Sunday, March 2, 2008

Chapter 22 ~ Oakland

Photo by
Brendon Stuart

Four days in the wilderness did not cure Eddy, or deepen his relationship with Charles (they argued), or make him any happier to come back to our house, nor did it open a spot for him in Project 60, or even a bed in the less desirable Palm Avenue detoxification center. When Eddy got back from camping, he burst through the front door without saying anything and went straight into his bedroom in the back of the house. “Hi Eddy,” I called after him as he swept through the living room. “How was camping?” My voice trailed in his tumultuous wake. He made a low groaning sound, unintelligible, as he hurried away from me.

Lawrence and I had been sitting on the couch, interacting with our individual laptops. I was reading and composing emails. Lawrence was probably perusing various conversation threads on some caustic bulletin board, judging by his sporadic laughter, perhaps intermittently browsing Craig’s List for bikes. The house was quiet because Henry was out with his friends playing football, or so he had told us. But now I couldn't help wondering if he was out smoking pot, or worse. Rose, home for the summer, was visiting friends in Berkeley. Lawrence and I continued surfing the Internet uneasily, without speaking, set on edge by our worry over Eddy, his enormous presence in the house, and our inability to agree on what we should be doing for him. About an hour later, Eddy emerged from his room to tell us he was moving across the Bay to Oakland.

“What?!” I was stunned.

“I’m moving to Oakland tomorrow. I found a place on Craig’s List. Do you want to drive me? Or should I take BART?”

“But Eddy, what happened to Project 60?” I asked plaintively. “I thought you were committed to going there.”

“I was committed—two weeks ago. But nothing happened, as you know. Now I’m feeling that I have to move on.”

“Ed. There’s no reason for you to move on. Our house is perfect for you. We can provide you with food and shelter while you’re waiting to get into the program.”

“That might be okay if you weren’t also keeping watch over me, Mom. I don’t want to have to keep asking myself every second if I’m doing something crazy—or if my mother thinks I am doing something crazy. I need to get out of this house and I’m going to do it. Tomorrow.”

I looked to Lawrence for support, but he wasn’t available. He didn’t look up or make an attempt to join the conversation; he kept his nose buried in his black Powerbook.

“But why Oakland, Eddy?” I turned back, already defeated. “Isn’t that the drug capital of the Bay Area? Isn’t that the murder capital of the world? Do you really think that’s the best place for you? Aren’t you going to run into temptation there?”

“No, not necessarily. There are drugs wherever you go, Mom. There are drugs here in Sunnybrae. The room I found is with a Buddhist who eats all natural food and meditates all day. It’s going to be a healthy environment—a lot healthier than here, where I feel constantly under surveillance. I can’t live here. There’s no question about that. I’ve already told him I’m moving in tomorrow. There’s nothing more to talk about.” Eddy started to walk away.

“Eddy, wait a minute!” I pleaded. “No one is surveilling you here. We didn’t object when you went camping. I didn’t follow you into your bedroom just now when you came home. I’m trying to give you your space, to let you have some privacy. But I’m also worried about you. And at the same time, I thought we agreed you were going to go straight into a drug rehabilitation program when we got home from Santa Cruz. What happened to that plan?”

“You already asked me that question!” he answered belligerently. “Find me a program to go into and we’ll talk about it. In the meantime, I’m leaving tomorrow.” Eddy turned and left the room before I could say anything more.

I turned to Lawrence for commiseration, but he only shook his head.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” I chastised him. “Why didn’t you back me up? Now he’s leaving and we’re going to have no idea what he’s getting into over there.”

“I didn’t say anything because in the first place, it’s pointless, and in the second place, maybe we need to back off and let Edward make his own decisions,” Lawrence said, finally looking up from his laptop. “He’s never going to grow up if you’re constantly trying to run his life.”

“What?!” I was insulted. “Trying to run his life? What the hell are you talking about?! You’re the one who said he should go immediately into a drug program! You’re the one who came up with this plan in the first place! All I’ve done is run around making phone calls, chasing people down, trying to make this happen so I could support your idea.”

