"Cat's foot iron claw"
During my student internship, I arrive at the clearest moment of realization; I can never fully know my own follies. They are the follies that wake me up in the middle of the night. I can only recognize their presence and I quickly learn this.
The class is a group therapy session with a psychiatric social worker. The class is developed by my boss, a psychologist. I live outside of town on her brood mare ranch with the Celtic Wench, where I work as a ranch hand. I shovel horse shit, dog shit, mend fence, and pick wild persimmons.
Two weeks into the class, we are assigned clients to talk with and help. The Magician is assigned to me along with a woman. The first questions that come to my mind are; what is he like? Who is the Magician? Of course, the psychiatric social worker doesn't tell us. We are left to figure out who they are. It doesn't take long for the class to realize we are working with people we won't be able to help. Discovering who the Magician is becomes easy. What to do with the discovery is difficult.
After a few weeks of talking with the Magician, I realize that I am face to face with a schizophrenic mind. This discovery is crystal clear. He goes into a reality that is unfathomable. Yet one lucid day I find out more. He sometimes mentions suicide.
"Magician, do you remember becoming this way?" I asked in one of the first times I meet him. "Why did you want to kill yourself?" I sit and listen after asking the question. I expect to hear a nonsensical answer. "I got a scholarship to go to Boston College." he starts out. "I received a bachelor's degree in Philosophy." he tells me. "Where did this come from?" I quiz myself not expecting his answer. I can see part of his soul bleeding through now. Is the Magician that educated? "I then graduated and received a scholarship to go to seminary at Southern Methodist University." He tells me this while lucidness is still with him. "I was home for Thanksgiving and I was depressed and wanted to kill myself. I tried to kill myself sitting in the car, you know, I've already told you about that time."
I can only imagine what his family and local authorities thought about his strange new behavior. "And then during that Christmas I found myself on top of the water tower. I want to jump off of it." He goes on to tell me how the police of the small farm town where he grew up, tried successfully to talk him out of it; that is when he first knew something was really wrong. He met with the doctors and they sent him to the state hospital.
I am taking Intro to Logic, so I ask him about the Informal Fallacies. To my amazement, he rattles them off with a description for each one. He does so in lightning fashion while staring into space. I come to learn that this indicates that he is partially off his medications and that he will shortly plunge into the depths of his own hellish realm.
The slide into oblivion begins when the Magician starts taking "walks". As the slide from our reality and into his secret reality deepens, he withdraws from everyone that knows him, until he no longer recognizes or acknowledges anyone. The slide is slippery and the line separating our two realities is a punctured hole and the puncture is growing ever wider.
There is no surprise for me when after meeting with the Magician for 3 months, he now slips away from my grasp. I am unable to see him until the following February. The Magician is hidden away from us all. The mental health center is the place where he feels safe and secure from our reality. The world we know does not shatter his world. He battles with his torments deep within The Chasm.
"Neuro-surgeons scream for more..."
Describing the descent into the hell of schizophrenia, is not easy. It is rather like this. Imagine taking every conscious thought, every memory and put them in a bucket, like multi-colored confetti and in a precise order. Shake the bucket up. Next throw it as high in the air as possible, from the edge of an infinite pit, with a strong wind at your back. Now, somehow go to the bottom of The Chasm and make sure you gather everything you had in the bucket. Put it all back in the same order you had it when you first started.
The drug Haloperidol (AKA haldol) is the Magician's transport to the bottom of The Chasm and back. The Magician is always running up and down the canyon of despair. While inside the mental health center three months he wanders, for three months, lost at the bottom. The Magician is searching for the confetti that is the structure of his existence. I am not allowed to see him or help him and I am assigned a new client.
Eventually, the Magician emerges from the depths of the spiraling hole. In February he is allowed to go home. I go to see him once again and to help him. I find out from him that the holidays were too much for him to deal with. The mental health center always becomes full during the holidays. The Magician stopped taking his medications during that time and doing so took him to the bottom.
I take him to lunch and we talk about him being inside the mental health center. He doesn't say much about it, so we talk about philosophers I am studying and logic. He enjoys those discussions and I revel in his knowledge of the subject.
"At paranoia's poison door."
Now, having emerged from The Chasm yet again, he once more has hope. This hope infects me as well. Yet for the Magician, hope is a Trickster in disguise. Hope is always there for the Magician but nothing about it can be achieved. Hope is another torn and punctured line between him and I. Hope is so thin, and so transparent for him. Hope is always just beyond his grasp. Spring arrives and with it comes new life and hope is renewed.
The Magician wants to work, to support himself and he's given the opportunity. I am encouraged and think that maybe a corner is somehow turned. But the Trickster called hope is never far away from the Magician. It's only a matter of time before hope fades away and the Trickster overcomes him.
