There's More Than One Way to Lose a Child—And Get Her Back
It occurs to me that Sally has been having these sorts of "flashes" all of her life. We just didn't know what they were. I remember her friends teasing her when she claimed that people were talking about her on buses or at restaurants.
Then, one evening in late August, everything changes. Sally and I are standing in the kitchen. I have spent the day at home with her, working on a script.
"Would you like a cup of tea?" I ask.
"That would be nice. Yes. Thank you."
"Please. And honey."
"Right. I'll put the honey in. I like watching it drip off the spoon."
Something about her tone has caught my attention: the modulation of her voice, its unpressured directness—measured, and with a warmth that I have not heard in her in months. Her eyes have softened. I caution myself not to be fooled. Yet the change in her is unmistakable.
I put on the kettle and we stand together by the stove. The opulent townhouse below our kitchen window is lit up for a party. Sumptuously dressed guests spill out into the yard where tuxedoed waiters carry around trays of hors d'oeuvres. A scene from Gatsby.
"I'm glad we weren't invited," says Sally.
The kettle boils. Sally leans toward me, resting her body against mine. "You and Pat saved my life. It must be hard for you."
It's as if a miracle has occurred. The miracle of normalcy, of ordinary existence. Following Sally's lead, I act as if nothing unusual has happened. And by all appearances, to her nothing unusual has happened; she seems unaware of the change.
I think to myself: I'll remember this conversation—this seemingly insignificant exchange—as the moment when Sally returned.
It feels as if we have been living all summer inside a fable. A beautiful girl is turned into a comatose stone or a demon. She is separated from her loved ones, from language, from everything that had been hers to master. Then the spell is broken and she is awake again, "surprised to have eyes."
In June 1999, Sally graduated with honors from high school, and in September she started classes at a small liberal arts college in Manhattan while continuing to live at home. She seemed to have entered a period of intense creativity, catching her teachers' attention with her writing and her original turn of mind. But in the spring she had to withdraw from school, beset with manic psychosis after being free of it for more than three years.
In 2001, Sally became romantically involved with a former high school classmate, Alex. They were each other's "first," as Sally put it. "He told me he loved me," she said, over the moon with him. They were relaxed with each other, considerate and protective, and though Alex was aware of the medication Sally was taking and what it was for, he seemed as mystified by the deeper currents of her illness as I once had been.
In July 2004, they were married on the shore of Seneca Lake in Geneva, New York, with families and friends in attendance. Two years later, for health reasons, Sally was taken off Zyprexa, the powerful neuroleptic that, despite several undesirable side effects, had helped keep her out of the hospital for more than five years. Psychosis jumped to life in her with renewed force, as if it had been lying in wait.