It's a month almost to the day since the nasty incident with my neighbors, and though I've put it behind me as much as possible, and though by objective measures little else has developed, of course I still remember it every day and have had plenty of time to think about it a little more. It's for my own closure more than anything and I'm sorry if it bores everyone else (insert your own quip about all my posts boring you here).
The next day, open enrollment began for summer and next school year, and I went to sign up. I love my current location, and I had to move thrice last year and I would be damned if I was going to do it again so soon. If my neighbors had a problem with me then they could leave, and I've since heard that they will, though I don't know if it has anything to do with me. I also soon returned to opening my blinds for most of the day as I've always done to maximize natural light and minimize my electricity bill (though most of it is still blocked by trees and recycle bins) but now to also send the message I'm not afraid of you, I mean I am, but I won't let you intimidate me out of living my life. While sitting in my living room on a Sunday morning I've seen them look in my living room window at me before scurrying past like anxious little rodents. Like they're literally scared of me when all I ever did was be nice to them. Such idiocy is so unreal I don't even know how to feel about it.
I've been able to avoid more than occasional glimpses of them, with one notable exception. One Sunday evening I walked into the Spectrum, the basketball stadium on campus where the annual Joseph Smith Memorial Devotional was being held, and there C stood not three meters in front of me, in her campus employee uniform, facing a perpendicular direction. Terror paralyzed me for a moment that seemed like an hour, but I quickly realized that if she turned her head to the left and saw me she would probably call a SWAT team, so I bolted past her, through the crowd, at least halfway around the stadium, not slowing down when I heard some guy behind me say "Hey, there's Nick! Hey, Nick! Nick! He's got headphones on. Nick!" Of course I knew he was talking about/to me because Nick is second only to Christian on the list of things that people think my name is. I found a nice isolated seat close to the action where I could relax a little and process the unwelcome moment.
Now, I was unfairly biased the first time I saw her, as I was trying to close off my heart to the opposite sex entirely, and I thought she looked plain, homely, awkward, and forgettable. I've since come to realize that she is in fact widely regarded by humans as "cute", and I can accept that. But she's no Gal Gadot by any means. She looks like an upside-down exclamation point with glasses, hair, and possibly the worst case of Resting Bitch Face Syndrome I've ever seen. Our first encounter held not the slightest foreshadowing that soon, the slightest hint of a smile on that face would be sufficient to turn my internal organs into jelly. It was what I thought I knew of her mind and personality that transformed her into God's most beautiful creation. This, I thought, is one hell of a woman. This is one of the most mature, intelligent, genuine people I've ever met. This is someone I could have deep, intellectual conversations with for hours. It's not even an issue that she's four and a half years younger than me even though most girls that young don't appeal to me because they look and act like high school students and I'm just not into that.
And then she showed her true colors and I completely lost respect for her, along with faith in my ability to judge character at all, and I was/am embarrassed that I wasted so much emotional energy on someone so unworthy. And then I saw her up close by accident with this new frame of reference and she was still, inexplicably, God's most beautiful creation. So that added another layer of confusion and fear which I was in no position to assuage.
Another little act of bravery was attending home evening even though they're both assigned to my group, and neither of them were ever there so it was fine and for once I was glad I didn't let fear hold me back. After three weeks of going elsewhere on Sundays I decided to return to my ward altogether when it became apparent that few people had heard about the incident and those who did were on my side. Even with C's and T's garbled version of events, it seems, the general feeling from others is that they overreacted to whatever I was or wasn't doing. To their credit, I've obviously told far more people about it than they have, but not so much to their credit, my version isn't dishonest and totally irrational. So I went to church, they sat a bit in front of me with their arms around each other and I realized they make the cutest couple ever.
The final deciding factor was learning that one of their own roommates had stood up for me in a meeting, saying they had jumped the gun, that I wasn't a threat, and that they resented me for treating their dog better than they do. (Guilty as charged. I do have an unfortunate track record of being nice to dogs.) I was surprised to hear about this because, while I knew the complaint had to have come from the two of them, I just kind of assumed all five roommates were on the same page about it. The cop they sent to harass me just kept saying "Your neighbors" this and "Your neighbors" that and made it sound like I wasn't allowed to communicate with any of them at all ever. And I barely know this particular roommate, but on the rare and brief occasions when I talked to her, usually when I knocked on the door looking for someone else, she always seemed to think I was strange and have this What are you doing? kind of look on her face even though I wasn't doing anything. I assumed that when C and T announced I was a stalker she would have just been like I always knew he was sketchy. It warmed my heart very much to hear otherwise.
