Do you think it’s possible to pinpoint the exact moment in time when you turn crazy? Is it an immediate change? Does it happen on the turn of a dime? Or does crazy ease in gradually, laying low and plotting, creeping in ever so slowly like a thief to steal your sanity from the pockets of your mind while your back is turned? Or is it like lightening? One moment it’s there lighting up the sky like so many flashing cameras, catching you unawares, blinding you, and then it’s gone. The sky appears unchanged, but somewhere in the landscape of your psyche you’ve been hit. The lightening is gone, but the ground still sizzles and burns in its aftermath….
I was floating in a lazy haze of rain falling like crazy fingers when an insistent knocking on my door startled me out of my musical reverie. Seriously? The numbers on the clock glowed in the darkness of a morning so early it could still be called night. 2:32.
“Fuck,” I sighed uncurling my contentedly heavy body from the cradle of my papasan chair. Knocks on doors at 2:32 in the morning were rarely a good thing and I was in no shape to do battle with a neighbor, especially not one that could possibly be disgruntled by sounds of The Dead trickling through the summer night air. But I wasn’t even half way down the hall when I heard a familiar voice call out to me, “Girl, hurry up and open this door. I can hear those tunes downstairs and I want in!”
“Nice!” I smiled opening the door. This was so much better than a Dead hating, disgruntled neighbor. This was, in fact, the exact opposite of that. When a rapping on your door calls out to you in the middle of a morning so early it’s still practically night, this was exactly who you wanted to find waiting for you on the other side. My downstairs neighbor; the once mere friendly smile in the hallway who had long ago morphed into my friend; the summa cum laude double major inspiration with a penchant for nag champa, cocktails in the afternoon and music before studying, in the middle of studying and after; the genius who oozed adventure and wiped her ass with job offers she had so many to spare. There she stood, two weeks before her graduation, packed bowl in one hand, lighter in the other, leaning on the doorframe like she’d been waiting for days. “Hey girl,” she smiled walking past me into the living room. “I brought you some green magic in exchange for the tunes and the pleasure of your company but I can smell you’re not in need. Typical.” She laughed quietly to herself setting her apparatus down on the coffee table. “Here, keep it for the next time you do the weed crawl and you come up empty handed.” Then, settling into her usual corner of the sofa she looked at me and in an uncharacteristically serious moment she sighed, “Damn. I hate that you get to stay and I have to go. Can’t I just stay one more year? Ah fuck, I’m gonna miss this shit.” And that was it. Our night continued on as they always did with music, conversation and laughter until the sky hinted at signs of the morning light. Then she let herself out and I passed out in my chair, too lazy and high on the awesome of it all to make my way to my bed.
It couldn’t have been more than a few hours later when I was startled into consciousness again, this time by my roommate, Gina, frantically shaking me, “Jess. Wake up. Wake up!”
“God, stop touching me. What are you doing? What time is it?” I grumbled questions at her resisting the urge to push her over and go back to sleep.
“It’s 9 o’clock. Wake up!! Listen. Do you hear that?” Her eyes, wide and uneasy, searched mine for acknowledgement as she waited for me to hear it too.
“Yes. What is that?” Fully awake now, I sat up a little straighter as my arms erupted in skin chilling bumps, “God, that’s awful. What is that?”
As she stuttered for an answer, the look in her eyes shifted from uneasy to terrified, “I think it’s screaming. I think it’s coming from downstairs.”
And in an instant we were out the door, down the stairs in and the hallway below only to find our path blocked by enormous firemen and EMTs refusing to let us pass. “What the hell! What is going on?” Gina demanded as we attempted to struggle through the wall of uniforms standing in our way.
“I’m sorry ladies,” a kind eyed EMT took control of the situation, “but you can’t go in there.”
“That’s our friend’s apartment,” I pleaded, “Please, what’s happening?”
And then, through the confusion we heard her calling out to us, “Jess? Gina? Is that you? Please help me!!” Before we could answer the screaming started again, “Jess! Gina!!! Please help me!! Please!! Let them in. Why won’t you let them in?!?!?!? LET THEM IN!!!!” The shrieking clawed so viciously at my ears that I was sure they must be bleeding, but it worked. Their resolve crumbling, the firemen began to back away creating a path for us and we raced toward our friend. But when I reached the front door I froze; unable to move, an image of what lay before me began to sear itself forever into my brain….
It was as if I had stepped into a movie I desperately wanted to un-see but couldn’t escape. My legs grew heavy and my feet refused to leave the floor as my eyes slowly panned the scene in front of me. Water. There was water everywhere; dripping down the walls, curling in inexplicable patterns around invisible roadblocks until it reached the floor and began stretching out in all directions, searching for a place to hide; rising up out of the carpet where my feet had intruded upon its resting place; pouring over wooden kitchen cabinets whose doors hung ajar like mouths crying out for the safe return of their lost inhabitants; inhabitants that would never find their way home because they lay shattered in a million pieces all across the kitchen floor and spilling into the living room where picture frames and prized possession had been torn from their once carefully selected places of display and tossed into the destruction. Her books, all of them, had been wrestled from their shelves and precious pages torn from bindings created a trail that pulled my gaze in further toward the bathroom where volume after volume of priceless words lay drowning in a bathtub filled to the top and spilling over onto the tile floor. And there she was in the middle of it all, soaking wet from head to toe; screaming and writhing so hard that it took 3 men to hold her leaf like body still.
We moved toward her and when she saw us the screaming stopped. A blanket of silence fell over the room; not even an exhale rippled the air as we all watched her, waiting to see what would happen next. But she was finished. As she dropped to her knees, she looked up at me with the eyes of a scared child and quietly whispered my name, “Jess?” She reached out to touch my cheek and as I wrapped her hand in mine she asked, “What happened? I don’t know what happened. I just wanted to stay a little longer.” She searched my face for an answer that I didn’t have as they picked her up to carry her to the ambulance. And as her fingers trailed out of my hands her eyes, full of tears finally spilling over to join the sea of water that had washed across the floor, stayed glued to mine, “I just wanted to stay a little longer, you know?” And then she was gone.
I hadn’t noticed anything different. The night before, I hadn’t noticed anything different. Should I have been looking for it? The crazy? Was it even there yet? Had there been storm clouds rolling in? I didn’t notice anything different. The air wasn’t heavy, I swear. There was no lightening. It didn’t feel like rain. But maybe it had been there all along, falling like crazy fingers, just like they said it would.