Sunday, March 16, 2008

Chapter 24 ~ Cronus

Photo by
Brendon Stuart

It was a tremendous relief to have Eddy back at home. Every possibility had passed through my mind during the five or six hours he was missing. He might be hurt. He might be lost at last to drug addiction or madness. He might disappear and never be heard from again. To actually have him in the house, physically safe, calmed the worst of those fears. But what were we to do with him now? He was still disoriented. He was still anxious and dissatisfied under our supervision. He still needed help beyond what we could provide. During the hours he was missing, I did some research on the Internet and found a residential drug treatment program in Santa Cruz that I thought might work. Instead of the tough, ex-con ethos of the Project 60 program—which still wasn’t promising him admission, and would be even less likely to let him in after he left the detoxification center too soon—Cronus of Santa Cruz professed a more alternative approach, including yoga and meditative walks on the beach in addition to the basic 12-step model. It wasn’t a resort type program with hot tubs and tennis courts—the kind of program Eddy would be likely to disdain—and it had what seemed a reasonable pricetag. We thought that Eddy would fit in there.

After finding him on the sidewalk and driving him home, we held a family meeting at the kitchen table. Eddy sat at the head, like a king receiving his petitioners, his long, greasy hair falling into his face as he surveyed the people arrayed around him. He wore a wife-beater tee shirt and low-slung jeans. If he wasn’t so emaciated, he’d pass for a celebrity. Rose and Lawrence sat on one side of the table. Henry and I sat on the other. Eddy seemed to be trying to organize his thoughts, to participate in the discussion in a logical and reasonable way, but you could see that it was an effort for him to hold the ideas in his head, to put one word after another in a coherent sentence.

“Why should I go there again?” he asked meekly.

“We’re thinking you need to have treatment right away,” I coaxed him. “Waiting three days without any program or direction obviously didn’t work for you at the detox center. Also, if it’s in Santa Cruz, it won’t be easy for you to walk away. You won’t have anywhere else to go, so you’ll have more reason to stay put.” I talked about the hippie flavor of the web site, the reasonable voice on the other end of the phone calls I’d made, the lack of other affordable options. Before long, Eddy agreed it would be a good solution. After his unpleasant experience at Palm Avenue, he seemed surprisingly cooperative, but since it was already getting dark, and we were all unspeakably tired, we made plans to drive to Santa Cruz the following day. Rose followed Eddy into his room to help him decide what to pack. Henry left the table dejectedly. Lawrence and I sought sanctuary in our bedroom, but it wasn’t forthcoming. That night I had another disturbing dream.

Eddy is a baby, wrapped tightly in a blue blanket. I am carrying him to the top of a windy hill. I see sheep in the distance, and a dark forest. I am wearing a long dress and a headscarf—unfamiliar clothes. I put him down on a flat rock. He starts crying loudly. I run away quickly—too quickly to see the shadowy figure that comes behind me to pick my baby up...

In the morning, with some effort, four of us piled into the little black Nissan. Lawrence drove. I sat in the passenger bucket seat in front, and Rose and Eddy squeezed together in back. Henry, showing signs of exhaustion, had decided to stay home. Just as with the Palm Avenue admission, it took some time to get Eddy into the car. He kept thinking he had forgotten something. Rose assured him he had everything he needed in the big, green duffel bag we loaded into the trunk. “We can always bring you whatever you need, if you realize later that you’ve forgotten something,” I offered. “It’s not like you’re going to be far away.”

The drive from Sunnybrae to Santa Cruz takes just an hour and 15 minutes if you take the quick route—101 down the the Peninsula to San Jose and then over the coastal range on curvy Highway 17. I typically take the slightly longerroute down the Pacific Coast. The drive between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz on Highway 1 is so beautiful that I’d taken to calling it my spiritual pathway. I’d been traversing it annually for at least 20 years, and even composed a prayer song once while driving it one summer when the kids were small. I called it a prayer, but I didn’t address God directly. I sang quietly about yearning to know “the perfect answer” while my three beautiful children napped in back. This morning, though, was different. Lawrence was driving, and he opted to get there as quickly as possible. Talk was minimal as we made our way down 101, but the mood in the car felt upbeat. It seemed we were making some kind of progress. We were beating the system. So what if Project 60 wouldn’t let our son in? We had found something even better. Eddy dozed a little, laying his head on Rose’s shoulder, taking up more than his fair share of the cramped space. Rose looked out the window. I kept my eyes focused forward, on the road.

