Friday, November 28, 2008

Aunty Christ will be back soon

This morning, I ordered a medium americano from the round-faced barista who was unlucky enough to be working at the airport coffee stand the day after Thanksgiving.

“I know you probably get this all the time,” I said, “but ‘wiener mélange’ is a really bad name for your espresso.”

“I know!” he said. “It’s really bad, right?”

“It kind of sounds like you’re serving hot dog-flavored coffee.”

“I can’t help it!”

“Oh, no, I know it’s …”

“It’s actually pronounced ‘vee-ner’.”

“Oh, well that’s …”

“I guess it’s German.”

“Well, that makes …”

“I can’t help it!”

Aunty Christ is dealing with airport coffee-industry employees this morning, rather than at home in bed where she belongs, because she is waiting for the plane that’s going to take her to San Francisco, where she will wait for a plane that will take her to Maui.

Where she spend six days dealing with her parents, walking on the beach, and missing the thugs and Rich Bachelor like mad.

Although if you’re going to spend six days missing your thug dogs and your Rich Bachelor, there are worse places to do that, I suppose. I love you guys. Take care of each other. I can’t wait to see you again.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Aunty Christ and the American nightmare

Every now and then—more frequently lately, for obvious reasons—when I hear about large, national corporations declaring bankruptcy or otherwise going tits up, as those people on BBC America say, I can’t help but wonder what it’s like to actually work for said moribund company. I think we can say with some degree of certainty that the CEOs and VPs of those poorly managed entities—the ones who’ve actually run their wards into the ground—do not feel guilty about whatever incredible waste of time, money, energy and talent they engineered. Or, if they do feel a twinge of conscience, their multimillion-dollar severance packages do much to assuage their nasty, pitch-black souls.

But what of the foot soldiers? What must it be like, I’ve wondered, to play a bit part in some other man’s poorly conceived plan of battle on the field of capitalism? Is it hard, driving to the office listening to stories of your company’s demise on your favorite news station? Would you, as a low-level employee, feel you had contributed to your company’s non-success with your accumulated hours of answering Craigslist ads? Would you have known about the behemoth’s failure before the rest of us did? Did you have an inkling? Or was it just as much of a shock to you as it was to Jim Cramer? Does walking into the office of your failed company, its name now on every newscaster’s lips as The Example of Failure, of Corporate Greed, of The Very Worst That Can Happen When Reality and Facts and Prior Lessons of History Are Ignored, eat away at your dignity and your humanity as much as one would expect it would?

And lucky, lucky me, now I get to find out.

The company I’ve worked for over the past 15 months or so, formerly one of the largest in its industry, in a day has become a penny stock, junk-bond-rated debt, a joke. In a single day, its shares lost almost 90 percent of their worth, although the stock’s about 99 percent off its high for the year. I think I saw it coming. I saw something coming, anyway. In my industry, as a manager you can decide to pay someone like me an extra $5 to do a good job on a file and save yourself a potential $100,000 in claims, or you can beat it into your employees’ heads that they need to get files out in a hurry and risk the $100,000—or more. From where I sat, it seemed like my company was making an obvious mistake in choosing the latter option. Not just sometimes, not just when it makes sense, or when someone has assessed the risk and determined that it’s worthwhile. All the fucking time. Given the choice of losing a million or giving a client a few minutes’ extra work, we were encouraged—strongly encouraged—to get the file out and not worry about the future expense.

Tolstoy wrote that happy families are all alike, but unhappy families are each unhappy in their own way. From my experience, unhappy companies all make the same unhappy mistakes. They start expensive projects with the idea that This Revolutionary Advancement will be just the thing to drive future sales. Of course, these projects are never completed and are in fact soon abandoned due to lack of money, lack of interest, or lack of earth-changing significance. Employees are poorly trained and frequently reminded of how easily they could be replaced by a temp or an Indian, who wouldn’t require a 401K and health insurance, overtime pay or a heated office. At the same time that devoted, competent employees are let go, money is poured into establishing new worker pools, which are then replaced once those new workers gain any competence.

All of the above is true of my current employer, but it doesn’t even come close to describing how fucking stupid my company is.

Last summer, my coworkers and I were made to celebrate Failing Corporation Day, in honor of the anniversary of my employer’s conglomeration. The celebratory events included a Power Point presentation of the history of the industry, capped off by the illustrious history of the company, and a second Power Point show, on the glorious future of both industry and company. Our office was missing either the technical expertise or the actual technology (or both, most likely) needed to effectuate a complete Power Point presentation that would make any kind of sense in the large cafeteria we were sitting in. The sound came tinnily over the speakers of a laptop and reached maybe the first of 20 rows. Instead of a soundtrack, we were treated to a monotone reading by our uncharismatic boss.

The basic theme of the presentation was that we at the Failing Corporation help people achieve the American dream. Ah yes, I thought: Helping people reach that age-old dream of home foreclosure. Which of us didn’t grow up with the dream of receiving a notice of default by certified mail? Knowing that I can help someone, maybe you, reach that goal gives me a little bit of a tingle. Really.

I kept looking around the room at my coworkers, trying to gauge from their faces who was in my tribe. I found the presentation amusing as hell. We are helping people achieve their dreams, I wanted to scream, and for this we are paid a salary that will never allow us to achieve ours, no matter how base or insignificant our dreams may be. It’s fucking hilarious. Why wasn’t anyone getting it?

A picture of a run-down house came up on screen, captioned with the words, “We help turn real property”—and then the picture morphed. Instead of the run-down house, we were now presented with an image of the same house, similarly decrepit, but now with a dirty couch installed in the front yard, and the text: “into real people’s homes.” I again looked around the room, not even sorta trying to hide my amusement, and found myself looking into the dull, heavy-lidded eyes of my coworkers.

You did this, America. But I helped. No, no thanks necessary. It was my pleasure.

As each piece of our unhappy story has fallen into place over the past few weeks, I find myself similarly giddy over new inanities unearthed. It’s like one of those “dumb criminals” columns: They did what? What were they thinking! Ha, ha, now I feel superior. There are a few other components to it, too. There’s the satisfaction of witnessing the punishment of those who deserve to be punished, either because of how they’ve treated you or because of all the mistakes they’ve made. Mostly, though, I guess I feel like every day at my company is like a day in an absurdist novel. I am Gogo and Didi, waiting for hope or change in some guise.

I am the audience too. I don’t know how this will end, but I’m in on the joke, at least.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The end

I was going to write something that would tie what happened to me all those years ago into my life these days, and examine why what happened happened, and what I learned from it, if anything, and how I've changed, and how I haven't. However, I have caught the kind of cold where you sneeze and fart at the same time, and cough and cough and cough and then burp very loudly. Bless Rich Bachelor for putting up with my disgusting body and enfeebled mind.

