Sunday, April 6, 2008

Chapter 27 ~ Camp

Photo by
Brendon Stuart

After the Cronus fiasco, Eddy somehow managed to pull himself together before I left for camp. At first Lawrence said he would stay home with Eddy, that I should drive up to the Mendocino Woodlands—to the Tall Trees Family Camp we’d been visiting at the end of July for the past 10 years, a vacation which we’d already paid for in advance—with just Henry and Rose. It would be good for Eddy and Lawrence to spend time alone together, Lawrence told me. It would be good for Eddy to spend time in a quiet, empty home. That plan suited me. I worried that Eddy would grieve about being left behind, since family camp had been his favorite place on the planet since he was about nine years old, but I didn’t see any way around it. Then Lawrence said Eddy was behaving so well, so coolly, so like a sane person, that maybe we should consider letting him come along. That plan didn’t suit me at all.

For one thing, Rose had decided to arrive later. She was busy that summer. She didn’t want to spend a whole week at camp. Then Henry and Lawrence decided to come for three days only, so that left just me and Ed.

For another thing, my sister Jean had decided to join me. For the first time ever, she was interested in driving down from Walla Walla, Washington to spend time with me in the redwoods. She thought camp sounded like a place she could escape the drama and trauma surrounding the divorce her husband Jack had recently requested. And because Jean was coming, my sister Jane was considering coming, too. That made three people that I would need be worrying over at camp: Eddy, Jean and Jane. I began to think it would be better if I stayed home.

But I didn’t stay home, of course. I couldn’t. For one thing, I had signed up to be on staff at camp. I would be working in the kitchen. For another thing, we thought that a visit to camp might help Eddy heal. Despite the fact that he’d been out of the hospital for almost three months, and we’d been frantically trying to respond to his unstable condition all that time, he still didn’t have a coherent treatment plan. All he had at home was a weekly counseling session with a therapist we’d finally found whom he didn’t like much and near-constant family tension. At camp, he would be surrounded by people who loved him, people who had known him since he was a little boy. He would be soothed by the beauty of nature. He would be safe, protected by the community. He would be in a place that he’d associated with heaven on earth for the past 10 years. Plus, he’d been saying since before his camping trip with Charles that all he needed to recover was some time alone in nature, and we halfway believed him. We wanted very much to believe him. Perhaps our brilliant son’s intuition was right. But we were unwilling to cut him completely loose in the wilderness. This would be a good compromise. He could go off on his own to seek solitude in nature, but still be close at hand. So it transpired that a mere week after Eddy had walked away from Cronus of Santa Cruz, the two of us were together in the little black Nissan, driving up to Mendocino, a trip of about five hours. During the first part of the drive, I did all the talking. Eddy was quiet and compliant. I began to think it might work out. But after a couple of hours on the road, he began talking, and I couldn’t help noticing thatis conversation was circular. He wasn’t making any sense. In an effort to avoid exascerbating the situation, I went for long periods without saying anything, but as we got closer to camp, his mood seemed to get worse. To help both of us calm down, I asked him to read me passages from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Peace is Every Step. He was glad to do it the first time, but petulant the next. And then, when I asked him to hand me a sweater from the back seat, he reached back angrily to grab it and threw it out the window.

I immediately pulled over the car. “What did you do that for?!” I scolded him angrily before getting out to retrieve my belonging, being careful first to remove the car keys. We were in the redwood forest by then, close to camp, and I was feeling very uneasy about our decision. I still clung to the idea that my son could recover if he wanted to badly enough. It seemed to me that he was purposely losing touch with reality in order to punish me. Why was it that he had been so cooperative and reasonable at home, but now was spinning out of control? The walk along the rural roadside helped to steady my mind. We should continue to camp, I reasoned, and if Eddy didn’t stop acting crazy, we would just turn around and drive back home. But at least I would have a chance to check in with my sisters, and explain to the camp managers why I wasn’t showing up for my job. When I got back into the car with my sweater, I made an effort to smooth things out.

