my four sisters and their families, along with my own, and miscellaneous invitees. At times, there would be upwards of 30 people crammed into the little one-bedroom cottage. We had many systems to deal with the crowd. We put the TV in the bedroom, where sometimes a dozen children—then teens—would pile together on the double bed and squeeze onto the floor to watch a movie or play a video game. The attic was opened up and covered wall to wall with mattresses. Numberless children would climb up a ladder nailed to the wall to sleep in this hot, cramped space. Most adults preferred to set up a tent in the backyard, where they could retreat for a modicum of visual privacy, although accompanied by the noisy conversations of whoever happened to be lounging on the back deck.

A more reasonable plan might be to parcel out the summer weeks to individual family groups, making the space less crowded and more livable, but we actually made a special effort to congregate at the same time. As it turned out, the Santa Cruz house helped keep us together as an extended family after our parents died. If we didn’t have this house, which was owned by the five sisters in common (along with Frank and Sally), one sister would be forced to host any reunions we managed to schedule and would undoubtedly feel put upon by the duties of cooking, cleaning and shopping for a crew of mostly layabout, unappreciative board game players. Since Jean lived in Walla Walla, and couldn’t drive down for the Thanksgiving and Christmas congregations, we all looked forward to seeing her in the summer, and descended on the little house like a plague of locusts when she arrived August 1.

That was my typical experience of the Santa Cruz house—a noisy, energetic place full of people. But when I arrived that day in June, the house was utterly empty. It seemed eerie, almost haunted. And when Kay arrived promptly an hour or so later, we looked around sadly together. “Call Edward,” she said immediately. “We need at least three to play.”

I called.

“Hello,” he said languorously.

“Hey, Eddy. It’s June 16, and Kay and I are here at Santa Cruz waiting for you to come so we can play Settlers,” I said brightly. “When are you arriving?”

“Oh, yeah. I’m trying to arrange a ride right now. I’m thinking of bringing a friend with me.”

“That’s great.” I was glad to hear that he had made one. “When will you be here?”

“Well, that’s the problem. No one’s available to come today. But I’m trying to put something together for tomorrow.”

“Oh. That’s disappointing. It’s really quiet and strange here. But we can make it through one day, I guess. What time will you come tomorrow? In the morning?”

“That’s hard to say, Mom. I don’t know exactly, because I’m depending on someone else for a ride.”

“Well you can always take the train down. You don’t have to depend on someone else. Just take BART home to Sunnybrae and then hop on CalTrain. It’s easy. I’m pretty sure that’s how Dad is going to come down this weekend. He loves CalTrain. It brings you to San Jose, and then a bus is perfectly coordinated so you don’t have to wait at all before you get on it to come to downtown Santa Cruz.”

“Okay. I’ll consider that a backup plan.”

“Okay, good. It would be nice if you brought a friend. But it’s more important that you hurry. We’re desperate for Settlers!”

“Okay. See you soon.”

I felt relieved that Eddy sounded so sane, and that I’d be seeing him the next day. Kay and I decided to occupy ourselves in the meantime by setting up the house. First we had to bring down some 26 boxes and six giant black plastic bags from the attic. Everything—bedding, towels, cooking utensils, food, paper goods, plates, cups, glasses, silverware, spices, pictures for the wall, toilet paper and kitschy seaside decorations—had to be unpacked. And everything was stored in the attic. In order for the operation to work, one person (me) had to be stationed up the ladder, in the attic, where they would crawl around on their hands and knees (since the ceiling was only three feet high at the center peak), pushing heavy boxes towards the little hole in the floor which created the egress—that was the more heinous job. The second person (Kay) got to stand by the base of the ladder downstairs to receive the various boxes and carry them to a counter in the kitchen where they could later be opened and unpacked. This kept us busy for several hours.

When we got tired of that, we took a walk on the beach and considered where we would go for dinner. We decided we’d rent a movie to watch that night, but couldn’t shake the feeling of loneliness. Two older women alone just didn’t provide the spark and energy that the little vacation house required. We discussed the recent difficulties in Eddy’s life, including his hospitalization, and how best to help him through. Kay, who enjoyed fraternizing with most teenagers, had a special fondness for Eddy, and seemed almost as concerned as I was by his mental health. I’d first met Kay at the camp we went to each summer, where Eddy had a tight circle of friends his age but was often in trouble with the adult management. Very intelligent herself, she valued that trait highly and had told me more than once about the admiration she’d felt while watching how quickly Eddy had learned to play bridge in the lodge there at the age of 10. Meeting Kay, and finding in her an adult advocate for Eddy, had helped me to weather the stinging disapprobation I felt each year when I was invariably called before camp authorities to answer for some unacceptable behavior of his. I was grateful for her friendship, and for her friendship with my son.

