What happened was housing.
Lurkville was starting to gentrify even back then, and housing/anti-homelessness advocates were agitating for more social housing. Mr. S decided to act. He started a group with the goal of building affordable housing in the area, getting his local contacts together to plan around the issue. Mr. S found an ally in a builder with development experience. A particular parcel of land was potentially up for redevelopment, and Mr. S wanted to put in a proposal.
He held meetings for the group at his house. I attended the first one and maybe the second. People brainstormed all of the facilities properties they wanted on this building. It went well beyond basic housing. As Mr S. heard new suggestions or found other initiatives online, he would add more and more to his wishlist.
I was so happy for him. Mr. S did not have a work permit yet and so could not make money, but he was putting in energy into developing the community in other ways. But Ms. R seemed more cautious. She did not appreciate the frequency or tone of these meetings in her house.
After a few meetings I started to see her point. There was acrimony amongst the group. When criticized about aspects of the plan Mr. S got defensive, sometimes accusing others of being dreamcrushers. People were getting frustrated with him and leaving the group. I stopped attending the group myself.
On the other hand, the actual proposal to redevelop the land did not seem to be going anywhere. Many many ideas were being thrown around, and Mr. S was getting more and more effusive about all the innovations his project would feature, but very little was written down. I asked Mr. S for a draft of his plans in written form, but I don’t think he had one. Everything was in his head.
The lack of documentation was bizarre, because Mr. S was spending more and more of his energy on the project. When we saw each other he would talk of little else. He would be up at all hours of the night doing research and looking for grants. Sometimes he would phone people up. He became very emotional about the project, flipping from enthusiasm to anger to enthusiasm within minutes. He became more irritable at those who questioned his plans, and in doing so more and more of his allies dropped away.
It was hard to witness this. He believed so deeply in this project. I felt (and continue to feel) that his motivations arose out of compassion and a caring heart for people in poverty (which he encountered frequently, because he volunteered at the local soup kitchen). But the project was not going anywhere.
Things were not going well on the home front, either. Mr. S and Ms. R were not getting along. Ms. R was really stressed out about this housing project and how much Mr. S was obsessing over it. She was also dealing with a lot of her own issues, and the tumultuous circumstances of the housing project were making things worse. It looked as if their relationship was on the rocks.
Then, suddenly, it was over. Everything fell apart. I do not remember the exact circumstances under which the housing project ended, or whether there was a particular event that marked the end. All I remember is that it was over, and Mr. S fell into a deep, deep despondency over its collapse. Instead of being outgoing and effusive, he retreated into himself. He stayed at home all the time. He dropped his volunteering and his other community engagements. He stopped taking care of himself. He felt too embarrassed or ashamed or angry to deal with the world. I would still visit, but the days of engaged politically-slanted gabfests were over.
The collapse of the housing project had not healed Mr. S’s and Ms. R’s relationship either. They were still together, but were not getting along very well. In addition to caring for herself Ms. R was shouldering the emotional burdens of Mr. S’s dejection. As an outside observer, it felt as if their relationships was heading for the rocks, which made the next turn of events even more of a surprise.