So all that will have to wait until another day, a day when my brain is functioning a little better. Until then, here is the end of the story.

June 4, 1992, 5:52 p.m., home

Today I had my first meeting with my new therapist. It went okay, I guess. I mean, I felt comfortable talking to him, so that’s better than how it was at the hospital.

I also went shopping with L. [my sister], who came home yesterday. I bought candles and CDs, the primary CDs being [embarrassing crappy techno shit]. I couldn’t help myself. I want X all the time, and everything I do or see or hear or feel, I can’t help thinking how much better it would be on X.

I kind of worked out this explanation for why I got hooked on X. Everything has to be perfect for me. Totally perfect. I get angry at people who aren’t perfect. I get mad at myself for making mistakes. But nothing in life is perfect, and subsequently, life annoys and angers me.

On X, everything’s perfect, or seems to be. Everything you think is perfect, everything that happens is perfect, everything is perfect. And that’s also why I have a hard time coming down—because when I think about it when I’m straight I realize that the experience wasn’t perfect, that the evening wasn’t perfect, that I’m not perfect. Far from it. It only seemed that way.

So that’s my little diagnosis. I don’t know how accurate it is, but right now it seems true.

I’ll try to tie up the loose ends.

I never hooked up with A., and in fact we stopped being friends before the next year was up, although we exchanged letters that summer and my crush on him grew even bigger. I don’t think I even told him that I liked him, although he probably knew. He’s married now and relatively successful at what he does, though he’ll never truly be happy. I remember him as a great friend, and someone who was far nicer to me than I deserved.

I brought P. to my sister’s wedding that summer, and we had a great time. He was such a nice guy, but, like A., we grew apart, and I eventually lost track of him altogether.

My parents and I have a pretty good relationship now; I think they’ve forgiven me for putting them through everything I put them through. I don’t blame them for screwing up my life anymore. They were pretty good parents, I think, and still are.

I reapplied for admission to U of C that fall, having completed the mandatory therapy that summer. My therapist ended up sucking. I remember a lot of sessions where neither of us said a word for the entire hour. But I ended up feeling relatively refreshed, mentally healthy and ready for work by September, and luckily the admissions board felt I had improved enough to approve my reinstatement.

I started off the next school year strongly. I loved my classes, didn’t skip any of them, and saw my grades return to A and B levels. Toward the end of the first quarter, second year, my philosopher friend I., who had become a close confidant when I was in the hospital, invited me to a hotel where his cousin was having a party to celebrate the last day of testing for the CPA exam. I., his cousin and I were the only ones at the party, at which I drank far too much and ended up getting raped by both men. I finished my classes that quarter on a high note, but after that went back to my old ways of skipping class to sleep in, drinking alone in my dorm room, and, eventually, going back to drugs—though I was afraid to use X again.

I ended up graduating, though it took an extra year. I have reached an uneasy treaty with my past, whereby I don’t use it as an excuse to feel sorry for myself, and it promises to remain quiet and still in the distance, as a gentle reminder of what can go wrong, but never again to make me as sad as I was during that whole period of my life.

I don’t want to kill myself anymore.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Aunty Christ is almost done

More journal. No hedgehogs today.

June 1, 1992, 11:25 a.m.

I got a new roommate today. Her name is Marissa, and she’s not from this plane. She’s from the Seventh Galaxy! Her soul originated there. Her apartment is filled with evil demons. And she was locked up for centuries because of heresy! The inquisitors wore black robes and hoods!

She has these really freaky drawings on her desk, along with several sheets of yellow paper, on which is written what I wrote above.

Same day, 8:48 p.m.

Chris got her diagnosis today. I was wrong about the disease—it’s Huntington’s Chorea, not Parkinson’s. They’re keeping her here and letting her go on pass to Rush Presbyterian to get a second opinion. She seems okay—smiling and talking animatedly—but she has talked about suicide before, so the staff is keeping a close eye on her. I feel bad, but what can I do? Be a shoulder to lean on, I guess, and an ear to bend. I’m so wrapped up in my own problems right now, though, that I’m afraid I’m not very sympathetic. This is the same disease she saw eat away at her father and his mother, so she knows the effects. She said that when they gave her the diagnosis she went into shock a little: her ears were ringing. She might, she said, live off unemployment for a while. Travel maybe, while she can.

James, the self-proclaimed murderer and Green Beret, has turned out to be a fake. It appears that he likes to say that he’s killed people—in fact, he might even believe it. He was a heroin addict, though. He has track marks up and down his arms.

Smokey has started throwing tantrums whenever he’s on the phone with his mom, because he misses her so much.

Jeanette called yesterday. Gary talked to her, I guess, and Marla was upset this morning because she didn’t get to.

It’s amazing how much Vernel has improved since she’s come here. She’s an amazing woman, although I don’t think she knows it. She keeps writing her baby’s father, spraying the envelopes with perfume. She writes letters like I do—writing them first on scrap paper and then rewriting them. She likes to think that she’s a person striving for spiritual and mental order and depth, but it’s her innocence that gets me. She likes everyone, and speaks her mind, and is always trying to improve.

I wrote to P. yesterday, trying to put down on paper what I couldn’t say to him. I did my best, but I get the feeling it’s not enough for what I’ve put him through. P. is very delicate, very sheltered. He’s understanding but doesn’t understand; he doesn’t have the equipment to, really. I hope we can always be friends, if nothing else. Or, well … I’m not even sure it’s necessary we be friends. I just don’t want him to look back on our time together as a mistake.

We had a lasagna dinner tonight, Ward W-3 did. We were supposed to invite family and friends, which I didn’t of course. I helped make the salad. Afterward there was a lecture on bipolar disorder, none of which was pertinent to me.

Marla has really made a lot of improvement since she started hanging out with Vernell. Vernell and Marion and Marla and Benette hang out a lot, playing cards and talking. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned Benette before. She’s about 50, and her schooling stopped in sixth grade. She can’t read. When she leaves here, she’s going back to school, she said.

But back to Marla. She still talks to herself out loud sometimes. If you say, “I’m really pleased that I got a pass today,” she’ll say, “Pleased, pleased, pleased to meet you.” But she smiles more. And when she gets too loud with her self-talk, Vernell will say something to her and she’ll stop and smile like it’s a joke.

Chris is writing a mystery in which George is killed. It’s really wretched as far as the description is concerned. And the plot too, for that matter.

Last night, Marla and Vernell and Marion and Eric were playing rummy, and Marla was singing gospel songs. Eric got a kick out of that, saying that he’d gladly come to whichever church Marla went to, just to hear her sing. Later the priest stopped by to give Communion, even though it wasn’t midnight yet. Eric got a kick out of that too. He said it must have been Marla’s singing that brought him.

