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Finding a Way Out

Timothy Ballan
2010

I dedicate this book to all those who have supported me throughout


and thus helped me through precarious times. Without them, many
of whom are represented in this book, these times would have been
bleaker and unending. Instead, I have emerged from them and
having learned what can help me continue forward.
I also want to especially thank my friends Molly Kienzler, Tyler
Guilmette, and Nick Canton for helping proofread this book.

Disclaimer
I refuse to use quotation marks in such a way that envelopes any
commas or periods not suggested by the quoted material. For
example, quoting a child saying the words "I don't want to go now",
I did not put the comma within the quotation marks, as the comma
is not suggested by the child's words. On the other hand, I will end
this next sentence in a different way. As someone once said, "Use
your head, not your rule book."
With a similar emphasis on clarity over convention, I also
follow dashes with commas at times. Even if preceded by a dash
as I will now demonstrate, I retain commas that retain usefulness.
Beyond just punctuation, though, I'd hope abundant clarity pervades
my writing, from word order, to sentence structure, to overall
presentation of ideas.

Chapter One
A Somewhat Symbolic Dream, Recorded in
2003
Tim walks up from his newly-remodeled basement bedroom into a
newly-remodeled tiled breakfast room, welcomed with the tightlywound screamings of his sixth-grade anorexic Greek control-freak
teacher, Ms. Kairos:
"You're late!!! We've all been waiting for you to take the test. You
can have two minutes to review your study sheet."
"What's the test on?"
Nick forcibly whispers, "It's vocablesson twenty, man! These are
hard words!"
"Nick? Am I dreaming? ...I mean ...what's Ms. Kairos doing here?
We're not in sixth grade anymore..."
"Duh... but you better start studying up! Your backpackit's over
there!"
The extreme confusion on Tim's face only grows as he slowly lifts
an unfamiliar bag onto his lap to open it. Despite confusion, he
feels led to shuffle through hundreds of crumpled papers with
escalating intensity as they spill all around him. He only recovers a
study sheet for lesson 20 vocabulary after one of his two allotted
minutes, though. At the very end of this remaining minute, Tim is
still poring over the very difficult but very similar words.
"All right... Everyone, put your papers and bags under the desk and
take out a pencil"
"NOOOO!"

Other students, especially those near him, look at Tim pleadingly


for his own sake. With clenched jaws and hoarse whispers they say
things like, "Tim, sit down!"
"Excuse, me! Timothy, what is the matter?!"
"I know I can learn thisI just need more time!"
"I'm sorry, but I'm your teacher, not your mother! Everyonethis is
a timed test. You'll get twenty minutes. Turn it over when I tell
you. ...Go."
"....Wait a second, Ms. Kairos!"
"Timothy, you've never acted like this bef"
"You think that because the last time you had me in class was six
years ago! And guess what I just remembered? It's summer
vacation! I'm not taking this"
"GET TO WORK!"
The wrath in Ms. Kairos's yell seems to suddenly and swiftly whisk
away Tim's building indignation and determination.
"...Okay."
The time ticks by as Tim mostly stares at the words. He has written
nothing by the "five-minute warning".
"Five minutes."
"Shiiit!"
Searching desperately for ideas, he suddenly arrives at a determined
conclusion. "I have to go sit at her desk."
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Hushedly as before, students all around offer Tim yearning advice


from "What are you doing!" to "No!"
While Ms. Kairos is turned away, Tim sneaks to his mom's desk
which Ms. Kairos seems to have claimed as hers. He begins to feel
the answers coming to him more easily after a few moments sitting
there.
In an intensely quieted, feigned-sweet frustrated voice, "Timothy"
Looking up, interrupted from productive concentration, "ya?"
In continued sweetened but obvious impatience, "Umm... What are
you doing?..."
Stricken with fear, again forgetting his boldness, "Oh... I'm... I'm
I'm... I'm"
Breaking the sweetness, "Get up."
In fearful obedience, "Oh... okay, okay."
Back at his desk, Tim has somehow returned to a place of complete
unpreparedness. And, with only two minutes left, he still has threefourths of his two-page test left to complete. Eyeing all around him
for some idea for a plan, he finally decides to sneakily remove a
book from his backpack that's filled with a stack of papers
including the lesson 20 vocabulary reference sheet. Tim pretends he
is just using the book to write on, but he discreetly covers his hand
over the reference sheet jutting out furthest from the rest of the
papers in the book. But Nick sees him doing this.
"Timdon't doubt yourself. You know this stuff."
Shocked at the absurdity of this comment, Tim forms a puzzled and
distressed smile and says, in a barely audible voice meant not for
Nick's ears, "No, I don't."
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Adamantly, Nick tries to convince Tim to stop looking at the


reference sheet. "Tim... Tim... Tim..."
"Shh!..."
"Timjust have faith! You know this! You don't have to look!
Just remember all the time you've studied! It'll come if you let it"
"Would you shut up?!"
Right on time, Ms. Kairos boldly proclaims, "OKAY! Let's pass
our papers to our neighbors to correct..."
Tim passes his paper to Nick while clenchingly whispering and
fighting for his eye contact. "Nick! Nick! Give me some grace!
Please! I need this!"
Nick doesn't seem to hear.
answers.

Ms. Kairos begins to read off the

Shocked, Nick says, "Tim ...where are your answers! ...Ms.