We found the address with little trouble, surprised to realize it was just a dozen or so blocks south of the beach house we occupied each summer and a few blocks up from the beach. The place was a non-descript, two story, brown wooden building that looked like part of a much larger office complex. There was a stand of tall trees at one end, and a stretch of green grass in back. We saw two men sitting and talking intently on lawn chairs near the grassy space. Another group of people sat in the parking lot near the entrance to the building, smoking. I approached the second group alone, impatient with the time it was taking Eddy to climb out of the car and get his big, green bag out of the trunk. Lawrence and Rose hovered around him, helping. As I got closer to the group I made out a young woman in a tight, yellow tank top with a tattoo of a dragonfly on her chest and two green vines winding around one upper arm, two older men in flannel workshirts, and a middle-aged couple in jogging suits, both with dyed blonde hair. “Do you know where I can find Fred?” I asked the young woman in yellow, referring to the man I had spoken with on the phone that morning to arrange Eddy’s admission.

“He’s upstairs, in the office,” she pointed to a glass door behind her with the cigarette gripped in the first two fingers of her left hand. “Are you checking in?”

“Not me. My son.” I turned to look back at Eddy, who was approaching slowly with Lawrence and Rose.

“Well, you found a good place,” she assured me. “He’ll like it here.” Others in the group nodded their agreement. I smiled at them, relieved to get this friendly welcome.

“Eddy, here’s a few people who are in the program here,” I said brightly as he came within hearing distance, but he gave no indication that he wanted to linger and talk. “The office is upstairs,” I continued awkwardly. “This way.”

We walked through a glass outer door and up concrete and metal stairs to an open office door on the second floor landing. A big man sat at a desk there in a tank top, shorts and sneakers. On the wall behind his desk a window looked onto a bigger room filled with round tables, plastic chairs, pressed sawdust bookshelves and random clutter. The room looked presentable, but low-budget. None of the furniture matched. Two people sat together at one of the tables eating something unidentifiable off of a paper plate. A woman with a clipboard was passing through that area to another room, beyond. “Fred?” I asked tentatively, knocking lightly on the open door.

“Yes. That’s me.” He swung around in his chair.

“I’m Jo. I talked to you on the phone about bringing in my son, Eddy?”

“Then you made it. Good.” He rose to greet us, putting out his hand. “Come on in.” The four of us squeezed into his small office. Just as it had been at Palm Avenue, there weren’t enough chairs to accommodate us. It was unusual, I guessed, for a whole family to come to an admission interview. “Which one of you is the client?” he asked. I stepped aside and gestured to Eddy. “Okay. You sit there,” he put Eddy in the most prominent chair, closest to the desk. Lawrence and Rose took two others, backed against the side wall. I stood. “Let me get another chair,” Fred said comfortably before leaving the office.

“I’m not getting a good feeling about this,” Eddy said as soon as Fred left the room.

“Why not, Eddy?” I was annoyed that he was already protesting, but tried not to let it show in my voice. “He’s really nice. I talked to him on the phone. And the people out front said they like the program.”

“Give it a chance, Eddy,” Rose offered reasonably.

Eddy didn’t answer. Fred came back in with a plastic chair held high. There was barely enough floor space in the office to set it down. Once we all had a seat, he began the intake process.

“First, we’re going to have to fill out a few forms together,” he said. “I’ll just interview you, and fill in the answers. That might be easiest. Then after we do that, I’m going to want to talk to your son alone for awhile. Then we’ll all meet together once more before you leave here.”