“That’s true,” he admitted, “and I appreciate it. But two weeks is a long time to wait, and things aren’t working out as we planned. We can’t get him into a residential program, unless we’re ready to pay $20,000 to some Club Med rehab center, which we’re not. And frankly, I’m not sure anymore that that’s what he needs anyway. He hasn’t done drugs since Santa Cruz, so he’s obviously not a hard core addict. Maybe you can find him a 12-step group to go to in Oakland, or a daytime program, or something. Or better yet, maybe he can find one himself.”

Lawrence’s much reduced ambitions took the wind out of my sails. I felt confused and stymied, unsure what was right. So Eddy had fooled with drugs; he had had a nervous breakdown; he was ready for recovery. That much I thought I understood. But maybe a residential rehab program wasn’t really necessary, as Lawrence was saying. Just because it had worked for Francine, didn’t mean it would work for Ed. Maybe he’d already passed through the hardest part. Maybe we could find some alternate kind of program that would help him to get back on track.

“Well, he sounds pretty coherent, anyway,” I offered tentatively.

“That’s what I mean. If he’s coherent enough to find himself a place to live, he’s coherent enough to make decisions about a program. He really doesn’t sound bad off.”

The next day I drove Eddy to Oakland. I figured it was better to drop him off than let him find his own way over, so I would have an idea where he was staying, since he refused to give me the phone number or address. And as it turned out, it wasn’t the least bit inconvenient. I had a date with Lauren, my piano teacher, anyway. We were planning to go see a jazz show at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square in Oakland, and Eddy’s new place was nearby.

Eddy put his expensive bike in the trunk, after taking it to pieces. He carried his little white ibook laptop and a brown paper bag of clothes. He didn’t have his backpack because he’d lost it, along with his wallet. I wondered how he was planning to pay for his room, but decided not to ask. I’d wait for him to ask me for a check, and when he did, I’d offer to pay the landlord directly. That was my plan. I wasn’t going to give him money from his college fund which he could then use for drugs. I figured he could use his credit card at the local grocery store to buy food.

The drive to Oakland was uneventful. Lauren and I sat in the front seats and talked. Eddy was mostly quiet in the back. Once we found our way to Jack London Square on the waterfront, he began giving us directions. The place was inland, not terribly far from the club, on the way to Lake Merritt. Eddy made a few miscalculations in the directions, which I responded to testily. I was angry that he was moving out, although I was helping him to do it. He was angry that I was angry, I guess. Our interaction was tense. “Here it is,” he said at last. “Here’s the corner.” There were two tall apartment buildings on one side of the street and office buildings on the other. I pulled over to the curb and parked illegally. He got out of the car and got his things out of the trunk without help. Then he stood on the sidewalk and waved goodbye to us, urging us to leave. I wanted to watch him walk across the street and enter a building, but as he crossed the street toward one of them traffic started coming up behind me, so I pulled out and left him behind.

“I want to drive around the block before we go back to Yoshi’s, just to make sure he makes it inside,” I told Lauren.

“Okay,” she was understanding. Lauren had a son close to Eddy’s age who had required a little extra attention all his life. “Is he going to be all right, do you think?” she asked.

“I hope so, but I’m not feeling very confident. I’m not sure what’s going on in his head lately. He was in the psych ward two months ago; I think I told you that.”

She nodded.

“Well, things haven’t really returned to normal since then. Then two weeks ago he said he was having a drug problem. We tried to get him into this program in San Mateo, but there weren’t any openings. I’m worried about him. I wish he wasn’t leaving, but he just won’t stay home.”

“Okay. Let’s check on him. Whatever you have to do.”

We took a left, and another left, and a third, then a fourth until we were back at the corner where we had dropped Ed. We saw no sign of him. “That’s good, I guess,” I said uncertainly. “That means he found the place he was going.” It wasn’t until I was driving off that I remembered he had also lost his cell phone when he lost his backpack. Getting ahold of him here was going to be virtually impossible, but there wasn’t anything I could do about that now.

The show at Yoshi’s was good—Latin jazz, featuring a cadre of drum players Lauren had recently met at jazz camp. We had delicious, fresh sushi and sat at a little round table in the back with a great view of the stage. Lauren knew many people in the audience who had also been to jazz camp, and went from table to table to greet them during the intermission. When they announced a surprise second set, though, I didn’t want to stay. I was edgy, and unable to enjoy myself. Lauren lined up someone else to give her a lift back to San Francisco and walked me out to the car.