Kairos? Excuse me, but what do I do for blank answers?"
"Ms. Kairos, I need to finish this ...Could I please have one more
minute outside? "
Not waiting for a response, Tim grabs his test, book with papers,
and backpack and rushes out to his own dusty enclosed porch,
pencil in hand. He kneels in front of a mustard-yellow bench
strewn with cobwebs, where he lays the reference sheet and test.
But, the words on the supposed reference sheet all differ from those
on the test. Giving out a sad small whimper, Tim slumps in defeat
against the wall next to some small antique-ish ornately gilded door
two inches off the ground and about three square feet tall and wide.
"Psst!"
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Tim looks around confusedly.


"Psst! Over here!"
Tim eyes an inch-wide peephole near the bottom of the door.
Hurried and desperate, "Timit's me, Carrie! Come on! Let's get
you out of here! This door only opens from the outsideyour side.
There you go... up... up... up... there! That's the handle! No, pull it!
That' a boy! All right! Let's get going!"
After crawling through the doorway, Tim lets the door close on its
own. He grabs hands with Carrie, and they begin running as if for
their lives down a long darkened and descending corridor. Though
this is a seemingly long-forgotten space, the dark-stained wood
siding of the wall below the noble paisley wallpaper and intricately
carved chair railing remain dustless, and the reddish pink carpeting
remains clean. The only light seems to be coming through the
peephole they are running away from, though this bright light seems
to carry a ways. There is a sense of warmth to this place, but
accompanying some odd lonely and menacing darkness.
Rounding a corner, Tim and Carrie stop to catch their breaths. They
soon begin laughing, though, upon eyeing each other's frazzled
state.
Calming more quickly than Tim, Carries says, "So! How was the
test!"
Overcome with the joy of being rescued, Tim grabs Carrie with a
hug. "Oooooh!... Thank you! Thank you!"
They both twirl and laugh while looking lovingly at each other.
"So how horrible was it?"

"I really don't want to talk about it now. I really"


"I understand."
"So... Where are we going to go now?..."
Both glancing in the direction of the locked door, they sense a bit of
terror between them in their mutual realization of planlessness.
However, they hide this feeling well and totally conform to the
situation to make the most out of it.
"Well, we might as well... keep on going..."
"Oh. Okay." Tim offers a smile and meets one from Carrie as he
does. They hold hands.
This new leg of the corridor is lit not just by the bright peephole
light from around the corner, but also by some dim orange from
antiquebut still dustlesslamps jutting out every few yards down
the hall as it continues to descend. The lamps modestly illuminate
the dark rose carpet, the wooden part of the walls, the plastery white
ceiling, and the abundantly darkish to medium green wallpaper
dotted with creams, pinks, and maroons. Like an abandoned hotel,
stained wood small tables line the walls at regularbut wide
intervals. White and blue china vases holding plastic grass are
placed on each table, and, instead of any mirrors or paintings above
the tables, dark rose-colored wide ribbons tied in complex bows are
secured to the wall.
Tim and Carrie descend three more ramp-like corridor legs. While
it all looks very much the same, as Tim and Carrie descend, the
lighting fades notably, and they both sense some growing aura of
terrifying but fearfully intriguing oppressiveness.
Upon rounding the last corner, Tim and Carrie open into somewhat
of a loungea traditionally-styled quadrangle of dark green sofas
and with a glass table center. The walls to their left and rightthe
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one to their right only a few feet widemeet corners with a


rounded wall opposite them. Two fake saplings in rounded baskets
have been placed in the room's two corners, on top of a carpet now
the same paisley as the wallpaper. And, as opposed to the still
mostly darkish wallpaper, this carpet displays as many light colors
as darkthough the lighting is much dimmer than it was even one
ramp up. At the center of the curved wall lies the narrow and
shallow entrance to a rectangularly spiral staircase.
Tim and Carrie both playfully leap for the same sofa and feign a
pillow fight, all with expected back-and-forths in a bantery
conversation before they relax and let themselves process their
surroundings. They soon continue conversing, though, and without
any hurry, simply enjoying each other's presence even more than
their conversation. Before long, however, some nervousness returns
to their voices and postures.
In moving the conversation away from more personal subjects,
Carrie interjects, "Well, this place is certainly lavish."
"I knowI like it, but it's sort of eerie."
"Oh, don't worry... Where's your sense of adventure?" Carrie says,
followed by a little laugh.
"It's been an adventure coming here, but, right now, this place also
seems so peaceful..."
"Yea..."
"I sure could use an ice cream now..."
"But you don't like ice cream!"
"Oh yeah... But, sometimes I do."
"But, hey! There are mints here!" Carrie says, uncovering a ceramic
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dish.
"I don't know... I don't trust those."
"Oh, come on!"
"You don't know how long they've been here!"
Carrie eats one anyway, tauntingly chewing in Tim's amused but
disgusted face. They laugh. After a few moments, though, they
both joltedly sit up, alert at the sound of a distant slammed door.
Tim starts, "Was that what I think", and then realizing, "it... was."
Sighing but with an only slight undertone of upset, "Let's just wait
and see if she comes down here... We don't really have to worry
yet."
They sit stiffly enough to restrict their own breathing.
screams are heard.

Distant

"Timothy! Where are you! You better not be able to hear me! If
you're down here, I swear you'll be a dead man! I'll call the police!"
It is clear that Ms. Kairos has entered into the first corridor and is
running and while banging on and slamming doors.
Tim whispers, "There were doors up there?"
"They must have blent into the wall..."
As they hear Ms. Kairos darting closer at an extreme rate, Tim and
Carrie look in each other's eyes that begin to reflect more clearly the
desperateness of this situation. They stand up slowly but then dart
for the staircase on the far side of the room, almost tripping in their
hurry.

