The second Christmas after Bekah entered my life is nothing but a huge confusing blur of gifts, pain, love, and more confusion. I remember four Christmas celebrations. I don’t remember what order they came in. I don’t remember everything about them. All I can say is that it all started with a missing 250 dollars.
Now, I know what happened to the money, but the rest of this we will have to figure out together. Like much of this book and the one before it, I have been discovering my past as I tell it to you. Informer will let me know a little about the time frame when the event occurred. Shadow will give me his recollections, then Guardian and others. Everyone is telling me what to write, and as they do, my life is coming into clearer focus. Much of my own knowledge is out of context until I come here on nights like this one, after a whiskey, after saying goodnight to my soulmate, and after I have shut myself away in my office. It is now at this board and this screen that the mysteries of my life come into stark clarity. So, with that intention I am going to walk you through the most confusing Christmas of my life. You will see it coming together as I do.
Back to that missing money and the fallout.
December was hard. Angel and I were together all the time. After she had saved my life I had started to go to therapy. It was hard and confusing, and I knew there were more memories I had of a childhood that was much darker than I had always thought. But the sessions were far apart and I was getting nowhere.
This was therapy with Roslyn and she was brilliant. She was a teacher at a school for psychology, and my sessions were free if I allowed her student to sit in and take part.
I remember she sat me in a room with a huge mirror that had a curtain on it. The curtain was pulled back and she came in.
“There are students and other instructors in the room behind the mirror. They are listening to us and talking about you as a client, and they will decide if we can take you on and who might be your student therapist. Is that okay?” she asked.
“This is a school. I expected students,” Guardian said.
“We are going to talk about your needs and what you think we can do for you, and we will decide if you and I are a good fit or if you need a different instructor. And we will go from there.”
We talked. Every now and then, she would walk out of the room to confer with those on the other side of the glass. Every time she came back, she seemed more excited. One of these times she came back and laughed.
“You are quite the hit with everyone,” she said.
Out came Shadow. He looked around the room, unaware of what was going on or where he was. He stared at her a moment, then up to the mirror. He ran trembling fingers through his hair and was gone.
Guardian came back and there was a rap on the other side of the mirror. Roslyn left the room and came back.
“Well I am very interested in treating you, and every student who has entered that room has requested you. There is a bit of a struggle playing out behind this mirror,” she said.
I ended up with Branch. I call him Branch because in this particular part of my life I was sinking into a quagmire. This is the man who extended a branch and helped me out of it. I will not stay at this place. When the worst happens and it all burns down around me, I will run from all therapy until Steven. But for now, there is Roslyn and Branch. We will call them hope. I walked from my dorm to my appointment, then to Pizza Hut.
I remember it being ice cold outside. I was wearing a coat so thin it was barely there and no hat, no gloves, and a t-shirt. I remember being crusted over with ice by the time I got to the store. I had made this walk a few times by now, but this time it took so much longer. I did not remember all of it. And when I got to the restaurant, I sat in the back waiting for my shift to begin. I reached into my bag to get my journal when I saw stuck in the bag a camera and a lens.
I looked up, seeing Angel at the register, and I grabbed my bag and ducked into the bathroom. I pulled the stall door closed and looked in again. Camera and lens. And this was not a cheap camera. This was the camera. A professional camera we have all seen. The camera that every real photographer had back in those days. This was a 45 millimeter, brand name camera with a matching lens that I didn’t even know how to attach to the camera itself. I had no use for this. And I knew the moment I looked at it who it was for.
I checked my wallet and found 250 dollars missing. It was the money I was going to buy my entire Christmas with. I had to buy for my family. Angel. Bekah. For all my friends at Kentwood. I even planned on buying Sapphire a Christmas present. Ever since I had been a kid, I had loved buying presents for people, and I had scrimped and saved to get these 250 dollars for this purpose. Now it was gone.
This camera was for Bekah.
No way it had any other destiny. She had signed up for her classes for the spring semester and she was going to be taking a photography class. She had to have a camera that functioned like this one could function. She needed this camera. I looked at it and closed my eyes. I summoned up every detail I could about the day, and after a few hard minutes I could not remember how I had gotten that camera or where I had purchased it from.
But as discovery is what this book is about, I can tell you now that this camera I talk about now was paid for by Servant. Are you as confused as I am? Sitting here with this knowledge set before me, I can say that Servant had never liked Bekah. He had always been Rose’s little man. Had done as little as he could for their relationship, had worked against it and plotted to break them up.
All I can say is that Kit taught him that love came with pain. He was in love if he suffered. He was in love if he hurt.
He had just broken up with Sapphire. He was supposed to be pining for Sapphire. But here we are almost eight months after all of it fell apart with Bekah. Here we are not only eight months away from their break up, but with another relationship and another break up to hurt for, and yet here he sits suffering for Bekah so badly that he has spent every dime of money he had for Christmas on her.
With Angel in our lives, we can’t afford for her to see this. So, for days we hid the camera. Now the dorms had closed down. I had nowhere to go for the month between semesters, so I moved in with Angel.
