“This is what happens when you don’t let me see my cat.”
Jane pulls back her hospital bracelet to reveal two giant scars on her wrist. I cringe and look at the nurse. She doesn’t react, but instead slides a piece of paper over and asks me to sign. The man working the front desk hands Jane a paper bag. She takes it into a bathroom and changes out of her blue gown.
I’ve been to this place before, about 18 months ago when Jane stuffed towels into our kitchen sink and tried to convince me our neighbors were leaking gas into our apartment to kidnap us and turn us into sex slaves. Unfortunately this place wasn’t admitting new patients (despite being a 24-hour mental health walk in clinic). I was told the same thing by two other hospitals that night. I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be to find professional help for her.
“Can I get that underwear?” Jane yells from the bathroom.
I dig through my purse to find the underwear she requested. She was brought here last night but wasn’t wearing underwear, for some reason I didn’t question, despite being on her period.
“You’re taking her somewhere that’s not her boyfriend’s house, correct?” The nurse asks.
“Good.” She picks up the clipboard and disappears down a fluorescent-lit hall. The man working the front desk is now talking to someone through a callbox.
“I need the prescription because I ran out this morning.”
“The doctor will be here at 6am. Come back tomorrow.” I assume this is a normal occurrence for a walk-in mental health clinic.
“But it’s an emergency, please.”
“6am, I can’t help you until then.”
“What am I supposed to do?”
“I’m really sorry sir, come back at 6am.”
He turns off the intercom and swivels around to me.
“People is crazy.” He shakes his head.
“Oh I know it.”
Jane walks out of the bathroom and towards the front door without acknowledging me. I thank the man behind the desk and follow Jane outside.
“All I needed was a thought-out plan but you motherfuckers are too stupid and selfish so now I have to fly without my things.” Jane isn’t happy.
We walk towards the dimly lit parking lot, hopping over homeless people, and I make sure to have a firm grip on my pepper spray at the bottom of my purse. Just in case. I open my trunk to show Jane the suitcase I packed her.
“I need to go to Ron’s to grab my Seroquel and Gabapentin.” Jane’s first excuse.
“Already in there.”
“I need a fucking toothbrush or something.” And another excuse.
“I grabbed that too.”
“What about my favorite jacket pullover thing?” She’s still trying.
“It’s all in there. I found your ID too.”
“I have money in a box that only I know about, I need to go grab that.”
She lists off numerous other things until I convince her everything will be shipped to Michigan. She smells like a walking pack of cigarettes going through alcohol withdrawal. She can’t remember the last time she showered. I put LAX into Waze and Arnold Schwarzenegger starts to narrate my drive:
“I’m a Terminator Cyberdyne Systems Model 101, and you’re coming with me. In a quarter-of-a-mile, turn left.”
Exactly 24 hours ago I was leaving a restaurant where, coincidentally, I had a discussion about how difficult it is to let people go. As we crossed the street, I glanced at my phone to see a text from Ron. It said:
She’s back in jail. Tried to take me too for violating the restraining order. Suggest you notify all relatives. She never went to court or enrolled in probation. So she may be facing serious time.
I said goodnight to my dinner mates, then quickly turned the corner out of view and started sobbing. Maybe it really was time to let her go. Maybe I should finally give up trying to help someone who refuses all support. I was turning into those people from Intervention, the ones I always yell at for enabling their drug addict family member. Stop giving them money you fucking idiot! Make them go to rehab!
I had become the fucking idiot. I would listen to her 4am voicemails about how terrible a friend I am, which I would always respond to by texting her, “are you okay?” I was only making things worse. I convinced myself that as long as I helped her hit certain milestones, she would get better. Wrong.
The chances of her voluntarily flying were extremely low, as apparent from her obsession with “having a solid plan” before she made any major changes. But anytime I tried to make “solid plans” with her, she would scream at me. A real schizophrenic catch-22.
