#AtoZ2016 : K Is For Keys

It started on 13 July 2010, and I will never forget the experience. That was the first day I walked out of work, got in my car, and left. The first day I reached in my pocket, and felt the presence of my keys.

I can never explain what I felt that day. Most would call it panic, others would call it anxiety. I don’t really know what the people I worked with at that time called it, although my memories of how they treated certain people I’d worked with suggests they called it deliberate bad behavior.

I’m not certain many of them believed in mental illness then, and I doubt they have changed.

That day was the first uncontrolled panic attack I had as I spiraled into Major Depressive Disorder. I had no ability to think, no ability to question, no ability to pause. I knew of one thing, and one thing only. I had keys in my pocket. Keys to my car. Keys to my escape.

And I desperately needed to escape. I didn’t need to walk on the beach. I didn’t need to hide in the secured lab. I didn’t need to talk to someone.

I needed to escape. To run. To flee. To save my life. My sanity. My soul.

The moment my fingers found the keys in my pocket, I stood, I walked, I left. I unlocked my car, got in, and drove.

I remember I stopped in the parking lot of the closest Walmart store to the base. I don’t know how long I was there. It may have been a couple of minutes. It may have been half an hour. I don’t know. Time didn’t exist.

I listened to my music, the doors shut, the windows rolled up, the volume turned up. I listened until I couldn’t think, couldn’t feel. Until the only thing left in life was the music I loved.

And that’s when I found myself. That’s when I realized I was in the car, in the parking lot at Walmart. That’s when I remembered I’d fled work, the office, the people, the environment.

I’d escaped.

And in doing so, I’d found a way to breathe.

I called the office I’d fled, and let someone know where I was, and I didn’t know when I’d get back. I called my boss, at the home office, and told him I needed to talk.

You know. I don’t even remember that talk. Not one word of it.

I went home, ate something, and when I could breathe, I went back to work. I knew I wouldn’t get anything done that day. By that point, I’m fairly certain everyone knew I wouldn’t get anything done.

I spoke with her. One of the three voices in that place, in that office, that environment, I could breathe around. One of the three voices I didn’t need to run from, didn’t need to escape, didn’t need to fear.

I can’t explain that. In the months that followed I learned, in the presence of any of those three voices, my hands didn’t shake. In the presence of anyone else in that place, my hands shook.

I spoke with her about the trip I was making to the doctor’s office a few days later, to discuss my depression, and start getting the help I knew I needed, but didn’t know how to get. Then, I went home. It was a lost day at work. The first of many in 2010.

That day when I touched the keys in my pocket, and all I could do was run.

I can’t explain it. I won’t try. I know this simple truth. As an individual, you either understand what I’ve written here, the story of the keys in my pocket, and how I ran. Or you don’t.

For some things, there are no words.

 

Mark.


It’s April 15th, and I’m a two days behind on the A to Z Challenge for 2016. Only 15 more letters to write stories for this month.

Please, go explore the A to Z Challenge, and the sites of others who are participating in this adventure.

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#FSF : Abandon

 

I should never have visited that ghost town. There, I couldn’t hide from the truth. I couldn’t escape my own emptiness. Among the empty streets, abandoned houses, and emptiness, I screamed, panicked, ran. Until I found myself in an empty hotel, staring out empty windows ask I asked myself,  “When did I abandon life?”


One for Lillie McFerrin‘s flash fiction challenge, Five Sentence Fiction. This week, the prompt is Abandon. Please, go read all the other entries to this week’s Five Sentence Fiction. It’s amazing what creative people can do with just five sentences.

I Never Told Anyone

Today, at psychotherapy, I finally said something I’ve never said. And it’s something I need to get into the open. So, I’m going to put it here. My doctor said this is one of those things that older far beyond my years, and certainly was beyond my years when I said it the first time.

I can’t remember if I was in 6th or 7th grade. Yeah. That long ago. Dad had just finished a big project at his work, and I got to see the finished document he’d written. It was a stack of paper, notebook sized, a good inch and a half thick, maybe two. He was proud of it, and I knew to write something that size took a lot of time and effort.

