Me, Keaton, Mrs. LaSalle and Joyce’s fucktard brother Jim had Christmas dinner at Joyce’s this year. Even with Jim it was a real nice afternoon: the food was great and everyone loved their presents. (Everyone except Jim, of course.) We had pie and coffee in the dining room, then Keaton and Joyce started clearing the table and I went with Mrs. LaSalle and Jim into the living room. No sooner did I sit down on the white couch than I heard my phone ring from the new coat closet. Joyce doesn’t like me having my phone out when I’m at her house (and I get it), but y’all know how you can tell that a call is important? I got to the phone just as it stopped ringing, but the caller ID said that it was Travis who called.
Less than a minute later, Keaton came out of the kitchen, on his phone. Good thing he kept his in his pocket. He signed to me to come over, so I did.
“…he’s right here,” I heard Keaton say into the phone. “Yeah…we’re at his girlfriend’s house for Christmas…No, we’re done with dinner already, you’re not disturbing us.” I could tell he wanted to add “…too bad” to that. “You take it, bubba,” he said, handing the phone to me.
“Merry Christmas. Hunter here.”
“It’s Travis,” he said, sounding half like he was on the verge of a freakout, and half like he was gonna cry. There’s a difference between the two.
“What’s the matter, man?,” I asked. “Isn’t Dylan’s wedding tonight?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I’m at the reception.”
“How’s it going?”
There was a long pause. Keaton made “what’s going on?” signs. I shrugged at him.
“I’m in the men’s room. I’ve lost it,” Travis said.
“What happened??,” I asked.
“I don’t know. Everything was going fine. The ceremony was great, and everybody was so glad Dylan and Jacqueline were finally getting married. Jacqueline looked so beautiful in her wedding dress, and Dylan looked super handsome in the morning coats we were all wearing…that’s ‘we’ as in the wedding party. You know Josh was best man…and I was one of the ushers.”
“Sounds great,” I said. I usually enjoy weddings. When I get invited to them.
“Then we all drove from the church to the Langham for the reception. We were having cocktails before dinner and I started to feel like my mood was going down.”
“Did you have anything to drink?,” I asked.
“No. I’m not supposed to again…they put me back on Klonopin.”
Keaton hadn’t stopped making “what the fuck is goin on?” signs to me. I thought of asking Travis if I could put him on speaker, but I really didn’t want Jim to hear Travis’ business. So I made “hold on another fuckin minute” signs back to Keaton.
“Anyway,” Travis continued, “I could feel I was getting super depressed and super anxious…like I couldn’t face dinner or talk to anyone…and I don’t even know most of the people here. Dylan’s ten years older than me, and so are most of his and Jacqueline’s friends. There’s family here of course…but no one I feel like I can talk to. And I don’t want anyone blaming me for ruining Dylan’s special day with my being fucked in the head.
“The only thing I could think of to do was run,” he said. “Like Elsa in Frozen.” He kinda laughed at his own joke. “So I ran into the men’s room and hid in one of the stalls, which is where I am now. I think everyone’s gone in to dinner, so I can sneak out without being seen I think. I…just…”
Now he was in tears. Dad never could stand seeing a grown man cry, and I gotta admit I don’t like it either, even when I’m only hearing it and not seeing it. I can cry, sure, but I was taught to try not to. Travis is more likely to let his emotions out. Maybe that’s healthy. Maybe it’s because he’s had all that therapy. Maybe it’s a California thing, too.
“I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I just can’t… It’s like I’ve hit a wall.” It took him a long time to get that out.
By this time Keaton was right next to me and trying to hear what Travis was saying on the phone. It wasn’t working.
“Will you fuckin tell me what’s going on?,” he whispered.
“Travis is freaking out at Dylan’s wedding reception. “He’s hiding from everyone in the men’s room.”
“Fuck. Is he gonna be ok?”
“I don’t know. He’s crying.”
Keaton really doesn’t like it when men cry. I could see that in his face. I know he likes Travis a lot and worries about him…but he’d still like it better if he didn’t cry when he got depressed and upset.
“Is there something we can do for you?,” I asked.
