The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the month “May, 2014”

The Philanderer

The Philanderer - GB Shaw

 

Abe (I think this was his name)

I was always a sexual person. I lost my virginity when I was 13 to an older girl who lived on my block. From that point on, I never stopped trying to get more. I certainly played the field, even after I married. My wife looked the other way. She understood that sex was sex, and love was love. And I did love her, she knew that. So she let me have my fun. She knew it made me feel confident, young, virile and that’s how she wanted me. She wasn’t jealous. She understood that to fill this particular need, quantity trumped quality.

Years after the fact, I learned that many of her friends had informed her of my affairs. They were shocked and offended by my behavior. A philandering man in their camp was too much of a threat to their own marriages. If an upstanding family man and loving husband such as myself could cheat, how could they possibly trust their own husbands? They reassured themselves that they would never be as naive as she was. They would raise a fuss! She should raise a fuss, they insisted (just to teach their husbands a lesson!)

She brushed off every accusation until finally, when they got no rise of indignation out of her, they stopped telling her. They just pitied her behind her back. She never confronted me about any of my affairs, despite some of her friends’ insistence, because that would have forced us to discuss things neither of wanted to discuss. So, she looked the other way. Again and again and again.

Make no mistake – she did that out of the deepest love for me; and I knew it.   She understood what I got from my dalliances. I suspected she was envious of them because I’m sure she would have liked some of that feeling for herself once in a while.

Each new affair filled me with passion and lust and the sense of being a kid again. But eventually – in a few months or perhaps as long as a year – they would burn themselves out. These women entered into relationships with me because they all assumed they could lure me away from my wife. They always ended when it became apparent to them that this was never going to happen.   (I never lied to any of them,   but I admit to letting them believe whatever they wanted. Their fantasies of our future were useful to me.)

There was inevitably a lot of drama, which was stressful, and which I just wanted to leave behind as quickly as possible.   This was not always possible as some of these women did not want to let go without a fight. It was sometimes a challenge to keep this drama from spilling into my home.

These were the times I devoted myself to being the best husband ever. And when we reconnected during these periods, we felt each other as if we were new.   You might say we rediscovered each other and fell in love again. And in this way, she did have some of what I was getting out there.

We both understood that this embrace-and-release was our special rhythm. We had grown comfortable in it.

She always could sense where I was in my cycles:   New suit, new haircut, watching my weight. This was the courting stage.   When I developed a glow; when I reached for her at night, when I started to exercise – this indicated the affair had begun.   The excuses for disappearing for hours in the evenings? That was when the feelings were in full blossom (and when I ignored her most).   When I inevitably figured out a way to take a weekend with my new paramour, oh, that meant the girl was getting serious and I was allowing myself to be carried along in her fantasy. From this point, it wouldn’t be long before the ultimatums started. She would then realize the truth and it would be over. A lot of whispered phone calls and guilty, sleepless nights: this was the end.   I would be both relieved and disappointed, even though I always knew, going in, that it would eventually come to this.

When each one ended, she was especially kind to me. She held me and petted me and told me I was still her handsome boy. She knew, but she never said a word. She just stepped in to fill the void as best she could.

I knew that she knew and she knew that I knew but neither wanted to know. Neither of us expressed our needs to each other, either because we didn’t have the words or because we were afraid, I really couldn’t say.   Maybe love is just paying close enough attention to someone so you understand them without words, and give them what they need without them having to ask.

Eventually, even though I chased the ladies like an old dog, I was too old to catch anything. During these years, she was most loving and supportive of all, and I came to realize how lucky I’d been. When she became sick, I told her all these things — what I’d learned about me, about her, about us. I told her how much I appreciated her, even though I didn’t always show it. I was happy that I finally had the chance to express my love to her. I wanted to be sure she knew there was nobody else who ever came close to her.

When she died, I lost interest in women altogether. No amount of quantity could ever make up for such a loss in quality.