“Okay.” Lawrence and I exchanged approving glances. This sounded like standard operating procedure. Nothing seemed to be amiss. Fred wrote down our name and address information and went over the general policies of the program before asking the room at large about Eddy’s case history. I looked quickly around before beginning. No one seemed eager to jump in. “Well, Eddy spent three days in a mental hospital a couple of months ago,” I told him finally. “At the time, we thought he was having a nervous breakdown and might recover with rest. But a couple of weeks ago, he told us he’s been using crystal meth. So that’s when we started trying to get him into a rehabilitation program. We had something lined up in San Mateo, closer to home, but it fell through. Then we found your place on the Internet.”

Fred nodded. “Is there any other drug use?”

I shrugged, looking over at Eddy. “I don’t know for sure. He smokes pot, I guess. I don’t know how often. He also was trying hallucinogens—Ecstasy, mushrooms—a few weeks before he went into the hospital.”

Eddy said nothing to disagree but started shaking his head.

“What’s the matter, Ed?” I asked him testily. “Have I said something that isn’t true?”

“That’s not true.”

“What isn’t?”

“Maybe now is a good time for me to have the private interview with Edward,” Fred interrupted. “Why don’t you let me talk to him briefly in confidence?”

“Okay,” I said uncertainly. Three of us stood up to leave the office.

“Don’t go!” Eddy shouted out suddenly, starting to rise from his chair, too.

“We’re not going anywhere, Eddy,” I put my hand on his shoulder and looked straight into his brown-green eyes, trying to reassure him. “We aren’t leaving, yet. We’re just going to wait outside while Fred talks to you in private.”

“This isn’t right. This isn’t working,” he said urgently, a whining tone creeping into his voice.

“It’s okay, Eddy.” Rose put in sternly, trying to bring him back to his senses. “Just talk to Fred for a few minutes. We’ll be right outside.”

The three of us walked down the stairs to the outer door while Fred closed the inner door to the office. Outside, in the parking lot, the group of smokers still congregated, but I wasn’t feeling very sociable now.

“What’s he talking about?” I asked Lawrence worriedly. “What did I say that wasn’t right?”

“I don’t know. Don’t worry about it. That guy looks like he knows what he’s doing. He has it under control.”

“Yeah, I guess,” I said doubtfully. We milled aimlessly at the foot of the steps, not wanting to venture too far, in case he called us back into the office. We surveyed the features of the mostly pleasant environment, and eventually I was sucked back into conversation with the program participants, although Rose and Lawrencemanaged to maintain their distance.

“He all checked in?” the tattooed woman asked cheerfully.

“Not exactly. Not yet. It seems like he’s having some second thoughts. Fred’s talking to him.”

“Oh yeah,” she smiled knowingly. “We all had some second thoughts. It’s hard to make the decision to enter the program. But once you do, it turns out to be the right thing. Look at me. I’ve been here for 28 days. I’m going to graduate next week.”

“Really? Did it work for you, in just 28 days?”

“Absolutely. I mean, I could probably stay a little longer. But I don’t have the funds. But what I got so far, though, it’s going to help me on the outside. And with a little luck, I won’t have to check in here again.” She nodded to herself while taking a long drag on her cigarette.

“Yeah. For some of us, it takes a little longer than others,” a man in a flannel shirt with an unruly blonde beard put in. “Some of us are slow learners.” The group laughed.

“But we all get it eventually. We all get it some day. When we’re ready,” the tattooed woman said philosophically. “Don’t worry about your son, ma’am. Fred will take care of him. He’s in good hands.”

I thought she was probably right, but I still felt glad for the reassurance. A few minutes later, a woman we hadn’t seen before poked her head out of the doorway. “Fred wants you to come back upstairs now,” she informed us. I gave a little wave to my newfound friend before we filed back up the stairs and into the cramped office. Eddy was still sitting in the same chair as before, but now he was hunched over, with his head in his hands.

“Okay,” Fred said, turning towards us on his chair. “I’ve just got a few more forms for you to fill out, and you’ll need to give me a deposit, and then you can leave your son here.”

“Okay,” I said hesitantly, looking at Ed.