My friend Jen sent me cookies. She sends me cookies on my birthday but now she doesn't have to for my next three birthdays.
Another friend suggested, "That one girl (the one who saw visions) sounds like a pathological liar."
I asked, "Literally, do you think?" Because I've used the phrase "pathological liar" perhaps a bit too casually in my day, but now I was really intrigued by the possibility of a legitimate pathology here.
"Yeah," she said. "Every person I know who claimed to see visions or auras turned out to be a compulsive liar. (Not that there aren't people who can see visions, like the prophets in the Book of Mormon.) There is a hierarchy of who can have revelations for who. Like parents can have revelations for their children or the bishop for his ward. I bet she got uncomfortable with you asking questions because she couldn't keep her lies going without exposing herself. But I wasn't there and I can't read minds. That's my guess."
You know, I think she's right. I never suspected anything amiss about T's "gift" because she didn't seem to use it for her own profit or self-aggrandizement, or have any intention of usurping someone else's authority. I just thought, well, this is unusual but cool, whatever. I may seem like a colossal idiot to those who don't believe in anything like that to begin with but we'll just have to agree to disagree. Looking back I can maybe see a few inconsistencies in her claims, and how she moved the goalposts and always had a little too quick and easy answer for everything. If she could really read my aura or see the color of my heart she wouldn't have been so very, very wrong about me in the end, and if she were really as wise as she pretended (though always putting on a show of humility when I pointed it out) she wouldn't have reacted like a fifth grader. And she demonstrably did lie to me at least a couple of times and had no discernible qualms about breaking her promise to me in a heartbeat.
Part of me wants to believe that she has a toxic influence on her best friend C, that everything is her fault and that C really is at heart the kind of person I thought she was. Who knows? I never likely will. But I received more support for this hypothesis from my old friend Marie, a character whom only long-time readers of my blog will remember.
Incidentally, a couple months ago she delighted in pointing out to me that C's lovely name is a sacrilegious swear word in Quebec. If I hadn't been so blind, I would have recognized that as a massive red flag.
I've thought a bit about my story in relation to Joseph Smith's First Vision. In this event, to which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and all breakoff sects trace their founding, and which celebrates its two hundredth anniversary this year, Joseph Smith reports that at the age of fourteen he went into the woods to pray and was visited in person by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Over the years he wrote a few firsthand accounts, and a few more were written by associates who heard him talking about it. There are two main perspectives on these varying accounts. The critical perspective is that because they aren't identical in every detail, Joseph Smith must have made the story up as he went along. The faithful perspective is that he emphasized different aspects of the event at different times for different audiences. Now obviously I'm biased, but I think the critical perspective is pretty infantile, and that only one of these differences (the number of heavenly beings mentioned in the 1832 account versus the other accounts) even comes close to something that could rationally be considered a discrepancy.
I've thought about it because, though it's only been a few weeks as opposed to Joseph Smith's twelve years, I've told my story to several people and I haven't told it the same way each time. I haven't consciously adjusted the story for my different audiences but of course in each case finite constraint on people's attention spans and I have to select what strike me as important, representative details. I've often just started with a simple statement like "My neighbors thought I was stalking them and called the police" or "I had to go to the hospital for being suicidal" and let the ensuing comments and questions guide my additional exposition. I've even gone back to my original post - which was already too long - and, through the power vested in me by George Walton Lucas Jr., revised a few word choices and added details that I didn't include the first time around. There are still more I could add but I don't want it to become so long and rambling that nobody on the planet cares to read it.
Does that make me dishonest? Of course not. All it means is that it was a really big, emotionally impactful event and that I can't think of or include everything all at once, let alone every time, nor would anybody actually want me to. The First Vision was much bigger and much more emotionally impactful, albeit in an altogether more positive way. That's not even taking into account how memories are reconstructed from scratch every time we access them based on our current perspectives and emotions, or the obvious evolution in how Joseph Smith would have viewed the event's significance as his life continued and more events followed. I only hope that the significance of this event for me will turn out to be more than God giving me the finger. Listen to a very long but well worth it historians' podcast on the historical context of the First Vision.
