I met you in the rain on the last day of 1972 – m4w (Old State House)
I met you in the rain on the last day of 1972, the same day I resolved to kill myself.
One week prior, at the behest of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, I’d flown four B-52 sorties over Hanoi. I dropped forty-eight bombs. How many homes I destroyed, how many lives I ended, I’ll never know. But in the eyes of my superiors, I had served my country honorably, and I was thusly discharged with such distinction.
And so on the morning of that New Year’s Eve, I found myself in a barren studio apartment on Beacon and Hereford with a fifth of Tennessee rye and the pang of shame permeating the recesses of my soul. When the bottle was empty, I made for the door and vowed, upon returning, that I would retrieve the Smith & Wesson Model 15 from the closet and give myself the discharge I deserved.
I walked for hours. I looped around the Fenway before snaking back past Symphony Hall and up to Trinity Church. Then I roamed through the Common, scaled the hill with its golden dome, and meandered into that charming labyrinth divided by Hanover Street. By the time I reached the waterfront, a charcoal sky had opened and a drizzle became a shower. That shower soon gave way to a deluge. While the other pedestrians darted for awnings and lobbies, I trudged into the rain. I suppose I thought, or rather hoped, that it might wash away the patina of guilt that had coagulated around my heart. It didn’t, of course, so I started back to the apartment.
And then I saw you.
Let me run you through a day in the life of my personal brand of schizophrenia:
7:00 am: Wake up and lay in bed for awhile. Although I live alone, I hear footsteps throughout my apartment. I start wondering whether someone broke in during the night, so I get up to check the lock. Not only is the dead bolt still latched, but the chain is also still in tact; however, the footsteps are still in the kitchen, and I have to check the door and whole apartment at least three more times be sure I’m alone.
7:30 am: I’m taking a nice hot bath, but, as the water is running, I hear a conversation happening just outside the door. I know no one is there because I’ve checked the door, but I can’t help but hear a few people debating about the use of leather vs. cloth seats in cars. I dip my head under the water and try to ignore what’s not there.
8:00 am: Is there something crawling on my leg? When I look down to inspect, there’s nothing. This will happen at least once every half hour throughout the day, so I won’t continue mentioning it.
9:00 am: I’m eating breakfast, and I taste metal when I’m eating my toast, so much so that I can’t finish my food.
10:00 am: I’m walking to campus, and the way gravity is pulling me goes from under my feet to slightly off-kilter to the right. I feel like I’m going to fall over because something is pulling me that way, so I need to sit down and wait out my equilibrium resetting itself with my head in my hands to keep myself from puking from the dizziness.
10:30 am: The voice in my head named Nero starts telling me, as a response to girls walking slowly in a group in front of me on the sidewalk, that I should disembowel one, choke the second with her intestines, and curb stomp the third while she cries from watching her friends die. I try my hardest to ignore him, but the voice gets louder and more demanding, even after I have already passed the girls.
11:15 am: As I sit on the toilet, the tiles of the floor start to get larger and smaller, which almost makes me sick.
The following is a very unusual account of a true but unusual experience:
I had an arterial problem for a couple of years, which reduced blood supply to my heart and brain and depleted B vitamins from my nerves (to keep the heart in good repair). Although there is some vagueness as to the mechanisms, this made me forgetful, slow, and easily overwhelmed. In short, I felt like I was stupid compared to what I was used to, and I was.
It was frightening at first because I knew something wasn’t right but didn’t know what, and very worrying for my career because I was simply not very good any more.
However, once I got used to it and resigned myself, it was great. Even though I knew I had a worrying illness, I was happy as a pig in mud. I no longer had the arrogance of being frustrated with slow people, I abandoned many projects which reduced a lot of stress, I could enjoy films without knowing what would happen (my nickname before this used to be ‘comic book guy’ if you get the reference), and I became amazingly laid back and happy go lucky. I got on with people much better. I developed much more respect for one of my friends in particular who I always considered slow – it turned out he is much deeper than I thought, I just never had the patience to notice before. You could say I had more time to look around. The world just made more sense. The only negative, apart from struggling to perform at work, and having to write everything down, was that I no longer found sci-fi interesting – it just didn’t seem important. (I’m not joking, although it sounds like a cliché.)
Eventually after more physical and life threatening symptoms developed I got the right tests and they found my arteries were blocked up (2 out of 3 of my main coronary arteries 100% blocked – they couldn’t work out why I was alive – it later turned out that I had unusually good peripheral circulation from my intense cycling). I’ve since had stents to open up the arteries again and made a full recovery.
After a year or so I am almost as ‘clever’ as I used to be, although I tend to ignore distractions more than I used to and focus on a smaller number of projects. I’m still more laid back than I used to be though, and have more patience with people. Most people still find me more socially competent. I also enjoy sci-fi again.
So an unusual perspective, from a fairly unusual circumstance, but that’s what it feels like to be be stupid when you used to be fairly bright. In some ways it was a great learning experience, although obviously in other ways it is a life changing fact I have to live with. Not many people get to walk about in other peoples shoes, and then pick up where they left off. Plus it’s obviously nice to still be alive.
