Sunday, May 4, 2008

Chapter 31 ~ Search & Don't Rescue

Photo by
Brendon Stuart

The last time I saw Jason was when Eddy was still in the partial hospitalization program which the hospital had prescribed as part of his “exit plan.” He arrived with his girlfriend Susie on a Saturday, poking his head tentatively through the front door. I came out from the back of the house at his call and ushered them onto the couch. It wasn’t like old times. Jason didn’t fling his music book onto the dining room table and pull out a chair, or reach into the refrigerator for a beer, or even saunter beyond the living room. “I’ll go get Eddy,” I said, establishing my power as gatekeeper and defining the nature of their visit at the same time. Eddy was in the back room, and when I told him through his closed door that Jason and Susie had come to visit he said okay. He’d be right out.

I returned to the living room and sat on the love seat by myself, at right angles to them. I was aware of my breasts, visible beneath the pale green sleeveless top I had worn on many outings with Jason in the past—of my long, ginger hair. “Eddy said he’s coming,” I announced. Then I heard the shower starting in the back of the house. “After he takes a shower,” I added after a pause.

Jason leaned back on the couch uncomfortably, delicately balanced between us. Susie didn’t speak or even move much but still pulled him toward her as a glacier pulls a drifting ship. I flitted about unpredictably like a nervous cowboy, dangling a rope to slip over his neck.

“How’s he doing?” Jason asked, avoiding the mistake which had incurred my wrath on the last visit.

“He’s doing pretty well, I guess. He spends eight hours a day at an out-patient program near the hospital. I’m not sure what he does there. He doesn’t want to tell me much. I know there’s some kind of group therapy—a few different groups, I think, and some individual therapy too. Maybe crafts.” My description was listless.

“How does he seem?” Jason looked critically at me from behind his glasses. He sounded officious, like a social worker who was evaluating my home to see if it was a suitable environment for our delicate offspring.

“He seems okay,” I said without much commitment. “He spends a lot of time in his room. He mostly wants to be alone...I’m not doing too well though.” I looked at Jason then, trying to pierce through the pose. The angle of my stare eliminated Susie, cut her off like the tip of a triangle, creating instead two parallel lines: from me to Jason, from Jason to me. Tears threatened as I made this last effort to recall him to my side, to remind him of the friendship we’d so recently enjoyed.

Jason looked pained, but not at my misfortune, at my indiscretion to mention it to him. He looked uncomfortable in his position on the couch, shifting his hips. He didn’t ask for more information.

“I guess you heard I have breast cancer?” I plowed ahead heedlessly.

“Yes. I heard something like that.” He looked at his shoes.

“Well, they’re going to cut my tit off next week.” I tried to push him off balance. When no outpouring of empathy was forthcoming, I hazarded a glance at Susie. Perhaps our common femininity would create a bond. But she sat immobile, with her signature blank expression. I wasn’t a human being to her, but a rather uninteresting artifact of a long-dead stage of her lover’s life.

“That’s too bad,” Jason mumbled, embarrassed.

“Yes.” I didn’t help him out.

Then there was more talk—perfunctory, scientific, scripted—as we waited for Eddy to emerge from the back room and rescue us from the social quicksand I’d rudely stepped into, touching it first with my toe, then my leg, my genitalia, simultaneously sinking and watching myself sink.

After 20 distinct and painful minutes, Jason decided to go. I had entreated Eddy two or three times to come out of the shower, my trips to the back bathroom providing a diversion from our vigil on the couch. “I guess Eddy’s not coming out after all,” Jason finally said.

“No. I guess not.” I surrendered. “Why don’t you holler goodbye to him through the bathroom door, anyway?”

Jason was glad for the excuse to leave the front room. He quickly walked to the back, and Susie followed him. I stayed speared to the small couch. They returned in a few minutes and said Eddy would soon be following them. “He wants to go to Half Moon Bay with us.”

“He does?” I was surprised, but glad. “That’s great. I’m glad he wants to get out of his room.”

“That’s what he says. Do you think it’s okay?”

“Yes. I think so. He goes out every day, after all, to the program. He walks there by himself. I think it will be good for him to go out and have some fun with friends. That’s nice of you to take him.” I offered a small gesture of reconciliation.

