Alone with his mother for the first time in almost a year, Andrey Shevelyov had a question: Could he come home?
She sat beside him and stroked his head. The hotel room had a sour, rancid smell, and clothes lay mounded in a corner. His fingernails were long and curved and ridged with dirt. In jail, they cut off his hair, which had been matted and infested with lice.
Clean-shaven now, Andrey looked younger than his 31 years, like the gentle, artistic boy he had been before the psychosis took hold. “Zaichik,” his mother called him, a childhood nickname. Bunny rabbit. She pushed a strand of hair over his ear. He lay back on the bed and smiled, and a dimple appeared on his cheek.
“I like living with you also,” said Olga Mintonye, but it was not an honest answer.
Three years ago, when he stopped taking his antipsychotic medication, her son withdrew into delusions, erupting in unpredictable and menacing outbursts. Fearful of being evicted from their apartment, she and her husband, Sam, sought a no-contact order to keep Andrey away.
Since then, he had lived in a tent, wandering Vancouver, Wash. in ragged clothing and carrying machetes for protection. Twice, he had been in jail, ranting in his cell about the C.I.A. Three times, he was confined to psychiatric hospitals, where guards wrestled him down so he could be injected with antipsychotics.
Now they were together in Room 117 in a budget hotel overlooking the interstate. The county had allotted $8,400 to house him temporarily, as part of an effort by the state to divert the stream of severely mentally ill people from the criminal justice system. It was enough to keep him in the Red Lion Inn for eight weeks.