“Listen, Eddy,” I started gently. “I know you’re nervous about seeing people—about seeing your old friends. And I’m feeling nervous, too. I’m thinking this whole trip might be a very bad idea. So I want to make a deal with you. I want to promise you that if, at any time, you feel it’s too much for you, you feel you can’t deal with it, I will leave camp and drive you home. Okay?” Eddy looked down at his hands in his lap and nodded. He gave a big, windy sigh, and seemed visibly relieved.

“And at the same time, I want you to promise me that if at any time I want to leave, because I can’t take it, that you’ll get in the car and come home with me. Can you promise that?”

“Yes. I can promise that,” he looked up at me with weighty sincerity. “That helps a lot, Mom. Thank you.”

I started the car back up and we continued on our way to camp, pulling off of the asphalt and onto the dusty dirt road that marked the last four or five miles of the journey. I pulled an Ativan out of my pocket and quickly swallowed it. I didn’t ask Eddy to do anything else for me. As we approached the outer edges of camp, recognizable by the sweat lodge erected next to the creek, beneath the trees, Eddy asked me to pull over the car.

“Why don’t you let me out here, Mom?”

“Why, honey? Do you want to walk into camp?”

“Yeah. I don’t want to come in just yet. I’m not ready for all the hubbub at the lodge.”

“Okay. I can understand that.” I pulled over, and popped open the trunk. He took out his backpack and hammock. I felt a flash of worry.

“Why do you need all that stuff?” I asked him warily.

“I’m going to find a place to string up my hammock out here. I think it will be better if I keep a little distance.”

“Okay, I guess,” I said reluctantly. “But come in to dinner, all right? I don’t want to have to worry about you. I want to know that you are okay.”

“I won’t know when dinner is.”

“They’ll ring the bell.”

“Oh yeah,” he laughed at his own forgetfulness. “Okay. I’ll see you then.”

When I pulled up in front of the lodge, the wide clearing in front was alive with activity. People were walking in and out of the double doors of the big, rough-wood building; moving their cars under the watchful eyes of the parking czar; unpacking their trunks and commandeering wheelbarrows to cart their belongings to their cabins. A few young people, including Eddy’s Settlers-playing friend Hans, tossed a Frisbee back and forth. Several grownups sat on lawn chairs under the trees. I saw my sister Jean lounging like a regular with a book propped on her lap.

“Hi, Jean,” I approached her first to give the customary hug. “You got here before me!”

“Yes, I did,” she beamed at me. “Where’s Eddy?”

“I let him out outside of camp. He wasn’t ready to come in yet.”

“You let him out? Jo! That’s crazy! How could you do that?!” she said with the automatic authority of an older sister. “He’s schizophrenic. You can’t leave him alone in the woods. He’ll get lost!”

“No. I don’t think he’ll get lost, Jean,” I said with a firmness I didn’t feel but knew would be necessary to rebuff her. I was irritated by her use of the word schizophrenic. I felt pretty certain I had not described him to her in that way. “He knows the area really well. We’ve been coming here for 10 years. I didn’t leave him very far. He’s just out by the sweat lodge,” I said peevishly.

“I don’t know,” Jean shook her head disapprovingly, “I don’t think it’s a good idea.” And despite my efforts to resist, I couldn’t help absorbing her concern. “Well, look, why don’t I check in with the registrar, then you can help me take my stuff to our cabin, and we’ll talk about it some more there in private, okay?”


I walked over to Patty, a short woman with an astonishing areola of coppery hair, who was manning a long table set up in front of the doors to welcome people, accept the last of their payments (if they hadn’t made them yet), and tell them to which cabin they had been assigned. “Hello. You’re here!” Patty said. “It’s about time. Your sister got here before you.”

“I know. I saw her,” I said with false enthusiasm. “What cabin did you give us?”

“Well, you have a cabin in Creekside, like you asked for—number 12,” she pointed out the cabin on an amateur map drawn with felt pens on a long strip of butcher paper. “And you owe me another $200. Where’s the rest of your family?”

“Most of ‘em aren’t coming until Tuesday,” I told her as I pulled out my checkbook. “Lawrence and Henry are coming then, along with Henry’s girlfriend. I’m not sure about Rose. Maybe Wednesday? I’m the only one here—except Eddy. He’s around here somewhere.”

