I’m alone and it’s late and I still have a paper to write tonight before I collapse from exhaustion… All of these reasons not to answer the line cross my mental reader board in bright red flashing letters, but I pick up the phone anyway. Its persistent ringing will only grate my nerves further than they already are, after all. And my roommate and I do not have the funds – individually or combined – to afford such frivolities as an answering machine.
My voice is tentative. This can’t be someone for me, after all. Nobody *I* know would call me at this hour.
There is a catch of breath on the other end that I recognize instantly.
I set my backpack next to my desk and sit down heavily. I know it’s going to be bad, what with all the breathing, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to take this standing up.
“I’m here, Mom. What’s wrong?”
Her audible exhale tugs the corners of my mouth momentarily upward; the exhale is a habit of hers I’ve long since adopted, and I know what it means. This is gonna be tough. But so are we.
When she’s steadied herself, she shares seven words.
“Your brother tried to kill himself today.”
There is no question of which brother she means. Legally, I have three brothers. But families are not defined by legalities, and she’s only given birth to one. So I know exactly who she means. My brother. My full brother. The only one I truly have. He’s 15. And he’s dangerous.
And he tried to kill himself today.
It is my turn to exhale.
She recites the details of The Day’s Events in a hard monotone and I catalog them as she goes, but for all intents and purposes I am not part of this conversation anymore. I am far away, in another place, another time… Another time, when he couldn’t shake off the fantasy world of our playscape or the character he adopted and came after me with crazed eyes and sharpened stick to do true bodily harm… The time when his entire features changed into an unrecognizable person and he started speaking in a way that made no sense… The time when I stood in front of him and stopped his fist so he couldn’t hurt my baby sister, an action which he didn’t remember taking five minutes later…
“. . . and they couldn’t get him to stabilize as ‘one person’ long enough to even get him calmed down . . .”
One person? Shit.
I’ve known for years that he has a problem. One that everyone surrounding us wanted to deny. I’ve also known for years how to keep my mouth shut about what happens inside my family. But Oh, his imagination just gets carried away was always a ridiculously benign description, and He just has a temper doesn’t quite cut it when the law gets involved.
“. . . police were called . . .”
And this time the law is involved.
Eventually her voice trails off, and I ask one question.
“Is he in lockdown?”
Another long exhale.
“You could say that, honey. In a manner of speaking.”
Over the course of the next four years ‘lockdown’ and ‘lockup’ will come to mean the same thing.
As do APD and MPD.