In short I would say that the frustration of dealing with slower people is worse than being one of the slower people, even if you know you are slow. Obviously most people who are relatively slow, don’t know it, but I think I’ve glimpsed how they experience the world.
I am ugly. I am unattractive. I know that my skin is awful, my hair is greasy, and society simply does not permit women to weigh as much as I do.
But, mind you, this is not the same as having low self-esteem. Because when I look in the mirror, I hate my body, not myself. I simply shake my head and think, “This isn’t me. This mediocre sack of meat isn’t me. I’m just renting it out, driving it around. It’s a tool. It’s a vehicle. I use it to take myself places that I need to go, and that’s all there is to it.”
Ok fine, I’m not Zen enough to actually believe I can escape with that train of thought. The truth is, I am frustrated with the irreconcilable disconnect between my pride and my presence. The acne mask and the fat suit egregiously fail to conform with my mental mockups of my perfectly badass self. I suppose the only real solution then, besides undergoing extensive surgeries, is to upload my conscience to a supercomputer.
Maybe the Singularity will happen, and everything will be great, but in the meantime, I much prefer the Internet to real life interactions because most of you haven’t got a clue as to what I look like, and if you don’t like me it’s because my ideas suck and not because you find my face unpleasant. The Internet allows me to temporarily abandon the limitations of my subpar physical avatar.
Even if people are especially curious about my appearance, I only allow them to make vague inferences based off a single profile picture, uniform across all my social media haunts, taken a very long time ago at a surprisingly flattering angle, in which I actually manage to trick them into thinking I look quite average. Well, I don’t. I’ve gained 50 pounds since then, and academic stress makes my acne flare up like nobody’s business.
Regardless, I decided a while back that everyone has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and I would do well to focus on my strengths instead of my weaknesses. Even people who are bad at everything are less bad at some things than they are at others. After some introspection, I concluded that I was less bad at learning things than I was at looking pretty, so I would ultimately benefit far more from sharpening my skills and pursuing a technical career than from trying in vain to undo the effects of losing the genetic lottery.
As for the romantic side of things, I avoid unnecessary heartbreak by keeping myself from harboring silly delusions about reciprocated love in the first place. I have rationalized that it is okay for me to be ugly because 1) marriage is not the optimal arrangement for everyone and 2) the human race would likely carry on just fine without my genetic contribution.
I am irritated with the cliché that “everyone is beautiful” because surface friendliness and pretending to be PC don’t solve anything. It doesn’t help the young girl with confidence issues because even if you’re “nice” enough to tell her that she’s beautiful, are you nice enough to, like, actually date her? Words mean nothing without actions, yet it’s patently unfair to expect people not to be shallow because at the end of the day, beauty is beauty, attraction is attraction, and sexual desire is governed by deep-rooted evolutionary impulses that people don’t understand and can’t control.
It would be far more useful to promote the idea that people can contribute to the world in a variety of interesting and fulfilling ways besides making others salivate over their bodies. You can make original scientific breakthroughs! You can regale people with tales of heroic conquest! You can build products that make people’s lives easier! But I guess changing the world wouldn’t make for an effective beauty products campaign.
To describe prison life is a difficult task. Violent scenes from movies, television dramas, and newspaper reports have clouded the public’s perception of what prison is really like. Prison is not like a country club; or is it like a dungeon, a cave, or a torture chamber. It is far worse. I am ashamed that my wife and children have a husband, and a father, who has seen the things I’ve seen.
Upon entry into prison, a guard told me, “Prison is what you make of it.” In a very narrow sense, that is true, although on certainly cannot make it into a vacation. Another guard told me, “Prison is a learning experience.” That’s true; however, the same can be said of a heart attack.
Every new prisoner portrays a false image of what he considers to be toughness. This “mask” he wears is to hide the fact he is so scared that he really doesn’t know how to act. He cannot show kindness, because kindness is considered a weakness. And to be weak in this environment is to invite pain. It is impossible to be gentle in a world where nothing is gentle. One must play a role, act a part for the benefit of the hateful eyes of those who would rather spit in your face than smile at you.
Try to understand the chill of walking by another convict’s cell and seeing clotting puddles of blood from the slashed wrists and arms of one who couldn’t take it any longer. Or watching another’s mind snap under the strain until he becomes a human vegetable from the heavy doses of anti-depressants forced upon him. At that point, he has also become easy prey for the homosexuals.
Up until my incarceration, my concept of a homosexual was one of a weak, feminine man who had womanly characteristics. I imagined that they would keep quiet about their sexual preference in hopes of avoiding getting beaten down by “fag-bashers.” But in prison, it’s quite different. The biggest and most muscle bound man can just as easily be gay. He doesn’t “request” your sexual company, he demands it. And if you resist, you will definitely have to fight. Even for the non-gay convict, a trip to the shower means that he will be showering with at least three other men. It is not uncommon for him to be the object of another man’s masturbation fantasy while lathering up. It’s like living in a fish bowl; one cannot even sit on the toilet without an audience.
The daily and constant attack upon one’s soul forces him to turn off his emotional process. To be a prisoner is to be completely stripped of your identity, to become a faceless number among many. It is a total denial of self.
