If the stack of tomes at my desk was any taller, onlookers would think I was playing the textbook version of Jenga. But I’m not.
I’m here in the downtown branch of the Los Angeles Public Library doing research. And piled high in front of me is just about every book I can find on schizophrenia.
You’d think that meant I had everything under control. Insane people never think they’re crazy. It’s always the sane who are convinced they’re nuts.
So, where does that leave me?
For the past seven months I’ve been getting visits from dead celebrities who are visible only to me. But it’s time to stop this madness. I’m looking for anything that can lead to a cure.
“Jesus creeping god, man!” came a voice from across the table. “What’s with these books?”
I moved some volumes aside to see who was talking… Sitting on the other side of the table was a balding man wearing aviator glasses, holding a silver cigarette holder in his mouth. He wore a shoulder holster, which sported a snub-nosed .44 revolver.
“Cornering the market on crazy?” he asked.
I immediately recognized famed journalist and author Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.
“I’m afraid I already have,” I said.
My condition always seemed to manifest people who offered advice and observations about things in my life. So, I suppose it was no coincidence that the man who had written books like “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” which blurred the line between reality and fantasy, was now sitting before me.
“I’m looking for a cure for my Paranoiac Schizophrenic Disorder,” I explained. “It cost me my girlfriend, Shelby; it’s affecting my work life; and it makes strangers think I’m nuts.”
As I chatted, a woman walked by, holding the hand of a young girl.
“Mommy, why is that man talking to himself?” she asked. The mother eyeballed me, the book at the top of my stack, “Schizophrenia: Causes and Cures,” then looked back at me.
“Come on, dear, let’s leave that gentleman alone.” And they briskly walked off.
“See?” I said to Hunter. “This has got to stop.”
But Hunter paid little attention to me. He was emptying a vial of white powder onto the cover of a book called “The Complete Guide to Schizophrenia.” Pulling his cigarette out of its long silver holder, he proceeded to use the tube to make the white line disappear up his nose with one long snort.
“Elixir of the gods. Care for a toot, Kyle?”
“I don’t need that right now,” I said.
Thompson laughed. “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone,” he said, “but they’ve always worked for me.”
Just then a security officer walked up. “Sir, we’ve received complaints about your talking. This is a library; could you please keep it down?” Then he left.
I looked across the table, and now Thompson was smoking a joint. “Takes the edge off the coke,” he said with a contented hazy smile.
“Come on, I’m trying to work here,” I said, reaching for a book from someplace called the PSD Institute.
“Suit yourself,” Thompson said. Then, I saw something that shocked me. No, it wasn’t the bottle of Jim Beam that Thompson was now drinking. It was a person at the other end of the building.
Near rows of legal tomes that lined the room, walking down an aisle, was Shelby.
I could feel my heart beating faster. It had been about four months since our breakup. She never admitted it, but I always felt my PSD put our relationship on the road to ruin.
“Shelby! Shelby!” I yelled.
About five people looked up from their books, all giving me a collective “Shusshh.” But I didn’t care. Damn, it was Shelby!
I had to find her. I ran up and down aisles of books, past authors whose names started with A’s… then B’s, next C’s… “Shelby! Where are you!”
Then, right around the M’s… It happened. There she was. Shelby.
She gave me a sheepish grin, looking up at me with those big brown eyes I always loved. “Hi, Kyle.”
“Shelby. Long time.”
My first instinct was to give her a hug, but then I thought better of it. Best to play it cool.
“Kyle,” she said. “What brings you here?”
I spilled the beans about my PSD. The hallucinations. Everything. “Surely, you must have known something was up.”
“Yes… Your behavior was odd. I got tired of the excuses, the secrecy. I couldn’t take it, Kyle. I had to leave to maintain my own sanity.”
“But that’s going to change, Shelby, I promise. I’m a man on a mission to get rid of this cursed condition. Then things can go back to the way they were when we first met.”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible anymore, Kyle.”
“Nothing’s impossible, Shelby. I can change. I’ve found a place—the PSD Institute—I think they can cure me.”
Just then Hunter Thompson approached me. “Sweet god of Isis, Kyle, you need to calm down.” He offered me his joint. “You could use this.”
“No! Stop! Go away!”
Shelby looked at me.
“No, not you, go away… Him, go away!”
“Kyle, this is all making me very uncomfortable,” said Shelby.
Then she approached Thompson. “Hunter, I could use a hit off that joint.”
