You can find a story anywhere if you are looking for one; in line at Trader Joe’s, staring out a window of a tea shop, in the employee lounge of a hotel, sitting high atop a mountain, crossing a busy street or in a trailer park…
Stories are hanging out; some hiding from view, others slap you up the side of your head.
“Moving on is a simple thing.
What it leaves behind is hard.”
The night the ambulance took Julie away, was one of the suckiest nights of my life. The entire chain of events leading up to that night, came from way the hell out of the blue, just like that first phone call months prior.
I was starting to feel like a tiny insect trapped in a sticky web; a web I flew straight into with eyes wide open. Her phone calls became more and more frequent and her tokens of affection arrived regularly:
A plastic yellow daisy under my windshield wiper, a box of Eastman’s Valentine’s chocolates (stale as old bread), notes under my welcome mat and the ultimate manifestation of her adoration; the one that almost made me crap my pants and could be made into a Hollywood movie called: Inappropriate and Misguided Crushes From Hell …
The morning during that ‘final week’, I opened my front door to find
17 gift bags, complete with colorful tissue, bows, and streamers…
Each filled with things like one of her personal teacups, packages of Saltine crackers, a small jewelry box, a framed print of Garfield and, in one bag, old personal photographs torn into tiny pieces. Pretty much it was the torn up pictures that caused my skin to crawl within the stickiness
of that web I mentioned.
These gifts came as a thank-you for our field trip to IHOP; where I’m fairly certain I won’t be returning any time soon.
We entered during the morning rush and Julie said “hello” to all the customers eating at the counter and each one seated in every damn booth. As we made out way to our table, she could hardly contain her excitement. She immediately plopped in the booth and started combing her hair. When the busser brought our ice water, she thanked him profusely and when the waitress brought the menus, Julie began complimenting her on her earrings, outfit (standard IHOP uniform), shoes and hair.
I buried myself in my menu.
She was thrilled when I told her to order whatever she wanted.
“My treat!” I said. And boy did she order. I think it was called the Lumberjack Special with a side of extra ham, large OJ and a small stack of chocolate chip pancakes with whip cream.
When the meal arrived, she oooh’d and awed then grabbed the ketchup bottle with both hands and started squeezing with all her might.
Soon her scrambled eggs looked like a scene from Dexter.
Upon finishing, I headed to the register and she made a pit stop at the “little girls’ room.” We walked together across the parking lot to my car, she smiled at me with this weird smile I will never forget, and then began singing a single line that beckoned me to follow... “ These boots are made for walking...” I chimed in “And that’s just what they’ll do…”
Her turn “One of these days these boots…” then both of us in unison,
“Are gonna walk all over you!” Then without f*@king warning, she burst into uncontrollable sobbing and fell to her knees on the goddamn parking lot pavement!
I couldn’t help her gain her composure, so I wrapped my arms around her right there on the asphalt. In between her hiccups and convulsions, she managed get a bunch of stuff out which of course made absolutely zero sense, even to a nutcase like me, “I got in trouble… but it wasn’t me...Grandma Cooley knew it wasn’t me…but nobody believed me …it was my best friend Mary…she stole the bag of potato chips…Grandma Cooley taught me thou shall not steal…she told me that I couldn’t go to heaven if I stole…but Andrea didn’t believe me and mother didn’t believe me…mother always believed Andrea…Grandma Cooley tried to help me…but she couldn’t so it was Mary who did it…I swear on the Ying Yang River…it was her but nobody believed me…”
That was the last intelligent conversation I had with Julie.
Two nights later, while down at my trailer, the sheriff knocked on my door. He knew her full name, address, and even her scripts.
Clearly, they were old chums.
He asked her to step outside, asked her if she was on her meds, asked her if she had just pushed a resident down? (PUSHED A RESIDENT DOWN! WTF!) She refused to get up off my couch or speak.
When they eventually put her in the ambulance, she asked for me.
I stepped inside and saw her strapped to a gurney. With her eyes clinched tight, like a child waiting to get a shot from the doctor,
she said to me, “When I get back, let’s go to IHOP again.”
That’s the last time I saw Julie.
A rumor soon surfaced in the park… the manager had a mental breakdown the other night and was taken away by ambulance.
I think it started with the bitch next door, “Ms. Ima Peekie Thru Da Blinds” and spread like wildfire. It even surfaced at the Prunetree Shopping Center where the cashier one day asked me, “Are you okay, honey? I heard you might not be doin well.”
Well, who the hell is okay, really? Makes me wonder about sanity and insanity and the fine line we all walk between the two.
Most of us walk it privately, rather than broadcast it for the whole world to see.
I had a point to make in all this, and I’m certain there’s a lesson to be learned; yet I haven’t a clue as to what it was.
I’ll tell you though, and it’s evident by these photos,
I can barely take care of myself let alone the Julies of the world!
“The statistics on sanity are that 1 out of 4 Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your 3 best friends. If they are okay, then it’s you.”
~ Rita Mae Brown
Be careful out there, world travelers! Just keep your boots a walkin!
Until next time…