Friday, November 30, 2007

Because they can

This is a continuation of the previous two posts. Start with the first one and work your way back up.

It occurs to me that this story is long. Very long. I wish it weren't, and what's really hard is I've shortened the story considerably in this telling. A lot of detail is left out, and I'm reporting only what you need to make sense of the story.

Just a few minutes into Jeopardy!, the doorbell rang. I put down my cheese and got up to see who it was. I opened the door and saw three police officers outside. I looked at them with eyebrows raised in a tentative gesture.


A forty-something cop said, “Are you May?”

“Uhh, yes. Is something wrong?”

The cop put his hand on the storm door knob and as he opened it said, “Can we come in?” His foot was already across the threshold before he finished the question. I know this because I was looking down at black cop shoes as the door swung open. That’s the only thing I remember seeing at that moment—the brass knob and cop shoes.

The three officers came into my house. The lead (I assume) officer told me, politely, to sit down. I sat on the couch. He told me, politely, to turn off the television. I sensed I was in trouble, but I hadn’t made the exact connection yet. I scanned the faces of the three musketeers and asked, politely, “So, what can I do for you?”

Cop #1 asked, “May, do you know why we’re here?” I had to admit that I did not. The cop said, “We got a call from the bank. Did you call the bank today?”

Ah. The bank. CitiBank. Diner’s Club. The asshole gets his revenge. I remember thinking, “Stay calm, May. Watch your mouth. For the love of god, watch your mouth. Be friendly. Be pleasant. You can do this.”

Pleasant. “Oh, my gosh. They called you? This is a huge misunderstanding. They shouldn’t have called you. This is really embarrassing. You can leave—everything is fine here.”

Oh, that it should have been so easy. Cop #1 said, “May, do you suffer from depression or mental illness?” Fuck. Branded, stereotyped, labeled, screwed.

I replied, "Well, as a matter of fact, I do. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about two years ago, but I’m stable. It had nothing to do with my angry outburst on the phone—really.”

They just kept looking at me. I was starting to feel heat creep up into my face. My heart rate kicked itself up a notch.

Cop #1: “Now, May, did you take your medication today?” Don’t freak, May, just don’t go off. I know that question pisses you off, but just let it go.

I smiled, and in my best friendly, perky voice said, “Of course! I am diligently medication compliant. Would you like to speak with my doctor? I’m happy to call him for you.”

The cops just looked at each other. At that moment, I realized things might not be going my way. Why were they still here? How could I make them leave? Be honest. Be polite. Be friendly. Be articulate. I debated whether or not to call my husband, but ultimately decided it wasn’t worth cutting short the dog’s walk. With any luck, I could convince these guys to get out of my house and leave me alone.

Cop #1 said, “May, tell me, do you ever have thoughts of suicide?”

Thoughts of suicide. “Well, yeah. Do you guys know anything about bipolar disorder? I mean, really, do they cover it in your peace officer crisis intervention training?” They just looked at me. “Here’s the thing. Thinking about suicide and committing suicide are totally not the same thing. You know that, right? One of the hallmark symptoms of bipolar disorder is suicide ideation, but only about 25% of people diagnosed with the illness actually commit suicide. I’m fine. You should really go now. There are probably crimes going on out there, or car accidents. You don’t need to be here.”

I looked around, starting to panic that they weren’t leaving. At that exact moment, I realized that the three of them had me blocked in. They had formed a human wall around my living room, blocking any possible exit on my part. They had me cornered in my own home. It was a flash of anger that I didn’t dare show. They were all standing in the same posture: legs slightly apart, hands together in front. Coats on, radios turned down, no hats. Black shoes. Plain, black shoes with laces.

Cop #1 said, “I need to talk to my colleague outside. We’ll be right back.” #1 and #2 went outside, and I started desperately wishing my husband would get home soon. Cop #3 stayed in my living room, strategically placed between the two possible exits from the room. This seemed unfair. They were in my home. I was being friendly, polite, and most definitely lucid. Why wouldn’t they leave?

When #1 and 2 came back in, #3 went outside. I had to say it. “Did it really require three of you to come here and have this conversation with a mild-mannered, middle-aged woman? I have to say, considering I’m no threat to myself or anyone, this seems like overkill.”

Before they could answer, I heard my husband and the dog coming up the driveway. Muffled voices. Side gate opens, closes. Muffled voices. I hear my husband’s voice outside. Thank god. He’s home. Then I realized he wasn’t coming in. He wasn’t allowed in. I immediately looked up and said, “I would feel a lot better if my husband were here.”

Cop #1 ignored my comment and said, “May, tell me about what happened with the bank.”

“The bank? Oh, the credit card thing. The guy I talked to at Diner’s Club, Citi Bank, whatever, was an asshole. I got frustrated and had an outburst. Why, what did he tell you? I think he called you because I made him mad.”

They looked at each other again. #1 and #2 went out again, and #3 came in. Still no husband. I took the opportunity to tell #3, “You guys are kind of stressing me out. I’d feel a lot better if you’d let my husband come in the house. It is his house, after all. Why is he being punished and kept outside?”

