Most of the time me and Keaton were visiting our buddy Travis in the psych ward at Huntington Hospital we talked about normal stuff. Travis told us all about Dylan’s wedding, at least the parts of it he saw before he locked himself in the men’s room. It was a very big wedding – over 300 guests – and Travis said the church ceremony had been very nice. (The Stuarts are Episcopal when they go, but they’re not what we’d call church-going folk back home.) Although Dylan and his new wife have been living together for several years, she still wanted to wear a big white dress and a veil and have a wedding with all the trimmings.
He reached for his phone to show us a picture…then remembered where he was and that his phone was locked up somewhere – although, seriously, what kind of harm are you going to come to with a phone? Swallowing the sim card? I’ve swallowed pieces of bubble gum bigger than a sim card…and I’m still here to tell the tale lol.
Dylan’s new wife is hardly the first bride to have wanted a big wedding even if she’s been ‘married’ for years, just without the license. I think I get it: I reckon most girls dream of having a big wedding and a dress and all that shit…but Meemaw would certainly have had something to say about it. Maybe not about all the guests and the big reception…that’s just having a party…but certainly about the white dress. Don’t get me wrong about Meemaw: she’s used to the idea of people living together without getting married, and she certainly knows that I’ve got a sex life…she just doesn’t like false advertising lol. I guess the expression of hers she’d use is if it came out of a cow, don’t call it a chicken.
Travis even told us he teared up at the wedding. If you’d been listening real close, you’d have heard a very soft growl from Keaton when Travis said it. Since I teared up big time at Melanie Kate’s wedding, I don’t blame Travis. That’s not the same thing as crying your eyes out in the men’s room.
The reception sounded like it was super nice. I can’t imagine that a wedding at the Langham would be anything but that. Travis knew some of the details Dylan and his fiancée planned out, like the size of the band and what was on the menu (prime rib), and it all sounded like it must have been great. Then you could tell a cloud passed in front of the sun, and Travis remembered that he’d been in hiding instead of enjoying the sushi appetizer.
“I really fucked up,” he said.
“No you didn’t. You couldn’t deal and you did what you needed to do in order to get through the rest of the night. And – this is the most important part, bud – you called for help instead of making another lameass attempt at jumping off the bridge or something like that.”
Maybe I shouldn’t have called his suicide attempt lameass, but it kinda was. It’s a long drop off that bridge to be aware of the fact that you’re about to die a very painful, if quick, death.
“What bubba said,” said Keaton.
“I’m kinda proud you called us,” I said.
“Yeah. It’s an honor to have a buddy trust you like that.. I know there are people you’d probably have called before us if everyone wasn’t at the reception, but I’m glad you called us.”
“You do realize that my family doesn’t keep telling me I’m not fuckin crazy and threaten to kick my ass if I say it one more time, right? I mean…they’d have taken me here and been really nice about it…but they wrote me off as crazy years ago, probably after I nearly got thrown out of school because of a manic episode.” He hid his face in his hands with his elbows on the table.
“What happened then? Or do you not want to tell us?”
“Fuck that, bubba. You can’t start a story like that and then chicken out of telling the rest.” Travis looked up with a start, then he saw Keaton was smiling. He smiled too. A dose of shit from a buddy probably did him some good.
“I flipped out during a school debate, an important one. See, I was on the debating team, and we were pretty good.”
“So you were a fuckin smart kid,” Keaton said. “How the fuck did you get that throwing arm then?”
“I wasn’t that smart,” he said. “And I played sports too. Not like Hunter…but nobody groaned if I got put on their team.”
“What does ‘not like Hunter’ mean? I was a varsity tight end two years running in high school. Bubba’s not the only certified jock at this table.”
“Can we get back to the story?,” I asked. “Nobody’s ever doubted you were a stud on the football field. Even if I fuckin erased you at the turkey bowl year before last.”
“That reminds me, bubba…I still gotta get back at you for that.”
Travis was laughing. Maybe me and Keaton should try our hands at a comedy act lol.
“So, anyway,” Travis said, “we were in an important debate with a big rival school from the other side of town and I had to rebut something the other side had said. I don’t even remember what the question was, but I do remember we were doing well. I’d been feeling a little hypomanic all day…”
“Hypomanic?,” I asked.
