I never knew how close to the edge of psychosis Charlotte thinks I live, like my backyard butts up against the cliff. I know I wear my passions on my sleeve and tote my own soapbox around, but it's not like I'm toeing pebbles over the craggy sides of sanity. My agenda has no plans for jumping.
All the same, other people's perceptions matter when it comes to any one individual's state of mind. I mean, from my perspective, everyone but me is crazy. Still, the world whispers about my fractured faculties. A true friend, however, will point them out out loud.
Charlotte and I have that kind of friendship. When she sees my car parked in the driveway on a weekday, she immediately concludes that I'm curled in a fetal position in my bed sucking my thumb and humming.
Just last week she texted:
Charlotte: Saw ur car in drvwy. R u @ wrk today?
Me: At home.
Charlotte: Saw ur car yesterday. Someone sick?
Me: No. Tk 2 dys off. I cld get addicted 2 ths.
Maybe the word "addicted" made Charlotte picture me clinging to the precipice by my fingertips, with the rest of my body dangling over oblivion, or perhaps it alarmed her that I took a day off work without a vomiting child as an excuse. The next day she texted again:
Charlotte: Hm today? What r u doing this wknd?
Me: At work. Cant ansr scnd ? in this space.
Charlotte was relieved I had managed to drag myself from under the covers on a Friday morning and go to work, but my lack of straightforwardness fed her direst visions of doom. What plans did I have but couldn't reveal? Had I finally scheduled, between carpooling children, washing clothes and preparing meals, that leap into the black hole?
By Saturday morning, she could take it no more. Briiing, briiing, briiiing, rang the phone. My daughter answered and informed Miss Charlotte that I was showering. Charlotte waited 15 minutes and called back. Again my daughter reported that I was taking a shower. She waited another 15 minutes, only to receive the same news.
She panicked and told her husband, "Something's wrong with Lucy. She stayed home from work two days this week."
"So," he said.
"So," Charlotte responded, urgently, "None of the kids were sick. And this morning I've tried to call her three times. She's been in the shower for 45 minutes at 10:30 on a Saturday morning!"
Eventually my daughter remembered to tell me that Charlotte called. I phoned back. Her husband picked up.
"Ahh, you didn't slip down the drain, I see."
"Yeah? I mean, no? What?"
"My wife needs therapy," he said, and proceeded to explain her concern.
I smiled, feeling wicked, and said, "Tell her I've been in the shower drowning my troubles in a stream of hot water and a bottle of Chardonnay while standing precariously close to my razor and that the only thing that kept me from using it was sheer laziness and my plan to wear jeans today."
Like I said, any one person's craziness depends on the perspective of every other person in the world, because we're all wholly sound to ourselves. And while I know Charlotte is reaching out to pull me back from the ledge, to anybody else it looks like we're holding hands, true friends, both toeing pebbles over the edge of sanity.
Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and the author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson. E-mail her at email@example.com or visit her Web site at www.IfMama.com.