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As they descend the rather narrow and low rectangularly spiral


staircase, Ms. Kairos's screams are an inescapable clangor that only
multiply Tim and Carrie's fear and feeling of terrifying
hopelessness.
Down one long flight, the stairs end and the area spreads out,
confusingly extremely spacious. To the right, there's an immediate
wall, but, to the left, underneath a rather high ceiling, there spreads
out a vast array of untouched dark wood dining tables and, at the
closest corner to the left side, an untouched traditional bar. At the
center of Tim and Carrie's vision lies a wide arched corridor
seemingly increasing in height as it approaches a grand ballroom
filled with hanging vines that deepen an olive light shining through
the ballroom's already ivy-covered windows that are as tall as the
upper half of the ballroom's walls. But, immediately in front of Tim
and Carrie, to the right of the bar, and at the two other corners of the
room, there appear to be more staircases.
Ms. Kairos continues to scream: "I hear you! I know you're down
there! You can't hide from me!"
Tim and Carrie choose the flight of stairs in front of them. As
opposed to the one they just came from, this stairway has no narrow
ceiling following it, it is wider, and it now has brass railings instead
of just a thin chair-rail-like ledge attached to the wall.
The next floor down is simply a long corridor on either side, filled
with apparent hotel rooms. Several flights look exactly the same
until the staircase again stops.
"You can't hide from me! Where are you little chicken scraps!?
Why are you running?"
"Tim! It stopped! Where? Where?"
"There!", pointing to one of two close staircases in this newly short
hallway which, in either direction, lead to openings identical in
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scope and style, though the right side is set up like a dining area
again.
This new staircase starts out the same way as the firstwith a low
ceiling and narrow, with a wooden railing jutting from the wall.
But, after one flight, the brass railings show up again. While Ms.
Kairos's voice seems to be beginning to fade here, the two continue
down these stairs still in a mode of panicked desperation, continuing
down the flights that pass long stretches of hotel rooms identical to
those above.
Once they are forced to stop to catch their breath on one level of
hotel rooms, they notice that Ms. Kairos's voice is no longer just
faded, but it has stopped altogether. They eye each other to
communicate and reciprocate fear, relief, but then a realization of
need for caution as they quietlythough still breathing heavily
look for a place to hide.
They glance around and wordlessly mutually decide that the best
place to hide would be a hotel room. For some reason, they knock
quietly on a door before entering its empty room closest to the
stairway. They slowly and silently close the door to their unlit
room, peering through its peephole, hoping Ms. Kairos has just
given up and gone. They wait stilly but whisper to each other:
As Carrie starts, Tim half-jokingly scolds Carrie before letting her
finish a word, "Shh... You never know if she could be... right up
there," pointing, "waiting for us to make a noise, hoping we're down
here... Shh..."
Sarcastically, "Okay, okayI'm scared."
"It's okay...."
"It's really stuffy down here... It's hard to breathe... and it feels
really, really hot... and the air feels very dirtylike soil in the air..."

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Tim sniffs the air. "I know what you meanit's all weird."
"It's adventure at least, right?"
Laughing, but sincere, Tim responds, "Right."
They laugh quietly and continue to make nervous and whispered
chatnearly inaudibly. After a while, they decide it's safe to go.
Carrie starts going upstairs, but Tim stops her.
Calmly, but pleading out of masked fear, Tim starts, "Carrie... Let's
play it safe and just keep on exploring..."
They continue to head down the stairs. Down this far, apparently no
lamps on the walls are working, but there always seems to be some
light from nearby windows, even though there are none. Tim and
Carrie walk leisurely, still talking in low voices, but they're mostly
relaxed now. After a few minutes, they stop.
Tim starts, "Did you hear something?"
"...I"
"Ahh!! Get off me!!"
A man dressed in a white bunny suit snuck up behind Tim from
inside a hotel room and grabbed him at the waist, but Tim
defensively flips the man over his head so that he tumbles down the
stairs onto the first platform of the three in most of these types of
staircases. Tim and Carrie back up defensively, but the rabbit man
does not appear threatening now, just laughing amiably. His frame
is tall yet portly, his scruffy face and hair dark, and, holding a cigar
in his mouth, he looks somewhat like a clich of an Italian mobster.
He readjusts his bunny suit while struggling to stand up, apparently
drunk.
With somewhat of a goofy Swedish accent, the bunny man talks
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very slowly and slurred. Beyond his drunkenness, he has an affect


to him that is friendly but eerily distant.
"I gave you a bit of a scare there, didn't I, folks?"
Carrie responds first because Tim is more out of breath. "Well, you
could've"
"Hurt you? No, I just wanted to see if you are in the program
tonight."
Tim responds, "Program?..."
"Ya. If you continue down a little while, I'll show you the way."
Carrie adds, "All rightbut... do you know if a 'Ms. Kairos' will be
there?"
"Ms. Kairos... Probably not."
Tim interjects, "You mean she might be?"
"Maybe."
Tim responds, "Well, I suppose it's worth the risk."
Carrie agrees and they follow the man in the white rabbit suit. The
man drops his cigar on the floor carelessly at one point as he walks
staggeredly and very slowly. Somehow, while still eerie, his distant
affect now peaceful. And, somehow, while still oppressive, the
whole aura to this place is starting to seem less dark and lonely.
"So where do you come from? Around here?"
Tim starts, "We'r"
"We're from up abovein Massachusetts."
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"Massachusetts, eh? Sounds like a nice place to me."