And speaking of church history, Saints Volume 2 is out now and I'm a few chapters in and I intend to binge-read the rest as fast as possible.
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.
My closest friend, by whom I mean someone who actually lives very far away that I don't talk to very often but who knows more about me than anyone else except God and doesn't think any less of me for it, is almost exactly the same age. She's a week younger than me. In her twenty-six years, she's been in more relationships than I can count and been engaged once or twice. In my twenty-six years, I've never been on a second date. She, by her own admission, is somewhat codependent and can't stand to be alone, so she ends up dating guys that she knows aren't a great fit. I, in contrast, am so settled into my solitary lifestyle and eternal cycle of rejection that the hypothetical prospect of being in a relationship, even with someone I really really like, is deeply unsettling and becomes less attractive the more I think about it.
But regardless of our differing paths we're both equally single. I muse on that sometimes and I invariably conclude that, as far as this one topic is concerned, I'm the luckier one. It must be so much better to never have something than to have it and then lose it. Over and over again, no less. When I'm thinking rationally I determine that my phenomenal failure rate has been a blessing in disguise.
Recently she lamented that she had been on a date with this guy and really hit it off and was hoping for things to become quite serious. Alas, some girl he'd been interested in for years chose that time to reciprocate those feelings, so now he's with her instead. My friend is very bummed out. I was able to empathize because this sort of bullcrap is my least favorite bullcrap of all the multitude of bullcrap that constitutes what we call dating. You don't operate in a vacuum. You can't just stand on your own merits; you also have to be better than everyone else who wants what you want. It doesn't matter how much you want it, how hard you try, how well you plan, how hard you pray; someone else that the object of your affections finds more attractive than you can come along and erase all your efforts in an instant, and there's nothing you can do about it. Often there's no way to even see it coming.
I shared with her the metaphor that I'd come up with for these situations. It's like playing a video game where, at random intervals, invincible enemies pop out of nowhere and instantly kill you and send you back to the beginning.
Actually, let me back up. Figurative language isn't really my thing but I think this metaphor has potential. I will attempt to explain what dating was like for me as an Aspie YSA by comparing it to a video game. I didn't grow up to be much of a gamer because my parents thought every console prior to the Wii was evil or something, but I enjoy them when I get the opportunity. (Legend of Zelda FTW). They're a nice way to relax and escape from the existential horror of this sick joke we call mortality. Usually.
Okay, so first of all, you've heard about this metaphorical game growing up and people have tried to make you excited for it. You're intrigued, but it's not the sort of thing you'd take the initiative of choosing to do in your spare time. You're more of a book reader. As you get older, people try to encourage you more and more, offer to help you with it, and whatever, to the point where you cave and decide to see what all the hype is about.
So you check out the instruction manual, and discover upon doing so that it's written in an amalgamation of Chinese, Sanskrit, and drunk spider footprints. Most of your friends, despite their assurances to the contrary, seem to read it just fine, and you ask them for help and they try to give you a summary. Sometimes people charge money for books and seminars about what they think it means.
The only way to actually figure it out, you finally conclude, is by trying the game yourself and learning as you go. So you start the game, and discover upon doing so that it's a maze. You know those antique DOS games from the nineties that are challenging, but reasonable, and you're just going along collecting items and figuring out where to use them and then suddenly there's this maze segment that's almost impossible to finish in less than an hour without a walkthrough? And it's completely disproportionate to the difficulty and tedium of the rest of the game and you're just like, What genius thought this would be fun? So this game is like that, except instead of side-scrolling or top-down it's first-person, which makes it even worse.
Also, there are land mines in the floor. So it's also like Minesweeper. Do you know how to play Minesweeper? I don't and I don't know anyone else who does.
You can't figure out the controls from the instruction manual, but your friends tell you what each of the five dozen buttons and triggers is supposed to do. You start the minefield maze and discover upon doing so the difference between theory and practice. Sometimes the controls do what they're supposed to, sometimes they do the opposite, sometimes they do nothing, and sometimes they leak battery acid all over your hands.