“How’s he doing?” I remembered then that Patty knew something of our troubles, if not the whole story, because of an email I’d sent the camp managers a week before saying Eddy wasn’t coming this year because he had checked into a drug treatment program. Later, I’d sent a retraction.

“Okay, I guess,” I reported uncertainly. “I’m hoping camp will be a good place for him right now. We’ll see.”

Patty accepted my explanation without protest. She took my check, and directed me to a chart where I could discover which kitchen shifts Eddy and I had been assigned before releasing me to unpack my car. Jean helped me carry my things to the cabin, where I claimed my space on one of the four single beds—two in front, on either side of the creaky swinging door, and two in back, behind rough wood closets. Jean had already laid her sleeping bag down on one of the beds in back, and her suitcase on the other, so I took the bed to the right of the door.

“How’s it going?” I asked. “What’s going on with Jack?” The room was dark, illuminated only by the dim natural light that filtered through the massive redwoods surrounding us. There was no electricity—just a line of window-like openings along the walls beneath the roof, covered with screen. The community toilets for this cluster of cabins were up a hill behind us. The shower house was farther away, behind the lodge. Despite the gloom, we were happy to stay inside to achieve some level of privacy, although I knew from experience that sound traveled far in the forest, and if anyone was in the surrounding cabins they would be able to hear what we said. I sat down on the thin plastic mattress of one of the two beds that flanked the door, made more welcoming now with the covering of my sleeping bag and belongings. Jack had moved out, Jean told me, and was still asking for a divorce, but she retained hope for a reconciliation. She’d started counseling, and was taking Prozac, and had embarked on a diet and exercise program to lose the close to 100 pounds that she had put on in the last 10 years. Astonishingly, she’d lost 20 pounds already, even though the crisis had just begun one month before.

“What I realized is that I’ve been depressed for 10 years,” she told me. “I never did anything but sit on the couch and watch TV, or play Settlers online. Jack took the kids camping, and skiing, and went on trips with them, but I never wanted to leave the house. I was so inactive that it felt like my bones were ossifying. It even became difficult for me to move.”

I was surprised by her analysis, since I’d seen Jean in Santa Cruz every August, and hadn’t noticed that she was particularly depressed. But she explained that it was easy to hide it in Santa Cruz.

“The house is always so full of people, that it didn’t seem odd that I never wanted to leave it. I never wanted to go to the beach, but people just assumed it was because I was fat and didn’t want to get into a bathing suit. And since there was always a Settlers game going, I could sit around all day playing board games, and it didn’t seem a bit strange.”

Although she was terrified about it, and hopeful that it wouldn’t happen, Jean was glad Jack had asked for a divorce, she told me, because it had woken her up from a kind of somnambulism. Her newly-discovered energy was practically palpable in the cabin. “What do you want to do now?” she asked enthusiastically, sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I answered lethargically. In contrast to Jean, I felt overcome with a powerful reluctance, weighed down by my fears for Eddy, which I was unwilling to verbalize or even outline clearly in my thoughts, and my resistance to assuming hostess duties for my sister. “Let’s go back to the lodge, and see if Eddy has shown up yet. If he hasn’t, maybe I will go look for him after all, just to put my mind at ease.”

He wasn’t at the lodge, and when I decided to hike out to the sweat lodge, I encouraged Jean to stay behind. Otherwise, I was certain, she’d tromp through the woods calling his name too loudly, frightening him off and annoying other campers. I showed her where the workshops and activities were listed on long strips of butcher paper taped to the wall, so she could consider which ones she wanted to do during her week, and introduced her to a few other campers before heading off on my own. She wasn’t a bit shy, perhaps buoyed by the Prozac, and I felt no concern for her as I left. I took the camp route, rather than the road, crossing the creek on the tall wooden bridge, and winding my way through the cabins. I kept my eyes open for Eddy or other teens. Whenever I saw one, I asked him or her, “Have you seen Eddy?” And though I soon passed three familiar teens, none had.

