Character: John Nash, “A Beautiful Mind”
Disclaimer: The following story has been written with no intention of claiming ownership or solicitation, nor does the author claim the movie character(s) as his/her own. The movie character(s) have been borrowed solely out of a love of the particular movie and is not intended for any other purpose but amusement and entertainment.
Karen Summers was singing along to the car radio. It was that time of year again when all the radio stations were doing their yearly tribute to the King. “Heartbreak Hotel” had just played, and right now she was bopping to “Jailhouse Rock”. Now Karen wasn’t the best driver in the world by a long shot, and she really should have been concentrating on the road instead of trying to play drums on the steering wheel. But sensibility had never been her strong suit. Horns honked around her as she obliviously zoomed through a red light.
She was on her way to meet her new boyfriend, and speed was of the essence. There was not a moment to be lost as some future captain would be fond of saying. She was running very late. They had tickets to see the smash hit “Mama Mia” featuring the music of ABBA. Growing up in the 70s, she had been weaned on their tunes. After the show, they were then planning to share a special dinner and spend the night in a ritsy five-star hotel. Ben and her had been dating for about a month, and Karen was eagerly anticipating the consumation of their relationship, which would send them to the next level and be one step closer to a commitment.
She was pretty happy even when Elvis sang her favourite song, “Can’t Help Falling in Love”, which previously always made her weepy. It was bittersweet hearing it now. This had been her brother’s first slow dance at his wedding ten years ago. Now he and his wife were getting divorced, and it hurt so much to see how sad and lonely he had become. At least, he had his two children to comfort him and make him realize that he couldn’t fall apart for their sake.
Lost in her reverie, she suddenly realized that she had missed the highway exit.
“Shit”, she exclaimed but then took it back, “I mean Shite…no Shoot!” She was trying to quit her long-standing fondness for swearing because Ben didn’t like women to sound like truck drivers. It was hard going, trying to erase a whole life time dedicated to learning new four letter words.
She got off at the next ramp to turn around and then noticed her gas was running low. She looked around for a gas station and had to go another mile or so till she found one. She pulled in, thankful to see that it was full service. While an attendant wiped all the dead bugs and bird poop off her windshield, she called Ben on her cell phone but only got his voice mail.
“Hi Hon, as you’ve probably noticed, I’m late again. So what else is new. Anyways, I should be there in about half an hour. I promise I’ll make it up to you for making you wait. I’m really looking forward to tonight. See ya in a little while.”
As she drove out of the station and headed back to the highway, she thought about how lucky she was to have met such a great guy as Ben. Physically, he was very attractive. He was six feet tall, lean and had a very thick thatch of black hair. His brown eyes were ordinary in colour but always seemed to have a happy glean in them. Yes, she reminded herself, she was very lucky.
She turned her attention back to the road. Where was the entrance ramp?
“Damn! I mean Darn! I was just on it. This is ridiculous. I made no turns.”
She drove a little further and then braked very abruptly. The road was starting to blur. Her surroundings now seemed very familiar to her. If she didn’t know better, she would say she was back at the … But that couldn’t be. She had never driven this way before to get to it.
She came to the crest of a hill and was too flabbergasted to mutter anything but “What the fuck?”
Crowe’s Point was just ahead of her. “How on earth did I get here?”
Her first coherent notion was that she had finally flipped her lid. When after rubbing her eyes and blinking three times, the vista was still there, her next thought was to get out of Dodge and hightail it back to reality.
She had buried any reminisces of this place deep inside, and the last thing she wanted to do was dredge up memories. Then another thought totally engaged her. What if he was hurt or worse? Maybe that’s why she was back here. Maybe he needed her.
She braked sharply in front of the hotel doors and bolted inside. No one was at the desk. She rang the bell urgently and then hit it again in a couple of seconds. She paced back and forth impatiently. Michelle rushed around the corner. They both stopped and stared at each other and then both spoke at once.
“What are you doing here?”
“Is he all right?”
Karen jumped in again. “Where’s Hando? Is he all right? Is he hurt?”
Michelle recovered from her surprise at seeing Karen. “Yeah, Hando’s fine. He’s off with Max on a retreat. He won’t be back for a few days.”
Karen shook her head, dumbfounded. “Then why am I here?” She hadn’t realized she had spoken aloud.
“You don’t know? You hadn’t planned to come here?”, Michelle asked.
“No, I was on the way, am on my way, to my boyfriend. We’ve got a date.”
This news slightly alarmed Michelle. Usually she knew when guests were coming, or at least they did.
“Well I don’t know why I ended up here, but I guess I’ll just turn around and leave.” Karen turned to go but didn’t want to appear rude. The last time she was here, she hadn’t left on the best of terms with a number of people. “How is everything by the way?”, she inquired out of politeness.
“We’re doing just fine”, Michelle replied, “Except for…”, then she stopped. She really didn’t owe Karen any explanations.
“You hesitated just there. Something’s wrong isn’t there? It’s not Bud, is it?”
“No, Karen, it’s not.”
Karen persisted, “What were you going to say before? I know I probably don’t have a right to ask considering the trouble I caused the last time I was here, but I do care about everyone. I hope you know that.”
Michelle with a searching look could tell that she was being sincere and decided to return the favour. “John explained to us why you acted the way you did. It helped us to understand your situation better.”
“Good, I’m glad that he did. I’m sure he knew just he right words to say. It was better coming from him. I would have fuc…I mean messed it up. Now we can both get some closure.” Karen stopped not knowing what else to say. “Well, it was nice seeing you again. Say hi to everyone for me.” She turned and started walking back to the door.
Michelle didn’t know why but she had a sudden compulsion to tell Karen what was wrong. “Karen”, she called out.
Karen stopped and looked back.
“We had an emergency today with John.”
Karen walked quickly back. The questions just started tumbling out of her mouth. “With John? What’s happened? Was there an accident? Is he here now instead of at his home? Where’s Tina?”
Michelle then realized Karen misunderstood and put up her hand to halt the spurt of questions. “Sorry, I should have been more specific. It’s not John Biebe; it’s John Nash.”
Karen let that sink in for a moment. She was certainly relieved that the former sheriff was indeed okay but was still troubled to hear that the latest newcomer was having problems. “John Nash? Is he still having delusions?”
“Now and then, but the main thing is that he keeps going back to his movie. He can’t bear to be apart from his wife. Then when his time there expires and he’s forced to come back, he’s so despondent. Sometimes we’re worried that he’ll harm himself”, Michelle finished, again not sure why she was choosing to disclose so much.
“Can’t Anthony do something for him? I know he’s not a psychiatrist, but can’t he consult with the other doctors at the hospital in town?”
“John has trust issues right now, especially with doctors and with men in general. Anthony has been to see him several times, but John confuses him with the psychiatrist he saw in his movie. He thinks he will be confined again to a mental institution and given insulin shock treatments.”
“But Michelle, that was in the 50s. Treatment for schizophrenia is a lot more sophisticated now and less barbaric.”
“We all know that”, Michelle said rather sharply as Karen stated the obvious. “No one can seem to get through to John presently.”
Karen thought back to the one and only time she had met Dr. Nash. He had just arrived at the Point. He had approached her in the restaurant and struck up a conversation with her. She sort of had been blindsided by him as she had been wrapped up in problems of her own with Hando. He had asked if they had met before and said she looked familiar to him. She remembered too the panic in his eyes when she offered to walk him back to his room. He had acted paranoid as if he didn’t believe her sincere wish to help him.
“What about the tag team of Terry, Max and John Biebe? Have they not helped him to adapt, showed him the ropes so to speak?”
“When he’s lucid, they all have tried to prepare him for Point life. But, as you know, life here itself is not reality.”
“So he must just think that he’s having one big hallucination”, Karen finished for her. “All of the ladies have tried to explain to him what’s happening. He listens for a while and then goes off on a tangent mumbling names.”
“Names? What kind of names?”
“Names of people. We were prepared to hear about Charles, Parcher and the little girl, but these names are totally new to us. We just think that he’s seeing other people that don’t exist.”
“He’s still taking medication, isn’t he?”
“Anthony has been prescribing for him. Whether he takes it is anyone’s guess.” Michelle was indeed surprised to have Karen take such an interest in someone she barely knew. She looked pointedly at her watch. Karen got the hint. “I’ve got to be on my way.” She waved and started once again towards the door but braked again and once more turned back.
“Michelle, I know this is coming right out of left field, but would it be all right if I saw John for just a few minutes. This may sound funny, but I’d like just to say hello and wish him well. Of course, I know he won’t remember me from last time, but I just feel that I ought to see him.” Karen felt awkward in asking this favour as if she was way out of bounds.
Michelle wasn’t sure what to say. Karen had been so obnoxious when she was here last, and she definitely did not want a repeat performance of that behaviour. On the other hand, she genuinely seemed concerned about Nash, and what harm would a few miniutes of small talk do? It could even help. They all were grasping at straws these days to try and ease John through the transition period.
Karen saw the look of hesitation on Michelle’s face. “No tantrums, I promise.”
Michelle then smiled at her as if to say okay we have an understanding. “I’d better go with you though. Sometimes he doesn’t answer when you knock on his door, and a stranger may make him unsettled.”
Karen nodded and the two of them walked over to the tavern. Karen was praying that she wouldn’t see any of the boyz. She hadn’t forgotten what the last two days of her stay had been like, and she was sure they wouldn’t have either.
