I won’t tell you how, because it’s an investigator’s secret, but we found my brother a few weeks ago.
What do you mean, “found,” you might ask? Wasn’t he tucked away in the psychiatric hospital – safe and sound? Wasn’t he moments away from receiving the help he needed? Days from being court ordered to take medication? The answer is yes – to all those things – yes. We were SO very close. It seemed that way back then, at least.
The system failed us, however. There was something wrong with the 5150, they said. They were understaffed and over-worked, their budget evaporated like the precious water we need so bad out here, out West. And so, one afternoon, my parents got a call that the hospital was going to release him, after two weeks, still unmedicated. And right then and there.
“But you can’t do that,” my parents said.
“But we must,” they said back, with no explanation as to their broken promises.
My parents then made the drive for the second time in 10 days (did I mention they had my brother’s house and car keys because he had left them with them?), arriving to my brother, Mr. Hyde – combative, rude, disorganized – no progress made.
Long story short, my brother wouldn’t ride in the car with them upon his release. Instead he took a cab back to his apartment, the “crime scene,” as he called it. There, he called the cops, because my parents had cleaned said apartment, had done his laundry, and had thrown out the trash. My brother said he couldn’t stay in a “crime scene,” and even though the cops had just been called on them, my parents offered to rent him a hotel (save the lectures on tough love, my brother isn’t a drug addict, he doesn’t have a choice). While he still wouldn’t ride in the car with them, he promised to meet them there, at the hotel.
Well, he never did.
Next anyone hears from him, is 24 hours later, when he calls my dad from a pay phone in Tijuana, Mexico. MEXICO! That’s a 15 hour drive away, guys. Essentially, my brother got out of the mental hospital after two weeks and took off for Mexico, with no more than the clothes on his back, his cell phone, and a laptop. I mean, really. Does this sound like the work of a sane person? If you ask him, he sees nothing wrong with it. We’re the ones with the problem.
His “plan,” I learn via text (he actually decided to text me for 5-minutes before shutting down to me completely), is that he’s going to take a bus to Honduras, where he’ll live in a remote village. Now he doesn’t speak Spanish, beyond the one liner, and he has, maybe, $500 to his name, nor does he have any “skills” with which to barter his way across Central America. But he’s going to start a new life in Honduras, and we’re not going to stop him. My parents receive similar texts before he vanishes. Poof. Gone. He stops returning messages, phone calls, and emails completely. He is lost (with an actual missing persons report filed in San Diego County); until seven days later, on a Friday at noon, when my Mother and I find him, at a Red Roof Inn in Pacific Beach.
He was calm around the cops, who we had arranged to meet us there. He wasn’t making sense, but he was definitely calm, and because he didn’t have a knife to his throat or a gun in his hands, there was NOTHING they could do. They couldn’t consider his recent hospitalization. They couldn’t consider that he was previously ordered to comply with psychiatric treatment as a sentence to a vandalism charge a few years earlier. They couldn’t consider that twenty days before he was enrolled as a full-time student, making straight As, recently having quit smoking, and talking about graduating in just three semesters, all before he abruptly stopped taking his meds in late August. All they could base their decision on, their decision to act, or not to act, was that there in that moment – my lost, chain smoking brother, wearing the clothes he left Reno in a week before – did not appear to be a “danger” to himself or others in the literal, gun wielding sense.
“We’re at a crossroads here,” one of the responding officer’s said, “And if we COULD intervene, we might be able to prevent what will likely be a very difficult road for this young man.”
But they could do nothing, so they wished us luck and went on their way.
After that, by the grace of a very twisted God, my mother and I convinced my brother to have lunch with us (and Daphne helped too. Did I mention I brought the baby to this little ambush? Her squeals added an element of whimsy to this dark un-comedy, but I’ll admit I kind of regret bringing her considering the perilous nature of the situation).
Despite it all, I could tell my brother was slightly happy to see us, relieved even; we’re his family after all. And for a minute, because he wasn’t ranting and raving like I’d seen him do years before, I thought maybe we had been wrong. I thought, maybe he really did just need some space. I thought, maybe he’d sort it out, maybe he was simply “detoxing” from those powerful anti-psychotic medications, maybe my Mom was exaggerating his present condition, maybe, maybe, maybe. That’s the thing about the organized mind; it has a very difficult time accepting insanity, even in someone else, even when mental illness has long since been diagnosed.
At lunch, a little diner where we ordered breakfast at two in the afternoon and where Daphne banged on the table oblivious to the tension around her, there was no maybe about it.
Suddenly, I was in on it.
