Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chapter 19 ~ Confession

Photo by
Brendon Stuart

The next day Eddy kept his distance. Kay and I lured him into playing the promised game of Settlers, which he won as usual, despite his apparently dulled senses, but he spoke little during the game, made his moves without enthusiasm, and left soon afterwards for a walk on the beach. He was gone for hours, reappearing briefly to rummage through the refrigerator, while making it clear he wasn’t interested in any interaction. Then, as he was preparing to leave again, he asked if he could borrow $20.

“Borrow $20?” I responded angrily. “Why are you asking me for money? What happened to your own money?”

“I lost it,” he grinned.

“You lost it? How did you lose it?”

“That was easy,” he said in a singsong voice. “I lost it when I lost my backpack.”

“You lost your backpack?!” I was incredulous.

“Yep.” He was nonchalant.

“When was this? What was in it?”

“Oh, you know, the usual. Passport. Wallet. Cell phone. Money. Student ID. Poetry. Journal. Papers.”

“Jesus Christ, Edward! Did you have the credit card Dad and I loaned you in your wallet?”

“Hmmm, let me think about that.” He put his hand to his chin and gazed at the ceiling. “Yes, I think I did.”

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?!” I was exasperated. “Now we have to call up the credit card company and cancel it right away. Somebody could be using it right now to charge up thousands of dollars.”

“Nah. I don’t think so.”

“Why not?”

He shrugged his shoulders. I looked over at Kay in perplexity.

“Where did you lose it? On BART? Maybe we could call the lost and found.”

“Nah. It wasn’t on BART. I lost it before then.”

“Where? How?”

He looked at me with disgust, as if I was being deliberately difficult. “The same way you always lose things, Mother. I put it down somewhere. I didn’t remember to pick it up.”

I shook my head. “But how could you put down something as important as your backpack? I hope that $1,000 check I wrote you wasn’t still in the pocket.”

“Thousand dollar check?” he looked surprised for a minute. “Oh yeah. I forgot about that. I guess I lost that too.”

“Great. Well, I’m not giving you any more money. And right now, I’m going to call the credit card company and cancel that card.”

“Okay. You do that,” Eddy turned to go out the front door as I was picking up the telephone.

After Eddy left the cottage and I cancelled the card, I tried to resume my activities. It was a Saturday and the sun was shining. Surely some pleasure could be derived from this day. I went about my business, making an effort to be cheerful, but couldn’t dispel the sour feeling which had taken up residence in my chest. How could my son be so careless? Why didn’t he express remorse? Was this just rebellious, rude teenage behavior? Or was it something else? After making a quick trip to San Jose to drop Dora back home, Kay and I went back to shopping, sewing, hammering, painting, assembling, cooking, eating and chatting in a steady but subdued state, both worried by Eddy’s odd behavior. I was glad to have someone to talk to about Ed, someone with insight into his personality. I felt particularly grateful for Kay’s friendship that day, and for her friendship with my son—not to mention the beautiful slip cover she was sewing for our beach house couch with no apparent effort, complete with contrasting piping around the pillow seams.

Despite my less than pleasant companionship, Kay dutifully kept me company until the late afternoon, when Lawrence arrived on his bike and she went back home to take care of some business of her own. “I think I’ll try to get my son to come out of his room to help me with something in the kitchen,” she said. Her own 18-year-old, although not actively obnoxious or insane, had spent the last several months holed up in his bedroom playing the online game Myth for 24 hours a day. I gave Kay a hug and wished her luck.

“Where’s Eddy?” Lawrence wanted to know as soon as Kay left.

“I’m not sure. He’s been avoiding me. He went for a walk on the beach for hours, then came home long enough to ask for money and get into a fight. Then he left again.”

“Probably out scoring drugs on the Boardwalk,” he said ruefully.

“Probably…” I agreed. “Except I didn’t give him any money.”

“How’s he been?”

“That’s hard to say. Okay, I guess. He’s coherent. But he’s distant and evasive. Or sometimes he’s in a strange guru-type mood where he’ll only ask philosophical questions. I tried to talk to him last night, to ask him what happened at the co-op, but he wouldn’t give me any answers. We got into a big fight.”