I walked through the first cabin group called Near Meadow and past the grassy circle where the kids sometimes played soccer. A labyrinth of stones appeared one year in the back corner of this site, and would likely be the location of a ritual later in the week. Across from it was the quiet nook where a regular camper had set up her table one year and given me the world’s most satisfying massage—enhanced by the quiet sanctity of the redwoods and the noisy rushing waters of the creek.

After the meadow came a pathway through a few tents erected by veteran campers who disdained cabins. Up a hill was the community bathroom where I had been “imprisoned” one year during a game of Capture the Flag. After the smattering of tents came another cabin cluster known as Far Meadow, where many of the staffers liked to stay. I’d had a huge panic attack in one of these cabins one year, and had asked to be placed elsewhere ever since. Beyond Far Meadow was another bridge over the creek, this one down at creek level and more makeshift—just a few boards thrown across the water. When I got to the other side I walked along the road for a bit before veering back in towards the creek near the sweat lodge area. I looked around carefully for Eddy’s colorful hammock, but saw nothing. There was the fire pit where rocks would be heated for use in the sweat lodge, a short half-dome structure made out of bent wood and covered with blue plastic. There were two or three tents scattered about the area, and one double air mattress covered over with a sumptuous comforter and an elegant white mosquito net draping down from a tree, which looked like a fairy princess’ forest bed. “Eddy,” I called out quietly, knowing how sound traveled under the trees. There was no answer. I walked over to the edge of the embankment above the creek. “Eddy,” I called again, a little more loudly. “Please come out. I want to talk to you.”

I was surprised when I saw his head pop up on the other side of the creek, amidst the ferns. I could just make out then, behind him, a bright flash of red which must have been his hammock. He looked at me across the water but didn’t say anything.

“There you are! I’m glad I found you. Would you come over here?” I asked him. “I don’t want to yell.”

He looked annoyed but nevertheless made his way down the embankment on the other side with some difficulty, then crossed over on a fallen tree that spanned the creek. He walked up the pebbly bank until he was 12 or 15 feet away from me. He stopped there, out of my reach, a bit far for friendly conversation, as if afraid that if he came closer, I might try to capture him.
Seeing that he wasn’t going to come nearer, I began. “Eddy, I’m glad I found you. I felt worried because I didn’t know where you were. Jean’s here. Are you going to come into the lodge area and say hi to her?”

“Not right now. Maybe later.” He seemed impatient.

“Have you found a good place to put your hammock?” I tried to set a friendly tone.

“Mom. What did you want me for?” he said with irritation.

“Not anything, really,” I said foolishly. “I’m sorry I made you climb across the creek. I just wanted to know you were all right, that you weren’t lost in the forest.”

He scoffed.

“Have you seen any of your friends? Are you feeling comfortable?”

“Mom. If there’s nothing else, I’m going to leave now,” he told me formally.

“Okay,” I felt reluctance to end the conversation and see him disappear again into the ferny forest. “But don’t forget you promised to come in to dinner. I’ll look for you then.”

“Okay,” he responded before turning away.

I saw Eddy that night, across the room, sitting with a table of young people, and I began to believe that bringing him to camp was a good plan, after all. He seemed comfortable, among friends. Jean made a point of approaching him and giving him a big hug. I waved at him from across the room, conjecturing, from our conversation that at the creek, that he would prefer me to keep my distance, and feeling gratified that he had shown up at the lodge, as he had promised, and was managing the crowd without apparent difficulty. But the next day, this illusion began to deteriorate.

Eddy had signed up to be a dishwasher and our friend Kay, who managed the kitchen with Steve, had somehow contrived to find him in the forest on our second day in camp and get him into an apron for his first shift. I was sitting in the lodge alone at a table covered with paper, felt pens, books depicting mandalas, bowls, cups, and a variety of other circular objects suitable for tracing spread out around me when he came up to talk. Jean had gone on a walk with the naturalist. Jane hadn’t yet arrived. Eddy looked dirty, and bleary eyed. His hair was greasy and falling into his face; his feet were filthy, and jammed into pink flip flops two sizes too small. His apron was tied haphazardly.

