He’s having a seizure in the back of the BMW. It’s about 10 PM.
The grunting and gasping is familiar to me, as is the driving of the knees up to the stomach. Not pain, but struggle, as though electrified. Which he is, of course.
Is this what I look like, I wonder., when it happens to me. Hands in fist to the top of the head, like an emergency landing. Like an earthquake. The spine roiling like the sea, a twist and curve in jagged spasms. The colour first crimson, then white, then blue blue blue. But only for a second. He catches his breath.
He tells me he’s going to throw himself out of the car into traffic. But there are child locks in the back, I tell him, and he can’t get out until we’re at the hospital. It’s a lie, but it works. He slams his arms against the seat in anger and frustration, this threat denied him.
His mother drives, not speeding but almost, and deliberately. These are dark roads, unlit and treacherous. I’ve had a few glasses of wine before this started, which I think have helped, but it means I’m not driving. The darkness is punctuated by the staccato of police lights, a road check or a tail light.
Pull over, he says. He wants the cops to take him in. He wants the showdown, he’s hungry for it. It gives the episode a kind of shape. Oh, it was a bad one, he got aggressive and he had to be re-arrested under the Act. Right now to him a taser would make more sense than what he’s going through. Minutes before he was blasting an iPod at full volume right against his head. To drown out the voices.
We’re 10 minutes out of the closest hospital. We can transport him from there if it gets bad.
I’m going to strangle you with the seatbelt, he tells his mother. And choke you to death. He’s just thinking out loud, a kind of weather report of the voices in his head. It’s not a threat. More like sketching on a napkin. It’s nothing.
I think the Ativan’s going to make that difficult, I say, offering him more.
Bite me, he says.
That’s not how it works. but if it did, I tease him, awesome. I’ll take your meds and go around biting people to medicate them. They could keep me on the ward. Like a syringe. A vaguely cannibalistic syringe. He laughs at this, a genuine laugh, and takes 2 more of the blue sublingual grains. Periwinkle.
8mg by now. That’s a lot, but there’s a lot of him. My nephew has grown from something I could tuck under my arm to 6’4 280 of psych patient. I put my hand on his knee and tell him he’s doing fine, he kept it together at the party and he can make it to the hospital, the other hospital, the half-hour-farther-away hospital where his stuff is. He’s going to want it in the morning. It’s okay.
He seizes again. Contorted face and twisting fingers, grasping at his sternum and scratching. Get it out. Whatever it is, get it out.
Get it out.
And then it is out, and he’s slack, his breathing ragged and sloppy. That’s the Ativan at last. We have peace for, oh, four minutes, and his mother tells me about the nurses. He comes round.
You just know I’m going to make a run for it, he says. When we get there.
I’d rather you didn’t. I’d have to stop you, and you forget how lazy I am.
Silently I thank him for the heads-up. I scramble through my sister’s purse for a phone.
A blackberry. Who the hell still uses a blackberry? I 411 for the hospital, patch through to the security desk and call for an escort. 10 minutes out. Meet us at emerg.
Who are you, they ask. RCMP? BCAS?
I’m family, I tell them. I’m his uncle.
They’re used to this. Family who talk like cops, or nurses. We know all the shorthand for the names of the wards, for meds, protocols. We learn this for our own sanity, for the sake of punching through the noise. Through possible refusals and denials. We never ask. We inform.
Another seizure. This one slower, like he’s got phone books taped to his limbs. He compensates by being more vocal, but this too is an effort. I know these ones, too, when you’re seizing and still partly conscious but too oh-fuck-it to care. You don’t fight it or surrender to it. It just happens to you and everything for a moment is wet newsprint. His face is slack after.
Just sleep, I say.
Four minutes out. In silence. His mother needs to pee, needed to before this happened, and she would cheerfully murder us for a cigarette.
ER. She pulls into the tower bay, his tower, and I remind her that security is waiting for us at emerg.
He’s asleep, or seems that way, but something’s off. I know he’s listening.
The security guy is young, and I tell him to get a chair, which he does, and returns with it immediately. I unbuckle my nephew.
We’re here. We’re going to wrangle you in that chair and get you to your room, you can listen to music. It’s okay. Thanks for holding it together. It’s not unlike shushing a horse.
We can’t fight him, security says. If he goes, we have to let him. I don’t have time to argue, but no, that’s not how it is.
He sort of lurches to the pavement, and finds his feet.
I’ve positioned myself halfway between him and the chair, figuring he’d more likely spiral to the pavement and wondering if I could prop him up enough to get the chair under him. But no, he’s running one two and I have nothing, no way to contain him. I do the only thing I can. I hug him.
He has 60 pounds on me, but I’m no ballerina. If he’s going anywhere, he’s taking me with him, and he has 500 pounds of man to move across a parking lot, plus 8 mg of lorazepam, which is a heavier burden. The episode itself a burden heavier still. I cling to him like a baby koala. It is all I can think of. A step, another, another, he slows but still it’s like stepping in front of a beer truck.
But now it all fits into a kind of narrative box. He’s run, he’s been stopped, security taking it from here. We both slowly, comically, slide to the blacktop, he to the chair and I to my ass. Security calls for backup. It’s funny at this point, because we all know it’s over. He crosses his legs casually.
I told you I’d run, he says, winking.
I know you warned me, and you warned me because you wanted me to stop you, I answer. Two more guards meet us, card us through back corridors away from other patients, multiple multiple doors which click definitively in our wake.
You okay, the security guard asks me in the elevator. He thinks I’m an idiot but isn’t allowed to say so. I can’t argue. I nod.
There’s the handoff to the ward nurse, and a line – a literal taped line – I am not allowed to cross. I hug him, this time out of affection and less of a tackle.
I need to get carded past the innumerable steel membranes back to the car, back to the warm autumn night.