“That’s typical.” Lawrence said, which was often his response to reports of disagreements between me and Ed. He regularly commented on the dysfunctional dynamic existing between us—something I deeply resented. He acted as if he had a much better relationship with our difficult middle child, and suggested it was because of his superior skills as a parent. The truth was that Lawrence and Eddy interacted less often, and less meaningfully. There was less energy—and therefore less trouble—between them. Still, I let his derogatory comment pass, because I didn’t have any energy left to dispute it.

“This morning he played Settlers with me and Kay, but he seemed very dull. His eyes were vacant. He didn’t have anything to say.”

“Did he win?”


Lawrence snorted derisively. “That’s my boy. There couldn’t be anything too terribly wrong with him, if he’s still got enough brain power to beat you both at that game. Yesterday at breakfast, it seemed like he was in some kind of coma.”

“He was like that here, too. I’d be more worried, but I get the impression he could wake up if he wanted to—that he’s doing this deliberately.”

“I know what you mean.” Lawrence nodded contemplatively.

We continued discussing Eddy—who seemed to be our lifelong conundrum—in the car on the way to the gourmet Chinese restaurant where we met up with Jill and Chris, a lesbian couple I’d met through the UU Church in San Mateo. Our dinner was delicious, and filled with conversation not related to Edward, which was a welcome distraction. But when it was over, and I invited them back to the house for more socializing, I felt the need to issue a warning first.

“You’re welcome to come and hang out with us at the house, but I’m not sure how comfortable it will be,” I said. “Eddy may be there, he’s been in and out, and we’ve been having some problems with him.”

“Really? What kind of problems?” Jill wanted to know. She was another older woman who felt an affinity with Eddy. A few years back, she had convinced him over dinner one night that he wouldn’t like to be a lawyer since he didn’t like doing homework. (We’d long contended that lawyering would be a good profession for our argumentative son.) Instead, she suggested he might look into dental hygiene, her profession, in which he could make a lot of money while working only a few days a week. Despite her successfully pointing our son in the direction of professional slacking, we continued to dine together with Jill and Chris when the opportunity arose.

“It’s hard to say, really. Maybe nothing will go wrong. But he’s been a bit difficult. He was hospitalized a month or so ago for mental problems, and we’re not sure that they’ve completely gone away yet.”

Jill and Chris decided they were willing to risk it, and followed us back to the house, where we were still standing in the living room lamenting current politics when Eddy surged through the front door.

“Mom,” he walked over to stand directly in front of me, excluding the other people in the room and interrupting me mid-sentence. “This isn’t really working for me,” he said coolly, with the air of a rock star appearing on MTV. “I want to go home.”

“Okay,” I answered slowly and deliberately. “Goodbye.” I fixed him with a hard, threatening stare before turning my attention back to Jill and Chris.

“Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out,” his dad added.

Ed was momentarily flustered, turning around to look at his father to absorb his comment, and then back to me.

“Mom,” he interrupted again. “Can I talk to you?”

“Not now,” I said firmly. “I have guests, as you can see.” I swept my arm, palm upward, to indicate the presence of Jill and Chris.

“But Mom, could you give me a ride…”

“Not now Eddy!” I exploded. “If you want to go, GO! If you want to stay, STAY! If you want to talk to me, SIT DOWN and wait on the couch until I’m finished with what I’m doing. If you don’t, DON’T. You’ve been out wandering around all day without the slightest concern for what I wanted. I don’t have to drop everything I’m doing the second you decide you want some attention. The whole world doesn’t revolve around you!”

“Okay,” Ed looked stunned for a moment, then like he was sincerely trying to absorb this information. “Okay,” he said again, more quietly, before sitting down on the couch carefully and closing his eyes. I looked around the room in exasperation. The atmosphere was strained. It wasn’t long before Jill and Chris decided to take their leave. Then it was time for the three of us to try to work out some of our problems in private.

“What do you want from me, Eddy?” I started, already angry.

“I want a ride home.”

“What do you mean by ‘home’? Dad's and my house? Last time you were there you said you couldn’t stand our scrutiny. You didn’t want to live there another day,” I spat sarcastically.

“I don’t know. I guess so.” He sounded humble.

“Well, I’m not going home right now. I’m not leaving until Monday, maybe Tuesday. You can stay here and get a ride with me then, or I can give you a ride to the bus stop, if you want to leave now on your own.”

