“Mother And Son” by Mr. Lu, in San Jose, California, 1987.
Mr. Lu And His Mother
Mr. Lu told me his mother had visited him three days before.
Engaged in animated conversation with a woman in her 60’s on the bench in front of the hospital. I thought she must be a new patient, a bag lady. I walked by, not wanting to disturb them. Later, as I was driving to lunch, the woman was walking away down the street.
An hour later Mr. Lu stopped me in the hall to tell me he’d had a visitor, a friend. And hour later he stopped me again, whispered, “She’s really my mother, you know. I keep telling her to dress better, but she never does.”
When I came to work, his mother was sitting on the bench. I greeted her, she returned the greeting. “I’ve just had coffee with my son, we had a nice visit.” I go inside. Mr. Lu comes down the hallway, asks me to let him out to see his visitor. In a short while I go up front to use the Xerox machine. William and his mother are engrossed in a conversation. It starts to rain, they come into the foyer, continue their conversation.
“I had a nice trip to Mars, son; I had a very good holiday. You’ll have to come with me next time. It’s very strange up there, you know, all those different colors, all those lights!”
“Now mother, I’m the patient, I’m locked up. You aren’t. But you’re talking crazy. Stop it!”
“But I just thought we could have some fun.”
“I’m going back in, mother, and I suggest that you go home before they lock you up. I’ve never talked like that and look what happened to me!” He sees me, starts toward the door. “Please let me in, Frances, this has turned into a bad situation.” He looks at his mother, who sits there talking to herself. Mr. Lu, “Can I sit in your office for a while, just to relax away from all that out there?!”
We go in, I close the door, we sit down.
“Does your mother still live in San Francisco?”
“I don’t know what she’s doing. The only thing she can get is a hotel room, she’s very poor, you know. She’s a wonderful person.”
“I’m sure she is. She’s quite interesting.”
“Yes she is.”
Mr. Lu has been drawing a lot lately, using a lot of color, pastels. Today he showed me a picture he’d drawn of a beautiful woman, glamorous and bejeweled. In the bottom left corner was a small picture of a bull in chains, with the caption, “The Bull Is Tethered.” He tore it up in front of me, into small pieces. “I’m breaking out, you know.”
“The flowers bloomed the day my father died.”
3/2/86, Monday morning
“How was your weekend?” I ask Mr. Lu.
“What a terrible thing to say. You had a weekend, I didn’t. Every day’s the same to me.”<
“My mother came to visit me yesterday, she gave me this scarf.”
He has it tied around his waist, an old silk scarf. Then he hands me four pictures he’s drawn.
“You can have them if you want, they’re really nothing. It’s just a joke, you know.”
“I was close to one woman in my life.”
“No. He was a female impersonator in Chicago. We talked every single day. Then he’d go on his way. He was a black man.”
During class Mr. Lu drew a picture titled, “Bill in Ward D7.” A long hall, closed door, a lone man in the TV room, the TV on, the man not looking at it. In the lower right hand corner a medicine cup next to a skull and crossbones.
Mr. Lu blew up at Valerie during Arts and Crafts class. She had been standing over him watching him draw.
“Get away from me,” he yelled. “Get this black woman away from me, I am totally paranoid with that black woman staring at me!”
“I ain’t starin’ at you, I’m just interested in what you are doin,” Valerie said, in her soft, calm voice.
“When blacks move into a neighborhood it goes to hell!” he screamed.
“I think you’d better leave this neighborhood right now, William, or you’re gonna end up in restraints,” I said.
He got up and went to his room. After class he came to my office.
“I’m really glad you did that for me, my dear. I just got so frightened.”
“Well you scared everybody else, including me, almost.”
“When you leave here this place gets very deadly, you know. There are vampires. They like to draw the blood of a beautiful woman,” he brushes my neck with his fingertips. Later, he brings me three pictures, rolled up in a cone.
“Here’s a bouquet of roses for you to take home and share with your husband. He’s a wise old philosopher, you know.” He starts to leave, turns to look at me. “Love blooms in the springtime.”
Mr. Lu was upset because his mother had come to see him and he was out on a store walk. Also, he wanted me to give him a dollar and I wouldn’t. This morning Bill F. and I were tuning up to play music for the class, my violin and his guitar. Mr. Lu came over and interrupted us. I told him we were busy, “Please move back and be quiet.”
He left class, came back, sat down and started talking in a loud voice.
“How old are you today, William?”
“I’m an old old man,” he said, in a tired, sad voice. “This is my bad day.”
Mr. Lu, “This is a very lenient prison system, you know. They let all these prisoners on death row on pass into the community.”
“Did you see your mother this weekend?” I asked.
“Oh yes. She gave me this.” He held out a beautiful little metal egg, painted red, brightly decorated.
“May I see it?”
He handed it to me.
“They’re all over San Francisco, you know.”
I opened it up, it’s hollow, a small container.
“It’s beautiful. Does your mother live in San Francisco?”
“She lives in Saudi Arabia. She’s from Saudi Arabia, she just hangs around in San Francisco. She’s there right now with Mohammed and that gang.”
Mr. Lu and I were walking down the hall. I said, “I wonder what Jesus would think about this place?”
“Sshhh, he’s banned here, you know.”