“What are we going to do here until Eddy shows up?” I wondered idly after we’d made our way back to the lonely cottage. As we looked around the room, we noticed many things that needed improvement. Usually, these defects went unseen, since usually the house was full people who proved far more fascinating than the furniture or walls. But looking around the empty rooms now, the two of us noticed how poorly the house was decorated. The structure we were sitting in was a cute little beach house, but the furnishings inside it made it look like a suburban shack. There were thin, bent, faded metal blinds over the windows; a stained and sunken couch in one corner; a daybed in another which was covered in ripped mock fur. An old television cabinet, minus the television, served as a random storage space and stood too tall, blocking half of one window. The metal blinds over the front door were bent askew and slapped and banged when you came in and out. A white coffee table glared too big for the small room. An enormous lamp was an ungodly shade of chartreuse which conflicted with the too-thick light blue carpet. Nothing matched.

“Maybe some new curtains would spruce this place up,” I suggested.

“That would be easy enough,” said Kay. “I could pop up to my place and get my sewing machine.” Kay, a transplant from England who had raised two children on her own since they were toddlers, was the kind of person who is always prepared for any eventuality. I was surprised she didn’t have the sewing machine in her car.

“That fur blanket over the couch is truly hideous. Besides being ripped and falling apart, it looks more like something you’d put in a mountain ski cabin than a beach house. Maybe we could make a new couch cover, too. In seashore colors.”

“I’m sure we could do that. There’s a lovely fabric shop on Seabright we could stop and take a look at—Hart’s. And there’s another place up near my house if we find nothing there.”

“What about that lamp? Have you ever seen a more hideous color?”

“Do you think we could paint it? Let’s drop by the artist’s supply store on River and pick up some brushes and porcelain paint.”

“Okay. And what about that ugly coffee table? Should we throw it out?”

“I have a wonderful idea for that. I have a lot of pictures from last summer in Santa Cruz. We could print them out on my color printer and make a collage for the table top, then order a piece of glass to cover it.”

“Ohhh, that’s a great idea! That would definitely transform the coffee table. And I have boxes and boxes of pictures at home that I’ve never managed to put into albums. Making a collage with them would be really fun.”

“Why don’t I call Dora and see if she’d like to get involved? She’s very artistic. She could do the photo collage.” Dora was Kay’s 17-year-old daughter, blonde and beautiful, with a wide face and high cheekbones, big, straight teeth, and a slender neck. She was generally quiet in my company, but more talkative with my children.

“Good idea. We need some more people here. I’m getting kind of creeped out by the silence.”

As it turned out, Kay and Dora and I spent the next three days shopping and sewing and hammering and painting and driving around finding the perfect materials we needed to make the beach cottage more beautiful. Actually, Kay did most of the sewing, since she was infinitely more competent than I. I made several phone calls to Sally, who manages the household funds, to get approval for our expenditures. She opened the checkbook, delighted that someone from my side of the family was actually spending time working on the house, for a change.
Probably our best idea, (it must have been Kay’s, since she has a similar set up in her garage), was to buy heavy duty Gorilla shelves and put them in the locking shed in the backyard so that we would no longer have to schlep those 26 boxes up and down the ladder and through the tiny hole to the cramped attic. That was a relatively simple project, and created a huge payoff.

The most annoying effort was driving all the way to IKEA in East Palo Alto—a huge and nervewracking store—to find wooden blinds which we’d decided we had to have for the windows. Of course, the ones we found didn’t fit perfectly (you have to spend much more money for custom-measured blinds), and Kay and I disagreed over how to deal with that. I had to stiffen up my backbone to refuse her suggestion, since she is used to being right, and being in charge.

All this individual activity and human interaction was creatively satisfying and distracting, which was a good thing since Edward never showed up. Around noon on day two, I called his cell phone, but he didn’t answer. I left a message. Later on, I left another. Despite his lack of response, we kept expecting to see him, imagining that he would call from the bus station at any moment and ask to be picked up. But that never happened.

