Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nightmare in Erie

  (Summer, 1973)

There was madness in her, and brilliance. One minute you’re a family, the next you are not.
       A schizophrenic is well named, in that, there resides in them a split personality, added with a bipolar disorder (manic and depression) with that tinged of staring lunacy; thus, one never rests trying to deal with whomever is inside of that person at  any given moment. This was Chick Evens’ wife. 
       A wave of agony came over him trying to deal with his wife, the first day they arrived in Erie, from St. Paul, Minnesota, invited by his sister-in-law to stay with them for the summer, if not longer.
       As they had sat at the kitchen table, Chick saw her face withdrawn. He didn’t want to walk on eggshells this evening so he told them: his wife, sister and brother-in-law, he was going out for a drink. The twin boys were playing quietly. He knew in ten minutes, or fifteen minutes or an hour, whatever, it was unpredictable, but he knew enough to know it would come soon, she would crash, his eyes shifted from hers; it was 7:00 p.m.


       He had now come back from the bar:  9:00 p.m.

       —That’s so preposterous, he said. She’s now intensely suspicion that he sold her cloths to get drinking money.
       —Listen to me, someone took them out of the car when I was in the bar; I wouldn’t even know anybody here to sell them to if I wanted to. He explained. Although he had a sense of guilt for leaving the car door unlocked.  It was a nightmare; they had driven from St. Paul, Minnesota all the way up to Erie nonstop, to see them, with their two boys, but a year old, to see her sister, perhaps to move up there (her bipolar symptoms were   reactivated).
       —To think I’d sell them for a glass of beer—he thought was pure pathetic idiocy. But nothing need be explained to her beyond the first time, because it was not necessary, it couldn’t be, nothing could be, explained beyond the first time to make any better sense than the first time.
       It was necessary to treat her with solid insistence—keeping her level with reality, lest she quickly sink into her own quicksand, and into oblivion, and only God knows where that might be: her escape route to who knows where, should one not hold her up.
       Later on that night she was laughing hilariously…
       —You’ll have to buy me new cloths! She raved.
       She accused him in front of her sister and brother-in-law, even the children, of this folly, with that always bewildered face, and the strain on the children’s face wondering what was what; as they looked from parent to parent.
       —What are your plans now Chick? Questioned Monica, the sister-in-law; as if he had a plan already worked out—; I mean, he was their guest, and that was for the most part his short plan, to remain their guest.
       —Well, we came all the way up here at your invitation, I’ll find a job and apartment sooner or later, and live here until we do I guess…(wondering what she had expected him to say).
       She grinned, trying to make a smile, looked at her husband. Eyes ablaze, they had invited them up there, that was true, and to stay at their house that was also true, but now she had second thoughts. There was as if little signals going on between her and her husband: they got up and walked into the other room, whispered, came back out.
       —We’re sorry, but you can’t stay here? She said, referring to Chick Evens and his whole family, looking at all four of them in the kitchen with on long glance: as if they had driven over from Erie Lake a few miles away for an evening visit—not a thousand miles or more: from Minnesota.
       —Where are we supposed to stay? Asked Evens, adding: we got an old car, no job, a little money in our pockets, two kids; we can’t make it back to Minnesota, why did you invite us in the first place? 
       Evens’ wife was torn as if to say: what just took place—looking at her sister the very one she had so proudly—for so many years, looked up to—she looked torn: on what just came out of her mouth, this was near treachery to invite someone and then leave them stranded; to Chick Evens, it was simply bad news, he didn’t really care for either one of them anyhow, felt they were a little above their status, or thought they were: it wasn’t what he expected, but for some reason, he wasn’t shocked at this developing nightmare, in Erie, Pennsylvania.
       —Let’s go. Said Chick Evens to his wife, picking up his two boys.
       —What will you do? Asked Monica, to her sister—whom was dumbfounded, had no response, had she, it would have been a scream.
       —No need to answer her, said Chick just be careful going down the stairs with the luggage, he said to his wife not wanting to stay any longer than he had to—lest he lose his Irish temper, and to the boys: Look both ways when we cross the street to the car, he told them.
       Monica and Evens’ wife looked at each other directly; their eyes like blazing windows across two rooms, then smoothed back her temple hair.  Chick watched the children climbing into the backseat of the car, and Monica continued to look out the window until their car disappeared among the buildings and houses halfway down the block.
#932 (6-21/22-2012)