The Backwards Journey

By | October 23, 2018

Recently my friend Tim Jordan wrote on Facebook about his friend Joe. According to Tim, Joe was an unmedicated paranoid schizophrenic, the type who ends up so deep within the thralls of their mental illness, they forego their medication, they believe everyone is out to get them – except for Tim in Joe’s case. The mini biography that Tim wrote about his friend Joe was both sad and touching, and I wanted to share it with anyone who may cross paths with this post.

Tim’s story goes as so:

Sometimes I would be driving past this one particular park with my friend Joe the Unmedicated Paranoid Schizophrenic and he’d be like, “Hey dude, do you want to go raise the devil?” and point down the road into the park because apparently it was the best spot in town to conjure up the Father of Lies and I would always say, “Nah, man. Let’s just focus on getting this weed and then go back home and smoke it up.”

Then he’d be all, “Okay that’s cool man. One day though, right?”

“Yeah dude. One day for sure, Joe.”

Another time I was with Joe in his apartment, and he was operating, at that time, under the particular delusion that he was a 2000 year old monk. We watched a lot of good Kung fu movies at that time, and he was gathering a lot of cheesy Kung fu magazines that we enjoyed looking through. Yes, magazines were still pretty relevant then. It was sometime in the early aughts, as the cool kids say.

So anyway he ordered this cheap Shaolin monk garb and it arrived while I was there. I watched him put it on with a great deal of excitement. Finally, after 2000 years he was getting back in the groove.

After getting everything on he immediately threw this high kick that was pretty impressive, but also unfortunately absolutely ripped the ass out of his monk pants.

It was hilarious, but I absolutely could not laugh because Joe could be volatile and I really wanted to stay on his good side. Which made it even more hilarious. I had to make an excuse to run over to my apartment real quick so I could laugh in peace.

But then, there was that other time that Joe casually mentioned he started to burn down his building, but only changed his mind when he worried that my apartment was too close, and might catch on fire too.

Then, there was a period of time where Joe was convinced that he could get his magic powers back, if he just straightened his spine; so he built this medieval torture device looking thing that he could hang from while wearing a helmet. Sometimes I would come over, and he’d just be swinging from that thing, and carry on a conversation like it was something everyone did.

Then, he became convinced that if he ate enough rice that it would fill up his esophagus, and straighten his spine. He already had a giant pot of rice made.

So I asked him, “Are you saying you’re going to eat all that rice to the point where your stomach fills up and it backs up into your throat? Like, I could look into your mouth and see the rice poking out back there?”

“Yep,” he said. “Want some?”

“No thanks, Joe”

I watched that pot of rice slowly turn to rot over the next few months. Just like everything else in his apartment.

Before Joe completely succumbed to his mental illness, he had what I thought was the greatest job ever. He was contracted by a third party to manage all the arcades at Carrowinds, our local amusement park.

He got paid all year round, even when the park was closed, but he had to work just about every day in the summer when it was open. He used to sneak me in the park sometimes when he was working.

He was great with kids. If he saw someone having a bad time he would give them free games and prizes. Like those remote control cars and boats are kind of tricky to learn. He’d teach the kids how to drive then better with a few free games.

He was the best.

Sometimes in the winter when the park was closed we’d drive over and into the park. We’d smoke a blunt in the car and he would drive all through the park on the walkways, etc. It was wild.

Then he’d open up some arcades and we’d smoke some more and play free games for hours.

Joe was the best.

Then there was the day Joe told me he had to smoke crack to make the voices in his head go away.

Over time we went through this backwards journey with technology. We started with a PlayStation 3. Then he sold it to his brother.

So then, for a while, we had a Super Nintendo. We played a lot of baseball. He didn’t have many games. I sucked at that baseball game. Then he sold it too.

Eventually we were sitting in his dark apartment because he had no power, playing this handheld baseball game straight out of the 1980s. I was better at that baseball game.

Sometimes Joe would be waiting for me, on the steps outside my door when I came home from work. I was not always happy to see him. By this time most of what he spoke was nonsense, and I had usually had a shitty day renting tuxedos and dealing with a terrible boss. Oddly enough he would act pretty normal around my wife Alice.

I tried to keep most of the crazy from her. Joe was getting thinner and we’d feed him. He didn’t trust food from anyone else anymore.

We fell into this pattern where I spent an hour or so with him, listening to him ramble on about conspiracies. One minute he would be Jesus, the next the devil.

Once he told me that he was trying to get political asylum from China. Turned out he was telling the truth there. He was emailing a lot of craziness to people.

After an hour or so of sitting in the dark in his filthy apartment I would go home, get high, and try to decompress.

My escape was Dark Age of Camelot. I role played in that game. I created my own little world there, and everything else just faded away for a while.

Joe was going to be evicted soon.

