True Stories

Random memories mesh together to create a character. This one happens to be real; a 26-year-old Israeli boy studying film in NYC. (As with anything, it's best to start at the beginning. Go to the archives...) Copyright 2006

Friday, July 21, 2006

The true story of he, him and I

At fourteen I witnessed the complete mental disintegration of a friend of mine. That he was the most likely candidate for such a breakdown did nothing to make it any less fantastic when it happened right before our eyes. Before his mind collapsed he’d been the classic nerd, as exaggerated as a cartoon character with his gangly features, his bloated lips, his speech impediment that turned his ‘ch’s into sprinklers, his thick framed glasses and his porcupine hair, the way he stuffed his shirts into his shorts and his crooked, curvy posture; ass and belly sticking out and away from each other.

I’d never had a bully growing up. He had many bullies, and I was one of them. I never hit him, but I abused him in every other way possible. I remember why I did it, though I can’t excuse it. I pestered him and picked at him because the sight of him put me to shame. His ineptness at life offended me. I was afraid of becoming him and I was afraid I already was him. Years later my friend Roi told me “You really impressed me with your cruelty.” I was his bully and his friend, which probably made it worse because I felt I had the right to poke fingers into his wounds; I only wanted to make him better.

It happened during the summer between the eight and ninth grade. I was the first one to hear from him, and he was already far gone when he called me. He’d phoned to ask about a Stephen King book I’d described to friends a few days earlier. “I want you to tell me what happens in that book again.” He requested in a mysterious voice that should have had me worried but merely annoyed me. The Stephen King story had to do with an old man who stopped sleeping and began to see auras enveloping people. Later on he could make out evil creatures that severed the auras, resulting in their owners’ deaths. I rushed through the plot impatiently and then asked, “Why did you want to know that?”, fully expecting an outburst of geeky awkwardness for an answer.

Instead he replied “Because it’s happening to me.” in a chilling voice. “What? What do you mean?” I frowned.
“I have to go.” He blurted and hung up. When I tried to call back the line was busy, most likely he’d left the phone off the hook.

I was too perplexed to let it go. I called my friends one by one and asked if they’d noticed anything strange about him lately. The first friend said no, the second said no as well. My third call was to Roi. He answered “Yes!” emphatically. “I just talked to him and he sounded so weird!” I was filled with gratitude; I hadn’t imagined it after all. “What’s going on with him?” Roi asked in fascination. “Let’s call him up and invite him to your house.” I told Roi his phone had been busy for the last twenty minutes. “Yeah, ‘cause he was talking to me.” Roi said.
“What did he say?”
“It was so weird… I’m going to call him up now and tell him to come to your place.”

Roi and I sat in anticipation for half an hour until he showed up. He walked in and decidedly crouched down in the middle of the room in front of us, pressing his ass to his heels. He intertwined his fingers and put them to his lips. “You can have a seat on the couch.” I said, but he shook his head. Roi and I exchanged wide eyed glances. We waited in silence for a few moments. I felt terrified and excited.

“So what’s going on?” Roi broke the silence.
“Hold on.” He spoke slowly. “I think he’s listening.”
“Who’s ‘he’?”
He looked at us and said “He. Him. He.”
“Who’s he?” Roi asked again.
“He can hear and see everything; he’s got an eye in a pyramid and an ear in a cone, but he can’t get me because I know about him now.”
Roi and I exchanged glances again. It was actually happening, and I felt guilty for wanting it to keep going and never stop.
“What are you talking about? Are you alright?”
“I’m fine. I can control my cat without any problems and I think I can control my grandpa too. I have the skills.”
“What do you mean, control your cat?” I asked.
“I can control animals.”
“Do it then.” Roi challenged him. He demanded that he show us his “animal control” over my dog.
“Ok.” He rose to the challenge with utter confidence.

We stepped outside to my street. I let our family’s big German Shepard out and he began idly sniffing away at the neighbor’s hedge and peeing on it in select spots. Our friend walked to the middle of the road and put his pointer fingers to his temples. He closed his eyes and began to shake; it was freakish and creepy. It wasn’t fun any longer. My dog paid no attention to him. Meanwhile his shaking grew more and more violent until it stopped with a start. His eyes popped open, he looked up at the sky and shouted “He’s there! You can’t stop me!”

My heart had skipped a beat. Roi gently laid an arm on his shoulder, and I grabbed my dog by the collar. We stepped back inside. As we walked I heard him say to Roi in a low voice that he couldn’t successfully do these things around me, that I had a “black aura.”
“I heard that.” I said.
“You have a black aura.” He said it again to my face.
“Ok, ok, we’ll go to my place.” Roi said. “He won’t come with us.”
Roi looked at me, he was scared. I had been sufficiently scared myself and was glad to see him go.

