The referendum against Utah's recent tax reform ended on Tuesday, having collected an estimated 150-170,000 signatures out of the 116,000 that were required. It would have taken some time to verify the final count, and some would have been rejected, but we were pretty dang confident we had this in the bag. Then it became moot because the Legislature was so scared by this upswelling of resistance that they repealed the tax reform altogether. Now, instead of being put on the ballot in November, it's simply ceased to exist. Of course I hope Utah will still remember in November exactly which people voted for that train wreck in the first place, and I hope this will leave a lasting impression on anyone currently in or planning to enter politics. I have to admit the referendum would have most likely been a flop without the endorsement and enthusiastic participation of the Harmon's grocery store chain, where I would happily shop if they had a location in Logan, and the conservative think tank Sutherland Institute who encouraged people to sign by running radio ads telling them not to sign.
I finished submitting the supplementary materials for my graduate school application. The requirements use all this pompous academic language, of course, and it's intimidating and it makes me feel like I'm way out of my depth when I just want to write fun science fiction stories. Realistically, though, and I'm not trying to be cocky, but realistically, I'll be very surprised if I don't get in. I think the skill exhibited in my writing sample will speak for itself, and I also know the professors giving me recommendations will speak very highly of said skill, especially the one who urged me to consider graduate school and teaching in the first place. By my estimate I was the third best writer in his class the first time around and the second best the second, but of course that's kind of subjective and when I told Stormy she was probably the best she said "No, you definitely are." I think my biggest strength is that I fill a different niche than most. Nobody else in any of my writing classes over the years has focused on fun science fiction stories.
I recently lost a substantial chunk of one of my teeth, substantial enough for me to see the sensitive core with my naked eye and touch it with my naked finger, which I only did once. I assumed the remaining chunk would have to be pulled out and I was surprisingly quick to accept that. It's way in the back where nobody would notice, and I've already learned to chew without it, and I figured this life is mercifully short and I'll get it back when I'm resurrected so whatever happens to me in the meantime doesn't matter. I was far more concerned about the cost. I just got Medicaid but it doesn't cover anything dental because the US government has decided those things aren't super important. Imagine, then, my relief when the dentist said he can repair my tooth in half an hour and it will only cost $254.84 if I pay the same day. He might have to follow up with a root canal, but there's no sense worrying about that yet.
The situation with my neighbors... hasn't changed at all, but after the initial shock, I surprisingly don't much care. Their wrongness is their own loss. It will also make my memoir that much better.
This review of my site on Webwiki, the first one from somebody who isn't me, isn't new, but I just noticed it the other day and it made me happy.
Thank you, Jason. Now I'm all like
and I hope to continue putting out the same level of quality, but no promises.
I've had a few bits and pieces of writing on this site in the form of embedded word documents and downloads that don't really work on mobile devices and would be too tiny to read comfortably if they did. I don't think search engines can go through them either. Since these are mostly unfinished pieces of crap from my middle and high school years, moving them into the twenty-first century (which my middle and high school years were already part of, but I'm speaking metaphorically, in a self-deprecating remark about my own lack of technological prowess) hasn't been a priority, but in the last few days I've been finally doing it, transplanting the text from these documents into actual web pages.
The most horrifically painful thing about some of my early writing is the godawful attempts to straight-up copy Douglas Adams' one-of-a-kind writing style. In fairness, he left us much too soon and I would be doing a legitimate service to the world by providing more works in his vein if they were of equal quality and not just pathetic knockoffs. And I guess I don't regret the experiment because I believe that it had a lasting impact on the evolution of my actual genuine writing voice. I think I can see a bit of Douglas Adams in my writing voice, but just a bit, thank goodness.
Anyway, I was skimming through this unfinished sci-fi epic "The War" as I moved the text over - I had intended to read it all straight through, but that was too painful - and this little bit stopped me in my tracks. When I wrote it as a teenager in 2008 or 9, it was just a silly attempt at humor with virtually no real-life subtext intended, but anyone reading it today would be unable to avoid what TV Tropes calls Unfortunate Implications. It's - well, I'll just let it speak for itself.
[Beginning of excerpt. The setting is a party/dance with members of many alien races present.]
“All right,” Hok announced, leaping to the nearest hovering microphone on ridiculously long gangly legs. He was a short, skinny green man with a gargantuan head and pointy ears. “All right,” he repeated, “hang on to your kramblotches, because it’s pippiks’ choice!”
There was a slight groan from some of those assembled, elicited by the fact that there was only one pippik present, a suddenly rather confused-looking Troikot.
There is a simple pattern followed by many species throughout the universe, and that is this: male, female. The reason this is followed by many species is that it’s simple, it works, and if you believe in an all-powerful Hand guiding it somewhere along the line you can imagine Him wanting to keep it consistent. For those who like to keep it even simpler, the options of hermaphrodite and null were made available. However, the Universe being the humongous place it is, some species are bound to be dissatisfied with these perfectly reasonable choices, and choose to come up with their own fancy alternatives. Pippiks, then, are only one of thousands of relatively obscure genders to be found throughout said Universe. Kramblotches, on the other hand, are completely unrelated organs found in some species for the purpose of throwing at predators.
When it comes to interstellar travel, this also brings up the problem of gender pronouns. The language of a species with its own special genders will have developed its own special pronouns, of course, but usually any being from a normal male/female/hermaphrodite/null species will not want to bother memorizing all of the pronouns for the thousands of relatively obscure genders that exist. As a result, most choose to lump them all under the “it” category. Some find this offensive, but, others argue, they should have thought of that before their species decided to create its own genders anyway.
“Ask that cute farfel over there,” whispered a Queezik.
“I don’t swing that way,” the Troikot timidly whispered back.
Hok’s keen ears picked up their exchange and he grinned in spite of himself. He knew, of course, that there was only one pippik in the room, but he was trying as best he could to be fair and tolerant of everybody. Sexism, of course, was unseemly even by this society’s standards.