Eddy sat on the couch with his legs crossed, guru style, and his hands resting palm upwards on his lap, in a posture that reminded me of the day he had been admitted to the hospital six weeks before. His manner was chastened. He kept his gaze down. This show of humility softened my anger, but also relaxed me enough to say more. For the first time since he’d arrived, he seemed to be listening, receptive.

“Eddy, I don’t understand what’s going on here. I don’t think you realize how rude you’ve been. First you make me and Kay wait here for four days, then show up without any explanation of why you didn’t come before. Next you get lost and run your Dad around the entire Bay Area in the middle of the night, but don’t show any gratitude or remorse. You get kicked out of the co-op where your sister is planning to live, but you seem happy about it. You lose my credit card, but don’t bother to apologize or even tell me about it. And you have nothing to say to me, nothing at all, until you suddenly decide you want something from me—or unless you’re trying to make me cry!”

I paused to give him a chance to respond to these charges, but he didn’t seem to know what to say. He gazed down into his lap. “I’m sorry,” he finally offered softly. I looked at Lawrence in amazement. We had almost never heard those words issue from our son before. Lawrence nodded encouragement for me to go on.

“Well that’s good, Eddy. That’s a start. Because you should be sorry,” I continued with vigor. “You should be sorry that you’re causing so much worry and upset to your family—to the people who care about you the most.”

“I know that.” Again, I felt amazed. What had happened to him this afternoon in his absence? He was a boy transformed.

“And what about this idea you have that you’re some kind of guru?” I went on excitedly. “Do you know how presumptuous it is for someone your age, 18-years-old, to come in here and try to tell me what I should think and feel? Do you have any idea how obnoxious that is? Who are you to try to manipulate me, to instruct me, to guide my feelings? What the hell do you think you know? I’ve been on this planet 50 years and you aren’t even a grown-up!”

“You’re right, Mom,” he said quietly. Lawrence and I traded incredulous glances again.

“And what about the creepy way you were talking—refusing to answer questions, to have a normal conversation? What’s that all about? What gives you the right to go around messing with people’s heads? Is that what you did at the co-op? Give everyone the runaround? Get them all upset? Why can’t you just do what’s expected of you? Why can’t you just conform?”

“I don’t know.” His unexpected compliance sapped away all my anger.

“You know, Eddy,” I continued, more softly, “we’d be sorry, we’d be sympathetic to your problems, if it seemed like this was something that was out of your control. But it seems to both your dad and me like you’re making it happen on purpose. Like you’re playing some kind of head game that nobody else understands.”

“It seems like that to me too,” he nodded, still keeping his gaze down.

“Okay.” I was finished ranting. My frustration was suddenly replaced with tenderness. “So what do you want to do now? Do you want a ride to the bus stop?”

“No. I’ll wait for you. I’ll get a ride home on Monday or Tuesday.”

When the conversation was over, and Eddy had gone up into the attic to lie down, Lawrence and I both felt that something important had been accomplished.

“You really ripped him a new asshole,” Lawrence told me admiringly in bed later.

“I know. I didn’t mean to, but I was just so angry! And it seemed to work. That’s the crazy part.”

“Yeah. He sounded much better. It looked like he was listening.”

“It was like a cartoon I once saw, where a patient is lying on a couch, and the psychiatrist is slapping him across the face saying ‘Snap out of it!’ Then the caption says, ‘Counseling technique #342.’”

Lawrence chuckled softly. “Maybe that’s all he needed.”

“Yeah. Maybe he’ll snap out of it now.”

We slept peacefully. But despite my optimistic mood, I had another disturbing dream.

I am walking through the redwood forest when I hear someone crying. I search and search for the source, peering behind every tree. Then I stumble into a clearing and see Eddy, dressed all in white, sitting cross-legged on the grass, his face in his hands. “Eddy, honey,” I call softly, “What’s the matter?” He lifts his head and turns towards me asking, “Mother?” I realize with horror that his eye sockets are empty. There is nothing below his forehead but two gaping black holes...