Day three was a similar story. We worked together on our creative projects, oohhhing and ahhhing over the results, and even lured Dora into a game of Settlers (which she dislikes), but never heard from the much-anticipated Ed. His absence created a big vacancy. Not only did we miss his energy and expertise at our favorite board game, but we worried about him. Why wasn’t he here? Why didn’t he call? Why wouldn’t he respond to our messages? We felt a flash of relief whenever the phone rang, but it was usually Sally, excited about the various projects we had started and wanting an update on our progress. As the hours passed, I grew more and more worried. When an ill-defined threshold was crossed, I got mad.

That night, around 1 a.m., the phone rang, and I jumped out of bed in alarm to answer it. It was Lawrence. He sounded uncharacteristically frantic.

“Jo. You have to help me!”

“Why? What’s happened?! What’s wrong?!” My heart jumped into my throat. Kay sat up on the couch and clicked on the light.

“Edward’s LOST somewhere and I’m trying to pick him up, but I can’t FIND him because he doesn’t know exactly where he is!”

“Eddy’s lost?” I looked over at Kay in puzzlement, relieved it wasn’t something more serious, but confused as to how an 18-year-old could get lost in Berkeley. “What happened?”

“Apparently he fell asleep on BART. And they kicked him off somewhere in Concord when they closed down the system. But he doesn’t know where he is, and I don’t either. I’m in Hayward now, and my cell is running out of batteries. Can you look up the Concord BART station and get me an address? Also, tell me how to get there from 880 North. That’s where I am now. But I don’t know what turnoff I’m supposed to take.”

“Okay, honey. Don’t worry. We can do that for you. Hold on.”

“I can’t hold on! The batteries are going. Call me right back.”


“What’s the problem?” said Kay, clearly ready to solve it. I gave her a quick rundown. “Okay, let’s go out into my car and get on the GPS system. That will tell us exactly where Lawrence needs to go.”

“He sounded so scared,” I told her as the two of us hurried out to the car with our adrenaline pumping. “I wonder what more has happened. I wonder how Eddy sounded when he called.”

We huddled together over the little black machine mounted on her dashboard while Kay punched in the information it needed to look up both the Concord BART station and Lawrence’s location on the freeway. She quickly found the best route between them, and we were about to call him back with the information when my cell phone rang, startling us with its piercing jangle in the black, quiet night.

“Hello?” I said breathlessly.

“Mom?” It was Eddy. He sounded lethargic, unhappy.

“Yeah, honey?” I used my soothing voice. “Are you okay? Dad says you’re lost.” I felt like he was six years old and needed to be handled gently.

“I am,” he sounded afraid. “He said he was coming to pick me up, but he’s not here. It’s really dark and I’m so tired, Mom. I don’t know what to do.”

“He’s on his way now, babe. Don’t worry.” I looked at Kay with alarm. This didn’t sound like my testosterone-driven son. “I need to call him back now to tell him how to get to you, though, so I can’t stay on the phone.”

“How can you tell him how to find me when I don’t know where I am?”

“You’re at the BART station, right? At the BART station in Concord?”

“No, I’m not. They wouldn’t let me stay there. They chased me away. And I’m so tired, Mom.” I felt fear rise in my chest. Why did he keep saying that? What was the matter with him? “Now I’m on the corner of, wait a minute, let me look at the street sign. Now I’m on the corner of Oakland Ave. and Atlantic.”

“Okay. Good. The corner of Oakland Ave. and Atlantic. We can look that up,” I said meaningfully, looking at Kay, who immediately began manipulating her magic map machine. “Listen, Eddy. Don’t walk around any more. Stay where you are. Dad won’t be able to find you if you keep moving. What is on the corner there? Do you see any buildings around you? Is there a place you can sit down on and rest?”

“Yeah. There’s some kind of church here, with some steps.”

“Okay, good. Perfect. Why don’t you sit down on the steps in front of the church. You can go ahead and fall asleep there, if you need to. I’ll tell Dad where you are. He’s not far away. He’ll be there soon to get you.”

“Okay, Mom,” he sounded relieved and on the verge of sleep. “Thank you.” He hung up.