“I understand,” she told me, when I apologized for my lack of enthusiasm. “I hope things get better soon. Good luck with your boy.”

I drove home quickly, and once inside, asked Lawrence if he had heard anything from Ed. “Yes,” he told me. “I was just talking to him online.”

“Really? How’d he sound? How does he like his place?”

“He sounded a little spacy. But he likes his place, I guess.”

“Is he online now? I want to get his address and phone number.”

“No. He signed off.”


The next day, a Sunday, my agitation kept growing. It seemed to me that we had made a big mistake. How could we have allowed Eddy to move to Oakland on his own, two weeks after he admitted having a drug problem, two months after being admitted to the hospital for a mental health problem? We had to be the most irresponsible parents on the planet! But when I went into the bedroom to express this view to Lawrence, he couldn’t see my point.

“Stop being so obsessive,” he scowled at me. “You’re stressing out for no reason. There’s nothing you can do about it, anyway, so you’ll have to let it go. He’s in Oakland now. It’s too late for second thoughts. Jesus, you just dropped him off yesterday, and as far as we know, nothing terrible has happened. Give his plan a chance to work before you start getting neurotic about it.”

I walked back into the living room unhappily, feeling worried and guilty and disrespected and blamed, and almost certain that Lawrence was misguided, but impotent to do anything without his lack of agreement and assistance. When the telephone rang, I jumped at it, hoping it would be Eddy.

“Hello?” I said breathlessly.

“Hello, Jo?”


“This is Sonia.”

“Oh, hi Sonia,” I answered, both disappointed and relieved. Sonia was a good friend of Ed’s, a creative and sensible young woman I admired and felt very comfortable around. She was exceptionally tall, with the strong, striking features of an Eastern European. Her profile was mythic and her personality, like Eddy’s, could fill up a whole room.

“Where’s Ed?”

“He’s in Oakland,” I said guiltily.

“Oakland?! What’s he doing there?”

“Well, it’s kind of a long story. But he says he can’t live here, Sonia. He found a place to stay on Craig’s List, and I drove him over yesterday.”

“Do you really think that’s a good idea, Jo?” she asked me sternly.

“No, I don’t Sonia. And I was feeling very upset about it just now, right before you called, like we’ve made a big mistake in letting him go over there. But Lawrence says it’s okay. He thinks Eddy needs to be able to make his own decisions in order to grow up, and that I’m being too controlling. So I’m feeling very conflicted and confused,” I admitted.

“I don’t think he should be alone right now.”

“You don’t? Why not?”

“I was talking to him online yesterday, and he sounded kind of strange. There’s something wrong with him, Jo.”

“Oh, Sonia,” I felt like crying. Her stating the obvious made it suddenly crystallize in my consciousness. “I think we made a mistake. We never should have let him go.”

“Jo, it’s not controlling to take care of your child. Something’s definitely wrong with him. He shouldn’t be over in Oakland right now, staying with some stranger.”

“Shit, Sonia. I know what you’re saying is right.” Her certainty was contagious. “But I don’t know what to do about it.”

“Do you want to go get him right now?”

“Yes. Yes, I do!” I filled with sudden enthusiasm. “But I’m not sure I can do it alone. I don’t think he’ll come with me. Will you go with me, Sonia, to try to convince him?”

“Yes, I’ll come. I can even drive if you want me to.”

“That would be great, because I don’t like driving at night. I can’t see that well.”

“Okay. I’ll be over in 20 minutes.”

“That’s wonderful. Thank you,” I was flooded with gratitude and relief, as if Sonia’s agreeing to come was all I needed to restore my son. “But Sonia, I should warn you, there’s a problem. I think I know what building he’s in, because I saw him walking toward it yesterday, but I don’t know his apartment number or have a phone number where I can call him. I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to find him there.”

Just then Lawrence called out from the bedroom. “Ed’s online again!”

“Good!” I shouted at him. “Get his address! Tell him Sonia and I want to come to see him!”