 

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Manipulator of Men

Golden Egg

 

Et

When I was young, I never met a man I didn’t want to manipulate. I was a beautiful child and grew into a beautiful young woman. My family was not at all rich but I quickly learned that I could get more of the little I had by playing a feminine game of misdirection: Make a man think he was going to get something from me, take whatever he offered in order to win those favors, and extricate myself cleverly before I had to pay the piper.

Finally, it came time for me to marry, because I knew I could not continue this way forever. My charms would not stay fresh indefinitely. I had to find a man who would give me what I wanted without being strong enough to demand too much in return. A rich son was the perfect fool, and he kept me comfortable for a long time. I was mostly faithful to him because I never gave away my favors cheaply. I did, however, use my charm on other men to get whatever my husband couldn’t give me; these other men were social conduits who helped me gain the spotlight.

I did have children, and I loved them in my way, but mainly they were also useful as a anchor around my husband’s neck.   Once the children came, he would not, could not leave me.

Over the years, I became used to him. He wasn’t a bad man. He provided well for me and my children. He was a good father.   I didn’t hate him or take pleasure in humiliating him, as did some women – even those far more “respectable” than I.   I valued his position in the community and was always discreet so as not to shame him, either privately or publicly, although people sometimes talked. They could prove nothing, so I ignored them.

I was already old when he died. I’d long lost my beauty, and had settled in to a comfortable and relatively content life. This became possible by readjusting my lofty goals to those more realistic. My number one priority was no longer being the center of attention.   It took me a long time to get to that point, but it’s good I finally learned it. At least I won’t have walk that path again.

 

The Stain

Sen

Sometimes you see something so horrific, it eats at you for several lifetimes. It changes your essence in a fundamental way. Ultimately this takes you to a higher level, where you are more compassionate, but it is still a scar on the infinite soul.

Of course, we must not hide ourselves from the truth, but it is nevertheless deeply disturbing to see, even from a distance, that humans can be so brutal.   It doesn’t matter if you’re the victim, the aggressor or merely a witness. The stain is the same.

 

 

****

I wonder again,  are these ghosts, spirits talking to me? Or are these stories just thoughts and emotions bubbling up from my own psyche? Can it be proven either way?  If it could be proven that these narrators are just manifestations of my own unconscious mind,  might it not also be possible that such thoughts were placed in my unconscious by energies beyond myself?  Or,  even more trippy,  that the energy inside myself is one and the same as the energy outside myself?

I might be delusional or I might be incredibly spiritually receptive.     Like Schrodinger’s cat, these possibilities exist at once.

Is there a difference,  generally speaking, between a prophet and a lunatic?   Perhaps there isn’t one.  Or perhaps  only a porous wall separates them.  Or maybe the truth is in eye of the beholder.

A skeptic might hold up Jim Jones as an example of a lunatic masquerading as a prophet.  A believer, on the other hand,  might argue that drinking the Kool-Aid and dying en masse was the spiritual destiny of those people; that the value of the lessons they learned along that path only became apparent on the other side.   In that case,  Jones was, indeed, their prophet.

I don’t expect I will ever know the answers to these questions.  I just find them interesting to ask.

He Carried a Torch

George_Rennie_Cupid_Rekindling_the_Torch_of_Hymen_at_the_V_and_A_2008

Dim

I married her because she was the closest thing to the One Who Got Away, but of course, she wasn’t the same girl at all. I probably should have married someone who was the total opposite, so I wouldn’t have constantly been reminded of what I was missing.

The reality, of course, was that I had no idea what I was missing, or even if I were missing anything good.

I idealized her insanely; nobody could reach that impossible standard.   As you might imagine, this caused a lot of resentment and pain, because try as you might, you can’t hide those kinds of feelings. They permeate everything; leave a stink on you that nothing washes off. No matter how hard you try hide the fact that deep down inside you’re just not feeling it, the evidence always is right there in your eyes for someone who bothers to look And my wife always bothered to look.