[End of excerpt]
So. Much. Cringe.
I've avoided talking about all the sex and gender controversy (except that one time, which I won't apologize for) because it's surprisingly complicated and I don't want to say ignorant things. I know that chromosomes are complicated and there are several - not percentage-wise, but numerically - demonstrable exceptions to the "XY = male, XX = female" dichotomy. Externally female bodies may have only one X chromosome, or even XY chromosomes and useless internal testes in place of ovaries, to cite a simple and surprisingly common example. I do think a lot of other people don't know as much about it as they think they do either, even when citing "science" as their authority. A couple months ago in the Mormons Building Bridges group someone posted an article about a study that had allegedly found that, marriage expert Mark Gungor's hilarious routine notwithstanding, there is no difference between men's brains and women's brains. And more recently in the same group someone posted an article about a study that had allegedly found that transgender children's brains matched the gender they identified as, not their biological sex.
I may be missing something obvious, but I can't help feeling like it's fundamentally impossible for both of those claims to be true. Of course it's not my place as a non-scientist to reject either or both of them without being able to explain why, but neither is it the place of other non-scientists to imbue either of them with more authority than it actually has. Scientific truth is not established overnight by one scientist or team of scientists. A study may be interesting but means very little unless and until its results are replicated in additional studies. This often never happens. There's also the issue of news outlets and other lay people misinterpreting studies to mean what they want them to mean - for example, this happened a few years ago:
Study from BYU: We found that religious people who use pornography are more likely than non-religious people who use pornography to describe themselves as "addicted" even if they show no signs of addiction.
Almost Everyone Else: This study from BYU found that pornography addiction is a myth created by religious guilt.
These people seemed to believe they were objectively reporting the study's results, when in reality they were doing something else: making crap up. In any case, I'm going to reserve judgment on most of these issues for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, it costs nothing to be kind.
I do still consider it plausible that the vast majority of alien races would fall into something recognizably analogous to the male/female dichotomy, just as the vast majority of advanced organisms on Earth do even with chromosomal arrangements that in many cases radically differ from ours. Sexual reproduction is weird and gross but it works because, by mixing and recombining parents' DNA, it drastically boosts the genetic diversity of the species, which in turn makes it far less vulnerable to being suddenly wiped out by disease, climate change or whatever. This obviously requires at least two parents. Three, four, or a dozen would create even more diversity, but the exponential difficulty of actually pulling it off in practice would more than nullify that benefit. Of course, there may be aliens out there who aren't even made from DNA as we understand it, but that's also too complicated for me to think about right now.
Ugh, I need to get the taste of that excerpt out of my mouth, so here's another from the same scene that I don't hate.
[Beginning of excerpt.]
“Let’s go find a seat,” said Bert. They turned around and nearly bumped into the nine-foot tall hairy mass behind them. It reacted slightly less than a tombstone, but the purple snake coiled around its neck reared up and hissed at them violently.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Alicia, who had spilled soda all over her clothes in response. “Er, nice pet,” she said to the hairy creature, hoping to make light of it.
“How dare you speak that way of my fiancé?” demanded the snake.
[End of excerpt.]
It's a dumb joke, but I find it amusing. At least I was supportive of interracial marriage long after it was cool.
Why do I put these garbage writing samples, these "sins of my youth" as Hergé would call them, on the internet instead of burying them forever? First of all, because when I'm famous everyone will be fascinated to see how my writing has evolved. Joking but serious at the same time. Second, because despite how bad they are, they're actually not that bad. Oh sure, they're too painful for me to read, but they have their moments of brilliance and I can see in them the potential that my teachers saw and urged me to cultivate. They're better than some Legend of Zelda fan fiction I've read. Heck, they're better than some things I read from some of my undergraduate English classmates. Not singling anyone out but just being honest. And maybe some people who hold me to a lower standard than I do, who aren't personally embarrassed by the existence of this old writing, can actually enjoy it. I enjoy the Star Wars Holiday Special, which shouldn't be possible for a carbon-based life form, so it's not that far-fetched.
While I was skimming through "The War", I laughed out loud at a part where (spoiler alert) one character who's just learned English as a second language refers to puppy love as "dog lust". Maybe I'm just an idiot, but I think that's one of the funniest things I've ever written.
I should have been at work when they came, but the internet went down and we were all sent home early. I thought I would use my newfound freedom to take a sorely needed nap, and maybe if the snow ever stopped I would shovel the sidewalk for everyone. But no. Around one in the afternoon they came and knocked on my door.
Even though I would have much preferred to be left alone, I was prompt in answering, but not prompt enough for them, if their indiscreet ducks and peeks under my half-closed window shades were any indication. Two guys I couldn't get a clear look at. My upstairs neighbors, I assumed, as peeking in people's windows is frowned upon and thus the sort of thing friends goofing off would do. I opened the door and discovered how wrong I was.
As the police officers made small talk and gently invited themselves in, I racked my brain trying to come up with anything I could have possibly done to warrant this visit. Had my years of jaywalking finally come up with me? Their refusal to get straight to the point didn't help. I concluded after a few agonizing seconds that this was a misunderstanding of some kind, and once they had satisfied themselves that I had no drugs or weapons or Nickelback albums they would leave me alone. They did make a rather obvious show of looking at every item or piece of clutter in my living room, as if forming their opinion of me right then and there, but there was no actual search. I sat, they stood. My memory is already fragmented so I don't know if I've gotten all the basic points in the right order, but I think I've gotten them all covered at least. I'm also going to censor myself less than usual because I feel like it.
The one guy who did most of the talking while his partner stood back and to the side finally got to the point. "Your neighbors next door have expressed concern about you," he said.
Oh. So this was an intervention because I had recently been talking candidly to one of them about my lack of will to live. She'd taken it the wrong way if she was actually concerned or thought I was planning to kill myself, but that was probably my fault, so fair enough and I would be more careful about phrasing in the future.