“Well…actually…yeah,” Travis said. “I think…I think I need to go back to the hospital. I don’t know where else to turn…and I don’t know how I’m gonna get there. We came to the reception in limos.”
“You want me and Keaton to come get you?”
“I…I think so. If you can…”
“You sure that’s where you want to go?,” I asked. I didn’t have good memories of that place, or of how Travis looked when he was there.
“It’s that or go home and swallow all my meds at once.”
“Fuck, man, don’t do that,” said Keaton, grabbing the phone out of my hand. “We’re up at bubba’s girlfriend’s house in Altadena, so it may be 20 minutes before we can get there. Stay put and we’ll text you when we get to the hotel. Just hang on until then.”
I wanted to get to Travis as soon as I could, so I didn’t want to spend too much time explaining it all to Joyce and Mrs. LaSalle and Joyce’s fucktard brother. I just said that me and Keaton had a friend who was in trouble and we had to go and make sure he was ok. I didn’t mention the hospital, since it wasn’t anyone’s business that Travis had mental issues. I still haven’t told Joyce about Travis being in the hospital the first time.
Joyce said she’d make sure that Mrs. LaSalle got home, and we got in Keaton’s truck and headed for the Langham. That’s the hotel I took Joyce to last Valentine’s Day, and it’s probably the nicest one we have here in Pasadena. I reckon Dylan’s girlfriend was from a wealthy family like him and Travis are…otherwise I’m not sure how they could afford a big Christmas wedding at a place like that.
We found our way to the part of the hotel where the banqueting rooms are, and then we found the men’s room.
“Travis?,” I said, when we’d got in the door, “you in here?”
“Yeah,” he said, unlocking and stepping out from one of the stalls. He still looked awesome in his wedding clothes, even if I could tell he’d been crying. I gave him a hug and he broke down again. A lot. Like my shoulder was still wet when we got to the hospital.
Then he got a look at us and started to laugh.
“What is it?,” I asked.
“Your sweaters,” he said. I forgot all about what I had on. “Where the fuck did you get them?”
“Long story,” Keaton said.
“You wanna talk about what’s going on?,” I asked, “or do you just wanna bounce?”
“You got it, man,” said Keaton. “If you can stop crying long enough for us to get to the truck.” Told you Keaton can’t handle it when a dude is crying.
Travis pulled himself together and we got him out of the hotel and into the truck.
“You sure you want us to take you to Huntington?,” Keaton asked.
“Maybe there’s somewhere nicer you can go…I reckon you must have private insurance that would cover it?,” I asked.
“No. I want to go back to where I was. I don’t want to get all upset by some new loony bin with different rules and shit.”
“Do you want us to stop and get some stuff at your house first?” He was going to look pretty dang weirdass in that place dressed for a wedding.
“Just get me to the hospital,” said Travis. “My parents can bring me whatever I need tomorrow.”
“Aren’t they going to miss you at the reception?”
“No. I told my mom that I had a migraine from all the excitement and that I might not be able to stay. I didn’t want to ruin the day for her…let alone Dylan and Jacqueline. You can always count on your crazy little brother to fuck up the biggest day of your life.”
“Stop that shit, man. I keep telling you, you ain’t fuckin crazy.”
“And you’re not ruining their wedding,” I said. “That migraine thing sounds like a great excuse to me. It’s not like you made a scene in the church or something.”
“That’s true,” said Travis. “Migraine has been my code word for incredibly depressed for years. I’m not even sure what a migraine is. I only know people feel real sorry for you if you have one…which they don’t if you’re having a depressive episode because of bipolar disorder.
“Are you guys sure I didn’t fuck up your Christmas dinner?”
“No you didn’t,” I said. “We had our pie and coffee and were sitting in the living room. Don’t worry. I’m glad you got us out of there. Joyce’s brother is staying with her…”
“…totally cramping bubba’s style…,” Keaton interrupted, hoping to get a smile out of Travis. It kinda worked.
“…and he’s a total fucktard. You may have saved him from getting his face punched.”
“So where do we go?,” Keaton asked as we headed west on California. “To the same place on Pasadena Avenue we went when we came to visit you?”