He has a chance to clean yards with a crew and he gets picked up by the crew chief every morning. This works out for awhile. But one day I find out that he does not show up at the curb to be picked up by the crew chief. I am supposed to meet with him the next day.
"No...I am not here..."
I discover he is nowhere to be found and no one has seen him. I decide for the first time, to go to where he lives and ask around. As I approach the old two-story house where he lives, I feel my heart quickening. I don't know what to expect. In a way I am scared of what I will find. I enter and start asking people where his room is.
Approaching his room, I see that his door is open. Looking in, I notice the room is a total wreck and to my left is the Magician. He is laying on his back, and staring straight up into the universe past the ceiling. At first I suspect the worst. "Magician!, it's me Jaguar, I came to see how you are doing." I am uncertain what, if anything, will happen next. The Magician is straight and stiff on his bed; he does not answer me; his eyes do not blink. Dusting off a chair, I pull it up and sit down. Long moments pass. I watch him carefully and hopefully. Finally, I notice that he is taking shallow breaths.
"Huh?" I hear him say. Maybe he's coming back. Maybe I am the bit of reality that he needs to re-enter what we call normalcy. "No, I am not here." he tells me, still staring straight up. For a brief moment, the Magician recoils back to reality, from the thin thread he is treading on; then he is gone again back to The Chasm. My heart sinks as he re-enters his despair. I sit there for a bit longer, trying to contact him. It is as if I am Mission Control trying to reach a wayfaring space traveler.
Then all of a sudden, he raises up, barefoot and walks out of his room, as if I am not there. The Magician quickly leaves, as I follow walking behind him, I call out to him. He cannot hear me. He walks around the house a few times and then he is gone. I go to the center and tell them. "Oh yes, we will find him and have him picked up. Thanks". The lady at the front desk says this so matter-of-factually. "Shit! doesn't she know how important this is?" I think to myself. She doesn't care, Magician is just one of many.
"Twenty first century schizoid man."
Again, days go by and he is gone. I wonder about what will happen to him. I finish my student internship not seeing him again in a professional setting. I find out from people that he has been "walking" lately. He walks barefoot, on the streets until his feet bleed and are a mess. Upon hearing this, on nights when I can't sleep, I drive around the small town to see if I can find him; I drive and search and drive and search.
The police see him occasionally at nights, during their patrols and when they do, they pick him up and take him to the mental health center. Hearing this relieves me a little. But the loneliness he must have, the constant fear he must confront, at times overwhelms me. I ask around at the center about him. One of the psychiatric social workers tells me he is not doing well and won't take his medications. I remember a conversation I had with him once. "Would you ever consider taking your life again?" I asked him then. I remember the Magician telling me, "If I became myself again, if I became what I was ... I might." I am such a neophyte, an idiot. The insight he gives me is astounding, yet simple.
There are times during the summer that the Magician occupies my thoughts. The thoughts are not good and are burdensome. They are like copperhead snakes in my mind, always there hiding, ready to strike and easily provoked. I envision him swirling around deep within The Chasm, furiously grasping at each tidbit of his spirit. Yet with each step he must be tumbling further downward into deeper depths. There is no magic wand nor a silver bullet to save him the misery and despair he must constantly live with. No matter what, I cannot save him. I have no secret spells nor magic potions.
Then on a hot summer afternoon the Wench and I go to get an ice cream at the drive-in. As usual, I keep one eye to the road and one on the lookout, for the Magician. There on the side of the road, walking barefoot, is the Magician. I stop the car and yell at him as loud as I can. He whips back to my reality briefly and sees me motioning him over to get into the car. I run over and help him into the car. I tell the Wench to get in the back seat and when he gets in to lock the door and make sure he does not unlock it.
He is wearing a heavy leather jacket in the incredible summer heat. He has sweat so much that he is totally dehydrated. I look at his bare feet and they are bleeding and raw-looking. "Magician, let's get you a lemonade, OK?" He stares straight ahead and says nothing. "Then I will take you to the mental health center so you can take care of your feet." Magician must have been walking all night and into the afternoon.
At the drive-in I order two large lemonade drinks for him. He quickly drinks them down, realizing his own thirst. I order one more. But before it comes he crawls out the window of my Corvair. He did it so fast I couldn't stop him. My mind is racing about what to do. I decide that if I get him back in the car that I would be unable to keep him there and he might jump out while I am driving down the road. I call the MHC and they tell me they will get the police to pick him up. Maybe that is what he wanted. I ask myself what are the police to him?
"I talk to the wind, my words are all carried away"
I go on with my life and I suppose the Magician does too. He taught me many things. I often see people in the city where I live, walking and talking incoherently. I am briefly reminded of the Magician and his hopelessness. I try not to think about it too much. I look at them briefly...and then...I look away.
I should note that the section headings are from lyrics of the first King Crimson album. The lyricist is Peter Sinfield.