When you step on a mine, the damage varies. Sometimes your character dies and sometimes he just loses a limb or two. The plus side, if it can be called that, is that you have unlimited lives in this game. The downside of the plus side is that every time you die you get sent back to the beginning and the maze randomly rearranges itself. You get bored quickly and would rather not play this game anymore. But your friends assure you that everyone steps on mines and yes, it sucks and it's always going to suck, but what can you do? Apparently that's supposed to be comforting.
Also, even if you manage to avoid the mines through luck or telepathy, at random intervals, invincible enemies pop out of nowhere and instantly kill you and send you back to the beginning.
Why would anyone spend more than two minutes playing such a terrible, horrible, no good very bad game? Because apparently there's a really cool cutscene at the end, and when people reach it, they become so excited that they decide it was all worth it and decide how much they hated the game. Especially decades down the road when the rising generations are playing an even harder and stupider remake of the game, and these old people who beat it decades ago don't understand what the issue is. (You can just watch the cutscene on YouTube, but people will tell you that's a cheap counterfeit of the real experience because the audio quality is poor or something.)
Whatever. You're more of a book reader.
The bad news is that the government of China is sterilizing, murdering, and harvesting organs from religious and ethnic minorities with impunity. The good news is that closer to home (meaning, in my case, the United States, in case that's not obvious), Donald Trump is facing imminent impeachment proceedings after a whistleblower report revealed, among other things, that he cheated on Putin with the president of Ukraine. I won't celebrate just yet, though. I can't predict with confidence that he'll face any actual consequences, because the last four years have demonstrated that he's exempt from the standards of behavior that apply to actual humans. Case in point: several Republican senators have refused to even read the report. Admittedly, at nine pages including the appendix, it weighs in substantially longer than a tweet, but these are the sacrifices we should reasonably be expecting them to make for their country if they actually cared about it.
Only two U.S. presidents have ever been impeached (which, contrary to popular misconception, doesn't mean they were booted out of office, but just that the proceedings that could potentially lead to them being booted out of office took place). The last was Bill Clinton. I was alive at the time, but too young to care who he was, let alone notice when he came under national scrutiny for fooling around with an intern and lying about it under oath. My parents were disgusted at him for dragging this country through the mud and not having the decency to resign, but I don't think even they could fault him for wanting literally any woman who isn't Hillary Clinton. But Trump's wandering this time around is just baffling. Why would you want this
when you could have this?
Richard Nixon never faced impeachment proceedings after Watergate because he did have the decency to resign. A shrewd political move, in hindsight, because now he's almost exclusively remembered for that one scandal instead of his War on Drugs that's ruined the lives of millions of good (and disproportionately non-white) people. I obviously wasn't alive then but I've heard that this was the moment when American faith in government was irreversibly shattered, giving way to the ubiquitous cynicism we find ourselves immersed in today. We expect politicians to be corrupt and dishonest, and we only muster up the energy to get upset about it if they're in the opposite party from us. I see memes sometimes claiming that Obama's only scandal was wearing a tan suit. Yeah, no, just because you ignored scandals like Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the IRS harassing conservative groups to help him get re-elected, and his secret White House Halloween party with Johnny Depp doesn't mean they didn't happen.
What neither Nixon nor Clinton had, though, was legions of sycophantic butt-kissers desperately trying to defend everything they said or did. Neither of them would have gotten away with a tenth of what Trump has said and done. And maybe the Democrats will even lose their nerve if they decide having Pence take over as president would be even worse. So like I said, I'm not holding my breath to see if he actually gets held accountable like an actual human this time. But there is hope. And rebellions are built on hope.
I harbor no ill will toward the leaders of eastern European nations for manipulating the political processes of another nation to further their own interests. The United States has done exactly that and worse. I guess it's supposed to be okay when we do it because we're the good guys. And I harbor no ill will toward the Russian trolls who made a profitable career out of writing fake news about Hillary Clinton prior to the 2016 election. We all need money, and it's not their fault the U.S. is home to millions of gullible morons who can be exploited for profit. (In one article I read, one of them said he started out writing fake news about both Trump and Hillary, but only the Hillary stuff went viral so he focused on it exclusively.) Maybe the Nigerian scammers need to learn a thing or two from them. Americans above a certain age will forward almost any bullcrap in an email or Facebook post, so if they won't even take yours seriously, you're doing it wrong.
