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 A Young Man and His Demon

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jdroli1070
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PostSubject: A Young Man and His Demon   Mon Sep 23, 2013 4:58 pm

please look past the formatting errors caused by transferring from MS Word

She can only survive in pure darkness. She reeks of death as she moves about the Earth. Searching for a soul to destroy, she roams around in the shadows, and when this cowardly spirit finds a soul to haunt, she carries her cowardice into the flesh. Only if you are spiritually blinded or empty of any good thing can she take possession of your being. She is the spirit of self-destruction. Back in the mid nineteen-eighties either she or one of her good friends was scouring the backstreets of northwest Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She had become desperate and must have fallen behind on her quota when she found me.
I was just a normal, everyday white boy from the suburbs. Except that I wasn’t really from a suburb, the term “suburban” just fits what my lifestyle was. I lived in the far northwest corner of the city, and the closest suburb was Brown Deer, about two football fields to the north. My dad, Jacob Sr., was an executive at a major bank in the heart of downtown. He was an imposing man with a rather loud mouth and a large beer belly. It was obvious that he had been very handsome in his day, but time, the stress of a nine-to-five job, and an hour-long rush hour commute there and back had taken their toll. My mom, who was a nurse at a convalescent center just a mile from home, only worked part time and had aged a bit better. I was the middle child of three; my siblings were my sister Dana, who was a year older than I, and my brother Patrick, who was five years younger. My family struggled at times, but we always had food in the kitchen. Our house was nothing special, a one story ranch with one bathroom, an unfinished basement and a giant silver maple in the front yard. We lived in a very quiet neighborhood, where nothing ever happened.

It was 1986. I was fifteen and full of life, a dry, satirical sense of humor, and a spring in my step when something strange began to happen to me. It wouldn’t be easy for a man’s man to admit what I am about to tell you, so it’s even more difficult for an emotionally fragile man like me to confess. I was quickly becoming obsessed with my complexion. But the strangest thing was that for a fifteen year old boy, I had unusually clear skin. I would get a big pimple every now and then, the kind that would swell underneath the skin and turn into a cyst if I squeezed it. I never had what could even remotely be considered problem acne, so I guess it logically follows that getting one pimple was my greatest fear. It was not that I thought I was too good looking to have acne. In fact, my problem was that I believed that any minor flaw in my appearance would simply make me the most hideous boy in the tenth grade. I was not conceited, but I will admit to being self-centered. What I mean is, I didn’t think I was incredibly handsome, but I did believe that I was the center of everyone’s attention. I’m not sure how logical that sounds, but nothing about me has ever made a lot of sense.
I can say that I knew that I had a pretty nice physique. I was about 5ft.9’ and weighed 180. Also, due to the previous two years on the swimming team, my body was long, lean and muscular.
By the time I turned sixteen my life was full of good people and good things. I passed my driver’s test on the first try, and consequently everyone and their brother wanted to be my friend, and almost every white girl in the school would have liked to have been my girlfriend. I could have been part of the popular crowd, but their haughtiness and arrogance made me hate nearly all of them with a malicious disdain. I ended up choosing three of the most eccentric characters in school as my friends. Together we formed a strangely unique clique that was not geeks, nerds, losers, jocks, or wasteoids, and we were about the closest thing to popular as you could get without being called ‘popular’. The music that I listened to was sometimes a little dark. It was called “alternative” or “post-modern” back then. I converted my new found friends from pop to alternative in less than six months. We never smoked, got drunk, or did any drugs. Mountain Dew was our stimulant of choice; oftentimes we would drink thirty-two cans among the four of us over an eight hour period. When we first started hanging out together, toilet-papering the popular kids’ houses was what we normally did for fun. After a while though, when we became more comfortable with each other, t.p.’ing houses became redundant, and the mall became our hangout.