“Okay, Jo,” Sonia said in a businesslike voice. “I’m going to hang up now. You get the information we need. I’ll be over just as soon as I can.”

When Sonia hung up the phone, I hurried into the bedroom and sat on the bed next to Lawrence. “What’s he saying?” I asked breathlessly.

“He says he’s hungry.”

“That’s good! Tell him Sonia and I want to come and take him out to dinner.”

Lawrence typed.

“What’s he saying now?”

“He says that’s great. He’s glad you’re coming.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful.” I was immensely relieved. Now we wouldn’t have to cope with Eddy’s suspicions about why we wanted to visit him. We would be able to start our campaign to retrieve him on a friendly foot. “Ask him the address. Tell him I don’t know his apartment number. Get a phone number there.”

“Uh-oh. Too late. He already signed off.”

I was glad, anyway, that he knew we were coming. I asked Lawrence to stay online and keep an eye out for him—to get a phone number or apartment number if he could. I’d bring my cell phone and call Lawrence when we got there to see if he’d gotten any more information during our drive across the Bay. When I told him what Sonia had said, and what we were doing, he made no objection.

“Well, it’s funny he got online the minute you were on the phone talking about him. It’s like he’s asking for help, without coming out and saying it,” Lawrence said.

“You don’t think I’m trying to run his life, then?” I couldn’t help asking, a little sarcastically.

“No. Not this time. I guess he wants you to.”

When Sonia arrived and I climbed into her big, new car I felt safe and supported. It didn’t take long to drive to Oakland and find the intersection where I had dropped Ed off the day before. It was a busy street, with no parking, and two large apartment buildings on opposite corners. “He was walking toward that building yesterday, when I dropped him off,” I said, pointing to the blue building on the south side of the street.

We drove around the block, looking for a place to park. Around the corner was a crowd of maybe 20 African American men standing outside a dance club. The neighborhood was urban, part industrial, dotted with warehouses and businesses. The two apartment buildings seemed to be the only residences nearby. We weren’t entirely sure we were safe. Finally, Sonia found a place to park fairly close to where we were going. We got out of the car and walked together to the entrance. The door was locked, and required a key to get into the lobby. If you knew the apartment number, you could ask someone over an intercom to buzz you in, but there were dozens of numbers, and we had no idea which one was Ed’s. We stood around on the sidewalk for a few minutes, waiting for someone to go in or come out. We looked up at the lighted windows of the apartments. “Eddy!” we tried shouting a few times, “Let us in!” But there was no response. Finally an Asian couple arrived, opening the door to the lobby, and not protesting when Sonia and I followed them in. Once inside, though, we weren’t sure what to do next. We were in a lobby area, which also had a bank of buttons. “I think he said he was on the first floor,” said Sonia, selecting an apparent first-floor number on the intercom. Someone answered in a voice we didn’t recognize.

“Eddy?” Sonia asked.

A woman’s voice said something in an Asian language.

“I’m looking for my friend, Eddy,” Sonia tried to explain.

The same voice said something else which we didn’t understand. They continued back and forth a few times in their separate, unintelligible languages until they both gave up and the conversation ended.

“Hmmm,” Sonia tapped her finger on her cheek, considering what to do next. “I think I’ll try knocking on a few doors.”


While she walked up the stairs, I called Lawrence on my cell phone.

“Have you gotten ahold of him?” I asked.

“Yes. He’s online now.”

“That’s great!” I was excited. “Tell him we’re here in the building, but we can’t find him. Ask him his apartment number.”

There was a pause while Lawrence typed in this information. “He says he’s on the first floor,” he responded at last.

“That’s good—that’ll help. But what’s the apartment number?”

Another pause. “He says he doesn’t know it.”

“Tell him to go outside and look at the door!” I said, exasperated.

More waiting. “He says there’s no number on the door.”

Just then Sonia started coming down the stairs to the lobby. “I can’t find him,” she told me.

“He says he’s on the first floor…wait a minute. I’ve got Lawrence on the line. I’ll ask him to tell Eddy to stand in the hallway so you can see him.”