Just today as I was writing this post, for example, I had to see this garbage in a group called "Sustaining the Prophets and Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ" - intended to be a forum of uplifting religious content for Latter-day Saints from any country - from some poor soul living in an alternate reality where black is white, up is down, and Donald J. Trump is a great man who deserves respect. It actually legitimately scares me that people who think like this exist. I'm not talking about people who held their noses and voted for the lesser of two evils, I'm talking about this inexplicable level of delusional worship that makes me physically ill.
The admins took their sweet time doing anything about it, so I'm not at all sorry for my progressively less tactful role in the dumpster fire that erupted in the comments. I got accused of "casting the first stone" just because I expect a reasonable middle ground between "perfect" and "thoroughly unworthy and unqualified to be president of the United States". The distinction between righteous and unrighteous judgment really shouldn't be that that difficult to grasp, but it is for some people, and I'm sure my sharing this hilarious response from somebody else in the thread won't help.
In more lighthearted news, sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg pissed off a lot of people with her impassioned defense of basic science and common sense. Some of the actual "unwarranted abuse" from idiots whose worldview is threatened by actual facts centered around her being on the autism spectrum. It's unusual for a prominent girl/woman to be known for being on the autism spectrum, because women usually hide it a lot better and don't get diagnosed until later in life. But she's on the spectrum and that's played a major role in shaping her activism and it shows somewhat in the way she looks and talks. And in some people's minds, that makes her a second-class human. I enjoy being reminded periodically that people like me are still viewed as second-class humans. By all appearances, though, Greta is not the slightest bit bothered or deterred by her haters. Good for her. When I was sixteen, I was doing things so unimportant that I don't even remember what they were.
USU's campus has a spot above the parking terrace where you can go and look out over a good-sized chunk of town and, if you time it right, the setting sun. Recently I was in the vicinity while the sky was turning orange, so I headed up to look. This spot is also right behind freshman housing and has a fire pit where several happened to be congregated at this time. I avoided eye contact and charted a course well around them. My being there was not problematic in itself, as this area is as public as any other part of campus and I've seen people old enough to be my grandparents come to take pictures of the sunset, but I wanted to avoid any appearances of trying to crash their party or steal their s'mores. I also had my earbuds in as usual. So it took me a minute to notice them calling out to me. As it turns out, they wanted to be my friends and offer me a s'more.
I apologetically explained that my music was really loud. (I hope to permanently damage my hearing just enough to no longer pick up the million annoying little sounds that my brain refuses to filter out like a normal person's.) They said that was fine and what was I listening to? I said Nightwish. They asked what is that? I said it's a Finnish metal band. They said take out your earbuds and let's hear it. I obliged, grateful that I had told the truth. The song, "Nemo", is an epic yet melancholy piece, as one can infer from the title, which of course is Latin for "little orange fish". It so impressed one of the freshmen that she pulled out her own phone and Shazam'd it. And in that moment I knew that notwithstanding how much of my time and potential I may have wasted that day, right here and now I had enriched someone's life in a very tangible way. Because of me she now knows that Nightwish exists. I'm not worthless after all.
And karma was swift to repay me. One of the guys asked if I had heard of a Swedish metal band called Sabaton. I hadn't, and I procrastinated looking it up for a few days because I get nervous about the unknown and my taste in music is generally superior to other people's, but I got around to it the other day and I would just like to say holy crap. It's epic. So far as I can tell, all of their songs are about World War I and/or II, and somehow despite being generations removed from those events this genre is completely appropriate for conveying the power of unprecedented war machines and the terror of ordinary soldiers going through hell. Its unrelenting speed, volume and intensity conveys a sense of all that without getting bogged down in history lessons or graphic details. And I'll just stop right there before I start to sound like I'm trying to sound like a music reviewer who knows what he's talking about, when all I'm really trying to is that I like Sabaton and my life has been enriched by the introduction. Favorite track: "Bismarck".
This past Friday a friend and occasional reader of this blog, and his wife whom I met for the first time but who already knew about me because of my blog, hosted the inaugural meeting of the Logan Music Society, "a place to listen to, present, and chat about music old and new, from far and near". For this meeting everyone was invited to "play" a song that has changed them and explain why. And since this guy is an actual musician type person, I thought maybe "play" meant "perform", and that almost dissuaded me from showing up. I can't play music, I can't read music, I can't sing without Autotune and I know very little about the official terminology and stuff. I just like listening to it and I know what I like. I did finally decide to show up to be supportive, and everyone just played their chosen songs from their phones so that was all right.