Only one of the guys that was in our group was on the swim team with me. The other two were on the soccer team together. There was also a girl who was also a swimmer, and we would all end up dating her at some time or another. There was something special about this girl; she was pretty in a frumpy kind of way. It was her personality that made her attractive, always bubbly and a little loopy. We all chased after her with reckless abandon. I guess you could call it stalking. We would simply follow her around at night and on weekends, always remaining a few cars behind. I had gone out with her twice when we suddenly decided that we weren’t meant to be a couple.
About a month after ending that relationship, an acquaintance who sat next to me and happened to be one of the populars leaned over to me and said, “Hey Jake, I know somebody who likes you.” I immediately knew who he meant. One of the popular girls, Bonnie, had been acting strangely towards me in Spanish class. You knew when somebody liked you when they began to do and say strange things around you, and then you hit yourself in the head for not figuring it out sooner.
I said, “Bonnie.”
He responded, “I think you make a cute couple.”
A week after our second date, I realized why I didn’t like the popular girls. Although they were all quite attractive and pleasant enough, there was a ton of peer pressure. There was no pressure from my friends; they didn’t care who I went out with as long as it wasn’t with the loopy girl. Bonnie, on the other hand, had broken ranks and was now dating a member of the fringe group. The pops knew who I was, but they would always avoid talking to me. Of course, like all popular girls in history of popular girls, Bonnie also had a psycho ex-boyfriend who might snap at any point and shoot me dead.

One dark and foggy Tuesday night in March of 1987, two of the three friends and I were hanging out at the mall when we ran into one of loopy’s friends. Of course, we wanted to know where loopy was so we could find and harass her.
“Oh, she’s at Baton practice at the Bowling alley.”
Off we went to find her. As always, we had no idea what we were going to do when we found her, but we would find her at any cost.
I pulled my dad’s ’78 Buick LeSabre into the parking lot of the large bowling alley and parked it about 17 rows from the door. We went in and looked around. There was no space in the building that looked like it could house a bunch of girls throwing batons around. We asked someone who worked there where the baton practice was.
“Oh, they’re in back. But you can’t go back there,” the man replied.
That was not going to stop us. With no regard for the trouble we might be getting ourselves into, I pulled the car around to the back of the building. There was a single street light cutting through the fog, but it was not bright enough to illuminate the entire scene. One of my friends took the wheel from me, as the other friend and I got out and began to look around. There was a fire escape with a door at the top. The friend outside the car started to climb the fire escape with me close behind. At the moment he had reached the door and had looked inside, a voice echoed from the corner of the building.
“Hey, security, stop right there,” a man yelled.
I quickly dropped to the ground and dove in the open back door of the car. The friend who was on the fire escape, a small, nimble young man, was not quite fast enough to climb down and make it in the car. I yelled at the unlicensed friend who was in the driver’s seat, “Go, just go!” and the V8 LeSabre took off down the dark alley, leaving our buddy literally hanging on the ladder.
After the car had escaped the running security guards, and was safely out of range, the friend at the wheel pulled over and parked on a side street.
“Oh my gosh,” was all I could say. “We’re going to have to go back, you know,” I stammered softly.
“Yeah, I know,” my friend agreed, realizing that we had left our friend behind.
So we switched seats and I took us back to the parking lot, where I chose a spot a little farther back from the previous.
“I’ll go in,” my friend said abruptly.
I sat in the car for the longest five minutes I had ever known.
I saw my friend approaching alone with his head hung down.
“They got him,” was all he said.
We walked in and saw our friend standing nervously in the space between the outside and inside doors. There with him were two police officers, not the security guards as I had been expecting. The cops proceeded to do a lot of talking on their walkie-talkies, saying things like, “Yeah, we got the other two right here,” and “the trespassers.” That night we were nearly charged with criminal trespassing, but were left off with a warning to never come back there again.