Trying to avoid awkward silence, Carrie says, "So what's this
performance about anyway?"
"I'm sure you'll enjoy it, don't worry." The man begins whistling.
Awkward silence.
Carrie states, "It seems to be getting damper down here."
"And warmer... Yup, that happens down here! Yes, siree... Yes,
siree-bob...."
He fades out with more nonsense mumbling to himself before
continuing whistling. He is a very odd presence. And, between Tim
and Carrie's facial expressions and exchanges, it is clear that they
feel somewhat uncomfortable around him, but they smile as if
enjoying him. It is also clear, though, that their discomfort is fading
little by little.
Tim offers, "It's a lot darker than upstairs, too..."
"Yup, yup... Mmhm... Mmhm..."
After another while of walking slowly, the rabbit man states, "Right
this way."
They continue on and follow the rabbit man as he takes one right
and then another right into a new corridor. They approach a
doorless entrance into an empty and aged function room. At the far
end stands a lavishly carved fireplace and, to the right, a closed
window with a metal sliding cover conceals what is most likely a
kitchen. A large dirty maroon area rug covers only part of the
heavily-scuffed floor that is the same shade white as the walls and
the remarkably aged foam-tile ceiling.
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Tim and Carrie follow the rabbit man through this new room's
entrance and then to a cheap-looking honey-color-stained pinewood
door at the room's far end. Tim and Carrie wait as the rabbit man
struggles with the door's gilded but cheap-looking doorknob. When
the doorknob finally turns, though, the rabbit man heartily whips
open the door into the room of expectation.
"Here it is folks! A crowded room!"
Tim and Carrie enter shyly, stepping slowly as the rabbit man offers
an energetic and playful hug to one of the boys in a line of boys that
is ordered from youngest to oldest. There are a few frightenedlooking five- or six-year-olds followed by a group of jovial
preteens, a smug group of unkempt early adolescents, and then a
bunch of very attractive late teenagers smiling gently with looks of
sincere kindness and graciousness. They wait in this formation for a
while, some of the younger children twisting to and fro from
boredom, but most of the boys facing each other in conversation.
Much laughter is heard.
In the near left corner, there's a round table where more adults in
animal suits sitwith two of the seven or eight smoking cigars.
And, through a doorless entrance past the far-left corner, in a whitetile, pinewood-cabinet kitchen, there sit two more adults in animal
suitstwo rotund old ladies in chicken suits. Outside the kitchen,
the large room's walls resemble the honey-color-stained pinewood
of the door Tim and Carrie just walked through, and the room's
ceiling of aged sponge tiles are supported by beams here and there
each covered in an asbestos-like substance; otherwise, this room is
very similar to the previous one.
Bouncing to the front of the line of boys near the far right wall,
facing the boys, the rabbit man shouts some form of code command
as each boy straightens up significantly:
"All right, boys! What have we got today?"
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"Aye aye, Captain!"


"Do ya mind if a couple of my friends would join ya today?"
"Hooray! Hooray! Strangers for the day!"
"Sounds good to me! All right kids, come over here."
The rabbit man signals for Tim and Carrie to come over, and he
directs them to two specific spots toward the back of the line, due to
their age.
"Everyone! Stay where you are; I'm going to take a smoke!"
The boys resume their relaxed attitude but remain in the basic
formation of a line. Carrie is making a separate conversation from
Tim.
The eldest boy says to Tim, "So, where do you come from?"
"Massachusetts."
"No kidding! Me too!"
"Really? That's great! Where do you go to school?"
Ashamedly, "I... I dropped out."
"Ah! That's okay!"
"Thanks! Lookit's nice to meet you." Offering his hand, "I'm
Tim."
Accepting his hand, "And I'm Tim, too!"
They shake hands and laugh pleasedly and energetically.
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"No way! We're like..."


"Almost the same person!"
"Exactly! Ha! This is great! I can't wait to tell my parents..."
Awkward silence.
The original Tim then casually, but sensually, reaches to place his
arm on the other Tim's back.
"I have to say... I like your looks."
"I like you."
They get closer and begin to kiss. Suddenly, an old-fashioned
school bell rings from the corner of the room now closest to Tim.
Immediately, the boys all resume a militaristic straightness in their
line, and Tim and Carrie mimic this. "The other Tim" continues to
hold Tim's hand and squeezes it gently and passionately. He turns
around and gives Tim a deliberate, loving glance. Within a few
seconds of the bell, a clear introduction to some sort of musical
number begins to play. The boys all dance in unison and sing, while
Tim and Carrie fake it.
Soon there comes a part where there is meant to be a solo, but the
singer, one of the youngest boys, appears to be freezing up, so Tim
improvises and wildly dramatizes the role, dancing throughout the
room. The boys clap and laugh, and so do audience members
including many pleasant- and older-looking folks, people of all
ages, and, of course, more people wearing animal costumeswho
have been entering the room since the music began, from the same
corner as the bell, through a door just like the one Tim and Carrie
entered through.
As Tim is singing, he spots Ms. Kairos made up as an old lady but
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with a frizzy blonde wig, her eyes darting about as if searching for
Tim and Carrie, but he continues to sing energetically, dramatically,
and purposely meets eyes with her. Because of Tim's prolonged
assertive look into her eyes, she begins to look rather timid, then
saddened, then angered as if from losing a game. Ms. Kairos then
leaves the room while accentuatedly stomping her feet like a twoyear-old. The song soon ends, and all the boys and everyone in the
room lift Tim up on their shoulders and start dancing.

