He sat in the chair and swung his legs out every few minutes, though he never stood up. He had not stood up for over 12 hours.
His calloused fingers picked at the hems of his jeans. He dug a thumbnail near the outseam and tried to scratch out a loose thread. Unsuccessful, his fingers travelled farther down his pant leg.
His left hand tugged on his earlobe. The size of his pupils fluctuated as his eyes darted around the room.
“Do you want anything to drink?”
“In a minute.”
When presented with a sealed water bottle, he laughed. It was a fearful laugh, quivering and choking.
“Someone could’ve poked a hole in that water bottle,” he said, waving it away. “No, I don’t want any of that.”
Then came a can of soda.
“It’s metal. There might be something wrong with the metal.”
His head swiveled on his neck, his eyes searching the ceiling.
“Can you tell them that I want to surrender?” he blurted.
“The police. Tell them that I will surrender. I don’t want them to fire a taser at me or shoot me with their guns.”
“There are no police here. No one will shoot you.”
“Uh huh. Right.” His eyes glimmered with tears as he sucked in a breath.
“I’m really scared, I’m so stressed out,” he said, rubbing his face. His legs twitched as he kicked them back under himself.
When we made any move to leave, he’d beg us to stay. When we offered him anything, he’d implore us to leave him alone.
What happened over the past 12 hours? Was his paranoia there all along, but he had enough “cognitive reserve” to mask his symptoms when we first met? Was it the lack of sleep? the lack of food and drink? Or was it something someone said? the way someone looked at him?
What happened that broke his mind? How was he fine one day—anxious, but smiling, talking, eating, resting—and not the next? How did reality walk away from him while he remained rooted in the chair?