But I heard my thoughts back then. It was years before I finished burying them. Back then, I’d just started burying things. And that day, I heard my terrified thoughts. The work he’d shared didn’t terrify me. Neither did his pride in having completed that work. No. What terrified me was what I saw in him, and the people he worked with.

They were all practically dead. In lives that didn’t change. On career paths. However you wish to define it. Every aspect of their lives matched a plan each of them had made years, perhaps decades, earlier. Many of them were in their 30s. As I watched them, I knew they would never really change. Never really do anything other than what they were already doing.

They’d stopped growing. Stopped changing. Stopped learning. Stopped exploring. They’d grown up, and there was no room in their lives for such childish pursuits. They had responsibilities.

If someone was a Marine, he’d stay a Marine. If Navy, they’d stay Navy. If civilian contractor, or civil servant, they’d always be that. If someone was an administrative assistant, they’d always be assisting someone.

It was the first time I understood how life in our social system worked. That’s what terrified me. And I heard my mind, screaming, “I’m not going to be dead at 30! I’m not going to be like them!”

Of course, I can say this all I want. I can share it. I can talk about it. But sharing it is useless, because, as I’ve said before, no one will understand. Oh, there will be some that understand. There always are, always have been, always will be. But many people will never understand what I saw that day, or how I felt about it.

My doctor and I talked about many things today, centered around that thought.

I told him if you ever want to see the true nature of someone, murder their smart phone. Break it, and watch what happens to them. Watch as they go crazy. “Do you know, there are guys out there, if their phone shuts off, and they can’t turn it on, I wouldn’t be surprised if they throw that sucker through the drywall.” Yeah. I said that.

“Same with their computers. Or their video games. Or NetFlix. Or the Internet.”

I reminded him of the study I’d talked about a couple of weeks ago. The one about 67% of men in the study electing to endure a painful electric shock to get out of sitting still, in a room, by themselves, for 15 minutes, with no electronic devices. Yeah. That’s right. Put a guy in a room with nothing but a chair, and a button that administers an electric shock to himself, and tell him he can leave after 15 minutes, or he can shock the shit out of himself, and he’ll shock the shit out of himself.

And that’s when the lightbulb turned on over my head, and I said, “Holy crap!”

My doctor knows exactly what I mean when I say, “Holy crap!” I’d just had an epiphany. I’d just realized something. Or, as I like to express it, another piece of the puzzle of life finally fit into the puzzle.

“They’re escaping, aren’t they.” It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. I was reciting a fact. “They’re escaping from their lives. That’s why they go crazy when their phones die. Why they spend hours glued to NetFlix, watching streaming media. Why they bury themselves in video games. They’re escaping the misery they live in. And when they can’t escape, and have to sit silently for a while, they can’t. They’ll shock themselves to escape. So they don’t have to deal with who they are. What their lives have become. The truth that they’re all walking dead.”

My doctor and I spent a lot of time talking about that today. About how people try to escape.

I know. I hear the voices screaming, “It takes one to know one!” and “Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!” Yeah. Most people will never understand, I know. I’m flawed. I’m guilty. I’m not perfect.

On my drive home, I listened to my music, playing through the car stereo. I turn it to 24 on the power meter when I’m in the car alone. I can feel the door panels shake in time with the music. I can see the rear view mirror vibrate as the sound waves move it around just a touch. I can feel the music through every cubic inch of me.

It’s my escape. From the misery. My own personal misery. Of dealing with a world I don’t understand, and never made.

But, what happens when that music goes away. In May, 2012, it did. I got dunked in some rapids leading to a waterfall. The camera I owned at the time drowned. It never worked again. The MP3 music player I owned also drowned, and never played another note from any music. It never turned on again. My cell phone took days (at least 3) to dry out. I was without any of those devices for days.

This happened on day two of a five-day camping trip. We had no TV. No Internet. No electricity. And pretty much no cell phone service. It would have wrecked many of the people I know, and have known in life.

I did OK. I was happy to get a new player, a few days after we got home. I was happy when my phone started working, also a day or two after we got home. I was happy when we replaced my dead camera in July of 2012.

