Today I helped move my girlfriend out from her house, back to her mother's many miles away. During the past six months or so, Ann has been living at a student cooperative here in town. For the uninitiated, a cooperative is sort of like a commune, where the people who live there share chores, upkeep payments, food, and so forth. This one in particular is a great environment with twenty-odd interesting young people, a short walk to campus and downtown, and spectacularly cheap rent. Only two weeks ago Ann had loved living in this near-perfect living arrangement, but as of today she is gone forever.

Ann had been depressed on and off for months, because of the death of a housemate she had been friends with, among sundry other reasons. A little less than a month ago she began feeling actually physically ill, alternating between nausea and muscle pain and quick-onset headaches. Just as it seemed the depression was slackening its hold this shit started up, more hardship for someone who doesn't deserve it. About this same time a new house member, James, had moved in.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about James. James and I got along surprisingly well, better than anybody else I'd met at the house to that point. We shared tastes in drugs, anime, video games, etc. Plus, although he was much better at communicating with the fairer sex than I, we both tended to be quiet and observant in large groups or conversations. As hard as it is to say now, James seemed to be the first real friend I'd made at the house, the first person who would invite me over to drink or chill out.

James also had paranoid schizophrenia, and was none too fond of his meds.

At any rate, about a week ago one of Ann's good friends at the house mentioned that she might know why she had been feeling so bad. Ann had gone through blood tests, dropped all her medications (legal and otherwise), changed diet a couple of times, and tried everything else she could think of to solve her problem -- all of these actions were ineffectual. We had even gone through the Pregnancy Scare Dance twice, with negative results both times. If Ann's friend had some privileged window on the problem, Ann was more than willing to find out what she saw.

For my part, I was vaguely worried that the friend's opinion would turn out to be some permutation on the idea of ghosts, since two people from the house had died that year. Ann's friend is pretty well known for being attuned to "spiritual" matters, so the worry wasn't that far fetched. While I respect others' beliefs, I was sincerely hoping that the friend wouldn't put a bunch of nonsense into my girlfriend's head and make her scarred for no good reason.

James, meanwhile, had been engaging in increasingly bizarre behavior that many house members weren't even aware of. As I heard it, he told a total of three girls who live at the house about the voices in his head, and how they told him he should kill himself, how at night he could here everybody in the neighborhood whispering about him. Needless to say, the girls were pretty disturbed by this, but none of them really knew what to do or say. Ann and here friend were two of those three, and I know from talking to Ann that they were both mightily creeped out.

From this you can probably guess what Ann's friend's theory actually was: that James's strange attitude was making Ann so anxious that she got sick. Ann concurred, and started sleeping at my place and with her aunt to avoid staying at the house. This was despite my objections that schizophrenia was dirt common, rarely caused violence towards others, shouldn't be a basis for discrimination, and blah blah blah. Being friends with James made me blind to the fact that he could realistically be a threat.

Of course, I was wrong. The first day Ann was gone James was twice caught walking around the halls listening in to people's rooms and looking through the unlocked ones. The next day she and her friend came back to pick up some stuff and see how everyone was doing. As Ann was working in her room she heard screaming from downstairs. Later she and a guy that lived at the house would agree that their first thought was "Oh no, somebody else just died."

It turned out that it was actually Ann's friend screaming. She had opened her door to find her room ransacked, even though she had left it double-locked. In the middle of the floor was a note in black ink, which said FUCK YOU, FUCK ALL OF THIS, I DON'T HAVE TO TAKE IT and was signed with James's and a score of near-illegible made-up names. Nobody has seen James since then, not even his non-house friends. Which brings us back to the first sentence of the first paragraph: Today I helped move my girlfriend out from her house, back to her mother's many miles away.