Racism in the United States and police abuse of power in the United States are both really hot topics right now. They are separate topics, though they very much overlap. And I'm not sure right now how to handle that overlap. I'm not sure how to teach police officers not to be racist when this is something they should be able to figure out on their own by 2020. So today I'm going to focus on more generalized solutions to everything that's wrong with the police. I didn't think up most of this stuff on my own but it's the stuff that in my judgment I believe would work and absolutely should be implemented yesterday. I'm sure some of the other proposed solutions would also be effective but I don't feel qualified to comment on them. Let me be clear that while the law enforcement and criminal justice systems in this country are a festering cancer for which I have very little respect, I do not condone harassing, threatening or attacking random police officers, most of whom are probably decent guys and gals. If someone had shot Derek Chauvin, that would have been nice, but it's a bit late for that. So anyway:
Give police officers more and better training
A popular performance piece about George Floyd's murder points out that police officers in the United States undergoes fewer training hours than freaking barbers. Maybe that explains why barbers have killed fewer people. (Sweeney Todd notwithstanding.) They, the officers I mean, are also required to know surprisingly little about the actual laws they're supposed to be enforcing or about de-escalating tense situations without violence or threats of violence. I recognize that violence is sometimes necessary and justified, but thanks to the support of mindless right-wingers in this country who for decades have insisted that violence by a police officer is by definition always necessary and justified, it's become their default tactic far too often.
Screen police applicants better
Some people absolutely should not be cops, and some people who absolutely should not be cops are becoming cops anyway. We'll never be able to catch all the "bad apples" at the beginning, but surely we can do better. Most people don't become power-hungry fascists overnight.
Make police officers carry liability insurance
Most doctors are required to carry malpractice insurance to protect them from the brunt of massive lawsuits when something bad unexpectedly happens to one of their patients. Cops are already largely protected from lawsuits by qualified immunity, but if this method were used instead, their rates would skyrocket after they murder someone and they couldn't just get hired by the next police department that doesn't care about their record. "Don't hire police officers who have murdered someone" is too big a no-brainer to put on this list, yet not big enough to actually hold true in reality.
End special police protections
Everyone knows that police officers are held above the law through means both de facto and de jure. I'm sure it hurts their feelings to hold one of their friends and colleages to the same standard as normal people, and I'm sure it looks great on paper to give them some leeway for potentially controversial split-second decisions, but they've abused this privilege much too often and for far too long. Reform may already be gaining traction, as this week a federal appeals court cited George Floyd in a case against five cops who shot another black man twenty-two times in 2013. Police unions seem to exist for the sole purpose of protecting members from consequences for their actions, so they should probably be abolished if they can't come up with a really darn good reason not to be.
Make police officers wear body cameras at all times
George Floyd's murderers would still be free men if the murder hadn't been caught on a passerby's cell phone and a nearby restaurant's security camera and uploaded to the internet. Even knowing this, they still had the audacity to lie and claim George Floyd was resisting - which, again, if four cops can't restrain one man already in handcuffs without one of them kneeling on his neck while the other three do nothing, that's almost more embarrassing than being murderers. I see no reason whatsoever why every police officer in the country isn't required to use a body camera so they can't lie their way out of trouble. Literally the only thing I can think of is that it might make them hesitate more to use deadly force even when it is justified. Well, so what? They should be a lot more reluctant to take lives than they currently are. They should be afraid of the possibility of killing someone who shouldn't be killed. If they can't handle that, they shouldn't be cops.
End ticket quotas nationwide
Perhaps a small issue compared to the overall corruption and brutality, but nonetheless, it's pretty messed up that some police departments require officers to issue a certain number of tickets regardless of what people are actually doing, so they get to waste their time harassing and fining people to generate tax revenue instead of solving real crimes. Don't get me wrong, traffic laws should be enforced, especially in Utah, but it's a matter of priorities. Maybe if cops spent less time prowling for people to give tickets to, they could respond faster to actual crimes. Some parts of the US have already abolished ticket quotas but the whole country needs to follow suit.
