“And now, it — all of it — is too much.
Too hot. Too bright to hear. Too loud to see.
And with no way to turn it down,
there is no sleep,
nothing to stop the onslaught.”
— Juliann Garey, “Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See”
I can’t find the baseball bat. Where the hell is the baseball bat?
Mo has just stepped into my work space to say there’s a hysterical woman outside who’s being chased by her ex-boyfriend and is begging for us to protect her. Sadly, being a pacifist, the only weapon in the house is Mo’s old Louisville Slugger aluminum bat. And now I can’t find it. I make a mental note to re-assess our self defense plan.
I finally find it and go outside. She’s on the porch, whispering “please, I’m begging you help me,” through her sobbing tears. I’m suddenly terrified. I have never been in a fight in my entire life, and I was never able to hit a curve ball. I’m not sure I’m the best person to be protecting anyone. But then, something odd. Standing behind her, Mo is shaking her head. What does that mean?
And then I find out.
She is scared because her ex-boyfriend has enlisted two other people, who go into her apartment every couple of hours. They have changed out the fire alarms to make them motion detectors. They have bugged her phone and tampered with every device in her home. They have made it so that every couple of hours her refrigerator starts to rattle and bursts into flames. GPS devices have been placed everywhere. Her car has been tampered with, and they are somehow watching her every move. She is certain they are going to get her, and she is terrified to be alone.
We have no idea what to do. We must call the police, she says. She tried earlier, but never got through. So she dials 911 on Mo’s phone. She talks for a long time with a patient dispatcher. Mostly she keeps saying, please I’m begging you to help me. She finally gets through to a police officer. They have the same conversation. It’s not an emergency, the officer suggests. Yes it is!!!! she replies. The officer wants to talk to me.
I go inside and explain the situation. He thinks the fire department would offer a better hope if she will ask for them. But she is insistent that it be the police. We lose him, and the officer calls back.
She looks skeptically at the phone. It’s them, she says. I assure her it’s the officer. She answers, and asks for his badge number and his name. Still doesn’t believe him. Pleads like her life depends upon it. And maybe it does. He agrees to come.
A few minutes later, three cops are standing outside our door. They’re in full uniform — body armor, guns, flashlights, badges, hats. Still, she doesn’t believe they’re really cops. This has to be part of the ex’s plan. I assure her that yes, they are police, and their cars are in the parking lot, which fake cops wouldn’t have. Proof: I almost got shot by one of them when I walked up to his window while he was checking in with the other two. Note to self: Never rush up to a cop car when he’s on an uncertain mission.
Do you know what day it is? one of the officers asks. She does. Which is sort of funny, because I had completely forgotten. Do you know where you are? She does. And then that terrified refrain: Please, please, I’m begging you. You have to help me, she says while clinging to Mo.
“What can we do to help you?” the youngest one asks her. Falling apart, she goes through the same story again. “But what can we do?” he asks again in a kind way that makes me totally forgive them for staking me out at the bird park every day on my runs. She says they’re in the apartment now, that they’re trying to get her. They say they’ll go with her to check the apartment. Still not believing they’re real policemen, she refuses to go without one of us. So we start our sad little parade as she clings to Mo’s arm in a death grip while the three large cops escort her.
The policemen stand at the doorway. “Police! If you’re inside, make yourself known!” Silence. They go through the apartment. Nobody there but a cat. It doesn’t seem to help. She is certain bad things will happen if she goes in the apartment. Finally our next-door neighbor, who seems to know more than us about the situation, comes home. She hugs the distraught woman and lights her a cigarette.
One of the officers sees her medication on the table, with today’s medicine still there. He asks if maybe she hasn’t taken her meds. She says it’s just for hypertension. And she does seem tense.
The officer asks if she has any relatives in the area. Luckily, her mom is an hour away and answers the phone. She’s on her way. Suddenly, I miss my mom. They always know what to do.
One of the cops walks over and says we can leave. He thanks us for our help; we thank him for his.
It’s funny. I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health lately. I just finished a book in which the main character, based on the author’s own life experiences, describes going through a terrifying life of bipolar experiences. Ask me about the shrimp fork sometime when we’re on our fourth beer. This, coupled with the guy who drove his car into two Capitol police officers and the latest grocery store shooter, both of whom had a history of mental issues, made me think a lot about how hard it must be to have a problem like that. People around these guys knew forever that something was terribly wrong but there was nothing they could do.
What IS reality, anyhow? If it’s real to you, it’s reality, I suppose. The mind is so complicated. So easy to blow a fuse and be left in the darkness.
Defund the police? The argument is that we need first responders who can come to the aid of someone who is melting down. Police officers, firefighters — they’re wonderful at what they do, but it’s hard to stop a train once it comes off the track.
We go back inside and watch a Hallmark movie. The couple live happily ever after. Their refrigerator never catches on fire. Never do they say “please. I’m begging you. Help me.”
I hold the Louisville Slugger a little tighter.
Just have her call TO at Lifeline National. I have fielded Nearly 15,000 calls in 4 years. Our Mental Health services in this Country are in dire need!
Frightening. Our me ta health is such a fragile thing and I’m so grateful mine is as good as it is.
Never quite understood the ‘defund’ argument, although in simple terms, I can appreciate that perhaps some of the budget for the police could be given to things such as improved mental health services. But given their role on the front line of first response, it seems like they need more training, not less. Which means more money.
In any case, great that you were one of the links of the chain. Hopefully she will get the help she needs. I gather, from reading your tale, that should you have had the need to use the bat on the ‘perpetrator’, it would have been a swing and a miss. If there was a boyfriend, he is no doubt long gone…