Mr. S dealt with his impending exile the way he dealt with many other problems in his life; with a lot of talk and not much action. The three month deadline for him leaving his apartment was quickly approaching. Mr. S assured me that it would be fine, and that he was making plans.
Being a worrywart, I was worried, for both him and his three cats. No matter how he treated people, he loved his animals and pampered them. The cats were not his, exactly; he owned them jointly with Ms. R, and one of the cats had originally belonged to Ms. R’s daughter. Ms. R tolerated the cats but did not adore them, and if I remember correctly she had mild allergies to them. If Mr. S left then the cats would have to go as well. I ought to have worried for each of the cats individually, but I was particularly concerned for L, my favourite. She was the gray longhair with the enchanting purr, who liked being petted to a certain point, at which point she would indicate that she was done by swatting you. L had short little legs which made her appear as if she was stiffly marching through life. She was not an easy cat, but she was a good cat. Spending time petting L had been a highlight of my visits to Mr. S and Ms. R’s house when I had first met them. The other two cats were fine as well, but they had little to do with me. Mr. S cared for them all, though, no matter what his moods.
But landlords don’t like pets, and the cats were a barrier to Mr. S finding new housing, especially given his dire financial situation. Things were looking grim, and then Mr. S decided (or “decided”) he was moving in with his brother in Florida. Mr. S and his brother seemed like very different people to me; his brother being stable and married and significantly more conservative than Mr. S. Nonetheless he packed his bags and went, and Ms. R decided to move back into her apartment rather than giving it up, which meant the cats still had a home.
It was a difficult time. Unsurprisingly, Mr. S and his brother did not get along well. His sister-in-law did not particularly like him, and he was not doing much to get a job in Florida or pay his own way. The Lurkville situation was difficult as well. Ms. R had a difficult time living alone. I went through a stretch of calling her daily to make sure she was okay. From time to time I would visit. Once I got really scared; she was on some new medications and was having trouble remembering even simple things. I felt helpless. She had been a good support to me and the only thing I could do was to keep checking in.
From time to time Ms. R would suggest that I adopt L, since I was so fond of the cat’s company. I refused every time. I did not want the responsibility of a cat. Also I am an abusive and controlling person, and I knew that sooner or later I would take out my rage on this poor animal. Also I was living in a sketchy (and in retrospect illegal) basement apartment with two other people. My room was 6 feet by 8 feet. I did not have the space to accommodate a cat.
After a few months relations between Mr. S and his brother deteriorated to the point where he was asked to leave. So Mr. S packed his bags again and headed back to New York, where he had lived before running off to Lurkistan. He had some family and supports there, but they were tired of his patterns too and did not have a lot of patience with him. He was in some contact with his ex-wife but they were not getting back together. He was in less contact with his adopted son, who was doing poorly himself. Mr. S was sinking deeper and deeper into depression.
Then Ms. R made a big decision. She decided to take Mr. S back in. She said she could not stand to watch his deterioration. But she attached some strings to the deal; Mr. S had to go on meds to stabilize his moods. He had to address the deep depressions. The destructive periods of intense energy and planning were not okay either. Ms. R believed that Mr. S suffered from bipolar disorder (which she termed “manic depression”). I did not know what she meant or whether to believe her until I started reading up on the topic. I read a book called The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide and a lot of things clicked. I started learning far more than I wanted to about lithium and Depakote. Being damaged goods myself, I had been firmly anti-psychiatry and anti-medication for my entire life. But given the damage I had seen firsthand via the housing episode and the conference/concert episode, my resolve was starting to crack.
Mr. S did not want to be on meds, but he was running out of options. So he agreed to come back to Lurkistan, and he agreed with the conditions Ms. R set. In his heart I do not think he felt anything was wrong with him, but he wanted housing, so he played along. He felt resentful that others did not support his dream of the conference and concert, but he was too depressed to act on those dreams.
The next time I saw him, it was clear that Mr. S had not thrived in his adventures abroad. His mood was down. He had lost a lot of weight, which under ordinary circumstances might have been cause for celebration, but in his circumstances made him seem even more unhealthy. He sat on a mattress in his living room, and did not say much or do much.
Mr. S and Ms. R were back together, but they did not enjoy wedded bliss. Neither of them were in great shape emotionally or mentally, and it showed. My own patience with them waxed and waned. They would run into money problems and I would give them “loans”, and then they would run into money problems again, sometimes because they ran into a vet bill or a car repair issue, and sometimes because they splurged on something not in the budget. They made noises about getting on with the immigration process so that Mr. S could get a worker’s permit, but they did not make much progress on their own. Eventually I forced my will upon them, meeting with them and getting them to go through the paperwork in my presence. The process moved forward, and eventually Mr. S got a temporary work permit. Then the struggle was to get him looking for work.
My own relationship with them was tumultuous. I would try to support them for a while, but then get angry and vow to keep my distance. Then I would get lonely and get sucked back into their dramas.
At one point I stayed away for several months. During this time Mr. S and Ms. R’s relationship deteriorated to the point where they decided they could not live together. Mr. S lived out of their car for several weeks. It was at this time that Ms. R decided she could not deal with the cats on her own. By this time one of the cats had died; he had killed some baby rabbits and eaten them, and died a few days later. That left L and her “brother” W. Ms. R was not willing to care for them any more, and Mr. S was living out of his car, so Mr S. found the cats a new home. He gave them to a local cat lady, who agreed to adopt them along with the dozens of other cats living in her house. Both cats died soon thereafter. My understanding is that L contracted a disease from one of her new housemates, and that was the end of her life. It is utterly unrealistic to think I could have adopted her and given her a good life. I will never overcome the guilt for letting her down.
That episode was not the end of Ms. R’s and Mr. S’s tumultuous relationship. Mr. S moved out of his car and lived in some pretty sketchy places, couch-surfing with some pretty sketchy friends. He made some half-hearted attempts to look for work, but gave up and got disillusioned when somebody slashed the tires of his car the day of a job interview. He was on an antidepressant (?!), but his mood was crashing. Maybe he went back to live with Ms. R from time to time. That period was kind of a blur, and I was dipping in and out of their lives as my temper allowed. I guess they must have been living together when Mr. S started threatening to kill himself, because Ms. R told me she was planning to have him hospitalized, and wanted me to help.