“I’m sorry … he is of age.”
“He’s not suicidal and he’s not homicidal so we’re releasing him.”
“I’m sorry,” she cut me off “ … he is of age and he’s asked us not to speak to you about his situation. That’s his right.”
A sick feeling overwhelmed me, the same sick feeling from the night before. I needed something to hold onto. But there was nothing there.
My son wanted to destroy himself and I was in his way. I was the enemy, the one who gave birth to him, the one who could not give him his sight back, the one who could not offer him the life he wanted to live.
They led me to my son’s room.
As soon as they left us alone, my son started screaming. “You sent me to all those special schools. You didn’t think I was smart enough, did you?” I held my hand out to stroke his thick, dark hair.
He grabbed my wrist hard.“You put me in the hospital and let them feed me through a tube in my nose! You have no idea what I’ve been through …” A doctor entered the room. My son was immediately calm.
“I’m getting old,” he said the night before. “Who’s going to take care of me?” I knew what he meant. I felt I couldn’t die, I couldn’t leave him. Now he sat calmly in the hospital cot while the doctor let me know they would keep him overnight for observation.
I looked at my son, his refusal to eat, his belief that things could only get worse for him. “I won’t live very long, you know,” he often told me. I looked up at the young doctor who was waiting for me to respond.
“Your son is a fine young man,” said the doctor who didn’t look much older than my son. “I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with him. Except of course his vision. He only has one eye. His eyes are red and bloody. Are they always like that?”
I didn’t answer.
Few doctors knew what horrors can happen from pharmaceuticals, from the side effects listed on the bottom of the page of the insert in the box that few people read. The finest doctors in the world had sent us home saying, “Sorry. There’s nothing else we can do.”
When the young doctor finally left, my son said, “I’m of age. And I can do whatever I want. I don’t have to listen to you anymore.” He was hyperventilating. I saw his heart pounding beneath the thin skin on his chest. He was frail and emaciated, an anorexic who could die of a heart attack. I called out for help. Five men in white jackets rushed into the room. “Please leave,” one of them said.
Nausea and panic overwhelmed me. I leaned against the wall. “You have to leave,” he said again.
I thought of all the treatments he had been through. I thought of all the ways I tried to help him. Helping him led to the drug reaction which almost killed him. Helping him also saved his life, the life he didn’t want to live.
I walked past the nurse’s station, into the waiting room. I heard the words “serial killer” blaring on the screen. It was followed by a deodorant commercial.
I saw a sofa. It was full of strangers. I sat down with them. The little girl across from me was crying. Her mother reached out to hold her. The old woman next to me was cradling her stomach with both hands, moaning, rocking back and forth. I wanted to put my arms around her shoulders.
I wanted to tell her she was not alone.
But she was.
Bobbi Lurie is the author of "The Book I Never Read,""Letter from the Lawn,""Grief Suite," and "the morphine poems." She is currently working on a book about / with Marcel Duchamp.
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