Most, if not all, of what you’re about to read really happened. It’s just that the timeline remains fuzzy and I don’t remember exactly what was said. All I can tell you is that it was almost as crazy and fucked up as the way things ended because things could’ve easily ended right here.
The fun started around the first week of December two years ago. Maura called me at the office and said that Rob’s landlady had just called her (I have no idea how she got Maura’s number) to say that she was about to call the police and have Rob arrested on her suspicion that he was dealing drugs out of his apartment.
Given how he looked and acted when we saw him at Thanksgiving (as you may recall, he’d been in a car accident, lost his job and definitely wasn’t sober), this sounded completely plausible. More tellingly, I felt that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that signaled we were officially in Bad Rob deep shit.
I immediately called the landlady and she launched into this rant about Rob being holed up in the apartment with some girl from the pie shop. She went on about how they were blasting music all night long with shady-looking people coming in and out of their place to buy drugs from them, probably coke because they had been partying for the past few nights and sleeping during the day like vampires, and how she was scared for her two little girls, and if I didn’t come right over and get him the hell out of there, she was going to call the cops, and by the way, Rob had been late with the rent for the past two months and hadn’t yet paid for December.
So I bolted out of the office and raced to his place, which was luckily just a few minutes away from where I worked in West Hollywood. I knocked on the front door and the landlady came outside to talk to me, repeating the same story she had just told me on the phone, but even more frantically. I tried to calm her down by telling her that I’d take care of it, and then I went around to the back of the house, climbed down a few stairs that led to Rob’s garden apartment and knocked on the door.
No answer. I knocked again and told Rob it was me, and about a minute later he opened the door. He looked like he had been sleeping in his clothes and had just woken up, and had no idea what I was doing there. I asked him to come outside with me and then calmly explained that his landlady wanted him out, and told him that if he didn’t leave with his girlfriend right away, she was going to call the police and tell them that they were dealing coke.
Rob became angry at some point, but I specifically recall not arguing with him. I left it very cut and dried: Leave the apartment by yourself or the cops will help you leave. It was his choice.
After a few minutes of his Rashomon retelling of the last few days, he went back inside. I saw his girlfriend just standing there in one of his T-shirts, looking like a deer in the headlights. Rob quickly threw a few things in a Ralph’s plastic bag (he always traveled light), and then he and the girl walked out of the apartment. I assured him that I’d pack up his stuff, including those stupid lighters, and store it in my garage, which he didn’t seem to acknowledge. I had no idea where he was going or if he had any money or what. He and the girl walked to her car and drove away without saying another word.
I didn’t hear from him again until Saturday morning. I had just finished playing tennis and was sitting in my car when the texts started. The first one he sent thanked me for trying to help him and the second one said he was leaving and saying goodbye. For a split second, I didn’t understand. I thought he was leaving town, maybe even going back to New York, but then I realized what he was saying, and that’s when the panic set in.
I asked him where he was and said that I’d come right over and pick him up, but he wouldn’t tell me. I told him that I’d get him help and that everything could be worked out, and we went back and forth like that for a while. He had also texted Caryn and Zach to say goodbye, and the three of us were all freaking out and unsure what to do next. And just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, Rob stopped responding to our texts.
I spent the next few frantic hours on the phone with Caryn while texting with my shrink, who reassured me that Rob would be okay, that this was a classic cry for help, and that I should try to get him to the hospital as soon as possible. She reminded me again and again that under no circumstances should I allow him back in our house.
The rest of the story is like a fever dream. My anxiety must’ve been through the roof, I can feel it in my chest as I write this now, yet I remember trying to remain calm later in the afternoon, hoping that he’d come to his senses and reach back out to me.
A few days before all this went down, I had bought tickets to see The Shape of Water for that evening. I decided to go to the movie with Maura, thinking that maybe it would be a small distraction, and at least I would get some popcorn out of it. Right around the scene when Sally Hawkins is about to have sex with the creature in the bathroom, I felt my left leg vibrating with text messages, so I ran outside.
Rob was alive, thank god, but still wouldn’t tell me where he was. I again offered to take him to the hospital, but he didn’t want to hear it, and after a little more back and forth, he went silent again. Fuckin’ Rob! I waited outside for Maura until the movie was over and then we went home.
The next thing I remember is our door buzzer waking us up at one in the morning. Thinking it might be Rob, I looked out the window but didn’t see anybody there. About 20 minutes later, the buzzer woke us up again. This time I went downstairs and walked outside to the front of our house. I saw Rob standing under a palm tree at the end of the block.
“Yeo, I came to say goodbye,” he said, and stuck out his hand for a shake. He was either drunk or high or both.
“I’ll take you to the hospital right now, Rob,” I said, “Just gimme a minute to get my stuff and we’ll go.”
“Can I come in?” he asked.
“I can’t let you come in, Rob. But let’s go to the hospital now and we’ll get you some help.”
“I’m not going to the hospital, Dad,” he said in an unpleasant voice that was always accompanied by that scary face-changing thing he did. “I don’t need any fuckin’ help, so can I just come in to your house for a while?”
“You can’t, Rob.”
We just stood there for I don’t know how long, both of us not knowing what to say next.
“Okay, Dad,” he said with a long sigh. “Goodbye.” And then he walked away, this sad and broken little boy, my little boy, and it took every ounce of strength I had not to run after him. I walked back inside my house instead. I was too drained to feel anything, which is a perfect description of “detaching with love,” and I have no idea how I fell asleep that night.
Rob texted first thing the next morning. He was at the skate park on Venice Beach, so I made a beeline over there. He didn’t look any worse for wear, but when I asked him if he was ready to get help, he said he wasn’t. I lost my shit for a few seconds and then just turned around and went back home. I was seething and exhausted. About an hour later, he texted again and said he was ready. I picked him up under the famous Venice sign, and we stopped off at Subway because he was hungry.
I remember him asking me what soda I wanted, and then we just sat there eating sandwiches and chips like it was an ordinary day. When we were done, Rob gathered up our trash and gave the table a quick wipe, and then we drove to the Emergency Room at UCLA Hospital in Santa Monica.
We had to fill out some papers when we got there. The only question I remember was something like “Do you have thoughts of taking your own life?”
After we checked in and Rob spoke with a triage nurse, there were no available rooms, so Rob wound up lying on a bed in the hallway waiting for a psychiatrist to come and evaluate him. I sat in a chair next to him and had déjà vu—I had done the same thing with him a decade ago.
There was a strange, older dude in a bed diagonally across from Rob who was also waiting to be admitted, and he asked me if he could tell Rob something very important. I said I’d prefer that he didn’t, but he ignored me and said something to Rob about God putting him here in the hospital at that particular moment. Rob almost jumped out of the bed, cursing him out, and I had to get a nurse to move the evangelical asshole to the other end of the hallway.
I waited for six hours and it was getting late, so Rob told me to split and I’d see him in the morning. One of the nurses gave me a phone number to call before I came back to visit. There was a good chance they would move him somewhere else, she told me, since he didn’t have health insurance.
“I love you, Dad,” he said as we hugged, and then I went home.
When I called the next morning, a nurse told me that he was still in the hallway, but was about to be transferred to a county psychiatric hospital in Rosemead on a 5150 hold (the California code for involuntary commitment), which meant he’d be there for at least the next three days. It also meant that I’d be there with him.