Prologue: The Wind Said No
I only wanted to be free.
I desperately wanted to be released from this life that was not my own.
I knew that was not possible so I stifled the primal scream that was bubbling up from my inner core. That scream had been simmering and building up pressure for quite some time now. I wanted to go to the tiptop of a mountain, any mountain, any high building, or even to the nearest high point that I could see. I needed to yell and yell, scream and scream, do something, just anything, to release the tension and pressure. Every fiber of my body needed that release. I needed to let it all out so that I could simply breathe and simply be free.
Despite the adrenaline that flooded my body I consciously tried to slow down my heartbeat. I was trying to suppress something that was completely subconscious and that was controlled by my mind. Nevertheless, I had to stop this feeling because if there were no release or no suppression of the tension, I did not know what would happen. But, I had to do something; otherwise soon I would be trembling and sweating. I felt like I would succumb to the pressure and explode. If I got to that point, would I too lose control of my own mind and my body?
I clenched my fists and took deep gulps of fresh air into my lungs and breathed. I felt like the first time that I had gone swimming and put my face in the water. I had held my breath too long because I was scared to start to breathe while under the water. However, I had held my breath for too long. When I was forced to stand up to catch my breath, the loud gasp for air was cacophonous and it expelled from my mouth with such force that all the other swimmers in and out of the pool looked around to see if I were drowning. I was drowning. But when I exhaled and sucked deeply on that vital need for oxygen, my heart’s beat was calmed and that helped to nourish my brain so that my entire body would calm down just a little bit for me to stop trembling. I became a little calmer.
In spite of that, I felt that I was still driving frantically down Main Street. I was hyped, vigilant and ready. I was in ready-set-go mode and ready to confront whatever or whomever I had to so that I could bring this thing to conclusion.
I glanced from side to side at the sidewalks and into the bus stop shelters. My vision was sharp, but I could barely make out the people’s faces. They were walking much too fast trying to get somewhere quickly. Anywhere. They crouched into their jackets to escape the cold and the wind. The outside temperature was dropping fast. It foretold a sinister fall season and an even colder than usual winter. I could not see into the future, but every event took on some uncanny meaning.
None of these people even looked like Sam, my brother. If he was anywhere close to this place, I should be able to make him out. He was tall, thin and he limped to the right when he walked. It should not be that difficult to make him out in any crowd. Maybe I was driving by too quickly to see him. Despite being on edge and super-alert, it was not working to my advantage.
“Slow the car down. Slow the car down. Drive slower. That way you can get a better look at what’s around you. You will be able to see better,” I told myself.
“Where is he, anyway?”
Only several minutes before my cell phone would not stop ringing. At first, I wanted to ignore it, but when I looked at the caller ID, I saw that it was Charlie. Charlie had been persistent. It must have been important and it was. Charlie had been trying to call me to say that Sam had not returned yet.
“Dr. Gary, Sam has not come back in,” Charlie said into the phone.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, it is 7:45 in the evening, and you know, curfew is 9 p.m. He has not come back in,” Charlie said calmly.
“Huh? What? What’s that? Okay. Well, what time did he leave there today?” I asked trying not to sound ticked off.
“Ah. Ah. He left about nine this morning to go to his appointment at the center,” Charlie said.
“Well, it is 7:45 in the evening now and obviously, Sam would not be there. The center has to be closed by now as they do not have appointments after 5 p.m. No one would be there now. Did the other patients come back already?”
“Yeah, yeah. They all came back around one o’clock,” Charlie said again very calmly.
“So, did you ask Isaac if he saw him?” I thought had he called and asked everyone before he had called me? Why did it take more than six hours after Sam should have come back for him to call me anyway?
“Yeah, you mean his buddy Izzie?” Charlie asked. Isaac was called Izzie by his friends and I had asked to be sure because I was thinking that Charlie had not done any of that.
“Of course, who else?” I thought. “How many other Izzie’s do you know that is Sam’s buddy?” I decided not to say any of that out loud because serving ice in response to calmness would not be too cool.
“Yes, yes. Did you ask Izzie if he saw him?” I repeated and tried not to make my voice sound chipped and sharp like the edges of ice sometimes become.
“Yes. I asked him and Izzie said he had not seen Sam at all today.”
“Well, didn’t Marlon take him this morning to the center?” I asked now audibly annoyed.
“No. Remember? You know they said he was okay to take the bus,” Charlie replied. “Don’t you remember?”
“Remember? Remember? Who can remember all that stuff?” I wondered.
“They are at it again,” I muttered.
“And in fact, Charlie, I don’t remember any of that. I have a good memory and I don’t recall any of that,” I said quietly to myself. I remember faces well but I may not remember your name. Faces stuck in my memory even if I had trouble recalling the time and place where we had met. Otherwise though, my memory was pretty good and I don’t remember them telling me that Sam was well enough now to be independent and to take a bus home alone.
“Well, I guess I have to go find him right?” I asked.
“Right? Right?” I repeated because obviously Charlie had not heard me the first time around.
Charlie did not even respond. He chose not to respond.
“I will call you when I find him and call you right back. Thanks,” I said.
“Well, thanks for nothing,” I said to myself and stared at the cellphone in my hand. I was breathing too shallowly now and it felt like I was holding my breath again and I could hardly breathe.
That was surely great help. Charlie must have hung up the phone. I did not stop to listen to hear if he had said goodbye or goodnight or good riddance or good whatever. He did not say, “Okay, I will wait for your call.” The line simply had gone dead and I continued to stare at the cell phone in my hand.