"They said you've been making them uncomfortable," he continued stiffly. "You are not to talk to them anymore, you are not to text them, you are not to call them. Consider this a warning."
At this point, one thought overwhelmingly dominated my mind, and that thought was What the fuck?
Out loud, I phrased it a bit more tactfully.
"You know the texts you sent them?" He sounded contemptuous and borderline hostile, derisively emphasizing "the texts" as if they were proof that I had murdered a kitten.
"Yeah," I said.
"What kind of texts were they?"
I hesitated, which I immediately assumed they had immediately taken as an admission of guilt. The reason I hesitated was because there was no way to answer that question in a few words. It required a decent bit of backstory and context. "They were - well, I can show you," I said, reaching for my phone.
"We've already seen them," he snapped, his voice rising as if my response had been evasive or obstinate instead of, you know, the opposite of those things.
Now, I'm going to interject some of that backstory and context. It doesn't make a difference to anything now but someday I'll be gone and want the record set straight for posterity. There were, I assume, only two of the five neighbors involved, best friends, the only ones I knew much at all - or thought I knew, anyway. I'll call them C and T. The officer never did clarify for sure which horrible texts he had in mind, but I hadn't texted C for nearly a week, and I had been texting T the previous day. And yes, some of those texts were "weird". But so is T.
The second time I had a conversation with T, she had granted my request to come over and discuss something that I would tell her if she promised to keep it confidential. "I promise," she had said with a smile. And when I showed up, of course she already knew what it was. I wanted to talk about her roommate C. She was very friendly and supportive and gave me lots of advice in a conversation that stretched on about four times as long as I'd anticipated, which I had to cut short so I could go to work. She said I should invite C to go for a walk, and I said I was too nervous, so she said we'd compose the text together, then took my phone and composed and sent the text on her own.
More to the point here, though, she told me she could read people's auras, that she'd seen mine, that it was refreshingly devoid of the usual flashing lights and loud noises and smells of most people's auras, that my heart was a nice color, that the emotional damage she saw in me wasn't as bad as I thought and just needed a little time and attention to heal, and that she could glimpse the future sometimes and this was one of those times and that the walk C had miraculously agreed to as we sat there would turn out to be a good experience, but she wouldn't say how because knowing your own future will make you ruin it. Which sounds legit. You know, I'm often a skeptic, but I do think the world is a strange and wondrous place and if someone tells me they have gifts like these, I'm happy to take their word for it as long as they're not charging too much.
T was a very calm, soothing influence. She seemed to spew wisdom in every sentence with a cryptic smile plastered on her face. She seemed to know everything and be incapable of surprise. But she wasn't cocky, she was just like "I know everything and I'm not worried so you shouldn't worry either." Basically she was like real-life Luna Lovegood. And every time then or thereafter I expressed a misgiving beaten into me by years of misfortune that I had said or done something weird to upset her or C, she acted confused as to why I would think that way when clearly I had said or done nothing wrong and needed to calm down. Basically, she was a strange, free spirit who had seen my innermost self and pronounced it wholesome, who implicitly and explicitly made me feel like I could be candid and honest and not stress about always saying the "right" thing the "right" way because she would know what I meant.
I know now that for some length of time - maybe a day, maybe weeks, maybe from the start - she was straight-up deceitful with me.
So these particular texts that made me the worst person in the world started Sunday evening after I called T to ask about something else and then hesitated and she sensed there was more I wanted to say. By her own admission she was really, really bad at responding to texts, but on this occasion she made a promise to respond for the next twenty-four hours. I took her up on that and took advantage of the time allotted to cover as much ground as possible.
My first question had to do with what she'd said months earlier about my aura. It seemed from what she'd said that she had looked into my soul and pronounced it good. And I wanted to know, was that all she'd seen, or had she seen the ugliness too? Because this is something I've pondered and wrestled with plenty of times and was doing so again as the new year provided an impetus for introspection and improvement. Plenty of people think I'm great and whatever, but virtually none of them are very familiar with my gamut of shortcomings. I, on the other hand, have a more balanced picture of myself and am less inclined to think I'm so great, but am I just too hard on myself? The people who think I'm great would say so, but how would they know when they can't see what I see? So I thought T would have one-of-a-kind perspective and could maybe put me at ease, if she could be like "Yes, I saw your soul's defects but it was still good and beautiful overall."
She said - and I saved this response because it was so poetic - "I'll be completely honest with you. Your outer shell looked covered in cigarette burns, cuts, infection, and you looked starved and severely damaged. Your outer shell was blotchy in color from a lack of sunlight and extreme cold. Your head was covered in cracks and had exposed parts to your brain. I saw some things that aren't my place to say because it would only give you flashbacks and anxiety."
I said, "That sounds about right."
That was the part where I opened up more. She wasn't able to respond for a bit but I wanted to take advantage of my twenty-four hours so I kept texting. When she responded she said she was glad I had told her these things but there wasn't really anything she could do to help and I should talk to somebody more qualified. I said she'd been very helpful in the past and shouldn't underestimate herself, and I was pleased that for once I was the one in a position to tell her to have a higher opinion of herself. Now, in hindsight, maybe at this point she was trying to tell me to shut the hell up, and interpreted my response as a refusal. I didn't ask her to cure me, though. I only meant that she was more helpful than she gave herself credit for.
But I imagine her main problem with me arose on Monday, when I asked her on a whim if she could interpret dreams. She said sometimes depending on certain factors and whatnot. I told her I'd had some weird dreams about someone - I figured she knew who I was talking about, but didn't specify because us both be objective about it and limit the awkwardness - and I was pretty sure most of them were meaningless nonsense, but one of them I wanted to check because it had a bit of biblical imagery, nothing too fancy but enough to make me wonder a little. It wasn't a big deal or a priority - the dream had happened weeks earlier - but I figured as long as T was committed to responding for a certain time period and this seemed like something that would be right up her alley, it couldn't hurt to ask. I was perfectly aware that this isn't a topic to bring up with just anyone, but she wasn't just anyone. I thought I could share anything with her.