I survived without them. And I can survive without them now.

I know people who would shrivel up like grapes turning into raisins if they had to endure such an ordeal. I know people who can’t live without being on their cell phone, on Facebook, or Twitter, or being able to watch another movie on their phone, to kill the time.

Time they can’t face on their own.

Because, if they had to face it, they’d have to face their lives. They’d have to face themselves. They’d have to deal with who they are.

And I see people like them every day. People who will do anything to escape themselves.

“I don’t want to be dead at 30! I won’t be like them!”

I never told anyone.

Until today.

Here’s a link to the study I mentioned.

Study: People Would Rather Suffer Electric Shock Than Sit Silently

Stopped

Photo: shared by LIORA www.twinflame1111.comThere it was.
On Facebook.
A picture of a beach somewhere.
With big waves.
And bright sun.
And some random guy
Walking toward the ocean.
And the words on the picture said:

Decide what you want.
Believe you can have it.
Believe you deserve it.
And believe
It’s possible for you

And my brain cells analyzed the words,
Passing them through the filters I’ve made
That translate what people say
To something I can understand.

And I found those words
Suddenly
Terrified me.
Because the told me
Clearly.
Why people stop.

I’ve always seen people
Stop.
They stop growing.
They stop learning.
They stop trying.
They stop changing.
They stop dreaming.
They stop.

I’ve never understood why.

When I worked
Where I used to work,
I never stopped.
I never stood still.
I never treaded water.
I never once believed
I was good enough
At the work I did.

I always believed
I had to get better.
I had to learn more.
I had to push myself.
My abilities.
My skills.
Just to keep the job
I had.

And it disturbed me greatly
When the people I worked with
Explained to me
A hundred thousand times,
“I don’t touch my work
When I’m at home.”

They stopped.
They quit growing.
Learning.
Improving.

And then wondered
How I always seemed
To get better,
And know more,
That I did the year before.

And that poster on Facebook
Shocked me on this Sunday.
And I’ve been trying
Every since,
To figure out the words I saw
In my heart and soul,
When I read those words.

I remember what Gina said to me,
When she was in Chemo-therapy,
And fighting for her life.
“I just want my life back.”

Then there were the words
Tim spoke.
“Sometimes, you do
What you have to do.
To keep your job.”

There were so many other words
I heard in those days.
And just as many words
I hear all the time
In this new life I’ve found.

“I wish I had a job like that.”

“I’d gladly go through hell
To get paid that well.”

It was as those thoughts
Raced through my memory,
As I tried to understand
The words on that poster,
I became very sad.

Because I knew.
People stop.

They figure out
What they want.
The car.
The house.
The family.
And all the stuff
That goes with it.

They dream the dream
Of American success.

They grow up.
Graduate from college.
Get a job,
Get married.
And start their families.

And then they live
For just one thing.
To retire.

To escape the dream
They have achieved.

I’ve always wondered why.
Why they were so unhappy.
Why they worked so hard
To reach success.
And then just stopped.

What they meant
When they said to me,
“I’m too old to change.”
And
“It’s too hard.”

They’re reached the dreams
They believed in.
Not knowing
There’s always more.
The journey never ends.

So here I sit, tonight.
With my cat
Sleeping on my lap.
Wondering.

Will any of the people
I have known,
And met,
In the live I have been given,
Ever realize
They’ve stopped changing,
And growing.

Will they ever realized
They’ve stopped?

#SatSunTails 57 : Celebration Arised

Celebration arised in the church on the day she arrived. They welcomed her with open arms, and commenced teaching her how to be a woman of the church.

The day she left home for the church I’d escaped, she took part of my heart and soul with her.

I’ve tried to tell her why I left the church. The way they treat women as subservient to men. Limiting how much education women can have. Teaching them to do whatever their husbands want. Teaching them spousal rape was normal, as was spousal abuse.

It took years to free my family from the church. To give her a chance to become a real person. Now, she won’t even speak to me. All I have left of her is the painting I made of her face. One day, that will be gone too. Even now, the paint is cracking, and slowly peeling away.