I had no idea what to do.

Listen, I’m no saint here.

Joe lived in the same apartment complex. He knew when I was home and I couldn’t avoid him if I wanted to. I didn’t want to make him mad, or think I had betrayed him some how.

He’d already attacked his dad with a crowbar.

All his family lived here too, but they abandoned him when he got sick. His mother used to call ME and I would beg her to go see him. I got mad at her once and told her she was just going to let him die, that this wasn’t going to end well.

I was as scared of him as much as I loved him. We had a spare bedroom and he knew this, but I also knew I couldn’t let him in.

I just couldn’t trust him. I couldn’t put Alice in danger, but I felt like I was failing him.

I think at times Joe was the loneliest man on the face of the Earth.

Then an old friend stepped in. He could take Joe but he lived in Virginia. I helped Joe pack, bought him a new tire for his junker car.

I also tried to warn the friend, but I knew he couldn’t quite grasp what Joe was going through.

Joe’s last night in Charlotte, he slept in our spare bedroom. I kept a bat by the bed and didn’t sleep. Joe was my best friend, but I couldn’t trust him not to snap and do something horrible.

I felt like I was betraying him.

Saying goodbye was horrible but also a huge relief. I felt guilty about that. Still do. If I could have done more for him I would.

But I wasn’t doing so well then either. Watching Joe change and disintegrate right before my eyes had taken a toll on me.

Joe stayed in Virginia for about a month. Things got far worse. One night I’m playing Dark Age Of Camelot and the friend calls. He says:

“Joe killed my cats. My neighbor saw him and called the cops and he’s on the run. The only place I think he would go is straight to you.

Oh, and on a side note, someone from the Secret Service came by and took all of our computers. Joe was writing threatening letters to the president.”

Alice and I stayed at her brother’s house that night. The next morning I have to go to work and before I even open the store I can hear our phone ringing.

It was Joe. He wanted to meet me on my lunch break. I worked in the mall and thought if there’s anywhere I can do this and probably not die it’s going to be here.

I told him of course I’d meet him. And I would buy him lunch.

He was so thin when I saw him but he ate the burger and fries I bought for him. He was twitchy and paranoid and probably on crack or something else.

This was my best friend. My last best friend and he was just a husk of the Joe I knew. He casually told me that he killed the cats because “they were talking” to him. I had to just eat my fries and nod. Thankfully he told me nothing more about it.

He told me that he was going to Charleston and work on a fishing boat. I wished him well, gave him the few dollars I had on me, and hugged him tight. He hugged back, and we just stood there in the food court, hugging each other for a long time.

That was the last time I ever saw Joe. I got a few updates over the next few weeks from my weed man. Joe had hooked up with some mutual friends down there.

Those updates were never good.

I used to dream about Joe a lot after he was gone and in these dreams he was right about all the delusions that he’d held.

He raged across the Earth like a demigod and he KNEW. He knew I had never believed him, that I was just humoring him and wishing that he’d be “normal” again. He was disappointed in me. Angry with me. I had nowhere to hide from him.

Then one night I had a dream where I came upon Joe sitting calmly in a tree. He thanked me for being his friend and disappeared.

I don’t think I’ve ever dreamed of him since. I don’t have any pictures of him. It gets harder and harder to recall his face.

His mother hired a private detective to find him after the messages from the weed guy stopped coming. The detective found a record of a speeding ticket in Charleston. Nothing else

I was at my wit’s end, Joe had vanished and I was desperate enough to go to a psychic who told me he was dead. She told me he was in the Pisgah National Forest.

He had talked about going there a lot. He wanted to live there. Then again he also said he had a mansion there with a gigantic Boulder of crack. Who knows.

I went on the Doe Project, a database for unidentified bodies, and found one in the Pisgah National Forest that did kinda match. I tried to contact his mom but years had passed at this point and I couldn’t find her number.

It’s probably not him but I try to be a realist about these things.

Joe is either in jail (he’s not though, I’ve checked), committed somewhere, or dead.

I mean, I’m pretty sure he’s dead.

I still have a cell phone with my same number from back then. If he’s alive he would have found me by now. Or I him.

Joe was the last. I can’t do that again. I have IRL (in real life) friends and they are fabulous but I can’t take any more in. That was enough for me.

Mostly I live on the internet anyway.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read this. I did not mean to do this tonight but it’s been a decade and I still mourn Joe.

I started mourning him before he even left. The Joe I knew died a long time ago.

Tim’s story put a lump in my throat, and accentuated the way his friend Joe affected his life with untreated mental illness, going from being relatively benign, to dominating the entirety of his personality and actions . I sincerely hope Tim gets closure on his friend one of these days.

In the near future I would love to write more of these stories, about people who have influenced peoples lives, both good and bad. Check back soon to see what I can come up with.

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