She queried me about the sparse details, which I don't feel like getting into in this public space at this time, but I promise it wasn't a vision of my mother and/or wife dying. Then she asked who this person in the dream(s) was. I started to feel uneasy for the first time in our twenty-four hours. She said she already knew who it was so I should just spit it out. I did, playing right into what I'm now positive was a duplicitous attempt to make me incriminate myself - not for actually doing anything illegal or unethical, of course, but for being creepy. I think even subconsciously at the time I picked up on a change in her that I shouldn't have overlooked.
"Please don't be upset," I said.
"Why would I be upset?" she lied.
She said this dream and other unrelated ones stemmed from my own insecurities, that they came from a bad place and I should ignore them. I mulled it over, somewhat surprised that she would see any bad influences behind it, but she was usually right about things so I accepted that. I wasn't surprised or disappointed that this dream which I knew probably meant nothing actually did mean nothing. I thought that would be the end of it and assumed without question that she would continue to respect the confidentiality she promised me.
And that, essentially, is what I would have liked to be able to explain to the police. But if they had read these texts back even a little ways, they should have been able to see for themselves that T's were totally on board with everything, that she believed all this stuff about auras and dream reading and that she started the auras part herself. This was not an instance me sending weird texts to a normal person who wouldn't be expected to know what to do with them. I suppose she told them she was just playing along so she could incriminate me for being weird.
As far as my texts to C, there was no similar weirdness. Originally I got her number when I showed up to invite her to go hiking with some friends, and she wasn't home but T invited me in (this was before our aforementioned discussion) and offered it to me on a sticky note. Even though it's normal behavior for people within YSA ward boundaries to look up each other's numbers in the directory, I was nervous that C wouldn't appreciate me having hers without permission. T said it was fine. The point became moot when C came home right then and I was able to talk to her in person, but as I was about to leave I said, "Oh, your roommate gave me your number and wanted me to text you."
"You're welcome to text me," she said, and no sooner had the words left her mouth than their dog ran out the door and we spent the next five minutes chasing it.
Despite this explicit permission, I was afraid to text her and didn't until T did it for me. I was afraid because I'd had far too many experiences of texting women and having them invalidate my existence by responding between two and zero times. In early 2016, this happened with three different women in the span of a couple of weeks, sufficiently breaking my spirit that I vowed to never ask for a woman's number again. And I didn't. And I fully expected that C would decline the invitation T wrote for me, and that she would stop responding almost immediately thereafter. Instead I found her her responses incredibly consistent and prompt, especially for one so busy, and warm and friendly as well. I wasn't so delusional as to think that the smiley faces were flirtatious, but they did at least give off the impression that she enjoyed texting me. Yet I constantly felt like this was too good to be true, that my luck would run out and reality would reassert itself. Every time she responded I felt like I'd performed a miracle.
Instead of the scheduled walk, we ended up just sitting and talking on campus, which was delightful in itself. C gave me an unsolicited friendly hug when we parted ways. But some time later I grew bold and asked if we could try for the walk again. It was finals week, when I hoped she would have a bit more room in her schedule owing to the lack of classes, but she said she was busy and stressed and trying to figure some things out and get everything ready to go home for the break, and asked if we could do it sometime next year instead. I said for sure but that I was sorry to hear she wasn't doing well and hoped she could get some much-needed relaxation. I left it at that because she seemed like she needed space and would brush off any offers of assistance on my part. Over the break, I only texted her on Christmas (when we had a nice conversation) and New Year's Eve (when I texted once, she responded and I didn't).
When school started up I started texting her more, and at long last we got into some deep discussions and she put the stunning intelligence I'd seen in her eyes long ago on full display. I shed a few tears of joy. That conversation tapered off but I figured she was busy and didn't worry much about it. I waited a day or so, then asked if she would be up for a walk the following weekend. She said her foot hurt too much from spraining it over the break, and that she needed more time. I said no worries and this time I did ask if there was something I could do and of course she said no. We texted some more about school and stuff, she stopped responding even though I asked a direct question, and that was quite a disappointment but I didn't let it get to me. I decided to wait a week before texting her again. She went to the police before that week was up.
What I'm trying to get across is that no reasonable person on the planet could find any cause for complaint in this set of texts. I bent over backwards to respect real or imagined boundaries and not pressure or overwhelm C in any way. So I assume this was all about the other texts, and that T violated her promise of confidentiality. Of course I there would have been valid cause to do so if she had reason to suspect that I presented a danger to someone. But nothing whatsoever in any of these texts provided such a reason either - unless, of course, one factors in the statistically baseless but ever-popular assumption that all mentally ill people (but mostly just all mentally ill men, if we're being honest) are ticking time bombs who threaten normal people, in which case every weird thing I said became ipso facto proof that I was scary. I can imagine T thinking, "Crap, he's more insane than I thought; I'd better stab him in the back." But by her own logic there, I should have run and told somebody as soon as she got that smile and started talking about the color of my heart.
And if, for the sake of make-believe, I did have less than pure intentions toward C, why in the everlasting gulf of death and misery would I confide in and seek advice from her best friend as much as possible? Is that how stupid T thinks I am? I almost find that more insulting than her betrayal. She knows me better than that.
The talkative (and rude) cop, nonetheless, consistently referred to "the texts you sent them" as if they owned the same phone, which I thought was kind of stupid. (For that matter, he never even specified that it was just the two of them and not all five neighbors under discussion, but I've only ever sent one text to one other, and it was in response to her finding my number and texting me to say she'd retrieved my package while I was out of town, which now that I think of it was kind of creepy and I obviously should have told the police to tell her never to text me or take my stuff again.) He went through that little spiel in his unnecessarily belligerent manner, seeming to take for granted that I wouldn't comply with this injunction I was hearing about for literally the first time ever unless he threatened me, and then softened. "Any questions?" he asked.