End no-knock search warrants nationwide
These warrants allow police to just barge into somebody's property, instead of announcing their presence before they barge into somebody's property. As you know, one such instance recently ended with police officers murdering 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in her sleep after her boyfriend exercised his Second Amendment right to defend his home from intruders. They were at the wrong address looking for someone who had already been arrested, but whatever. If they had handled their idiotic mistake a little differently nobody would have died. They do claim that they did announce themselves before barging in, but the neighbors disagree, and that would kind of defeat the purpose of having a no-knock warrant in the first place, and police officers have a pretty consistent track record of lying their butts off every time they screw up. So I'm not buying it.
End civil forfeiture nationwide
If you have in your possession an amount of cash that the police think is suspiciously large, they can just take it from you and never give it back. They don't have to charge you with a crime. They can literally just take it from you and never give it back. Of course, there are very good legal constitutional reasons why the police have this power, and they understand the burden to use it responsibly and never abuse it, and I'm the Queen of Sheba.
Decriminalize all drugs
Portugal implemented this policy nearly twenty years ago and it's objectively been a phenomenal success in reducing both drug abuse and law enforcement expenses. The people who warned that it would be a disaster have admitted that they were wrong. Literally nobody claims it isn't working - so in other words, it's the opposite of the U.S. war on drugs. Law enforcement in this country wastes an obscene amount of time and money trying to punish people for having addictions, in the process creating far more crime than it stops and diverting resources away from much worse problems like sex trafficking and child pornography. And the war on drugs disproportionately ruins black men's lives just like Richard Nixon intended, so while this is admittedly be a band-aid solution, ending it would resolve that racial injustice as well.
Stop giving the police surplus military weapons
Back in the nineties, someone had the brilliant idea (that was sarcasm) of giving extra bayonets and hand grenades to police departments. In a sane country, an excess of bayonets and hand grenades might have raised some questions about budgets and priorities, but that's not the American way! So instead we decided to outfit cops like they're literally at war with the people they're supposed to serve and protect, further stroking the egos of the "bad apples" who now get to play with even more cool toys, and making all cops thus outfitted look like somebody a normal person would want to stay the hell away from. And, as their behavior has demonstrated, for good reason. Tear gas? What's up with that? Not okay in actual war zones, but okay to use on peaceful protesters?
Stop making police deal with mental health cases they aren't qualified for
In January, as I previously discussed at length, I was privileged to learn firsthand that the Logan Police Department knows less about mental health than a dog. They gave me the worst day of my life, but I was lucky. Some people out there have worse mental illnesses and/or disabilities than mine, and they constitute almost half of the people killed by police because neurotypicals have for some reason defaulted to using police to take care of everything they don't want to deal with, including problems much better suited to therapists or social workers whose skill set encompasses more than bullying. Not that the social worker I had to talk to afterward did a stellar job either, but at least she tried to make me less suicidal instead of more.
Make police undergo stress and anger management tests at least once a year
The stress of police work and the constant exposure to the ugliness in the world can really take a toll on one's psyche and desensitize one to basic human decency. If they can't handle that, they shouldn't be cops. Police departments should check in periodiodically to weed out the "bad apples" who slip through the initial screening process, and the "good apples" that are starting to rot. Frequent psychological checkups could even prevent them from rotting in the first place. I realize that the crappiness of this job has skyrocketed in the last couple weeks, and I legitimately feel bad for the good cops dealing with pressure and stigma they don't deserve, but it has to happen. That pressure is the only thing that can force the necessary changes to the godawful system they belong to.
As of Wednesday, I am "temporarily laid off" from my job for the foreseeable future. As of Friday, the governor of Utah has initiated a "Stay Safe, Stay Home" policy. So when I'm not going to the grocery store or taking yet another aimless walk by myself, I'm supposed to be at home alone, all day, every day, until at least the middle of April. I live alone. I love living alone and I haven't changed my mind about that and I will always prefer too much solitude over too little. However, I need balance like anyone else, and I needed the precious little social interaction I was getting. This really, really blows. If the damned virus kills me it will be an act of mercy.
