Fall 1992, Volume 9.3
Story

STEPHANIE AMEDEO MARQUEZ

Mango Time

Dawn. 5:15 a.m. The bedroom's second story window looks out over a lagoon towards Lanipo Ridge, but it is too dark to see it now. She lies on her side and listens to the racket the birds make. "I didn't know all birds greeted the sun," she thought to herself, again. "I thought only roosters did it!" The ridge began slowly to form itself out of the night, a ghost materializing out of the mist. A tiny wispy cloud floated above the ridge like a crown or halo and suddenly turned bright pink. The birds took up their daytime calls. It's day. At last. She can see the giant mango tree with its heavy fruit and spreading branches that grows in her yard. It is much like an exotic peach tree. Giant, with large, heavily perfumed blossoms, and grapefruit sized orange and red fruits.

7:00 a.m. Breakfast. It's mango season again. Mangos are the best thing about Hawaii, she thought, peeling off the smooth rather tough green skin to reveal slippery peach pink orange flesh. Mmmmm.

Just smell that. As she chopped it, she popped a bit into her mouth. A peach-pear. An orange peach-pear. Glad I'm not allergic. So many people are allergic. Some can eat the flesh but not peel the fruit. Some break out in hives all over and can't ever eat any. Lots of people develop hay fever when the fragrant blossoms appear, full bodied and rich in the air. Funny how different people's body chemistries are.

They had come here together two years ago. It was her first job fresh out of college, a dream job. He was delighted to have the opportunity to live in the tropical island paradise that was Oahu. Hah! How dumb we were, she remembered. Even in paradise you have to pay the rent. And here it's three times as high. She licked the stamp, centering it carefully in the corner of the envelope containing her check for the rent. And this place is cheap, considering. Well. Cheap for Honolulu. Putting the envelope in the mailbox, she raised the little, rusted flag. It's sure pretty here, though. Two cardinals courted on the fence. Sparrows hopped like frogs on the grass, squabbling over some tiny object, an insect or seed. Kokohead crater loomed like a giant's cauldron in the East. The giant mango brooded over all, its large, orange fruits hanging ripe from the branches, shading her path into the house.

Brrring! Brrrring! "Don't answer it." Her roommate poked her blond head around the bathroom door. "It's probably him again."

Walking past the bathroom door to the phone in the kitchen, she tried not to see the disorder. The bathroom always looked like she shared it with a nineteen year old female college student. What did Patty do with all those little brushes and pads? Pencils, bottles, tubes, applicators. The only things she recognized were mascara and nail polish. She wondered when Patty studied.

"It's all right," she told Patty, "I'll get it anyway."

"Hello." It was him.

"Hello, Bobby," she said. "How are you today?" He was wonderful, or course. He'd been doing wonderful things all day. He'd met wonderful people and made wonderful purchases, and if she'd only consent to share some of this wonderful evening with him, they could continue to have a wonderful time; have dinner, then a cruise on a sailboat, a drive to the other side of the island, or a wonderful. . .

She wasn't interested. "Bobby. Please listen. I want you to understand it's not you personally that I am avoiding. You know I do love you. It's just I don't enjoy being with you when you are like this. We both know I hate your 'ups.' Have you given any more thought to what the doctor told you?"

Oops. That was the wrong thing to say. She just couldn't seem to find words careful enough to say what she needed to say to him, so that he would be able to hear her.

"I can't talk about that right now," his voice rose. "Actually, I'm not ready to discuss it with you anytime. Well, not anytime, but right now, I'm just not ready to make that decision," he yelled. "I don't want to talk about that. I didn't call to argue," he was shouting by this time, "I just called to see. . ."

"Yes. I know," she said softly, trying not to make him more upset than he already was. "Well, I've got a lot to do around here. I guess I'll talk to you later. Bye." She hung up quickly.

"Was it him?" Patty's head emerged from the bathroom upside down. A pink brush moved rhythmically from the nape of her neck towards the floor. "He called twice while you were out at the mailbox and that's got to be the seventh time just today."

"Yes, it was him."

"I knew it. He always calls like that when he's hyper." Patty was matter of fact. "Are you okay? Why don't you just tell him not to call?"

She didn't have an answer. Sat on the couch looking at the backs of her hands in the sun of a Saturday morning in paradise.

Tell him not to call. So simple. Just let go. Don't call me, don't see me. Don't care anymore. Don't respond. It was like cutting a part of herself out. Five years of memories lost.

Bob O'Reilly had the reddest hair of anyone in college, her Freshman year.