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Chapter Two
Imagining Flying Away from High School
I awake to a dark orchestral soundtrack I left playing while I slept,
brooding requiem-esque music with tolling bells, a soft choir, and
trembling strings. I shiver a bit, torn in my mind, so afraid to lose
my religionand thus family, friends, support system, the only
belief system I have ever known, all I am used tobut so warmed
by this dream and the idea of being able to live and believe freely.
"Tim! Get in the shower! This is the third time!"
As I roll over and try to sift back into dreams, from the floor above
my room, where I hear my mom from, I hear the cacophonous
giddy laugh of Haley, who I wasn't expecting to see until I would be
late to the Academic Awards Ceremony rehearsal.
"Tim! Hahahah! You're ALWAYS late!"
I cringe at her voice and laughing, and her faking through the
formality of discussion with a "friend's" parents. This is not an
unusual way for her to "show up" and pretend I like her, but I don't
really have any other friends that I do anything with; I hope this will
change.
Finally I pull to a rising position and peel the blankets from my
legs. I start the shower and relax in its bed-like warmth, but I can
still hear loud laughingnear maniacal screamsemanating from
Haley, even while she balances her giddiness with such forced
interaction with my parentsat least forced in its insincerity.
The only sincerity I've ever found in her is in her presentations of
likes and dislikes, which never involve a level of complexity
beyond that of what a young child would list. I feel I am being used
by a stupid and shallow person that adults mistake for intelligent out
of her devotion to playing the game of academics, religion, and
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other formalities. There is nothing more to her than her ability or


inability to play gamesor her other negative child-like qualities. I
suppose I'd rather be "friends" with a child who is also a good
person.
*
"TimI don't understand! I spent hours on my make-up at the
prom! What do you mean you didn't like it!"
"Please, shhh... I didn't say that; I just don't like make-upthat's all
I mean! ...Can we not talk about this now?" I speak clenchingly
and avoid eye contact with her while the principal is about to speak
in front of an auditorium of only award-recipient students, about
two hundred nearly all white upper-middle-class scummy
photocopies of one another.
"Welcome, students! Tonight, you are all about to receive an
awardwhether for mathematics, English, music, talents,
stewardship, citizenship...
You are all deserving of an
award. ...Please. Timothy, what are you doing?"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Principal man, I didn't mean to strangle hershe just
wouldn't shut up. ...I'm sorry, I need to get away from her. Is this a
dream?"
"Timothy... Please let"
"because I usually can fly in dreams recently... Oh... What do ya
know? Here I am floating above all of you. Youlosers! And I
don't mean that you don't dress in Abercrombie and Fitch! I
meanyou're soulless! Soulless!! Losers!!
"And as for you, Haley, let me just say, before I leavenot that I
wish you ill, but I wish you would leave me alone. I wish to find
friendswho I could actually call "friends"who I actually like
and can help pull me out of this cesspool that has been my
childhood until now..."

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Some students had left and then returned with a tall ladder from the
janitor's nearby office. But, as they plot amongst themselves how to
return me to what they believe is my rightful quiet place among
them, I bid them a sarcastic farewell as I push myself higher into the
air with a swift kick to their ladder that knocks it to the floor. I float
high through the auditorium toward and through its propped-open
doors and then through the propped-open doors of the high school's
front entrance. I pass over hills and valleys and houses and cities
and rivers and streams and woods, until I finally arrive at college
where I hope to at least begin a life uninhibited.

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Chapter Three
Syracuse
I meet three girls as I walk through one of the dorm halls for some
reason; they are sitting by one of their open doors, and one of them
recognizes me.
Other2: "You're on floor 11?"
Me: "No9. It's closeThey're both prime numbers, I mean both
divisible by one or the other or rather 3 or 5.5."
Other1: "Eleven and three are prime numbersbut 5.5 doesn't
count! Haha..."
Me: "Well, if you take the place of the dome and create a number
similar but for ten times the movement of because of the decimal
points, you can make 55 divisible from 11 also times ten and it is a
whole number."
Other3: "But 110 isn't 11..."
Me: "Well, that's besides the point." Motioning to "Other1", "Go
on."
...
Other3: "'Nique ta mere toi petit beur.' It means 'Fuck your
mother, you little Arab'."
Other2: "What if I wanted to say 'mother fucker'? Would that be
'mere de la nique'?"
Other3: "That would be 'mother of fuck'!"
Me: In a very low and menacing voice, "I am the mother of fuck!"
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Everyone laughs surprisedly.


Other1: "Like when that elf lady goes all crazy for the ring in the
first Lord of the Rings... You could just hear her say that!"
Me: "It seems to go along well with some fantasy story..."
Other2: "Fantasy! Haha..."
Me: "Not that type of fantasy!"
...
Other3: "Yeah, I was sitting in his room and his ex comes in and
says snobbily, 'Who are you?' I was scared and just said my name
and that I was just a friend. She got mad anywaysbitch. She was
screaming and wrote a message on his board to 'get off all the
sluts'!"
Me: "You should've just said, when she asked who you were, 'I am
the mother of FUCK!!' and scared her away by that!"
Everyone laughs loudly.
...
Me: In a gurgling and monotonous voice, "I really, really, really
need to sleep... Ahh."
Other1: After a bit of thought, thinking of what words would be
best to use, "You know, you remind me of a homosexual robot with
that voice. You do! You really do!"
Me: "What?!"
Everyone laughs.
25

*
I realize that "Other1's" name is "Melanie". A few weeks later we
go to the mall.
"How are you, Tim?", knocking on my open door.
"Nothing."
"Do you want to go to the movies?"
I respond like a little baby alien without words, with little short
(about half second) noises suggesting confirmation. Then, "Is this
at the mall?"
"S!"
"...Well, I don't want to pay for the concessions at the movies or buy
food at the mallI can bring stuff from here for free. Look in my
fridge, if you will."
"Here are some dates... Although, they appear to have expired
months ago."
Taking the dates, "No, these dates aren't bad", immediately and
forcefully throwing them in the trash next to me. "I'll take carrots
instead."
"...Do you play the French horn, Tim?"
"Why?"
"That case looks like a French horn."
"No, I play the clarinet, but my case is in my locker in a building on
campus... I think that case is my roommate's or something. But,
I'm going to put this ice cream you took from the freezer back into
the French horn otherwise known as the freezer."
26