Alex, by the way, is very religious. He’s very screwed up too, apparently. At the last community meeting he said (out of the blue) that he had a hard time keeping track of time. Sometimes he thinks it’s two years ago, or a different season. Dr. Roy (cool lady, hair in braids) said that it’s easy to lose track of time in the hospital and that maybe we should hang a calendar in the unit. I may have misunderstood, but I have a feeling Alex’s problem is bigger than that.

There have been a lot of new patients coming onto the ward lately, too many to keep track of, and very indistinguishable. One’s young, another’s middle aged, another’s old. They’re all shy. All black. All women. I wonder if they’ll take on personalities after I’m gone.

One new patient of note: Mr. Roosevelt is around 60, plays the piano extremely well, and talks nonsense endlessly. He wears a brown corduroy jacket like E.’s and is missing his two front teeth. During the lecture tonight he kept interrupting—once when Dr. White was talking about grandiose ideas manic people might have. He said, “You’re up there standing there talking and I know more than you about the subject at hand. Like if I said that, that’d be grandiose?” The doctor flushed and said that it might be, but he was sure there were some things Mr. Roosevelt knew more about than he did, like the piano for instance. From there, Mr. Roosevelt went off on a severe tangent, one that I couldn’t understand at all, since he talks fast and mumbles, though I probably couldn’t have followed even if he had enunciated. I think he started talking about the Baptist church and their rites and ceremonies, and he even mentioned the cavalry once. Dr. White said that Mr. Roosevelt had illustrated a point he had made earlier, about flight of thought, but Mr. Roosevelt protested. He made several like comments throughout the lecture.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Also, Aunty Christ is pleased to announce that Simon was adopted

I know I promised that it was either publishing my old journal materials or wading through my feelings about applying to law school. Further, I know that by publishing my old journal I’ve entered an implicit agreement to not talk about applying to law school. And yet, I can’t help but wonder why I’ve dredged up this particular part of my past right now. The last time I went to school, I ended up in the nuthouse. I’m contemplating going back to school. It’s likely that my brain is trying to tell me something by forcing me to obsess over what went wrong the last time I attempted higher education, but it’s also likely that I do not have the ability to explain what I think that is without sounding a bit hysterical. And while I don’t mind sharing that I was more than a bit hysterical years and years ago, I feel my propensity toward working myself in knots over such a—let’s face it—non-problem as whether or not law school is a good choice is better left in my head for now.

More story next. First, a video of a hedgehog eating a bit of cat food.

Wednesday, May 27, 1992, 9:10 p.m.

Much has happened since my last entry. I’ll try to catch up.

Chris’ fear has abated since last week, though she still constantly has a wary eye on George. Right now she’s more concerned about her future than anything. They’ve given her a battery of tests during the last few days—each is promised to be the last. What the doctors think she has (Parkinson’s disease?) can’t be tested for, so they have to rule out every other possibility. She’ll find out tomorrow in a meeting with her mother and sister, both of whom she hates, evidently. We had a great conversation a few days ago. About drugs, mostly. She dropped acid all through high school and college. She told me about her high school’s graduation party where someone dosed the punch with several hits of acid. And about this camping trip she took with a group of friends in college where they all dropped and hallucinated wolves’ eyes in the trees. I told her about J. and my hallucinations—the paper on the ceiling and the bat and the blonde (me) sitting on the guy’s (P.’s) lap. It was a trip down chemical lane for both of us. By the end, all I wanted were two or three hits of X and a pack of Camel straights. Chris asked me if there were a capsule on the table, would I take it? This was after I said I had definitely quit for good. I couldn’t decide. She said she would, but for her it would only be an experiment and she wouldn’t do any more.

Right now I’m sitting in the room by the patio and listening to WXRT. Nirvana’s on, and I’m trying not to sing along.

Eric was put into solitary yesterday. He was let out this afternoon, sheepish in his hospital gown. His original release date was this Friday, but apparently his boss called and told him that if he wasn’t back at his job today, he would be fired. He packed, put on his jacket and hat, and, wielding his walker, threatened to break the glass door if they didn’t let him out. I think they pushed his release date back because of it, too.

Mr. Matthews’ parents come in every day and bring him food. He’s been feeding himself lately. His father is a really cute old man—probably in his 80s—grey beard, glasses, withered face, knit cap. Ivory likes to kiss him. Smokey has developed an unaccountable fascination with Mr. Matthews. He likes to pat him on the head. For a while he kept saying that he had a crush on him. “He’s nice!” he insists. “He’s cute!” Any conversation he has (usually centered on hospitals) now also touches on Mr. Matthews. “Do you know St. Joseph’s?” I shake my head. “ I was born there.” Oh. “Was he born there?” Shrug. “Has he ever been there? I never saw him there.” Sandra (the night nurse, whose hair imitates mine) suggested to him that the attraction lay in the fact that they both had IVs. But Smokey’s came out yesterday, and he seems relentless in his pursuit of Mr. Matthews. Although a few nights ago, he did ask his mother to marry him, over and over.

Helen was released yesterday. She seemed happy to go, promising to smoke cigarettes for all her friends.

Jori leaves Friday, as does Audry. I think Chris does too, but last time I asked she wasn’t positive. Audry had to put off her plans to go to Paris next week because the university has caught wind of her plans (it was supposed to be a secret between her and her professors) and because she’s missed so much school. Jori is going into a drug clinic when she leaves here. She got to see her son today when the boy’s father brought him. Children under 13 aren’t allowed as visitors, so Jori had to get a staff person to take her off ward to see him. The other day in art psychotherapy, she drew a picture of herself, sad, alone, and her, smiling, with her two sons beside her.

I re-signed my five-day yesterday, which means that (1) I can’t go to Boston to see my sister graduate, and (2) I can go off the ward accompanied by a staff member. I went into the courtyard today with Alice, a med student, and talked for a long time, very freely. Later, after I met with Angie [a psychologist, maybe?] and my mom in a family meeting, Angie came by my room and offered to take me out again. We walked around (but not in) the quads, and by the Reynold’s Club I saw D. [my RA]. I waved, feeling kind of awkward, and ignored his “Hey, s’up?” It was a gorgeous day out, maybe a little chilly for the end of May, but gorgeous enough for someone who’s been locked up for nine days without any fresh air.

After lunch today, Vernel was the center of attention when, after a conversation with her baby’s father’s lawyer, she found out that he had been sentenced to two years in prison (concealed weapon, I think). She has been worried about her financial situation for days—she’s apparently more in debt than she can handle. Now she’s worrying about how she can afford to send this man pocket money for the next two years. Everyone told her to forget about him, that he’s no good, he’s using her, but she denies it. She seems much better, calmer than when she first came in. Soft-spoken at times.

