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Disturbing the Peace

I’d prefer not to call the cops. I don’t have anything against cops and I don’t fear them. Some of my friends and relatives are cops, like most people probably. It’s a big industry. I’d prefer to take care of things myself, though, if possible. But recently when my neighbor relapsed and got all tweaked up to the point where the paranoid hallucinations kicked in, I called them.

As a private citizen, I don’t have that many choices when my neighbor goes insane and won’t calm down. He wasn’t armed, luckily, or I’m sure he would have escalated, even if I resisted the urge to do the same, which is hard to do when someone is being deliberately provocative after pounding on my front door in the middle of the night.

Once he was committed to the belief that I had come into his half of the duplex and stolen his cell phone, there was no alternative but to call the cops, unless I was ready to kill him with my bare hands, or perhaps a convenient blunt instrument. He hadn’t slept in 48 hours or longer, and he had spent most of the previous 24 hours alternately howling inarticulately, swearing at a loud volume, thumping around like a salmon in a box, and slamming his front door.

So I was a little tired of his act, which was a repeat performance, two days after he had apologized for the recent previous incident, which he attributed to meth. His long term use of the drug has left him with little personal dignity or free will. Even when he, apparently detoxed after being hauled off in an ambulance, semi-catatonic, nude and delusional, promised to clean up, it was just a matter of time, in this case not much time at all.

Over a five year period we have seen the same performance with slight variations enough times that we can now predict the timing of the various Acts with chilling accuracy.

There didn’t seem to be much I could do other than to beat him into unconsciousness, which might well be permanent, given the circumstances and his overall physical decrepitude. So, at two-thirty in the morning, after being forced out of bed by his aggressive knocking at my door, and after successfully resisting the urge to kick him square in the chest with my bare foot when he stood on the stoop accusing me of stealing his cell phone, I called it in. I asked for a welfare check, instead of claiming to be in danger, because he doesn’t actually present much of a threat, to me anyway. Tweakers often present a real threat, however, and even this one would thrash about some if he was wounded but not disabled.

I threatened to kick his ass, though, while he stood there like an idiot grimacing at me. Then I slammed the screen door in his face — around here the screen doors are a light steel mesh resistant to intruders — before he backed away and scuttled home in his ridiculous stained jockey shorts and t-shirt. He always dresses down for these occasions, usually winding up naked on someone’s doorstep, demanding to be let in and dealt with. As a matter of fact he’s somewhat lucky not to have been shot, acting like that.

But, in the absence of any sort of meaningful treatment program for people in his situation, he gets detoxed at least enough to be sent home, and that’s about it. The cops apologize about it when they have to return for the same problem over and over again. There doesn’t seem to be a positive outcome in sight. At the moment, he is next door again, about 36 hours into a nap. I expect to see his friends wandering up the driveway sometime in the next 24 hours, so the only question is whether he will appear, straight and blinking, in the sunlight before he heads back into what must be a compelling although obviously — based strictly on the hours of pained howling it results in — uncomfortable pastime.

He has had sponsors and various agencies monitor him from time to time, but it doesn’t look like any sort of meaningful long-term solution has even been proposed. What is there, other than pinning him down under lock and key without access to meth? Is that even possible, given what we know about the state of prisons?

And yet it is a pressing concern, not just for me, because if he fails to rouse me he will head for the next likely door; he always does.

The cops have always been strictly professional and efficient. When he has been able to answer them in complete sentences, they have left him to work his problems out alone. When this inevitably fails, and he is howling, thumping, accusing, and arguing with me and with people who aren’t there, they take him away. Most recently, he fought them a little, but they always arrive in force, including half-a-dozen athletic firemen performing their own thankless task without hesitation.

They strapped him to the board and hauled him off in the ambulance, and that was it.

I can hear him stirring around right now.

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