July 8, 2009

Maybe Crazy is too Strong a Word

We all hope that we can fit somewhere in a Norman Rockwell painting, a nice little slice of Americana. It doesn’t happen for everyone. Trust me.

I might be clueless on the American ideal, but I know crazy though. I lived with him for eighteen years. I call him Dad. I was never beat, beyond what was reasonable at the time for discipline purposes. I was never poor in life; I was always well provided for, still I have a feeling that dad was crazy.

I always told myself that I would never become like him. I guess I’m making good progress on that count. I am not becoming like him. I am slowly becoming him.

I always tell myself that I need to start keeping a journal, to record my life, its events, and the interesting things that pass. Maybe then I would be able too look through my journal, and be able to remember vividly scenes from my childhood, maybe I could prove to you that he is crazy. Even if I did write one, I doubt I would have it with me now. So now, all you really have is my word. You are going to have to trust me. He is crazy.

I’m not a liar, and I hope that people can consider me trustworthy. So please, kind reader, take my word. Don’t judge me by my father’s sins. I am his son, and if my sanity remains intact past tonight, I suppose that I will become him. I am not without sin, so judge my on my sins, and not his.

I remember from high school, that a writer needs to know a couple of things before they really start writing. First, a writer needs a reason to write, and then an audience is needed. Maybe a couple of other things, but right now, I feel without time to sit and ponder what I need. There’s too much to say in the little time I have.

The reason is clear. I just hope to explain to people that what they will see here is not really what happened. It seems so different from the truth, the bitter, ugly truth. I know the bloody fingerprints are my fingerprints, the semen is my semen, but I am telling you, its not as it seems. I’m innocent, really.

Audience? Well, I am supposing that in the end, this will be locked away in some filing cabinet until presented to the ultimate judges, or I may say, “ladies and gentlemen of the jury.” I have my audience.

The story may be a little complicated, so I hope all twelve of you people can follow me.

It all started with the mannequins and my crappy job. Or maybe my crappy job was the catalyst. I’m not sure. It started somewhere. I guess I’ll have to cover all the bases

When I graduated from college, I knew I’d be able to put my degree to use. I mean, everyone needs a soil conservation expert, right? I moved out west as I heard there was more demand for people with my degree.

Growing up, I had always had a fascination with the Seattle area, what with listening to bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden in my formative years. My favorite professor, my mentor, Louis Terre, had a close colleague out in Tacoma, so I moved out there, figuring I would find work in no time.

To hold me over, I found a couple of odd jobs, fast food, bussing tables, things I’ve done since high school, until I got a break. After about six months, I found an undemanding job at a mannequin factory. It seems that the manufacturing sector runs easily dry on reasonably smart people. If you have a college education, the other workers feel demoralized.

It was not long before they promoted me to shift manager. All I did all day was watch middle-aged women put arms into the torsos of headless bodies. To be truthful, it wasn’t the most stimulating job, but it paid reasonably well.

After working a twelve-hour day, you really are not motivated to do anything. I should have been looking for a different job. I needed to do the legwork to move on. I needed to start trying to swim forward and to quit treading water.

Laziness wasn’t my problem. I know what really kept me there. There was this girl.

She was more than just a girl. I wish I could explain fully what it was about her. Maybe it was just her youth compared to the older women she worked next to. Maybe it was her engaging personality. There was just something so innately great about her; I could not take my eyes off her. I only dream that I could convey the multitude of positive emotions I felt about her without being too abstract and romantic, but I don’t have the right words, or the time.

I had the awkward position of being her supervisor, but we still talked, mostly over lunch break. My shifts rotated, and she only worked a few nights a week, but the two or three days a week that I saw her, got to talk to her, made the entire job worth it. We became friends. I heard all about her life, her boyfriends, and her schooling. At 26, she was working her way slowly towards her degree in psychology at Pacific Lutheran University, or “Pac-Lute”. Between working and school, she found time to volunteer at a suicide prevention hotline. She had so much on her plate I was surprised that she even had time for boys.

Boy, did she have the time. And I heard about them all. And they were all wrong for her. None of them was I.

You could say I was lonely in Tacoma. By the time I met Angela, I had been in the area for two years, but I really knew no one. I had even by that time, lost touch with Dr. Levant, the person I had originally gone to the area to be near. When I thought about it, I really had no friends outside the factory. I played leftfield on the softball team, and I was captain of the bowling team, but these people were not my friends really. They were just my coworkers.

Angela was different. She was my friend. By some reasoning, she was my best friend, but she only considered me her buddy.

The one great tragedy of the male sex is that you never know where you stand. Even if you are the most confident, powerful man, the women really hold the cards. Apparently, we need what they have more than they want what we have. I’d go on, but everyone knows what I’m talking about. It’s not a secret anymore.