She deserved to see it, too. But I was stupid and never gave myself to her fully. I was holding back a part of myself for a phantom. I refused to let go of this fantasy of a missed lifetime of perfect love based on a few hormonal months when I was 17.

My wife didn’t know any of this.   She just thought there was a piece missing from my soul; that I was crippled and unable to trust. I let her believe it. She was patient and loved me anyway, always hoping that someday I would let it all go; that she would be there to take all the love I’d been holding back. During the occasional discussions about my inability to embrace intimacy, I let her believe that was the issue while steering her away from “the truth.”  Of course, looking back, it’s obvious that she was right the whole time. I was the one who didn’t understand the issue.

I never cheated. I was good and kind to her. I treated her well. I genuinely liked her and didn’t want to hurt her. She loved me and was good to me; she believed in me and was there for me whenever I needed her. And I really did appreciate all that. But still, I refused to give her my heart.

And stupid me, after she died, when I was in my late 70s, I actually made a serious effort to find my lost love, as if it was my last chance to finally have what I’d been missing my entire life.

I never found her. (I know now that she died in her 20s. Oh, the irony of that!)

I lived my entire life chasing some imagined love out there when all the while, all I had to do was turn to my wife, (when she was alive of course), and look at her and really see her. If I had done that just once, everything after that might have been different.

I thought I was worshiping love, keeping it holy, when in fact I was avoiding it. Perhaps it’s the same thing.

There are a lot of kinds of love, and one type is not necessarily better or worse than another. Most people are lucky to have even one kind of love in their life. To have more than one is to be truly blessed.

I was blessed, but I didn’t know it.

I should have trusted her with my heart. She would have taken gentle and good care of it.

 

 

Love at 67

 

In February 2004,  San Francisco began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, a couple that had been together for 51-years were the first to be married.

In February 2004, San Francisco began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, a couple that had been together for 51-years were the first to be married.

Ce

I married because it was what was done. I had children and I loved them but I can’t say there was a lot of love in my marriage. I did my wifely duties, and my husband did what was expected of him, but still, I suffered from the most profound loneliness.

In the beginning at least, there was a kind of friendship and a domestic comradery which made things tolerable. The thing is, I never cared much for sex. I never felt any passion for him, or for anyone. I just assumed this was how it was.   For a long time, when I saw ostensibly happy, loving couples, I thought they were just putting on a show for the sake of appearances. Or that they were lying to themselves and after a while, they would no longer be able to sustain the charade.

I had a good job as a supervisor in a large hospital so I was always financially independent. This was important to me in case I ever decided to leave.   I’m not really sure why I didn’t. I guess I was secretly afraid of what I’d discover about myself out there.

My children grew up, got married, and had children of their own. I loved my grandchildren and was happy to live so close, so we could be an important part of each others’ lives.

By this time in my life, I’d come to the realization that some couples really are happy. I was pleased to see that my children were among them. But this was a bittersweet feeling because it always made me wonder what was wrong with me. It made me realize what I had missed.

When I was 63, my husband was killed in a work-related accident. I should have been sad, but I felt nothing. For years, he’d merely been a presence in my life – neither positive or negative.   We both went about our business and never included the other in any interests or plans. The only time we appeared in public as a couple was at family functions and at holiday time, and even then, we didn’t relate much.

I often wondered if he kept a girlfriend on the side, but I wouldn’t have cared much if he did. His private life was of no concern to me.

After he was gone, I became more social. I joined clubs and organizations and even some citizen action groups.   I tried dating, at the insistence of my children, but no one ever interested me and it just wasn’t worth the effort.

When I was 67, I met a woman in one of my groups, who made me feel something I’d never felt for a man. For the first time in my life, another human being gave me butterflies. She was a few years younger than I was and a recent “widow”… (I later learned, from a long term relationship with a woman.)