Even with this instruction, we couldn’t locate Ed. No one appeared in the hall. In the meantime, my cell phone started to run out of batteries. “Shit!” I called frantically to Lawrence as his voice began fading, like an ocean swimmer watching helplessly as the life buoy was dragged away.

Sonia came back down the stairs, and we considered what to do next. Maybe “first floor” mean ground floor, we conjectured. Perhaps there was an apartment or two off the lobby space we were standing in. Sonia looked around, knocked on a door she found outside, off of a central garden, but had no more luck.

“Okay, let me go get my cell phone out of the car,” she finally decided. “You stay here, in case he comes down.”

“This is so stupid,” I told her. “I can’t believe we can’t find him! You know what, we need to tell him to come down and find us. Who knows? Maybe we’re in the wrong building.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Tell you what, instead of waiting here in the lobby, I’m going to stand outside on the corner. Tell Lawrence to tell Eddy to come down to the corner and get us.”

We walked outside together, looked at the street signs to make sure we had the names right, and then I stood there, hands around the pole, while Sonia walked off to her car. Before long, she drove up and parked right in front of me, in a red zone.

“I’ll just park here,” she said as she hopped out of the driver’s seat. “It won’t matter, as long as one of us stays with the car.”

“Did you call Lawrence?”

“Yes. I got ahold of him. He told Eddy to come get us.”

“Good. It shouldn’t be long now.”

But even though we didn’t budge from the streetcorner, and even though both apartment buildings were steps away, it was another 20 minutes before I spotted Ed across the street, wandering around on the front lawn of the opposite apartment building with his laptop open in his hands.

“Eddy!” I called out. “Over here!”

Ed looked up and saw me, but gave no start of recognition. He ambled over, too slowly. Once Sonia saw him coming, she stepped out of the car.

“Hi, Eddy,” I said warmly. Then, “What took you so long?” suspiciously. “We’ve been waiting on this street corner for you to come and get us for 20 minutes.”

“I don’t know,” he said vaguely, turning from me to Sonia. His eyes looked glazed.

“How are you doing?” Sonia asked. “Are you hungry?”

“Not really,” he shook his head.

“Not hungry! I thought you said you were. We came to take you to dinner.” I stated the ostensible purpose.

“I was hungry. But then I ate something and it passed,” Ed said simply.

“Well, what are we going to do then?” Sonia stood with her hands on her hips.

“We could still go out,” Ed smirked. “I could probably eat more.”

“Let’s get in the car and talk about it,” Sonia said. “It’s cold out here.”

Once in the car, Eddy looked even more disoriented. Sonia sat in the front and turned on the overhead light, pivoting toward the rear of the car to face us, her own face positioned between the backrests of the two front bucket seats. Eddy and I sat in the back, where he hunched down in one corner and looked up at us fearfully .

“Eddy, you look strange,” Sonia started without embarrassment. “I want to ask you a question and I want you to be totally honest. Can you do that?”

Eddy shrugged.

“Are you on drugs right now?”

Eddy looked at her and slightly nodded his head. I was surprised that we had gotten so far so fast, but I kept my mouth shut, not wanting to interrupt his mood of cooperation.

“I knew you were. I can tell,” Sonia continued. “Your pupils are really dilated. Plus you’re super hot.” She put her hand over his. “You’re burning up, Eddy!”

Eddy just looked at her and smiled.

“Listen, Ed, your mom and I don’t think you should stay here. We’ve come to bring you back home.”

Ed frowned for a moment, pulling his hand away from hers. “I don’t know. I’m not sure about that. I just got here.”

“Well, it doesn’t look like it’s a good place for you, considering you’ve been here for one day and you’re already strung out on drugs,” Sonia said reasonably.

Eddy pursed his lips and considered.

“How much stuff have you got here? Let’s go upstairs and get it so we can take you back home.”

Eddy didn’t agree at first. It took another hour of cajoling. We drove around talking for awhile, and then parked on the banks of Lake Merritt, which was strung with pretty white lights. Eddy tried to protest, to come up with reasons he should stay in Oakland, but his brain wasn’t functioning very well, and finally he agreed to let us take him home.

