12 Hours.

He sat in the chair and swung his legs out every few min­utes, though he never stood up. He had not stood up for over 12 hours.

His cal­loused fin­gers picked at the hems of his jeans. He dug a thumb­nail near the out­seam and tried to scratch out a loose thread. Unsuc­cess­ful, his fin­gers trav­elled far­ther down his pant leg.

His left hand tugged on his ear­lobe. The size of his pupils fluc­tu­ated as his eyes darted around the room.

Do you want any­thing to drink?”

In a minute.”

When pre­sented with a sealed water bot­tle, he laughed. It was a fear­ful laugh, quiv­er­ing and choking.

Some­one could’ve poked a hole in that water bot­tle,” he said, wav­ing it away. “No, I don’t want any of that.”

Then came a can of soda.

It’s metal. There might be some­thing wrong with the metal.”

His head swiveled on his neck, his eyes search­ing the ceiling.

Can you tell them that I want to sur­ren­der?” he blurted.

Who?”

The police. Tell them that I will sur­ren­der. I don’t want them to fire a taser at me or shoot me with their guns.”

There are no police here. No one will shoot you.”

Uh huh. Right.” His eyes glim­mered with tears as he sucked in a breath.

I’m really scared, I’m so stressed out,” he said, rub­bing his face. His legs twitched as he kicked them back under himself.

When we made any move to leave, he’d beg us to stay. When we offered him any­thing, he’d implore us to leave him alone.

What hap­pened over the past 12 hours? Was his para­noia there all along, but he had enough “cog­ni­tive reserve” to mask his symp­toms when we first met? Was it the lack of sleep? the lack of food and drink? Or was it some­thing some­one said? the way some­one looked at him?

What hap­pened that broke his mind? How was he fine one day—anxious, but smil­ing, talk­ing, eat­ing, resting—and not the next? How did real­ity walk away from him while he remained rooted in the chair?