I didn’t understand my own fascination at first. To be honest, it disgusted me. I disgusted myself. What kind of freak was I? I’d been married for nearly forty years. I had kids and grandkids. I wasn’t like that!

I convinced myself that I just enjoyed her friendship. I’d never met anyone before her with whom I was so compatible. We laughed at the same things. We’d read the same books,  had seen the same movies, and loved and hated them in the same measure and for the same reasons. We liked the same music. Had the same values. It was easy being with her. I felt I could tell her anything. We quickly became almost inseparable, but if my feelings drifted into the realm of romantic love, I quickly pushed them aside.

It went like this for over a year until finally she suggested we go on vacation together. I was happy to have someone to travel with – I’d always wanted to, but was afraid to go alone. To save money, we shared a room. It made perfect sense.   It didn’t occur to me that anything would happen. Looking back, I was in deep denial.

The second day, we walked for hours. That evening, she offered to rub my feet, and one thing led to another, and soon I was kissing her with complete abandon; with more passion than I’d ever felt in my life!

I am ashamed to say, I wasn’t very nice to her for the rest of our trip. I was scared and confused. But she understood and give me enough time and space to find my way back to her. And so I did.

Eventually, we moved in together. We called ourselves “roommates” and claimed it made the most efficient use of our limited budgets, but I’m not sure how many we actually fooled. Of those we didn’t,  I doubt any of them even cared. I always assumed my kids had figured it out, but they never actually said anything. They simply accepted us as a unit.

We were happy like that for many years, until at 85, she passed away in her sleep. At our age, it was inevitable that one of us would leave the other. I should have been prepared, but I was inconsolable. I, myself, was also gone within the year.

I know now that we’ve been together before, and that we will be together again. I just hope that next time, it doesn’t take so long for us to find each other. Maybe the lesson here is, it’s best to be true to yourself from the very beginning.

Who By Fire?

Sati

Ra

I was 9 when I was betrothed to him; 15 when we married. He was an old man to me at 34; older even than my own mother. I went to live with his family – his brothers and their wives, and his proud and unkind mother. She was haughty and arrogant about being the mother to five children – all boys — who would take care of her. Their wives were just another set of servants who had to cater her. She ruled the roost, not only at home, but in the village, too.   She acted as if having boys was all her doing; that she was somehow responsible for this fortunate roll of the genetic dice

The first time he took me, I didn’t know anything about sex. It hurt. There was no pleasure in it for me…not that time, and not ever. We didn’t even sleep in the same bed. I slept with the other wives, on mats on the floor in a small bungalow off the main house.

He called for me when he wanted me and I had to go.

I liked being pregnant because then he didn’t bother me too much. His mother made him leave me alone lest he hurt the child growing inside.   Although he had control over me, his mother had control over him. She could overrule any decision he made.

I was hoping for a boy, because then he could take care of me when I was old. I could make his wife a servant. But I had a girl. She was a disappointment to all.

My next child was a boy, but he was born sickly and weak and died very young. I prayed so hard for him to get well, but when he didn’t, I just assumed it was because the gods didn’t listen to women like me. I was not important.

The next was also a girl and now my status was very low, indeed. She was a smart one, though. I could tell even when she was a tiny baby. The way she looked around and took in everything. She didn’t cry like normal babies. She just seemed to understand that nothing could be done about her discomfort. That was just the way it was.

I secretly hoped that she would break free and not follow my path. One of the other wives knew how to read a little bit, and begged her to teach my youngest the letters and words that would hopefully someday make her independent.   She agreed, but as payment, I had to take her most unpleasant tasks. I didn’t mind. I was used to hard work. Every slop bucket I emptied, every floor I cleaned,  gave me pleasure. I had no power in the world, but still I’d found a way to invest in my daughter’s future.

Normally, girls didn’t go to school but she was very curious. She was forever bothering her boy cousins with questions about what they’d learned in school. To their credit, they answered her, mostly because she was able to grasp it quickly and explain it back to them. She actually helped them with their schoolwork. She borrowed their books and would hide herself behind a tree or out in the field, and read them all.