Family therapy was suggested by the team.

Both E. [my college roommate] and A. stopped by tonight. In shifts, instead of like last time. A. came first, around 7. He left at 8. E. stayed until almost 9, since they didn’t check my room again. I almost kissed A. tonight.

I started telling E. about everything—how Marla stole Helen’s water and Helen hit her and got solitary, and how Ivory kisses Mr. Matthews’ father, and how Jeannette’s mother didn’t like her because she was the darkest child, and how Heiko used to be a grad student, and Mr. Matthews a professor, and how George had fondled Chris and the cleaning lady, and how Chris said she’d kill herself if she has Parkinson’s, and how Eric got solitary and threatened to break the glass door with his walker, and how Judy cried out “Help me, help me,” in the morning, waking Audry up, and how Chris calls people “fellahs” and used to run a nursing home in California until her sister called her back to take care of their father who was dying of Parkinson’s, and, well, everything that’s happened since I got here, and I think she was impressed.

I miss Smokey’s IV rolling beside him like a pet.

Dad wrote a letter, which he gave to Mom to give to me: just a little reminder that he’s on my side.

Saturday, May 30, 1992 12:15 a.m.

Since I wrote out my list of patients there have been a few additions.

Alex: A tall, slim, handsome young man who was checked in today. His wife/girlfriend, a hovering, Doc Martens-wearing woman, escorted him. Chris likes him, but Marla refused to sit next to him while watching the Bulls game on TV.

James: Chris says that he went to jail for 15 years when he was 21, and he only recently got out. That would put him at 36 or so, although he looks a lot older. His face is really wrinkled, and he’s basically just a bag of bones. Ivory was talking to him tonight, which I found both heartwarming and disturbing.

Marissa: Quiet, mousy, staring, uncomfortable-looking. She’s only been here a few days, though, so maybe she’ll loosen up. But I doubt it. They took her blood at breakfast this morning—right there at the table and everything.

Today’s my pass. I asked to get out so I could pack, but I think the first thing I’ll do is shave my legs. Then I’d like to go shopping, copy A.’s computer games, and get my hair cut. I can get a pass Sunday, too, so maybe I’ll pack then.

A. and I have not been lucky with phone calls lately. I hope I can see him Sunday—maybe he’ll help me pack, etc. Or maybe I can visit him over finals. Or maybe I’ll see him over the summer, in Boston.

Which, by the way, is where Mom and Dad are going tomorrow. They stopped by tonight and we had a nice(?) long(!) talk about how they’ve screwed up my life. They said it’s a parent’s job to screw up their child’s life. Typical.

These are some of the results of my psych test:

I’m angry, but I don’t show it, and may not even be aware of it at times.

I don’t see things the same way other people do.

I’m wrapped up in my own problems right now—too wrapped up to see other people’s points of view.

I dislike other people having a say over my life, but at the same time I rely on others, making me hate those I depend on and myself.

I am indirect with my feelings.

I feel anger and other emotions physically; I’m more likely to feel tired than depressed, tense than angry.

I have a desire to be rescued.

I have low self-esteem.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A brief commercial break, and then back to Aunty Christ’s crazy story

Sometimes I volunteer at my local animal shelter. The dogs in their cages make me sad, with their howling and shrinking into corners, and their eyes denoting only fear and loneliness and an abysmal loss of hope. The cats, in their even smaller cages, with their sad little stuffed mouses and bits of yarn, are similarly pathetic. Adding to the tragedy of both, the staff sometimes bestows upon their favorites, or the ones least likely to find a new home, a colorful bandanna tied around the neck of some elderly Lab or tabby, and a poster made with markers and glitter, announcing that here is a Good Boy who Knows How to Sit and Fetch.

I work with the small animals. They typically live in small cages, anyway, and being in the presence of so many other kicking, squawking creatures, and so many index fingers poked abruptly through bars is disturbing, yes, but they seem to handle it better than the dogs and cats. Better than I would, too, come to think of it.

Usually, the stories from the small-animal room are brief and kind of stinky. They find homes quickly, most of them, and while at the shelter they live in relative peace. Not Simon, though.

Simon is a handsome man who enjoys ice fishing, Thai food, and long walks on the beach. He’s looking for his partner in crime, who enjoys late-night chats and salsa dancing, for friendship and possibly more.

The shelter material on Simon reads:

"Meet Simon! This poor boy came to the shelter with one of his best friends to which he was bonded with. His friend passed away and now Simon is sad! He has made new friends with his favorite stuffed animal - and until he finds a new rabbit or guinea pig, he will need to live with his Gorilla friend."

Which is absolutely heart-breaking. His best friend in the world died, and now he’s friends with a stuffed gorilla. I saw Simon and said gorilla pal this weekend. The gorilla is tiny, about the size of an apple, perched in Simon’s litter tray. Simon cannot be happy.

It’s as if, when you were in fifth grade, your very best friend in the world, your only friend, the girl you passed notes with and talked to every day on the phone, and slept over at each other’s houses every weekend, and the only person you could talk with about your latest crush or why your big brother was a poophead, that girl has moved away to the other side of the country and you will never see her again, but at least your parents bought you a garbage can.

The Simon situation makes me incredibly sad.

So, here is more journal from the nuthouse. I think it’s getting interesting right about now, but let me know if it’s not and I'll steal a couple scenes from “Girl, Interrupted.”

Sunday, May 24 (?), 1992, 12:25 p.m.

A few notes:

P.’s coming today to visit. Probably already on his way.

George is a sex offender. That’s why he’s in here. Last night he rubbed against/touched/fondled (depending on who you talk to) Chris. Everyone was very cautious in bed last night.

I’m still having X memories. Strong. Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I lay in bed remembering. I could cry, I want some so bad!

Helen has been raped by four men—her father, her husband, and two others (will have to get story later). She works in a coroner’s office, weighing organs and such.

Jeanette was the darkest of her siblings, and therefore the least loved. Her mother liked her sister the best—she had an Indian complexion and straight hair.

Jeannette (on the phone) turned to me this morning and said, “You know what I sense about you?” I shook my head no. “Someday, you’ll see God, because you’re a good person.” I smiled and was silent for a minute. “Thank you, Jeanette.” What else could I say to that? She had her hair up today, in a style reminiscent of the ’70s.

Same day, 7:06 p.m.

Chris was quite adamant about letting the administration know how she feels about George. She got a group of us “gals” together, and we chatted with a nurse—mostly about how to protect ourselves, until I asked whether anything would be done about him. The nurse said that his behavior would be taken into account by the team in their analysis. BFD. I hinted that some of us felt unsafe, and she said to scream if anything happened and a nurse would hear us. Chris kept looking to me for support, and seemed to want me to voice her opinions for her.