He dated everybody once or twice, but nobody seriously. He could be relied upon to know where all the best parties were. At the end of her Junior year, he finally noticed her in Personnel Management class. He asked and asked and finally asked why she never would agree to go out with him. She told him she wasn't interviewing for the position of casual date, and if she had been, she wanted an applicant with less experience and better references. He laughed.

The bar he took her to was on the old highway, frequented by truck drivers, and men wearing baseball caps with things like, "Women who know me call me Mr. Big" on them. It had country music but no band. She took him to a gourmet coffee shop with a jazz trio and outdoor tables. He remembered every corny joke he had ever been told.

One thing Bob did really well was fall in love. He left love notes on her car windshield when it was parked in the lot, so she would find them on her way back from class. He brought roses. He sent roses. He bought candy. He called. He wanted to tell her his whole life story. One night they went out for dinner, he spent that night at her small apartment and never left.

Two days later, she asked if he were moving in, or what? He said, "Evidently."

Slowly she came to feel that he was like the brother she never had. He was so much fun. They developed a fine comfort with each other, an affinity. Despite coming from very different homes, they got along.

Once an old girlfriend called him to ask if he were available, and he said marriage was the best thing that ever happened to him. Soon after, she got the job offer in Hawaii.

May, June. The first two months they lived on the island were idyllic. They strolled up Waikiki Beach at sunset, watching tourists try the Tahitian hula on the beach during the "happy hour" at Outrigger's.

They both loved the rain forest. They hiked Aiea Ridge. They learned about exotic (plants from outside the islands), indigenous (can grow wild there), and endemic (only found in Hawaii and nowhere else on earth). They ate the mangos, which are an exotic plant, that bloom and bear only once a year, unusual in Hawaii where many plants bloom and bear fruit year around.

By July, there were new friends. In September his new job gave him a raise which paid more than the one he had left back home. Besides, he liked it very well, said the company was prestigious. He expected to advance, and applied for the position just above his that would come open the following spring.

November, December. It rained too much. The wind blew. Palm trees dripped wetly on deserted beaches. He didn't want to do anything, or go anywhere. Everything filled him with ominous foreboding. They fought. Nobody won. He wouldn't agree to see a marriage counselor. Finally she made an appointment to a see one by herself. Her counselor said (without seeing Bob once) that she was highly neurotic and was over-intellectualizing her husband's problems. "You should concentrate more on your own life," he advised, paternally patting her shoulder.

January. His office requested that he get a medical exam. The doctor advised him to see a psychiatrist about anti-depressants.

The psychiatrist was a young and nattily dressed Japanese. He steepled his fingers together and put them over his nose. He considered every statement a long time before answering, "Hmmm."

The psychiatrist asked, "Robert, how do you feel? What brings you here?"

"I hate the way I feel. I'm afraid all the time. I don't know what I'm afraid of. I mean, I know I don't have anything to be afraid of and yet I can't sleep and I don't feel like eating and there's this feeling of terror, like some catastrophe is coming, that I'm powerless to stop. I just feel no hope that this feeling will ever stop." The doctor prescribed an anti-depressant called Pamelor.

"Well, Bobby, what do you think?" She asked afterward. They were standing in the parking lot, in the dark, in the mist. He held her a little too tightly, but she didn't move away.

"I can't decide now." He said. "I feel like right now I can't make a good decision." So they decided not to decide. To wait. See what happened. The box of Pamelor stood on the top shelf in the medicine cabinet that hung on the bathroom wall.

January, February, March. March 30th. He came silently home from work on Thursday and sat heavily on the couch. She came in carrying the laundry from the dryer and put the clothes down, in a pile, on the corner of the couch. Sitting next to him, she began to fold the underwear and sort the socks.

He reached for her hand.

"I got bad news today."

"What?"

Tears filled his eyes. He burst out, "They're letting me go ! I don't have a job anymore. They say I just don't have enough energy. I don't get the job done. I don't have a job anymore."

She put her arms around him. "What'll we do, oh what'll we do?" She thought.

"I'm sorry that happened to you," she tried to comfort him. She didn't help. She couldn't hold him or comfort him. He sat silently, holding her hand. "What'll I do?" She thought.

April, May, June. In June the mangos ripened. In mango time, he never slept. He talked all the time until his voice was so hoarse he couldn't talk and yet he talked on. He turned the radio and the television on together, up all the way, and still shouted over them. The neighbors complained of the noise. He wore shorts with holes. He didn't shave or bathe. He said they were too silly to bother with. Bob! The original clotheshorse. He rushed from activity to activity, from place to place. He ran so much his feet hurt and swelled up. He began to spend money, bringing home things nobody needed or wanted, piled them in corners. Gadgets. Books. Tennis rackets. Another television. More stereo speakers. Pieces of diving gear. Ceiling fans.