“They chased him away from the BART station!” I turned to Kay with exasperation. “I have no idea what kind of neighborhood he’s in. And I don’t like the way he’s talking. He sounds disoriented.”

“Okay. Calm down. I put those street names into the system. Here are the directions you need to give to Lawrence.” I called him right away.


“Hi, Lawrence. We’ve got the information.”

“That’s okay. I think I’ve found it. I’m in front of the BART station now. But I don’t see him.”

“Well, he just called me. He’s not there anymore. He’s a few blocks south. At the corner of Oakland Ave. and Atlantic.

“Okay. Wait a minute. I see Oakland Ave. I’m turning now.”

“He’s sitting on the steps in front of a church. He might be sleeping. Do you see him there?” I asked anxiously. “Do you see a church?”

“All right. I see a church. SHIT! Here comes a policeman. He’s flashing his lights at me! I have to go.” Lawrence hung up immediately and Kay and I were left in the dark, sitting silently for a few moments before we walked despondently back into the house. We waited for several minutes on the couch together, but no one called.

“I wonder what the police were doing there? I hope Eddy didn’t do anything wrong. I hope he’s not getting arrested!”

“Well, let’s hope not,” Kay said laconically.

After 30 minutes had passed, which stretched the limits of my patience and scraped my nerves raw, I hazarded another phone call. I didn’t want to interrupt my husband in conversation with a policeman, but I couldn’t wait any longer to hear some news. Lawrence answered on the first ring.

“What’s going on?” I shouted at him frantically.

“We’re on our way home.”

“Thank God,” I relaxed and looked significantly at Kay, communicating the information without speaking to her. “Is everything okay with Eddy? What happened with the policeman?”

“Oh, nothing. He was just wondering if I needed help.”

“Well, that’s a big relief.” At the same time I was telling Lawrence I was relieved, I felt myself being overcome by anger. “Why didn’t you call me back to tell me?! I’ve been sitting here and worrying about you both all this time!”

“I don’t know. I didn’t think of it.”

“You didn’t think of it?! Jesus fucking Christ! You get me out of bed in the middle of the night for a big emergency, and after Kay and I run around like madwomen to give you everything you ask for, you don’t even bother to call me back and tell me you’re okay!”

“I’m sorry!” He was angry now, too. “I didn’t think of it. Look, my cell phone is dying. I have to go.”

“Okay, fine. That’s great,” I said sarcastically. “I guess I’ll call you at home in the morning.”

“Okay.” Lawrence hung up the phone.

Once the crisis was over, there was nothing left to do but go back to bed, but first I took a few minutes to disparage the inconsideration of men in general with Kay, who explained that was why she’d never bothered to marry a third time. Then Kay settled on one couch in the living room, Dora on another. I was on the double bed in the bedroom, with the door open between the two rooms. “Are you sure you don’t want to sleep in the bed with me?” I asked them. “It’s probably more comfortable.”

“No. We’re fine,” Kay answered for both. “Let’s get some rest,” she said before turning out the light.

In the morning, when I called Lawrence at work, he reported that Eddy was on the train to Santa Cruz.

“Well that’s good,” I responded. “He’s only four days late. So what happened last night? How did he manage to fall asleep on the BART train?”

“I’m not sure. He called me at around five o’clock yesterday and asked me to drop everything and come pick him up at the co-op in Berkeley. He said he was getting kicked out and had to leave right then.”

“Kicked out? Why? What did he do?” My stomach tightened.

“He didn’t tell me. But he said he had to leave right away, and he had a lot of stuff to carry, so I had to come and get him in the car. I told him hell no. I wasn’t coming that second. It was 5 o’clock and the commute traffic would have been terrible. I told him to store his stuff and come home on BART with just what he could carry, that I’d be willing to go pick the rest of the stuff up with him this weekend.”

“That sounds reasonable.”

“Yes. I thought so. And he said okay, too. Only he never showed up. The next thing I knew, it was midnight and he was calling me on the phone, waking me up out of a sound sleep, crying, practically frantic, telling me he’d gotten kicked off of BART and had no idea where he was.”

“That doesn’t sound good. Now I’m more worried. What’s wrong with him? I wonder why he got kicked out of the co-op. That’s also a drag, because Rose’s planning to move there. I hope he didn’t totally alienate everyone in the house. How is he sounding?”