As we leave, we overhear part of a conversation from a little ways


down the hall: "...I'll bring my other guitar for the recording cuz it
has better tone."
"You can use my clarinet."
Melanie is used to my humor as I am to hers, but these people are
surprised though they enjoy this comment.
Leaving the building, Mel says, "Look at that nice little pigeon... I
wish it were dead."
After boarding the bus and riding for a while, we notice that many
bus stops are full of very poor but stylishly ghetto-ish people.
I comment, "It would be terrible to have to live in the middle of the
streets."
"You mean on the streets?"
"No. I mean in the middle of a street, actually. I'd be really scared
to sleep then. I don't think Ior anyonecould really live that
way..."
Exiting the bus in the mall parking lot, I say, "What is it that you
just kicked?"
"...A piece of broken glass."
"...I need that!", finding it, grabbing it, and putting it in my pocket.
Nearly immediately upon entering the mall, we see a possible
shortcut to a desired pizza place in between the back of the escalator
and a pillar. As we realize this passage is far too narrow to pass
through, I comment, as if trapped, "What have we done?!", and as if
we should be faulted for some greatly immoral crime.
27

We decide to eat at a grill-type restaurant instead. On the way, I say


"Hi Grandma" to strangers, mostly attractive young men.
Seeing a bird seemingly trapped beneath a semi-opened skylight,
Melanie asks, "Remember that day the bird was in the cafeteria?"
"Yeah." Smilingly, and as if being pathetically honest, "That was
the best day of my life."
Seated at the restaurant, the waitress asks us what we would like to
drink.
"Could I have some melted butter?" Then, after seeing her confused
reaction, "Just kidding."
Upon getting our waters, I sip and say, "Oops, I spit."
"HahaIsn't that embarrassing?"
"Yeah; but sometimes I spit on purpose and pretend it was an
accident."
"Hahah...."
When the waitress returns to take our orders, I slowly stick out my
tongue and slowly retract it, then saying "I don't know why I just
did that" and laughing before she humorlessly takes my order.
As Melanie is just getting ice cream, she responds to the waitress's
confession of having no marshmallows by saying, "What do they
put in the 'Marshmallow Sundaes' if there are no marshmallows?"
"Tiny clocks", I say.
"Hahah... I'll just have the fudge sundae."

28

..."I used to work at these terrible places called restaurants. Where


have you worked?" I ask.
"Mostly the glorious D'Angelo's Deliand I still work there on
breaks, sadly."
"Well it could be worse."
"I don't really mind it, ...except that I always have a sore throat after
working 'cause I always have to yell to get workers' and customers'
attention. I have a sensitive throat, I guess."
"Why don't you just use a microphone?"
"Hahah..."
...
We see a cheesy horror movie, and, on the way out, eating out of
my bag of carrots, disgusted, I spit one all over the ground outside.
"Why did you do that?!"
"It was poisoned." I continue eating carrots without spitting out
anymore; that carrot really just tasted bad.
Walking back to our dorm after the bus drops us back off at
Syracuse U., Melanie comments, "I wish I had a hat... It's so cold."
"Use your purse. I, on the other hand, am not even wearing socks."
"It might snow tonight!"
"I know; that's why I'm glad I'm wearing thick socks."
Upon reaching Mel's floor via the dorm's elevator, she comments,
"I'm tie-red..."
29

"You go ni-ni, then?"


"Yessum."
"Well, I do hope you have a good night."
"You too!"
Disdainfully (but clearly kidding), "I hate you."
"Hahaha... Night, Tim."
"Nighty Night!"
*
A few of my roommate's friends come over for some drinks and we
all engage in some small talk.
"So where'd you and Mel go?"
"Went to Alaska, ate a baby, got a pimple."
...
Another: "So are you from New York state?"
"No, Massachusetts."
"Aww, that's okay."
"...Most people live in New York."
...
Another, very tall boy: "My sister's actually here at this college."
Another2: "Is she as tall as you?"
30

Another, very tall boy: "Actually, she's about a head shorter than
me."
Me: "She doesn't have a conventional head. Her head is where he
heart should be."
Another3: "Hahah... ...How sure are you?"
Me: "About 20 percent," said as if this is a percentage of a good
chance.
...Someone randomly comments,
Tim."

"Let's have a staring contest,

"Sure," as I blink immediately and with increasing speed and


intensity.
...
Me: "My foot hurts... I wish I could fix it..."
Other: "All I need is a bungee cord and a paper clip... Wait... two
bungee cords and a paper clip... ...Do you have two bungee cords
and a paper clip?"
"No."
"Then I can't help you. Sorry."
...One is making a gesture, saying "...It suggests the fondling of the
testicles."
Another says, "The fondling of children."
Then the first responds, "How so?"

31

"Well, technically you are fondling children."


"Only half of possible children."
Then I say, "...I'm only fifty percent of a child."
After a little pause where the first to speak is laughing inwardly, he
says, with well-intentioned sarcasm, "That was deep, Tim."
Another (a new person) says, "Very deep."
"I'm sorry if I'm not making sense; I haven't drinkendranken
drunk in a while... I gave up at 'drunk'."
...
As onea friend of one of my roommate's friendsleaves to return
to their school, I say, "Have a good time at UMass in Rhode Island."
"I'm going to Amherst College and UMass means University of
Massachusetts..."
"I know."