When she was ten, I convinced my husband and mother-in-law to send her to school. My argument was that she was smart enough to someday get a real job, and bring money into the family. And so they did.  She did well, and wanted to continue her education.   There was no secondary school in our village, so she went far away and slept there while classes were on.   I missed her, but I knew she was happy.   I wanted her to succeed.

Meanwhile, my oldest daughter was already married off; also sent to live with her husband’s family.  Her husband was closer to her own age and he seemed to love her.  Fortunately her mother-in-law was a generous and pleasant woman. Her situation was already better than mine. It was the best I could have hoped for her.

When I was forty-two, my husband died. His mother, now very old and on the verge of death, herself, wanted me to commit sati. I did not want to die. I barely knew my husband as a full person; I obeyed him as was proper, but did not love him. I certainly wasn’t going to mourn him. The old witch knew this and it made her angry. In her mind, I should suffer from his death as she was suffering.

Truly, it is a mother’s greatest sorrow to bury her child. She didn’t seem to remember I, too, had buried a son.

Sati had long been outlawed, so I refused. Legally, she could not compel me.   This was the first and only time I stood up to her and I was defiant. Better she should throw herself on his funeral pyre. She couldn’t have had more than a few years left, anyway.   My defiance only angered her more.   Who was I, a nothing, to refuse her command?

She seemed to back down, and I naively thought I’d won, but do you know what she did, that terrible woman? She had me drugged! While my husband’s body was burning, I was led to the fire by her other sons, where I was half- hypnotized, half shoved into the flames.

She, herself, only lived a few months more.

I Meet Davoo

Davoo  (This is just a name I made up for this entity, not a name given to me.)
S/he is clearly different from the others thus far, in that s/he is answering my mental questions.

 

What are my regrets, you want to know? So many, I don’t know where to begin. On the other hand, I know that no one can do it all in one body.   We break off bits of human experience and take them one life at a time. I did what I could do, to the best of my ability. And if my ability was limited, that was as it should have been. For the lessons,  of course.

I had more regrets at the end of my life than I do now, because now I can see the bigger picture. Then, dying of cancer for two years, I had plenty of time to think about all the things I did wrong and all the things I should have done that I didn’t. I regretted not appreciating my parents more when they were alive. I regretted not savoring the childhoods of my kids to a greater degree.   They grew up so fast!   And because we weren’t close, they moved far away and I didn’t get to see my grandkids more than a couple of times a year. I regretted not expressing to those I loved how I felt about them.

You want to know if I was a man or a woman. Does it matter? Here, there is no gender. I barely can remember through whose eyes I saw the world in which lifetime. I am still trying to figure out how to come back the next time.

You want to know how many lives. Honestly, I don’t remember. At least ten. It’s hard to remember further back than that. As I said, they all kind of blend together.   I’ve often been with the same souls, so I get confused sometimes if, in any particular life, I was the husband or wife, the mother or the child.   It’s as if we’re a troupe of actors who often work together, always performing different plays.

How long between? Depends. Sometimes we have to figure things out first; contemplate and answer our own questions. Sometimes we have to wait for others to die, so we can be together again. But here, there is no time, so what does it matter? A month of earth time or a hundred years. It’s all the same.

Do I feel emotional pain? When I first came back I did. I was still somewhat attached to the regrets of my last body. I had to work though my guilt.   But sooner or later, I got the necessary perspective. Now when I feel anything, it’s compassion.

How? Compassion in that I understand that everyone is on their own journey. We are all doing what we need to do, and our worldly goals often conflict with others’.   Up close, we butt up against each other. We are constricted by our lack of understanding; by our base human emotions and instincts.   It is difficult to find compassion among the living.    But here, we are so removed from the pain of every day life, we are able to see thing objectively. We can watch dispassionately yet with more understanding. We can see the how the small players influence the main stage. Mostly I guess, it’s because nobody’s doing anything to us so it’s easy to be generous with our love.