The stress of the night had been so intense that when I arrived home I went to the bathroom and nearly threw-up. After a couple of minutes leaning over the toilet, I straightened up and looked in the mirror. “Aw, no,” I declared. A huge pimple had been forming on my chin. As I always did, I took it between my thumbs and tried to squeeze it. I had yet to learn to just leave these big ones alone. It began to swell, and the same feeling I had been struggling with for the past year came upon me. It was kind of like having my heart broken, a sensation I hadn’t dealt with yet but would come to know well. My heart began to beat so heavy it felt as if it was going to fall into my stomach, and I was now sweating lightly just below my hairline. I went to bed dreading the next day.
School the following morning was a futile endeavor. I took some of my mom’s makeup
with me so that after second hour swim class I could try to cover up the ball of puss that was growing on my chin. Yes, I wore makeup. It’s out in the open now. But I must have looked rather strange walking around with just little spots of makeup on my face.
Third hour English was where I would have to see Bonnie. As imperfect a couple as the two of us made, she was popular and I didn’t want her to see me like this.
For anyone who has had this kind of pimple before, you know that after you squeeze and poke at it, all of the junk that’s under the skin begins to seep out the surface, or maybe that’s just the way it worked with me. Anyway, the makeup wasn’t going to help this time, and by the time I reached my seat in English class my chin was almost dripping with this fluid. So, I made up my mind that I needed to go home. I told my teacher that I wasn’t feeling well, went to the office to call my mom to come and get me, and left the building.
While I stood against the outside wall of the school my mind began racing, and a racing mind is one the Devil’s favorite things. The thought that kept coming to mind was, “You’ve got to kill yourself.” Why in God’s name did I feel like I needed to kill myself over one big zit on my chin? It’s a good thing that I don’t remember the first time I had those feelings, because having the answer to that question now would make me angry.
As soon as I arrived home I raced intently for the bathroom. I looked at my face in the mirror and pulled out a bunch of bottles of my dad’s blood pressure medicine. I began to pop them one at a time into my mouth. I wasn’t really thinking about anything at this point; my mind was a complete blank as I took a cup of water from the sink and swallowed about 12 pills. My first attempt was truly a cry for help, as I could have taken a lot more.
My mom had left for the store right after dropping me off, and when she got back she found me lying on my stomach in my single bed in the bedroom that Patrick and I shared. She asked me how I was feeling, given the fact that I had just come home from school complaining of a stomach ache.
“I feel okay, mom. I just need to rest, I think.”
Something was compelling me to tell her, but for the time being the demon was still lying to me, saying, “You can’t tell her now. It’s too late.”
Nearly an hour after taking the pills, I finally broke down and tearfully went in the kitchen where my mom was putting groceries away. At this point, my memory becomes a little hazy. I don’t recall exactly how I told her, or what her reaction was. I must have told her how long it had been since I had taken the pills, because she didn’t call 911. Instead, in less than thirty seconds we were out the door, in the car, and on our way to the emergency room at the nearest hospital. The entire way there she kept on asking me, “How much did you take?” and not “why?” as if ‘why?’ was a private matter. Indeed, it really was a secret, and my family had no idea that I was suicidal in any way, shape or form. It was going to hit them like a ton of bricks, especially mom. Mothers always take attempted teen suicides the hardest. “Where did I go wrong?” is the first question that always hits.
When we arrived at the hospital mom informed the nurse working at the front desk of the E.R. that I had just taken a bunch of pills in an effort to kill myself. I was escorted into the back immediately.
“Jacob, how many pills did you take?’ was all they initially wanted to know.
I could only respond, “I don’t know, maybe ten or eleven.”
“Do you remember what the names of the pills were,” was their next question.
I literally had no idea what the names of any of the medications were. I had just indiscriminately shuffled through my dad’s side of the medicine chest, reached for a few bottles, pulled them down and shoved a few pills from each into my mouth.
A new nurse would come in every five minutes or so to ask me those two questions, ‘What?” and “How many?” I think they must have thought that I was lying when I said I didn’t know.
“Okay, Mrs. Drollinger, we’re going to have to pump his stomach,” a doctor said. I’m not sure that was meant to scare me into answering with the replies they wanted, but I wasn’t scared because I didn’t know what getting my stomach pumped would involve.