Jeanette was talking about her mother today. Ninety-four years old and straight black hair down to her shoulders, with only three white strands.

May 24, 1992, about 12:20 a.m.

Today was kind of strange, even for a day in W-3. P. came at 1, and A. came at 7:30 or so. They almost let him stay—never checked the room—but finally someone came and booted him. I really like A. He’s a fantastic slob. Every time I see him he falls asleep, or threatens to. He’s worse than P., though, self-esteem wise. He’d never make a move, so I think I’ll have to. Although I have a pretty bad self-esteem too. Teenage angst!

P. was cool. Uncomfortable but cool. I hadn’t talked all day, so I was a bit rusty at first. I think he thinks I’m insane. He brought me two coloring books, crayons, an MC Escher book, and “The Wind in the Willows.”

Jori is restless tonight. I’m not sure if she’s asleep or not.

I had the most luscious X flashbacks today. I can’t start thinking about X or I’ll never stop. Every time I do think about X, I want some. Or some something, X being the primary something and everything else being secondary somethings. I should have never let it get this bad. That’s why I can’t continue smoking. I’d be just as bad, if not worse, when I tried to quit that. Actually, I want a cigarette really bad right now. I keep thinking that maybe I’ll keep smoking when I get out of here, though. I mean, I deserve some vice.

Jori is still restless.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Aunty Christ is getting this the hell over with

As the title suggests, here is Part Two before I change my mind. Enjoy. Or don't. Whichever works for you.

Saturday, May 23(?), 1992, 9:24 p.m.

I want to cover two issues today: the other patients here, and my parents’ visit. To discuss the patients, I will simply list them and jot down a few notes of relevance, or complete irrelevance, perhaps. [I’m going to use actual names, rather than initials, for the patients, since the initial thing is going to get too confusing with this many people.]

Helen: Tall, slim, a real lady. She tries to help the other patients whenever she can. She talks frankly, she’s friendly. She likes to do other patients’ hair and has taken under her wing Ivory.

Ivory: 15, has apparently grabbed a few male workers here. Subject to bouts of depression and maniacal good moods—shuffles, head down during the low times, giggles insanely during the up.

Jeanette: An older lady (middle aged), maybe in her late 40s. Has a smooshed-down face and wears wide glasses with black frames. Has the sweetest, strangest voice, which I could listen to for hours. A very nice, grandmotherly lady who seems to like everything.

Joe: Grossly overweight, recipient of a new haircut that might be forgivable on a 10-year-old, has strange facial tics. Apparently is a guinea pig for a new drug, the effects of which are unknown (makes him make strange faces?).

Smokey: Must be 30 or so, even though, as Jeanette observed, he seems like a little boy. His body is deformed, almost, and he seems to have a variety of things wrong with him. His parents come to visit every night—and really, they seem nice enough folk—but all Smokey can talk about is the different hospitals he’s been in, and their exact locations around Chicago.

Vernel: Overweight, with a round afro, which accentuates her round face. Talks to herself (loudly!). Snores just as loudly. Obtrusive at times, but always well-meaninged. Has asked to buy one of my books (Jung, no less) from me. Carries a dictionary with her and, noticing that I keep a journal, decided to work out her own thoughts on paper,

Chris: Taught me how to play backgammon, which she learned herself and played often in college. Is friendly to everyone. She has a slight speech impediment and also seems not to be able to hear very well.

Heiko: A former grad student at U of C, now a shuffling, foot-tapping, silent mess. Never changes clothes.

Eric: A friendly, smiling man with a walker. Appears to have no problems, other than, perhaps, being a little dense.

Audry: The other undergrad here. An English major (third-year transfer student), she mostly keeps to herself. She seems kind of silly compared to everyone else—using her hospital stay and an R and R session to catch up on her studies.

Mr. Matthews: The oldest patient at W-3. I’ve never heard him talk, though I have seen him break into tears. Bearded, bespectacled, most of the time in a wheelchair and hospital robe. He frequently has visitors, who talk to him, but of course he can’t respond.

Judy: An older woman, probably in her 50s or so. Hardly ever talks, and when she does, she sounds like a three-year-old. Acts like a three-year-old too. Prays before and after each meal, and crosses herself too. Usually stays in her room, unless the nurses take her out to eat or watch TV.

Gary: An angry young man. He doesn’t talk much, nor do I see him very often. Most of the conversations he’s had that I’ve been present to hear have been about cigarettes and why he can’t smoke in the ward and why he can’t have his own cigarettes and—well—anything else that has to do with smoking.

George: A mountain of a man, with a wild head of hair and just as crazy beard. Never talks, or, at least, speaks infrequently. Oh yeah—wide, crazy eyes too. Very strange.

Jori: My roommate. Hardly ever speaks to me, but has been leaving the room a little more often, at least. Reads a lot—books of the top-seller-list variety. Has two kids. Former coke user. I’ve been tempted to have a drug chat with her, but I haven’t worked up the nerve. Seems friendly, pleasant face.

Marla: Overweight, high voice, bleached hair held back with a plastic yellow headband, wears fluorescent pink lipstick. Married. Always the same outfit or (upon occasion) a variation on said outfit. Likes to sing, and has a very good voice.

Cynthia: Meek, middle-aged. Not much to add to that.

Marion: An elderly woman who uses a walker to get around. Seems fairly nice, but every once in a while gets into that pushy, self-centered mode that old women are so fond of.

There are 21 of us altogether, so I must have missed a couple. If I think of them and think it’s important, I’ll add them later. But for now I want to write about my parents’ visit.

Everyone here was very concerned about how I would react to seeing my parents. It was no big deal, actually. My father is acting kind of strange I guess. Different. Nice, but different. Nice is different, actually, for my dad.

When I’ve talked to my parents on the phone, all our conversations have been about neutral subjects: The pets, television programs. We actually discussed some real issues today, which was strange and uncomfortable and confusing. We talked about what was in store for me next year and this summer. My options, as they saw them, were either to go to [a community college] next quarter or back here. I hadn’t considered [community college], so that was a new possibility. And they were basically in agreement with me about finding a job this summer and going to a therapist. So I have plans, and I have support for those plans, which is what the doctors wanted. They were more into me taking it easy this summer, though, whereas I’m looking forward to pushing myself.

I did confess my drug use last quarter, which they knew about, of course, so their reaction wasn’t too bad. I brought up the idea of an AA-type support group (XA?) They thought it was a good idea.

I’ve been having—not flashbacks, really, but thinkbacks, maybe. Or wishbacks. Setbacks, definitely. I’m fine now. I’m fairly happy. Right now I’d characterize my mood as content—sitting here listening to Joe and Jeanette talking about their grandmothers, watching Ivory walk back and forth in the hallway across the dayroom. When I get a visitor I’m happy. I was happy to see Mom and Dad. I was happy to see I. I was happy to see A. Little things make me happy. Not HAPPY. Just happy.