How does that love manifest? As I said, mostly as compassion. Sometimes, we try to whisper and nudge humans in the right direction.   To them, it sounds like an inner voice. Unfortunately, most of them don’t listen.     I guess we show our love in that we keep trying to make them hear us, even when they ignore us.

Do some listen better than others? Oh, some are marvelous listeners! Everybody recognizes them, too. They always seem peaceful and sure of themselves. And never afraid.   Humans admire those qualities in others, but most of them don’t understand how those qualities develop. They don’t recognize that they could be the same if they only listened to those internal voices that either pulled them forward or warned them away.

***

I hope to hear more from this entity.  My impression was,  it had a lot more to tell me, and that it would, at some other time.   I look forward to our next “chat.”

Control Freak Marie

control freak   https://thelivesofthedead.wordpress.com

 

Marie  (I got names on this one)

Margaret called me to tell me the news. I’d been expecting it for months; always waiting for that call to say that Mum was finally gone. She’d been deteriorating for a couple of years, but since the previous winter, when she’d taken a nasty spill on the icy sidewalk in front of her house, she hadn’t been herself.   She was mentally closed in. She didn’t care about anything any more. She’d lost her appetite for baking, for her favorite TV shows, for Bingo – for any of the small things that had previously brought her joy.

I’d tried to plan my life around her inevitable and impending passing. I knew when the time came, I’d have to go back home for a few weeks to help Margie sort things out, sell the house, settle the estate. I never committed myself firmly to any social plans that I couldn’t back out of at the last minute. I made sure to carefully document everything I was doing at work, so anyone else could step in and pick up where I’d left off.   I didn’t leave anything for the last minute, but instead made sure I was ready to go at a moment’s notice. I even had a packed bag stowed in the hall closet.

I liked having everything under control. People thought I was uptight and anal, but I found a kind of comfort in having no loose ends, planning for every possible contingency.   I had no patience for those who were caught unaware because they hadn’t thought things through. That was just sloppy living, as far as I was concerned.

I lived conservatively, saving as much as I could so I’d have a nice nest egg when I retired…in 30-something years.   I kept my resume up to date and made sure I was current on all the newest industry news and technology, just in case my employment situation changed. When I took a vacation, every hotel, every activity, every transportation connection, every moment, was planned.   I was not a spontaneous kind of girl.

So, when the Margie’s call came, I called the airline (I’d already done the research on bereavement airfares) and made my reservation.   I told my boss that the time was finally here. (She already knew I’d be gone for a few weeks, and knew how to retrieve my updated files and worksheets.) When I got home, I called the funeral home to set into motion arrangements which had already been made. I booked a car service to take me to the airport for my 10 a.m. flight. I called my neighbor who had my key and had already agreed to water my plants.   At 6:30 a.m. I pulled my bag from the closet and threw in a few last minute items. The car arrived at 7:00 and off we went. It was only a twenty-minute drive to the airport, but I wanted to be sure I left myself plenty of time, just in case there was traffic.

In the back of the taxi, I was sad but calm. Everything was under control.

I was searching through my handbag, mentally calculating how many people we could expect at the house after the services, when I caught some movement ahead. I looked up, curious, to see the side of a huge tractor-trailer coming at us at 50 miles an hour.   In actual fact, the truck had jack-knifed and wasn’t moving at all. We were the ones going 50mph.

The next thing I knew, I was here. Like this. Looking back.

I realize from this perspective how much of my life I wasted on planning. I should have taken more chances. I thought I was protecting myself from risk, but in fact, I was just boxing myself off from growth. Perhaps it’s just as well that I died young. I’m sure I never would have changed, and it would have been another fifty, sixty years of mere existence, and what’s the point of that?   At least now I have the opportunity to start again.