“Mom. I don’t want to stay here,” he lifted his face to me. “ I want to go home. This isn’t the right place for me.” He started to plead. I looked in confusion first at Lawrence, then at Fred. Neither offered any answers.

“What do you mean, Eddy?” I finally asked, carefully. “I thought we all agreed that this would be the best option for you.”

Eddy began shaking his head again. “When I told you I was doing crystal meth, I was lying,” he told me. “I thought that was the right thing to do. I thought that was what you wanted to hear. But this isn’t the right place for me, Mom. I’m not a drug addict. I’m crazy. This place won’t help me.”

“What do you mean, you were lying?” my voice raised in alarm.

“I lied to you.”

“But how can that be, Eddy? You’ve got all the right symptoms. You’re skinny and hot and your eyes are dilated. You were on a crying jag.”

“I made it up, Mom. I thought it would be easier for you to hear. Don’t leave me here. Please don’t leave me!”

I looked at Fred in distress, upset by what Eddy was saying. It was true that I would rather he had a drug problem than a mental health problem. A drug problem was voluntary. A drug problem was curable. And despite the feelings of anger and frustration that rose in my chest every time Eddy did something out of the ordinary, I knew a mental health problem was probably not in his control. Had he realized that? Had he changed his story to suit me? Fred motioned me and Lawrence out into the hall, while Rose moved in close to comfort Eddy.

“I don’t understand why he’s saying that. What’s going on?! Is that what he told you in the interview?” I asked frantically.
“It’s just denial,” Fred said in a calming voice. “A lot of them want to deny they have a problem. Believe me, I’ve seen it before. It’s natural. I think the best thing for you to do is leave as soon as possible. That will make it easier on all of us, including him. The sooner he gets used to the idea that he’s staying, that you aren’t going to rescue him and take him out of here, the sooner he’ll start working with the program.”

Now Fred was saying what I wanted to hear. I didn’t want to turn around and bring Eddy back home. I had no idea what I would do with him there. Our health insurance wouldn’t pay for a drug treatment program, and all the facilities we’d looked into were either full or cost more than we could afford. The hospital wouldn’t accept him unless he was a danger to himself or others, which was difficult to prove, and I felt certain he wouldn’t let us talk him into going back there. We hadn’t managed to line up a psychiatrist, since he wouldn’t take medication, and he didn’t even have a counselor he felt he could talk to. It seemed like there were no other good options besides leaving him in the this program. “What do you think, Lawrence?” I asked in trepidation.

“I think we should do it. This guy is the expert. But let’s hurry. I don’t think I can take much more of this.”

We nodded our agreement and moved back into the office where I hurriedly signed two more forms and filled out a check. All the while, Eddy was complaining in the background, his voice getting louder and more hysterical. “Don’t go, Mom. Don’t leave me here! This isn’t right. This isn’t working!”I felt like I was abandoning my unwanted baby in the wilderness, as people did in ancient times. All my instincts told me that what I was doing was terribly wrong. I felt an overwhelming desire to drop my plans and comfort my child. But my mind overruled, pointing out that this was the only reasonable option. Eddy wouldn’t stay at home with us, and he couldn’t make it in the world on his own. Besides, no one was physically restraining him. This wasn’t a locked facility—a fact that we’d gone over with him a number of times while discussing entering this program the night before. The fact that he remained in his chair throughout his protests seemed evidence of a subliminal desire to stay.

“It’s okay, Eddy. You’re going to be okay. This is the best thing for you,” I tried to soothe him. But my efforts only made him more agitated.

“It’s not going to be okay. Don’t leave me!”

“Come on, everybody.” Lawrence pulled my arm in exasperation. “It’s time to go.”

The three of us hurried out of the office and down the stairs. As we left, Eddy rose half out of his chair as if to follow us, but Fred put a heavy hand on his shoulder and spoke to him in low tones. Still, if he’d wanted to break away, he could have, I reasoned to myself as we crossed the parking lot. I tried to walk at a normal pace, dreading the moment that Eddy would burst out of the building and come running after us. But that moment never happened. We got into the car gingerly, without incident. We started the engine carefully. We drove away.