“That’s when you’re almost manic but not manic enough to be officially manic,” Travis explained. “If that makes any sense.” It did. Sorta. “Then I got up on stage in front of a crowd and saw that I had a microphone in front of me. That pushed me over the edge. I started off talking about what I was supposed to be talking about, then I went totally off-track and out of control. I had no idea what the fuck it was I was saying. I even started trying to rap, while being my own beatbox at the same time. I thought I was being incredibly brilliant, when I was really being totally insane and nobody knew what to do or how to get me off the stage. Nobody understood that there was a reason I was so out of control and that I wasn’t doing it on purpose or on drugs or something. Someone on my team tried to get me to sit back down , but I wasn’t budging. It’s all pretty fuzzy in my memory. All I remember was that I wouldn’t stop talking. Finally they had to bring in a security guard to drag me off the stage. Which he did. After I punched him.”
“Once he got me off the stage I became even more physically violent. I got the handcuff treatment and they called the cops. They should have called the ambulance, but nobody understood what was really happening. They thought I was on meth or something. The cops took me in, they got me to piss in a cup and found out that there were no drugs in my system. My parents came to get me, and, fuck, was there shit hitting the fan for the next couple days. I got kicked off the debating team, obviously…but they were thinking about kicking me out of school too. Permanently. My parents grounded me for a month and took my car away, even though my psychiatrist tried to explain that what had happened was beyond my control. He did his best to intercede with my school too, but they thought I was just trying to get out of it with a fake doctor’s note. Oh yeah, there was also talk of an assault charge on the security guard, although he changed his mind about pressing charges. ”
“You didn’t hit him hard enough,” said Keaton, smiling.
“So what happened?”
“It all quieted itself down, although it didn’t do my reputation at school any good. It sucked not being on the debating team anymore…and I got suspended for 2 weeks. My parents got that kept off my permanent record by making a very big donation to the school.” He paused.
“We already knew you were a rich private school boy,” said Keaton.
“But even then I didn’t exactly get into the kind of fancy college they wanted me to get into. Their ambitions for me went beyond PCC. Dylan went to Middlebury.”
“That’s where Joyce’s fucktard brother works,” I couldn’t help but mention. It’s always weird when you hear of places you’ve never heard of before twice in almost as many days.
“That’s some pretty hardcore trouble,” said Keaton. “How old were you?”
“16. Junior year.”
“And fuck college,” said Keaton. “I’ve had a way more interesting life without it than I would have if I’d gone somewhere to play football. It’s not like I didn’t have offers, although it wasn’t clear like it was for bubba that I had a shot at the pros.”
“Did you play football too?,” Travis asked me.
“Yeah, but I gave it up so I wouldn’t get injured for baseball,” I explained.
“I bet you were the like totes cute quarterback who fucked all the cheerleaders,” Travis said, with a smirk that was almost worthy of Keaton.
“Well…almost. I mean, I was a good-looking quarterback, and I fucked nearly all the cheerleaders at my school…but I stopped playing football after junior year and the cheerleaders came at the end of senior year…after I broke up with my girlfriend. It was a serious rebound thing.
“But, getting back to your story,” I continued, turning back to Travis, “was that the worst manic experience…”
“…episode…,” said Travis, teaching me a new word.
“…you had in school?”
“Yeah. That was the biggie. Although I had a scary one at the start of this year. My ex best friend made me stop the car and let him out one Sunday morning at 3 AM when I decided I was going to try to drive the 110 from the beginning to Dodger Stadium in under 4 minutes.”
“That’s fuckin stupid,” said Keaton. “Your ass better not have been drunk.”
“Nope. Not a drop. You don’t need it when you’re full-blown manic. I’ve tried it, thinking it might quiet the symptoms, but it only makes them worse.”
“So did you do it?,” I was too curious not to ask.
“Yeah. In 3:48. I was looking at the stopwatch on my phone while I was driving. I don’t have witness thought. I left Spencer right where the freeway starts.”
“Good thing you didn’t fuckin kill yourself,” said Keaton.