 

Bully Bait

prison cell block

Je

Life works in mysterious ways. At first, I couldn’t wait to marry her. At the end, I just wanted her dead. I wanted her mouth shut and her body rotting in the ground, where it belonged. I’d been so in love with her and she had betrayed me; turned me into a cuckold; made me a fool; built huge neon arrows pointing to my weaknesses.

If anyone had asked me, I might have said I loved her, but I guess the hate was always bubbling beneath the surface. She baited me all the time: Compared my “assets” to those of my best friend, who, I was often reminded, had a “much better set.”   Mocking me for every mistake, large and small. Belittling me just because she could.

Maybe I should have just left, but when she’d torment me, she would always say, “Look at you! You aren’t man enough to do anything about it!” and because I knew she was right – I wasn’t man enough – I obeyed and did nothing.

She was beautiful and a bit exotic.   When I met her, I couldn’t believe a woman like that would be interested in me. When I’d ask her why, she told me I was her “diamond in the rough.” She would teach me how to be a man, and I believed her.

In the beginning, she doted on me and built up my ego. I didn’t feel like merely a man; I felt like “The Man.” Ultimately, however, no matter how much she tried to polish me, no matter how nice a setting she put me in, I was always the same old hunk of worthless rock. Soon, she hated me for it. She believed, if I’d only loved her enough, I would change. My apparent inability to grow a spine was a slap in her face.

In our dynamic, every time she gave me a challenge and I failed to live up to her expectations, she was elevated in my esteem; and I was debased in hers. With each of my failures, the chasm between us grew.

It was a brutal transition between her believing in me and her no longer giving a damn. I ached for those days. I still thought I loved her because I remembered how she used to make me feel.

She took so much pleasure in tormenting me, and I accepted it. I believed I deserved it. My thinking went: “At least she’s still here; at least I can still give her pleasure in some way.”

I was pathetic. I wasn’t even man enough to stand up for myself.

And then one day, I snapped.

My father had just passed away a few months before. I hadn’t had much contact with him since I’d left home years earlier. I had no use for him. He, too, belittled me from boyhood. At the time, I wouldn’t have said I was deeply affected by his death.

It’s funny, but I can’t remember the exact words she said that set it all in motion, but it was something that cut me so deep, it opened up all the wounds from my youth.   Every last scab had been ripped off and they were all stinging and bleeding again:  The existential fear of my own worthlessness.   The self-loathing because I didn’t have the confidence to stand up for myself.  The inability to trust my own judgment in any situation, thus deferring to anyone and everyone, and never having a voice of my own.

In that moment, I remembered the bullies who used to tease me, especially the day I came out of school to discover they’d set my brand new bike on fire. I remembered my father whispering to family members and friends, and them looking at me and laughing. I was never sure exactly what he was telling them, but I felt it had to do with my most recent failure at sports or at school, with the way I’d mishandled a chore or errand. Nothing – and I mean nothing in my entire life – had ever impressed him. Even when I got married to that beauty, he made sure I knew he didn’t believe she really loved me. She must be some kind of gold-digger, he suggested, then corrected himself. “Nah, you ain’t never gonna have enough money to make it worth any gold-digger’s time.”

“Maybe,” he then suggested, “she’s gonna take out an insurance policy on your life and kill you for the money” (the subtext being, “because what else are you good for?”)

She and I were standing in the living room, next to the fireplace. She was on a rant, haranguing me with the entire catalog of my flaws and weaknesses.  After a while, I didn’t hear the individual words; I just felt the toxicity of their intent.   I couldn’t breath. The poisonous cloud was enveloping me. I had to make it stop.

I picked up the heavy, metal mantle clock, and hit her with it on the side of the head She crumpled in a heap. Dead. Oh yes. Definitely dead.

Panicked, I ransacked the house to make it seem as if there had been an intruder, then I called the police and told them I’d found her this way.