A few minutes later, Eddy looked happy as he tripped out the front door after them. “Bye, Mom,” he said.

But four hours later, Jason called to say he had a problem.

“You do? What is it?” I rushed my words. My heart raced as I recalled the phone call from Eddy up at CSM just four months before that had started the downward spiral of events.

“Well, Eddy’s disappeared. We were sitting on the beach and he just got up and walked off and never came back. We’ve been waiting for him for a long time, but now it’s getting late and we’ve got to go home. I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I just leave him here?”

“Oh, shit. He just walked away?” I repeated. “How long ago?”

“About an hour and a half.”

“Well, I guess you should leave him then,” I said reluctantly. “I don’t know what else you can do, if he’s disappeared. What beach are you on? Are you in Half Moon Bay?”

“No. We decided to go a little further south. I’m not sure of the name of the beach. It’s near San Gregorio.”

“Did he say anything when he left? Was he angry?”

“No. He just stood up and walked off without an explanation. So what should we do now?”

“Well, can you wait a little longer? Maybe half an hour? Would that be okay? Or is that pointless?”

“I don’t see the point. If he hasn’t come back by now…”

“Okay. Okay. Then why don’t you stop by the police station and just give them his description and my phone number, in case they come across him and he’s disoriented.”

“There isn’t a police department here.”

“Just go to the next town. Or if you can’t find one there, just go to the one in Half Moon Bay. Just as a precaution. That’s what we did in Santa Cruz, and they found him right away.”

“Okay. I’ll do that then.” He sounded annoyed.

“Is that too much? Do you mind doing that?” An edge of insult creeped into my voice.

“No, no. I’m just not sure what good it will do.”

“I’m not either. But at least then, we’ve done something, so if he’s lost, we might be able to find him.”


I hung up the phone desultorily and went to report the news to Lawrence. We considered driving out to the coast, but decided against it. The task of finding Eddy would be impossible. We weren’t even sure which part of the coastline Jason was on. Then an hour later, we got a phone call from the San Gregorio Police Department. The voice on the other end of the line was young and assertive. He had several questions. What did Eddy look like? How old was he? What was he wearing? Was he mentally competent? Was he on drugs? Then he told me he was bringing officers in from all the local jurisdictions to mount an all-out search and rescue operation for my son.

“Oh, dear. We didn’t want you to do that,” I said fretfully. “I’m sure he’s fine. For all I know, he could be hitchhiking to Santa Cruz by now. We just wanted you to have our name and number so you’d know who to call if you happened to pick him up.”

“You don’t understand, ma’am,” he said determinedly. “It’s dangerous out there on the rocks. The surf could come up and take him away. It’s life threatening for him to be on this desolated bit of coastline, alone, at night.” He infected me with fear.

The search for Eddy went on all night, with officers calling every two hours to give me an update. One officer even showed up at my door, having driven up 92 from the coast, to get a photograph of Eddy. They were planning to post flyers in all the small coastside towns, he told me. "I don't think you need to do that," I told him helplessly. But it was no use. It was out of my hands. In the morning, they called out a helicopter.

Then, around 10 a.m., I got another phone call from the leader of the search and rescue effort. I wasn’t sure if he was the same man who had called the day before because his voice was different. His tone had changed.

“We found your son, ma’am,” he told me wearily. “The helicopter spotted him this morning, not far from where he disappeared. But he won’t get into the squad car. He refuses to cooperate.”

“I’m sorry, officer,” I offered weakly, ashamed. “But I’m glad you found him, anyway.” A small sop.

“Yes. Physically, he’s okay. He’s sitting here on the beach in San Gregorio. But since he doesn’t want to get in the squad car, there’s really not much else we can do for him. We don’t want to arrest him, because he hasn’t broken any laws. We could wait with him here until you arrive to pick him up, but he says he doesn’t want that either. So what do you want us to do, ma’am?” At last, someone had asked me.

“It doesn’t sound like there’s much you can do,” I answered, repeating what I’d said to Jason the day before, what everyone who loved Eddy was feeling. “I’d drive out there to pick him up, but I don’t think he’d get into the car with me when I got there.”

“I don’t either. He says he won’t.”

“So I guess you should just leave him where you found him,” I said dejectedly. Several hours later, he called his father to ask for a ride. I thought perhaps I was relieved.

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

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