I started looking on the bright side of her being in jail: at least she wasn’t out in the world taking drugs, or with Ron. I figured we could finally talk that piece of shit into shipping her belongings to Michigan (like he said he would the first two times but made up excuses) so she had no excuse to stay in California when she got out. Ron is a liar though, and a terrible person. (You can read the backstory on him here)
When I got home, I went to the LA inmate search website to get more info about her arrest, but she wasn’t in the system yet. I assumed it would update overnight and went to sleep.
An unknown number called me at 9am. For some crazy fucking reason I decided to answer it.
“Hey it’s me,” Jane said, I had a feeling. “Can you pick me up?’
“Wait, you’re not in jail?”
“No, I’m at some urgent care hospital called Exodus. I just got discharged. Can you come get me? They said I’m not allowed back at Ron’s because of the restraining order. I need underwear too, I’m not wearing any.”
“Uh…okay…sure…umm…. yeah I’ll be there.” I couldn’t say no.
“Okay.” She hangs up.
I’m relieved because she isn’t in jail, but also freaking out because I don’t know where to take her. She’s not allowed at my place because the landlord had some issues with her. If I take her to Ron’s I’m basically dumping her in a garbage can, so the only option is…I don’t have another option. Fuck. I can’t just leave her there. I go out on a limb and send her younger sister in Michigan a Facebook message explaining that Jane is hours away from being homeless unless something happens. I’ve been in contact with her older sister and mother, who haven’t done a single thing in the past year to help Jane, despite saying they will.
Jane’s younger sister replies with what I’ve wanted to hear for so long: “Okay, let’s get her on a flight, I’ll buy the ticket.”
The drive from east LA to the airport is about 30 minutes. Normally when Jane’s in my car we listen to music or talk about usual friend things like Forever 21 secretly being our favorite store, or how it’s crazy I’ve never seen Six Feet Under. This drive is uncomfortably quiet though. I’m afraid to say anything to Jane for fear of her screaming at me.
“I can’t believe that motherfucker called the cops on me again. His ass should be in jail, not mine, domestic abuse has no consequences, my mind is fucked forever and he’s gonna get away with it. My hand has fucking nerve damage and my neck hurts every day.”
“They almost arrested him last night too.” I say quietly.
“Why the fuck didn’t they?!? He’s been beating the shit out of me and I’m the problem? I don’t trust anyone anymore, man. This system is fucked up.”
“Yeah,” Jane mocks me, “you have no fucking idea what I’ve been through. Maybe if you were a real friend and tried to help me I wouldn’t be here right now.”
I glance over to her but don’t say anything. She’s staring out the window crying.
“Is there any water in here? I need an Advil.” She stops crying and gets angry.
“Oh, umm, I don’t think so.” I brace for her reaction.
“Of all the times I picked you up from the airport and had bottled water ready, you can’t even fucking bring some to your best friend (she makes air quotes) after I’ve been locked up in a shitty mental hospital for 24 hours?” She shakes her head and rolls her eyes at me.
No, I didn’t bring you water because since 9am today when you called me to pick you up, I was too busy booking you a last-minute flight to Michigan, and rummaging through your belongings at your psycho boyfriend’s house to find your ID. If it weren’t for me you’d be homeless right now, or in jail for violating your restraining order and not registering for probation. I guess you could sleep in your car again, like you have been doing the past few nights. I’d let you stay at my place but my landlord said you can’t be there because you disrupt the other tenants and I don’t want to get evicted. I’ve been trying to get you on a plane to Michigan since you got out of jail and we finally have a plan in place so just shut the fuck up and be grateful I’m helping you despite the nightmare you’ve put me through the last 18 months.
“Sorry.” I say instead. It’s better to let her win at this point.
“I can’t wait to get away from you stupid Californians and back to the real people who give a shit about each other.” Jane wiggles around in her seat and can’t get comfortable. She climbs into the backseat with my yoga mat and basketball.
“My fucking back hurts from sitting on a cold cement floor all day. This car has the most uncomfortable seats ever,” she digs through the bag I brought for her, “what pills are in this Zyrtec bottle? I guess I can try to swallow some even though you don’t have water in your car. It’s fucking LA, who doesn’t keep water in their car?”