150 Words
@LurchMunster


This is my entry into Rebecca Clare Smith‘s 57th #SatSunTales. Please, go read the other entries. It’s a tough challenge, and brings out some wonderful tales.

#MWBB 31 : LA Song

I helped her pack her suitcase. I helped her fold all her clothes, carefully picking the ones she wanted to take with her, leaving the ones she no longer wanted neatly folded, placed in boxes on the closet floor. We put a small makeup kit together for her, with her favorite nail polishes, lipsticks, eye shadow, blush. We put her favorite jewelry in little boxes, and stacked them neatly between her clothes and the side of the suitcase.

We talked. About where she was going. She had so much to say. She told me of all her heart breaks, all the men she’d loved and lost. How she’d cried countless tears each time, and wondered if her heart would ever heal.

She told me again, all the stories of the girls at work. The way they treated her. The way they tortured her. Always talking about how they were all engaged, or married, or had a baby on the way. How she wasn’t one of them. I calmly wiped the tears of anger from her eyes, wishing I could find a way to stitch her cut and bleeding soul back together. Wishing God would give me a way to take those wounds from her, make them mine, so she didn’t have to endure the way her heart ached, or the tears I knew her soul cried every night.

She told me how the men of LA were heartless. Soulless. Colder than any ice. Harder than any stone. How all they wanted was another bitch they could lay. Another trophy on the mantle. Another name in their black books. She told me no one slept with her because they loved her. But because she had boobs, and an ass, and her vagina. And that’s all they wanted. To get into her vagina. And I held her again, as she cried more tears of rage, and tears of pain.

The tears of a child. A little girl. Whose world got destroyed before her eyes. Whose dreams got crushed beneath the boots of a world that wasn’t at all like it she’d hoped it would be.

I carried her suitcase, and makeup kit to my car. Put them in the trunk. I opened the door, and let her in. Knowing it wouldn’t do for me to cry. It wouldn’t do for me to say anything. Knowing she trusted me to help her.

Knowing she was walking out of my life. And I might never see her again.

I wanted to kiss her. To beg her, “Don’t leave me!” I wanted to tell her how much I loved her. How I wanted to make her happy. Make her smile. Do everything I could to bring her dreams to life. But I couldn’t. Not because I didn’t have the courage, or the heart. Because I knew, my heart knew, she needed to go. She needed to escape.

I knew. I had to let her go.
I drove to the bus station. I paid for her ticket. “I promise not to follow you.”

She handed me her phone. “I can’t take this with me.”

“I know.”

I wanted to tell her she was leaving for all the wrong reasons. Because she was hurt. Because she was afraid. Because she was running from herself. From her life here, in LA. Trying to escape herself. Trying to blame LA, work, the men she’d known, for her inability to live with herself. That it wouldn’t work. She was taking what she was afraid of with her. She couldn’t escape herself.

I didn’t. It wouldn’t have worked.

Instead, I let her go. I watched the bus disappear into the traffic of LA.

I let her go.

And I prayed, one day, she’d find herself. And remember me.

627 words
@LurchMunster


This is my entry for week 31 of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. Please, go read the other entries in the challenge.

#MondayMixer Round 29 : Escape

I escaped, once more, into the woods across the street from my neighborhood. I carefully opened the front door, making sure I didn’t damage it, or any of the walls. Just as carefully, I pulled it shut, hearing it lock behind me.

My panic drove me to the safe haven of the woods across the road from my neighborhood.

I sat on the ground, in Sukhasana pose, my eyes closed, as I cleared my mind. I focused on hearing the sounds of the trees. I knew the trees were quiet. Calm. They never seemed to panic. Unlike me.

I inhale, slowly, deeply, and listen to the susurrus of the trees, absorbing the tranquil patience they emanate. Using it to cleanse my thoughts of the meretricious reality binding me to life in a world I never made. Where what has value is worthless, and what is worthless is real, and priceless.

150 Words
@LurchMunster


This is my entry into week 29 of Jeffery Hollar‘s Monday Mixer flash fiction challenge. Please, go enjoy all the gems created by artisans of the written word.