So what is prison like? Prison is going to sleep at night wondering who, if anyone, is missing you. It is hearing a favorite song on the radio that transports you to the exact time, place and feeling of when she last said, “I love you.” One would rather be transported to hell, a distant cousin of prison, than to be ambushed by memories in such a manner. Prison is nonchalantly waiting for mail call the way an alcoholic might wait for happy hour. It is hardening your heart to hide who you really are from the contamination of this sick society. Guilt or innocence is no longer the issue, only survival.
– Robert Wood, Gatesville, TX
These young bucks don’t know. You gotta remember a lot of these NBA players aren’t even old enough to drink when they get in the league; they’re still babies. They’ve been coddled their entire life, all through school and college, and now they get out in the real world with a pocket full of cash and every type of girl you could imagine trying to pull your sweatpants off. See, before you got that contract, while you were in school, you were just a prospect. You probably got a lot of attention from women, but your success wasn’t a guarantee. Once you start pulling in them bucks, the type of women you encounter drastically change. Straight up jaw droppers wherever you turn. That’s not an accident.
These kids don’t understand that once you’re in the real world, sex becomes a business move, for both parties. Even for us mortals, money is a big factor in your sex life. I don’t care who you are, you know that shit is important. (Protip from Uncle Snuggie: if you got money, just don’t fuck broke bitches. Just don’t, change your phone number if you have to. Move to the other side of the country to somewhere broke bitches cant afford to go. They will ruin everything I don’t care how pretty they are get a bitch with some capital. That’s real shit. Get a Kim Kardashian. She stupid and probably can’t read but she got money and won’t take that much from you in divorce proceedings because of that. Be with someone who can throw in the pot too.)
The Dwight Howard’s of the world don’t understand that there’s a price tag hanging off his nutsack. Dwight Howard is easily shelling out 6 figures a year per baby mama. (The fuck you need 100k a year to raise a baby? I could raise my whole hood 6 times with that kind of paper all babies need is somethin to rattle and someone to wipe they ass) That’s more money than most of us will ever make in our lives, even those of us with professional and graduate degrees. 18 years, 18 years, she got one of yo kids, got you for 18 years.
I think every citizen, NBA or not, should know how divorce/family laws work, especially if you ever fuck around and get paid. You find out how much Uncle Sam will take out of your pocket cause you wanted to fuck raw and it’ll turn you into a nun; keep your dick on a leash kid.
When you’re young and naive if you believe in shit like the purity of “love” and all that other liberal hippie crap Disney shoves down your throat as a child you can fall victim to a big butt and a smile quite easily.
That’s real shit
Young people of America, awake from your slumber of indolence and hark-en the call of the future! Do you realise you are rapidly becoming a doomed generation? Do you realise that the fate of the world and of generations to come rests on your shoulders? Do you realise that at any time you may be called on to protect your country and the freedom of the world from the creeping scourge of communism? How can you possibly laugh in the face of the disasters which face us all from all sides? Oh ignorant youth, the world is not a joyous place. The time has come for you to dispense with the frivolous pleasures of childhood and get down to honest toil until you are sixty-five. Then and only then can you relax and collect your social security and live happily until the time of your death. Also your insolent attitude disturbs me greatly. You have the nerve to say that you have never known what it is like to live in a secure and peaceful world; you say that the present generation has balled things up to the extent that we now face a war so terrible that the very thought of it makes hardened veterans shudder; you say it is our fault that World War ll was fought in vein; you say that it is impossible to lay plans for the future until you are sure you have a future. I say Nonsense! None of these things matter. If you expect a future you must carve it out in the face of these things. You also say that you must wait until after you have served your time with the service to settle down. Ridiculous! It is a man’s duty to pull up stakes and serve his country at any time, then settle down again.
I say there is no excuse for a feeling of insecurity on your part;there is no excuse for juvenile delinquency; there is no excuse for your attitude except that you are rotten and lazy! I was never like that! I worked hard; I saved; I didn’t run around and stay out late at night; I carved out my own future through hard work and virtuous living, and look at me now: a respectful and successful man.
I warn you, if you don’t start now it will be too late, and the blame for the end of the world will be laid at your feet. Heed my warning, oh depraved and profligate youth; I say awake, awake, awake!
Fearfully and disgustedly yours, John J. Righteous-Hypocrite.
Everything seems distant for a second: the room seems dimmer and the lights, by comparison, brighter. sounds seem to echo and sound hollow, as if someone is calling to you through a tunnel. it doesn’t hurt, at least not acutely and not immediately. the most shocking thing about the sensation is the lack of sensation. you can think surprisingly clearly, but the connection between your conscious thoughts and your ability to make your body put them into action is tenuous at best. you can get hit, and your frontal lobe says "I need to circle right and step back to recover and avoid getting hit for a few seconds," but the part of your brain that’s in control is animalistic and survival-oriented, and it usually says "you need to get yourself into the fetal position, curl up on the ground, and not take any more damage." a fight is a constant battle for self control in the face of extreme fear and physical hardship, and getting hit like that is one of the most powerful examples of that fact.