I tell myself over and over again it’s the illness talking, not her. “Umm, there’s Lexapro, Advil, Excedrin, and a couple Ativan. You should take one of those now actually, they help me sleep on flights.” I realize someone has to sit next to her on the plane. Sorry, person.
She swallows the pills and starts to cry. Then she sobs. It’s heartbreaking. I want to cry too but I squeeze my eyes so the tears don’t come out. I have a million things running through my mind that I want to tell her. I wish she could be around my sister during her pregnancy. The old Jane would be so excited about it. I know she would come home with insane baby gifts from thrift stores to give to my sister, and get excited to be the “crazy” aunt Jane. I miss getting random texts from her of homemade cat contraptions, and coming home to our dining room table with mannequins sitting in the chairs.
I start to say something but then stop. I realize that nothing I say will make her feel any different. I can tell her I love her and that it will get better, but I honestly don’t know if it will.
She starts to talk through her sobs, “My Jane spark is gone, I used to be so giving and nice to everyone, Ron stole that from me. I have PTSD and I won’t ever get over this trauma. This is too much for someone like me to deal with. Stuck in a fucking jail cell for 2 months. I can go to therapy and maybe it will get a little better, but the damage is done.”
“My sister is gonna expect me to be energetic and go grocery shopping with her, but I won’t be able to get of bed. My life is fucked.”
“At least you don’t have to see Ron ever again.”
“You don’t get it. I need to get my things. He has my car. I have to go over there eventually.”
“He’s shipping everything to Michigan. There’s no reason to ever go back. I’ll fly your cat out too.”
“I’ve already mourned his death. You know he’s part of my soul. He won’t even remember me anyway. I lost feeling in my hand so I can’t feel his fur anyway. If you were in jail I would figure out a way to sneak your cat in. I can’t believe you call yourself my friend but won’t let me see my cat.”
(I offered to bring her cat to Ron’s house weeks ago. She said she was too disabled to see him, then asked me to write an official “friend break-up” letter because I wasn’t “her type.” No clue what any of that means)
She continues to cry. It’s almost 10pm and traffic on the 105 is unusually horrendous. Her flight is at 11:55pm so I’m not worried yet. I search “LAX traffic” on Twitter and see that there’s been a power outage in the airport causing delays. Fucking wonderful. Of all the days.
Jane was in jail for two months (I wrote about visiting her here). When she was released, she called me to pick her up at a courthouse. I picked up my friend Sam and we headed to Inglewood. We spotted her wearing a black jumpsuit, breakdancing in the parking lot. We were happy to see her. She actually looked healthy (from being sober for 2 months). We drove her to her sister who lives an hour outside of Los Angeles. She agreed to take her in until we figured out Jane’s next step.
Three days after we dropped her off, I received a text from Ron:
Mel, or should I call you officer Mel? Jane is back here. I picked her up from her sister’s. She can’t leave CA until the DA approves it. That will take 1-2 weeks. She can stay here. Don’t make a big fuss about it. And thanks for all the trouble. Too bad Sam had to take her to his place for some fucks before going to her sister’s house. What a sleazeball. I don’t trust either of you. Self serving shits. I wish I had a “best friend” like you. Who would need enemies?
Ron is a delusional old man who thinks my friend Sam had sex with her before we drove her to her sister’s. Ron picking her up was the worst-case scenario. We were back to square one.
Two days later Ron texts again:
Dear Mel, If you don’t want to see Jane back in jail, I suggest you pick her up and you can deal with her. I am fed up. She only wants to drink and escape. I will send her to skid row if you can’t help her. A total sociopath. Please pick her up. If I have to I will call the cops and she will be back in jail, where she wants to be with black lesbians.
You picked her up, you deal with it. Your responsibility now.
July 1st text from Ron:
Can you pick her up? I can’t handle another day with this piece of trash. She is a worthless person. She wants coke and heroin.
The next day:
Mel, I feel my life may be in danger. She is now desperate for Adderall and heroin. She tried to kill me. If anything happens save this message.
