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Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Famous Writer Runs Away

Readers of older posts will realize that I have changed names of people and places in this post.  I'm not sure it's necessary, but it somehow makes me feel better.

The phone rang at about eight o’clock in the evening on Thursday, a week before Thanksgiving.  It was Librarian from the University, calling to speak to The Famous Writer.  We exchanged pleasantries and after a few minutes, I took the phone to the guest room where he had been holed up for the most part of two weeks.  I knocked, and getting no response, pushed open the door.  The room was dark and empty.

When, in early October, I invited The Famous Writer to stay with us, he was to be here for three weeks while he prepared to move to College Town, where his archives are being installed at the library at the university.  It was a cost cutting move for him because he was living in an expensive assisted living facility.  I was delighted to have him.  I suppose, as Rosemary, my friend and mentor suggested, it was because of my adventurous spirit that I opened my home to him.  I knew there might be a few bumps in the road, but I was unprepared for the events that followed.  The Famous Writer who came to visit morphed into another being  from the gentle man I knew and loved over the years.  

After three weeks, he was still making calls and arrangements and seemed on the verge of nailing down his plans.  Celeste and I offered to take him to College Town to rent a apartment, but when, a day before we were to to leave, he did not have a list of places to see, I said we wouldn't take him until his plans were more fleshed out. 

That’s when he dove into a wine bottle and stayed there.  So, four weeks into his three week stay, he was not only still here but he was drunk and mean and, in general, unacceptable.  He rarely came out of the guest room and when he did, he was rude and sarcastic.  He refused food for the most part, preferring a microwaved corn dog to freshly prepared meals. 

There is a saying that old doctors never retire, and I believe the same is true of old nurses.  I could not help myself.  I was concerned that The Famous Writer was dehydrated, taking in most of his calories in alcohol as he was and refusing to drink water.  When he bristled at the idea of having some blood work done, I told him he would have to find another place to stay if he would not take care of himself.

“I will not preside over you making yourself ill.  You are my guest, and I am worried about you.  Celeste is worried about you.  We all are.”

“And just where did Celeste get her medical degree?”

You can see what I was up against.

“Nice try,” I said.  That kind of manipulative talk won’t work on me.  It’s a great way to deflect energy and attention away from the real problem, which is you, but it won’t work with me.  I survived my mother.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Of course you do.  What’s your doctor’s name?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Go and get the box with your medicine in it, and read his name off one of the bottles.”

Silence.  No move to get up.

I should add that Stan and Al, long time friends of The Famous Writer, were here when he and I had this conversation.  They came by to check on him after he refused to join them for their weekly lunch date.  I took advantage of their presence so I would have witnesses to our conversation.  If I know anything about narcissistic personalities it is that they are rarely accurate reporters of events which do not turn out to their satisfaction.

“Don’t be unreasonable,” Stan said.  “Go get the name of your doctor so Claudia can call and make you an appointment.”

“Just, exactly, what does unreasonable mean?”

“Kiss my ass,” I shot back.  “You are not welcome to stay here with me if you continue down this path.  I did not adopt you.  Either let me call the doctor or call another friend to take you in.”

The Famous Writer shuffled to his room and returned and without so much as a glance at me, handed a medicine bottle to Stan.  Stan handed it to me and I went to the phone and made an appointment for Monday morning.

The men, justifiably, fled as quickly as possible.  The Famous Writer, refusing my offer of food and a glass of water, went back into the guest room and closed the door.

I dressed and went to Coastal Kitchen to meet a friend for a drink and something to eat.  When I came home, I brought The Famous Writer a grilled cheese sandwich.  He refused it and did not come out of his room.

Saturday came and went.  I didn't see The Famous Writer except to stick my head in the door and ask if he wanted food or water.

On Sunday evening, when I arrived home from fetching my dog Honey from the groomer, I knocked on his door and asked if he needed anything.

He waved his arm at the boxes on the floor of the guest room.  

“There are some cans of ravioli over there some place.  I’ll just eat some of that.”

“Let me know if you need a can opener.”