I told him, truthfully, that this had come out of nowhere, that my neighbors had never complained to me about anything I said or did, or given me the slightest indication that there were any problems of any kind.
The quiet cop got his piece in. "Some people don't like confrontations," he said.
Ah, of course. Other people's freedom to avoid resolving conflicts like adults at all costs should certainly trump my freedom to not be treated like a criminal in my own home for no justifiable reason. Why do we pay taxes for law enforcement, if not to use them as pawns in real-life Facebook blocking as a first and only resort to prevent any communication about our personal drama? I thought they were my friends.
The talkative (and rude) cop then mentioned in passing a few things that were garbled to the point of inaccuracy, making it clear that either C and T or he himself had no problem playing fast and loose with facts. I believe there's something very specific in the scriptures about bearing false witness against thy neighbor... He mentioned "the Tootsie rolls and the notes" that I left on their doorstep and said specifically not to leave notes anymore.
Back in the early days of what I thought was our friendship, I noticed on C's public Instagram status that she was a huge fan of Tootsie rolls. I didn't understand the fascination myself for such a monotone-flavored candy, but different strokes for different folks. Although now that I think of it there are multiple flavors and I shouldn't have just assumed she only meant the chocolate ones. Anyway, I had gotten the feeling lately that she was going through a rough time, and I figured even if my intuition was wrong it was still correct because any life as busy as hers would suck, and the idea just coalesced in my mind that it would be nice to do something nice for her and that Tootsie rolls could be it. I got the biggest bag I could find, put it in an old Amazon package with the address torn off, and yes, God forbid, I put a note with it - a note comprised of two words explaining who its intended recipient was. And I left it on her doorstep.
It was just a nice thought that seemed like a good idea at the time, and I had no further thoughts or aspirations than that. I kept myself anonymous and felt that the selflessness of the act would be compromised if I did otherwise. However, I did tell one person, a mutual friend who kept me informed that C thought the gift was very thoughful, couldn't be happier to have it, and really really wanted to find out who it was from. This friend urged me to the point that a week later I knocked on C's door and explained, and she expressed her gratitude and I bowed out as fast as I could so I didn't seem like I was expecting anything.
The only other time I left something on their doorstep was a birthday present for her, on the day she had told me was her birthday, selected to match some of the biggest interests she had told me about. This one, also, had a note, eleven words long this time as I recall, which may be where I crossed the line into unacceptable behavior. It was anonymous again but I knew she would know it was from me but I planned to deny it because she couldn't prove anything, so I could at least maintain some semblance of selflessness. When the time came, though, I realized I couldn't lie to her even for such a purpose, so I phrased my denial as an overly obvious joke. She said she was very happy to have it. When T invited me over late the next week I saw it in a place of prominence on the kitchen table.
Those two notes accompanying those two packages, together totalling thirteen words, were the only notes that I left for anyone living there at any time. So, "don't leave any more notes"? What the actual hell?
The police officer also mentioned that they said I was "always" outside when they went by, which is quite an absurd statement. The way they/he phrased it would seem to suggest that Sometimes I saw one or both of them in the yard and popped out to talk to them because opportunities to do so were few and far between. I stayed within or next to my own doorway unless the dog was also present and delighted as always to see me. I didn't see it as problematic because we all lived in the same building and I thought they were my friends, but If I'd suspected at all that they did, I wouldn't have tried to talk to them. In any case I'd estimate that all of these brief encounters with either or both of them averaged less than one a week. I recognize that "always" was meant as a bit of hyperbole anyway but in this case, it's actually just a lie. Perhaps they were just really, really upset for some reason about both of the times one of them came outside to find me playing with the dog after they left it tied up alone in the cold?
The police officer said, "Don't follow them." I have never followed them. I'm not even sure what they're smoking if they think I've ever followed them.
I also would just like to mention that one time I had my headphones on and didn't hear T knocking on my door for four minutes or see her text announcing her arrival, so she went around to the living room window by where I was sitting and banged on that. I didn't mind it, and felt really bad for wasting four minutes of her life, but if our positions had been reversed I never ever would have dared to do the same with her or any other woman who hadn't been a close intimate friend for at least three years.
Oh, and I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to get onto this tangent, but I should also mention the reason she came. She had told me before that she needed to show me something and ask me something. So now she showed me an unsettling handdrawn picture of a lanky Grey alien with human woman's hair and a smiling mouth of long sharp teeth. It looked as if it had been torn into bitty pieces and taped back together. I was silent for a moment as I tried to process this freaky random thing she'd thrust in my face, then said "Wow, that's something."
She asked, "Do you know what it is?"
"No," I said.
"Okay," she said, and left with it.
I texted her to nonchalantly mention that the picture was going to haunt my dreams at night and asked what it meant.
"It doesn't mean anything," she texted back, "it's just a picture. Are you Irish?"
I answered honestly and didn't press for an explanation, but I asked C about it a couple days later. She said she didn't know about this particular instance, though she had seen T drawing something, but T just did random checks like that from time to time and never explained what she was checking. I would be able to count my friends on one hand if I did weird crap like that. Aren't double standards and hypocrisy amazing? I should have called the police anyway.
So to summarize that painfully long section, my neighbors sent the police after me for not entirely accurate reasons because they weren't willing to talk to me about their concerns like adults. I thought they were my friends and I thought they were mature and intelligent people. To say that the truth blindsided me would be the understatement of the year, which admittedly hasn't been underway very long but still.
Now the officer changed the subject and acted all concerned. He asked if I was depressed or suicidal right now. And yes, it just so happened that at that very exact moment, having received this bombshell out of nowhere that despite trying to learn and grow and have friends throughout my adult life I still have no social skills, I still make women uncomfortable, and I still don't have a place in this society, and that if nothing's gotten better by now it's not likely ever going to and there's not much to live for if this kind of bullshit and all the other bullshit I've been through are what I have to look forward to indefinitely, my desire to get the hell off this planet had spiked a little.