With normal church meetings discontinued, members of my ward were doing the sacrament (communion) in groups of fewer than ten. Thanks to the governor's directive that's also over until at least the middle of April. Still, I'm grateful for the unparalleled experience I had with it last week. It concerns my neighbors C and T, the ones I swear I fully intended to write about just the one time and never again, but who have had a lingering impact despite avoiding me completely. So this is what, the fifth time? Sorry about that.
In the immediate wake of what they did to me, I was too broken, deflated and tired to even think of being angry at them. That changed over the following days as I slowly regained some will to live. As time went on and I availed myself of gossip from various mutual acquaintances, insights from other friends who read my initial post or listened to me spill my guts, and my own hindsight and introspection, I came to understand that one of them is quite literally insane as a result of brain damage incurred in an accident for which she was not at fault, and that the other is naive and gullible and swallows everything she says without question. The insanity bit probably comes as no surprise to anyone who read the post. The surprise, rather, is how I could have been so stupid as to not realize it sooner. All I can say is that as long as they're not harming anyone, I believe in people's right to do their own thing without explanation or apology, and I don't believe in stigmatizing mental illness by jumping to blame it for everything bad somebody does. Obviously my open-mindedness bit me in the butt this time.
In this light, though, I was finally able to reconcile what I thought I knew before about my neighbors' character with their childish, ridiculous and deeply hurtful actions. One was simply not accountable, while the other was carried away by personal weakness that I can relate to, empathize with and even find kind of adorable. They were both victims as much as I. My heart softened toward them and I forgave them. Except when I didn't. Because every time I thought for more than a few seconds about that hemorrhoid in a police uniform coming into my apartment and bitching at me, the trauma resurfaced as fresh and raw as ever and my anger rose with it. So I went back and forth and experienced cognitive dissonance over this several times a day.
The whole thing, the mere fact that this thing happened that should have been a nightmare but was in fact real and irreversible, weighed on me almost constantly whether I was thinking about it or not, an ever-present burden subtly but unmistakably squeezing the joy out of my life. I broke through it for one day when I learned that I'd been accepted to graduate school and that my sister is pregnant. I can announce that now. My sister is pregnant. I don't know the baby's gender or whether it's still legal to force a certain gender on a baby, so I don't know yet if I'll be an uncle or an aunt, but it's thrilling nonetheless. The burden returned the next day though. Friends started telling me I should see a therapist which, yeah, they were right. But what does this have to do with the sacrament?
So any priesthood holder in my ward was authorized to administer the sacrament, but a handful in particular coordinated to do it in their homes and let fewer than ten people show up for it. I knew which group I wanted to join because I literally have two friends in this ward. I realize that's my own fault and the price I have to pay for not wanting to put myself out there more and answer the question "Where are you from?" eight billion more times, but it is what it is and I wanted to go where I knew Katie would go because she was friends with the guys doing it. The trouble is, I knew C and T would be there too for the same reason. And they wouldn't want me to be there and maybe they would complain to the one guy in particular whom they previously fled to when they were afraid of me for no reason - and he agrees with everyone else that they were being childish and ridiculous, but nonetheless he supported them in their own time of trauma and I'm grateful for that. But I figured if they said they weren't comfortable with me there, he would side with them and not let me come even though he knows I did very little wrong.
So yeah, I got pretty angry just thinking about that possibility before anything even happened, which just made me feel more defiant and determined to give him a piece of my mind if/when this scenario did happen. Eventually I realized that this was a bad attitude not conducive to what was supposed to be a sacred spiritual experience. I decided, out of respect for my neighbors' completely misguided but nonetheless real feelings, to not go and to just do the sacrament privately with my other neighbor and friend Steve instead. So when the guy asked if I was still planning on coming I told him that.
Oh, but his roommate was out of town and he needed someone else to help with the blessing...
A few moments earlier I had felt compassionate and legitimately concerned about my presence would affect C and T; now, however, I couldn't help laughing to myself for several minutes as I thought, They're really not going to like this. I wasn't sure why I was laughing. Not to be intentionally derisive, but all the stress I'd been through just made this development inexplicably hilarious.