As we pulled onto Highway 17 and started back over the mountains, I felt a strong surge of relief. The crisis was over. We’d left Eddy in good hands, now all we had to do was wait. Talk in the car was more lively on the drive home. We discussed what we liked about the building, the people in the parking lot, and Fred. We analyzed Eddy’s motivations for saying he didn’t have a drug problem. We congratulated ourselves on standing by him, but also remaining firm. We were practicing the “tough love” we had read about in 12-step materials. We felt certain we had done the right thing—the only thing that had a chance of working.

Once we got home, we peeled off into our individual bedrooms. Everyone was terribly tired. It was only noon, but I fell asleep the moment my head hit my pillow. I dreamt again of Eddy.

We were down in his room, the one that belongs to Henry now, beneath the rest of the house. It was dark. We were huddled beneath a blanket. The blanket was gray, or iron blue, rough in texture, like the old blankets my father brought home from the army after World War II. Itchy and tightly woven. The opposite of soft.

We were against the back wall of the room, under the not-stairs, beneath the hole in the ceiling that Eddy could pull himself through but I could not. I would have to take the circuitous routeout the locked door (but did I have the key?), through the musty storage room, into the overgrown backyard and around to the rickety back stairs if I wanted to leave. Something was calling me there, now. A bell. Urging me to leave the bedroom…

It was close to 3 p.m. when I awoke to the sound of the phone ringing. Lawrence was snoring beside me and unlikely to get up. I considered just letting it ring before dragging my heavy body off the bed and over to the antique, black dial phone on my desk in the dining room in time to answer it on the ninth or tenth ring.

“Hello?” I mumbled.

“Jo Kasten?”


“This is Rita at Cronus of Santa Cruz.” My chest contracted and I gripped the receiver more tightly.


“I’m calling to let you know that your son has left the program.”

“What?!” I looked around the room for someone to appeal to, but no one was there.

“Yes. He left around noon. We tried everything we could to bring him back, but we were unsuccessful.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No. Unfortunately, I’m not kidding.”

“Where is he now?”

“We don’t know.”

“Oh my God. You don’t know! How could this have happened? Is Fred there? Can I talk to Fred?”

“Fred isn’t here. His shift changed just before noon this morning, when I came on. I took some of the clients to the store, as we often do, and Edward came with us. We walked to the store, about three blocks from here, and everyone bought the items they wanted. But when it was time to leave, Edward wouldn’t leave with us. I tried to talk to him, but he just stared at me. He wouldn’t say anything—not anything at all. His eyes were completely dead. What kind of drug did you say he was on?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said tearfully. “I don’t see what difference that makes. Why did you take him out of the building, when you knew he didn’t want to be in the program?” I accused her angrily.

“He had to go with us. I was the only one on duty. When we go to the store, everyone goes together.”

“Well, that’s unfortunate, because it really didn’t work in this case, did it?” I said sarcastically. When she didn’t answer, I softened my tone. “He told us he was taking crystal meth,” I answered her earlier question. “But when we dropped him off this morning, he said that was a lie. He said he wasn’t on anything.”

“Well, he didn’t seem like he was on crystal meth to me. It seemed more like some kind of hallucinogen.”

“So what happened after the store?” I urged her to continue.

“Some of our clients tried to talk to him, but they weren’t any more successful than I was. Finally, we had to leave. We couldn’t wait there indefinitely. When I got back to the facility, I sent two of our big guys down to the store to look for him. They followed him to the beach, where he sat down in the sand. But when they tried to talk him into coming back to the place, he wouldn’t come. They stayed with him for about two hours, but couldn’t get anything out of him. He just sat there staring at the ocean. So finally, they had to give up.”

“Oh my God,” I said again, tears engorging my throat. “I don’t know what to do now.”

“I’m sorry,” she said softly, dropping her defenses for the first time. “That’s the way we felt, too. We just didn’t know what to do with him. He’s unlike any client I’ve ever worked with here. He wouldn’t respond to anything we said, and we couldn’t force him physically. That’s not in our policy. He left his bag here. He didn’t take a jacket. He didn’t even have on any shoes.”

