Last Thursday, Tim called his regular daily call, and said he’d had a really bad day at school, but didn’t want to talk about it. Made me wonder why he called, but I had been expecting a call like that. A few days earlier, his case worker called and said he’d been walking around wearing four shirts, a hooded sweatshirt, a down vest, a pair of shorts and two pairs of pants. She asked what it meant. I told her to batten down the hatches. Tim can go through his entire wardrobe in three days when he’s feeling anxious and depressed. Part of the reason is the compression he gets from getting his clothes on tight, part is the increase in body temperature he’s always liked when he’s feeling out of sorts. Tim said it was a bad day, then said he’d call again when he wanted to talk about it.
He called last night, ready to talk. Apparently he’d gotten agitated by – oh hell, who knows, someone, something, no one, nothing – and after swearing and threatening people, he “loped.” When Tim was about eight he started running out of school, down the street, a principal or teacher running after him, when he was agitated. When the principal or teacher talked to us about the incident, he or she explained his running away in the clinical term. Elopement. Tim had eloped. He didn’t understand the word, and I explained it as running away when you’re not supposed to leave. And eight year old Tim, finally understanding the word, said they were right – he had “loped.” And the word has stuck.
Tim had “loped” all the way down the half mile driveway and was considering bolting out into the farmland of Oconomowoc when the staff member chasing after him finally caught up. He’s run away from class before, but had never attempted to leave the grounds until last Thursday. And the anger, combined with his bolting off grounds, bought him a ticket to “protective confinement,” or no off-ground privileges, and a staff member glued to him for three days.
Tim’s heightened flight reflex is one of his scariest symptoms. It’s the reason I fear him ever living alone. He’s been running since he was two years old, looking for solitude, for relief, for the steady, rhythmic stimulation of foot to pavement. The reason I fear it is that one day, he could run right into the danger of traffic. Or a crowd. Or law enforcement that doesn’t understand that the large black man running isn’t running for any other reason than he simply must.