He said he would get his stuff himself, but after waiting in the car for 20 minutes, Sonia went upstairs in search of him. The pair came back with his bike, his laptop, and a bag full of clothes—the same sundry items I’d dropped him off with the day before. He took a long time dismantling his bike, then couldn’t figure out how to fit it in the trunk. Sonia watched for awhile, to gauge the depth of his dysfunction, before stepping in to help him figure it out.

When we finally did get home, it was late. Sonia walked Eddy back to his room, but didn’t stay much longer, to my disappointment. I’d long wished they would make a romantic connection, that Sonia would become a permanent member of our family, a sympathetic spirit to help me handle my son. I gave her a grateful hug before she left and I climbed into bed.

The next morning, when I got up, Eddy was already on the telephone. He had called Palm Avenue, and miraculously, they’d said they had an available bed. Eddy seemed stunned, not sure he wanted to fulfill this commitment, but he told them he’d be over as soon as he gathered his stuff.

Once he hung up the phone, the household started bustling. Rose went into the bedroom with Eddy to help him pick out a few items to bring. Lawrence and I stood up and walked around in circles. Henry dragged himself out of bed and said he wanted to come along.

The five of us fit, just barely, in the little black Nissan—Lawrence and I in the two front bucket seats, the three children in back. Eddy seemed slack, pulled back, like he didn’t want to be going, but the rest of us were energized and surging ahead.

We found Palm Avenue where they told us it would be, on a side street off of El Camino, near 25th Ave. in San Mateo. Once we piled out of the car, Eddy asked his father for a cigarette. Lawrence, ostensibly, was quitting, and I had never seen Ed smoke before, but Lawrence had a pack in his pocket and gave Ed what he asked for. I said nothing. All the rules had changed. We milled around on the sidewalk while he slowly smoked it.

Once he was done, we walked across the street to the center. The glass entry door was locked. We buzzed, and a man came out to ask us what we wanted.

“This is Edward Thibedeaux,” I said, gesturing. “He called a half hour ago and was told he could come in and have a bed.”

“Oh, okay. And you’re all with him?”


“Well, come inside.”

Once in the door, we saw a dark and barren facility. There was a woman behind a counter who handed us a clipboard. A hall we weren’t allowed down led to a number of bedrooms. A large room in the center held a ping pong table and some old couches. Out the back I could see light streaming through a doorway that led to some kind of courtyard. In the lobby were three chairs, not enough for our family. Eddy sat in one. I took another. Rose, Lawrence and Henry stood.

“You have to fill these forms out before you can be admitted,” the man explained.

Eddy sat in his chair with the clipboard on his lap, but didn’t look at the forms. His head drooped. He seemed almost comatose, like he might begin drooling. Rose coaxed him.

“Come on, Eddy. This is what you wanted, remember? Once you’ve been here for three days, they’ll let you into Project 60 like you planned.” She handed him a pen, but he wouldn’t wrap his fingers around it. The male attendant stood with us for awhile, watching Edward sit hunched over the clipboard, doing nothing. I wondered if this was different behavior than he usually saw.

“That one just says you won’t sue us. You don’t have to read it. Just sign there,” he said helpfully, tapping his finger on the clipboard.

“I’m not signing anything I don’t read,” Eddy lifted his head to say with hostility before hunching over the clipboard again. I couldn’t tell if he was making an attempt to read the first form. There were three more underneath it.

“You want me to read it to you?” I asked impatiently.

He shook his head.

I was angry with Ed. I didn’t understand what he was doing. I couldn’t tell if he was stoned, or hungover, or just manipulating us, or insane. Other members of the family took turns coaxing him gently, but I turned away and read the brochures on a cheap plastic rack in the lobby. It was another half hour before he signed the forms.

“Okay, Eddy,” Rose hugged him before we left the facility, “good luck here. We’ll see you soon.” Then each of us lined up to have our turn at a hug.

“You can call us,” I told him, showing off the new knowledge I’d gained from reading brochures. “It says in the rules that you can use the telephone.” He nodded.

“You got another cigarette?” he asked Lawrence, who handed him what remained of his pack.