Cop #3 said, “He can come in soon.” He can come in? Dude, it’s his fucking house. Smile, nod, say OK. Pleasant. Friendly. I was already doing a great job at being perky and engaged. Why wasn’t it working? Slow crime night?

At this point, #1 and #2 came in and they finally let my husband come in. He looked at me and said, “Are you OK?” I assured him that I was, and yet my living room was still full o’ cops.

Numbers one and two stood in front of me, and with the most patent display of feigned concern ever, #1 said, “Tell me, May, if you were to kill yourself, what would you do?”

Suddenly, I felt like I was on Jeopardy! I knew there was a right answer, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I was supposed to say. I just knew I had a lot to lose if I didn’t say the right thing. Obviously, I hadn’t been saying the right thing up to this point, or there would not still be three armed men in my living room speaking to me in the voice you use to coax out a frightened dog you think might bite you.

Answer the question. They’re staring at you and #1 and #2 are a little closer than we’d like. “Well, I can’t say I have a definitive answer to that question. Let’s see. I would never shoot myself since I think guns are evil and the Second Amendment should be repealed. I won’t allow firearms in my house (takes a moment to deliberately glance, eyebrow raised, at each holster). It’s really much harder to die from an overdose than is popularly believed, so I wouldn’t try that. The thing is, I figure that for me, this isn’t something on my mind right now. I’ll admit that my illness makes me feel bad—really bad—sometimes, but now is not one of those times. I’m fine. That being said, I believe I have the right to choose the path of my own life and only I should control it. Maybe a year from now I’ll be ready to remove myself from pain, but for the time being I’m just fine. I have a good doctor and I see a therapist every week. I told you that I take my medication and that’s the truth. I’ll go and get the bottles and you can count the pills from the dispense date.”

Cop #1 was still prodding me to give him an answer. I wondered for a moment what the point of the question was. Did manner of self-demise matter? Were some ideations considered more indicative of danger and imbalance than others? What was I supposed to say? What was I not supposed to say? I felt like I was being pressured to say something, so I said, “Aw, geez, I don’t know. Probably self-asphyxiation. I hear that’s painless.”

#1 and #2 looked at each other and went outside to confer once again. I was getting really irritated by the blatant being talked about me behind my back. When they came back, #1 (his name was Martinez; I just don’t feel inclined to type that repeatedly) said, “May, we would feel better if we knew you talked to someone. We want you to talk to someone tonight.”

I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Fine. I have a great therapist. I saw her a few days ago, and I’ll see her again Friday, but if it will get you out of my living room, I’ll call her after you leave. I‘ll call her now if you want me to. Heck, you can talk to her if you want to. I can also call my doctor if that’s helpful for you. Here’s his card. You can take it and call him now or later. I have more cards. I don’t need this one.”

I was now in full-blown internal panic. My heart was beating hard in my chest and I was so thirsty I felt like I had taffy sticking to the walls of my throat. Outwardly, I looked calm, but the bigger problem was my mounting frustration and anger. I couldn’t stop obsessing over what the neighbors must be thinking about two cop cars in front my house all this time. I resented the hell out of these people who seemed to believe it was appropriate for them to take up a lot of my time, imply I was unstable and a danger to myself, and speak to me in a tone that I can only describe as condescending. Maybe dumbed down.

I hoped that since they were to the point of recommending that I talk to someone (About what? Ending my life a year or two or ten in the future? I already paid two people to have those conversations with me), we were finally wrapping up our conversation. They had already been in my house for over an hour.

As it turned out, my night was just getting started.

More tomorrow. I need to take a break from this now.


Spilling Ink said...

Oh, no. May, I think I know what comes next. It is something I worry about for myself because I know it would be traumatizing. That is probably the one thing that would truly make me do the deed.

Spilling Ink said...

And the guy at the bank is an ass. I wonder how he would feel and what kind of shape he would be in if he were ruined financially just to pay for the medication that he couldn't live without. How would he feel to know that it would never matter how many extra hours he worked, that he still would barely be able to pay for it all and still afford to live? Asshole. I take that back. Asshole is too generous. He's a WHOLE ASS. OF COURSE YOU WERE TWEAKED!! A person who have to be crazy NOT to be.

May Voirrey said...

I think the guy at CitiBank/diner's Club was vindictive, petty, and mean-spirited. I cannot duplicate his tone of voice via writing, but it was insulting. I did everything I could not to scream at him or call him names. Now I wish I had released the bonds of self-control since it wouldn't have changed the outcome anyway.

I still want to choke the shit out of him, or put a hex on him so his children contract a rare, incurable cancer that slowly sucks their life away and is expensive to treat. I'd wish it on him directly, but then it wouldn't hurt enough.

He was such an asshole, though, I can't imagine any woman would be desperate enough to have children with him.

I don't think wishing cancer on somebody can be construed as a threat, can it? I don't need any more cops on my doorstep.