Michelle, sensing her discomfort, entered the tavern through a rear exit.
“Does he stay in his room all the time when he’s here? Does he socialize at all?”, Karen asked.
“He’s been to the library a couple of times, but mostly he’s in there. We take turns bringing him food or whatever else he needs.”
Karen took a hard look at Michelle as she sighed heavily. She seemed exhausted and had dark circles under her eyes. “You must have enough on your plate without this added burden.”
“He’s not a burden Karen. He’s a human being and a brother…”, Michelle’s voice had risen.
“Whoa, Michelle, calm down”, Karen interrupted, “I didn’t mean it like that. All I meant was that it must be stressing you out. I wasn’t putting John down. I would never do that. Believe me, I can empathize with him.”
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have snapped at you. You’re right. It’s hard when you don’t know what to do, how to help. We’re just watching him suffer. We’ve never had a situation like this before. Everybody here is really tense.”
Karen reached out and put her hand in Michelle’s. “You’ll work it out. I’m sure once he’s steady on his meds, he’ll be fine.”
Michelle squeezed Karen’s hand and simply said, “I hope so.”
They stopped in front of room 303. Michelle sighed again and lightly knocked on the door. “John, it’s Chelle. You’ve got a visitor who’s anxious to see you.”
There was no reply.
Still no answer.
She tried the door. It was unlocked. She pushed it ajar. “John?”, she tried again.
The room was very dark. The heavy drapes were drawn shut. There was a distinct musty odor as if the room hadn’t been aired out for days, maybe even weeks.
There was a slight movement in the corner of the room by an end table. Michelle was about to call out again, but Karen touched her lightly on the arm and said softly, “Let me try.”
Karen entered, and not looking at who was by the table in a lump on the floor, made her way over to the window, opened the curtains a touch and stared out. She ignored the shuffling of feet and the audible intake of breath as she continued to take in the exterior landscape. She felt his eyes on her.
“It’s going to be a beautiful sunset tonight”, she said, her voice barely above a whisper. “The clouds look like they’re on fire.” After an inhaled breath, she continued, “I’ve always wondered why painters can never quite capture its glory, the radiant majesty of the sun’s last dance across the sky. It’s so tenous. In the twinkling of an eye, God’s tapestry of colours soon turns into inky blackness. It’s rather sad actually; how fleeting the few minutes of perfect artistry are.” Karen then opened the window letting in the cool breeze of the evening.
She just kept on speaking as if in a trance. “But even the darkness doesn’t endure for long. The rising of the moon and the constellations of stars bring the promise of new light. The night’s reign of terror rises and elapses in a heartbeat. The unknown and the unimaginable given birth in our dreams sleeps at last. And all is tranquil, and we should be amazed.”
A few deafening moments passed and then…
“What if the terror doesn’t dissipate? What if tranquility is eclipsed by actuality?”, John Nash’s voice pierced the stillness.
Karen turned towards his voice but could only see his shadowy outline. She repeated his words back to him. “Let’s see. If terror doesn’t dissipate and tranquility is eclipsed by actuality.” She paused briefly and then said, “I think in the first case, terror can be dispelled by enlightenment and education of what we fear. Didn’t someone famous say that the only fear
is fear itself? Secondly, I guess you mean that your peace of mind is somehow threatened by where you now find yourself, your reality. The question that then comes to me is how do you define reality? What’s real to you and what isn’t?”
A hush greeted this response.
Karen broke and smiled at him. “Of course, I could be talking out of my hat. I didn’t mean to start a philosophical discussion. I actually was just reciting a really bad piece of poetry written by a kid who was terrified by the dark.”
“You?”, she was asked.
She nodded. “When the lights went out in my room, the monsters would appear. They would rattle underneath my bed and bury themselves in my clothes hanging in the closet. They would glow white in the mirror.”
“Are you still afraid of them, the monsters that surrounded you?”
“Now and then. They never quite go away. They hover in circles waiting to find you in a moment of weakness.”
His voice was right beside her. She could feel his breath on her cheek. “It’s best then to trick them into thinking it’s daybreak.”
With that said, Karen heard a switch being pulled, and lamplight shone into the room. John stared into her eyes and with them gave permission for her to open the drapes completely and flood the room with brightness.
Looking around, she quickly inspected her surroundings: a bed with rumpled sweat-stained sheets, bedspread in a jumble on the floor, a night table with a phone that was off the hook and cigarette butts overflowing from a metal ashtray, a large wooden desk with papers strewn about it, a bureau with a framed picture of an attractive dark-haired woman.
Karen then turned her gaze on Dr. John Forbes Nash. He was dressed in brown pants and a threadbare pale blue sweatshirt. He was unshaven, and his hair was unruly as if he was constantly running his fingers through it in exasperation. His eyes fixated her, and she was haunted by the desperation she saw in them. This appraisal only took a few seconds, but she found herself aching for something to distract her.
Michelle took a last sight of the two of them and shut the door behind her noiselessly as she left. She ran down the stairs and into the tavern where Colin rose to greet her with a kiss.
“Hey Luv, what’s up? You look like you’ve seen a ghost?”
“Not a ghost but maybe the miracle we’ve been looking for.” She then told Colin about Karen’s arrival and how she had managed to get and hold John’s attention.
“She just started talking about this sunset, and it was almost eerie how she was speaking. It was like no one else was in the room with her. She was just staring outside, but John was with her, following her every thought.”
“Are you sure we should be letting her to talk to John at all? Last time she was here, she caused a lot of aggro for everyone.”
“Colin, what if she and John are supposed to be together?”
He looked at her and discovered that she was serious. “What, you mean they have a connection?”
“She didn’t plan to come here today. She just arrived. Is that just a coincidence?”
Colin knew that Chelle was almost at a breaking point with Nash, but he had to give her a reality check. “Yeah, well we thought she had something going with Hando, and look how that turned out.”
Michelle was not about to let him rain on her parade. “You know as well as I do that initial hook-ups are not always what they seem. Look at John and Tina, Lachlan and Lisa, Terry and Kaz. All of them had prior connections that weren’t the real thing. Tina thought she should be with Max, Lisa with Jeff and Terry with Stephanie.”
Colin, happy at seeing the haggard look leave Chelle’s eyes, was still cautious in his words, “I hope for your sake Luv that you’re right. I don’t want you to carry on worrying about Nash. You’ve done more than your fair share of trying to take care of him. But don’t set your hopes too high on Karen. She hasn’t given us any reason to think she’s here for the long haul.”
He tenderly brushed Chelle’s cheek. “Right now, I would like to give a little TLC to my favourite sheila, and for that alone, I’m grateful that she’s here.”
Chelle clasped hands with him, and they ran up to his old room.
“You came here to see me?”, John asked but to Karen, it sounded more like a statement than a question.
“I don’t know if you remember me”, she began.
“I remember you”, he replied, his eyes drifting to her hair, her clothes, her figure. “You were in the restaurant reading “A Word of Honor” by Nelson Demille.
Karen was stunned. “You remember what book I was reading?”
“I remember everything Karen.”
“This was spooky”, Karen thought. He even recalled her name. “Well I’m impressed John. You must have a photographic memory.”
“No, just a memory for faces that are hauntingly disquieted.”
“Hauntingly disquieted?”, Karen repeated. “Should I feel complimented or insulted?”, Karen said trying to make a joke out of his words.
“You were troubled then. The weight of the world was upon your shoulders.” John’s eyes never broke contact with hers all the time he was speaking. It was freaking her out.
He continued, “I felt a closeness between us, like we were two halves of the same whole.”
“You felt all that in under five minutes? Wow! What a first impression I must make. I must remember not to smile more often.” Karen thought it was high time to change the subject. “I want to hear about you John. How are you getting along here?”
John looked down and uncertainty overcame his entire posture. His shoulders drooped as he seemed to tuck in his whole body to protect himself.
“Everyone wants to know the answer to that. It must be the ten million dollar question.” Looking down at the floor, he answered, “I am getting along as well as I ever have, subsisting in these peculiar environments I occasionally find myself in.”
“Okay”, Karen let that sink in, “That sounds like a lot of double talk John. It doesn’t really answer the question.”
Nash’s head lifted. “With you, maybe I can be more forthright.” He angled his head to the door and then to the window as if he were expecting to catch eavesdroppers. “You asked before what was real to me. I know this place isn’t real. I have simply been transported here by the creative imaginings of my mind. Alicia explained it all to me. These people here are mere apparitions, like the monsters that come for you in the night. This room is a mirage. It doesn’t exist.”
Karen was lost for words. She thought all along that John had been rational and making sense. Now she could plainly see that he was far from being well. “John”, she finally said, “Am I real or am I too just another apparition?”
He reached out to her and lightly touched her arm and traced it with his long fingers. “Your skin is soft and supple.” He stroked her hair. “The strands of your hair are silky and smooth. Your scent is captivating. I could not imagine someone so mystifying. Please tell me you are not a fabrication”, John’s voice cracked with emotion.
Karen took his hand and with her other turned his face towards hers. “I’m real. I’m not a figment of your imagination.”
He nodded gratefully at her.
“But if I’m real, then this place where we are must be real too. Just as you can feel my skin and my hair, you can touch the things in this room. The light you turned on is really there. The window I opened is letting in the wind that you can feel on your face. Do you understand what I am telling you?”
