Getting To Know Each Other

Scott:  You’re driving through Colorado on your way to Oregon to go camping/climbing with friends. You’re passing through the mountains and it starts raining HARD. The area you’re in is really remote but thankfully you see one of those neon hotel signs buzzing ahead with “Vacancy”.

At the front desk is a slimy meth head-looking lady, about 48 with really shitty, hand-done tattoos. She’s mid-argument on the phone when you walk in and hastily throws the phone down and greets you with a warm “What?”. You get your room and the rest of the night passes without anything unique happening.

The next morning you check out, walk outside and the lady from the front desk is creeping around your car. She sees you and rushes away. You hop in your car and start your trip back up. 50 miles down the road three cops pull you over, guns drawn.

What do they charge you with?

OliveNoShow:  Duh. The mass murder of all those friends. By “camping” you really mean “burying them in a remote area away from where you live.” And those “friends” are really all stuffed in the trunk. You almost got away with it, but the one and only victim you ever left alive 20 years ago saw and recognized you. Even after years of PTSD that rendered her incapable of holding a steady job except as a desk clerk at a shitty hotel off a remote road, she recognized you as the monster that made her turn to a life of meth and isolation. So when she realized you were at it again, but unable to recognize her because you were blinded with disgust and judgement for her poorly drawn tattoos, she saw her chance for justice.

So now you’ve been caught. Cops surround you. What do you do?

Scott:  It’s always those minute details.

THANK GOD [sic] for that meth addiction. Being the sly self-motivated, devoid of emotion and empathy human being that I am, I pin everything on the meth head. With such horrible teeth and tattoos, it’s a little hard to argue she knew a few TOO MANY details for this to be a casual sort of encounter. Sure my camping knife is big, but I’m a man, a hunter possibly (nope). My knife was only there for camping necessity.

I turn this into a case of entirely bad luck; my god, what are my “friends” going to think when I don’t show up for this camping trip on time?! Can I borrow your phone? How long is this going to take?! This is too crazy, this isn’t my life!!!!

The cops see how in control I am and default their basic stereotypical judgements (stupid cops) and I’m let off, free to continue my trip to Oregon.

How does my fortune unfold?

OliveNoShow:  You make it to your “camping” trip. Unload your cargo and have a pretty relaxing weekend. The weather was nice and the beers were cold. Years go by and now you’re a middle aged man who’s carved out (no pun intended) a pretty good life for himself. One night, you’re in the study of your suburban 4-room house and there’s a knock at the door. You’d never thought you’d see her again, especially after what happened so long ago, but there she is…who is it?

Scott:  “Her”, or at least that is how she is known in my mind. In my early years she was “The One”. My world, my teacher, my Jesus; but time changes everything, right?

I’m shocked to see those eyes staring back at me; those same eyes that have always encouraged me toward the edge of sanity. She’s doing it again.

We don’t say anything audible for the first 30 seconds, just stare. Our past flashes through my mind; the first time I caught her breaking her vows, the first time she caught me breaking bones, all the times that followed, breaking bones and making cuts together.

Truly a love-hate relationship. Broken promises, broken dreams, broken hearts yet she is the only person to ever see the real me and survived. Years of distrust mixed with the closest and most trusting relationship I have ever had.

My mind stops wandering, immediately focused again on who is staring right back at me.

Her eyes: clear, hate-filled, that subtle-bright glimmer in the corner of her iris that shows a bit of life & insanity. They are eerily exact to mine… well I guess maybe not eerily.

“Hi mom”

OliveNoShow:  She remains silent. Unable to find the words. Well, even if she could, there would be no use. The last time you cut her you went too far, cutting too deep into her throat. For the better part of your adult life, all you got from her were grunts and mumbles that sounded more like hums. But mostly stares so deep they cut you to the core. And she made sure of it the way she’s making sure of it now. She lets the silence linger for as long as you’ll stand it. Because she knows that every passing second is a painful reminder of what you did to her. To your world. Your teacher. Your Jesus.

You’re so wrapped in your own guilt that you almost miss it. A slight uncertainty in her eye. She always had a tell. And you almost forgot it. But it’s as visible as a single crack on an icy surface. She’s up to something and for the first time in your life, you’re caught off guard. Before you can put the pieces together, she steps aside and there he is.

“Monster” you always called him. The reason you became THAT. The only one that makes you feel powerless. A feeling you always took out on others. But could never take out on him. You feel the life drained from you and regress back to a little boy scared running to mom. You look back at her grasping for sympathy, for a sign that everything will be ok. But all you find is a familiar sadistic satisfaction. She’s enjoying this. She’s been waiting for this moment…and that’s when it hits you.

Scott:  Life doesn’t change.

Insecurities are never settled, fear is never confronted. Everything we do is some sort of cover, some sort of compensation for those initial moments when we felt fragile, malleable; when we realize the power we try to pronounce is equal to some mating ritual of brainless animals; all posturing. We follow a pattern of compensation that can never be satiated.

But that is the great thing about humans, we have the ability to consciously recognize and adapt. Facing this stark realization and immediate regression into youthful frailty you realize you’re no longer a child. While some of that beautiful wonder has left the world, in its place exists a certainty in pattern.