If I weren’t for Angela and the mannequins, I wouldn’t be here now. I’m not saying it is either of their faults, just a strange combination of coincidences. I would say almost like fate, but the idea of fate and predestination seems hollow to me.

Again, I need to assert my innocence. You 12 people will need to know this. I am innocent. And you will need to trust me.

I fell in love for the third time. There was high school love. It didn’t last. I had college love. It was doomed. Now, I had mannequin factory love. It was hopeless.

My father had always taught me, among many things, that if you wanted something you go out and get it. I had lost that a while ago, ladies and gentlemen, if you noticed, I was still working in a factory. Apparently, along the way, I had lot my testicles. I’m sure the college love has them locked away in a closet somewhere, but trust me, that’s another story all together.

Angela was nearing the completion of her degree. She told me she only needed two more classes for it, and they were offered over the summer. I assumed that her impending graduation also would mean the end of the hopeless, tragic love I had grown accustomed to.

At the end of May, I found her in the break room, broken down into tears. Again, I was told of an ill-starred love of hers, which had predictably gone astray. I wanted to caress her; shower her with kisses, and tell her everything would be all right. I knew she would find someone who made her happy. All I did was pat her on her shoulder, say “There, there,” and dream of waking up next to her.

See, I told you I had lost my testicles.

No one will really read this part. I know that it will be skimmed through and forgotten about. People are interested in the crime, the sins, and all that. What about the blood? What about the semen? And why bring my father into the whole thing. I’m actually feeling pretty good right now, and unhurried. Night has fallen, along with a steady beat of rain against the window. So, if that’s all you care about, I’ll get to it. However, someone needs to know this. Even if only 12 strangers know, someone needs to hear me out. Please, read the whole thing. In my state, I’m feeling eloquent.

Unrequited love may be romantic, but I did not want to become a modern Cyrano De Bergerac. I didn’t see her for a week after that, but all I could think about was her. The last time I saw her, touching her shoulder as she cried. The way she looked when she was working, her cute little grimace of concentration. But mostly I tried to convince myself that I could be attractive to her. I’m not an ugly guy or anything, at least my mom always told me I was handsome and any girl would be lucky to be with me. I hoped that she would not push me away totally when I told her of my feelings

I did the smart thing. I took the subtle approach. I asked what she was doing for her birthday, which was coming in a little over a week. She said that she had plans, but that she would keep me in mind. I took that as “I’m not interested but I’m being nice.”

I was not depressed. I was expecting to be rejected. Actually, I had become a pessimist, thinking that if you always expect the worst, you’ll never be let down. Instead of softball that night, I sat at home and watched pilfered surveillance tapes of her at work. She was so graceful with those torsos. She had on a long sleeve shirt. I was thinking how odd that was, but I thought back and had the realization that she always wore long sleeve shirts. I sat there, eating Cheetos, pondering her shirts, when the phone rang.

My father had been arrested for rape. Apparently, he had become too close to his secretary. My mother, on the other end of the line, was crying. I only wish I heard all of it, but on the television, Angela was struggling with the left arm of a mannequin, and I could not really trouble myself with my father’s sins and transgressions.

Sure, call me selfish. But I would not say that love is blind, that’s too much of a cliché, I would more likely say that love makes you blind. Maybe it’s not love, but the malady of obsession.

Perhaps I wouldn’t have cared about his imprisonment even if I had never met Angela. He never had done much to endear himself to me. In his eyes, I was always a failure. I never played basketball, I didn’t go to the right school, and I never tried hard enough in school. My mother told me enough that I ascertained he was jealous. Jealous of me that I never had hardship like he did.

When he was 16, his father killed his mother and his younger brother before turning the gun on himself. No one ever knew why, but the town he grew up in had plenty of theories. He was staying in Indianapolis, playing in the state basketball tournament. They made a movie about a game he was in. There was a lot of drama, and excitement, and the final scene of the game, Hollywood made in the super-dramatic slow motion. You ever see Hoosiers? He was on the team that lost.

No one was sure which loss sent him over the edge. My great-grandparents took him in, but the farm life was not made for him. They had him committed to a boy’s home where he could finish his high school education. He was released after his 18th birthday, and he joined the military.

My dad served his tour of duty in the dead time between the Korean War and that little conflict in Vietnam. He always said that he regretted that he never went to war for his country. I guess that’s why he took it out on me.

Dad went back to school and got his MBA. That’s where he met mom. She was one of his professors, twelve years his senior. I guess dad never did really go for a classical romance. Growing up, I had one of the few moms that could talk about World War II in coherent memories.

I was an accident.