John broke away from her and walked over to his bureau. He picked up the picture of the woman and touched it gently, almost reverently. “I see her every day. She tells me that she believes in me. She says that if I have faith, I can be well again. It will happen.”
Karen came up behind him. “She’s right John. You’ve got to believe in yourself, and never lose hope. But you also have to give faith a helping hand. You need to take care of yourself which means taking your medication and listening to what the doctor is telling you to do.”
“Doctors!”, John suddenly spat out venomously. “And what do these gradiose medical paragons have to say? Take this tablet; inject this needle. Let your powers of reasoning turn to mush. Let your fertile vision disintegrate and perish. All your efforts are for naught.”
“Are you taking the meds that Anthony is giving you?”, Karen asked urgently.
John turned to her and his sudden spurt of anger dissolved as rapidly as it had come. “Are you staying in this place again? Will you be here for long?” John’s eyes were wide, his voice pleading.
“No, I’m not staying in the hotel.” Before she could utter that he had purposely avoided her question, she saw the clock on the wall. “Is that the time? I forgot about tonight. Oh God, I’ve got to call Ben.” With that said, she rushed out of the room and dug furiously in her purse for her cell phone.
He answered on the second ring. “Where are you? I’ve been trying to get you for the last hour. The show has started. Did your car break down?”
“Ben, you’re not going to believe where I am.”
“Are you all right? You sound funny.”
“I’m fine. I’m so sorry.”
“Well, what happened?”
Karen searched for the right words. Obviously, she couldn’t tell him the whole truth. “I had to help out a friend who’s going through a rough spell, and I just lost track of time.” Even to her own ears, the words sounded lame.
“What’s her problem? Couldn’t you tell her you had plans? Talk to her later?”
Ben was assuming it was a girlfriend she had been with. Karen was not going to do anything to dispute his belief.
“Karen, do you know how much these tickets cost? I got the best seats. This is totally irresponsible of you.” Ben’s voice was continuing to rise.
“Ben, we can still save the evening. We can go for a late supper and then make our way to the hotel just like we planned.”
“You mean you don’t have to hold your friend’s hand all night?”, his voice was filled with sarcasm. “The evening is ruined. At the very least, you should have called me. You were already late to begin with. I tried ringing you.”
“My cell was turned off and…”
“And what?”, Ben cut her off, “Her phone was out of order? Don’t make excuses Karen. You obviously thought your friend was of more importance than our date. Well you know what? You can just stay and comfort your friend. Give her all your attention. Let her keep you warm tonight because it won’t be me.”
There was a loud click. He had hung up on her.
Karen stood there looking in amazement at her cell phone. She could not believe he had really hung up on her. This was so not like him. Ben had never been angry with her before now. She was about to punch in his number again when she saw Michelle and Colin go into John Nash’s room.
She began to feel nervous when they were in there for about ten minutes.
Maybe she had said the wrong things to John. Maybe she had made him more agitated. Maybe they too would be angry at her for interfering. What right did she have to be back here again? She should go, she thought to herself. But it would be cowardly and rude not to say goodbye to John. She made up her mind to knock on his door when it opened, and Michelle and Colin came out.
Karen studied their faces closely, looking for signs of outrage or irritation at the very least. She wasn’t prepared to see a smile of greeting from Colin and to receive an enthusiastic hug from Michelle.
“How have you been Luv?”, Colin asked with no tone of rancor in his voice.
“Okay, I guess”, she answered cautiously.
Michelle then jumped in. “John seemed quite happy to see you.”
“Well I don’t know about that”, Karen replied. “We really don’t know each other.”
“I think you made quite an impression on him”, Michelle persisted. “He seems very alert and in good spirits since you’ve been talking to him.”
“Yeah, you two seem to have got on like a house on fire”, added Colin.
“What gives you that impression?”
Colin shrugged and said, “John told us he hoped you would stay for a while.”
Michelle poked him in the arm.
“Well actually, he asked if accommodations for lodging could be procured–was that the word? Yeah it was, procured for you. That’s Nash speak for the same thing. He is a funny bloke for saying things the long way around.”
“I couldn’t possibly stay here”, Karen blurted out. “I only wanted to say hello, and now that that’s been done, I should be on my way.”
Michelle grabbed her arm. “Why don’t you? Stay I mean. Your old room is still available. You could stay for the whole weekend.”
Karen looked at her astonished. “Before, you couldn’t wait to get rid of me. Now you’re rolling out the red carpet? What gives?”
Michelle sighed and said, “Okay, we got off to a rocky start; I admit that. But it’s been a while since that whole mess with you and Hando. It’s over and forgotten. We can let bygones be bygones.”
Karen gazing at the two of them thought something was hinky. “Why don’t you tell me the real reason why you’re so anxious for me to stay?”
Colin gave a sidelong glance to Chelle. “We’ve got to be straight darlin’. She has a right to know.”
Michelle nodded. “John seems to like you. He opened up to you in just the little time that you were here with him. It’s been difficult for him not being able to relate to anybody here. We thought that maybe you could be a friend to him.”
“A friend?”, Karen repeated, still leery.
“Yes, and maybe at some point down the road, you could perhaps help him to see things more clearly.”
“See things more clearly? Translation, you mean get him to accept the fact that he’s stuck here for good; that he’s got a serious mental illness where what he sees and hears isn’t always real; that he never will again be able to live with his beloved wife and son; and that his brilliant career is over? Is that all you merely want me to do?”, Karen said unbelievingly.
Colin and Michelle looked sheepishly at her.
“I don’t think so. I’m not a shrink nor a miracle worker. Find somebody else.”
“We don’t expect you to accomplish the impossible. We just thought that since John obviously feels comfortable with you, you could be a sounding board for him, a way for him to express his feelings and fears”, Michelle finished.
“I don’t know why you think John really likes me. We didn’t discuss anything deep or meaningful.”
“But he remembered you Karen. He’s usually quite confused. He can’t even tell us apart. He asked you to stay, and he’s never done that with anyone else”, Colin piped in.
Michelle saw that she was weakening. “Just stay the night. You could talk to him a little more, and maybe get him to rest. He’s been having trouble sleeping.”
Karen shook her head as if she knew she was going to regret this. “Look, I can’t stay overnight, but I will talk to him some more and try to quiet him down.”
Michelle smiled in relief. “We appreciate it. You may not think you’re doing much, but John’s very vulnerable and lonely. Just by giving him some attention; hopefully, he’ll realize that people do care and want to understand what he’s going through.”
“Look, I don’t see how a one time gig is going to do much, but I don’t want him to think I just left without saying goodbye”, Karen said as she pushed open John’s door.
Chelle and Colin went downstairs, and Karen missed Chelle’s last whispered remark, “What she doesn’t foresee is that it could be a lifetime gig.”
John was now sitting in front of his desk, still holding the picture of what she assumed was his wife. He didn’t look up when she came in.
“John, I can’t stay here very long, but if there’s something you want to talk about that I can perhaps help with, I’d like to try.”
There was no response.
She walked over to him. “May I?”
He handed over the picture gingerly to her as if she were reaching out to hold his whole heart.
“She’s beautiful. You must miss her and your son very much.”
“I know that my confinement here is just temporary. It’s just another problem to solve, and when I have mastered the solution, these phantom images will leave for good.”
Karen gave him back the picture watching as he kissed it before putting it back on the bureau.
“What images do you see John that you don’t think exist?”
He glanced up at her; his eyes full of sadness, a wretchedness that was so deep, it hurt to behold.
“There are men here, many men who could be my twin. They have my face, my form, but they vary in stature, voice and demeanor. I don’t know what they want with me. It may be because of my scholarly achievements, my coding breakthroughs, that the Pentagon has somehow managed to duplicate myself in order to perpetuate my services.”
Karen, hand held to mouth, exclaimed in dismay, “Oh John.”
“It would make perfect sense. I was the leading expert in deciphering, a mastermind in the field.”
“You’re contradicting yourself. First you say these people who look like you aren’t real, and then you say they are and it’s due to some plot hatched by the government? It has to be one or the other. There’s no logic in what you are saying.”
John got up and started pacing. “They say I have an illness that causes delusions. I didn’t want to believe it, but Alicia wouldn’t lie to me. I have seen people in the past who weren’t really there.”
“Do you mean like Charles, your Princeton roommate?”
“You know about Charles?”, John rushed over to her.
“Yes, and I also know about his niece, Marcie and…Parcher”, Karen said slowly allowing John time to process this.
He said, “Parcher…”, as if he had a bad taste in his mouth. “How do you know about them?”
She took his hand and said gently, “I’m sure Michelle and the others have told you about how you arrived here. I’ve seen your movie John.”
He stumbled back, his hands wavering in front of his face. “I thought you were different. You’re just like the rest of them. You’re trying to confound me, perplex me.”
Karen seeing he was getting flustered tried to placate him. “We don’t have to talk about this now. I’m not here to confuse you. Let’s talk about something else.”
John was over by the window now, and he lightly banged his forehead against it. “Yes, please, let’s converse on another topic.”
“What would you like to discuss?”
“When you were here the last time, when I met you in the restaurant, you were staying here then?”
“Yes, I stayed here in the hotel.”
“Why were you here before? Why not stay here again?”