As the time approached, though, I just felt nervous. I nervously showed up a few minutes early and nervously made some small talk with the guy. It was like my second time talking to him but he remembered things and asked me about graduate school and that was nice. Then the sources of my nervousness arrived. DUN DUN DUN!
T was super awkward. The entire time, she kept her eyes pointed in literally every direction except mine. C was her usual awkward. They greeted the other guy, and then she looked at me. I looked at her. It was very important to me to just act chill and not like I had something to be embarrassed or ashamed or scared about. It was the first time I made eye contact with her since before the incident, and she spoke to me for the first time since before the incident. Her face typically blank, her voice typically monotone, she said, "Hello."
I almost responded out loud before I remembered that the police warned me in no uncertain terms not to talk to her. So I just mouthed it. I mouthed, "Hi." To an unfamiliar observer it must have looked like I felt too embarrassed or ashamed or scared in her presence to speak.
My neighbors took a seat on the giant beanbag across from me and perpendicular to the other guy. As T found a dozen fascinating things to look at besides me, C chatted with the guy, but occasionally shifted her gaze to me as if to include me in the conversation. I felt fully included, for example, in her recommendation not to buy peanut butter in Germany. (Apparently it's bitter.) I also caught her looking at me a couple times when I wasn't looking at her until I looked at her because she was looking at me. That gave me a sense of satisfaction, a sense of Ha, you can't be upset at me for looking at you because I wasn't looking at you but then you looked at me first so that's on you, not me.
Looking into her eyes was quite an introspective experience. There have been times when she has this smile that lights up her face like a Christmas tree and leaves little doubt as to her mood, but the rest of the time it's anyone's guess. Her blank expression gave virtually no indication of sapience, no hint of any gears turning behind those eyes whatsoever. And yet I knew that wasn't the case. I knew she was thinking something, that a process was ongoing on her mind to which I had no access. And the best part? I knew my expression was the same way. I've learned from experience that I can be impossible to read, even for women who are supposed to be experts at that sort of thing but aren't. I knew she couldn't read me any more than I could her. Two blank stares, two inscrutable minds locked together. I can't explain why that's such a powerful concept for me but it just is.
As I sat across from this beautiful awkward woman who probably still hated me, though, my nervousness was displaced by inexplicable joy. What I wish I could have said with my eyes is this: "C, I am not upset with you. I forgive you. I love you. I am not a threat. You have nothing to fear." And because the words were in my eyes, she would know they were true. And then I wish T would have looked at me so I could say the same thing with my eyes to her.
Katie arrived, and for better or worse she was the last of us, so we got started with a hymn. I requested "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty". That seemed agreeable to everyone, but Katie needed to know what page number was it on? "Um," I said, wracking my memory, "sevvventyyy... twooo?" For a moment of silence, everyone else looked it up. I didn't bother because I know all the words. When the silence became unbearable I asked, "Is it actually seventy-two?"
"Yes," Katie said, "good job."
"Wow," I said. Then I hastened to add, "I mean, of course I knew that."
It wasn't hilarious or anything but C laughed. I don't mean laughed the way a normal person laughs. She made this little "Heh" noise that most people wouldn't bother to make unless they were being sarcastic. I've made her laugh like that before, and I've also made her actually giggle a few times, and I don't know the determining factor between those options but this unexpected bit of levity was nice regardless.
After that I had privilege of helping administer the sacrament to my de facto enemies. It could have gone either way for them - it could have been a really uncomfortable experience to accept this sacred ordinance from someone they believe to be a creepy stalker, or it could have been a cathartic experience to mutually humble ourselves and put aside the considerable tension between us for a few moments. I know it was the latter for me. I'm so grateful that I was able to do this one nice thing for them after they forbade me from doing almost anything nice for them. C used to like it when I did nice things for her. When I left her a bag of Tootsie rolls, she announced to the world that she "couldn't be happier". And then the hemorrhoid in a police uniform cited those same Tootsie rolls as a reason why I'm a stalker. But I'm getting off-topic.