The following day, a Sunday, my friend Angela came to visit—yet another older woman who identified with Ed. Angela was generous and openhearted, with dark hair and heavily-lidded eyes that made her look like a mystic. She had big, voluptuous breasts and an invariably calm, nurturing manner, emanating an aura of complete acceptance which invited people of all varieties to tell her their secrets. She dressed like a liberal Northern Californian, in natural fabrics that tended toward purple and blue and a copper bracelet with symbology from Eastern religions. She’d studied Hinduism and Buddhism, still smoked pot, and had once brought me to see a guru.

Angela worked as a teacher in a classroom of emotionally disturbed middle schoolers, in a job that would drive most people insane. The first year she got that position, while she was still earning her credential, her principal had driven all the way to Sacramento to plead for her to be allowed to take over the classroom despite her lack of official papers, calling her the most gifted teacher of troubled children he had ever seen. She was granted the exception, and later she had laughed with her characteristic good humor, “I’m the most unqualified teacher in California.”

Angela was an avowed bisexual, although married and the mother of two children, and for much of our friendship, had led a sexually charged life. But lately, with the influence of oncoming menopause and Prozac, she had focused on other interests. As with Kay, my appreciation of Angela had an element related to Ed. All his life, he’d been getting in trouble with authority figures (have I mentioned he was the only child in the history of Jefferson Elementary School to be expelled from Outdoor Ed.?), and all his life, I’d been wondering what I was doing wrong. I suspected it was my permeable boundaries, my flexibility, my egalitarian attitude toward parent/child relationships which had created this disrespectful, ungovernable child. And most of the people I talked with shared that view. Whatever was wrong with my offspring, our cultural values informed me, was traceable to the mother—although good qualities might occasionally be credited to the child himself. But Angela told me one day that she thought I had done an excellent job raising Eddy. This assessment was so surprising it had a physical effect on me. I stopped short on our walk together. I was stunned.

“How can you say that when he’s such a troublemaker?” I asked her cautiously. “What do you mean?”

“I hope you won’t feel insulted, but every kid in my classroom is just like Eddy,” she laughed, “except that they have different parents. They have parents who are trying to force them to fit in, to conform, who won’t accept their individuality—and the result is they are being turned into emotionally disturbed children. Eddy, on the other hand, is relatively normal. Sure, he can sometimes be a pain in the ass. But nothing really scary is going on with him. I could see a child with his personality becoming much worse. I have seen children like him who are much worse, in my classroom. He’s as good as he is because of what you’ve given him, because of the way you’ve behaved.”

Angela’s positive evaluation of my parenting became my personal mantra—saving me from untold hours of self castigation, giving me an argument with which to rebut my detractors, and Angela became my close friend. Because she’d already eaten by the time she arrived in Santa Cruz, she and Eddy decided to take a walk together on the beach while Lawrence and I walked down to have breakfast at Linda’s Sea Breeze Cafe. And by the time we returned, something new was happening. Eddy was changed again, had adopted a different persona, dressed himself all in black, and reclaimed the glassy-eyed indifference that had upset me before. The two of them sat together in low-slung beach chairs on the driveway in the sun, but when I walked over to join them, Eddy wouldn’t look up at me and Angela motioned me off.

“Ed and I are having kind of a private conversation,” she said apologetically. “Would you mind giving us just a little more time?”

“Oh, okay. No problem,” I answered awkwardly. If she could learn something about what was making him act this way, all the better, I thought. I followed Lawrence into the house and tried to find other occupations, only barely resisting an urge to eavesdrop. Forty-five minutes later, the two of them entered the living room and sat down on separate couches—Angela on the sloping couch beneath the window with Lawrence, Eddy on the fur-covered daybed with me.

“I think Ed has something he wants to tell you,” Angela opened casually.

“Oh really? What’s that?” I turned to Ed.

“Well, wait a minute. I’m not sure I really said that. I don’t think I’m ready to say anything yet.” Once again, Eddy was sitting crosslegged in his guru position. But now he seemed lively and engaged, if a bit embarrassed.

“But Ed,” Angela urged. “Didn’t you tell me you’d feel much better after you told your mom and dad?”

“I might have said that,” he laughed. “But I’m not feeling it now. I don’t know if this is a good idea after all. I’m not sure I know what the consequences will be.”

“Do you want me to tell them? Would that make it easier for you?”

Eddy took a deep breath while he was considering, and seemed to gird himself for confrontation. “Okay. Yes. Go ahead,” he finally said with decision.

