03 July 2008

In other news:

I'm back.

Friends with schizophrenia: an elegy

At this point, I would have accumulated enough of his SMSes to launch a conceptual art exhibit at the Substation's gallery - that is, if I had saved them up meticulously. After all, they were lovingly and quite possibly painstakingly typed in the truncated, abbreviated, I'd like to buy a vowel please version of SMS English.

I could never comprehend his obsession with the luminous, or his urge to proselytise to me. But I believe you could feel his zeal, however incoherent, however obsessive, in those electronic scribblings. That, and the art of sending them 6, 7, 8 in a row, twice a week. At 2am at night. 9 in the morning. 10 in the evening.

All of them Bible verses. As far as I can tell.

And still the messages come. Despite my requests not to receive any. Despite my lack of replies. Even though I have not picked up a single phone call from him for months now. And he calls, every week or fortnight. Half an hour's worth of the phone, ringing, ringing. At times, I pick up the phone, just so I can hear him breathing through his mouth, uttering "Hello, Hullo?" for minutes on end. At times, my parents answer the phone, and he says nothing, then hangs up.

It was a long time ago since he was coherent and incredibly well-read. It was a long time ago since we played chess over the phone, chattered over epistemology. These days, he presents a list of 10, 20 verses from the Bible as way of opening a conversation.

"And what do you think of THAT", he giggles, as I drown my instinct to scream while I carefully perform an exegesis on each verse he has selected, because they aren't meant to be connected just like that. I'm not meant to do that, you see. He's supposed to be the one moved by God's presence in his mind as he speaks in tongues while pouring through the concordance dictionary for verses to throw at me.

I feel like I'm being flung lumps of dirt instead.

It does not occur to him that he is in no capacity to preach to anyone, much less proclaim that he is to be my spiritual advisor. There is, after all, a reason for ordained priests and seminaries.

He must have a sense of destiny. Or foreboding. Or whatever sense it is that schizophrenic patients experience, that the majority of them mistake for a religious feeling. It is this sense of destiny that was behind his attempt to convert a Malay inmate at IMH when he was recovering from one of his breakdowns. It is this sense of destiny that drove him to assault a cell group member, and get forcibly restrained for it.

It is this sense of destiny, I believe, that compels him to call me, to message me. It is this sense of destiny that I must meet face on by answering his phone call, one last time. It is this sense of destiny which compels him to tell me that he will continue calling me until I change my phone. Because he says his father stands beside him right now on the phone. Because he says he has the blessings of his pastor. Because he is willing to harass me, and pay the price for it - because he has nothing to lose.

But no matter. This is what schizophrenia does to its victims. Nothing as dramatic as taking away a person's self-realisation, a person's self... and his mind over the years. His schizophrenia kicked in at 16. I never had a proper conversation with him since 5 years ago. He only calls when his medication isn't working or when he's sliding into schizo land.

I once knew a Terence Brian Hobday. May God have more pity on his soul than he had on his mind.

Will it be cruel to change my number?

His cell number is +65 98194236.