THEN CALL THE FUCKING POLICE.
Ron knows he would get arrested for violating the restraining order if he called the police, so he would rather let Jane die than get her help. He’s a monster.
July 19th I get another text:
Dear Mel, this will be the last week for Jane here. I have told her to leave. I will call the police and have her taken away. She needs to see a doctor. She might be pregnant. Time is growing short. I have pneumonia. She is an evil nightmare. She is bleeding all over the place, but won’t go to the doctor. I locked her out so she slept in her car last night.
CALL THE POLICE LIKE I’VE BEEN TELLING YOU OR TAKE HER TO A HOSPITAL.
July 25th text from Ron:
Mel, Jane pulled a loaded gun on me last night. I could easily be dead. If she is not gone by tomorrow I’m calling the cops. If you can reason with her that would be good. Have her back a bag and take her to the airport. She threatened my cats. You don’t understand the psychiatric system in LA. Pay some attention to the news. Putting her back in jail is not the answer. Getting her to Michigan would be a start. Try to show some compassion.
Call the police or take her to the UCLA psychiatric hospital.
You small minded dweeb. You are too obsessed with your pathetic little Hollywood life to help your friend. You will rue the day my dear. Believe me.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a texting argument with a 70-year-old man, but I couldn’t help but laugh at seeing “rue the day.” It made me realize just how ridiculous this entire thing was. I’d been trying to reason with a delusional old man and a schizophrenic drug addict for over a year. I threw my hands in the air and officially surrendered. I couldn’t help Jane. I couldn’t help Ron help Jane. I was powerless and the stress it was causing me was too much. I was sick of crying about it, sick of trying to help, sick of talking to lawyers and detectives, sick of contacting her family members who made up woeful excuses as to why they couldn’t help, sick of wondering if she was alive or dead, or if she was in jail again.
I allowed myself to not think about her. Whatever happened would happen. I wanted nothing to do with it.
But of course, on the morning August 5th she called me from the Exodus mental health hospital.
This is the last time I will try to help her. I promised myself, but even I knew that was most likely a lie. I needed this plan to work. I needed her to get on that flight, and I needed Ron to ship her things to Michigan so she would have no excuse to come back. Missing her court date and having a warrant for her arrest seemed minimal compared to the consequences she would suffer staying with Ron.
After 30 minutes of being in standstill traffic at LAX, we finally make it to terminal 4. I park in the garage instead of just dropping her off; I don’t trust her to actually get on that plane by herself.
“One more thing,” Jane asks in a surprisingly apologetic tone, “could I have your hair tie?”
“I actually put one in the bag for you, I knew you’d probably need it.”
“Thanks,” she smiled through her tears.
This brief exchange brought back memories from our 16-year friendship. This was the real Jane: sweet, thankful, helpful, naturally curious, and incredibly odd but endearing. The person I’ve dealt with for 18 months has been a monster stuck inside Jane’s body. Seeing this glimpse of the person I used to know gave me hope that maybe one day she’ll return.
We walk towards the departures at LAX. I buy her a bottle of water and she finishes it in 30 seconds. I carry her suitcase and pillow to the security line and set it down.
“Okay, well, here you go,” I say while TSA is checking her ID, “can I have a hug?”
“Nah, I don’t hug white girls.” She picks up her suitcase and walks away. Surprisingly, that’s not an unusual thing for her to say.
I start walking back to my car. I turn around to get one last look at her. She puts her earbuds in and turns on her iPod. At least I got her out of California alive. I hope
In my car, I turn on Waze and let Arnold guide me home:
“I’m looking for Sarah Connor, but we can go to your destination first. Turn right.”
I cry all the way home. I scream to no one about how much I hate Ron for stealing my best friend’s soul. I thought I would feel some sort of optimism, but it’s all anger. Maybe I didn’t do enough to help. I thought I did all I could possibly do, right? I guess.
I pull into my parking spot and Arnold lets me know I’m home:
“You have reached your destination. Hasta la vista, baby.”
See ya, Arnold.