32

Chapter Four
Hiatus from Syracuse
Listening to Franz Waxman for one of the first times, being
thoroughly moved and engaged in his music, having it played on a
vintage-style LP/CD/tape player in my newly rearranged room with
a new bed and stylishly bold yet delicate cherry-finished dresser, all
of it rearranged to look much neater and more manageable, allowing
for a more positive association with my room than before I went off
to school, it seems these two days I've been back that my home
world has become much more appealing than before, but I'm not
discouraged to leave; I'm invigorated in encouragement, the music
comforting me, my cat's smile giving me peace, the smell of fresh
fall air brightening the aroma of my current life aura, giving me
even more energy. And then, the feeling is lost. I'll find it again and
keep it once I regain order in my life, but I will hope for it from
time to time before then.

33

Chapter Five
Anti-Religiousness
"Mel, why do I even continue talking to Haley? ...She's IM'ing me
and I want to just cut her off once and for all."
"Because it's easy."
"I need to end this. I can't just let her walk all over me, especially if
I want to be true to myself and my beliefs. She only talks critically
about her roommates, family, church members, schoolmates, me...
And her criticism really often centers around her silly religion."
"But people are religious and not necessarily critical..."
"I know! And I still believe in something... some god... -ness...
definitely something greater at least, something greater than
humans."
"I don't know; I just know that Christianity is mostly pointless."
"I guess I know what you mean... It's ritual or just self-comfort, but
these could be found in actually meaningful activitieslike real
love. Were you ever religious?"
"Not really, but I was dragged to church here and there."
"...I wrote a poem recently about my last two years before college,
if you want to read it"
The Attempted Brain-Washing of an Intellectual Youth
I see no wonder in their blank yet angry eyes
even in their songs to an infinitely magical creator.
In my helpless cage I sit in silence,
seeing the chandeliers crashing through their skin,
34

so I could leave and be respected for my own thoughts,


thoughts that address a real world where there is real magic.
Yet, even in their writhing pain with torn and smoldering flesh,
even then there is no wonder in their eyes
they know where they are going with such certainty,
but they retain the pain of contempt for those who would disbelieve
and belittle their tiny minds.
"Woah... That's really interesting."
"Hehe, thanks for reading this. I don't usually show my writing to
people."

35

Chapter Six
Texan Desert
June 7, 2004 Journal Entry:
As I watch this desert morning's silent lightning on this bus to
Denver from Dallas, I see such beauty, but I see the envisioned goal
of this tripfunded by my parents, who don't know my intentions
for this tripfading away. So far, none of the men I met online
seem at all like the savior I was hoping for, someone to take me in
and away from my parents who, because of my inability to hold a
job or stay in school at the moment, I would otherwise be trapped
with (who don't know that I'm not only gay but non-religiousor
not only non-religious but gay). I also feel that, in general, the life I
imagined I'd be living by now is slipping away.
While I don't regret breaking from the trajectory of my childhood
(in terms of religion and otherwise), things are currently really only
barely tolerable and while not necessarily promising to calm,
stabilize, or even offer some future payoff. As I search for some
consistency preferable to my former religion or my present lack of
any footing, I can feel myself becoming more and more disquieted.
Yet, continuing forward in the only way I feel able to, at least there
is the possibility of more fully realizing the stark new wonders I've
glimpsed in breaking freefrom majestic desert storms to euphoric
trains of thought to genuine, intimate friendships. Even though I
once considered myself saved, it does not compare to what I
imagine as possible, if I could just re-stabilize.
Although, the longer I search, the more my mind anxiously spins,
and the more I feel need to search. I'm sure this is an expected
reaction to the loss of a lifelong religion, but the extent to which I
am feeling pulled and confused I'm sure is linked to my OCD and
anxious personalityand situations made further and further
precarious because of them. And, as usual, the centerpiece of my
36

displayed OCD involves perfecting and recording musical or nonmusical ideasthough now almost exclusively (cacophonously)
non-musical philosophical thoughts.
I still find writing pleasurable, a great outlet and way to record,
communicate, and develop my imagination and ideas. But I often
feel unable to control the frequency of important-feeling and thus
sensed-transcription-worthy thoughtsespecially when they
involve philosophy or religion. At this point, I have amassed bags
and bags of likely thousands of papers with half-finished ideas
written out on them that can testify to this. And this struggle with
writing has kept me from following through in finishing even one
recent essay, or story, or compilation of poems I've written, or a
piece of musiceven while I've nearly finished so much. (And
thus I am also distracted from other goalsfrom school to work.)
But I can't really let myself think more on this right now. My
present sense of clarity is unusual, but I feel that soon I'll just start
spinning again.
But I don't think I can or should stop philosophizing and journaling.
It's the only way I could discover something to base my life on
again. ...Though it has been keeping me awake long into the night,
keeping me from being on time to anything, keeping me asleep at
odd hours when not wanting to face another day of having to think,
keeping me from finishing projects or even what it is I am thinking
about at a given moment.
Things are really not good. I'm crying right now. I wanted to jump
out of my high-rise dorm window when my PDA erased all I wrote
in it for several months. ...And then there's the issue of where I'm
going to live. This is all too much to let myself think more about
now, though.