She thought carefully about what she should say but then decided to just be candid. “It’s not easy for me being here. Memories could stir up that were better left laid to rest. I was seeing someone who lives here.”
“Did he resemble me?”
“In some aspects, physically, but in other ways, he was very unlike you.”
Karen didn’t know why this information seemed important for him to know but it obviously was. “Well John, you couldn’t really mistake Hando for anyone else. He truly is one of a kind. He’s the one with no hair and all the body art.”
“You speak of him in the present tense as if he’s still here.”
“That’s because he is. He permanently resides here with his brothers.”
John seemed to be digesting this. “Are you still seeing him?”
“No, we broke up a while ago.”
“You mentioned someone named Ben earlier?”
“He’s my boyfriend. He doesn’t live here though.”
“What’s he like? Does he treat you well?”
Karen hesitated just slightly but then responded with enthusiasm that was just a touch over the top. “Ben’s great, really great. He’s a bank manager. He works very hard. He also take courses at university which is where I met him. He likes to garden and work with his hands. When he’s not doing all that, he cares for his mother who’s in a retirement home. She’s elderly and not in good health. He’s very neat, dresses very well and…”, she stopped realizing that she was rambling on and itemizing Ben like a resume.
“It’s getting late. I should go. Can I do anything for before I do? You look awfully tired.”
John shuffled over to the bed and laid down on it. “Sleep almost always seems to elude me.”
“You definitely need to catch some zees.”
He looked at her puzzled and then laughed. “The vernacular used around here is truly onerous to assimilate.”
She smiled back at him. “You’ll catch on, once you get with the program.” At his second stunned look, she laughed and squeezed his arm, “I’m teasing you.”
He closed his eyes. Karen knelt beside the bed on the floor. “John, what I’m going to say, you may choose to disregard but I just want you to listen and not say anything, okay?”
“Just let what I say filter in.”
He opened his mouth to say something but she shushed him by placing her finger on his lips.
“Let your mind roam where it wants to. Let your body grow heavy and limp. I’m going to say what I believe to be true. I will be as honest as I know how to be. I will not deceive you.”
There was no reply but a deep exhaled breath.
In a low murmur, she continued, “John, you are here in a place known as Crowe’s Point. It’s a very special place, a magical place that seems too bizarre to be possible, to be real, but it is.”
He fidgeted on the bed, but his eyes didn’t open.
“Most of the men who live here are brothers and they look alike. However, every man is unique with his own personality and his own strengths and weaknesses. You are one of them. What is disconcerting to many of the brothers is the different time periods to which they all belong. You see, right now, the year is 2002. But John Nash comes here from the 1950s. You’re in good company. A few of the boyz, as we ladies like to call them, come from that period. Some are from earlier times or later. The boyz come from all over the world: Australia, the U.S., Wales and even ancient Rome. But they all have one thing in common. They need each other to survive. When each brother first comes here, it’s hard for him to adjust. Everything is so different from what he knows. That’s when he needs to let the others help him, to indoctrinate him, so to speak, in his new environment. It takes time and a great deal of patience and understanding. Everyone here wants to help you become accustomed to your new home. John, you have a big disadvantage though. Your illness sometimes prevents you from knowing the difference between illusion and actuality. However, you mustn’t lose hope. You can still achieve what ever dreams you may have with the proper care. You’ve done it before. You took medication, and the delusions lessened. You can do the same thing here by taking what Anthony gives you. You can become acquainted with your brothers and be involved in the day to day life here. Don’t give up on your work. It’s important to you, and it will see you through the hard times.”
Finally, she added, “Alicia needed to believe that something extraordinary could happen with you. We need to believe that as well. Don’t despair; there’s a lot of love in this place.”
Karen’s voice faded off as the light rising and falling of John’s chest told her that he was asleep. Not knowing why and not being able to stop herself, she leaned over and lightly brushed his cheek with her lips. She hoped that her subliminal message would somehow be absorbed.
Feeling a little insecure as to whether she had caused even more damage to his fragile mind state, Karen left John’s room. Lost in her thoughts, she did not see Terry Thorne heading towards the stairs at the same time.
She looked up and was plainly startled to see him. She could feel her face grow hotter. Damn, she hadn’t been quick enough to get away.
“You were in there with Nash? How’s he doing?”
“He’s sleeping right now which is a good thing”, Karen replied feeling awkward.
“Have you come back for a visit?”, Terry asked, leaning his tall muscular body comfortably on the stair rail.
“No, actually, I really don’t know why I’m here.”
Terry looked at her curiously and laughed, “Well that sounds intriguing. Why don’t you give me the drum over a cuppa?”
“I can’t. I’m on my way home. I’ve stayed too long already.”
“You look a little hot and bothered. Might be better to pull yourself together before hitting the road. I haven’t forgotten how you drive.”
She laughed a little at this. “To quote Bud, that obvious, huh?” Karen gave in and dropped all pretense of trying to appear calm and collected. “I could use a strong cup of jo, but how can I put this tactfully, well I don’t think I can. I don’t want to see anyone else.”
Terry didn’t look surprised. “Here’s my key. I’m in 308. I’ll go and get us some coffees.”
She almost said aloud what she was thinking. What, you don’t have anything better to do than talk to me on a Friday night? But she zipped her lips and took his key. She felt weird being in his room as if his private sanctum should just be disturbed only by Kaz and his friends. She hadn’t become too acquainted with Terry during her last stay. If she was really honest with herself, she would say she was awestruck by his good looks and easy going charm. Thank God, he was wearing a sweater, or she would be salivating at the size of his arms. She stiffly sat on a leather sofa and nervously curled her hair around her finger. It wasn’t long before he was back beside her, and they were both sipping at the large steaming hot mugs.
“Is Kaz not here this weekend?”, she queried, cursing to herself as she burned her tongue.
“She had to work and then she was off to do mischief with Lady, so I’m just a lonely bachelor boy.”
Karen laughed again. “You don’t get any sympathy from me. I can’t picture you pining away on your lonesome. I remember you as always being on the move, a man of action.”
“This is true”, he agreed. “However, even us social gadabouts need to do some spine bashing once in a while. So tell me, why don’t you want anyone to know you’re here?”
“Miichelle and Colin know. I guess I still feel like a pariah here, persona non grata.”
Terry quirked an eyebrow. “You mean because of your night out on the town as the infamous lady in red?” Terry grinned, “Sorry I missed that episode Luv. Worth the price of admission I was told.”
She groaned and tried to hide her head. “I’ll never be able to live that down. I’m so embarrassed.”
“Why? No harm done in the long run. Ancient history, mate.” He leaned closer, “What were you doing with Nash?”
She told him the story of her arrival. “I just hope I didn’t upset him or say the wrong things. I feel so bad for him, and Michelle looked so wiped out.”
“Yeah, she is. We’re all a bit worried about her.”
They talked a few minutes more about John and then Karen asked, “So how is everyone here?”
Terry brought her up to speed on the various couples she had known.
“How’s Bud?”, Karen phrased the question casually. “Did he and Tricia ever reconcile?”
“No, Bud was a real arsehole for a while, and they’ve split for good. She’s with Daniel now. He’s the new blacksmith. He’s seeing someone though. Don’t know how serious it is.”
She nodded in reply.
“Aren’t you going to ask?”
She looked up at Terry’s question. “Ask about what?”
“Not what, whom.” At her look of innocence, he said, “Don’t play coy darlin’.”
“Fine”, she pouted. “How’s the painted warrior?”
Terry smiled. “Hando’s been different since you’ve gone.”
“For the better or worse?”
“He actually resembles a human being now. He talks to people instead of being the surly bastard we all know and love. He, even on occasion, sits down with a group of us and just shoots the shit.”
“Well, well, will wonders never cease?”, Karen murmured. “However, I can’t take credit for that. I always knew Hando had a good side. I always believed in him.”
“I think you can take a little credit for some of the change. He’s not wound up so tight anymore, and he doesn’t go for those long walkabouts like he used to.”
“I know I shouldn’t pump you for information, but does he have a girlfriend?”
“It’s hard to tell. He always had a large following of lurkers. If he does have one, he’s not broadcasting it. But enough about us, what’s going on in your life? Is there someone special in it?”
“Until tonight I would have said yes, but Ben and I had our first fight and I don’t know what’s going to happen.” She then proceeded to talk about Ben and how they met. “My job made me an attractive offer that I just couldn’t refuse”, she said a la Marlon Brando. “They basically gave me a package to get rid of me. I took some time to explore my options. I have enough money to get by on for a while so I decided to take some psychology courses at university. I’m finding them fascinating, particularly the Abnormal Psychology one. Ben is taking that one too.”
“Does that mean you’re going to start psychoanalyzing all of us?”
“Goodness no. That wouldn’t be much of a challenge. You’re all certifiable. I’d put you all in the funny farm straight away.”
Gees Louise, he was sexy, Karen thought. It’s way too much of a temptation to be back here.
Aloud she said, “I’ve got to be going now. Thanks so much for the chat. At least I know some people here don’t want to tar and feather me.”
They both stood up. “I’ll walk you to your car.”
“That’s not necessary Terry. You know I’m still a feminist.”
“And I’m still a gentleman, and chivalry is not dead and all of that crap.”