I was the reason why he couldn’t finish school, me and my real dad (who I haven’t spoken to in over 10-years thank you very much, and who he’s never met) were conspiring against him. My Mom’s general contractor, the man who redid my parent’s house a few years ago, he was in on it, and our other brother too. He raised his voice, in fact he was almost yelling at me, his disordered, suspicious stair making me feel extremely stupid for bringing the baby at this point. To my scared and angry 24-year old baby brother, I was a “sadist” who took “perverse pleasure” in watching him fail at finishing school. That’s what he called me, a “perverted sadist.” He ping ponged from point to point so fast it was hard to keep up – remember those marbles I mentioned? Well they were everywhere, a cascade of multi-colored marbles, his thoughts and allegations, bouncing about on the diner’s black checkered floor, attracting nervous stairs from our waitress.
They say you can’t reason with the delusional, but I wouldn’t let him tell lies. I just kept saying, over and over again, “You’re wrong Nick. That’s not true, Nick. I love you and would never do anything to hurt you, Nick.” And besides, I could tell even he was having a hard time keeping the marbles from bouncing out of his grasp, and that even he wasn’t convinced I was really the enemy. Because what he believed (my mother has told me) was that there were motor cycle gangs are after him… leaving their LSD laced feathers all around town for him to find.
Finally, his rant trailed off as he left a plate of uneaten food at the table, and went out front to smoke, probably his tenth cigarette since we’d gotten there. Before he went, he said, “If it’s not you Stephanie, someone, something, is controlling me.” Can you imagine believing that? Really, truly, honest to God believing that you had no control? Awful.
It’s been over a week since we went to San Diego, and everything and nothing has happened since. There are so many details, so many things I want to tell you about the whirlwind of the last few weeks, but there just isn’t enough time.
When we left San Diego, my Mom tried to get him to promise he’d at least tell her where he was staying. He wouldn’t promise, in fact he would hardly look her in the eye – he was too busy emailing “tips” to the FBI. She then booked him the hotel for another few nights, fear in her eyes because where would he go when the money ran out? She tried to convince him not to sell his car, not to go to Honduras, and to come home to “get his head together.” He just got angrier, and more agitated at every suggestion, but was wholly unable to articulate any sort of plan.
We pulled away from the hotel on a Saturday morning, and watched him from the rear view mirror as we went. He stood there chain smoking on the sidewalk, looking in the other direction, his eyes trained on some far off reality we would never see.
One blessing in all of this has been my brother’s cell phone. It’s still on my parent’s plan. So, each night for the past 10 days, my mother has logged on at midnight in an attempt to decipher his call log, and with that his next move. She’s seen outgoing calls to the Central Intelligence Agency, to the San Diego Psychiatric Hospital, to the Brazilian Consulate, to cab, after cab, after cab at all hours of the night (he did end up selling his car after all, an early model hybrid worth $5,000, for a disappointing $1,200 of which he informed my mother in one of the brief two second phone calls he allotted her earlier that week). But then today, when she called him yet again, after days and days of fruitless attempts to reach him, she encountered that familiar foreign country ring tone, similar to the one from a week earlier when she and my father tried to make contact when he was wandering the streets of Tijuana. She said she’d had a sick feeling all day. In that moment, listening to the beep, beep, beep, of an unanswered phone, she knew why her gut had been churning since the moment she’d gotten up. This was a deeper, sharper pain that plagued her; this was worse than the dull ache of the last month, and now she knew why.
My disorganized, disheveled, delusional brother was/is no longer on United States soil, protected by United States laws.
Did he go to Honduras after all, you might ask? Did he go to Brazil? Did he make his way back to Tijuana?
Nope. None of the above.
My mentally ill brother is currently in Northern Africa. He’s in fucking Egypt, people. And something tells me he’s not there to see the Pyramids.
What he thinks he’s doing in fucking Egypt of all places, is so far beyond me I’m currently in a state of shock.
My mother told me today, between quiet, almost resigned sobs, that she doesn’t think she will ever see him again. I told her to hush, that it was far too soon to give up hope, but I’m not going to lie, I’ve never been this discouraged. And I’ve never before been so angry at “the system” – the hospital that let him go (even though they agreed that he should be court ordered to take medication, and claimed that they were going to make that happen); the many cops along the way who have just shrugged their shoulders as if my brother was already a lost cause, already a homeless person digging through a trashcan and mumbling to himself; the jerk face at the hostel where my brother was staying most recently in San Diego, who had the nerve to tell me he wasn’t a “baby sitter” when I asked if he’d seen my brother around; and, of course, the district attorney in Reno, Nevada who found the flaw in the 5150, with no concern whatsoever for the person it was meant to protect.
I could keep going, but I’m too drained, too tired, and too sad.
If you pray, please don’t pray for me. There’s a lost boy out there who needs every positive thought, every incantation to a higher power, that you can muster.