We woke and she was supposed to open the store. We dropped off her baby at her mothers and went to Pizza Hut. We both opened the store. Then I sat in the back of the dining room, writing or pretending to write until I clocked on at 3. Then I closed the store and she came to pick me up. We were together all night until bed. Then we got up to do it again.
This was all that was keeping me alive. I was on twenty-four hour watch in this fashion. Never had a minute alone to hurt myself. We were holding me together with full days at work and every other minute with Angel.
Now some more confusion.
I don’t remember how we got there, but I do remember being at McWhatever’s and having a Christmas with Sapphire. We decided we would try to be friends. Try to keep each other in our lives. I don’t know why. I don’t know how this happened.
She called me, I think. At the restaurant. She asked me to meet her so she could give me a Christmas gift. I remember she got me a Limp Bizkit CD. I got her nothing and the entire time we talked, I had Bekah’s camera in my bag.
The day before Christmas, Angel came to me with a few gifts. She had spent over three hundred dollars on me. She bought me three Ralph Lauren shirts. Two pairs of Ralph Lauren jeans. And a pair of Adidas. None of them were my style. All of them were too tight for me. This meant that they fit. I always liked my clothes baggy and frumpy. When I wore these clothes, they fit tight. When I put them on, I vanished. I was not the moody, artistic boy with the scuffed-up boots and the torn jeans. I could not see myself at all when I looked at my image in the mirror. I was what Angel wanted me to be.
A few days later she threw away my favorite pieces of clothing and my brown boots. She dropped them in the trash while I was taking a shower, and she took them out to her dumpster. When I got out, she said they were gone and now I would have to dress like a decent, rational person. She expected me to thank her.
In the end, I did. I had to. She was my only place to live. I knew I could move in with Bekah, but the prospect was too confusing. Would we be us again? Her family would hate me. We had no future. We had nothing for each other.
Still, in my bag, slouched behind a few beat up journals, sat her camera.
I told Angel that Bekah would give me a ride to my parents in Waynesville so I could celebrate with them. The night before, while bitter cold and windy, I walked from the restaurant to Bekah’s house. I started at about four in the afternoon and got to her house well after eight.
I was frozen. Still wrapped up in a paper-thin coat.
I was exhausted. I hadn’t been sleeping well with Angel by my side. She screamed in her sleep. She thrashed. She wept while she slept, and often I would crawl into the floor to sleep with my pillow and no blanket.
I was sore. The new shoes had not been broken in when I started walking and my feet hurt as if they would snap in half.
I hurt. Everything about me hurt. My mind, my heart, my hope and my future. I still wanted to die. But I had begun to picture it as a thing walking behind me. I was on a forced march. As long as I kept moving, suicide was behind me. As long as I kept working, walking, and going to therapy, I was free of it. But if I was alone, sitting still and thinking, it would rise up behind me, as if my past was on fire and spitting oily smoke. It would billow up behind me and black out the sun. So, I kept moving.
And when I got to Bekah’s house, I collapsed. I dropped on her couch and she sat beside me. I remember her face. I remember being warm, it seemed, for the first time in so long. She smiled at me.
“I know we said no gifts,” she said. “But I want you to have this. I have wanted you to have it since I met you and got to know you. You are going to look at it and freak out. Don’t think about how expensive it is. Just love it as much as you can, okay?”
I sat back on her couch and she tip-toed away to get it. She probably just walked. But right now, as I sit here, I feel as though she was quiet about it. As if this memory for me is too precious for there to be any loud sounds. This is a night that my mind remembers as hushed. She came in with a guitar. It was an acoustic Ibanez Bass. This I would find out later was an 800-dollar guitar. She never could have afforded it. She would be paying this guitar off for years. But she dropped it in front of me and I nearly wept.
The horror of it was that the alter who knew how to play it was gone. He had run off and hid in a hole the moment they had broken up, and he had not come back. She was buying a gift for an alter who no longer existed. Buying a present for a part of me that we would not see for 22 more years. The alter who had always dreamed of that guitar was in a hole wailing for her, never knowing she was reaching out for him.
Servant pulled out the camera we had been hiding all week. He handed it to her and he shook his head. “We said no gifts.”
She wept. He wept. And there in a warm place they made love. By the next day, we all belonged to Angel again. Bekah was going to her parents’ house for Christmas. This meant that I would be alone if I didn’t stay with Angel. I would have no place to live. I would have no way to get to work. I would have nothing to eat. I would have no one to watch over me. It was impossible for me to be with Bekah. The logistics of it were impossible.
So once again we came close. We came so close to getting it back together. When she dropped me off at my parents’ house the next day on her way out of town, I kissed her. Then she left and I went back to just trying to survive.
My parents bought me a microwave for Christmas. I had nowhere to put it. I couldn’t put it in my dorm. It had too high a wattage. I had nowhere to put it and nothing to do with it.
My mother screamed at me when I didn’t explode in happiness at her gift. She called me ungrateful and wanted me out of her house. I called Angel, who drove down from Springfield to take me back home.
It was the most confusing Christmas of my life. I guess in writing, these things have become clearer. It was both the worst, the most heartbreaking, and the most tender Christmas of my life.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 2: Normal Street.