I think this was key factor in my dad’s bitterness towards me. Mom was forty-seven, and a woman who is that old is not prone to being a baby factory. Apparently, mom wanted to keep me, and my birth pushed her to the brink of death.

To reiterate, my dad’s crazy, and he’s locked up. Remember, ladies and gentlemen, I am not my father. I’ve probably bored you quite enough, but I guess this leads me to the events of today, and why I’m here now, and why you gentle, forgiving souls will be there later.

This is the day of my judgment.

This morning, sleep came sporadically. Today is the 18 of June, and I decided to take today off, even though I have worked every Monday for the past three years. I was hoping, beyond hope, that she might change her mind about her birthday plans. In the restless sleep, I had many dreams. Most vividly, there was one of Angela, lying next to me in my bed. I had my arm draped around her neck, and we were enjoying television. I leaned in to kiss her, but pulled away. A fraction of a second later, I made another move to kiss her, and her lips parted, but before our lips met, she looked me in the eyes.

“Its about time.” They were the most beautiful words ever to sound in human ears.

And then, at that second, at the most climatic moment of the most beautiful dream I ever had, right as I felt the moist softness of her lips, I was awakened by a sharp, shrill pounding on the door.

Angry as I was to be awakened from this dream, I was soothed by the sight of her at my door. She told me that she needed me. She needed a favor. Now, she seemed nervous in hindsight, but my heart was too far aloft with her standing in my doorway to notice her little tics.

I was standing, in my fleece robe, but I had only loosely pulled it across me to open the door. She looked down, and noticed that I had been aroused from sleep. Perhaps she didn’t know of the dream, but she saw the effects she had on me.

There was a giggle, a maybe a little exchange on this point, but that’s not important. What was important was that she needed me.

She grabbed my hand and told me to follow her. At that time, I would have followed her anywhere. Hell, I probably would even after all that happened today.
She led me to her car, and we talked, mostly small talk about work. Even if we were talking shop, I still felt weird walking through my building in my robe.

Once we got to her car, a rusted out Dodge Omni, probably from the late eighties, I noticed she wasn’t wearing her trademark long sleeve shirts. Instead, I saw why she wore the long sleeves. There was a massive burn scar, starting from around her left wrist and disappearing in her sleeve.

I waited outside the passenger door as I waited for her to unlock it from the inside, and before I could sit down, I moved some fashion magazines, Cosmo mostly, that were cluttering the seat. She turned the ignition, then turned to look at me, and gave me a sly little half grin. We pulled out of the parking lot, and onto the road that leads away from the city.

I wished her a happy birthday, and she laughed. Maybe laugh is too strong a word. She more chuckled, like she did after looking at the gap in my robe. I stared at her for a second, and her face contorted into a maniacal grimace that I have only seen once before, on my father. I tried several times to start small talk, but my entreaties were met with silence.

We drove in the car for about twenty minutes, and we pulled into the driveway of some residential area I was not familiar with. I usually stay in the city and away from the suburbs.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

I followed her into the house, which she turned around and told me that it was her ex-boyfriend’s dwelling. She asked if I remembered that time a couple of weeks ago, the time when she was crying in the break room. Of course, I remembered. Touching her shoulder was the highlight of my week. She told me the reason she was crying was lived in this very house. And she still had his keys.

Apparently, he found her unattractive, and as she was telling me this, she was facing away from me, taking off her top. Naturally, I was floored, but I was wondering what this was all about. She turned towards me, and I saw that her scarring ran more than just on her arm. It ran from her clavicle to her belly button.

If I wasn’t in heaven, cloud nine for you non-believers, I can’t wait for it. But the next move was rather unsettling

She undid her bra, and let it fall to the floor. Her right breast was a fine example of the female form, not too big, you know, the whole handful thing. Her left breast though? Well, her left breast was nonexistent.

I think she caught me staring a little too much, cause the she asked me, “Do you think I’m attractive?” I was thinking something more along the lines, of “what the hell happened to you?” but I just spat out, “Yes.”

“Steven and I were great together, you know that. But we became so close so fast as friends; I didn’t want to ruin it by moving too fast physically. When he saw, when he saw this!”

She broke down into tears and collapsed on the floor of that foreign house. It was somewhat an awkward moment, seeing your love, topless, crying on the floor.

“He said I was UGLY! He said no man would ever want me!” I get uncomfortable when chicks go into hysterics. I had to deal with my mom a lot in those kinds of situations. So, I told her what every woman wants to hear.

“You are beautiful Angela.”

The tears slowed and the corners of her mouth turned up.

“Good, you can help me then.”

That was what I would say, the turning point, and the reason I am here now. After that, she invited me into Steven’s room. If only I had a little pride, a little sense of my self worth, maybe I could have prevented writing this. Sadly, I have no pride, and I followed her into her ex’s room.