Shelby took a long drag, and instantly she seemed more at ease. But something wasn’t right.
“Wait a second,” I said. “You can see him?”
“Yes,” Shelby said.
“Then, you understand my PSD. You understand what I’ve been going through.”
“Yes, Kyle, better than you’ll ever know.”
I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was the security officer. “We’ve gotten more complaints about you, sir; you’re going to have to leave.”
“Fine,” I said. “Come on, Shelby, let’s talk outside.”
I reached for her hand, but it went through hers as if it were a mirage. Then I grabbed Shelby’s waist, but it was like she was made of smoke.
Then it hit me… Shelby could see Hunter Thompson. Her body was a mere wisp…
“Shelby… Are you…”
“Dead as a door nail,” she said.
I stopped in my tracks. “What? How?”
“You can read about it in last week’s L.A. Times. Let’s just say you were right about Koreatown not being safe after 2 a.m.”
“Oh my god, Shelby,” I said. “This can’t be. It really is over between us.”
“Well, Kyle,” she said as her body slowly dematerialized into vapor, “you were never a fan of long distance relationships.”
Then, she was gone.
I left the library, knowing what I had to do.
I gave notice at work, sold my furniture, ditched my apartment. I packed my car with the barest of belongings I still owned. It was time to leave Los Angeles. There was nothing to stay here for.
But there was one piece of business left for me.
The next morning I drove to Forest Lawn, the huge cemetery on a lush hillside near Griffith Park.
I walked to the top of the hill, until I came upon a gray headstone. I looked at the name: Shelby Seymour, 1988 – 2013.
“Goodbye, Shelby. I wish things could have worked out. But fate had other plans.”
“You crazy rat bastard! Get a grip.” I turned around and standing behind me was the good doctor himself, Hunter S. Thompson.
“She was the love of my life,” I said.
“Relationships come and go, boy. Buy the ticket, take the ride.”
The fact that I was standing in a cemetery, casually chatting with an actual dead person, told me my insanity had reached its zenith.
“I’m heading to the car,” said Thompson. “Meet you there.”
“Sure,” I said. “Give me a moment.”
Shelby always loved roses. But I was allergic to them. I placed a long stem rose on the ground, and started sneezing uncontrollably.
Clearly, it was time to go. I walked past rows of statuesque oaks that lined the spacious grounds. Then, I came upon a fountain. Standing there, no doubt talking about music was Marvin Gaye chatting up Andy Gibb.
Liberace, wearing a long flowing robe waltzed on by and said, “You’re making the right choice, Kyle. Go for it.”
Not far away was an odd sight, two old TV cops, Telly Savalas and Jack Webb. “Hey, babe, you need an escort out of here?” asked Savalas.
“No, I’ll be fine,” I said as I moved past them.
Rounding a bend, I saw Buster Keaton practicing pratfalls while Stan Laurel and Marty Feldman looked on, both laughing loudly. I waved, and Freddie Prinze gave me a thumbs up.
Near the bottom of the hill, I saw a crazy mix of old and new Hollywood as Brittany Murphy was in a heated argument with Bette Davis. John Ritter stood nearby and shook his head as if he’d seen it all before.
A warm feeling shot through me as Ozzie and Harriet Nelson approached. “Now you drive safely, Kyle,” said Harriet, ever the good mom.
Finally, I reached the bottom of the hill. I looked up at the huge black wrought iron gate that was the entrance to Forest Lawn and scanned the nearly 100,000 plots that populated the place.
I couldn’t help feeling that the dearly departed had given me comfort in my hour of need.
“Goodbye, dead people” I said. “I love you, but I hope you finally leave my head once and for all. I need a new beginning.”
“You are correct, sir,” I could hear a distant Ed McMahon say.
Then, I walked to my car. Seated on the passenger side was Hunter Thompson.
“We’re off to the PSD Institute in St. Paul, Minnesota,” I said. “If there’s one place that can stop these hallucinations, that’s it.”
“Strange place for a psychological institute,” said Thompson. “On the other hand, any state that could elect both Al Franken and Michele Bachmann, must know a thing or two about schizophrenia.”
As I grabbed my sunglasses from the dashboard, Thompson rummaged through a lap bag.
“What’s it gonna be?” he said. “Some mescaline, acid, amyl, coke? How about a shot of tequila?”
“Not while I’m driving,” I said. “You trying to get me killed?”
I put the car in drive, and started on my journey for a cure.