Three o’clock in the morning in a sleepy Toronto suburb, my sister was awakened by the sound of someone downstairs. She cautiously padded down the stairs into the living room and there, sitting in front of the television was her son, Jeremy watching TV. It wasn’t on.
Three o’clock in the afternoon in the crowded, noisy, hyper metropolis of Manhattan, I was awakened from an afternoon nap by my sister’s phone call. Had I heard from Jeremy? My twenty-one year old nephew was missing – and so was his car.
My sister had been divorced for many years and Jeremy was living with her in the burbs, often sequestered away in his room. Jilted by a girlfriend, he had been acting strangely for weeks, restlessly pacing and chain-smoking in the backyard deep into the night. Maybe he smoked some bad weed or was acting out a late teenage rebellion. But he had also become increasingly withdrawn and emotionally flat. Over the years, my sister and I had grown very close as siblings and best friends. And now, a feeling of helplessness crept over us both as she read a cryptic note that Jeremy left on the kitchen counter. Since I was the wordsmith in the family, she hoped I could interpret what she feared might be a suicide note. “If I ever come back from where I’ve gone, people might appreciate me and the truth.”
Nine o’clock that evening I received another phone call. It was Jeremy. I was relieved to hear his voice but shocked that it was coming from a phone booth in Manhattan. (It was 1987). He had driven into New York City and needed to know how to get to my place at 27th and Tenth Avenue. I gave him directions to the loft that I shared in Chelsea with my friend, Connie. She owned the enormous loft on the sixth floor of a one hundred stair walk-up and we had been roommates since I moved to NYC in 1985.
A few hours later, the downstairs buzzer announced Jeremy and what was to become a surreal adventure. He made it up all the stairs rather quickly and appeared at the door. I followed as he strode his lanky six-foot frame down our hallway into our vast living room area. “What are you doing here?” I asked. His brown eyes were wide and wired as he launched into, “What do you know? What do you know? Tell me what you know! What do you know? What do you know?” I took a breath and replied, “Tell me what YOU know.” A sense of calm melted over him, “I know that I’m the Messiah. I have twelve disciples. I’m on my way to Washington to tell Bill Clinton about love in the world.”
His lips curled into a peaceful smile. Behind my desperate smile was a silent, “What the fuck?” Knowing he worked part time at a pharmacy I asked, “Are you on something? Did you take something?” He shook his head and just smiled. And I wondered how the hell he drove into Manhattan in such a manic state. Most people can’t find their way across bridges, through tunnels and the horn-honking streets of New York City in the most lucid frame of mind. I asked him where he parked his car. He pointed out the window, “On the street.” “Well, you’re going to get a ticket or towed,” I warned. He grinned, “Not in my world.” “Well, we’re not in your world,” I replied, “You’re in New York and you’re going to get a ticket.”
I introduced Jeremy to a bewildered Connie and we went to move his car into a parking garage down the block. We trundled back upstairs to the loft and talked and talked into the wee hours of the morning. Being a writer, I was fascinated by his jumbled logic of Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Dungeons and Dragons, Angels and Fairy lore and the Bible. I almost expected him to turn my water into wine as he ranted on about brotherly love, government, the universe, respect, injustice, friendship, betrayal and the sins of humanity. Something was terribly wrong. But a tiny part of me thought, ‘We’ve all been waiting for the Messiah, why couldn’t it be my nephew, Jeremy?’
His mind was on speed-dial, his convictions passionate and his rants sincere as I tried to navigate the labyrinth of his scattered thoughts. Little did I know, that it was useless trying to reason with what I would quickly learn was the psychotic break of a young paranoid schizophrenic.
It was now 5AM and the Manhattan skyline was beginning to yawn into pink. Jeremy went into the bathroom to take a shower. In all the commotion of the night, I hadn’t noticed that he had brought with him a small black suitcase. Hearing the shower in the other room, I snapped open the case. No clothing – only a candle, a notebook, a thick soft-cover book on Fairy Lore…and a gun!
It looked like a starter pistol or a bee-bee gun but I was amazed that he drove across the border with it. I heard the shower stop and not wanting to show alarm, I snapped the case closed as Jeremy wandered back into the room. I made him up a bed on the sofa. Confused, exhausted and mentally spent, I crashed out on my bed. When I woke up late morning, he was gone!
Messiah or not, my nephew was lost in his mind and on the loose in New York City. I got dressed and ran down the street to the parking garage. His car was gone. I had hoped I could track Jeremy’s license number for the police but the morning attendant didn’t have the stub to his parking ticket from the night before. I rummaged through the trash trying to find the ticket with a time stamp but the attendant chased me out of his underground lair. I staggered back up to the loft to call my sister with the news that Jeremy and his car were gone. Since he was in my jurisdiction I felt responsible. But there was nothing we could do but wait for something to happen. And it did. (Pt. II To be continued)
(Excerpt from, “Nut Magnet – An Autobiographical Assortment of Fruits and Nuts”)