“It was stupid as fuck,” Travis said. “But it made sense at the time. I thought Spencer was going to call the police on me, especially as he was pissed off at being stranded back on Arroyo. It’s a long walk back to San Marino from there, although I picked him up on my way back, and, shit, was he pissed off at me. I think that might be where our friendship started to go awry.”
‘Awry’ is a gayass word, but Travis used it.
“This is your friend from high school who dropped you this summer?,” I asked, making sure.
“One and the same.” Travis paused. “The motherfucker. I probably should go kick his ass.”
“That’s the spirit,” said Keaton.
“If you need help, you have two trained boxers available….”
“I think I can handle his jerkoff ass,” Travis said. “It makes more sense to beat him up than to jump off a bridge to punish him.”
“Is that why you wanted to jump?”
“Yep. I wanted to punish people. Not just Spencer. There’s my ex-girlfriend who dumped me this summer too. Looking back with my therapist, I realized that’s exactly what I wanted to do: punish them.”
“It’s a pretty lameass way of punishing people,” I said. “You wouldn’t have been around to see the results.”
“I know. So it’s just as well that the cops stopped me.”
“It’s just as well that the cops stopped you for a shitload of reasons, hoss. Good leftfielders who can cover for shitty shortstops are hard to find.”
“Sticks and stones, man,” I said to Keaton. Turning to Travis, I added, “we’d just plain old miss you too. And don’t forget how Dave and David need you on strip club nights. You’re a part of that too.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Travis. “I reckon you’re gonna say it’s lameass, but I like a good strip club every once in a while.”
“Nothing wrong with that,” said Keaton. “Bubba here was seeing a lap dancer for a while. Her name was Candy…and he claims the experience was…educational.”
“It was,” I said, noticing that Travis looked a little jealous. Maybe I should try to fix him up with her now that I’m not seeing her anymore. “But I’m an innocent redneck boy from the South. Where else’d I have learned about sex?”
“From the 30 chicks you banged in a month?,” suggested Travis. “Yeah, man…I read your blog.”
Then things got a little weird. The Asian dude, who hadn’t stopped pacing and muttering since they got him into the dining room, sat down at the Burger King table next to ours and looked at us, noticing us for the first time.
“You know I’m a prophet, right?,” he said, I think to me, since I was next to him.
“What?,” I asked.
“I’m a prophet. I see the future. I know what’s going to happen to the United States. The rest of the world, too.” He lowered his voice. “None of it is good. But I can see it.”
We were all of us pretty uncomfortable. Travis was giving us “ignore him, he’s crazy” looks, but that didn’t make the dude get up and go away.
“If you can tell the future, tell me what’s going to happen to me next,” said Keaton, leaning back so he could see the Asian dude around me.
“I could tell you,” he said, “but I prefer to prophecy about countries and the world as a whole. It doesn’t really matter if you become a stuntman or not.”
That got a jolt out of me. Keaton’s been talking about becoming a stuntman ever since I first met him. Security at the Volcano isn’t his ultimate ambition, and stunt work is actually what brought him to LA after he’d done some for a movie that was shooting up in Fairbanks. But he hasn’t done anything concrete about it. Or, if he has, he hasn’t told me anything.
“How’d you know that?,” I asked. Keaton was staying strong and silent, although I can’t believe he wasn’t surprised.
“Didn’t you hear me? I can see the future.”
“Well…can you tell me whether the Parrots are going to have a winning season?” I first wanted to ask who he thought I was going to marry, but thought better of it. I didn’t want to know the answer to that, right or wrong.
“The Parrots?,” Travis said. “Fuck that: what’s going to happen to the Dodgers? I could put down a World Series bet before spring training starts. There’s a lot of money to be made that way.”
“Or lost,” said Keaton. “Although I put a hundred bucks on the Nats at 15-1 last February.”
“Fuck,” said Travis, “did you really?”
“Yep,” I said, answering for Keaton. “He bet against the Dodgers.”
“Bubba doesn’t understand the first rule of sports betting,” Keaton said to Travis, who obviously knew something about betting. “Don’t be sentimental.”