They laughed together as he escorted her back to the hotel. When they reached the car, he asked, “Are you planning on making a more permanent visit?”
“Not as far as I can tell but who knows? I certainly wasn’t planning this one.” She got in the front seat and leaned out the window. “Thanks again Terry. You made me feel welcome. I hope Kaz knows how lucky she is.”
“I’m the fortunate one Luv”, he said dead serious. “Oh, and by the way, you look good with the extra weight you’ve put on. You were fading away to a shadow before.”
“That’s a story for another time”, she said leaning out to kiss him goodbye on the cheek. Then she was on her way.
That same night, John Nash dreamed a very vivid dream about an angel with long, dark red hair and intense blue eyes. The dream began with him and Alicia out on a picnic by a lake. It was summertime. They were sitting beneath a large weeping willow tree. Alicia was painting John’s portrait. She was trying to get him to smile by tickling him. He was trying to maintain a serious mood though just to thwart her efforts. He looked up at the clouds which were rapidly changing from fluffy white to dark gray. He nudged Alicia as if to say we’re going to get caught out in this storm. He grabbed her hand, pulled her up and they started running. They stopped to catch their breath, and when John turned to look at his wife, she was no longer there.
Fear crept into his heart. Where was she? He looked all around and didn’t recognize his surroundings. Nothing was familiar to him. Rain started to slash down at him. Thunder rumbled, and forked lightening flashed across the heavens. His one thought was to save Alicia. She must need him, and he wouldn’t let her down. He yelled out her name, and all the sound that returned was the echo of his voice.
Suddenly, a large white dove flew in front of his eyes and around his head. He was startled by it and stumbled backwards, falling onto the hard, wet pavement. The dove alit on his chest, just about where his heart would be. It looked him in the eyes, never blinking. Then it was off and flying upward, higher and higher, above the trees until it disappeared from his sight.
He lay there shivering, trying to make sense of what had happened. Then he heard a sound, a whisper calling his name. It grew in volume and reverberated all around him until he had to put his hand over his ears to block it out. The voice softened, but he could still hear it. A phrase was repeated over and over. “Remember John, that word is love.” “Remember John, that word is love.” “Remember John, that word is love.” “Remember John, that word is love.”
He felt his body rising, levitating off the ground. His eyes closed by terror were opening. Something brushed against his cheek. It was a single lock of hair, auburn in hue. He traced the pattern it left on his skin until it touched his lips. Then it was gone, and he was falling into a pair of deep sapphire eyes. A warmth invaded him and held him softly in a silken cocoon. It cradled him in its bosom, and he was safe and cherished.
A few days after her visit to Crowe’s Point, Karen was in the university library. She was completing an assignment for her Abnormal Psychology course. Her essay was on Bystander Apathy, or in layman’s terms, why people don’t help other people in a crisis. She had cringed when she read about the Kitty Genovese case in New York where a young woman was repeatedly stabbed to death on the front doorstep of her home while no one in her neighbourhood had raised a finger to help her, not even so far as to call the police from the safety of their own home. She was appalled and disgusted.
“How can people be so indifferent, so cruel and not get involved?”, she wondered out loud. This dark side of human nature though riveting to investigate was oppressive in its malignant outlook for mankind.
She printed off the last page and closed the journal with a heavy sigh. Talk about a downer. She shrugged off the mood and was going to call Ben and then remembered it was his night to be with his mom.
Ben had called her the morning after she had come home and apologized profusely for how he had spoken to her the night she missed the show.
“I don’t know what came over me. I should have been more understanding. There are plenty of shows to see, and we have all the time in the world to see them. Friends are important, and you wouldn’t be the woman I adore if you didn’t care about people.”
She had forgiven him, and they were back on track. She never did tell him that it was a man she had been with that evening. Her thoughts wandered to John. How was he doing? She kept seeing his face, his eyes pleading as he begged her to tell him that she was really there and not just a spirit in his mind.
She then had an impulse. She flipped open her textbook to the index and looked up schizophrenia. Their class hadn’t yet covered all the mental disorders listed in the DSM IV, which was virtually the bible that psychiatrists and psychologists used to help them diagnose mental illness.
**[Dear Readers, the following information is taken from “Schizophrenia – An Information Guide by The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto]
According to Karen’s Canadian text, “at least one person in 100 can be expected to develop schizophrenia”.
She found out that it can start so gradually that people may experience symptoms for a long time, and their closest family and friends may not even be aware. In other cases, onset may be more rapid.
There are three phases: Prodomal (or beginning), Active and Residual that tend to occur in sequence and appear in cycles throughout the course of the illness.
In the Prodomal phase, people may begin to lose interest in their normal pursuits and start to withdraw from family and friends. They may become easily confused, have trouble concentrating, feel listless and apathetic and may prefer to spend most of their days alone. This stage can last for weeks or months.
During the Active phase, delusions, hallucinations, marked distortions in thinking and disturbances in behaviour and feelings may occur. These symptoms can appear suddenly. The Residual Phase has similar characteristics to the Prodomal phase.
During a lifetime, people with schizophrenia may become actively ill once or twice, or have many episodes.
Skimming through the chapter, Karen noted a common delusion is the belief that people are trying to harm them. No single cause has been found for schizophrenia. Current thought is that it results when genetic programming is impaired, a disruption of the chemistry in the developing brain of the fetus.
Scanning down, she found the subheading she was looking for: Medication. Many different types of antipsychotic medications exist, and the type and dosage will vary per person. Medication is necessary to control symptoms and prevent relapses. Unfortunately, unpleasant side effects may be experienced, and people may become discouraged and not want to take it. However, over time, the body tends to adjust and side effects should lessen.
As well as medication, people suffering from this illness, should be encouraged to develop their strengths and their abilities to cope. It is important to be aware of stressors that trigger relapses, so they can be reduced or avoided. A well-balanced lifestyle that involves regular exercise, rest,healthy meals as well as time for friends, family and fun should be developed. Regular routines are important to keep.
Karen highlighted one sentence in the text. “With the arrival of new medication options, many people have experienced greater symptom control, so that rehabilitation is possible.**
She wondered aloud, “Maybe he just needs to try different meds until he finds one that is right for him.”
She racked her brain to think of the name of the drug he was on in his movie. It began with a ‘T’. She thought of the scene where his doctor first injected him. What was the line he had said? Something about Thorazine has quite a kick to it. That was it, Thorazine.
Karen made a mental note to talk to her professor about it.
The next day, she woke up dreading the start of it. She had her bi-weekly appointment today with her own psychiatrist who
specialized in treating eating disorders. Karen didn’t think she had a problem anymore. She had gained back some weight and
thought she had it licked. If it hadn’t been for Anthony at Crowe’s Point, she never would have gone for help or recognized the need for it. She was grateful for that, but enough was enough. She was over it already.
She walked into Dr. Phatt’s office (how ironic is that name?). She pasted a smile on her face and sat down in the comfy chair in front of his desk. He asked her how she was. She said fine. Yada, Yada, Yada.
“I don’t think I need to come here for further sessions. I’m at a good weight, and I’m eating properly.” There, she finally had the guts to say it to him.
He looked at her sternly. Gees, would his face crack if he smiled now and then?
“We haven’t talked about situations in your life that contributed to your developing anorexia.”
“Well, I don’t think that’s relevant if the problem doesn’t exist anymore”, she countered.
Dr. Phatt checked his notes. “Miss Summers, in March of this year, your weight was 160 pounds. By the beginning of July, it was down to 102. You lost 58 pounds in four months, an average of 14 pounds per month. You’ve been told about the stress that has put on your heart.”
“Compared to many others who dropped to 80 pounds or less, I think I’m doing okay. You said that since I didn’t abuse laxatives or induce vomiting, I probably would make a full recovery.”
“It can be a slow process. What happens when you find yourself in a stressful situation? You need to know your triggers. We
haven’t talked about your family or personal life. Those can have a great impact on the anorexic.”
Karen hated being labelled. This quack had no bedside manner whatsoever. “You know what Dr. Phatt? I’ve regained control over my body. Thank you for your time and help, but I really think I’m going to be just dandy.”
As she went to walk out of his office for the last time, he said quietly, “It’s control of your mind that matters.”
Karen now having most of her daylight hours free without the burden of a job was taking advantage of doing things she never had the time to do before. Besides her courses at the university, she enjoyed needlecraft and was planning to make Christmas presents for all her friends and family this year. When she was younger, she wrote poetry and kept a journal. She had given that up during her dark years when everything she wrote was depressing and morbid. These days, she felt refreshed and renewed, and positive affirmations were annotated only.
Ben must be a good influence on her she mused one night curled up in bed reading a book. He never let things drag him down for long. He was very upbeat and quick to point out when she was being negative. If everything worked out okay, she was actually thinking of inviting him over to her folks’ house for Christmas dinner. She never had asked anybody before as she had never wanted to subject anyone to her family’s dysfunctionalism. Her mother would watch him like a hawk as perspective marriage material. Karen would then get the third degree to the nth power when he was gone. That was why in a nutshell she kept everything about her life private, and she was often accused of being much too secretive.
Her family had not known about her three month affair with Hando at Crowe’s Point or how in love she had been with him. Granted, she wouldn’t have been able to tell them much even if she had wanted to, but it hurt that she had had no one to support her through that tempestuous and turbulent relationship.