So when I think about X, or how I felt when I was on X, it’s like I’m already getting nostalgic for it. Wasn’t that great when I went for walks with J. around the quads at night, or when I played solitaire by candlelight, or when we went to Medusa’s or when we were listening to [embarrassing techno-emo crap]? Oh god, it’s making me sick right now, thinking about that. And what’s bad is that I know that as happy as I think I was, I was a billion times happier. My sober brain can’t even process it. Maybe it is a kind of flashback, because right now I can almost summon up the feeling. It’s great and scary at the same time, feeling how I used to feel. Diluted, of course, but the same basic feeling nevertheless.

This has been a long entry for tonight, but I’m still not tired, and there’s more I want to say.

Something else that needs my attention, although not my immediate attention, is A. I’ll only be here a few more days, and he’ll be leaving campus soon too. So there’s not a chance for anything between us right now. But maybe sometime before I leave for home I’ll tell him how I feel about him. I do like him. He should know that, I guess. Maybe that would give him some much-needed confidence. I think he likes me too, although I’m probably wrong, or at least not as right as I think I am. But I’ll tell him that I like him—jokingly—maybe ask him when we’re going to start our family. And we’ll write over the summer. And he’ll refer to me as that dysfunctional girl who used to like him, even though I’ll always have a little crush on him, but we’ll remain close friends even though I’ll go to school across the country and date other guys, and he’ll date other girls and we’ll remember the “Net” [The “Net”? That's adorable.] fondly and nostalgically. Ahh. I’m looking forward to it already.

Audry is sitting at the table next to me, writing furiously. I’m sure that she, too, views this as An Experience. I dislike her immensely, maybe because I see parts of her in myself. Those are the parts I want to rip out and feed to wild animals.

I’d prefer a million Helens and Chrises talking about nothing than one Audry, pouring out her wretched little heart onto paper with furious strokes of her gold-embossed pen.

But what a hypocrite I am. Here I am, doing exactly the same thing.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Aunty Christ is insane

One of the weirdest experiences in my life was going to college, becoming hooked on Ecstasy, and then having myself committed to the university’s mental institution. It’s not difficult to imagine that a mental ward is an odd, crazy-making space for anyone to be in. It makes a good story, anyway.

The basic premise is: I try X with a friend who has dropped out of school and is living off campus. I try it again. I like doing it. I have trouble getting out of bed in the mornings—or even in the afternoon—to go to class. I have not attended class in weeks. I worry about what my parents will do when they find out I haven’t been going to class. I worry that I have made a singularly unalterable mistake by taking drugs. I worry that I have been immoral. I see a therapist a few times. One of my sister’s friends calls to check in on me, and I confide my worries. The friend tells my mother, and suddenly I have no idea what to do. I pack up and leave for New Jersey to visit a friend for the weekend. Maybe forever. Maybe I will go from there to New York, and no one will ever find me. I buy a bus ticket back. I go directly to my therapist’s office, where the following conversation takes place:

Therapist: What are your plans now?

Me: I don’t know.

Therapist: Do you ever think about hurting yourself?

Me: Yeah.

Therapist: Do you ever think about committing suicide?

Me: Yes.

Therapist: Do you have a plan about how you’d do it?

Me: Yes.

Therapist: I am going to recommend that we go over to the hospital’s facilities where we can have someone keep an eye on you. Would you like that?

Me: I guess so.

Had he asked me if I was actually going to kill myself, the answer would have been no. I think. It may have depended on how he asked it. At this point, I was trying to maintain some sort of control over at least the smallest details of my life. Giving my therapist the answers he seemed to want helped me feel as though I was able to do something right, despite all my other missteps.

So I ended up in the mental ward, and I kept a journal, which is slightly embarrassing to read now. I tried to post it on another blog I had, which had more than four readers, and subsequently scared away all the readers I had. I can understand. Blogging is a fully self-indulgent activity, and the thoughts of an 18-year-old in a mental ward are perhaps even more so. Ah, so there we are. I was thinking, though, of writing a post about my concerns about going to law school, and that seems even more boring and self-indulgent. When it comes down to it, it’s almost like, Would you rather burn at the stake or be chopped into a million pieces, toes first? How, dear readers, would you most like me to bore you to tears today?

I am going to post this in delicious bite-size nuggets of boredom and self-indulgence—the better to choke it all down. We start now. We’ll be done in about a week, if you want to check back then.

Monday, May 18, 1992, 10:30 a.m., Ward W-3

Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?

On the bus from Cleveland to Chicago, I sat with a man named R. He was dirty and smelly and I found him attractive only in the vaguest of terms. Yet, when he offered to give me a backrub, I didn’t stop him. I mean, I was stuck with him for seven hours, so it made sense that I be nice to him, right? It was repulsive, though, the things that he wanted to do to me. I mean, the things themselves weren’t repulsive, but rather that they would be done on a bus with a stranger who kept farting and made stupid jokes and had incredibly small feet.

My mind is a blank. Why am I here? I should be home. I should be in my room right now. I shouldn’t be here. How can they help? What can this do—keeping me away from my friends? How can this help in the least?

These are the signs on the wall (all cut from a newspaper):

Have to have it? Get it here! Nobody compares.
Experience counts!
Do You Blame Us?
Three-Time Winner.

On one wall, they have posted the lyrics to “I Am a Rock.”

I hope I don’t go insane here.

Wednesday, May 21, 1992, approximately 11:20 p.m.

One thing I’ve noticed, which hasn’t been made an issue yet, really, with my doctors, is an extremely short attention span, along with great memory loss. This is most apparent in my vocabulary and speech patterns. I’m using “like” and “um” and “you know” and “I mean” a lot more than I used to. A lot more. I’m not sure what that means.

And if I don’t pay strict attention to what I’m saying, I completely lose my train of thought. A lot of times I’ll be talking to someone and—even though I may not lose my train of thought exactly—I’ll start thinking, “Is what I’m saying making sense? Am I babbling? Did I go off onto a completely different subject just now?” It’s quite infuriating, especially to someone who’d hoped to earn her living by communicating with other people. Is it the drugs? Is it this place? Is it my state of mind?

I think (this is one possibility, anyway), that right now I just have so many thoughts and so many new ideas that my brain is having a hard time processing everything all at once. That’s the least scary option, at any rate. But at least I feel more like myself lately, which means that at least I’m talking.

Whether it makes sense or not is secondary, I suppose.

May 21(?), 1992, 1:02 p.m.

