Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Dan was a friend of my kids about 20 years ago through middle school and high school. He stayed in the neighborhood after graduating high school while most of his friends went on to Colleges away from home.

A few days ago, my neighbor rang my bell to tell me that there was a "strange man" wandering outside asking her if my family still lived in this house. She was concerned because he appeared disheveled and didn't seem to be make sense when he spoke.

I went outside and after a few seconds recognized that this ghost of a young man in his early 30's was Dan. I hadn't seen him in 20 years and I hugged him, asking him "how are you"?

Dan replied with the words "truth, doing OK". After a few more seconds it became apparent that Dan could no longer communicate coherently, unable to put more than 3 or 4 words together, while at the same time his entire body was literally shaking with spasms.

I told Dan that he was not speaking clearly to me and he seemed to be ill. His response was "No, OK, truth, Ok, truth, Yes".

My kids had told me that during high school Dan was using drugs and later on had escalated to hard drug usage. It was now as I previously said over 20 yrs. later and Dan had apparently suffered some type of psychotic breakdown and/or brain damage from his many years of drug usage. He did not appear to be high, but did appear to be heavily medicated on some cocktail of anti-psychotic medications. He also was loudly talking, arguing out loud with himself, and answering, a sign that he was hearing voices inside his head.

I was stunned. Although I have treated many people with psychiatric disorders and drug addictions, this was Dan, the sweet, kind kid that used to hang out in my house and play sports with us. This was Dan who was filled with life, dreams, and plans for his future. 

What I saw was a horrific sight, a living, death that inhabited a hollow body with almost no brain remaining.

My first reaction was to offer him food, he said "No, truth", my next reaction was to offer him some money and he replied "No". 

I asked him where he lived and he said the name of a local SRO flea bag hotel that the County used for storage of human beings who were homeless or had psychiatric disorders. 

I asked him if he wanted to talk with me, could I help him, he said "No". I asked what he was doing at my house, he mentioned the name of one of my children. Surprisingly he then said my name "Jerry, your good man, and repeated it several times.

He asked about one of my kids and wanted to know if I could give his phone number in case he wanted to contact Dan. He couldn't write as his hands were trembling so much, so I wrote Dan's cell phone number down and put it in my pocket.

Dan left after awhile and I saw him down the street, yelling loudly, arguing with himself, pacing, then resuming that cycle over and over repeatedly. 

He came back to my house, stood in front for another 15 minutes and continued his ranting behavior. After awhile Dan disappeared around the corner.

I imagine that something had stirred inside of Dan to take a walk through his old neighborhood, perhaps to try remembering who he used to be.

I found myself asking was Dan "better off" dead than being "alive" in this suffering state of mind. He was beyond help and has no future. He is not going to get better, he will become even more lost as he ages and continues to be part of the "system" that warehouses him.

As a human being, this sick mumbling, incoherent Dan, touched me emotionally in a tragically sad manner, that I couldn't do anything to help him.

I have stayed with this image in my mind, in my heart since then, although I don't want to remember what it was like talking to a dead living person who I used to know.

Sure we can blame some of Dan's problems on choices he made for himself, or where is his mom, or brother to help him, but shit, I am not into blaming anyone.

Dan is in intolerable pain, a walking zombie, waiting for his life to end and take him out of his misery.

That no-one can help ease his pain, stop his suffering, is haunting.

That he is alone, lost, and broken into splattered pieces of brain matter is an ugly image.

Dan, you deserved better but that's never going to be. I am sorry that your in such agony.