Wondering why she was even thinking about Hando, she gave herself a little shake and finished making herself some tea. The phone rang and thinking it must be Ben she answered it, lowering her voice to a sultry whisper.
“Well hello there Handsome. About time you called. I was getting real lonely just sitting here on my bed dressed in a black lace teddy, oh did I mention it was see-through? I’ve been thinking about you for hours and imagining all the things I could be doing to your body right now.” She purred then moaned in simulation of pre-orgasmic activity.
She heard a rapid gasp of breath and then nothing. “Darlin’, did I catch you at a bad time? I wouldn’t want to think you were doing something naughty when you’re supposed to be working, doing that nasty old inventory.”
“Thoughts about sexual intercourse often inhabit my mind I must admit, but at this particular instance, I regret to say they are not foremost. However, the vision of you in such a piece of nightwear as you describe is quite stimulating and most provocative.”
At the strange deep male voice, she freaked. “Who is this?”, she yelled into the phone. It definitely was not Ben. “What are you, some sick pervert?”
“If you would care to lower your voice, perhaps you would be able to hear me.”
“All I can hear is your obscene breathing, you little cretin. I can have this call traced you know, asshole. My husband is a cop, a big cop. Get the picture?” She hung up while the man was still babbling.
It immediately rang again. “Look, you bastard”, she continued with a whole line of expletives.
“Well, I am getting quite the education in linguistics tonight though I would really prefer to just talk in the less colourful ordinary way to Karen Summers.”
She raged on until she heard her name. “Do I know you? Is this a prank someone’s pulling on me cause I don’t find it really amusing.”
“I don’t organize pranks. Most people wouldn’t find them or me too humorous.”
Something about his words were very familiar to Karen. It couldn’t be. “John? John Nash, is that you?”
“I’ve called at an unfortunate hour it would seem. Perhaps it would be better if I rang again at a more opportune time.”
She ignored this and demanded, “How did you get this number, and do you know what time it is?”
“You left it here. I found a card with your business address and two phone numbers on it.”
“My business card?”, she said aloud, “I don’t even work anymore.” Then she recalled going through her purse viciously looking for her cell phone to call Ben. She hadn’t dumped the crap out of her purse in ages. An old card could have fallen out.
“You worked for an insurance company?”, John asked.
It seemed at 2 am to be a ludicrous question to Karen. “Yeah John, I did. Look, why are you calling me?” She then regretted her tone. It was harsh and unfriendly.
“When you were here before, I felt I could speak with you on a variety of topics. I was hoping you might consider coming back, and we could redress some of those issues previously discussed.”
She felt chastened, and if she could have kicked her own ass, she would have. “I’m glad you could feel comfortable with me. I enjoyed our talk as well.”
“I don’t know what it is about you, but something in you puts me at ease.”
These simple words by John made tears well up in her eyes. “You just need a good friend. Everyone at the Point wants to be that for you. You have to reach out to them.”
“You mean I should accept that these people live with me and are actual homosapiens.”
“Yes, they are real human beings. I wouldn’t lie to you John.”
“Sometimes, I find myself believing that they exist, and I know if I reach out, I will meet with a solid form and they will answer if I make myself heard. On other occasions, they just seem to surround and overwhelm me with their discourse about characters in motion pictures.”
“I know it’s hard to understand, but they’re really trying their best to welcome you home.”
“You say that as if I’ve been away somewhere and come back to a place that I have no memory of.”
Karen felt way in over her head. How could she possibly get him to see things as they are now and not as they once were? “John, this sounds strange but you’re right. You’ve never been to Crowe’s Point before even though I said it’s your home now. Your whole life, all that you remember, your childhood, your family, your education, your work, your life with Alicia; all that you have experienced is true and authentic. But it’s your past. Where you are now and who you’re with, that’s your present and future. You’ve been given an opportunity for a new life, a different kind of life from what you’ve known. It can still be rich and full and rewarding.”
As she said the words, Karen felt she was shoveling the biggest pile of B.S. ever. How could anyone expect John to be happy; doomed to one place, to see the same faces all the time and to be swept away from the love of his life who made it possible for him to try and recover from his madness?
“I’m probably not the best person to talk about this with. You know Michelle. You’ve met Anthony, the doctor. You should take their advice. Michelle can tell you everything you want to know about where you are. She can introduce you to all those men who look like you. They’ve been through what you are undergoing. They can keep you alive. All I can say is trust in them. Trust is the first step John. You have to start somewhere. Believe in them.”
“I believe in you”, John said simply.
“I’m flattered”, and indeed she was, “but I’m not there. I’m not a part of that world.”
“You were before. You could be again if you came back.”
Again, there was that tinge of hope in his voice.
“It didn’t work when I was there. For my own health and happiness, I had to leave.”
Her cuckoo clock then struck the half hour.
“You’ve having trouble sleeping again?”
He didn’t respond.
“You could always go for a drink in the tavern.” Karen then realized he probably shouldn’t be drinking while taking medication. “Or just go there and sit with the others. It’s a weekend so I’m sure people are still up.”
“I’ve never been one to socialize. People, in general, don’t like me.”
“That’s not true. You had friends at Princeton and where you worked. Saul and Bender ring a bell? I like you, and I’m a hard sell Nash.” She was trying to make him laugh but he didn’t.
“What would make you relax right now so you could sleep? Do you like to read at night, watch TV, listen to music?”
Karen decided to play over the phone one of her relaxation tapes which consisted of nature sounds and soft Celtic background harmonies.
“Don’t leave me”, John murmured.
“I’m here. Just listen to the sounds.”
When the tape was finished, he sounded calmer and even a little bit groggy.
“Promise me you’ll do something for me John.” She waited to hear his assent and then continued. “When you get up in the morning, just say to yourself, it’s a new day, and I’m going to take it one hour at a time. I will do something for myself even if it’s just a walk to the library. Things will get better. You only need hope as big as the smallest mustard seed cause once it’s there, it’s impossible to kill, and it can only grow and thrive. And every night before you lay down, I want you to think, I’m not going to surrender. I’m not going to give in to doubt and fear. Can you do that for me John?”
He mumbled something and before the call ended, Karen said a quick prayer for him.
In the days to follow, Karen couldn’t get John off her mind. She went back on line and researched further medications to treat schizophrenia. She discovered that there were basically two types. The first group consisted of the traditional standards of Typical Neuroleptics/Anti-Psychotics of which Thorazine was one. The second group were newer medications, and these were considered Atypical Neuroleptics/Anti-Psychotics.
She made notes and listed the advantages and disadvantages of both groups including the side-effects of each. Then, on an impulse, she emailed Michelle and asked what Anthony was prescribing for John. She let her know she had done some research on the subject and included websites and suggestions for Anthony’s perusal. Immediately, as she hit the send button, she regretted it.
“What’s he gonna think Summers? He’s the doctor and you’re playing amateur psychologist. He’s going to think you’re an arrogant buttinsky presuming to tell him what’s best for his patient.”
Even still, Karen checked her email often that day looking for a reply. Ben came over and convinced her to go to the gym. Knowing something was on her mind, he asked her what was wrong. Hoping for some insight, she told him what she could about John Nash, eliminating, of course, his identity and whereabouts.
“So do I come across as the biggest dumbass or what?”
Ben just laughed and hearing no answering giggle in return said, “Babe, you need to lighten up. I think you’re doing the Dude a big favour. Doctors are not infallible. You’re just letting him know that you’re a concerned friend and that you’re an informed consumer. Besides, this guy if he’s in as bad shape as you say, he should get a second opinion from another doctor, an actual psychiatrist.”
Her mind was still uneasy, and as much as Ben tried to distract her, she couldn’t let go of the idea that there must be something she could do to help Nash. After the gym and chowing down on Japanese cuisine, they went back to Ben’s apartment.
She couldn’t believe what a neat freak he was. It was like stepping into Felix Unger’s home. There was no stray hair in his bathroom sink; no three inches of dust on his coffee table; no dirty dishes stacked up on the counter. He had To Do lists pasted all over his fridge door. His bed was perfectly made up so you could probably bounce a quarter off it. His shoes were lined up neatly in his closet with the requisite shoe trees in each. She wondered how much those three piece suits of his cost. Looking around, you would think that he was a pretty uptight guy, but he wasn’t like that at all.
Cuddling together on his living room couch, Karen noticed that Ben was being much more ardent than usual this evening. He was aggressive up to a certain point but pretty much usually let her decide how far they would proceed. He was nibbling now on her neck and moving up to her earlobe. His eager hands roamed up her blouse stopping to fondle her breasts. She lay back trying to relax and enjoy the ride. He started to undo her jeans, and as he slid his fingers down to stroke her, she shifted and moved away from him. She didn’t know why but after all this time, she suddenly did not want to make love with him.
Not being easily dissuaded, Ben captured her mouth with his and devoured first her upper lip and then traveled down to her lower one. His tongue engulfed hers, and she kissed him back halfheartedly.
Urged on by this, he pressed her for further exploration. She let him undress her. He cupped her full left breast and sucked on it deeply. Hando would have known right away how to treat her sensitive nipples and make them erect and aching. Whoa, where did that thought come from? She came to full alertness. Ben was gazing down at her. With his body on top of hers, he laid her down.