I went to the kitchen and prepared supper for myself.  I was finishing my meal when The Famous Writer presented himself in the living room.  He sat down and said we needed to talk to me about his life.  He was weeping.

“My life is like that of a championship fighter.  Boxers have to win 150 fights before anyone takes them seriously.  They are brave warriors who are never appreciated while they are alive.” 

I tried not to shoot wine through my nose.

“I am a man without a home.  I suppose no on will be happy until I am living under a bridge.”

“Don’t be so melodramatic.  You are in charge of your life and can make of it what you will.”

He sat down and began a protracted tale about his mother, Alice, her hard life and her bravery and how she pulled herself up out of poverty and became a school teacher.  

“You know my mother killed my father, don’t you?”

“She did not kill your father.  She had dementia and when your father fell and could not get up, she did’t know who he was and was afraid of him.  He lay on the floor for three days before you checked on them.  I know that he later died in the hospital, but don’t try to tell me Alice killed him.”

He shuffled back to his room.  “I’m not going to the doctor tomorrow,” he said over his shoulder.

“Okay.  When you lapse into a coma from dehydration and malnutrition, I’ll call an ambulance to pick you up and take you to the hospital.  In the meantime, start making arrangements for another place to stay.”

Three days went by without any action on The Famous Writer’s part.  On Wednesday night, when I returned from an evening with friends, The Famous Writer’s light was on and the door was cracked.  I stuck my head in the door and asked how he was doing.

“I’m a man without a home.  I guess I’ll just end up living under a bridge.”

I ignored that remark, having heard it a number of times.  I had stepped into the room and pulled off my sweater, and as I was turning to leave, I saw that there were two empty wine bottles on the floor behind his chair.  I walked over and picked them up and realized they were from my wine rack.  I bought them for special occasions, not for The Famous Writer to drink them out of the bottle while sulking in the guest room.

“Did you take those bottles of wine from my wine rack?”

“What if I did?”

“I’m provoked that you, especially give your behavior of late, would think it okay to help yourself to my wine.”

“So execute me.”

“There is everyday wine in the refrigerator.  Why couldn’t you have walked a few steps and gotten that?”

I stood in the middle of the room and watched as he reached into his leather man-bag and drew out a pistol, a luger, and laid it on the bed.  He did not brandish it at me, and at no time did I feel threatened, but the act itself was so unacceptable, I started shouting at him.

“Leave my stuff the fuck alone!  It would never occur to me to come in here and mess with your things, take things that are not mine.  You are drunk and sloppy and I am tired and angry.  I’m going to bed.  Put that ridiculous gun away.”

I walked out into the kitchen, and a few minutes later, I heard the door to the guest room close.  When I looked around the corner, my purse and sweater were on a pile on the rug in the foyer.  I went to bed.

The next morning, when I needed a phone to return a call, I could not find a hand set.  Realizing that both of them were probably in the room with The Famous Writer, I knocked on the guest room door and pushed it open.  There was resistance, and I realized that he had barricaded himself in the room by pushing his wicker chest against the door.  

“I need a phone, and you need not barricade yourself against me since you are the one with the gun.”  

I let him sleep until 3:30 that afternoon when our mutual friend, David, arrived.  He came to support me in my decision to give The Famous Writer immediate notice.

“Pulling a gun out of your bag in an effort to intimidate me while we were in the middle of a disagreement was beyond any semblance of acceptable behavior.  You may no longer stay here.  Make arrangements to be out of here tomorrow, and in the meantime, give David the gun.”

The negative energy in the house was so toxic that Honey was either hiding in the pantry, in the bottom of Celeste’s closet or behind my toilet.  In spite of The Famous Writer’s behavior, I was not angry.  I was fed up, exhausted with his negativism and his sarcasm and his egomaniacal behavior.

He went back into the guest room and started making phone calls.  David joined him, trying to facilitate some sort of exit for the old bastard.  I went to the door and reiterated my demand that he be out of my house within 24 hours. 