The girl I loved was lying topless on a stranger’s bed, and all I could do was stare, not at the prefect objectification of womanhood that was her right breast, but the perfect symbol of loss that was her left breast, or rather, what should have been her left breast.

She asked me for an exchange of favors. She would do something wonderfully good for me if I would agree to do something horribly bad for her. I figured it would even out. After all, doesn’t a wrong equal a right?

She asked me to kill Steven. She wanted him dead. She was sick and tired of people rejecting her because of superficial reasons.

I realized I had become a pawn in whatever game she was playing, but I couldn’t say no once she told me what the wonderfully good thing was. I was promised a week of her being my slave, in any way I wished. If you love a woman, or a man, that is a hard offer to pass up.

Killing in the name of love is an interesting thing. When you’re growing up, you never say that you want to be a murderer. You want to be president, an astronaut, or something equally unimportant like that.

It was around one, and she handed me a knife, telling me that Steven will come back home around five. I had an idea what she wanted me to do, but it wasn’t too well thought out.

I may only have been a tool for her, but I thought it would be worth the risk. I only wish that I would be able to show my face to her again. I know there’s no way now.

She left me, and kissed my forehead, saying good luck. She was gone sooner than I would have hoped, and that left me almost three hours until Steven came home.

I lay on the bed, remembering the day, the time we had spent alone. I remembered her, topless. I was remembering the soft feel of her lips, from my dream, and on my forehead. I found myself with my robe falling around me. My manhood poking through at the thoughts that fluttered in my mind.

I was stroking myself to the thoughts in my head when I heard a car in the driveway. Startled, I looked around and my eyes caught sight of an old digital clock, and it read only a quarter past three. At that time, I came all over the bed sheets and myself.

I thought he had come home early, so I went to the front door, and posed ready with the knife in my right hand, high over my head, while I tried to squeegee myself off with the heel of my other palm.

My heart raced as I heard keys in the door. As the door swung open, the blade tore into a figure laden with brown grocery bags. I figured Steven was just a little guy, but I realized, after several thrusts, that I was attacking a woman. I was surprised when I realized I was ripping through mammary tissue.

“Who the hell are you?”

I couldn’t understand the reply. It came through tears, and there was the gurgling sound of blood in the back of her throat. I felt awful; as I had no idea, there was a young woman involved. I threw off my robe and tried to mop up the blood she was shooting around on the parquet flooring of her front landing.

I got it cleaned up as best as I could, and helped this woman to the bed I had occupied just before she came home. I gathered the groceries up and put them in the kitchen. There was even some vanilla ice cream I was nice enough to put in their freezer. I realized I was prancing around naked, so I looked for some clothes. Steven was a little guy. All his jeans had twenty-eight or thirty inch waists. I hate skinny people.

I found some sweatpants that I could squeeze into, and a big old tee shirt. I was sitting around trying to figure out what to do, when I heard another car drive up. I just kept sitting on the edge of the bed apologizing to this poor woman, and hope they didn’t come over here.

I heard the door swing open again, but this time I heard a male voice.

“Holy shit! Sabrina! Sabrina! Where are you?”

It repeated, but it wasn’t as loud and forceful, more like a statement than an invitation to come toward him

“Sabrina.”

I looked over at the woman, and I saw a faint smile glance past her pale lips.

“Sabrina, I’m sorry I had to do this Honey Muffin, but life is rough sometimes. I’ll always love you.”

After a couple of minutes, I heard the door slam, and a car start up outside, and I figured he had left. I ran to the door to get a better look. Thrown on the floor I found a note, scrawled across the front page of the Times. I struggled to make it out, as it blended in with the headline, but I think it says this.

You’re not getting your money asshole. You weren’t supposed to hit her till tomorrow.

- Steve

I still have it, so I’ll leave it with this letter.

I just figured, ladies and gentlemen, that you should know as much of the story as possible. Yes, I killed her, she died not long after Steven was around, or at least, that’s when she lost her pulse. I figure that in his mind, she was dead before today. He planned to get rid of her in the first place.

Somehow, Angela’s plan backfired and it did more harm to me than it did Steven. I can never now see her again. I won’t be able to see her anymore; I won’t be able to return to work. I have all this weight on my shoulders now, but no ears to unload it on. My mom’s too worried about my dad. My dad’s locked up.

You people aren’t concerned about that. It’s the day of my judgment if you’re reading this. You have condemned me before you even read this letter. I have no idea why its been written. I just couldn’t leave this house without giving some explanation.

I guess it comes down to this, some dirty old cliché that I hate. I’m not guilty of any crime, only the crime of love.

Add one other to that list.

Being a fugitive from justice. You’ll never find me after the rain stops.

Fin