A few hours later Roi called me. “What happened at your place?” I asked.
“It was so fucked up… he said he could control the stray cats that hang around in our back yard, so he did the whole thing again, with the shaking, but this time it was way worse, he looked like he was having a seizure, I thought he was going to die. He kept talking about this ‘he’ person or thing. And when some of the cats walked around he started jumping up and down and saying that he just ordered them to do that.”
“Yeah. And he said some weird shit about you, about how your aura was a sickness and how you contaminated everybody in your way.”
“No, I think he’s really lost it. Like really lost it. He’s gone.”
“You think he’s gone?”
“Right now I think he’s gone, yeah.”
“Is he still at your place?”
“No. I probably should have gone with him but he was creeping me out.”
“He’s gone.”

The next day my curiosity once again outweighed my fear and I called his house. His mother answered the phone and said “He’s away for the summer, he’s visiting his cousins in Jerusalem.”
“When is he going to be back?” I asked.
“He’s spending the entire summer there.”
“Wow, he didn’t say anything about that. When did he leave?”
“Two weeks ago.”
“I just saw him yesterday.”
“He’s spending the whole summer there.” His mother ignored me. “You’ll see him in September.”

He hadn’t gone to Jerusalem, he’d been admitted to a mental hospital. He didn’t spend the whole summer there either, only three weeks and then he returned. Roi had aggressively rescued the truth from his younger brother; he’d been diagnosed with a chemical imbalance and prescribed powerful drugs. At first it seemed he was his same old self again, socially inept but not insane. He sheepishly admitted he’d not been to see his cousins but let words such as “mental ward” or “psychiatric drugs” remain unspoken. Roi said “Let’s just not talk about it ever again.” He and I were the only ones to have witnessed the summer episode first hand, and neither of us mentioned it again. It was forgotten.

We grew older and all went to the same highschool. I was no longer his bully; I’d grown too old and had become too self centered to pick on anybody but myself. He never lapsed into insanity again, but as the smoke cleared it was apparent that he was a changed person. Before his breakdown he was a true nerd; he’d dedicate weeks to studying for a test and would proclaim “Knowledge is power!”. Afterwards he rarely showed up for classes. His house was on my morning route and occasionally I’d see him standing at the corner before the last bend in the road up to our highschool, his backpack cracking his posture, his body still as a statue. I’d stop by him and say “You on your way to school?” He’d nod. “Come on, I’ll walk with you.”
He’d say “No, it’s ok, you go. I’ll come soon.” And he never showed. Once he proclaimed that he was going to wake up and salvage his education. He asked if he could borrow my history textbook. I never saw the book again.

He rarely came out with us, only once every two or three months provided we were out to a movie or any such activity that wouldn’t require much human interaction. On one of these nights I walked home with him from the bus station and he started scaring me. His words still made sense but the conversation was precarious. He was deeply distressed over the upcoming “beer crisis”, in which a shortage of wheat would cause all the alcoholics of Asia and Africa to invade Europe and the Americas with a fervor that would spare no one. In the quiet stillness of the night his bleak predictions made my skin crawl. We’d reached his house but he was reluctant to go in. I stood and he walked circles around me.
I asked “Do you really think we’re going to have world war three because of beer?”
“It will probably happen by 1999.”
“Shit. You’re depressing me. Don’t talk about this stuff so late at night.”
“I’m sorry. I forget that I’m stronger than most people.”
We’d been talking around it for two years but it was the middle of the night and nothing felt real anymore so I said “Don’t get offended or anything, but are you going to go crazy again?”
I’d tested the waters with that insensitive blurt and he was fine with it, in fact he expected it from me. I owed it to him to go on. “What was it like?” I asked.
“It was horrible. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.” He said. “It was like having someone shove a cold knife into my back and twist it.” That line stuck to my mind, it was far more poetic than our teenage-speak ever got. He briefly touched the small of my back as if escorting a date to make his point about the knife.
“That’s crazy.” I said.
“It won’t happen again.”
I was on the cusp of my long fascination with drugs and its accompanying discontent with sobriety, and I said “You know, people take drugs to go where you went, and you take drugs to come back here and stay here.”
“People shouldn’t do that.” He said.
“Yeah.” I said. “Well, you know, the grass is always greener. I want to go places too, but it’s kind of scary.”
“It’s very scary.”
“But so is staying here, isn’t that what you’re saying?”
“Yes. But it’s scarier there.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” I smiled. He didn’t. I knew I should feel lucky, but knowing it and feeling it were two separate entities, and I never was more acutely aware of how far apart the two were than at that very moment in time.
“So who was ‘he’?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” He said. “I was insane.”
I laughed, and this time he did too.


  • At 11:45 PM, Blogger maybetomorrow said…

    Thanks for checking out my blog and your comment...
    Your blog is amazing - I truly am enjoying all of your entries - they are riveting and bold and I admire your honesty in telling your tales - I am intrigued....thanks for sharing

  • At 1:06 AM, Blogger Kevin said…

    Wow. You write very well. I enjoyed reading all your posts.


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