His lips predictably moved to the neglected right breast and then down her torso. She tried to be an enthusiastic lover and unbuttoned his shirt. Her hands reached out to touch and caress his arms and chest. An image flashed through her mind of superb muscle tone but it wasn’t Ben’s. Ben was way too skinny. She saw again the heavily inked designs and then felt the soft light fur in which she loved to entangle her fingers.
She snapped open her eyes. Why was she thinking of Hando, especially at a time like this? Ben had undid his pants, and without even fully taken them off, was trying to impale her. It hurt as he finally managed to penetrate. He had not taken the time to make sure she was ready. The further he invaded, the more her dryness impeded any pleasure.
He came in a matter of minutes and she was relieved. He eased out of her, and as his limp member brushed against her inner thigh, she thought, oh my God, we forgot the condom. He asked her to stay the night but she made excuses that she was fighting off a migraine.
“It must have been the red wine Sweetie.” She lied right to his face.
She couldn’t wait to leave. In the elevator going down, she was filled with disappointment. She thought their first time would be and mean so much more than it had. Maybe she had built it up in her mind too much. It wasn’t fair to either of them to have such great expectations. After all, when was a first time ever perfect? It was with Hando, that little voice inside her needled.
Why was she obsessing about her last lover? Ever since she had been back to Crowe’s Point, thoughts of him crept up to haunt her. She was planning to go right to bed when she got home, but she couldn’t ignore the flashing icon on her computer that told her she had mail. Quickly scanning through her in box and automatically deleting all those messages pertaining to enlarged body parts, she came across the one she had been waiting for. It was from Michelle.
Essentially, she was told that Anthony’s treatment of John was confidential, and though he appreciated her efforts, they were not needed. She couldn’t believe how much that hurt though she had expected as much. Michelle went on to say that John was making more of an effort to talk to people and was even recognizing faces and knowing names. She cheered up at the end of the long email when Michelle wrote that she thought Jeffrey Wigand was making a special effort to befriend John and was actually making inroads.
“Well that should have been a no-brainer”, Karen said aloud, “Of course, the two geniuses would bond.”
She typed back a message saying that of course Anthony would know best a course of treatment and that she had only intended to supplement his expertise. She was certainly happy to be informed that John was making progress. She ended with another decline to an invitation to come and stay at the Point indefinitely.
On Tuesday night, at Karen’s Abnormal Psych class, the professor was handing out guidelines for their independent study project that was due at the end of their course. It would be worth 70% of the final grade.
Ben quickly glanced over the requirements, confident as always that he would ace the assignment.
Karen read through the specifics carefully and in greater detail. Academically, she was an astute student but often fretted needlessly. In fact, she was one of those who when exams were written was certain she failed when indeed, she would often receive the top mark in the class.
Later in the library, Karen asked Ben what his thesis was going to be about.
“You’re putting me on, right?”, he looked at her in surprise.
“Uh, no”, she replied. “You didn’t tell me before now.”
“That’s because the answer wasn’t so obvious.”
She looked at him clueless.
“Hello”, Ben cried shaking her arm and his head at her stupidity. “You’re not being the sharpest tool in the shed today are you?”
Karen didn’t appreciate the putdown tone of his voice. “Excuse me?”, she retorted.
“Who did we spend all that time talking about the other day, ad nauseum?”
She looked at him blankly again.
“Wow, how can you be so obtuse?”, he said in amazement.
“Ben! Don’t talk down to me. Okay, I’m having a blonde moment here, but don’t act like I’m brain dead.”
Ben backed down seeing how Karen was getting angry. He threw his arm around her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Honey. I just thought we were on the same wave length here. Of course, it’s going to be on schizophrenia. I mean we’ve got the guy all lined up and everything.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your friend, what was his name, Jack or Jeff?”
“It was James”, Karen replied, deeply disturbed by where this conversation was heading.
“Right, James. All we have to do is interview this guy a couple of times, and find out where and how he went nuts. We’re sure to get a jumpstart on everyone else in the class. Hey, maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll be able to catch him when he’s hallucinating. Wouldn’t that be something? We’re there and he’s off talking about hearing little green men through his radio?”
Karen nearly slugged him. “I can’t believe what an insensitive dickhead you are.”
Ben looked down at her, first dumbfounded and then annoyed. “You know I don’t like women who use foul language.”
“Well that’s too fucking bad, isn’t it? Where do you get off saying you’re just going to charge into this guy’s life, invade his privacy, probe his brain, conjure up God knows what for him, all for a lousy mark on some insignificant little assignment? The last time I checked, your name wasn’t God.”
Ben retreated a few feet in the onslaught of her attack. “You’re a fine one to talk. You’re the one who’s done all the research into his condition and asking the Prof about treatment. You’re the one who brought him up to me. You wanted advice. This is a way to help him.”
“I don’t see how”, Karen said through grinding teeth. “He’s a friend, not a guinea pig in some experiment.”
“Fine, I can see you’re too irrational to talk about this now. When you come to your senses, you know where to find me.” Ben gave her a withering glance and stormed off.
She actually stomped her feet she was so furious. Day by day, she was discovering more and more about Ben that she didn’t like.
It had never occurred to her to take advantage of John Nash’s illness like that. She was still upset when she went back home. On the spur of the moment, she decided she was going to see John again, not to interview him like a specimen but to be there for him if he needed her.
She sent a short email to Michelle asking if she would speak to John and see if he would like her to spend the upcoming weekend at the Point. Less than half an hour later, she had her answer. John would be delighted.
Driving down the familiar route to the Point, Karen found herself getting nervous again. Okay, she was here for John, but she would not be able to avoid the other inhabitants indefinitely. She didn’t want her visit to be antagonistic in any way.
As she pulled into the hotel parking lot, she saw a group of people standing outside the front doors.
“Great.”, she said aloud, “A welcome wagon. Just what I need. Well, I guess it’s best to take the bull by the horns.” She grabbed her bag and stepped out of the car. Peering through her sunglasses, she could see John Biebe and Tina, Lachlan, Jeff and Arthur.
Walking stiffly but with her head erect, she approached them. They were not looking in her direction. Biebe and Tina seemed to be looking aimlessly around the hotel grounds, while Jeff and Lachlan were conferring, their heads close together. Then, one by one they began to notice her presence. She stopped a few feet in front of them.
Tina was the first one to say anything. “Karen, thank goodness you’re here. Maybe, you’ll be able to find him.”
Before, she could open her mouth to respond, Biebe cut in, “Nash is really bad. He’s hearing voices, and he’s run off.”
Then everyone started talking to her at once. Obviously, they had been informed that she was his friend.
“He came down to the restaurant. He looked really green around the gills.”
“He sat down and ordered some tucker. Other than looking a bit crook, he seemed to be apples.”
“After his food arrived, he cut his hamburger into little pieces and reached across like he was feeding someone across from him. He started smiling and nodding to this supposed other person.”
Arthur then added, “I was coming in to unload some supplies, and he just got up and started yelling, ‘Stay away from me. I told you to go away.'”
“He then knocked his table over and ran out like a bat out of hell.”
Karen held up a hand. “Has he done this before?”
“A few times now lately.”, Biebe replied. “It’s getting worse.”
“Does he go anywhere in particular?”
“Sometimes he hides like a little kid playing a game. But for him, you know it’s real”, Lachlan stated.
“East found him one day in the hay loft of the stables”, Jeff chipped in. “Another time, he was prancing in and out of the surf at the beach.”
“We’ll have to divide up and spread out.” Biebe took charge. They set out in separate paths.
Karen went by herself just dropping her bag in front of the hotel. This was not good. She passed the library and then went back to peer inside. It was empty. She continued on thinking all the while about what the others had told her. “Hides like a little kid”, “up in the hay loft”, “running into the waves”. Then she recalled how he had cut up his food into little portions. “It’s almost like he’s a child or…with one.” What if that was it? Was he having delusions about a little boy or girl? She sat down where she was and concentrated hard. “Where are you John?”
She than had a vision. She saw a cemetery, something similar to the one in “The Crossing”. She had never been there before, but she knew in her heart that John was there. She went past Max’s training ground and past a little cottage covered in ivy. She went deeper into the woods and exited near a cleared land area. It looked like some plantation. She kept on and after plodding through fields of what looked like cotton but couldn’t possibly be, she saw a tiny graveyard with greyish white stone masts. It looked ancient.
She walked around the high black fence surrounding it looking for the entrance gate. Once she found it, it took some time to pry open the rusted lock on it. At last it broke free, and she entered.
There were less than twenty tombstones in total. Most of them were in decrepit shape; some were falling over. She crouched down and tried to read the names but they were made illegible by time and the elements.
Karen felt very apprehensive and ill at ease. She did not like graveyards. It reminded her of the frailty of the human species and how quickly life could be doused. She was so upset, she started to hyperventilate.
“I’ve got to keep calm. Don’t lose it.”
She was getting dizzy. She knew this feeling; she had it before. It was the beginning of a panic attack. She sat down on the ground feeling faint. She was starting to sweat, and her skin grew clammy. Her heart was racing. Was she going to throw up?
She rocked back and forth. “Please let it stop. Oh God, please make it stop.”
“Don’t run now. You’ll frighten her.”
Out of the depths of her paralysis, Karen registered the whispered voice. She felt a light touch on her shoulder. She recoiled but the voice tried to soothe her.
“It’s all right. It’s just us.”