He queried me about past suicide attempts, plans and so forth. I have this crazy thought that if he was really so concerned about my emotional health, he could have maybe not started his approach by trying to confuse and scare the crap out of me, but what do I know about police work? He asked if he could take me to the hospital.
"I don't have insurance," I said.
"I'd just take you in the patrol car," he said. "No ambulance." (Note for non-Americans: This is relevant because in the dystopian nightmare called the United States of America, an ambulance ride can cost up to two thousand dollars.)
"But how much would the visit cost?" I pressed.
"I don't know," he said, "but your life is more important than money."
I silently disagreed. I will concede the point that being alive is a prerequisite to money having any value at all, but on the flip side, a life devoid of money is essentially one long hellscape of anxiety and deprivation that I for one don't consider a more attractive alternative to not having to worry about the damn stuff. What's the point of a hospital saving my life just so they can make it even worse?
The offer of hospitalization was probably their intention all along based on the more nihilistic texts my neighbors showed them, but ironically, my neighbors doing this to me was the only reason I needed it at that moment, if I did need it, which despite my hesitation I sensed I very well might. And I figured I could still kill myself afterward if it turned out to be too expensive. So I let him convince me, probably because I knew deep down that he was only pretending I had a choice.
The three of us stepped outside. "Thank you for cooperating," said the officer who had snapped at me a few minutes ago for cooperating. Then: "Is it okay if I pat you down? I want to make sure you don't have a knife or anything you could use to hurt yourself in the hospital." So I put my hands on my head and he patted me down right there on the sidewalk where anyone could look out the windows and see us, and in fact one of my upstairs neighbors did, but since he's an actual friend he texted me to ask if I was okay and I said no. I got in the back of the talkative (and previously rude) cop's car - there were two, as they'd driven separately, which struck me as overkill, but then, their being called to the scene in the first place was already overkill - and we set off. No handcuffs, so I didn't get the full experience. On the way the driver chatted with me about school and career aspirations.
Of course when we got to the hospital my first question was about the money and they determined that I might be eligible for Medicaid and should talk to the financial adviser after. I had looked into Medicaid a little and determined that I wasn't eligible, but that just shows how dumb I am.
At one point, besides the officer standing just outside, there were four people in the room - I believe the doctor, the nurse, the social worker, and a woman probably a few years younger than me who inexplicably wore a nametag identifying her origin as Weber State University. She said nothing as the others briefly discussed the details of my case. The word "stalking", spoken as casually as a discussion of the weather, jumped out and hung in the air forever. Here they were talking about me as if I were a monster, while treating me as if I deserved help. Did they not know that the only good stalker is a dead stalker? I guess there was truth in what Dr. Proctor said in one episode of "Pokémon" that I watched a hundred and fifty times as a kid: "A doctor's job is to heal, not to judge."
But what were they really thinking? In particular I wondered about the young Weber woman who never joined in the discussion. Was the appearance of clinical objectivity on her face genuine, or did it merely mask the revulsion she felt toward me? Or worse yet - pity? You poor stupid boy, her eyes might have said. You just can't help it, can you?
In fairness, though, they might have actually said "stocking". I shouldn't jump to conclusions.
Before the officer left, he gave me his name and said I was welcome to call the station and talk to him. I wanted to take him up on his offer and explain why I wasn't the terrible person he thought I was, but what good would that have done? It wouldn't have altered the legal situation at all.
The process mostly consisted of me changing into one of those risque hospital gowns that I guess is supposed to make people less suicidal, and talking to the social worker. I was able to give her a very condensed version of my side of the story but soon figured out that she wasn't really aiming to address what had happened or not happened, just to stop me from killing myself. She asked, "Any physical or sexual abuse growing up?"
Not intentionally, but given what we know about the long-term effects of spanking and slapping children, to say nothing of children who don't know why the hell they're being punished half the time, yes. I said something less articulate to that effect.
She pressed, "Any sexual abuse?"
"No." For a moment I wondered if I should mention the time I was alone with an older relative and he whipped out his penis and tried to convince me to suck it. But after I declined enough times, he gave up and put it back in his pants, so that didn't count as abuse and couldn't have had much impact besides helping me realize years later how fucked up one side of my family is. So it didn't seem relevant and I didn't mention it.
Would I consider this situational depression, she wondered? Well, duh. I didn't really think a chemical imbalance had jack to do with it. I thought that most people - not that most people would ever find themselves in a similar situation, but if they did, most people would have essentially the same emotional response. I didn't think my inability to get over it with a smile and a shrug was something to pathologize.
She said they had to determine whether to let me go home or make me stay for a few weeks, and it was a point in my favor that I had come voluntarily. She asked, "Do you have something to live for?"
If you mean, I thought, do I have any hypothetical future joy nearly as compelling as my real current suffering, then no.
"I want to be a famous author someday," I said, and she accepted that.
Why is my life so valuable to you? I silently demanded. You didn't know I existed before today. If I had died before today, you never would have. You just took this job where you're supposed to tell people you've never met before and know nothing about that they need to stay alive because, nothing else considered, you think being alive is intrinsically so freaking important for some reason. Why?
She gave me a piece of paper to write a plan for handling suicidal urges, and mostly left me to fill it out on my own. One thing she emphasized was that they'd only let me go if I had someone supportive to spend the evening with. I'd already texted Katie, the one person who came to mind because I was talking to her virtually every day, and told her where I was. Now I called and asked if she could do that for me. I didn't want to add to the crap she already had going on, but she seemed like the best option and I knew I would feel safe with her. I got dressed, applied for Medicaid, went home and waited for Katie to get off work and come get me.
While there I decided to announce where I'd just been, so as to strike a blow against the often-fatal stigma surrounding these topics, but I didn't want it to sound like a cry for attention so I balanced it out with more positive news.
My home was a scary place to be while I waited. I was scared to open the blinds, scared to go outside, scared of every sound I heard in the yard or through the wall. I was hungry but had no appetite. When I forced myself to eat something after nearly two hours, I started shivering and couldn't stop.