The point is, the joy I felt that evening lifted my burden entirely. Maybe I'm jinxing myself, but it's been gone for a week. I don't feel weighed down and I can think about what happened without having PTSD. Of course, I would still very much like for them to both grow up and wise up and have this unfortunate situation rectified. Especially now, when I'm stuck next door to them almost 24/7. Being able to at least text them would make the soul-crushing boredom and isolation of the foreseeable future a bit more tolerable. But whatever. I really do feel better, I swear.
A "Come Follow Me" lesson followed the sacrament, but as soon as the latter was over, T said she wasn't feeling well and practically ran away. C stayed a few more minutes for the cookies Katie brought, and then before she left she thanked the other guy and me for administering the sacrament, looking from him to me to include us both in the statement.
I almost responded out loud before I remembered that the police warned me in no uncertain terms not to talk to her. So I just nodded.
Are you sick (no pun intended) of the c-word yet? I know I for sure am, but what else am I supposed to write about? Somehow this latest in an eternal series of unfortunate events in the news that heretofore have kept a respectful distance from me is turning out to actually be a big screaming deal right here in the U.S. of A. It's like nothing I've ever seen in my lifetime and frankly scares the crap out of me, but I suppose it's overdue. Why should I go along feeling like calamities on this scale are only supposed to happen to Liberians or Venezuelans or Australians or Italians or whomever? We're not exempt, I'm not exempt and I suppose there's nothing for it but to take a deep breath (not literally) and ride out the storm we have coming. It can't be stopped, it can only be delayed long enough to protect our already broken healthcare system from being completely overwhelmed, which is the point of all these closures and cancellations that conspiracy theorists and self-proclaimed experts on the internet are calling an overreaction.
As it happens, I know someone in Italy. She was an exchange student at my high school. Today she told me that everyone is locked at home and it looks like "zombie land".
I don't think for a moment that most of the people who are suffering and will soon suffer have done anything to deserve it, but collectively as a people this seems like a needed dose of humility. We think we're such a big screaming deal with our civilization and our technology and our infrastructure, and it's all brought to its knees by the tiniest organisms in existence (if a virus can technically be called an organism, which is debatable, but you know what I mean). It reminds me of The War of the Worlds, in which Earth's militaries are totally impotent against the Martian menace, and all hope seems lost until the latter is (spoiler alert) "slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all man's devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth."
I've given some thought to my odds of not surviving this. On the one hand, I'm obviously very young and seem to have a better than average immune system. On the other hand, I do have a pre-existing respiratory condition of sorts. Six years ago almost exactly, I had the most brutal cold of my life and the coughing aspect never entirely went away. Coughing for no reason is literally just a part of my life that I take for granted now. I did go to the student health center after a month or so, and they said my throat was harmlessly inflamed and gave me some medicine that tasted like motor oil and didn't do anything, so I just got used to it even though it's stupid and annoying. Now it might make me too weak to recover.
You never know and it never hurts to be prepared. So consider this an official request: in the event of my death, my surviving sisters, if any, may do what they see fit with my worldly possessions. The meager contents of my bank account are to be divided evenly between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Doctors Without Borders. Please donate my body to science, burn whatever they don't want and sprinkle the ashes over Glens Falls, New York. The Spotify playlist I prepared some time ago for my funeral can be found here. If you never reached out to me while I was alive then please shut the hell up about how much you miss me. Oh, and I have a letter on my laptop that I wrote to my neighbor C for no reason other than to sort through my own tormented thoughts and emotions. I can't give it to her and had no intention of trying but if I die and she doesn't, I would like for her to read it. Someone please ensure that she gets it. She may file a restraining order against my corpse, but I can live with that, or not as the case may be.
