It was like dropping off a kid to build a fort. Yesterday.
The drive was surreal. My mom had purchased him a backpack. My brother in law had given him jackets. My sister and I had been purchasing him massive amounts of medical marijuana over the last month. I gave him a blank journal, a pen, and written all of our phone numbers in the journal. The last two gifts were a bag of marijuana brownies, of which he hate 1.5 immediately and my partner gave him a container of weed, a pipe, and rolling papers.
We had been getting him sober off heroin for the last month- the weed was his medicine. But it remained clear that he was never able to reach the heights he desired with it. It also remained clear to us that mental illness and living on the streets for nearly the last 10 years was not something you can love away.
I remain sickeningly angry at his dad. His dad who got to create this mentally ill man with the use of iron fists, baseball bats, a lifelong infiltration of his mind with strict ideas on conspiracy and a latch and key heart that ties my brother’s poor mind to the idea that the 60’s and 70’s were so much better than today- so much so that it is part of what makes it impossible for him to survive in this world today.
My mom retrieved him from a hospital in Texas one month ago. It was a relief that he had broken his hip. My mom is accustomed to the hospital calling because he has overdosed again. Because he has flown too high on human wings and almost left this world, yet again. But this time it was physical- still a result of drug use as he was hit by a car because he was doing karate in the middle of the street at 2 am. My sister wrote a beautiful plea to humanity and a story of how we hope this time we can save him- from himself.
But are we trying to save him from himself? In my mind, we are still trying to save him from his now-dead father. A sociopath. The person who beat him so badly his whole life that few can imagine. The father who held a gun to son’s head once. Hit him with baseball bats and golf clubs.
We are trying to save him from anger that gurgles from his veins at every chance. Anger that he has never ever been willing to talk about. We are trying to save him from true mental illness. He can’t think like we can. He can’t process consequences. He can’t see himself as a little boy even though that is exactly what he still is. Whether by brain damage caused by all the beatings and being thrown across the room so often like he was a rag doll or by genetics or by both and all and everything- he cackles loud laughter at inappropriate moments, he lurches his body at random and grips his sides with a grimace and makes punctuating noises to the thoughts that fly through his mind, he jumps up from his chair and paces the house with no purpose. He wants the music played as loud possible.
But we can’t save him from his mental illness- we just wanted to save him from the street and heroin this time.
He stayed with our mom for a month and I took him one night a week on the weekends. He was grateful when he arrived in Colorado, but then it went downhill. As it always does. Keeping him high was helpful, and we spent at least $300 a week on marijuana. Friends donated to help us. But no amount of anything will ever keep the amount of anger he has inside at bay. Because he refuses to talk about it. Refuses, of course, to cry. Refuses to talk about his dad in any other way than uplifting. His dad had money, cars, houses- all we had for him was love and that love NEVER saved him- so we are still the weak ones.
We are still the ones he is angry at. My mom ended up with the maniacal man we know a couple of weeks after she picked him up. Screaming, saying horrible things to her, demanding whatever he wanted in that particular moment- which was mostly that he wanted to be dropped off in downtown Denver with $20.
He won. Or really his disease won. We’ll wait it out and see if the drugs win. He doesn’t win at all, ever. Because there is no containing him. The people who he believes failed him his whole life can’t fix him. And he must have some understanding that to be “fixed” he would have to walk back through his childhood. In order to survive everything he experienced, he had to leave it immediately.
I will never forget my mom’s story of being in the hospital with him when he was little and the doctors leaving the room and him turning to my mom to ask, “What will we tell them about all my bruises (from dad)?” His heart has been broken a million times over and it’s broken all of our hearts. And his father’s legacy is that he gets to die and we are left with his heartbreak still. A walking monolith to another man’s madness.
A broken little boy lives in the body of a 32 year old man and walks the streets and asks women for money in parking lots. He brags about how he can turn on the charm to women in parking lots and tells them a lie about being kicked out and he gets sympathy and kind words and some change. And it occurs to me that that’s the only love he can handle now. Little bits of love from strangers who don’t trigger his real memories. He’s been screaming to my mom, my sister, and I, “I just can’t BE HERE WITH YOU ANYMORE!!!!” We ask him why and he repeats himself. He cannot because we are movie screens of beatings and put-downs. Our cells smell like broken bones and bruises to him. Our skin feels like sweet honey before a monster comes around the corner and tears him from safety.
It was like dropping off a kid to build a fort. I drove with my brother, a backpack, a blanket, and 3 McDonald’s sausage biscuits to find him the spot where he wanted to make his way the right way. I showed him the area where shelters are. He didn’t want to be there. I showed him Broadway and he said this is the ticket while he mumbled out stories of life on the street and how he needed to get himself some crack- some “stones” he said. He cackled out stories of snitching on other homeless people just to get them off his corner. He chortled on about screaming FUCK YOU to the cops and how they could put him in jail for 12 hours and he didn’t care because he would win his corner- he would be right back on it. He was excited for me to let him out of the car.
“Oh OH, Court, LOOK! There’s a mattress against that dumpster and a pallet I can tear apart and use! Oh YEAH! Right here, leave me right here.”
We got his things out of the car, I stuffed his blanket into a bag. I smiled and hugged him and told him to call me (he has no cell phone so he asks others to use their phones, I always hope someone will let him.) I watched him walk behind the 7-11 at Broadway and Alameda. A neighborhood I actually hang out in frequently.
He is king of himself on the streets and he’s never been that before. He’s never done anything for someone to be proud of. He literally can’t. His brain doesn’t know how to do any of the things you or I will and he will not willingly see a doctor.
If you see my brother- a blue eyed man with a chiseled perfect nose and a slight limp from a healing broken hip- please give him something. Please love him for just a moment, because you can. Please ask him to call his mom and his sisters.
I drove away sobbing.