“Oh, God…Okay,” I tried to gather my wits about me. “So, where did you see him last?”

“At Twin Lakes Beach. Just sitting in the sand.”

“And what time was that?”

“About 12:30 or 1. I’ve been trying to call you since then, but no one answered.”

I vaguely remembered the phone ringing while I was sleeping, its bell filtering into the dream basement room. “All right. Well, let me give you my cell phone number, so if he happens to come back, you can call me, OK?”


After I hung up the phone with Rita, I went into the bedroom to wake up Lawrence and tell him that Eddy was missing.
“What?” His deep brown eyes looked untroubled for a moment, his face was innocent and peaceful, surrounded by the nimbus of his curly black and silver hair. He was half naked, framed by white sheets, covered over with warm blankets. I wanted to crawl in beside him and pull the lot over my head. Then comprehension sharpened his focus. “Let’s go then,” he said suddenly, swinging his legs purposefully out from under the covers.

“You think so?”

“Don’t you?”

“Yes, I guess we better. We’ll go look for him.” I was glad that Lawrence had a plan of action. Anything would be better than sitting home and worrying.

The second drive to Santa Cruz that day was much more frantic than the first. I said little but imagined a lot as Lawrence raced over the mountain, getting us there in an hour--record time. First we went to the rehab facility, picking up Eddy’s green duffel bag and avoiding a long conversation with Rita. Next we drove the few blocks to Twin Lakes beach, parking the car near some rocks lining the roadway where a Mexican family was having a barbecue. We picked our way through the big rocks, trying not to intrude on the party, before walking out onto the sand together. We looked up and down the beach.

“Do you see anyone who looks like him?”

“Not really. It’s hard to say. Maybe that person there,” I pointed to a black dot huddled under a towel 200 yards away. “Or maybe that person out on the point.”

The beach was limited by bluffs on either end that jutted out into the water, preventing passage. “Why don’t you go that way and I’ll go this? Then we’ll meet back here in the center.”


I would have preferred to stay with Lawrence, but our time was short. It was already after 4 o’clock, and before too long the sun would be going down, making finding Eddy nearly impossible. I hurried off over the sand, looking carefully at every person I passed to make sure it wasn’t my son. He wasn’t the long-haired hippie huddled in a black blanket, nor the teenage girl looking for shells in the surf. He hadn’t joined the group of people smoking pot around a beach fire, nor was he one of three hardy athletes throwing themselves into the freezing waves. It took a long time to walk out to the point, where a lone young man was staring out to sea, and my feet sinking into the sand with every step made the distance seem longer, as did my increasing anxiety as each prospect proved on inspection to be someone I didn’t know—not my son. When I met up again with Lawrence, I was already exhausted.

“Any luck?”

“No. He’s not out here. Where should we go next?”

“Let’s drive by Sunny Cove,” I said. “That’s a beach near here that he likes to go to in the summer. Maybe he went there, hoping to meet up with someone. I know some of his friends at UC Santa Cruz like to go there.”

We drove down Twin Lakes Boulevard to 16th Avenue before turning inward to the sea. Set in a deep recess, access to Sunny Cove beach was down slippery earthen stairs carved into the rocky bluff. But the cove was small, and it was easy to see from the top of the bluff that only a few people were on the beach that day, and none of them was Eddy.

We drove to the Boardwalk next, miraculously finding a place to park the car by a meter that took only change, rather than in an expensive commercial lot. We walked up the asphalt embankment, over the train tracks, and along the back of a string of buildings before finding an entrance we could make our way through. Once we got on the Boardwalk itself, however, we saw how hopeless this effort would be. The place was raucous with noise and color, packed with people walking up and down in various stages of dress and undress, getting on and off of rides, fidgeting and laughing in lines, bolting down ice cream and popcorn and pink cotton candy, hoisting babies and stuffed animals, pulling out dollar bills, entering restaurants and video parlors and bathrooms and stores. We could traverse the length of the Boardwalk slowly and carefully and still miss hundreds of nooks where Eddy might be hiding. We walked only a short distance before changing our minds.