“Mom, I’m having a problem,” he sat down next to me on the bench.

“You are? What is it? Do you want to go home?”

“No. I don’t think I need to go home. But I don’t think I can do this job.”

“What do you mean, honey? Why not?”

“I just can’t do it, Mom. I don’t know how.”

“What do you mean you don’t know how, Eddy? You’ve been doing it for years. It’s simple. You just rinse off the dishes and put them through the machine. Why are you wearing those tiny flip flops?”

“I forgot to bring shoes,” he said, looking down at his feet confusedly. “And I can’t go into the kitchen without shoes. So I borrowed these.”

“You forgot your shoes? That’s a bummer,” I said in a tone of admonishment. “What are you wearing out in the forest?”

“Mom, what about the dishes?” He used a patronizing tone, as if I was an easily-distracted child who couldn’t keep her mind on the topic.

“I don’t know, Eddy,” I said with some sympathy, but not much understanding.. “I think you should try harder to do them. Do you want me to help you?”

“Maybe. That would be all right. Charles said he could just do it by himself, too.”

“He did? That was awfully nice of him. But before we let him do that, let’s go into the kitchen together and see what’s going on.”

In the kitchen, Eddy’s friend Charles was manning the stainless steel dishwasher station quite competently without him. The music was blaring from a CD player perched up on a shelf and the dishes were flying through his hands.

“See what he’s doing, Eddy?” I asked. “You just use that retractable hose to squirt water on the dishes and then put them in the rack for the dishwasher. It’s easy. Want to try it?”

Eddy shook his head forlornly. I could see how having him stand there confused would make washing dishes more difficult for his partner, so I pursued plan B. “Hey, Charles,” I had to tap him on the shoulder to get his attention. He released the lever on the hose and turned around. “Eddy tells me he’s having trouble doing the dishwashing job, and that you’re willing to do the work of two people. Is that right?”

“Oh yeah,” Charles smiled easily. “No problem. I’m happy to do it.” Although he’d only come to camp one time before, Charles had blended in easily with the key players and made himself an instant regular. His tall, well-groomed good looks and polite manner made him a favorite with the parents, while the teens liked his self confidence and sense of humor. I wondered if Eddy resented this.

“Thank you, Charles. That’s really nice of you,” I told him gratefully. “Now Eddy,” I turned to him, “you have to go find Kay and get her approval for the substitution.”

“Could you do it?”

“No. It’s your job. You need to do it.” Eddy nodded his head with exaggerated understanding and left the kitchen in search of our friend. After she gave her permission, he took off his apron and hung it on a peg in the pantry before disappearing back into the woods.

I wondered over the next few days if it wouldn’t have been better to hold Eddy to his commitment. At least then he’d have a reason to show up at the lodge. But at the same time, we couldn’t stress the camp staff that needed to keep the kitchen running smoothly to feed 130 campers three meals a day—not to mention afternoon snacks. Placing a loose cannon in their midst might derail the system and result in long-term negative consequences for both me and Ed.

I saw him only fleetingly over the next three days. Sometimes I felt encouraged by our encounters, and believed that camp was restoring him to good health, as on the day my sisters and I had hiked out to Ledges, a favorite swimming hole, and he’d appeared in the forest on our trek back to read me a poem he’d written. Other times, he seemed completely dysfunctional, and I felt stupid for believing in fairy tales. During that same period, Jane showed up and joined Jean and me in the cabin; Lawrence came with Henry and Henry’s girlfriend, Melanie, and, after manning the projector and showing his carefully-selected 16mm giant monster movie on movie night, left for home again, taking Henry with him but leaving Melanie behind with me, since the two of them weren’t getting along; and Rose arrived and moved into a cabin of young women for two nights before leaving herself. Despite the constant flurry of my family, I felt unsupported. No one stayed long enough for me to transfer some of my burden onto them. My two sisters were sympathetic, but not fully cognizant of all the details since they hadn’t lived through them. I tried to keep tabs on Eddy from afar, asking his friends about him whenever the occasion arose. But mostly, I proceeded in ignorance.

