"Who in the rainbow can draw the line where the violet tint ends and the orange tint begins? Distinctly we see the difference of the colors, but where exactly does the one first blendingly enter into the other? So with sanity and insanity. In pronounced cases there is no question about them. But in some supposed cases, in various degrees supposedly less pronounced, to draw the exact line of demarkation few will undertake tho’ for a fee some professional experts will. There is nothing namable but that some men will undertake to do it for pay.
Whether Captain Vere, as the Surgeon professionally and privately surmised, was really the sudden victim of any degree of aberration, one must determine for himself by such light as this narrative may afford."
–Billy Budd, Sailor, Chapter 22
The quote lodged within that second nagging college memory: my roommate’s mental breakdown. One day, my characteristically cheerful friend came home and wasn’t smiling. Silently went to her room. Shut the door.
After three weeks of the silent treatment, asked if I upset her. College Roommate turned away and said, “No. Don’t worry, though: I’ll find something.” I fell over myself, trying to make things better before it happened. It encouraged her to goad me. College Roommate talked about suicide. Then acted disgusted as I tried convincing her that her life had value. She borrowed library books with titles such as “How to Disappear and Never Be Found Again” and “Quick Ways to Die.” Left them in the living room, positioning them so their titles were the first things I’d see.
Melville began to recite, “Who in the rainbow can draw the line where the violet tint ends and the orange tint begins?”
College Roommate then went missing a few days. When she finally returned, I bellowed at her to never do that again. College Roommate became enraged. Turned to her nightstand. Pulled out a pistol. Leveled it at my left shoulder. For the first time in months, her old smile returned as she pretended to fire. She whispered gun-like noises, a harsh rattle at the end of each word, for each mock blast, “Keh-pew. Keh-pew.”
It was more goading, but my subconscious whispered that if I showed fear or bellowed stop! she’d enjoy it. And fire. So, I kept my voice casual. Asked if the gun was loaded, in a flat bored tone, like asking if she’d seen my keys. She pointed the gun at my right shoulder. “Keh-pew,” said College Roommate. “Oh yeah. It’s loaded.” My once-close friend laughed rolling gales. Then pointed the gun at my chest. She didn’t pull the trigger, but destroyed my heart as she continued, “Keh-pew. Keh-pew.”
“Distinctly we see the difference of the colors, but where exactly does the one first blendingly enter into the other? So with sanity and insanity.”
College Roommate and I used to watch reruns of The Muppet Show together. Gloriously swoon over Agent Mulder in X-Files. How had our friendship shifted so horribly?
Pat is an armchair psychologist, but picked up on my tongue slips. Started talking about mental illness. Identified College Roommate’s erratic shift as possible symptoms of a bipolar disorder. Then, drew a parallel between College Roommate and The Neighbor. Pat wondered if The Neighbor was my second encounter with the illness.
The heaviness I felt, realizing I was reliving the college days. Once again: the closest person to me was trying to destroy me. Feeling scared to go home, again. How did this keep happening?
Melville’s words about violets and oranges resurfaced once again as I addressed two problems I faced with The Neighbor, my stalker. Both of issues falling into blurred lines of moral ambiguity:
- Was The Neighbor insane or pure evil? And if she was mad …
- How could I defend myself, while recognizing her illness?
To be continued.