“This is hopeless,” Lawrence said. “We’ll never find him here.”

“You’re right. This is crazy. He’s probably not here anyway,” I tried to reassure both of us. “Let’s go and look for him downtown instead.”

Pacific Garden Mall was an area Eddy often visited when we were in town for the summer. Lined with interesting shops, restaurants and thrift stores, it was frequented by locals and tourists alike, and also was home to a sizeable population of runaway teenagers, kids with dirty hair and raggedy clothes who sat begging before bowls on the sidewalk or hung out in groups playing music or looking to score drugs. We drove the car to this part of town hopefully. Surely Eddy would have made his way there. We cruised slowly up Pacific, ogling every bench sitter and pedestrian, before turning around and driving back down Front St. on one side and up Cedar on the other. In one parking lot we saw a large crowd of young people—strangely coiffed and pierced and tattooed and made up in black lipstick and white eyeshadow—waiting to enter a building to see a show. Lawrence waited in the car while I got out and walked conspicuously through them, peeking into the auditorium and peering in the cars parked outside to see if any receptacle held our Eddy. None did.

By the time we finished our circuit the sun was down and we were out of ideas.

“What should we do now?” Lawrence asked, defeated.

“I don’t know. Maybe we should go by the police station, to ask them to keep an eye out for him—tell them who to call if they find him.”

“That’s a good idea.”

As it turned out, there was a brand new police station just a few blocks away. We pulled into the nearly-empty parking lot and walked up curved concrete stairs to double glass doors. They were locked. We could see a long counter inside, but no people.
“I guess they’re closed,” I said, disconsolately.

“Wait a minute. What’s this?” There was a phone by the door with a sign instructing visitors how to use it. “I guess we’re supposed to talk to them on the phone.”

“Do you want to do it?”

“No. Why don’t you.”

I picked up the phone and pressed the suggested numbers. A woman’s voice answered.
“Santa Cruz Police Department.”

“Hi. I’m just outside here, at your station, and I have something I need to talk to you about,” I started hopefully, thinking they might let us inside.


“Well, we’ve lost our son, our 18-year-old son. We’re worried about him because he’s been acting strange lately, and we think something is wrong with him, but we aren’t sure what. We’ve been out looking for him all over town, but now it’s dark and we’re thinking we should go home, so we wanted to give you his description and our phone number so you could call us if he shows up.”

The parking lot looked surreal, sparsely lit with yellow-tinted lights, freshly paved with black asphalt and landscaped with baby palms. Lawrence and I, standing alone at the top of the stairs, leaning against the police station doors on a warm moonlit night, seemed like protagonists in a Hollywood movie. The woman on the phone took down our names, our address, all our vital information, and the details of our story—and our son’s.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “I think we’ve already had contact with him.”

“What?!” I was astonished.

“I think the county sheriff has him. Hold on.”

I put my hand over the receiver and talked to Lawrence excitedly. “She thinks they’ve already picked him up. She thinks the sheriff has him.”

“Ma’am?” she came back on the phone. “Yes. They have your son in custody right now.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful! I’m so relieved! I can’t tell you how glad that makes us. Can we pick him up now? Can we take him home with us?”

“Well, since the sheriff’s department has him, they can’t really come over the border into the city. They say you can meet them in the parking lot of a restaurant on the south side of town. They’ll hand him over to you there.”

“Okay. No problem. Thank you! Thank you very much.”

I got the name of the restaurant, the address, directions. We drove over excitedly to pick up our son. Once we got to the place, we saw two sheriff’s cars in the parking lot. One was empty. One had Eddy in the back seat. His back was to us. He didn’t look around or seem curious in any way. He sat up tall and patiently faced forward. We parked behind the two cruisers and got out of the car. I approached one of the officers standing outside and identified myself. He was big and blonde, wearing a brown uniform. He wanted to know what was up with our son.