The atmosphere around camp felt tense. Even Eddy’s Settlers-playing friend Hans was in a difficult mood. “Hi Hans,” I said cheerfully one afternoon, approaching him at a picnic table where a raft of young people was braiding hemp bracelets. Hans wasn’t making a bracelet, but socializing. “Have you run into Eddy, yet?”

“Yeah. I’ve seen him,” he said ruefully.

“Have you cured him, yet?”

“No,” he scoffed. “I have definitely NOT cured him.”

Mike Goodman, Eddy’s longest-standing friend, reported that he seemed basically okay, but difficult to talk to. Dora said he was scattered and confused. Gem wondered if his mental problems were a ploy to get attention. Brenda said that something was definitely wrong. He stopped coming to meals. I wondered what he was eating. Each time I saw him he seemed skinnier, and dirtier, and more inaccessible to me.

On Wednesday, “out of camp day,” I went into Mendocino and bought him a pair of large flip flops (I found out later that Kay had done the same). Then I set out to find him in the forest, trudging over the same path I had followed earlier in the week. When I got to the area around the sweat lodge, I started tentatively calling out his name. On the other side of the creek, high up on the embankment, I saw a pair of longtime campers hiking together. Then I saw Eddy, running at breakneck speed, passing them by on the narrow trail like a man being chased by a mountain lion. He was barefoot, I knew, and had his pajama bottoms on. His shirt front was open and his shirttails were flying.

“Eddy!” I called out to him. “Eddy, stop! I need to talk to you!”

He flew by without heeding me at first, but reined himself in down the path, retracing his steps to stand staring at me across the creek.

“I have shoes for you,” I called out to him, holding up the flip flops. “Do you want to come get them?”

Eddy picked his way down the embankment, crossed the tree trunk bridge, came up the creek side and stood below me on a tangle of mossy, fallen logs.

“Where were you running to so fast?” I asked him.


“But why were you running?” I laughed. “You looked like some kind of wild animal.”

He looked at me belligerently, as if I was trying to harm or insult him. “Just to run—to get exercise.”

I handed him the shoes, looking down at his feet as I did so, and noticing they were covered with dirt and scratches and dried blood. “Look at your feet, Eddy. They look injured. I hope these shoes will help.”

“Thanks, Mom,” he climbed a little closer so he could reach out for them. As he stretched his arm out I noticed again how terribly thin he was. It was skeletal, with just a bare covering of flesh.

“Are you sure you’re feeling okay here, Eddy? Or are you thinking we should maybe go home?”

“I don’t know. I’ll tell you later.” He turned away from me and started to walk back down the creek.

“Eddy, wait. I never see you at mealtime. What are you eating?” I called after him.

“Don’t worry. I go into the kitchen at night,” he called back over his shoulder before hopping briskly up onto the log.

The next day, Thursday, Jane, Jean and I went together to the morning ritual at the fire circle. Spending time with my sisters was making my camp stay bearable. Although I was worried about Eddy, I was often distracted. Jean’s troubles gave me an opportunity to forget my own. Unlike at home, where I would be in constant contact with Eddy, I could pass long periods relatively worry-free, imagining that he was safe and being cared for by his circle of friends. Jean, Jane and I went to workshops, ate, talked and hung out together. We hiked out to the swimming hole together. We shopped in Mendocino. We were easy in each other’s company, and comforted. That morning the ritual involved passing a copper bowl in which were folded pieces of paper containing inspirational quotes. There were about eight women in attendance, and two men. We sat on big logs that were planed flat to form seats and tiered up in a semicircle around the fire pit. We each accepted the bowl, took out a paper, and read it to ourselves. If we felt moved to do so, we read it aloud to the group. After each voice was a period of silence, when we considered the words. In the midst of this activity, Eddy walked across the bridge and joined us. He had on his pajama bottoms, no shirt and no shoes. A long, beaded earring dangled from one ear, the wire perched in the ear hole, since his lobe wasn’t pierced. He carried the walking stick I had worked on during a workshop the day before. I had decorated it by burning designs into the wood, gluing on beads, staining the length different colors and wrapping the hilt with leather thongs. A leather circle dangling from the handle displayed my name. I was surprised to see it in his hands. He must have found it leaning outside the lodge and picked it up.