“No. To the ER. That’s how it works. They check you in there, they check you out physically, then someone comes from the loony bin to evaluate you, and, finally, they take you to the Della Martin Center. That’s the name of where I was. It took almost 10 hours last time when the cops brought me in.”
By this time we were nearing the hospital and looking for the signs to ER parking. Last time me and Keaton went to the ER it was late at night, and it’s not a very well marked hospital. There’s construction going on to make it worse, and we went around in circles at least twice before we found an open lot.
It was pretty quiet in the ER lobby when we got there, but I reckon not a whole lot happens Christmas night in Pasadena. It was way busier the Saturday night we brought in the dude whose nose Keaton busted. There was only one other person waiting: a girl, probably the same age as Travis, sitting in a chair with her arms behind her back…and with a big latino cop standing next to her. Travis noticed her first.
“See that girl? I’ll bet you she’s being brought in on a 5150 by that cop…and that her hands are cuffed.”
I smiled at her as we passed her chair, but she was totally out of it. I don’t know if she was on something or if she was just mentally ill…but she wasn’t into noticing cute boys.
We helped Travis check himself in at the desk, and waited with him until someone came to take him back into the ER.
“Come see me, ok?,” he asked before he followed the – I don’t think she was a nurse; she was what the hospital I volunteered at back home called a Patient Care Partner – inside.
“Not tomorrow. Mom and Dad are gonna come. Day after. I’ll see to it Mom and Dad don’t come so we can spend the whole time together.”
“If you’re gonna be here,” I said.
“Oh…I’ll be here. I’m going to be a prisoner for at least 72 hours.” He looked at the Care Partner and she nodded like she knew exactly what he meant. Not that I didn’t learn all about 5150s the last time Travis was here. “I’ll copy down your numbers before they take my cell phone away so I can call you, and put both of you on the list of people who can call and ask how I’m doing. But, please, come…what day is after tomorrow?”
“Friday the 27th. Tomorrow’s Thursday the 26th,” said the Care Partner.
“Do you need us to tell your parents?,” I asked, suddenly remembering they had no idea where Travis was going.
“Fuck,” Travis said. “Someone’s got to. I’ll have my phone as long as I’m in the ER…so I’ll have time to call them. But I don’t want to bother them until after the reception…and they might have taken away my phone by then. So…” he hesitated “could you?”
Neither me or Keaton knew Travis’ parents by more than sight from the few times we’d been over at the house to pick him up or go for a swim, and they didn’t know us any better than we knew them. And, while we were taking their son to the loony bin, they were probably dancing at their other son’s wedding. You don’t just call people up then and tell them their son is in the hospital. But we do know Josh, and Josh has known Travis’ family nearly all his life. So I reckoned we could start off by calling him. It was getting on 10, and the wedding was definitely still going on. Maybe Dylan and his bride had left by then, but the party still goes on without the bride and groom back in Tennessee, and I saw no reason why it wouldn’t be the same in California.
“Sure, man, we’ll take care of it,” I said. “We’ll call Josh in a couple hours and get the numbers from him. Don’t worry about it. Visiting is 5:30 to 7, right? At least that’s what it was last time. I’ll tell them that…and that you expect to see them tomorrow. And that you need clothes.” I still couldn’t figure out how his morning coat was going to go over in the psych ward.
“Thanks, man. You have no idea how awesome you guys are being.”
“Anything for a teammate,” I said. “And for a friend.”
Travis had already started going down the hall with the Patient Care Partner, but he doubled back so I could give him a big hug. Keaton – remember he’s not the hugging type – gave him an even bigger hug, then turned him around and gave him a little push down the hall.
“You’ll be ok, hoss,” he said.
I gotta admit that, even though coming to the hospital was Travis’ idea, he looked dang scared as the Patient Care Partner led him away. I’ve never been inside the Huntington ER, so I didn’t know where Travis was going on his way to the psych ward, but the part I could see of the place looked nice enough, and everyone had been real nice to us since we got there. I was worried about Travis, but I had the feeling that he was in good hands. I didn’t have that feeling I had the last time me and Keaton went to visit him. We watched him disappear at the end of the hall then turned and headed back to the truck.