Boredom sets in. I feel extremely restless. I can envision myself walking on a gravel road somewhere in the country, with fields stretching into the distance to the right and to the left of me, and ahead of me the clear sky of dusk. I want to walk. If nothing else, I’d like to do that.

I’m listening to Bryan Ferry on the radio, and it’s soothing. Comforting. Familiar.

I’m not sure why I’m in here anymore. I guess it’s okay, in that I don’t have to do anything or think about anything or see anyone. But it’s also annoying for the same reason. I like to push myself in everything I do, I guess, and maybe right now it would be pushing myself to go out into the real world. But maybe not. I think it would be to my benefit. I hate remaining stagnant. I’m bored, bored, bored. Maybe if they did continuous psychological testing I would feel better about being here—like they were actually doing something. No, that would annoy me too. It seems like everything’s annoying right now. Nothing seems to make me happy. Which, I guess, is a fairly dangerous situation for me to be in. Because I’m starting to lose hope.

Another way to look at it: My life is not a “quality” life. Anything less than a quality life is not worth living. That doesn’t mean that I’m feeling suicidal, but it does make me feel restless. So it’s a cycle: restlessness creates restlessness.

I. [an acquaintance] gave me a lot of hope when he came in a few days ago. I really like I. I’d like to become his pupil—learn everything that he knows, every thought he’s ever had.

I. has his own philosophy, which goes like this: Life is bad. We are all born under “evil stars.” And when something goes wrong, it’s not your fault, and it’s not anyone else’s fault. That’s just life. And something else will go right, if you wait long enough. (I know this sounds tired, but I forget a lot of what he said—I just remember the basic points.) Plus, you have to believe in something. And instead of putting all your faith in God, it’s better to believe in yourself.

My dad kind of said the same thing: Life is a moving sidewalk, and the sidewalk will take you past different people and through different situations, but it will always keep moving, and it will always bring new people and new situations.

Those are kind of nice ideologies, but I’m not sure if I agree with them, or rather, with the way they make you think. Life is … Life. It’s not a sidewalk, and it’s not a book or a movie or something that happens around you or something that you simply experience with other people and places reacting to your stimulus. It all works together—you, other people, places, situations. I’m not exactly sure what my philosophy of life is. I’ll have to think about that. Maybe I’ll major in philosophy, even!

What a terrible place to end this. But the next entry is very very long. Anyone else want to kick the 18-year-old Aunty Christ in the face for being such an awful person? I feel like I must have been joking with that last line, and perhaps with that entire entry. But what if I wasn't?

Also: Will I look back at what I'm writing now some years hence and determine that the person I am now is an awful person and the Aunty Christ of the future is really where it's at?

Good questions all. Or maybe really bad, depressing questions. Time will tell. Next up: My fellow inmates.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Aunty Christ is going to hell

I feel like there’s something intrinsically creepy about late October, even though I know that this feeling is probably informed by my familiarity with the modern Western calendar. As I walked home the other night from a coworker’s house, for example, everything looked like a distraction from the psychokiller crouching behind the bush. Leaves were rustling overhead and crunching beneath my shoes. I passed a house with pressed-wood furniture scattered across the lawn. A man yelled to an offending person in his yard, “You better find a pay phone and call the cops, ‘cause there’s gonna be some shit going down tonight.”

Jesus fuck, man. A pay phone? Scaaaary.

A few weeks ago, said coworker had sent me and a few other girls at work an email inviting us to a party. Now, Aunty Christ does not love a party. But isolation and loneliness are powerful forces, more powerful, in fact, than a general dislike of meeting a coworker’s friends from church and eating onion dip. It should be mentioned that already at this point I had a basic understanding that the party—whatever else it was—would not be fun. The coworker (she needs a name at this point; I shall christen her Denise) had told me in previous conversations that she doesn’t like to drink, so it wasn’t going to be one of those parties, for better or for worse. And she had mentioned on several occasions that her husband’s father is pastor at a local church, and that that church is so so nice and I would probably really enjoy it. And also that the people in the church don’t really like new people and would probably act icily toward me, at best, and perhaps shun me outright. The conversation actually went exactly like that. “I don’t know if you’re looking for a church, but you should really check it out. It’s really great. I mean, it’s small, so the people there are kind of suspicious of people they haven’t seen before. I think after about a year, people started coming up to talk to me.” No, that sounds wonderful, Denise. I find that I’m lacking something in my life, and that hole can almost certainly be filled by making myself available for icy strangers to deliberately snub.

So, the party sounded like lots of fun already. But apparently this was not just any party. No, Denise had planned this party as kind of a coming out/training session for her new, second career in direct sales of scented candles.

As I suspected, the crowd was largely comprised of Denise’s church friends—though at least one of them, despite all that had been promised, was quite nice, actually. Or maybe she saw me as an easy mark. I sat next to her on Denise’s couch, so she had easy access to me as she leafed through the catalog and orgasmed over the ugliest of the tacky candleholders and holiday tchotchkes on each page. “I love the Classy Collection,” she said, pointing to a pair of mirrored gold vases. “Oh, beautiful,” I agreed.

"Oh my God, I’m going to buy one of these. Maybe two. Aren’t you? Wouldn’t these make nice gifts? I’m going to make a list of all the people in my life who deserve these. Aren’t you?"

Since it was Denise’s first party, she had as her mentor-hostess a more seasoned candleslinger, who as a fun party ice-breaker suggested that we all introduce ourselves and think of an adjective to describe Denise starting with the first letter of our first name. How … kicky. “I’m looking at you,” she told me, “because you’re going first.” Which gave me 10 seconds’ warning, maybe, to come up with my word. And the words that my mind was coming up with—abominable, abysmal, ancient, atrocious, absorbent, alienating—were mostly cruel and fully inapplicable to Denise. “Animated,” someone suggested, and although it wasn’t great, I leapt on it, gratefully, the first hurdle of the night over.

Next, the senior hostess gave an unconvincing speech about how we wouldn’t be conned or cajoled into throwing a party of our own or becoming a part of the direct-sales-of-scented-candles family, followed by several minutes of talking about how wonderful it is to throw a candle party and/or join the scented-candle team. Then the sales pitch began: Candles! Do you like them? In all fairness, my answer to that question is kind of … eh. I mean, is the power out?

They had all kinds of candles, from pillars to tealights, scented in every flavor imaginable, from candy cane to gym sock (or: cedar-caraway?). But the real selling point, I guess, was that these are much better candles, which brings to mind one of my favorite infomercial images: The exhausted housewife driven to frustration over having to do things the old-fashioned way. Are you tired of candles leaving a sooty mess on your walls? Oh—you would not believe the nasty, libelous attributes this lady was pinning on the commonplace candle. “Do any of you use tea candles?” she asked, not wanting an answer. “How long do they last typically?” “Only maybe half an hour,” one guest ventured. “No! No!” Senior Hostess said. “No, they last maybe 15 minutes. Probably, like, 10 minutes. Our tealights last half an hour,” she said. She was so mad. Her thunder had been stolen. She was not about to let that happen again.

“And the problem with pillar candles is that you burn them and then what happens? Yes, they look ugly. But our candles burn soft, so you can shape—or hug—the outsides and keep them looking pretty! Or, I don’t know if this has happened to any of you—I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve done this—where you buy a nice, big pillar candle, and you think it’s going to burn for probably 100 hours, right? And then you go to light it for the second time, and the wick’s disappeared!” She recounted probably ten absolutely alarmist concerns about regular, non-Direct Sale brand candles that have never, ever occurred to me. Like, not one had to do with burning the house down, or looking like a crazy old single woman lives in your house because you have so many scented candles scattered about its surfaces.

With a lot of the stories Senior Hostess shared during the course of making candle-buying seem a lot more important than it actually is, you didn’t have to scratch too far below the surface to see that things weren’t going so well for her. Why should we consider hosting our own party? Well, for one thing, as women—she would like us to consider—how often do we have the time to just get away from our husbands and our kids and hang out with other women? Or, isn’t it nice to get away from those infernal pests and visit with someone who is willing to listen to you complain about them? And, in discussing the innovative candle holder that consisted of one curved pane of glass next to another curved pane of glass, between which could be placed any number of flimsy-looking items purchased at your local hobby store, she brought up: “Another thing I’ve done with this is, I don’t know if any of your kids have gone through this phase, where they just keep drawing pictures, and they want you to keep or display all of them? Well, I would take one drawing every day and put it in this candle holder and light a candle, and you just can’t imagine how special this made my daughter feel, and finally she shut up about her stupid drawings and let me have one moment’s peace.” (She didn’t say the last part out loud. She let her sad, slightly crazed eyes speak it for her.)

In a seemingly unrelated side note, I just finished watching “Hell House,” a documentary about Trinity Church’s Halloween pageant, which displays such God-affirming scenes as the tragedy of homosexuality and how people, um, die and go to hell after taking RU-486. I took that once. Condom broke, I didn’t want to risk getting pregnant. And then of course immediately I died and went to hell. So yeah, Hell House is probably filling a vital role by letting girls know what to expect after taking the morning-after pill. You won’t hear that from the liberal media, that’s for sure.

And then there’s the time I went to a rave and then died and went to hell, but … ha ha ha. That’s a crazy story for another day.

The weird thing about the movie—or, I should say, one weird thing about the movie—was that the movie seems to be making fun of the people it’s depicting, even though it also seems to be totally endorsed by the church. I guess one more example of the recent American trend toward being proud and dumb and proud to be dumb. You’ve got people on camera saying things like, “It’s a date-rape drug. I know it has a name. I guess we’ll put it in later. It’s the … it’s like the Official Date-Rape Drug.” Of the Olympics, dude? Of the NFL? Finally, in a script meeting, they settle on “mickey,” which isn’t quite right, but one can’t expect evangelicals to do any research on the social pitfalls they’re writing about. The internet is evil, of course, so it’s probably best to just sit back and wait for the breath of God to enter your hands, like in the old days. And (to a lady reading back the script she’s typed): “No, it’s not Magic; it’s called Magic: the Gathering.” “Okay, ‘Magic and the Gathering.’ ” “No, I think the name is Magic: the Gathering.” “I’ve got: ‘I fell in with a group of kids who played with the magic gathering…’ ” “Well, the name is…” “The magic cards game?” “Just say ‘Magic.’ ”

The purpose of Hell House is to scare its patrons into accepting Jesus by showing them how any behavior, habit or personality trait that deviates from the lifestyle endorsed by evangelicals will probably land you, the sinner, in hell, where you will be tortured for eternity by demons wearing 1990s club-kid makeup.

A secondary purpose though—or at least I have my suspicions—is to provide Christian teens with an outlet for their curiosity about the more titillating aspects of secular society. You can’t listen to the high schoolers reading the audition list without feeling this to some extent. “I really want to be the abortion girl.” “Cool, I’m the rapist!”

She voted for Obama. Oh Bah Mah. That’s not a Christian American name. She deserves to die and burn in hell. You may applaud now.

I guess I started off thinking about how there is the Trinity Church idea of what hell is and how one gets there, and then there is my idea of what hell is (a direct-sale scented candle party) and how one gets there (by responding to an email; or, on foot, a few blocks thataway). But really, the more I consider the actual evil that went into the creation of Hell House, the more I think that’s a wildly unfair comparison, given that no one involved in the candle party actually intended to inflict harm on my fragile psyche. That was just an unintended consequence. In contrast: The scene where a guy at a rave gives a girl a roofie and rapes her ends with her killing herself and going to hell. The scene where the wife of a drunken, belligerent lout is found to be having an online relationship and is killed by said lout in front of their already emotionally scarred daughter ends with the wife being taken away to hell by demons. Anyone noticing a pattern? If not, let me spell it out for you: Trinity Church wants you to believe that women who place their purity or their faithful devotion to their husbands in jeopardy, either by carelessness or by design, will die (probably immediately) and go to hell. But the rapist? The abusive drunk husband? Oh, they’re fine. Whatever.

One of the men running Hell House ended up, through the caprices of documentary-style confrontation, talking to a group of straw men who had just exited the house. “But you’re saying that just because he’s gay he’s going to hell, and that’s not right,” one young man said. “Well, no, the point of the scene is that he rejects Christ before he dies,” Church guy explains, and that kind of shuts them up for a while. Even I am more okay with using that as your litmus test for who gets to go to heaven than, say, sexual orientation or mental stability. But then why doesn’t Trinity also present a scene with the old woman who went to church every Sunday of her life but also subtly has been abusing her family for years, and grudgingly did charitable work around the community, always feeling like her special brand of generosity was being taken advantage of by her lessers?

The easy answer is that they’re striving for shock value. The even easier answer is that they’re judgmental, self-aggrandizing, brain-dead idiots who find meaning and value in their willingness to take things for granted, to not analyze, to not examine. I think both of these are true, and yet. I still feel sad that these are people who choose not to appreciate the brains they’ve been given. Who choose to categorize differences as either acceptable or unacceptable rather than trying to learn something about the people and ideas found outside their own small communities and let that understanding speak to a broader view of the world.

Most of all, I feel sad because these are the people who, to a greater and greater extent, are populating this nation, and in order to not be hypocritical, I have to try to not pre-judge, not dismiss them as “bad,” even though they and their political and philosophical beliefs are undermining the country, and preaching hate against people I love, and advancing policy that looks to hold nothing but bad for the country’s future.

Sorry for the rant. I really need Obama to win.