Eddy sat behind me, on a log, and accepted the copper bowl when it was passed to him. Susan, the leader, welcomed him with a warm smile and a few words explaining the process. He nodded in her direction, saying nothing. Then he took out a piece of paper and read it out to us. “The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves.” Although his behavior was perfectly correct, although he did all the right things—sitting quietly, accepting the bowl, reading the quote out loud—his body emanated an aura that disturbed me. He wasn’t right. His eyes, although sparkly, had no reciprocity of understanding. There was a shield behind the sparkle, a protection, a defense. If you asked him a question, he wouldn’t respond in a way that you’d expect. He’d say something cryptic that might pass for witty—and might not. It was clear he felt himself wise, like a guru or saint. And it was probable the things he said made sense to him. But if you tried to understand him, to follow his reasoning, it would be like dropping down into Alice’s rabbit hole. I shifted uncomfortably on the log and asked myself what I was doing at camp. Shouldn’t this boy be taken home? Clearly, the healing we had hoped for wasn’t happening. But I also knew it would be difficult to get him to leave . The way he flitted about the perimeter, just out of my reach, ducking and hiding, made that clear. And once I got him home, what was I going to do with him, anyway? Seeing a counselor once a week wasn’t a powerful enough treatment, but as far as I had discovered, it was the only one available to us. He didn’t want to go to the hospital, which wouldn’t take him anyway, unless we could prove he was a danger to himself or others. And after his first stay there, when almost nothing was accomplished, I wasn’t even sure that I wanted him to go. Eddy passed the bowl to the person beside him and then got up and left the circle, not waiting to hear what the others had to say.

That was the night I sat down with a coven of camp regulars at dinner, and heard Jen’s mild accounting of her conversation with Eddy in the lodge, and Steve’s dire assessment of his encounter with him in the shower house.

That was the night I felt my nipple gush fluid as my worry for my son sharpened, and looked forward to returning home and getting my mammogram to assuage my fears.

That was the night Karen said, “I’m so sorry this is happening to you.”

And I thought, ”But it’s not happening to me, it's happening to him."

I stayed up late in the lodge that night, hoping to get another glimpse of Eddy. I worked on my giant mandala, which had been becoming bigger and more elaborate as each day passed, obsessively coloring in a thousand little circles with bright felt pens while people beaded jewelry, or braided bracelets, or played cards or board games, or read books, or just talked together at the tables around me. Behind me, Hans sat with two teenagers playing Settlers. Kay was their fourth player, but kept disappearing into the kitchen to take care of some food preparation for the following day’s meals. It was almost midnight, and I was just standing to leave, when Hans called over to me. “Hey, Jo. Why don’t you take Kay’s place here so we can finish this game of Settlers?” I was flattered by the invitation, and though I was already tired, I readily agreed. But after coming within one roll of winning, the victory went—as usual—to Hans, so it was in a sour mood that I finally walked out of the lodge with my flashlight in hand, tired and frustrated and worried about my son. As I passed the line of cars before the path down to the creek, one of them honked.

I stopped, startled, and peered through the darkness. It took a moment to realize the car was my own. When I opened the passenger door and shined my light in the back seat, I saw Eddy there.

“Eddy, did you honk at me? What’s up?” I tried to sound casual.

“Come on in.”

I sat down in the passenger seat, and tried to conduct a conversation with Eddy in the back, but since I couldn’t see him in the darkness, and since the headrest of the seat obstructed my view, I ended up facing forward and talking to a disembodied voice that floated over my left shoulder.

“What’s going on, Eddy?”

“I’m just sitting here, being schizophrenic.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked solicitously. “Do you want to go home?”

“I say that because you asked me what’s going on,” he said angrily. “Do you want to know or don’t you?”

“Well, yes. I want to know. But what do you mean by that term? Why do you say you’re schizophrenic?”

