My dad called me last night to fill me in on details. In February, while I was in Cleveland, they got a call at 3am asking for the parents of Margaret Bridge. It turned out to be the mother of my friend Ami. They were stranded in an IHOP in Dixon and needed a place to stay. Dad was tired but when he picked them up and talked to them, he could tell that something wasn't right. Ami was distant, detached; her Mother did all the talking. Ami was starting school in San Jose and they needed to get down there. The financial aide check was in the mail. Things were okay, they needed a place to stay.
I had heard things were not going well for Ami. We were friends in Jr. High and High School but I lost touch with her when I moved to college. Katia and Reecie, also friends from Jr. High, had stayed in contact. Reecie told me she was worried about her when I was home for Christmas. She told me that Ami had gotten into Chico and classes were going to start and the financial aide check was in the mail. Ami had been borrowing money from Katia. Things were not going well, and Reecie was really worried.
When Ami's mom contacted my parents, they stepped into the matter. Things had now gone too far. My dad talked to Katia, Reecie, and Reecie's parents. He warned that perhaps Ami's mom is dangerous. She was exhibiting signs of mental unstability. This is not someone you want in your house. This is not a safe person.
Dad called last night because Ami had contacted Reecie again, and managed to get some money to stay at a Super8 in Dixon. She had been accepted to San Francisco State, and classes were starting the next day. The Financial Aide check was in the mail.
Apparently, Ami is now 30 pounds lighter. She looks emaciated, shrunken, unhealthy. A shell of the girl that I had drama speech with in 9th grade. She smelled bad; the sour smell of poor hygiene and poor diet. Dad had to tell me that the girl I knew, the girl I had gone to school with, had sleep overs with, went to Saturday matinees with, the girl who was going to be an artist, is not the girl who is calling for money. Just enough money to get her to Chico, San Jose, San Francisco. Ami, as I knew her, is dead. What remains is the puppet her mentally unstable mother is using for whatever reason.
It hit me that this seems like a plot to a Chuck Palahniuk novel. A mix of Choke and Invisible Monsters. A crazy mother, a team committing low grade crimes (at least that's what my father believes). Characters so removed from reality that they could be from any book.
But the problem is: this is real.
The problem is: this is someone I know.
The problem is: some one I care about could die sooner than she should.
The problem is: perhaps she already has.
I don't want to give up hope. I told my dad, maybe if we could talk to Ami, just to Ami, and let her know that there's a place for her, a safe place, if she can separate herself from her mother. My dad told me there's not much left of Ami left to save. These are consenting adults. There are safe places in Yolo County for them to go to, but they have to ask for them. This is beyond our ability. There is nothing we can do. This is up to them. So when do you know when to give up hope? When do you know when to let go? When do you know it's time to step back and let fate take its course?
So now all of this, all this that I'm writing, has become fiction to you. You can read it and separate yourself from it. You can sympathize with me, you can relate, but you can also step away from it. This isn't happening to you, this isn't your friend. And in a way, I'm letting this become fiction. I'm writing it down, pushing it away from myself, letting it become a story so I don't have to deal with it any more. In this whole situation I've been an observer - Ami or her mother has never contacted me. But my friends are involved. My family is involved. And all of a sudden, my fictional world has become real.