I had to bear witness to the end of a friend the other day. He is an amazing man with a keen wit and sharp intellect and to see him wasting away has left me sadder than all my own personal troubles combined. Nothing I have to deal with can compare to the horror of seeing a brilliant mind being consumed by mental illness.
I would collaborate with him when we were both in school. He was a mad scientist, an artist, a Casanova, a con-man and entrepreneur. We would get together late at night and spiral through realities of our own making where secret societies existed, people were inhabited by fifth dimension aliens. We would talk about using sex as a way of opening the spirit to higher levels of existence. One of the last times I saw him I was reading Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges. He asked how it was and I began to explain the wonder that was Borges. I must have gotten through to him because he reached across the table and opened the book to my book mark and tore the final thirty pages out and handed them back to me. He took the rest of the book and stuck it in his bag.
It was his MO. He was star burning too bright. He was filled with ideas which seemed to be visiting from another dimension. They could fill your imagination with bright colors and sounds never heard before. The details were rich and beautiful and I could always rely on him to dress my mind with bright plumage. It was refreshing to hear about the world he saw. When I realized that this world had move from imagination to reality for him I was shocked and saddened.
He was dropped off in front of my house by another friend. He has never had a car, never used public transportation, always relied on his ability to get where he needed to be through his calling people to action. He did this a lot, manifest his thoughts through others. He lived well in the spare room of his cousin, he traveled in artistic and musical circles because he was friends with the right artists and musicians. The more I think about this gift of his the more I realize that his fears of manifesting the demons and aliens of his nightmares was not that much of a stretch for him. He was different now. He was unshaven. His clothes were the right clothes, they were his clothes, of him, but there was something off. It was as if there was a thin layer of dirt. He had a backpack like always but it was filled with newspapers. He got in my car and spread out across the backseat, spilling papers like ideas escaping from unseen cracks.
We took J to work and I told him I would give him a ride back to Elgin. It is a long drive but it had been years since I had seen him and he seemed out of it. The conversation quickly turned to how many of the things that he had always thought were just weird and twisted images in his overactive imagination were in fact real. This is not good. I try to find out more, it is partially an attempt to feel out what he is going through and partially a morbid curiosity I have always had for Schizophrenia. The stories and the images were familiar, places and people and conspiracies that he had talked about for years but they lack continuity. Before he would stick to a plot, aliens using mind control to change the course of evolution or extra-dimensional wars happening in this plane with traitors and patriots within societies that were fight in proxy. Now the stories were starting and stopping, tripping over one another as they tried to fight for space in his over full brain. In the same breath he would talk of being stuck in a karmic cycle of rebirth paying time and time again for past transgressions and about his fear of death and an eternity of hell. He was a body frozen in some hidden lab while his mind was projected into a clone and made to walk the earth surrounded by reanimated corpses. People were talking to him but only in lies, lies he knew because the world was communicating with him is morse code and hand gestures. We pulled up to the intersection of two four lane highways. There was a green shirt in the road and while I sat at the red light waiting for it to change, he stared at the shirt as if it was a clue to something. Just as the light was about to change, he jumped out of the car and walked through oncoming traffic to get the shirt. He got back in and looked it over, seeing if it would fit him.
“Is it your size?” I asked. “No.” I could not help him. Anything I said was interpreted by his wounded mind. A mind he was certain was filled with holes like Swiss cheese. He would talk and then fall off as if he was about to pass out and then start in a new. He would stare at me with a flat false smile as if he had caught me doing something and did not want to let on that he knew that I knew.
I pulled up int front of his house and let him out. He thanked me over and over for the ride and all I kept wondering was if this was the last time I was going to see him alive. He had said something on the way that stuck with me. “I am so tired of all of this. I just wish I could start over again, you know? Be a child again.” I knew that he was thinking about suicide and I tried to address it without scaring him away or talking to him as if he was a fool. He admitted that he needed to be committed and talked about having his cousin drive him to the hospital as soon as his visit with his dad was over. Did he go? I don’t know but there was something about the way he came to see me that made it feel like he was saying goodbye. I don’t know if that is just me reading into it or not. I also don’t know if it might not be the best option for him. He is already gone and any help he gets will leave him lost mentally. He said that he feared the hospital because as soon as they got him in that he would never be let back out. It was not a paranoid fear but a moment of clarity when he was seeing honestly that there may not be any “cure” for him, that he may never enter society again. He was saying that he knew he was already too far gone to ever come back. I will miss him dearly.