The Famous Writer’s friend, Randy, arrived, saying The Famous Writer called him and asked him to drive him to Susan’s house.  Susan is The Famous Writer’s ex-wife.  Randy was on his way out of town to a recording session and didn’t have time to take anybody anywhere.  David, who is as fed up with The Famous Writer as I am, declared that he would not take him to Susan’s without talking to her first.  When he called her, she said The Famous Writer was not welcome her house.  

Celeste arrived from a trip out of town and immediately inserted herself into the chaos.  She just wanted to help.  There they all were, Celeste and Randy and David, in the room with a drunk and crazy man, trying to do something with him.  Randy left, followed closely by David.

All the while, I was in the living room with my laptop open in front of me, searching for an apartment in Paris, where I intend to spend April and May of 2014.  This is not my first experience with setting limits and distancing myself from toxic people.

Celeste, who has romanticized The Famous Writer from the moment she met him, seeing him as some sort of tragic tortured figure, fixed him a corn dog and took it to him.  Then she joined me on the balcony for a cigarette and a glass of wine.  

About thirty minutes later, the phone call from the librarian came, and I took the phone to the guest room.  

“He’s not here! I shouted.”

“Of course he’s here.”  

Celeste began searching the flat.

“He is not in this apartment,” I said.  

I went down to the garage and out onto the lawn calling The Famous Writer’s name.  No response.  I came back upstairs and sat and thought about what I should do.  I wanted to call the police.  I wanted them to know a drunken and frail old man had walked away from my apartment in the dark of night.  

“He was on the phone with Susan earlier, I’m sure she made arrangements for him to get to her house,” Celeste said.

“But David talked to her and she said he could not come to her house.”

“I heard them talking.  Don’t worry.  He’s on his way over to her house.”

But I did worry.  I called Susan, and without telling her that her ex-husband had flown the coop, asked if she had talked to him in the last thirty minutes or so.  She denied having spoken to him at all.

I worried some more.  Then I called David.  He’s the only person in this whole crazy cast of characters who has been able to maintain civil relationships with both The Famous Writer and Susan.  He agreed with Celeste that they had cooked up some kind of scheme to get The Famous Writer to her house.  I relaxed for a while.

After three hours, though, I phoned the police.  They came right away and got a description of The Famous Writer and said they would notify all the police units on the island to be on the look out for him.  As they were walking out the door, David called to say the runaway was at Susan’s house.  

I grabbed the phone and punched in her number.

“I understand that The Famous Writer is there with you.”

“Yes.  He was starving but now he’s eating some much needed scrambled eggs.”

“Tell him that under no circumstances is he to come back to my apartment.  Good-bye.”

I hung up the phone, feeling as though my erstwhile guest had done me the biggest favor in the world by walking away of his own volition.  It would be several days before I learned that he actually did wander into the darkness of Gascoigne Bluff that night.  Someone picked him up and took him to a store, where he called a cab to take him to Susan’s.  

The next day, Susan sent The Famous Writer packing to a hotel in Brunswick.  The following week, I went to see him and invited him to share our Thanksgiving meal.  He had fallen and was sore and crankier than usual.  Since he didn't have anything for pain, I actually gave him a couple of my pain pills to tide him over until he could get in touch with his doctor.  

I received a muted and muttered, "Thank you."  

On Thanksgiving afternoon, Celeste drove to town and brought him over.  The moment he entered the apartment, I was sorry he was here.  He began to complain of pain, and when I asked if he had been in touch with his doctor, he snarled,

"If I had, would I be in this much pain?”

I walked into the kitchen and started making dressing.

He went into the guest room and after fooling around with his computer for a while, lay down on the bed and went to sleep.  When we woke him to eat, The Famous Writer refused to get up.

Over and hour later, when he finally deigned to grace us and our other guests with his presence, he was critical, snarky and sullen.  

Since then, he has resided in what he refers to as a roach motel.  I have called to check on him several times, and Celeste and David have been to see him on a couple of occasions and taken him food.  He refuses to apologize to me for his dreadful behavior, somehow imagining that he is the wronged party.  

I will miss him like a person misses a toothache when it is gone.

© 2013 cj schlottman

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