I still hesitated to share one in front of the group because me no very good speech the English extemporaneously. That's why I write. But I went for it because, you know, facing your fears and stuff, and I don't think I sounded like a complete idiot. People liked the song and somebody asked for the artist's name and wrote it down and said she was really excited. Another enriched life. Even so, I want to take this opportunity to compensate for the shortcomings of my presentation by redoing it with my superior writing skills.
Three contenders ran through my mind prior to the meeting: "Unwell" by Matchbox Twenty, "Last Man Standing" by Hammerfall, and "Dante's Prayer" by Loreena McKennitt. I nixed "Unwell" because I thought it would benefit the group more to share something they were less likely to be familiar with. Then, noting the general tone of prior selections and apparent musical leanings of the people who actually knew stuff about music, I opted for the remaining option that I thought they would like more. Of course it would have been perfectly acceptable to express my individuality and break the prevailing tone with metal, but since I didn't have a preference either way I nixed "Last Man Standing" and of course that left "Dante's Prayer".
"Dante's Prayer" is the final track off Loreena McKennitt's 1997 album "The Book of Secrets". She does Celtic New Age-y stuff and my parents were really into that, so they bought the album pretty much when it came out. I was four years old. And I absolutely adored some of the songs and I absolutely adored Loreena McKennitt herself, looking so radiant on the album cover. I decided I would marry her someday. As it turns out, she's still single, but only because her fiance died in a boating accident around the same time I was having these thoughts, which makes me feel terrible. Anyway, despite that, there was one song on the album I didn't care for, and that was this one. I remember where I was the first time I heard it. I was taking a bath when this low melancholy moaning sound unlike anything I'd heard before came over the stereo system, and I thought it was weird and creepy and unpleasant.
Obviously I don't think that anymore. The sound, as it turns out, is a Russian Orthodox chant called "Hallelujah", and even though the Russian Orthodox Church is being a jerk right now I absolutely love what they have to offer her. The sound is still weird, yes, but in such a good way. To me it's a sound that seems to freeze time itself. It's a sound that says, gently but inescapably, "Stop whatever you're doing right this instant and listen to this and become introspective." And I find myself wishing that its time-freezing power was literal and would last forever, because the time it brings me to is the time I was four years old sitting in the bathtub. When I was four years old I didn't know that life was as happy and simple as it was ever going to get. I didn't appreciate that my problems were all but nonexistent, but they were about to multiply like cockroaches. What I wouldn't give to reclaim that innocence! The bathtub part is just incidental.
Nostalgia is a double-edged sword, as depressing as it is uplifting, and I find that same tonal ambivalence in "Hallelujah" and then in the rest of the song as it segues into piano, cello (I think), violin (I think), and Loreena McKennitt's goddess voice. Granted, this may owe more to my own lack of emotional intelligence than authorial intent, but the way art works is that my interpretation is as valid as anyone else's. The lyrics speak of hope, of faith, of seeking after God when he seems the most distant, of grasping at tender mercies and persevering through the long dark night of the soul - depression, faith crisis, loss, whatever. In my favorite passage, she sings,
"I did not believe because I could not see
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars"
Yet I cannot bring myself to call this a cheerful song when it sounds like something to be played at a funeral. In this very same passage, Loreena/Dante laments her/his own foolishness and shortcomings, and this continues as (s)he asks God to strengthen her/his "clay feet" and "feeble heart" and "take these crumpled hopes, etched with tears". Near the end of life, perhaps, looking back with no small amount of regret and lingering heartache over the past, but acknowledging God's hand throughout, and humbly pleading with Him to remain nearby through the final stretch. Loreena's voice fades away as she repeats, as she begs, "Please remember me." She is altogether silent when the music segues flawlessly back into "Hallelujah", closing out this hymn of unparalleled beauty that simultaneously preaches hope, acknowledges pain, and diminishes neither. As I put it more simply the other night, "It makes me cry for multiple reasons." That's how I feel about it now that I don't hate it anymore.
"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.