You’ve embraced this certainty for all of those years on your own and it has empowered you through the tough spots you’ve faced, brought you to the point in your life where you are today.

In this flash of realization you stare back at “The Monster”, confidence renewed.

He was never supposed to be better, stronger, or smarter than you. But all those years the little brother won out. Was he really better than you or did you simply underestimate his abilities, relying on the “age-old-adages” about superiority due to being the first born? Finally your confidence wins out.

With your mind dissecting every detail you do the last thing expected and open your arms.

OliveNoShow:  He stares you down, puzzled, as if he had never seen you in his life. The same way he looked at you the day you met. You were born strangers and only became brothers through broken vows. And even on that first day, you instantly knew he was somehow superior to you. What was it that he knew that you didn’t? What was his secret? Your curiosity didn’t last long, though. He made sure to “share” his pain with you until he turned you into what he was. Because misery loves company, but evil loves recruits.

After what he used to call “The Initiation,” you two were inseparable. Him at the helm, you his loyal soldier. Loyalty based off of fear? Perhaps. And he made sure of that. Controlling your every move, every thought, every decision all while giving you a false sense that you were the one in control of yourself.

But seeing you standing there, arms wide open, all fears and self-doubts gone, stirs a familiar darkness in him. With one small act, you’ve stripped him of his power over you. The only real power he’s ever had.

Sensing this, you put your arms down and step aside, silently inviting them in. You don’t know where it comes from and you certainly didn’t plan it, but you say something so surprising that it would have been a total lie had it not come straight from the heart.

“I’ve been expecting you.”

Scott:  On second thought, how surprising is it really? Over the last decade or so certain things have simply fallen into place. Guilt and shame over your desires, needs, deeds, it has all evaporated. The blessing of living independently of all the souls who initially shaped you has forced you to survey and judge yourself honestly, it has turned you into a self sufficient pathogen.

Social obligations have always been your way to blend in, learn the habits of the other side, advance your camouflage. After so many hot dogs and cucumber sandwiches you noticed something though; no one is being real. These encounters are everyone’s opportunity to play the part they’ve been watching on TV or reading about in magazines and the occasional airport novel; their opportunity to be the archetype of the strong human.

With your own Adam and Eve wandering into your garden you identify the characters. You are the serpent, the purest evil, seductive and persuasive. This isn’t a desire, this isn’t a character, this is you. Your invitation should have been rejected immediately, after all, who knowingly walks into the bears den.

Yet here they are. Yours.

You’ve loved them, you’ve ruined them, and now you realize you are done with them.

Knowing what you are about to do you say a silent “thank you” for the house being devoid of all other living props.

“So what now?” you say as you openly and casually grab a large, meticulously maintained carving knife from your kitchen knife set.

OliveNoShow:  You wake up with a startle, disoriented and filled with the initial vulnerability that comes with it. It takes you a second to snap to it. And last night’s events slowly start trickling into your memory. You, in the study. That fateful knock at the door. Her eyes fixated on you. The Monster. Your newfound strength.

Everything else is a blur. Like a Fellini movie, you can’t distinguish reality from the subconscious.

Did you finally regain your power from The Monster? Or was that simply a recurring dream?

Was she really there? Or was that the same desire you’ve always had manifesting itself in a new way?

Did you finally get to cut him one last time? Or did your imagination get the best of you again?

Are you really done with them? Or do you regret last night’s impulses?

With all these questions looming over your head, you start to feel a familiar stirring deep within you. You haven’t felt this in years, and you have to do something about it. Now.

Scott:  Wash your body clean, no invisible traces.
Put on clean (still packaged) clothes.
Grab the emergency cash fund.
Find the knife.
Light a fire.
Drive.

* * *It’s a little different in the daylight, a whole lot more arousing. The idea of walking with your prey, blending as you are, pick of the litter.First rules first though, hide all emotion. Not a hard rule to remember butthe one time you slipped…

Focus.

Your head follows the 99% on their ritual Sunday activities. Scanning each face, each walk, each stutter for the air of familiarity. You need to find them.

A man’s shoulder bumps you hard from behind. You stumble forward, keeping your feet but exposing your back, your right hand immediately darts to the knife’s handle in your waistline.

The aggressor greets you with simple indifference. The man keeps walking; he’s not a piece of the story, just an asshole with a puffed up chest.

He doesn’t fit what you want, he isn’t like them, he’s no disciple. Yet there he is, catching you off guard, making you feel weak. He should pay, right? Right?

Yes.

You start walking a little faster en route to a safe following distance, gauging his awareness of you. WAIT.

Focus. NO. When you break the plan it’s empty. An increase in possibility without a decrease in thirst. Last time you swore you’d never parch your thirst with salt water again.Focus.

With focus back on your side you turn around in time to see… nothing. You just hear a loud dull “thump” hitting you in that place that is the fusion of skull and neck. Your legs give out and less than a second later your consciousness wanes as well. That was long enough to see the shoes though; always the same pair.

Writer:  Scott
Location:  Washtenaw & Haddon
map view, Chicago literary map

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