“The first rule of sports betting is don’t do it if you’re a pro…or thinking about being one,” I said. Now y’all finally know the main reasonwhy I don’t bet. I know I’m not a pro anymore, but it’s one of those things Dad told me that I can’t forget. Besides, I could never bet against my own team…and look where betting on the Dodgers would have gotten me last year lol. Or maybe not ‘lol’ – the end of last season was anything but funny.
“I told you I can see the future,” the Prophet dude said again, a little louder so as to get our attention back. It worked. I gotta admit I was a little scared of him, but I was trying to be nice. Our pastor told us to look people like that in the eye if we could, but there was no catching this dude’s eye. He just looked straight ahead. But he’d stopped talking all the time. I was just afraid of pushing one of his buttons and having him go off. There wasn’t even anywhere to put him – the black girl with the hair extensions was still in the Quiet Room. We could tell: she’d gone back to banging on the door.
“I could tell you who will win the World Series,” the Prophet dude said. “But I’m not going to. I don’t share my prophecies about mundane things like that. I prophecy about the fates of nations.”
“Can you tell us who the next president will be?,” I asked.
“I could. But I won’t. It wouldn’t do you any good to know.”
With that he got up and walked out of the room. Once he was in the hallway, he went back to walking up and down and talking to himself. I gotta admit, I wasn’t sure what the whole episode with him had been about. But it was kinda scary. I didn’t want to feel like the dude was scary – I mean, I know he’s sick – but that’s how I felt. It’s gonna take some work to live up to our pastor’s Christmas sermon.
“Better finish up that peppermint patty, hoss,” said Keaton. “It’s getting on 7…and I don’t want you gettin yelled at.”
“Or us gettin yelled at again either,” I added.
Just then the meanass patient care partner came into the room and said, in her loud voice: “visiting hours are OVER – so y’all clear out.”
Travis looked sad that we were going.
“Depending on how long they keep me, will you guys come back?”
“Fuck yeah. Just let us know when.”
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate…”
I said: “no worries, man.” Keaton growled.
“Just be out in time for our next game.”
“That’s when? A week from the Tuesday after New Year’s? Dude…that’s the 11th of January or something like that. If I’m not out of here by then, I really will be crazy!”
“See, told you you weren’t crazy, hoss. And you even fuckin admit it!”
“Time to go!,” the nastyass woman yelled at us. I looked at Travis.
“Shift changes at 7. That’s the last I have to see of her today.”
Not a moment too soon, if you ask me.
Anyway, both me and Keaton (!) gave Travis big hugs and we cleared out before we got yelled at again. The big latino dude saw us out and stopped us when the big double door (the ‘high elopement risk’ door) swung shut.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?,” he asked.
“Oh…fuck,” said Keaton.
“Here you go,” said the man, holding out both our penknives in one hand. After Keaton took his, the man looked at mine.
“That’s a nice one,” he said, admiring it. “Looks brand new.”
“Christmas present,” I explained. “From him.” I used my thumb to indicate Keaton.
“Nice gift,” the man said. “But don’t bring it here next time you come to visit. You almost caused Betty to have a fit.”
I didn’t say that having a fit would have served her right. We were both most polite as we left, and then it was back to the truck and back home. Keaton invited me in for a beer and we talked about Travis a while. We agreed that he seemed loads better than when we visited him the last time…and he seemed loads better than when we brought him in two days before. He must have been dreading seeing his family again after running out on the wedding…which made me realize something about going to the hospital for something like what Travis has: although it gives you a chance to (I reckon) regroup, it doesn’t stop the world from turning and you’re gonna get released (or I guess you say ‘discharge’ like you do in other hospitals) back into the shit that got you there in the first place. We just gotta hope that Travis comes out stronger and better able to face it all.
I’ve spoken to Travis’ mother, and I know that she cares about him a lot. So does Dylan, no matter what Travis says about them. So he does have a family support system. And he’s got me, Keaton and all the Parrots on his side too.
It made me pretty dang sad when I thought that the black girl in the Quiet Room and the Prophet dude probably didn’t have family and friends like Travis does. He’s actually pretty lucky to have us.
But then we’re lucky to have him…both as a teammate and a friend.