“Eddy isn’t really having mental problems,” Angela told us confidently. “He’s having drug problems.”

I was taken totally off guard. My head snapped back and I took a sharp breath before Lawrence and I looked at each other in disbelief. This was good news, was the first thought that went through my head. This meant it was voluntary—it was fixable. But for some reason, this wasn’t something I had seriously considered. It was a big surprise. We both thought they had tested Eddy for drugs when he’d been admitted to the hospital, and found him clean. We both believed them when they had told us he was mentally ill. I felt a modicum of relief, followed instantly by an internal reprimand. Even if drug use was more fixable than mental illness, I knew it could be dangerous and I should be alarmed. Just as I’d had one cousin who’d committed suicide while in the throes of schizophrenia, another cousin had found premature death through heroin.

“What kind of drugs?” I asked Ed warily.

“Crystal meth,” he said.

“Oh Jesus, Eddy. That stuff is really, really scary. It’s bad. When’s the last time you did it?”

“Today. On the Boardwalk.”

“How long have you been doing it?”

“I don’t know. For awhile.”

I looked back at Lawrence, then over at Angela, not sure what to say next.

“Were you doing it in April?” Lawrence asked. “Is this what caused the mental breakdown?”

Ed nodded.

“Do you have any more? Maybe you should give it to us,” I pressed him.

Eddy started to shake his head.

“Listen Ed…” I began.

“Wait a minute, Jo,” Angela interrupted, preventing me from asking again. “If he has a stash and gives it to you now, that’s not really going to mean anything, is it? Since he can always go out and get more. I think the important thing to do now is to accept that he has a drug problem and decide what to do about it.”

“I agree,” Lawrence said. “I say we take Eddy straight from here right now to that program that Francine went into—what’s it called?”

“Project 60. At least, that’s the one for men. Francine went into the Women’s Recovery program.”

We sat in silence for half a minute.

“What do you say, Eddy?” his father took the initiative. “Would you be willing to go into a residential treatment program today? Are you ready to get some help?”

“Yeah. I think so,” Ed nodded. “I think I’m ready. I’ll go.” Then he bent his head over his chest and began crying. I moved quickly next to him on the couch, and put my arm around his shoulders. His whole body began to shudder. His crying got louder and deeper. It seemed as if every hurt he had ever suffered—every rejection, every humiliation, every ostracization—was being pulled up through his torso and escaping through his throat. I tried to comfort him, to soothe him, but the sobbing didn’t diminish. A long rope of snot began dangling from his nose. The top of his black tee shirt grew wet with tears. I saw through the corner of my eye that Lawrence was talking on the telephone, Angela was walking to the kitchen to get a paper towel. She came back and offered it to Eddy, who wiped his nose but continued crying. I imagined it was good for him, getting it all out, releasing the pain, surrendering to his suffering. But after almost 10 minutes of crying, even I began to wonder if something shouldn’t be done to stop him. Was he crying too much? Would he be able to stop?

“Okay, Eddy,” his father finally interrupted, walking over to us and putting a hand on his son’s shoulder. “It’s time to stop now. I called the bus station. It’s time to go.”

“How do you want to do this?” I looked up at Lawrence while Ed’s sobs slowly began to diminish.

“I think Eddy and I should take our bikes on the train together. That will give us time alone. That will be good for all of us,” he said.

I nodded.

“After we leave, you can call Project 60 and try to set up his admission. Then you can come home whenever you want to in the car.”

“Okay. I’ll come now. I’ll come tonight. I’ll just make the phone calls first, and I’ll have to put a few things away—to lock up the house.”

Ten minutes later, Angela was sitting across from me at the dining room table, sipping a cup of tea, while I was searching the Internet on my laptop for the necessary phone numbers and Lawrence and Eddy were walking their bikes together down the driveway.

“’Bye guys,” I whispered to myself as they turned the corner and passed in front of the house, waving weakly at their backs as they disappeared from my sight. Then I ran out to the sidewalk and watched them recede down the block. “’Bye guys!” I shouted, loudly this time. Lawrence turned his head slightly and waved, apparently annoyed at the intrusion. Eddy walked straight ahead without responding.

“I’ll see you tonight!” I called after them both, a bit desperately.

Come back next Sunday to read the next chapter, or buy a paperback copy of the whole novel HERE.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home