It didn’t take them long to figure out the truth. She was dead and I was crying crocodile tears. I had motive and opportunity. It took about ten minutes at the station for me to confess the whole thing. I was actually relieved that it was over.

At least in jail, it would be free of her incessant emotional assault. In jail, I’d be a disappointment only to myself.

I forgot, though, about the bullies. Prisons were full of them.

I was in my own private hell. It was as if every torment in my life had been distilled to its very essence and applied here. There were no lessons to be learned, only pain to be avoided.

After about four years, with another 20 before I was even up for parole, I wanted to die. Ironically, in prison, they do their best to keep you from killing yourself.   They prefer you alive so they can take their retribution one cut at a time.

So I committed suicide by bully.

I knew what to do to provoke them, and they did me a favor of literally beating the living daylight out of me.

Next time, I hope to find the confidence to stand up for myself. It would be interesting to see where that might lead.

 

 

 

 

The Veteran

http://www.stripes.com/news/latest-va-estimate-of-veteran-suicides-comes-from-limited-data-1.206614

stripes.com

 

Matt (I have the impression that he was a big, buff guy)

I knew it was going to be over soon when I started getting the night terrors. Everything spooked me…every creak of a floorboard; a branch blowing against a window. When a plane flew low over the neighborhood, I’d start shaking and sometimes couldn’t stop for hours.

During the day, I went to the Center, where there were other guys like me. We joked around, played cards, told jokes. Smoked a lot of cigarettes  Held it together in front of the others with the one gram of pride we had left. But when I went home alone to my small room over an old lady’s garage, that’s when the fear started to come back. Too jumpy to sit still, sometimes I’d work out until I dropped from exhaustion.

In the beginning, with a little luck and a pill, I could sleep through the night. Towards the end, nothing helped me stay asleep. Through it all, I was terrorized by memories of the things I’d seen and the things I’d done.

I always had more questions for myself, but no matter how many I asked and answered, I never came to a satisfactory enough conclusion that allowed me to resolve things and make peace with myself. My thoughts were haunted by a million “what ifs”, all of them in the past and thus unalterable.

Regret, guilt and terror. These were all I was capable of feeling.  When I first returned,  I thought my emotions would eventually normalize and I’d go back to the way I used to be. But I was permanently damaged. Eventually I came to understand that some things change us so cataclysmically that the core is literally ripped from our soul. There is only one way to reunite them: death.

This dawned upon me slowly. For a while, I was in denial. I told myself I would get better — I’d just have to work harder. Ultimately, though, I recognized there would never be healing for me. This was my only option. Eventually, I would have to do it.

I walked around like an oozing sore, pustulating with malignancy and anger, infecting those around me. I was angry that killing myself was my only choice. I was angry that at 24, I was in this position. I should have had a long, happy life ahead of me; a wife and kids. Instead, I was just a husk of a human being. Killing myself wasn’t really going to destroy anything that wasn’t already completely destroyed.

After I realized that this would be my inevitable end,  I still managed to hang on for another year. In that time, I turned over every rock in my soul,   looking for progress, looking for a reason to hope. Under everything there was nothing but dust.

There are those who say suicide is the coward’s way out, but that one act took more courage than anything I’d ever done before in my life.

I thought about it seriously for a few weeks, wondering how I would go about it. I didn’t want to leave a mess upstairs for the old lady. She’d been nice to me. It didn’t want her to be traumatized by finding my body. I didn’t want anyone to have to find my body or clean up after me. I just wanted to be gone, quickly, quietly, painlessly and with the least amount of fuss.

One night, I packed up my things in a bag, left whatever money I had out on the bed for the landlady to find, and walked out to a place I knew would work. I threw the bag off the bridge first, then followed it into the dark icy water below.  Nobody saw me fall. The current was swift. I was out to sea before anyone missed me.

I didn’t leave a note. No one would bother to look for me. They’d all assume I’d just left town.  If anyone did eventually figure out what happened, they would know the reason why.

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