Losing the Battle

Jerry holed up in their Westover house and didn't answer the telephone. He needed to go to Louisa, but that wasn't the right thing to do, somehow. He might have been so far down that he couldn't get up the energy for the trip. He got crazier and crazier. One night when he dove through the glass of the ground-floor dining room window, Pam called Ted and me to help. Ted coaxed Jerry back in the house. I tried to talk to him and found him so hostile I backed off in cold fear, the first and only powerfully negative feeling I ever had around him. Pam called the cops and had him committed. Jerry told me later he was trying to kill himself by jumping out the window, but mistakenly thought he was in the bedroom upstairs.

In a few weeks Jerry was discharged with a prescription for Librium. It was the first time he had ever tried anything but self-medication with alcohol and pot. He seemed to be more stable and his eyes looked brighter, but the medication didn't help for long. Jerry tried to make it work, but it wasn't in the cards for him. Pam said she came home from school one night and found the house reeking of gas, the kitchen sealed up with plastic sheeting and tape, and Jerry with his head in the oven. Pam had enough and went to Annapolis to stay with her sister for the duration.

Sears Ghost sailboatTed counseled Jerry that if he wanted to commit suicide, he should do it in an honorable way, rather than by blowing up the neighborhood. Pam had an 11' sailboat that needed a little reinforcement in the transom, but was otherwise sound and had an intact sail. Ted suggested that Jerry fix the transom and take off in the boat down the Potomac to see where he ended up. Jerry set the boat up on sawhorses in the duplex's living room and got started on the repair, but his emotional state was too far gone to finish the job.

One of my Saturday morning runs took me past Pam and Jerry's house. I smelled gas. I knocked on the door. Jerry answered. He looked like hell. He smelled sour. His hair was dripping perspiration. His skin was ashen. He wouldn't let me in. I ran to the market in Westover and called the cops. The next time I saw the house, the gas supply was firmly shut down, with a secure seal on the meter.

Pam laid out her terms to Jerry. He was to be out by a date certain. When the day arrived, she took the train back from Annapolis. I picked her up at the station and we drove to Ted's and my house; Pam didn't want to return to her own house until she was certain Jerry was gone. On the way, we saw Jerry trudging down George Mason Drive, wearing his backpack, probably headed for I-66 to hitch a ride toward Louisa. It was the last time I saw him.