Motion around her as she came back up to the surface.
“Open your eyes Karen. You’re safe here.”
She was still breathing irregularly. Her chest was burning. What felt like a cool cloth was placed on her forehead. Her eyelids
flickered, and she remembered where she was. She tried to stand but two hands pressed her down.
“Take your time. We’re here for you.”
Her eyes swept to Nash’s face. He was kneeling down in front of her
“John”, she managed to eke out. “I found you.”
“In actual fact, it’s more like we chanced upon you.”
She was still a little foggy. “We? Who else is here?”
John made a motion with his hand. “Come on. It’s all right. She won’t harm you.”
Karen looked around and saw no one else. “John, who are you talking to?”
“My fine young man here is a little bashful.”
Another movement of his hand was made as if he was pushing someone towards her.
“He’s a little reticent around strangers, but hopefully, that will be remedied by your stay here.”
Oh shit, thought Karen. No one other than John and herself were in the cemetery, and yet he was talking to someone as if he were not two feet away. What should she do? Should she run away in case John was dangerous? What if he became violent?
She stood up, and the cloth on her forehead fell off. John picked it up, and she noticed that it was a handkerchief. He carefully folded it and put it in his shirt pocket.
“I know this must seem unexpected, meeting him here like this, but I choose to believe it is a fortuitous moment. If I put any faith at all in predetermination, which I don’t, I’d say it was destined that you would encounter each other here of all places.”
John stepped towards her and she hastily backed away, the fear shining in her eyes.
“You don’t need to be afraid. He’s really an innocuous child.”
She managed to choke out, “Nobody but you and me are here John. I don’t know who you are talking about.”
John’s face darkened and his eyes narrowed. “Please don’t be like this. Don’t act like the others.”
Still keeping a safe distance from him, she said, “What do you mean? How are the others reacting?”
“They don’t accept me. They’re suspicious of me. They think I’m crazy. They look like you do right now. Your eyes say it all.”
John’s face crumpled up and he sat down heavily on the ground leaning back against a fallen tombstone. “It’s unbearable that you would be fearful of me.”
Karen’s sense of foreboding diminished at his words and the crestfallen expression on his face. “I’m sorry for that. When I didn’t see the boy you were talking to, I didn’t know how to react.”
“You didn’t see him?” John’s voice was incredulous. “Perhaps you still hadn’t recovered from the state we found you in. He was quite concerned about you. He was the one who led me to you.”
What should she say? “John, where is he now?”
He looked around. “He must have run off again. As I said, he’s quite shy.”
She cautiously sat down beside him. “Why don’t you tell me about him.”
He looked at her eagerly. “I just met him a couple of weeks ago. It was quite odd how it came about. I was in my room and it was dark. I think I was asleep, and I just heard someone calling my name. At first I thought the voice was outside but then he touched my hand. I wondered how he got in because the door was locked. He said it was his time to come and that he had a purpose to fulfill.”
Karen peered at him closely. “What does he look like? How old is he?”
“He’s just a toddler, not much older than my son, about two or three. He’s got blue eyes, a little lighter than yours in colour. His hair is longish and red, bright red.”
“What’s his name?”
“That’s funny.”, John said smiling sheepishly. “He just told me that this morning. It’s Peter.”
She was dying to ask him more questions, to discover all that she could about this, what should she call him, this entity. The
practical side of her knew she had to get Nash back home and notify everyone else that he was fine, relatively speaking.
“Let’s go back to the hotel now.” She put her hand in his and pulled him to his feet.
When they arrived, she found the little search party out in front. More people had gathered. They actually parted for her and John as she led him to the tavern.
“John, why don’t you go up to your room, and I’ll be there after I’ve checked in.”
He nodded and avoiding the looks from his brothers, he did as she asked.
“Where did you find him?” “How was he?” She answered their queries one by one.
Tina saw how tired Karen was. “Would you like to go to your room, or can I get you something to eat? You look like you could use a good stiff drink right now.”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t mind that”, she answered.
The men let Tina take Karen away.
Zack asked Biebe, “So what do you think John?”
John shook his head, “Anthony’s afraid he might have to be hospitalized.”
“In town? Isn’t that a risk?”, Alex asked.
No one responded. They knew all too well.
“One thing’s for sure. Chelle was right. Nash and Karen have something going on. There’s definitely a connection there”, Cort added quietly.
“But is that good for John?”, Zack said aloud what a number of them were thinking.
Karen and Tina sat down in the bar, and soon Michelle joined them. They talked about Nash for a while. Neither of them had been introduced to ‘Peter’.
“When John’s in a bad way, he gets aggressive and tries to fight with somebody named Nolan. That’s the only person any of us has come across”, Michelle informed Karen.
“All right, so there’s at least two people he sees that aren’t real. Now in his movie, he seemed to get better when he was taking his medication. Do you have any idea whether he’s taking it?”, Karen pressed the ladies.
“He was taking pills three times a day but since we don’t know whether he takes them, Anthony has started injecting him.”
Tina and Chelle looked at each other.
Karen got testy. “Look, don’t dick around with me. You wanted me here Michelle. You better tell me what’s going down.”
“He’s giving him Haloperidol”, Michelle replied.
She tried to recall what she had read about that drug but couldn’t remember.
“We are glad you’re here”, Tina said. “We want to do everything possible for John.”
“That’s what I keep hearing. I’m just here for the weekend though”, Karen emphatically reinforced. “By the way Michelle, I don’t want to stay in my old room. Just give me a plain old hotel room with no fancy touches.”
She was now in that room, and all she wanted to do was to lie on the bed and crash. Her flare up of panic in the cemetery had taken a lot out of her. Add on the events of the rest of the day, and the last thing she wanted to do was deal with more of John’s delusions.
But she had to. It was time to find out exactly what was brewing in John’s mind, whether it be beautiful or not.
She met him back in his room. He still hadn’t changed out of his old clothes. She ordered up something from the kitchen. She knew that neither of them wanted to see anyone else. They ate in silence. Karen barely registered any taste at all.
John finally broke the mood saying, “I’m glad you’re here.”
She nodded, “I am too.”
He stared at her. “I’m sorry you didn’t get to meet Peter. He would have loved to have finally known you.”
Karen got up from the table and walked over to John’s desk and sat on the edge of it. She couldn’t think of any gentle or kind words anymore to use to catapult John back into the real world. So she would be blunt and risk alienating him forever.
“I don’t know how to say this John. I know it’s not your fault. You’re sick, and you don’t recognize your illness. I don’t mean to be cruel or insensitive, but I’m also not going to lead you down the garden path.” She stopped. He was still just sitting there glancing at his barely touched plate.
He quietly said, “You’re going to say Peter doesn’t exist like you did before in the cemetery.”
“That’s right. There are no children here.”
He rubbed his hand over his face. “Maybe there is such a phenomenon as deja vu.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Charles, Marcie and Parcher weren’t really there either, though I swear they made their presence felt.”
Karen walked back to the table and sat down opposite him. “Do you still see any of them?”
“Not since I’ve arrived here.”
“You must miss Charles. He sounds like he was a really good friend.”
John looked at her as if she was playing with him. “But he wasn’t real.”
“No, but he still had all the qualities you would have liked in a genuine mate, didn’t he? I’m sure at times he was an immense comfort to you.”
His eyes lit up. “You realize that. Most people don’t. That’s why it was so hard to ignore him and then give him up for good.”
“I can understand that. This illness is like a double-edged sword. Your hallucinations take you places where you’ve never been, to people you might never otherwise meet, and then you have to desert them in the end, just when they have become familiar and fascinating.”
“I’m really crazy, aren’t I?” John got up and stepped over to the window, staring out at the horizon.
She followed him. “Crazy isn’t the word to use.”
“Why not?”, he asked brusquely. Please don’t tell me I’m just having a psychotic breakdown. That’s just an euphemism.”
“Does labelling yourself make you feel better John? Does your mind have to somehow find a category for you? First, it was child
prodigy, then genius mathematician, and now raving lunatic?”
He grabbed her arm roughly and shook her. “Don’t you dare mock me. I won’t allow it of you of all people.”
She rubbed her arm and faced him. “Good. Now we’re getting somewhere. At last, I see some fighting spirit. Because that’s what you need John, to recover and keep on going. You’ve got to fight this. Staying locked up here in your room and moaning about your fate is not what’s going to make you well.”
John’s face contorted in savagery. “What happened to your compassion and your empathy?”
“Is that how want me to act always? Just say nice things and use the words that you want to hear? Cause I can do that, but all that will do is keep you insulated, protected from yourself and everything around you. If being not so nice is going to motivate you or get you angry enought to get off your duff and do something, then I’ll glady play the bitch. I’ve had a lot of practice at it John.”
She walked towards the door. “I came here with work in mind. But I’m not going to feel pity for you. Yes, life has dealt you a cruel hand, but you can get even by living the best life you can. I believe it was Napolean who once said, ‘Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.’ If you decide you’re ready to get started, you knock on my door.”
Karen opened the door and stepped out into the hall. She swiftly stared walking but he caught up to her. “Please, I don’t want you to go.”
She was just going to shrug him off, but the look in his eyes stopped her.
“I’m ready and willing to work. I want to make myself well. I’ll do whatever it takes.”
Her eyes stared into his with the same intensity. “Fine, then let’s begin.”