“I don’t know. All right, I guess. He just slept in the car last night, and then this morning when I was getting ready for work he told me he was going to Santa Cruz. We didn’t talk much.”

“You didn’t ask him why he got kicked out of the co-op?”

“I asked, but he gave me some kind of bullshit answer, like it was their fault, not his. I don’t remember exactly.” Lawrence sounded tired and annoyed.

“Okay, honey. I’ll let you go. Do you have any idea when he was going to get on the train to Santa Cruz? When he might be showing up here?”

“Not really. He told me he was going. But when I left for work, he was sitting at the kitchen table having a bowl of cereal. Then he asked for the train fare.

“Okay,” I laughed. “That’s typical. Well I guess I’ll let you get back to work. Maybe I’ll call you later, if I need to, after he shows up and I talk to him.”


“Or maybe I’ll just wait until I see you tomorrow. You are still coming down tomorrow…right?”

“Yeah. I guess so. But I’m not really looking forward to it.”

“Well you have to come anyway. Don’t forget we have a dinner date with Jill and Chris. They’re driving down all the way from San Mateo just to eat out with us at O’Mei’s.”

“Yeah, I know. I remember. I’ll be there in the afternoon, I guess. I’m thinking of bringing my new bike on the train. That makes a pleasant trip.”

“You sure you don’t want to come in the morning?”

“Not really.”

“Okay, honey. I won’t press you. I’ll be glad to see you whenever you get here.”

After the phone call with Lawrence, Kay, Dora and I continued working on our home décor projects until close to dinner time, when Eddy finally walked through the back door. He entered quietly, without animation, and seemed to be hiding beneath the hood of his sweatshirt. He looked like he’d lost even more weight since I’d seen him last.
“Hi Eddy,” I said brightly, ignoring his reluctant demeanor, hoping my enthusiasm would draw him out. I rose briskly from the table and approached him in the long, narrow aisleway that comprised the kitchen, trapping him in front of the stove.

“Hi, Mom,” he said flatly, giving me a desultory hug.

“You’re finally here!” I gripped his shoulders while continuing my efforts at enthusiasm. “We’re glad. We’ve been waiting a long time! Boy, what a night you must have had last night. Are you tired?”

“No. Not really. But I don’t want to talk right now.” He looked at me dully. I smelled a whiff of pot, which made me suddenly angry. He maneuvered around me and began to walk away.

“You don’t want to talk now?” I asked pettishly, following him through the dining area. “Well that’s really a bummer, Edward, because I have a lot of things I want to talk to you about. I’ve been waiting here for you to show up for four days now, to start with. So I’m a little curious about what happened with that. Why didn’t you ever come or answer any of my thousand phone calls?” My voice rose in anger. “Then last night we all had to get up in the middle of the night to deal with your BART crisis, so I’m thinking you owe me a little something there too—a little bit of explanation.”

Eddy didn’t answer, but continued walking through the living room and into the bedroom, where he sat down on the double bed and stared straight ahead with glassy eyes. I stood in the doorway, trapping him once more, and tried vainly to capture his attention. Kay and Dora sat silently on the couch in the living room, out of the line of fire.

“Dad said you got kicked out of the co-op yesterday,” I challenged. “What was that all about? What happened there?”

“I don’t know,” he said tersely, gazing past me at the wall. “What do you think happened?”

“What do I think happened?” I repeated incredulously. “How the hell would I know?” I spat out angrily. “Listen Eddy, I’m asking you a simple question. Just give me a straight answer. What did you do at the co-op that made them kick you out?”

“Oh, not much,” he turned his half-lidded eyes towards me sullenly. “The guy I was rooming with just didn’t like the way I was talking.”

I couldn’t help snorting sarcastically at this answer. “Gee. I think I can understand his point of view. Was it anything like the way you’re talking to me now?”

“I don’t know. How am I talking to you now?”

“Uh…by not saying anything,” I prodded aggressively. “By walking away from me when I’m talking to you. By not answering my questions. By deflecting every question I ask you with a meaningless question of your own!”

Eddy said nothing, and I realized my hysterics had no effect on him. I made a conscious effort to rein in my feelings, to calm down. “But seriously, Eddy,” I continued in a gentler tone, “did he really kick you out just because of the way you were talking?”

“I don’t know. I guess I just made him feel uncomfortable or something.”

