Pat was a couple years older than me, a big guy – about 6’4 – and over a hundred kilos. He’d been in a car accident that had led to some mental problems – although I’m not sure how that had happened, whether it was a physical injury or what. Another of Roo’s friends, Aaron, told me that the accident was a trigger.
Most of the time Pat was okay, and we’d go over to his place and watch movies or wrestling or something like that, whatever medicine he was taking taming his demons and keeping them at bay. He was typically a garrulous, good-humoured guy. But there were other times his demons got loose and he had spells.
Like one Saturday night, Pat told Stan and me that his roommate, Gazza – another guy from Roo’s circle of friends – was the devil. We thought he was joking. Gazza was about 5’4, a roly-poly and the most lackadaisical, inoffensive, unthreatening guy you could imagine. But Pat persisted. A song came on TV, something by INXS, and Pat went on to claim that Michael Hutchence also had the devil in him.
He then demanded to know whether I had the devil in me.
Pat peered into my eyes, me wondering what he was looking for and worried he was going to find it whether it was there or not. Because Pat was so much bigger than me, if he decided to go homicidal, I was gone. Fortunately, he found nothing. He checked Stan, and found nothing there also, but then it occurred to him that he had to see us when we were angry, just in case we were hiding our true feelings. He punched me in the shoulder hard enough to rock me.
The same fears raged in me – he was so big he could kill me. My mind raced. I told Pat he was my friend, that I knew he was trying to make me angry, but that I’d never get angry at him. He thought about that a moment, then nodded, satisfied.
The night went on, Pat holding conversations with non-existent people, and responding to voices only he could hear. Sometimes, he muttered to himself over and over that we had to kill Gazza, and told me privately that at night, he blockaded his bedroom door with the mattress so Gazza couldn’t get in.
Everybody else was unconcerned and drank and smoked the night away. They were used to Pat’s dips out of reality and, I guess, knew that medication would rope him back in. But I was terrified. I had mental problems. Was this my future?
Pat clung to me throughout the night. He asked how I was dealing with my problems. I told him about my psychiatrist, about my meds. Then I told him how when I was younger and had been going through a bad time, I’d started reading the Bible and that had helped. He asked me to get him a Bible. I said I was going to the city on Tuesday (with my cousin Ange) to watch a movie, and I’d pick one up for him and bring it.
When one of the guys offered me a lift home, I jumped at the chance. I just couldn’t stay there. I was sorry for Pat and what he was going through, but sitting there scared me about heading the same way. The more I saw of Pat’s stuff, the more I thought I’d worry myself into experiencing the same things.
Stan hung around, though – probably because there was beer to be drunk. When I spoke to him the next day, he said that Pat tried to get him to hear the voices, that they would sit there, quietly, Pat telling him when to listen.
I’m glad I wasn’t around for that.
Come Tuesday, Ange and I went to the city to watch a movie. I’d told Ange about my mission for Pat. Ange had never met Pat, but was sympathetic (because who wouldn’t be?), so after the movie, I bought a Bible from a bookstore and we caught the train back to Pat’s place.
As we approached Pat’s unit, we heard a clanking. I’m not sure what it was. Maybe a busted washing machine on the spin cycle or something. I knocked on the screen door. The front door opened. From behind the screen door, Pat shouted a greeting and mistook Ange for Stan. Then Pat opened the screen door and came out. He was much livelier than Saturday night, but there were dark crescents under his eyes. He looked closely at Ange, realising he wasn’t Stan. I introduced the two.
‘Hey, Pat,’ I said. ‘I got you that Bible.’
I handed him the bag the Bible was in. He took it out, looked at it, shook his head. ‘This isn’t it,’ he said.
‘Pat, it’s the Bible, what’re you talking about?’
‘This isn’t it. I wrote the Bible.’
‘I wrote the Bible. It’s on the shelves now. You should go get it.’
He handed me back the Bible and the bag. He was serious. His behaviour stunned Ange. The poor guy had just wanted to see a movie today.
‘Hear that?’ he asked, pointing back into his unit to indicate the clanking.
‘The Iraqis attacked last night.’
Other than the fact that the Gulf War was getting saturation coverage on TV, there wasn’t a lot to say to that.
‘I got a machine,’ Pat went on. ‘I have all their missiles inside.’
By now, I was working out how the hell to get out of there. But there was no grand plan. There never is in situations like this.
‘Pat, we’ve gotta go,’ I said.
‘Okay.’ Pat went back inside his unit, then returned moments later. Now he had a plate in his hand. On it were meticulously prepared steak, eggs, and mashed potato. ‘I’ve gotta find a dog and feed this to him.’
Ange and I left, leaving Pat to search for a dog.
It wasn’t long before Pat’s family had him institutionalised, where he was shot up with drugs and brought back from wherever he was. Stan and I visited him several weeks later when he returned home. He was mostly back to normal. He stammered – he did anyway when he was excited – but he was lucid, and there was no talk of the devil.
We did talk about the voices, though. I tried to tell him they weren’t real. He agreed, but took the conversation in another direction and said that the doctors had told him not to listen to the voices as they lied. Then he asked Stan for a lift the next morning to get his med, which was a shot or something they gave him.
The next morning, Stan and I drove him to some clinic I’d never heard of. Pat was still in great spirits – bright, energetic, and animated. He went into the clinic and came out stoned. The life was gone from him. His voice had become monotone. He moved like he was weighted down. And he kept confusing Stan and me. I wondered how long he would last like this, before some semblance of the real Pat re-emerged.
When I next saw Dr Grace, I told him about Pat and how worried I was that I might turn out the same way. Dr Grace assured me that Pat was suffering from a different set of problems to mine. I countered, saying that Pat heard voices, and Dr Victor asked me if I’d ever heard voices. Dr Grace was astonished; then – as if to cover for Dr Victor – suggested that Dr Victor probably had a checklist of questions he asked, but that I shouldn’t be concerned in that regard.
It was the first clue that maybe Dr Victor hadn’t handled me as well as he should’ve.