“Because I AM!! I’m schizophrenic! I’m schizophrenic! I’m schizophrenic! I’m schizophrenic!” he shouted at me. “Why the FUCK are you sitting there talking to the windshield?!”

“Okay. OKAY!” I shouted back at him. “You don’t have to scream at me! I’m only looking out the window because I can’t see you there in the back seat.” I turned around to try to peer through the gap between the two front bucket seats. I couldn’t make him out, but I continued facing backwards to appease him.

“Everything is talking to me, Mom. Everything!” He leaned forward through the gap, brushing me aside, and turned on the radio. An old song came through the speakers. Turn around. Look at me. “Listen to that! LISTEN TO THAT!” he shouted again before bursting into exhuberant laughter, as if the coincidence of the lyrics was comical proof that the universe was communicating with him.

“Okay, Eddy. Calm down.” My voice exuded a reason I didn’t possess. “I’m sorry you’re having a hard time. Listen. I think we need to go home. I want to take you home, okay? But I don’t want to leave right now. It’s very late, and I can’t see very well, and neither of us is packed, and I just don’t want to drive down that curvy road in the dark right now. So what I want you to do is just try to calm down and get a good night’s sleep, and then we’ll see how you feel in the morning, okay?”

“Did you HEAR that, Mom?”

“I heard it, Eddy,” I said despairingly. “It’s just a song. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s not talking to you. Look, Eddy. I have some tranquilizers I brought with me, in case I needed them. I want you to take a couple of them right now. Okay?”

“Tranquilizers? No, Mom. Tranquilizers is not how you treat schizophrenia. Didn’t Dr. Hu tell you?”

“Eddy, listen,” I was surprised to notice there was moisture on my cheek. “I don’t think I can handle this. I’m upset that Dad’s gone, and Rose’s gone, and Henry. I’m upset that we’re here by ourselves. Jane and Jean can’t help us. They can’t drive us home. They don’t live there. I need you to just make it through one more night, okay Eddy? Then we’ll leave in the morning.”

“Okay,” he seemed sobered by my tears.

“Are you sure it’s okay? Is it okay for me to leave you now? Won’t you take one of my tranquilizers?”

“No. I don’t want a tranquilizer.”

“What are you going to do now? Where are you going to sleep?”

“I don’t know. I think I’ll just stay in the car for awhile. Then, when things quiet down, I’ll go into the lodge and get something to eat.”

“Okay, Eddy. That sounds like a good plan. I think you should sleep in the car tonight. Don’t go back out to your hammock. I want to be able to find you in the morning. But I’m going to leave you now. I’m going to go to bednow, okay? Give me a kiss.”
He leaned forward and presented his cheek for me to kiss, and though I knew I probably shouldn’t, I left him alone in the car.

“’Bye, honey,” I said pathetically as I closed the passenger door. I turned and walked quickly away from the car, before he could call out after me, stumbling over tree roots in the darkness, sliding down the dirt path to the wobbly bridge over the frigid creek. It was a cold night, and so dark you couldn’t see one foot in front of you, but after I crossed the creek, I found my pace increasing. I shone my flashlight by my feet, and practically ran up the small hill without thinking—trying hard not to think—until I got to my cabin, where I swung open the squeaky door and dove onto my bed, pressing my face into the pillow and sobbing.

“What is it? What is it, Jo?” Jean and Jane awoke and sat up in unison.

“It’s Eddy.” I croaked. They both scurried to my cot and held me as I told them what had happened. But I didn’t cry very long, or very loudly, because I knew that everyone in Creekside could hear me in that deadly quiet hour. I felt confused, and ashamed, and achingly tired, and deeply afraid. I was afraid that if I fell apart no one would be able to put me together again, so I held it all in, as best as I could, and lay on my bed in the middle of night, looking out at nothing, at blackness, urging the morning to hurry, but also dreading its arrival, until I was finally overcome by sleep. I dreamt I was back in the basement room, climbing down off the shelf (was it some kind of altar?), leaving Eddy’s body behind beneath the blanket. Something silver was glinting in my hand…

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

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