As we walked across the street and piled into the car, Eddy stood at the glass door and watched us forlornly. Even this small gesture of reluctance made me angry. “Was he trying to make us feel guilty?” I wondered. “Were we supposed to feel sorry for him? He was the one who was bringing all this trouble upon us. He was the one who was doing dangerous drugs, who was acting irresponsibly. Now he implies that we’re forcing him to do something he doesn’t want to--that we're abandoning him. Has he forgotten that he was the one who made the phone call?”

Once back home, I felt tremendously relieved. Eddy was safe. He was cared for. He was on the road to recovery. Surely this ordeal would soon be coming to an end. But it was only a few hours before I got a call.

“Mom. I don’t like it here,” he told me.

“Well that’s understandable, Eddy. I’m sure it’s going to be hard.”

“That isn’t what I mean. This isn’t good for me. There’s nothing here making me better.”

“Well this isn’t the therapeutic part, Eddy. Remember? You just have to stay there for three days, so they can verify you aren’t doing drugs, and then they’ll let you into Project 60. Once you get there, there will be an actual program. It will be much better. But don’t they do anything where you are? I’m surprised. Aren’t there 12-step meetings, or something?”

“No. There’s nothing to do. The people in here are all obnoxious. And the television is on 24 hours a day. It’s driving me crazy.”

“Eddy, just hang in there. I know it’s hard. But it will be worth it. It’s only three days, honey. Maybe you can ask for a room far away from the TV.”

He didn’t call that night, which relieved me somewhat. But the following morning, he sounded much worse.

“Mom,” he said softly. I could hear him crying. “I can’t stay here.”

His voice alarmed me. “What’s a matter, honey? Why are you crying? What’s wrong?”

“I can’t do it,” he sobbed. I envisioned him in the phone booth on the patio, his head hung over his chest, as it had been at Santa Cruz when he made his confession. I could see the snot stringing out of his nose. “Is this the come down?” I wondered. “Does this always happen when he’s coming down off of crystal meth?”

“Eddy, I’m so sorry this is hard for you,” I concentrated all my energy on the receiver. “I know it’s terribly hard. I can hear it in your voice. And I wish I could help you, honey, but I don’t think there’s anything anyone can do. You just have to bear it. You just have to get through it. It’s only two more days.”

“This isn’t right. This isn’t working,” he blurted out through his tears before hanging up the phone.

An hour or so later, Sonia came over. “How’s it going?” she wondered.

“All right, I guess. I got two calls from Eddy. He sounds desperate and unhappy.”

“I know. I’ve been talking to him, too. I made a phone date with him. I’m calling him back at 3 o’clock.”

“Well, that’s good,” I was relieved that I wasn’t the only person he had talked to. Maybe Sonia had been able to comfort him a bit. “That’s something he can look forward to, then. That will help the time pass.”

“That’s the idea.”

We sat and chatted awhile, both feeling somewhat satisfied and secure that Eddy was finally in good hands, and that we had had something to do with getting him there. Then Sonia left to run a few errands after letting me know that she’d come back at 3 to make the scheduled phone call from our house.

When 3 o’clock came, though, and Sonia called the Palm Avenue detoxification center, they told her that Eddy had left hours before.

That’s the thing with the center. It’s not locked. It’s voluntary. It’s also confidential. And since Eddy was 18, it wasn’t anyone else’s business that he had chosen to leave the center. They didn’t have to call us, they told Sonia calmly, as she got progressively more agitated on the phone. They couldn’t have called us if they wanted to. It would have been a violation of his privacy.

Sonia and I went immediately berserk.

“Omigod, he’s not there! He hasn’t been there for hours!”

“What can we do? Where can he be?”

“Come with me in the car.” We ran out the front door and piled into Sonia’s car, unsure exactly what we would do next.

“Let’s drive by the center,” I suggested, “and then down the street to the park. Maybe he walked to Central Park from there. It’s pretty close. We might find him.”

How many hours can a mother and friend search for a lost young man without giving up hope? It was only two that day—first together and then in different cars so we could cover more ground—before we returned home to wait desolately by the phone.
It was close to dinnertime when he called.



“Can you come get me?”

“Where are you?”

“On the sidewalk. A block from the center. I’m using someone’s cell phone.”

Even knowing where he was it took some time to find him, crouched down between two parked cars, his head hunched between his shoulders, making him nearly invisible from the street.

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

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