Truthfully, though, I think God is having too much fun abusing me to let me die just yet. The real question is how much it will suck to be infected and for how long. And whether I'll be able to find sufficient food. And how many others I'll infect because I can't afford to skip more than a couple days of work. #capitalism
Today, in fact, is the two-month anniversary of that day which I now realize was the worst day of my life. I -
Yes, of course, thank you. I wasn't sure at first, because I've had plenty of contenders for that position, but two months later I can say that not one of them individually has had such a persistent negative impact. It turns out I'm not as strong as I thought I was and I haven't really moved on. The raw, soul-shredding trauma of the event is easy enough to forget if I don't think about it in any detail, but it nonetheless remains a constant weight on my psyche every day. I've been trying to pray every night for those who wronged me. I was just saying empty words until I learned more second-hand information about what makes them tick and why they might have done something so immature and uncalled for, at which point my words took on heartfelt meaning. I want them to wise up and be happy. Yet sometimes my pride reasserts itself and fills me with animosity toward them, and I struggle back and forth on that sometimes multiple times a day and it's a real joyride.
On the plus side, I spoke to the good roommate about getting my book back from the pathological liar, and she spoke to the pathological liar about giving my book back, and the pathological liar left my book on the doorstep along with a few homemade cookies that turned out to have nothing poisonous in them.
This guy I've seen at church a few times killed himself recently, and though I barely knew him at all, I knew him a tiny bit which is more than I've known any of the other locals who have killed themselves over the years, so it's kind of a weird feeling. He was good friends with one of my good friends who's already been dealing with a lot of crap she doesn't deserve. He did it on her birthday, no less. I feel really bad for her and even though I know better it's tempting to think he was selfish and insensitive. Actually, he had a rare form of incurable and untreatable depression. If I had known him better, been privy to these things and wanted to stop him from killing himself, what could I have said? That it would get better, knowing full well that it wouldn't? That I wanted him to stay alive for me, knowing full well that every day of the rest of his life would continue to be hell? So I feel bad for those he left behind, but I honestly don't see that he had another viable option. I have every confidence that he's happy wherever he is.
I'm not at that point and I have a lot to live for and a lot to do. Unless the beer bug takes me after all. That possibility hasn't become really real to me yet even though I've been thinking about it for a week straight. I admit that in addition to my very real fear, I also feel a childish and sick kind of thrill that the suffering is still too far removed to dissipate. As I said, it's like nothing I've ever seen in my lifetime, and it's the closest thing I can imagine so far to a zombie apocalypse. Walking through campus and seeing the event signs with dates scribbled out or the word "CANCELED" plastered over them, or through the grocery store and seeing the empty shelves, gives me an unreal and indescribable feeling that brings to mind this most underrated of Koji Kondo compositions.
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 beside me on the couch.
"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. But I'm not black, so he didn't shoot me.
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 my soft eyes nicely complemented C's vibrant ones, 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 I was talking about her roommate, but I wanted make it more objective and less awkward - 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 is a weird thing 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. She had no reason not to.
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 asshole 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 by some belligerent twat in my own home by some 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 asshole 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 asshole cop 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 asshole cop 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 talkative officer changed the subject and acted all concerned. He asked if I was depressed or suicidal right now.
Of course I am now, you cunt. "Yeah, 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 asshole 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 said I was welcome to call the station and ask to talk to Officer Nelson. For a moment 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. And I can't believe he was stupid enough to think I was stupid enough to think he was my friend after the way he treated me. But it's kind of funny that he literally had another cop with him and still decided to attempt the Bad Cop Good Cop routine by himself. The Logan City Police Department, ladies and gentlemen.
The hospital process mostly consisted of me changing into one of those skimpy hospital gowns that I guess is supposed to make people less suicidal, and talking to the social worker. I managed to give her a very condensed version of my side of the story but soon figured out that she didn't actually give a shit what had happened or not happened; she was just aiming to stop me from killing myself and of course that information couldn't have been relevant to her goal. She brushed it aside and 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 left me to fill it out on my own. I totally half-assed it but that was good enough for her. 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 Brad Hansen, 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 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, and I expressed my annoyance to Katie by taking the Lord's name in vain.
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 - a surprisingly useful piece of advice, as I hadn't yet managed to wrap my brain around the fact that this nightmare is my new reality.
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 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.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.