First they tried to snake a long plastic tube down my throat, but I had always had a very strong gag reflex. After three tries to get the tube into my stomach through my mouth, they went in through my nose. This is one of the most unpleasant feelings in the world, I can tell you that. They pumped all of the bile out of my gut, along with what was left of maybe the last three pills I had taken. I mean, it had been almost an hour and a half, so there wasn’t a lot left to pump out. Then they proceeded to cleanse my stomach with a charcoal like substance. I know it may sound a bit counterintuitive – a lot like drinking water after having diarrhea – to cleanse with charcoal, but that’s what it was.
The cart that I was laying on then got pushed into an actual room, where I sat waiting. Then my dad came in. I was almost afraid that he was going to put me over his knee and whoop me for interrupting his day.
“Mike, what’s all this about?”
I was way too ashamed to admit the reason why I had done it.
“Talk to me, Mike!” he said in a slightly more agitated voice.
Okay, it was time to come clean. “It’s my face, dad.”
“What’s wrong with your face?”
Oh my gosh, none of the nurses or doctors I had just seen had even noticed the giant boil either, which I instinctively reached for now.
“Let me see,” he demanded. “Dang it, Is that’s what all of this is over, a stupid zit?” He then began to ponder what in the world might be the cause of my abnormal reaction to getting a pimple. Not until much later would anyone look close enough to really see anything.
“When I was your age I had a chin full of blackheads, but it never made me want to kill myself.”
He had just made the mistake of trying to compare something he had experienced with my problem. A chin full of blackheads was something I could deal with. In fact it was something I had dealt with about two years ago.
“What on Earth would make you want to kill yourself because you got a pimple? Are you that self-centered?” He repeated his previous question and had added a painful one. He didn’t have a clue to what a horrible self-image I had, nor did any member of my family. Also, it is common, even normal, for a friend of a suicidal teen to be aware that something bad might be about to happen. The most unusual thing was that even my closest friends didn’t know.
“I think it’s the opposite, dad. I mean, I think it’s because my self-esteem is so low that one blemish will destroy whatever I have left.”
“Well, I don’t know why,” he said. “I mean, you’ve got so much going for you. Come on Mike, you’re way too smart to do this to yourself.”
My dad and I had always had a rocky relationship, more difficult than either of my two siblings. Dana was the only daughter and Patrick was, of course, the baby. I suppose I had middle child syndrome, whatever that entails. However, it wasn’t like I was battling for my parents’ attention; none of us got a whole lot. My parents had a kind of hands off parenting approach.
Up until the eighth grade, I was a horrible son. When I was five or six I would steal matches from my parents, (both had been smokers for most of their lives) and then a bunch of bad boys from the neighborhood and I would go anywhere outside and secluded to light piles of grass and branches on fire. Somehow, most of the time he would find out, and would drag me back to my bedroom and spank my little white booty until it was as red as a beet. I wouldn't even want to guess how many times this happened, but once he threatened to call the police there was never another incident.
Neither Dana nor Pat ever got spankings, not that I can remember at least. If two of us got caught doing something wrong, I would get the brunt of dad’s discipline. I loved him through all the tough times, though, and I knew that he loved me.
I was just plain bad by the standards of that day. I wasn’t one to talk back, but I was constantly getting into some sort of trouble, “acting out” is what it’s called today. I would get into fights with neighborhood kids, and boys at school. Although I was extremely smart, my school work in grades one through seven never reflected just how intelligent I was. Again, unless it got to be very bad, my parents never really bothered me about school. By the time I had reached the eighth grade, I had completely turned things around and was overachieving, nothing but A’s all year long. That continued into high school. I was now a good boy; avoided any trouble; got along with just about everyone; and was getting incredible grades. The emotional issues were the only kink in my armor.
From then on, everybody I saw about my psychological illness would look right past my face, and search for something deeper and darker. All of the professionals, all of the doctors, all of the therapists, and even my family were sure that it had to be something other than my complexion.
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