My latest for the S. Project:A Slow Kind of Bad
Toni was younger than Helga and I were. She was also a little—okay, a lot—peculiar. Everyone at church talked about how sweet Toni was. Helga and I just exchanged glances; occasionally one of us would say darkly that the speaker didn’t know everything.
Toni went home one weekend. She was going to join the Air Force or the Army or the Border Patrol or something like that. I don’t remember now. It’s been too long, and I’ve tried to forget all of this. Anyway, one of the requirements was that she had to have a physical, so she went to her family doctor.
Early Sunday morning I heard a persistent knocking on the front door. I looked at my clock. 4 a.m. Who on earth was at the door at 4 a.m.? I got up and met Helga at my bedroom door. She’d heard the knocking, too. We went to the door and cautiously looked through the peephole. It was Toni. Why was she knocking, when she had a key? We let her in.
After about two minutes of conversation, it was obvious that something was really wrong, something way beyond Toni’s normal peculiarity. Helga went to the phone to call Toni’s family while I kept Toni in conversation.
She looked at me eerily. “I have two visions.”
“What do you mean?”
“When I look at you like this,” she said, looking at me straight on, “I see you. But when I look at you like this,” she said significantly, “I see your color.”
“Okay. So what color am I?”
“You’re white. White is good.”
Helga came in and gave me the high sign to join her in the kitchen.
“Toni, I’ll be right back, okay?”
“She’s red. Red is evil.” Toni glared at Helga, and then stared at the wall.
I joined Helga in the kitchen. “What is going on? She is—“
I stared at Helga. “What?”
“Her family has been frantic. They didn’t know where she was. When she had her mental health assessment, the doctor diagnosed her with schizophrenia and gave her some prescriptions. She wouldn’t take them because she said it was against the Word of Wisdom, but she seemed pretty calm. Then she disappeared sometime during the night, and they’ve been searching everywhere.”
“Oh, my gosh. We can’t deal with this by ourselves. What do we do?”
“I’ll call Ted and Mark.” They were our home teachers.
“Good call. I’ll keep Toni occupied until they get here.”
I went back into the living room and resumed my conversation with Toni. I don’t remember now much of what she said. Helga tried to come into the room, but every time she did, Toni went berserk. She kept insisting Helga was evil, and wouldn’t allow Helga to come anywhere near her. When Ted and Mark got there, Toni calmed down. They gave her a blessing, and stayed at our house until it was time to leave for church.
That morning at church Toni’s visiting teachers, two remarkably placid girls, kept her out of mine and Helga’s hair so that we could meet with a member of the Stake High Council who also happened to be a psychiatrist. He had already spoken with Toni’s family and with Toni. He told us that Toni was a paranoid schizophrenic, and was extremely delusional. He asked if we would be able to handle her for that day and night, and other arrangements would be made for her the next day. Helga and I were extremely reluctant to do so, but finally agreed.
Ted and Mark, as well as Sheila and Amber (Toni’s visiting teachers), all came back to the house with us after church. Toni got a bee in her bonnet about refusing to go into the house because the house was full of devils, but she was agreeable about having a picnic on the front lawn. So Helga and I stayed in the house preparing a meal, while the guys and Sheila and Amber stayed outside with Toni. As it grew dark, Toni was still refusing to go into the house, and we were all getting worried about what to do overnight.
Finally Toni said that if we would let her go with Sheila and Amber, she would be good, go to bed, and stay at their house all night. After careful consideration, we agreed, first warning Sheila and Amber (in private) what they were in for. They didn’t quite believe us, because other than Toni’s refusal to go into the house, they hadn’t seen any of her odd behavior. So off they went, and Helga and I just collapsed with exhaustion.
At 1 a.m., the phone rang. Sheila was in hysterics. Toni had disappeared, and they couldn’t find her. Amber had called the police and was out searching. Mark and Ted, as well as the other elders in the ward, had been called and were searching. Helga and I got up and got dressed again.
We eventually found Toni crouching outside by the central air conditioning unit. She wouldn’t come into the house. Helga called the police to tell them that she was there. They came; the psychiatrist from the stake came; and some other people were there. We were asked once again if we would keep her for the rest of the night, but this time we said no. We had been through enough already, and Toni had already proven herself more than capable at getting away from the people who were attempting to care for her. I honestly don’t remember who took her at that point, but I do know that she was safely taken to a mental health facility the next day.
By this time it was 4 or 5 a.m. I already knew there was no way on earth I was going to be able to go to work, and I also knew that I didn’t want to spend another moment in that house. My friend Carly came and picked me up so that I could spend the day in her apartment. It had been 24 hours since Toni first started knocking on our door. That 24 hours seemed like 24 years, a long, slow kind of bad.
NOTE: This one is autobiographical. This is a true experience, much abridged in details, although not in time frame. I’ve changed the names. Oh, and “Helga” was SO not evil!! The last I heard about “Toni” she was still refusing to take meds on the grounds that it was against the Word of Wisdom, was roaming the streets of the city, converting other mentally ill people to the church, and spawning more mentally ill children. If this sounds heartless, it absolutely is not intended to be so. There are some problems for which there don’t seem to be any solutions. And one more note–it is NOT against the Word of Wisdom for people to take medication that has been prescribed for them. Whatever kooky wack job things you hear about Mormons, that’s definitely not a true one, okay? Trust me on this one.