He left one Wednesday morning before she got up for work. He said he intended to play tennis, go snorkeling, hit the beach, drive around the north shore, and do many other wonderful things.

Several times that day she tried to call home. Nobody answered He wasn't there when she came home that night. The house windows were dark when she drove up. She ate canned spaghetti. He didn't call. She watched Johnny Carson. He didn't drive up. She shut off the lights and went to bed. She wondered whether she should call someone. Finally she fell asleep.

Bbring! Bbbbring! "Hello?" The clock said 4:45.

"Hello. I'm sorry to call you so early at home, but this is really a personal matter and an emergency. I thought you ought to know." It was her supervisor at work, George, a sedate and conservative man. George strove for an orderly work environment, where nobody was late, nobody was rushed, and things worked on schedule at all times. They had once been out to his home for a Saturday afternoon barbecue.

"Your husband, Bob, is here. He showed up this morning around 4:00 a.m. My God! How long has he been like this? I don't quite know how to say this to you but he's acting really strange. He's terrified my wife. I think he ought to be taken to see a doctor. You know, a psychiatrist."

Bob did not act surprised to see her. A cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other, his monologue interfered with efficient consumption of either. He was having wonderful thoughts. He showed her the journal which he was writing to capture his brilliant ideas which would otherwise fly away from him.

There were wonderful messages coming through on the radio, specifically for him.

"There, did you hear that? What's the date? Is that a date tree? I guess we're back to ground zero at this point. Dogs point. Don't point at me. They all point at me and laugh. They keep changing the colors on me, but I've fooled them. I know they're doing it. I spend my days shopping very quickly in the morning for what might be or rather what is or what will be my lunch, and I'm going to spend the rest of the night until approximately 9:00 p.m. devising a new plan for business or any kinds of computer programs that might be usefully supernatural."

At the hospital emergency room he wrote on the information sheet, under 'reason for seeing the doctor'; "I feel mystically wonderful."

The on-call psychiatrist was busy and impatient. "What do you want us to do? He refuses medication."

"You can't give him something to help him sleep?"

"The law in this state is we can't give you medication against your will."

"Can't you at least keep him overnight?"

"We won't admit you to the hospital unless you're a danger to yourself or others."

"What do you mean? Are you saying he's got to hurt himself or me before you can do anything to help him?"

"Oh, yes. In the old days we used to lock up too many people that didn't need it. Now the laws are such that we can't help him unless he lets us even if he's a very sick man. And he is a very sick man."

"What's wrong with him exactly?"

"It's called manic depression."

"How do you get it?" she wanted to know. "Did he inherit it or is it stress or what?"

"It's one form of depression. We call it bipolar depression because he has both the 'high' or euphoria and the 'low' or dysphoria. We think it's strongly influenced by biology such as stress and body chemistry. He doesn't take medication because it's hard to think you're sick when you feel so good. He doesn't believe he's really sick."

"What do you think I should do?"

"There's nothing you can do. Make sure you don't let him drive. His judgment is very poor right now."

So they just let him go. She sat in the lobby of the psychiatric hospital and watched him walk out the door down the sidewalk, and out to the street. Talking, talking, talking and gesturing all the way.

In July and August, he lived in the park. In September, the phone calls began. He wanted to come home. He cried.

He pleaded. He sent flowers, and balloons. And cards that said "To my sweetheart," and "In our hour of marital conflict, the only important thing is that we remember we love each other." He lived partly in the park and partly in the youth hostel. She advertised for a roommate, and Patty moved in to help with the rent.

He refused medication all through the next winter. "I'm going to control it myself," he told her. "I know what to do. I don't need medication. What we need to work on is our marital conflicts." So here we are. Mango time again.

Patty came into the room with her hair in a ponytail on the side of her head and asked, "Do you think this way of wearing my hair makes my ends look splitty? Dave will be here anytime. We're going out to Anna Banana's for happy hour"

"Do you want me to trim your hair? I'll get the good scissors and do it real quick."

Brring! Bbbring! Patty's muffled voice saying, "There he is again." And she thought, I gotta let go. There's nothing left. She picked up the phone. "Don't call me anymore," she said clearly and hung up.

She stood in the middle of the hall, looking past the bathroom door out to the empty living room with its couch, covered as usual with laundry to be folded, and out the open front door to where the mango tree filled the yard. Its large over-reaching branches dropped red orange too-ripe fruit on the pathway to the mailbox.