“We don’t know exactly,” I told him fretfully. “It might be a drug problem. We dropped him off at Cronus of Santa Cruz this morning, but he left this afternoon. We’ve been looking everywhere for him. I’m so glad you found him. We were about to give up.”

He nodded, but his eyebrows were bunched with concern. “It’s a good thing you called, because we were about to let him go. He hasn’t really done anything illegal.”

“Why do you have him? What caused you to pick him up?”

“Someone called us who was concerned about him. Apparently he was just knocking on doors, asking if he could come inside and talk to someone.”

“Oh,” I groaned, looking over at Lawrence.

“He was perfectly friendly, just acting a little strange. And he doesn’t have any shoes or any belongings with him. It doesn’t seem to me like he’s on drugs.”

“Well,” I hesitated. “There’s also a possibility that he has a mental illness.”

We stood in the parking lot uncomfortably. It was dark, and the people in the restaurant behind us were bathed in bright fluorescent lights. I didn’t look at them. I didn’t want to look in anyone’s eyes except this kind officer who had found our lost son. The other officer stood outside his car, at a distance from the three of us, apparently keeping an eye on Eddy. Eddy still hadn’t turned around or evidenced any curiosity about what was going to happen to him next.

“Can we take him now?” I asked tentatively. “I’m not sure what we’re going to do with him. Just bring him home, I guess.”
“I don’t know what you can do,” the officer offered his sympathy. “Get him in to see a doctor.”

We nodded. “That’s what we’ll do next.”

After taking down our name and basic information, he moved over to his car and opened the door. “Okay, Eddy,” he said. “You can come out now. Your parents are here.”

Eddy looked full of energy and light as he stepped from the back seat. He was smiling. “Thank you officer,” he said, holding out his hand briskly. The policeman seemed reluctant to grab it, but finally did. Then Eddy turned to us brightly, “Hi, Mom…Dad.”

“Hi, Eddy,” I said softly. “We came to get you.” Lawrence opened the car door and stepped on the button to make the front passenger seat move forward, allowing more room to climb into the back. Eddy went in first, and Lawrence climbed in after him.

“Are you both going to sit in back?” I asked stupidly after they were already inside. Lawrence nodded once. “Okay.” I closed the door and walked around to the driver’s side. “Goodbye,” I waved to the officers, who were still standing outside their cars. Then I got in and drove slowly out of the parking lot.

On the drive home, as we made our way back over the mountain on Highway 17, I began lecturing Eddy. I thought maybe I could elicit the same reaction I had gotten when I was tough with him a few weeks eariler at the Santa Cruz house: compliance and repentance.

“I’m very angry at you,” I told him. “Your dad and I have been looking all over town for you. We’ve been so worried about you! Why did you leave the program? The woman at the place said you wouldn’t talk to her, or to anyone, about it--that you just walked away. But we all agreed that the program was the best thing for you. I don’t know what we’re going to do with you now.”

A quiet sobbing started from the back seat. I looked into the rear view mirror, but couldn’t see anything except the headlights of the cars behind us. There were no silhouettes. Lawrence and Eddy must have been huddled together beneath the level of the back window. The road was dangerous and the night dark; I had to keep my attention on my driving, but the crying encouraged me. I continued my diatribe, pouring out my feelings, telling Eddy what he was doing wrong, how he was hurting us, what we expected from him in the future. I heard him crying softly and imagined that he was taking it in. I supposed that my lecture would bring about some kind of healing, as if I could talk him into mental health. Now Eddy would see the light and stop his foolish behavior. Now Eddy would repent of going insane. I spoke until I had said everything. The crying continued for a short while after I was finished. Then we drove the rest of the way in silence. When we finally got home, Eddy went straight to his room. After checking in on Henry and Rose (“We’re home. We found Eddy.”), Lawrence and I shuffled disconsolately into ours.

Once under the covers, in the dark, I ventured a comment. “At least he seems sorry about what happened. Maybe he’ll stop now.”

“What makes you think he’s sorry?”

“The crying. He must have been crying for a good 20 minutes.”

“That wasn’t Eddy. That was me.”

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

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