She ended up staying a couple nights. Her speech gradually became easier to understand. Monday night, she walked around the block with me in the moonlight, laughing, twice.
On Tuesday, after I made many exasperated, righteously indignant calls to government agencies, a social worker came and talked to her as she lay in bed. Now that I think of it, she was visibly tired and cranky that day, and I think it was because it had been a couple days since she took meth; it’s hard for her to wait that long.
Mr. Davis asked her what had been happening with her and how long it had been since she used. She answered him freely, talking loud enough for him to hear (though not always loud enough for me to hear). She had been hanging out in the City, doing fine, until she went to a concert and the police pulled her out of the building, suspended her by her ankles, and hauled her away in an ambulance. They beat her, she said, and injured her unborn baby. She was still bleeding, she said. She said she intended to file a complaint against the San Francisco police in Contra Costa County, for reasons of venue that I of course couldn’t follow and didn’t believe.
Folks, it is hard for me to take her at her word about the baby. I don’t believe her because she has often talked about imaginary babies. Whenever she wants to know if she is pregnant, she looks hard at her pupils in the mirror and decides based on that. And to me, non-doctor that I am, she looks too skinny to be fertile. But people with a lot of experience talking to schizophrenics say you should affect to believe everything they say, and not argue with their delusions.
Mr. Davis suggested it might be a good idea to go to Highland Hospital and see if she and the baby were all right. I agreed. I asked if the social workers might be able to take her there, and I understood from what he said that there was a lack of resources for that. I don’t have a car, but I thought I might be able to nudge her along the mile-long walk, or take a bus. But she remembered how many times she has been 5150’d from Highland–that is, sent straight to the mental hospital–and she told me later, no thank you.
Now she told Mr. Davis something that was hard for me to hear, both physically difficult to hear–I am hard of hearing–and hard to take in. She mentioned a new deadly delusion (she already has at least one): she said that she had to take meth every day, at least a little bit, or her baby would die. She was crying as she said this. I wonder if my brain just shut her message out; I didn’t really understand what she had said until a few hours later, on the sidewalk, when it was very hot, and I was on the way to the supermarket to get ingredients for smoothies for her, and I sat down on a wall in front of the old-folks home, under the shade of a dracena tree, to rest, and I called somebody at the County, and I put together what it was that she had said.
She thinks she has to take meth every day or her baby will die.
I told a nice lady at the County that if this is what she really thinks, no social worker meeting with her once a week is going to be able to help her; it’s like bailing out the ocean with a teaspoon. Thinking out loud–how else can you do it–I told the nice lady that D is a danger to her imaginary unborn baby, and thus was eligible for a 5150. To be eligible for a 5150, a person has to be a danger to herself or others, and/or gravely disabled, though the police don’t care about “gravely disabled.” Certainly, D is a danger to her imaginary unborn baby, and surely the police will understand, if they hear about this belief, that she ought to be taken off the street, away from meth. That was my insight of the day.
I took my groceries home and took a nap. When I awoke D was dressed in a very, very short plaid skirt she had worn in high school, wearing my oversized Giants World Champions jacket, and asking me for more money, which often happens when she leaves my house. She was covered with C’s jewelry, which she had taken off of C’s desk and I had been letting her wear as a joke–rings, metal chains, bracelets. I believe it’s junk jewelry from the estate of one of my aged relatives, but C has been making it very clear over the phone that she really, really doesn’t want D taking her jewelry. I told D that she needed to leave all that jewelry here, as she had said twice that she would. She started to cry, almost to scream, that she had bought it all off of C, and paid her for it. “When?” I asked; D hasn’t talked to C in months or years, except by mistake. “I did! Believe me! It’s mine! Do you think I’m crazy! Deal with your own mental illness first! I’m leaving!” I said if she didn’t leave that jewelry here she would find it really hard to come back; but she left.
I followed her, though I walk pretty slow. I saw her get a soda pop at the corner store and walk off to the bus stop. She saw me following her and scowled. On her long, skinny legs, and with that XL ten-pound jacket, she looked like a heron or egret, unable to fly and very angry about that. She walked on, I walked on, talking to the police on the phone, in the hope, actually, that I could get the police to confront her and me about the jewelry, get in a screaming fight with her, and get her 5150’d that way. But the police said they could not take a report because I was not the owner of the jewelry. And I walked the wrong way up the bus route and thus lost sight of her.
I waited for the bus, she was not on it, I rode it down to Jefferson Park, I asked the homeless men there if they had seen any skinny whitegirl wearing a huge orange jacket, and I strolled down to Castro and 5th, to the tents under the freeway where I had found her before. I met old Ron, probably 60 who is still alive and still taking meth and still has a couple teeth. He hugged me; I felt the ribs all over his back, I told him he was so skinny he reminded me of Diana. He invited me to sit in his brown vinyl barcalounger under the freeway.
My feet hurt from walking in flipflops on the concrete. The barcalounger was clean and comfortable. It was a warm, moonlight night, a good night for anyone to have fun and take drugs. A shiny black Sienna drove up to the curb in front of me, with a clean, cheerful, young, strong black man for a driver. His visit to the homeless encampment had nothing to do with me; the driver got out and laughed and joked with Ron about something. It seemed to me that there was yet another person in the front seat of the car, behind the heavily tinted window: a leering, very-stoned-looking, rather microcephalic person of indeterminate race. I ignored them and looked up at the moon. A shape passed by far above, gray like a ghost, a full-sized eighteen-wheeler on the 880 freeway. We, far below, were between the lanes of that multi-stranded highway. Another truck passed on, just taking a couple seconds. If it were to fall in an earthquake, it would smash us; but Ron had been staying here under the freeway for months, years maybe under this and other freeways, and he lived yet, and recognized me although he hadn’t seen me for weeks, and wanted to sleep with me in fact, if that was what he was saying. I tried to take a picture of a truck with my phone but it didn’t come out.
When my feet quit hurting I started walking home. Daring to look more closely at the addled passenger inside the Sienna, I saw it was a rubber Halloween mask the driver had pulled over the headrest, as a joke for people like me: people expecting to see degenerates having fun.