“Any idea how we’re gonna tell his parents,” I asked.
“Like you told Travis, bubba: start out by calling Josh.” He started the truck. “Where to? Home or back up to Joyce’s?”
I looked at my trusty Swatch: it was nearly 11:00, and Joyce had a lot of cleaning up to do. As I wasn’t going to spend the night – and really didn’t want to see Jim again – I said we should go home. I texted Joyce that our friend’s situation was under control and that I was going to need to get up early in the morning for the third worst day of the retail calendar. I thanked her again for the pajamas and told her I couldn’t wait to break them in. Then she called to tell me that she’d already driven Mrs. LaSalle home and thanked me again for the crafting room, once again with tears in her voice. I told her I’d be over for leftovers after work and wished her a Merry Christmas again.
We were almost home by the time I was done talking to Joyce. Keaton parked the truck and followed me into my apartment. His was still a mess of packing boxes, so mine was the more comfortable place to think.
“Beer?,” I asked him.
I got us two Pilsner Urquells and we sat down on the couch. I realized I’d forgotten the bottle opener and got up to get it.
“Bubba, you got one in your pocket.”
“Oh, shit…of course,” I said, remembering my new penknife. I took it out of my pocket and it worked just dandy opening our beers. We sat there and didn’t say anything until we were both almost done with them. I got us another couple bottles, used my Christmas present again to open them, and looked up at the kitchen clock. It was past 11:30, and probably late enough to try calling Josh.
I did that on my phone. And got voicemail. I wasn’t surprised at that, since maybe the party was still going on, but I really needed to reach him.
“I’m gonna try texting him,” I told Keaton. “Say I need to talk to him and it’s urgent. URGENT in capitals.”
“Go for it, bubba.” I sent the text.
It took ten minutes for Josh to call me back. I told him about Travis and how he was in the hospital (Josh: “so that’s where he went to – I was wondering”)…and how he’d assigned me and Keaton to telling his parents, whose number I didn’t have. I didn’t even know their last name.
“It’s ok, man. I’ll tell them. The party’s broken up and they headed home 15 minutes ago. I’ll give them time to get settled and then call. I’ll give them your number in case they want to call you for details, which I can tell you they probably will.”
Sure enough, while Keaton and I were on beer number 3, my phone rang and it was Mrs. Stuart (now I know their last name at least), sounding very worried and maybe a little annoyed that Travis had confided in two ‘strangers’ about something so important, rather than going to his own flesh and blood. I wanted to explain that he didn’t want to make a ruckus and ruin the wedding for anyone, but I didn’t get the chance. Mrs. Stuart did most of the talking.
“So you’re sure he’s safe?,” she kept asking.
“I’m pretty sure he’s safe in the hospital. That’s why he wanted to go there.”
“Did he say anything about wanting to hurt himself? Did he have a plan?”
“He only said something once, ma’am, and I don’t think he was too serious about going through with it.” (That was when he said he was going to go home and take all his medication at the same time.)
“How do you know that?”
“Honestly, I don’t ma’am. But he seemed more intent on going to the hospital so he wouldn’t do it than he did on going home and doing it. I don’t know too much about these things, but, if he did want to kill himself, I don’t reckon he would have called us.”
I think she realized I had a point and she quieted down a little. She did still keep asking me the same questions over and over again. I told her to call and double-check when visiting hours were tomorrow, and not to forget to bring clothes. (I hoped they had something there for him to put on until then, even if it was just a hospital gown.)
Mrs. Stuart thanked me like a dozen times and finally got off the phone. I didn’t realize how exhausted I was until the job was finished. Ok, those 3 beers didn’t make me any less tired. I sent Keaton home after thanking him one more time for the awesome present, and he thanked me for the boxing gloves again. Then he headed out and I went straight to bed, just like I did the night before. I took my clothes off, tossed my ugly sweater on a chair for next year, and got into bed in the boxers I was wearing. I was too tired to even think about calling Joyce to thank her one last time for my new blue silk pajamas.