Katie came and got me, took away my kitchen knife and toaster, and let me tag along with her for the rest of the evening even though she had errands and things to do. She offered to get me something to eat, and though I had no appetite, I knew she wanted to help and I should let her. She asked what I wanted. I said "Something hot" because my insides were cold. Steve, my upstairs neighbor who saw me getting "arrested", offered via text to hang out and talk, but he wouldn't be home for a few hours. When I mentioned that I was afraid to go to bed, Katie suggested that maybe I could also stay the night with him.
She also suggested I talk to our bishop, which I thought was a most excellent idea. It turned out he already knew about it because C and T had actually first gone with their garbled account to one of his counselors in the bishopric who happened to be a police officer, and he in turn, whether because of professional requirements or just being a dick, had sent the two other police officers instead of talking to me himself. So of course this information had also been disseminated to the rest of the bishopric and the secretary, and because it was last minute the bishop only had five minutes or so but wanted to talk anyway. I didn't really appreciate having to start out on the defensive with everyone from the beginning.
There wasn't time to explain very much but I did tell him that I felt my neighbors had been very childish and handled the situation very poorly. I knew it wasn't his place to try and make them reconsider their actions, but it was kind of his business since they had created a substantial rift in his ward, and he wasn't forbidden to communicate with them, and I kind of hoped he would at least meet with them in private and find a really tactful way to suggest that maybe they had been very childish and handled the situation very poorly. I didn't ask him to though. And he just basically said he couldn't do anything about the legal aspect and I needed to do what the police said whether I thought it was right or not. It never occurred to me to do otherwise. In fact, if my neighbors themselves had told me not to have any contact with them, without involving the police, that still would have been out of nowhere, completely uncalled for, and deeply hurtful, but I still would have complied. There's little to be gained in trying to talk to people who hate you that much.
"Will you be able to do that?" he asked.
"That depends," I said. "Are they going to get mad at me for being in my own front yard?"
"I don't know," he said. "Just do your thing. Go to work, come home. Don't watch them." For the record, that was yet another thing I was already not doing. I'm almost surprised nobody told me not to campaign for Donald Trump.
He agreed with my plan to go to another ward for at least a few weeks, and said I could then let him know if I wanted my records moved permanently. He said I need to look forward, because I can't change yesterday, only tomorrow. Very true. I don't waste too much time wishing I could change my yesterdays. I just try to forget most of them ever happened.
While we waited for Steve to get home, Katie took me back to her place and let me watch part of "National Treasure" as we ate chips and salsa. I hadn't seen it in a long time and was surprised at how much I'd forgotten besides the parts engraved on my heart. "I've always wondered," I said as Nicholas Cage explained his brilliant plan to steal the Declaration of Independence, "if people actually learn how to commit crimes by watching movies like this."
"Right?" Katie said. "Me too. This and 'Tower Heist'."
It was about my normal bedtime when I got to Steve's place, but I stayed up for another hour to talk and watch "The Mandalorian" regardless. In the meantime of all this, a few people had reached out from my Facebook post, and I'm not going to pick favorites from the messages I received, but these were my favorite messages I received.
I've had several people in person mention that they love my blog, but from what I can see its search ranking and page views are nowhere near where I think they should be after all this time, and it often feels like I'm just tossing weird words out into empty air and I wonder if it's worth bothering anymore. So this was nice to hear.
I don't know, I can't say the obscure Disney Channel original film "Can of Worms" was great or anything, but it was an acceptable way to spend part of a long car ride. I can't really say it sucked. It had a certain dorky charm. Oh wait, I also saw "The Muppets" (2011) a few days ago. And part of "National Treasure".
But I had to go to bed, and though this particular situation was unprecedented, I'd been through enough Earth-shattering crises to know as well as I knew anything what was going to happen next. No matter how much love and support I'd received from my friends, in person or online, and no matter how much better I was feeling since earlier in the day, it would all be moot as soon as I lay still and alone in the dark and the silence. The depression and anxiety would return with a vengeance and make getting to sleep, a challenging task for me during the best of times, much much much more difficult. After I did calm down enough to get to sleep, I would more than likely be woken up a couple hours later by the depression and anxiety once again in full strength.
I hoped that crashing on Steve's house, in someone else's home, would ameliorate that a little. And maybe it would have in the long run. But after forty-five minutes or so of torture, I got the bright idea to take a long hot shower. So I gathered my things and went downstairs to my own apartment and did that. It made me feel okay for as long as I was in the shower. Before long I was restless enough to turn my phone back on and sober-drunk-text one of my closest friends whom I had already acquainted with the situation.
By "paths I shouldn't go down" I just meant self-destructive behaviors and substance abuse to prevent me from ever falling in love. Nothing weird.
My best way of describing the next few hours is being tied down at the edge of an ocean of pain as wave after wave crashed over me. The pain ebbed and flowed, but remained a constant presence. My heart raced through one drum solo after another and I thought, quite seriously and not for the first time, that I must be losing years off my life from the way it was wearing itself out. A few times I scrounged together the energy and coherence to beg God for help - not a deliverance that I knew wouldn't come, but the strength to endure. The pain didn't change but there were a few moments throughout the night when I could believe I was receiving that strength.
It was, indeed, the same thing I'd come to expect, except worse and longer than any time I could remember, and I gave suicide a serious reconsideration. It seemed slightly unethical to go ahead and kill myself anyway right after the hospital released me, but I hadn't actually promised them I wouldn't, as such, and even if I had, promises meant nothing anymore.
But then I thought of Katie. There were many people I should have stayed alive for, but the one I fixated on was Katie. I knew that if I did it, she would think she had failed, that she hadn't done enough for me. I was certain that her pain wouldn't be nearly as bad as what I was experiencing, but it would nonetheless be pain that I had inflicted on her. And I didn't want to do that. So I endured for her sake.