My chest was starting to hurt as I must have breathed too deeply that time. I was hurting my ribs by holding my breath too long and then breathing too deeply on the next breath.
“Okay, okay. I got this, I got this,” I said over and over to calm myself down. It’s not like it is the end of creation and the world was coming to an end. The earth had lived through the ice age and survived. But I was really tired of feeling like it was trial and error over and over. But any reaction now would still get me going in the right direction, right?
I breathed, this time a little more deeply. I had then grabbed my car keys, gotten in my car and driven out to Main Street to begin the search.
There was nothing on Main Street, nothing. No sign of Sam. I did not even know what he had been wearing today. I knew I had to be calm. But the more I drove, the more I felt the pressure. The tension was there and I knew I needed more adrenaline to keep on going. I must find him and find him now, therefore, I steadied my thoughts and slowed the racing of my mind and forced myself to think more clearly.
“Okay, he must not have come down Main Street at all as I had not seen him walking. What bus would he have taken?” I wondered.
He would have had to go downtown first as that was the bus route he was on. And then he would need to transfer buses when he got downtown to another bus. He would then need to come back up Albany Avenue in the same direction from which he had just left. In my state of mind I did not understand the logic of the bus route, and to tell the truth, I didn’t really care at this point.
They said he was safe to take the bus to the center. I wondered if when all this blew over, if the bus routes would make any sense what-so-ever to me or to anyone else. Why you could not simply have a path that took you across the bottom of what would have been a triangle to get to your destination. It would have been straight, simple, and logical. But, they had made nothing simple and they simply could not make anything easy. Sometimes when you are mired in the midst of a situation, you cannot make sense of the logic and pattern that was clearly before you. You paid so much attention to the muck that you were in that you forgot to look up and look out and see that there was a plan and a design for what was happening. You only had to take the time and the energy to look up and make the connections and see the intricacies in the design and plan.
“Oh, God, Sam was nowhere in sight,” I moaned. He was nowhere to be seen at least not from what I could see anyway. “Where was he?”
I drove to the mental health center. The center was a single story concrete block building, weather-beaten, and washed in a drab beige color. The signage identifying the building had what was meant to be a complementary dark brown background. The signage letters were spelled out in light blue and there was a small light at the base of the sign shining on it so that you could read the lettering in the dark. The beige building had flood lights everywhere, and the lighting was fairly good all around the building. There were two entrances at the front of the building, one on the left and the other on the right.
The building was closed and that was obvious as all the lights inside were off. No one was around and not a single living soul was in sight. Hey, but why not double check? Better yet, I wanted to triple check, just in case. I stopped the car in the middle of the street and I walked to the bus shelter that was located near the front of the building. I peered inside to see who and what was in there but I only found an empty bench inside. Sam was not in there sleeping and nothing and no one else was in there. My heart started to race but my legs were steady. My chest burned. I decided to walk up the wheelchair accessible ramp to get to the front entrance door on the left. I had avoided the five steps to conserve as much energy as I could, as I did not know if I would be up all night looking for Sam, or dealing with whatever condition I found him in.
“Conserve your energy as you will need it.”
He wasn’t here.
“Stop, breathe and think. Stop and think for a minute, Gary.”
“Maybe you missed him when you were driving on Main Street? Were you even looking well enough?” I asked myself.
“What was he wearing today?” I said to the wind.
“If you knew what he had worn today, that would have helped,” the wind said.
It was now getting into the colder fall season and I still had not brought the heavier fall jacket to the assisted living center. I was tempted to toss out my check-list of to-do items. It was getting too long. I would complete five tasks and it was still growing. The jacket was somewhere lost on the list.
“Yeah, right, supposedly assisted living,” I snorted in disgust.
“This was assisted living. Where was the assistance?” I complained.
“Well, I did not feel too assisted today. Is this what assistance looks like?”
If they had assisted, my check-list should have been much shorter. I decided to toss the check-list into the garbage the first chance I got. This list did not help me to focus on my top three priorities. It only added more stress to my life. My first tip was to toss the completely useless check-list out. Everything cannot be a priority, there is no such thing. I needed to remember to only do three things daily, tops. Nothing else should come on the short-list unless something was completed and came off. Nothing.
My mind was revved trying to figure out what Sam would have been wearing today. In the confusion of everything, I had not focused and just stuck to the basics. Why had I not seen him on any of the streets that I had just driven from? Had he walked another way and I had just missed him? Maybe he had already returned to the assisted living center and I was just now only wasting good gas and very precious time and it would all be in vain.
“Oh. Oh. There is an ambulance stopped over there.”
“Gary, stop and see what’s up with them. If it is none of your business you can just press on.”
My knuckles and fingers felt like they were frostbitten as I tightened my grip on the car’s steering wheel. My chest cried out.
“No, no, no!” I screamed and struck the steering wheel with clenched fists.
“I have come too far now to fail,” I said to the wind. “Please, I can’t fail now!”
“No, no, no!” I repeated.
“Is this really a lost cause? Do I just run away and go live my own life? Do I give up now after putting in so much time and so much effort?” I asked.
“No, no, no,” the wind answered.
“Okay,” I said to myself enough to calm down, slowing my racing heartbeat and bringing back the blood to my hands. I steadied my mind and focused on the task at hand.
You heard the wind.
The wind said “No.”