“How so?” I tried to picture the scene at the co-op. Had Eddy been babbling incoherently? Had he been following his roommate around and haranguing him?

“I think he thought I was trying to convert him or something,” Eddy continued.

“Convert him? Convert him to what?

“Oh, you know,” he finally looked at me and began to smile inanely.

“No, I don’t know, Edward,” I felt my temperature rising despite my efforts to control it. “What are you talking about?”

“What do you think I’m talking about?”

“Edward, stop FUCKING with me!” I exploded. “I’m just asking you what happened! Why can’t you give me a straight answer? You aren’t the only one that matters in all this, you know. Rose is supposed to move into Stebbins for the fall semester. Do you think you did anything that would prejudice them against her?”

“Yeah,” he considered the question dispassionately, smiling to himself. “Maybe some of the people there will be a little wary of meeting my sister.” He nodded and grinned at me again, which drove me over the edge.

“Why are you SMILING!?” I yelled at him. “Does that make you happy? So it’s not enough that you have to fuck up your own life with your little mental experiments—your drug trips, your adventures into insanity. It’s not enough that you have to run your father and me all over town in the middle of the night, making us crazy with worry about what’s going on, now you have to go and fuck things up for your sister, too!”

“That’s good Mom,” he answered softly, smiling and looking directly at me for the first time. The crazier I was becoming, the more at peace he seemed. “You’re saying something real now. I couldn’t talk to you before because it was just bullshit.”

“Who the hell are you to tell me if what I’m saying is real?!” I shouted at him, completely losing control. “Don’t patronize me!”

“I like what you’re doing, Mom. Keep going,” he continued calmly, smiling more broadly this time and making a circular, beckoning gesture with his hand. “Keep going…”

“FUCK YOU Edward!” I finally shouted, defeated, with tears springing to my eyes. “Why does my getting upset make you happy? Is that your greatest goal in life? Is that your deepest desire? To upset me?”

“There’s nothing wrong with crying. It’s good for you,” he said approvingly.

“I don’t WANT to cry! Jesus Christ—you’re manipulating me! You come here and haven’t got a thing to say to me until I start crying—then all of a sudden you’re happy, you’re ready to talk. Well, fuck you, Edward. I’m not playing this game anymore. I’m finished.” I whirled out of the room and tried to slam the flimsy hollow wood door closed behind me, but it got stuck on the overthick baby blue carpet. I threw myself down on one couch while Kay got up from the other and went in to talk to Eddy.

“That’s fine,” I thought to myself. “Let her try to get something out of him. I’m finished.”

A moment later Dora followed her mother into the other room.

As the minutes passed, and the three of them murmured quietly together behind the closed door, I felt isolated and a bit idiotic, but there was no way I would consider re-entering that room. Instead, I lay alone on the fur-covered couch in the living room and considered what was making me so mad. There was something about Eddy that terrified me. His way of talking, his attitude that he had all the answers, was supposed to show the rest of us how to think and feel, his blank face and dispassionate response to my outburst reminded me too much of my crazy relatives. I remembered the summer my father flipped out in Santa Cruz, just a few blocks from here, and was put in the local hospital where they diagnosed him as paranoid schizophrenic manic-depressive. He never forgave my mother for calling the authorities that day. But she had to! He had locked himself in the closet and wouldn’t come out, removed every item from the refrigerator and placed it carefully on the table in the kitchen in a position of power from which it couldn’t be moved, forced Francine and her girlfriend to sit in strange postures on the floor in the living room for over an hour, not even allowing them to get up to go to the bathroom, so that they might balance the planets and influence astrological emanations in a positive way. Was the same thing happening to my son? I was worried about Eddy, deeply worried. But beneath my fear for his sanity was another emotion—anger. Because it seemed to me, intuitively, perhaps irrationally, that he was in control of himself—that he was playing a game that amused him. Eddy didn’t seem the victim of the serious mental illness that was flirting with his brain, but the instigator, inviting in in to his consciousness, nurturing it there, heaping all his fascination upon it, loving and respecting it more than his own human family, more than the physical world he belonged in--more even, than me. Just as he had done for most of his life, he was upsetting people—including himself—but now the stakes were much higher, and I no longer wanted to be a pawn in this game.

Read the next chapter HERE, or buy a paperback copy of the whole novel HERE.

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