At 4:36, I chose to accept the fact that I wasn't going to get a single minute of sleep, and a strange kind of peace fell over me. After another half hour I brought my laptop to bed and got a good head start on this post.
You can return from the edge of your seat now. I didn't kill myself. But more importantly, do you know who else didn't kill himself? Jeffrey Epstein. I know, I know, too soon, but somebody has to say it. All y'all sheeple need to wake up.
The very high esteem in which I once held C and T is well and truly gone, and I'm baffled that I could have been so very, very wrong about the kind of people, let alone friends they were. I've been advised to forgive them and not hold onto anger. I will and won't respectively, because this time I literally don't have the energy left to be angry. Now that I've gone through the catharsis of writing this massive post I will do my best to never think about them again. And having set the bar tolerably low, the few days since then have been much much better.
However, T still has in her possession my copy of Splinter of the Mind's Eye that I bought in 2005 and would really like to have back. I still have her copy of Wizard's First Rule that she exchanged for it, but since she chose to legally forbid me from returning it I don't particularly give a damn, and plan to burn it when the weather is nice and my friend Terrah starts doing campfires again. I really would like to have mine back though. We exchanged books the evening she dropped C at the airport and invited me over after she saw me sitting in the yard, and after talking a bit we ended up working on individual projects while "Legion" played in the background because she found horror films relaxing, which isn't weird at all. Just in case she was too polite and passive to make it known when she wanted me to leave, I offered to do so before I wore out my welcome.
With that confused face, she asked, "When wouldn't you be welcome?"
But do you want to know what the very best part is? Well, I think it's the best part, anyway, but that's subjective. I swear I'm not making it up.
I think back to when I moved here a few months ago. The move, I hoped, would symbolize a fresh chapter in my life, and big part of that fresh chapter would be making sure nobody ever again got through the wall around my heart. I fortified it daily. I was aware that some girls lived next door to me, but I ignored them as I did the entire opposite sex, and I knew they would ignore me too and we would coexist in peace.
When I came home from something one day, one of them was standing in my yard with a little dog, which strained at the end of its leash to lavish me with affection as soon as I walked close enough. Having spent far too much of my life without a dog nearby, I knelt down and returned its affection with equal enthusiasm. My eyes never left it. I did not look at the woman awkwardly standing off to the side with the leash. I did not take out my earbuds to hear her speak.
From what I had seen on entering the yard and could see now in my peripheral vision, I made some quick assumptions. She was plain, homely, awkward, and entirely forgettable. The totally blank expression on her face, which later would lead me to believe she, too, was on the spectrum, now seemed to convey her coldness and apathy. I knew she didn't want me here. I knew she was thinking that I looked like a weird person and she didn't like me and she wasn't comfortable with me being here, but she would just have to deal with that because I lived here and I had a right to be here and it wasn't my fault her dog loved me.
As I turned to go into my apartment, though, something made me take out one earbud just in case she did have something to say. In her soft monotone she said, "Have a good day."
But I knew that what she really meant was "Fuck off."
That was the first time I ever noticed C, and my first impression of her.
Why didn't I listen to me?
P.S. Registered Utah voters! Time is almost up to sign the referendum that, if successful, will put Governor Herbert's horrible attempt at tax reform on the ballot instead of shoving it down our throats! Would you rather take a few minutes out of your day to sign, or pay more taxes forever? Join Utah 2019 Tax Referendum on Facebook to learn where to sign and how to volunteer.
The Republican Party in Utah has recently given up any pretense of caring about limited government, fiscal conservatism, or anyone who isn't rich. Late last year during the winter holiday, with as little fanfare as possible, Governor Herbert passed a very unpopular tax reform that seems specifically written as a "screw you" to the lower classes. Not that everything in the bill is bad, or that allocating additional funds for education and mental health is bad, but as politicians like to do they've made those redeeming qualities inseparable from the crap and are now using those qualities to feed us barefaced lies about how this tax reform is good for us little people and we're stupid for opposing it.
I, for one, am especially livid about taxes on groceries going from 1.75% to 4.85%. Free from any longer maintaining the pretense of wanting to cut spending, Republicans brainstormed all the ways they could raise money for their future spending increases, and finally decided "Let's punish low-income people for eating." Or maybe that was their first choice from the beginning, because after all, corporations are people but people aren't people. Exhibit A: Now that Harmon's and a few other grocery store chains are publicly opposing this particular increase, Governor Herbert is upset that they didn't come and talk with them first about their concerns that he didn't care about when they were only voiced by thousands of average citizens.
In his defense, even though it's off-topic, I will say that Governor Herbert isn't a complete waste of a human being. He has betrayed the Republican Party by welcoming refugees to Utah and asking Trump to send more, despite the outrage this has generated from thousands of his constituents who have the audacity to call themselves Latter-day Saints. So I want to like him. This latest development causes me some amount of cognitive dissonance.
The laws of Utah do, however, provide a way out of this. We, the people, have generously been granted something like three weeks, including a few major federal holidays, to gather 116,000 signatures on a referendum opposing the bill that the government had months to write. If successful, this referendum will block the bill from going into immediate effect and instead will leave it to the people of Utah to vote on. Although this might set a dangerous precedent of elected officials not being able to do whatever they want, it's a calculated risk that's uniting people from all over the political spectrum. Now there are ten days left and it's impossible to say how many signatures have been gathered, as many haven't yet been turned in and/or verified.
The biggest obstacle is that a great number of people have never heard of this tax thing in the first place. The lying cowards who passed it haven't exactly gone out of their way to advertise it, until now when they're in damage-control mode. In my own very limited sphere of influence I've been sharing updates that are either getting blacklisted by Facebook's algorithms or just universally ignored. It's times like this I wish I was famous and influential, but then I would probably also be rich and not care.
To find a signing location near you and/or volunteer to collect signatures, please join the Facebook group Utah 2019 Tax Referendum
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
C. Randall Nicholson
This is where I occasionally rant about life, the universe, and/or everything. I'm a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate me without guilt, but I'm also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual.