Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Memory That Fuels the Fire

How and where to start – that is always the question. Twenty years of life, remembered in pained echoes and splintered moments; jumbled images and juxtaposed emotions. You spend years trying to figure it out, piecing things together like a puzzle – trying to solve the mystery of your own life. Weren’t you there, living it? Weren’t you there, breathing it? How can you fail to remember?
Everything is tainted by some corrupted lens – or then again, is it? Perception is reality, and you’ve always been able to prove whatever argument you want someone else convinced of. Where are the lies and where is the truth? Does the truth even matter anymore?
Who are you, where are you, how did you get there and why can’t you remember?
The only commitment you hold sacred is the promise to torture yourself. You don’t feel the heat of the flames anymore – the pillars of fire in the place of bridges that cross an ever deepening divide. Every word, every thought, every person and every experience just deepens the abyss. You endure, you will always endure, because death is too sweet of a release for you. Suffer in silence and keep your emotions private – that is what a man is to do.
Every now and again, as the smoke clears, you see her figure at the other end of the divide. Why won’t she fade as all the others have? Why won’t she leave you alone? The lies you told yourself – that she had left you, she had grown disinterested in you – replaced with a terrible truth. It was you, all along, that had pushed her away. Why yearn for her still, then? Why would she be interested in you? The confusion and pain and torment provide fuel for the blaze – the memory that fuels the fire.
And the cycle continues. The flames rise and you see HER figure in the terrible heat and destruction. There since birth, SHE left you with no choices. Caged like an animal, you played by HER rules and learned HER tricks to survive. You yearned for the freedom and thought it would save you; thought it would make everything the way it should be. Nothing changed and now you wonder how much of the pain and conflict was internal, and how much of it will be eternal.
How and where to start – that is always the question. None of these thoughts are a beginning at all. They are the present story. What birthed the fissure, why is the man stranded and alone, is he a man at all? Somewhere, hidden away from the world, is a small boy crying silently to himself. Don’t show the world your pain. Don’t let them know you hurt. Don’t let your mother know you love her. Things will be easier this way.
SHE says it’s because of your sister – that’s why you aren’t close. The day your sister was brought home, things between you and HER were never the same. SHE tells you this, years and years later, drudging up the guilt and the hurt, and you pity HER. SHE takes that pity and she twists it, turning it into a dagger and piercing you right in the heart; twisting the blade so the wound will never close, the trauma hardening it until it feels no longer.
But we’re jumping around in time, aren’t we? Chronology, chronology. Cause and effect. That must be the key – what happened and when did it happen? Remembering your life as a series of disjointed episodes and fleeting impressions fails to answer fundamental questions. Isn’t there some way you can rebuild? The years of malnutrition and insomnia deadened the neural networks that house those elusive ‘truths’ – those memories. But what you remember must be right and must be true, mustn’t it?
You are hurt and lost, your protector wallowing in the irony that is failing to commit suicide – he is far, far away from you. Your shield has been stripped of you, exposed for the failure that he was, and SHE won’t tolerate his behavior anymore. You remind HER of them and more – you are everything that SHE hates in this world, and they aren’t there to block and divert her. You bear the full brunt of it, and it permeates. You think you are handling it well and that it has no effect, but you are so young and you know so little. The world isn’t fair, and you don’t yet know it, but you will learn. Holding back tears, once you have learned you will remember and all you will want is to reach out and hold you, embrace you – it’s all you ever needed.
SHE tells you what you are – defines you. You are unlovable. You are greedy. You are a fucking worthless son of a bitch – and the irony of this statement does not elude you. You are a fuck up and an embarrassment. You are an accident. You are an ungrateful whining sniveling little shit. This doesn’t bother you, but the contrast does: You are loved. You are the favored son. You are the source of pride. You are the pride and joy. You try to add it up in your head – you are the unlovable favored son? The fucking worthless son of a bitch that is the source of pride? You are an accident and loved? Nothing makes sense, nothing makes sense. Every single day, nothing makes sense. There are no patterns.
Why won’t anyone touch you?
No one – you knew it then and you know it now – will ever understand you. But out of nowhere, you catch her eye and she yours. She listens and she understands and she cares. Yet there are others, and you are young and you don’t know what love is. How were you to know? For you, love only immediately followed punishment. Love was the band-aid used to excuse the worst kind of psychological trauma and abuse – the festering illness that no one would ever acknowledge. It’s all in your head, it’s not a problem. It’s all in your head. Stop being such a whiner. Stop over exaggerating. Just think better – that’s all! You are such a fucking failure.
The days turn into weeks turn into months turn into years and suddenly she is no more. You are in a different place – a place you’d never been and a place you’ll never be able to return to. Only later will you uncover the records – the words that cannot lie – and discover what it was that you did. You told her that you did not trust her, that you did not care, that you did not want her in your life. You told her that you were done thinking about her and caring for her. Coincidences – she turns to drugs and falls deep into her own abyss. Responsibility – you bare it like a cross.
You can’t be sure but later you believe she is the first person you hurt. There will be many, many others. But as much as you hurt others, you hurt yourself. You can’t even be sure – beyond all doubt – that it was you that caused those things to happen to her, but you don’t believe in coincidence. And you certainly don’t deserve providence. Those things that SHE said are all adding up to be true.
Compartmentalize, compartmentalize – hide yourself away in writings you intentionally lose, journals you will later delete, and letters you will never send. Adopt a song as a form of release and allow the pain to be sung away. Soon, the song replaces the memory as personal history, and you can’t remember the origin, only the feeling. The more you cope, the less you remember and the more people want to know. What to do, what to do? Who are you, who are you?
Your name is John but few call you that – is that even how you know yourself?
You disappear and hide away. You disguise the reasons in intellectual pursuits, you forget the pain in exile. Everyone you know must no longer know you. You commit apostasy and you make radical changes. Nothing you do allows you to escape this, the essence of who you are. Nothing you do allows you to escape from the memory that fuels the fire.
These thoughts, these feelings, they only reflect a small kernel of truth. They are a small part of the real reason, a tiny piece of the puzzle that comprises the memory that fuels the fire. But it is all you can do – to come any closer to that memory renders you immobile and useless. It will consume you just as surely as it has consumed everything else, and the pain of reaching out for it is unbearable. What would happen if you were to actually touch it? Would you be undone?
Thoughts like these will never end. No full explanation can ever be provided. There is always more to say and more still that will remain unsaid.
All the other explanations you have offered, all of the intellectual posturing and rationalizations, are just disguises – distractions for the memory that fuels the fire.
It’s a silent murder

It’s a grave that sings your song
It’s a quiet failure
It’s the one that makes you strong


This, this is why I can’t love.

Self reflection is a tough, painful task.

I ran out of ‘easy’ Dead Men Tell No Tale episodes. In order to move forward with the saga, I’d need to sift through the 60 megs or so of chat logs I have stored on my computer. There’s a lot of good stuff on there, but the problem is, there’s just too much of it. What do I throw up here as interesting material? What do I let stagnate on my harddrive forever?

Furthermore, is it even worth the bother? I learn new things about my old self everyday, but the memories are painful. There is a reason I can’t remember anything before 2004, and I think it should stay that way. (I can’t really even remember much from before 2006, to be completely honest!) 
I don’t really even know why I keep a blog, to be honest. It is a curious thing to me that other people are interested in it – this was largely meant for myself, to sort out my sordid past and try to make sense of it. I explained to Kai the other night the way I view my own life – I remember it as a somewhat disjointed saga of various episodes. The KL Episode, the Sara Episode, the RF Episode, and so on. Problem with this is, I have absolutely zero appreciation for the chronology of my life, and how these different sagas intertwined and influenced each other.
That was the primary motivation for DMTNT, as I could look up the dates of various things I’d said and done and organize these events here on this site, and try to understand myself better. But I’m remembering something I wanted forgotten. It is extremely paradoxical – having experienced these tragedies, I wanted nothing more than to forget them. Having forgotten them, I yearned to remember. Having remembered them, I wish I hadn’t. Will this cycle continue on forever? How can I break it?
I am afraid of looking at my log with Haley.
Incidentally, I had my first experience with alcohol this weekend. Nothing tremendous – a few beers and a light buzz. The most noteworthy part of the experience was the EXTREME DEPRESSION I felt after leaving my buddies. I thought I was tired, so I left their room and came to mine. Not yet tired enough to hop straight into the rack, I got online real quick to see if there was anyone I could talk to (hey, I drank tonight, lol!) but there was none. I became extremely lonely and started shooting off emails. Yeaaaah. Bad idea.

Cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon

Been putting this off for a little while; like I said before, I don’t much like to write these days. In any case, and without further ado:

Three events ocurred which caused me to actually start pounding out this entry. The first was a while ago, but it was an observation I had. Rachel was up late one night on Facebook when I was on also, and we started chatting. I honestly don’t remember about what, much, but a little ways into the conversation, she asked if she could confide in me. Well, why the hell not, I thought, and out busted Captain Free Therapist. Shit was going bad in her relationship, and I gave her some advice and things turned out good (or so I hear).
Situations like that suck. What am I supposed to do? I know she’s not at all interested in me (who is or would be these days?) but that doesn’t stop me from being interested in her. So all I’m doing is helping her be more distant. Not too big a deal, since I’m still hung up over Sara anyway. These other girls, I try to imagine something with them just so I can try to pull myself past Sara, but it never works much anyway. To corroborate my suspicions, I think I’ve talked to her all of once since helping her out. Sweet.
Second thing that happened was that I was expecting a call on Saturday that never came from a person who generally keeps her word but has been slipping lately. Feels like the final straw on the camel’s back to me; I know my place and I know when I’ve outlived my welcome. So there’s another person down the crapper lately. Chalk her up next to Katie.
Finally, Megan apparently got engaged. Holy fuck? So that’s another person gone, pretty much. 
It’s funny because I told Kelsey “the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon” in reference to her failing to call me, yet that pretty much applies to me as well. Great song. I let things just pass me by, I guess. Maybe more of this is my fault than theirs. Alas.

Dead Men Tell No Tales: Take Me As I Am

What is Dead Men Tell No Tales? It is a selection of (hitherto) undisclosed, private ruminations and epiphanies. Most take the form of (slightly) edited letters to unnamed recipients, but some have been scavenged from the depths of private journals recently rediscovered. Over the next little while (however long it takes – days, weeks, months, years?) I’ll be posting them in episodic fashion for the reading pleasure of my nonexistent audience.

In Take Me As I Am, our author puts forth the very best effort he could in professing his feelings towards the love of his life. The rejection arrives nearly a month later.
[In response to how I’m doing:]
Me? I’m drifting, as per usual.
I’m in Utah, working full time. I was working 80 hours a week for a while; now I’m down to 40. I used to be the closing manager for a live theater but I dropped that job and stuck with the one where I repair and sell watches. I got promoted to a position where I get to travel the nation and open up new stores for the company.
Arizona, eh? That’s not so far away from Utah! 
Sara, dearest and oldest friend of mine, I have missed you these great many years. (One man’s ‘great many’ may be another’s few, but hey.) I remember with much fondness our closeness. I have done some broodings and had some revelations while here in Utah – I have had much alone time with which I could reflect on myself – and realized that I had pushed you away. I think I can finally say what I’ve been meaning to for so long.
I’m about to sound like an idiot, and that’s because I am one.
I honestly had no recollection of my pushing you away until I dug up some old emails and such and put the pieces together. I was incredibly depressed and cynical at the time. I was just coming into the full realization that my brother (whom you may recall I love(d) completely and totally, and who I used to idolize and want to be like) was an alcoholic. My parents were breaking up, my mom was taking everything out on me. 
I am in no way trying to excuse myself. Rather I want to explain.
I had convinced myself of some dangerous things. At this time in my life, I was losing a ton of friends. No one seemed trustworthy. Everyone was abandoning me. I had persuaded myself that people were unworthy of my trust, and that I was fated to be alone – that being alone was in fact superior and admirable – and so those that hadn’t already abandoned me… well, I tried my best to push them away.
I told you I didn’t trust you anymore, flat out. I had no memory of this in recent years – you see, shortly after I did this, I became something of a malnutritioned insomniac. For a year, maybe two, before I left Bellingham, I was eating less than one meal a day and sleeping less than three hours a day. I’ve done some light reading – these activities are not good for one’s memory.
Anyway. I never really did want to lose you. I tried doing many stupid things I should not have to forget about you (like getting into a relationship with another girl). Obviously none of this worked, as a day hasn’t gone by that you haven’t crossed my mind. 
Here’s what I figure.
Things probably won’t ever be the same. I screwed up, perhaps the biggest mistake of my life. You know me – I’m taciturn, guarded. I don’t talk to many people, I don’t share myself with many people, but I’ve always been open with you. I tell other people that I only have one regret in life. 
I’ll tell you what that regret is – that regret is the way I treated you. When you were interested in me, I let cowardice rule. When you were nice and sympathetic to me, I used you up. When you were a good friend, I was terrible. When it was my turn to apologize, I waited years and years.
Here’s another thing I figure. If I don’t talk to you, you won’t talk to me. And if I don’t tell the truth and speak to you straight and honestly, you won’t talk to me. And the worst that could happen from me opening up to you again would be for you to not to talk to me. And if I let inaction win the day, well, you won’t talk to me either.
So basically, the worst that could happen is that you won’t talk to me. It’s already been almost a year since the last time we talked but I haven’t forgotten you for a day, nor will I ever.
What I’m trying to say is, I’m sorry.
Really, really, really sorry.
I don’t know how to make it up.
I’ll try.
What’s the best way to proceed? Start over? Say, “Hi, my name’s John, what’s yours?” I dunno.
I have no idea what you think of me or what you’ve thought about me for the last few years. I’ve speculated all sorts of things – what if she hasn’t thought about me at all, or what if she thought about me everyday like I have her, and so on. 
And the most terrible thought – what if I hurt her by what I did? That sudden betrayal, that sudden push away. God I’m an idiot.
That very day I saw you last, in June, I started writing a letter I’d always meant to write you. Not long after, I finished it. I had promised to send you something when you were in Honduras. I didn’t have the courage then.
I wrote another letter in December, around Christmas time. I didn’t have the courage then.
I don’t know why I do now. 
I hope you haven’t found this to be overly melodramatic or stupid or laughable or annoying or…like I said. I’ve thought about you every day for the last five years. I don’t know the right things to say, just the honest ones.
So, again. I’m sorry.
Again.
I miss you.
[Her response, about a month later:]
“Hey John,
You know I really don’t know what to say to this message. All I can really say is that there aren’t really any hard feelings here, and there haven’t ever been. I’m glad that you could come to a realization about things and figure stuff out. You were a bit of a butt back then but I never held it against you, I understood that you were going through a hard time. Anyway I’m willing to stay in touch, I’m not sure how much we can but I would like to stay friends with you.
Anyway, I just didn’t want you to think that your message was going to be left unanswered.
Hope you’re doing well.”
[I would enlist in the Marine Corps three months later.]

My sweet love.

ORIGINS
(Revised from something written by hand on 11/28/06 at 12:16 AM)

Once upon a time, I met this girl.

Her name was Roxanne.

She is like every girl I’ve ever met. Like every girl, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and should not have. I met her at my part time job at Desert Star – she was a server (probably 17) and I worked in the box office. For a month, there was no real way to talk to her but for a few minutes. She seemed very shy – unable to keep eye contact with me, pleasant but seemingly nervous in conversation. She was attractive in a bland way – blonde, blue eyes, good figure… I thought maybe she was shy because she was interested in me. She came to my full time job twice – seemingly just to say hi. I went to a show at Desert Star with my boss and co-worker from Precision Time, and she was our server – and seemingly excited to be.

In front of my cohorts, I scrawled her a simple note in poor handwriting – “CALL ME SOMETIME. ###-###-####”

She never did. At work, I finally get her to, at the very least, text me. We blather pointlessly, when suddenly one of her friends texts: “There’s something you need to know about Roxanne.” I of course inquire futilely about what that something might be – an hour or so later, I get my answer. There is a picture of Roxanne and one of her server friends mock kissing. Seizing the opportunity to slyly make my move, I text Roxanne: “So, you like girls?”

She aptly responds: “Haha”

I perform the coup de grace – “So I guess that means you wouldn’t be interested in going to a movie or something…” And yes, I really do text with proper grammar.

She shuts me down: “Oh, I’m not really into girls. But I’m interested in another guy right now.”

Well, that’s fine. We can just be friends, right? She seemed to want to be, anyway – as she was the one who made sure that we “could still be friends.” I didn’t think “still” belonged, but whatever. I’m not gonna split hairs – I’m pretty damn lonely. Then I make my classic mistake.

I share a little bit of myself with her.

She seems responsive, but our conversation is limited (and frankly hard to have over text messages). She was supposed to call, at this point, but is instead texting me. She says she’ll call the next day, but I can’t help but think I blew it: she hadn’t said goodbye or good night and I’d sent the last text. Next day, I text “you still in school?” at 4 PM. No response. She is supposed to call at 10 PM.

It’s 12:30 AM. She has not called. (Edit: When I originally wrote this, it was the day she hadn’t called. She didn’t call the next day, or the next week… More on that later.)

What is wrong with me? Why is it that when I share myself, people move away? Why can’t I be loved? Why can’t I be myself? Why can’t I share my feelings with anyone? (On the side of the page, I scrawled: “Why do I live? To not quit?”)

Only Sara seemed to care. As I write this, I hold back tears: I think she loved me. I know I loved her.

Why do I fuck everything up?

I am so alone. I have three friends, no confidants, no family to speak of. I live by myself. Roxanne is neither the first or the last to shut me out.

Haley left me as soon as I expressed my true feelings. Lydia. Katie. Katie. Sam. Katelyn. Shawna. Emmy. Roxanne. Kendra. Kelsey. Kelsey. Sarah. Lindsey. Shelly.

Who else? Hannah. Kati.

Only Sara stayed – and I treated her like shit.

I have only one regret.

THE END OF THE STORY
Written 01/07/07

I think I’ve concluded that I just plain hate people.

After things with Roxanne with south, I tried my luck with another server – Rachel. She was fun to banter with, seemed to have a similar sense of humor, and she was very very cute. There was no easy way to get her number or anything like there’d been with Roxanne. Several nights, I’d considered going downstairs and just brazenly asking for it.

Just as I was building up courage, fate intervened. She pulled me aside and showed me that she already had my number in her phone. How or why, I still don’t know – but whatever, I wasn’t going to split hairs over this either. So I asked her why she hadn’t done anything with my number, and she had no good reason. She said she’d text me, and she did.

She wasn’t much for words. She didn’t say much and responded to most everything I’d said with a few words – no more. I tried opening up a little to see if that’d make her more open, too. That didn’t work.

I’d also call her, even late at night, and she’d always answer. Things seemed favorable for being friends at least – she already had a boyfriend, and though he was on a mission, I wasn’t going to try to encroach on that territory. I just wanted a friend, and Rachel seemed like me in so many ways.

She shared some similar philosophies. For example, she doesn’t ever call people – she figures that if someone wants to talk to her, they will call her. That’s the same philosophy I lived my life by not too long ago. She had issues trusting people – like me. She had issues being honest – like me. She’d been hurt, badly, by other people – like me.

I was excited to have someone who could be a friend, finally.

One day, seemingly out of the blue, she texts and asks “Do you love me?” How the FUCK am I supposed to respond to that? It seemed fishy because some unknown person had just texted me the same thing – I’d later figure out that this person was another of the servers (though she never owned up to it).

But I decide to trust Rachel in her assertion that the incident was merely coincidence. I buy time and ask her what she means. I ask her to define love, she says “a tingling feeling.” I ask her if she wants an honest answer – she says yes. So I say “I don’t know what love is.”

Following this, I get a text from Roxanne, asking “Do you love me?” Roxanne and I hadn’t talked in like a month. I should have been tipped off then… but I decide to play along. Obviously something is going on… I respond “Sure, don’t you love me?” She responds “Define love.” Seeing where this is going, I say “I think it’s a tingling feeling.” She says “I think I don’t know what love is, and neither do you.”

I respond very simply, being as I was pretty hurt. This wasn’t something I wanted to be made fun of about. I could just see it then — all the server girls at my job thinking I’m a fucking joke.

This is why I never, fucking ever, trust any god-damn-one but myself.

I respond, “I think this is something that I don’t want to be teased about, and I think I’m going to keep to myself from now on.” I should have stuck to my gut instinct, but instead, I text Rachel about five minutes later. I didn’t want to believe that she’d done that to me, and I was looking for ANY sign to vindicate that belief. I open by saying “Hmm. Thanks.”

She pretends to not know what I’m talking about. I explain the situation. I have to explain everything in depth – how my parents never loved each other. How my parents never loved me. How my brother only loved me when he was drunk. How my sister hated me. How Haley had said those three words so many times, and how none of them mattered or meant anything.

She apologizes, sincerely, or so I thought. I feel happy for a moment, if a bit overwhelmed – and closer to Rachel.

The next day (or very shortly following this incident) Roxanne pulls me outside and tells me that it was all a coincidence and that she’s sorry. Okay, I say. I still don’t trust Roxanne one bit, but this makes me feel at ease a little more with Rachel. Still, something was off – we weren’t bantering at work like usual, she wasn’t saying hi, and I wasn’t feeling up to breaking the ice.

I never know what to do with myself.

One day I’m teasing her about being more open with me, maybe hanging out and seeing a movie. Apparently Roxanne was there, and she texts back announcing her presence – “If you do that, you’ll have to do that when I’m there.”

I ask the obvious question – “Why?”

Because, she says, “I don’t trust you.”

I can’t remember if I ask why again or if I just cut to the chase and say “I don’t trust you either.”

On my cell phone, I’d written a memo to myself – Roxanne is not to be trusted. In my mini journal I kept for a few days down here, on the 29th of November, I’d written “I’ve given up on Roxanne.”

She says that I should stop pressuring people to do things and that I should stop talking to Rachel. I figured that Rachel was just too… non-confrontational to tell me herself to bugger off. I’d told her that she could tell me to bugger off if she wanted to. This was the second time that Roxanne had been a mouth piece for Rachel, and my trust was shattered. I couldn’t believe I’d been stabbed twice – especially not after that apology that felt so genuine and healing.

“Okay,” I respond.

“Is that all you have to say?” Roxanne asks.

“Yup.”

“You give up too easy.” Do I? I explain that she’s right and that I shouldn’t pressure people. Eventually she says that she’s “done with this conversation” and it seems like we won’t be talking any time soon.

And here’s the part explaining why I fucking HATE people.

Tonight, at work, Roxanne and Rachel pretty much completely ignore me. I think this is the first time I’ve seen them since this little incident. I’m doing my nightly lock check and Roxanne comes over to ask for a high five – even though it was pretty clear from that one night, and from basically every sign she’d ever given me, that I stood no chance in hell even being her friend. I decline (citing my dirty hands as a reason), not feeling up to entertaining her bipolar disorder tonight. In my head, I’m thinking, I thought this was over?

She gets all butthurt, like she didn’t see this coming. What the fuck?

Just to rub it in her face, I high-five Megan several times.

Go fuck yourself.