37

Chapter Seven
Anti-Gay Pamphlet
I read these words from a pamphlet called, "When Someone You
Love Is Gay; How to Deal with This Devastating Situation" (by
Anita Worthen and Bob Davies through Intervarsity Press), which I
find and take from my parents' church. I plan to use these words in
some type of story. It opens:
Chris MacKenzie can vividly recall the day, 16 years ago, when she
found out about her oldest son's homosexual involvement.
As a young adult, Damon had moved from the family home in
Illinois to Florida. "Damon and I had always been close," this
single mom says, "so it was difficult to see him go, but I knew he
had to live his own life." Several months later, Chris received a
long letter from him.
Damon shared some exciting news: "I found someone that I care
deeply about and I'm in a relationship that is completely fulfilling."
As Chris read further, however, her stomach lurched and she could
hardly swallow. Damon confessed that this relationship involved
another man. "I have had these strong feelings of attraction to men
for as long as I can remember," he wrote, "and I've always tried to
hide them." Now he was "coming out of the closet" and living as he
believed God intended.
Chris was completely devastated. "I screamed, I ranted, I cried. I
felt like I was bleeding deep inside, and there was no way to stop
the gaping wound in my soul."
Whether the confession comes from a son or daughter, spouse or
close friend, the admission of homosexuality hits like a bombshell,
especially in the Christian home.

38

"Finding out about a gay child is agony," says Barbara Johnson,


whose story of discovering her own son's involvement in
homosexuality is told in her book, "Where Does A Mother Go to
Resign?" (Bethany House). "It's almost like having a death in the
family. But, when someone dies, you can bury that person and
move on with your life. With homosexuality, the pain seems neverending."

39

Chapter Eight
Parental Backlash
It's September and I've been stuck at home for three months, failing
to have saved enough money to get my own apartment. I've had
two restaurant jobs but was fired from both for being frequently
late, absent, and/or distracted, very similar to why I felt unable to
stay in school. I am starting to feel desperately claustrophobic.
Riding with my dad on an errand trip, after I think he and/or my
mom noticed on my desk a left-open good-natured joke Valentine's
card from my friend Diana that mentioned I was gay, he says, "I just
wanted to say something... I think you have some struggles... I
think you have some struggles with your sexuality..." I'm in shock
and shake a little.
Though my mom just hugged me the other night when I confirmed
my "struggles" to Dad, and though Dad seemed very loving in his
reaction to this, my parents take me to a restaurant to discuss
"issues" they're having with me, the same place we always held gettogethers with church friends and family.
Dad starts, "Timwe need to talk"
I feel as if I may be dissociating. I've never had this kind of
confrontation with my parents, and I've never felt so fragile.
After words have blown by and we all have ended up in poorly
hidden sad and angry tears, Dad offers, "Tim, the thing isyou
don't have to embrace this... We'll support you financially as long as
you don't. I'll write up an agreement, and if you agree to it, we'll
support you."
*
I mostly falsely agree to the following that my dad types up once we
get home:

40

AGREEMENT, JANUARY 10, 2005


1. WHAT WE WILL DO
(a) Pay all tuition, room/board, fees, book expenses for 3 1/2 years
for a state school
(b) All reasonable cell phone charges (The first month of
unreasonable charges, the cell phone will be disconnected)
(c) We'll place $200 in savings account (all future "fun" expenses
are Tim's responsibility)
(d) Travel expenses to and from doctors offices and to and from
home
(e) Health insurance
2. WHAT TIM WOULD NEED TO AGREE TO:
(a) Assume responsibility for own mental health, i.e. keep
appointments, take meds appropriately, discuss medication
problems with the doctor, recognize need for help and seek it (home
can no longer be viewed as a long-term mental health facility),
actively seek and have continuous counseling with a Christian
counselor
(b) GFZ ("Gay-Free Zone")This excludes active relationships,
internet communications, joining organizations
(c) Pass all courses and maintain current state scholarship
3. IF AGREEMENT IS BROKEN
(a) Tim is encouraged to visit
(b) Tim is encouraged to call and get advice
(c) Tim is on his own financially
(d) Tim is on his own regarding living arrangements
*
"I'll agree to this, but I don't think what prompted this involves a
'sin'."
Mom says, "No one thinks this tendency is a sin, Tim. It's your
obvious embracing of it that we disagree withyour turning away
from God just so you can do what you want..."

41

Defensively, "I just said I'd agree to this and, actually, I prayed for
God to take this from me for years and I prayed for him to show me
that Christianity was trueand these were SEPARATE issues to
me. He did neither and then I realized my prayers weren't being
answered... because NO ONE was listening..."
Increasingly peeved, "...So this is what all your writing is about,
trying to find answers apart from God..."
"...Well, I don't feel like I'm always in control of that... but, I know
what I believe... I just"
"You just don't want to believe in God."
"...Here's an example of the kind of thing that told me I needed to
look elsewhere for truth: When I started to doubt Christianity, I was
only able to avoid this doubt by suppressing any thoughts that
questioned Christianity and by saying that such thoughts were from
Satan, and that it was God's will for me not to entertain thoughts
questioning Christianity. But I just wanted to confirm whether or
not what I'd been taught growing up was true... But neither critical
thinking nor its results ended up jiving with what I'd been taught."
"...I'd LOVE to set all those bags of writing scraps of yours on fire
and have a big bonfire celebration. I know you have your struggles
and your OCD, but, under it all I think is a spiritual issue."
I go into the bathroom and cry, looking into the mirror and say,
"What have I done...", starting to cry harder.
I make up my mind that I will go to a new school; my parents don't
want to fund Syracuse without my music scholarship, and I feel that
my obsessing would worsen with a return to the intensive music
program there. This is okayat least I'll get out of here, and state
schools aren't all bad.

42

Chapter Nine
Matt
"So I told my doctor I couldn't sleep; she started me on two generic
sleep-aid pills. After the first night, I woke up covered in Reese's
Pieces and surrounded by pee trailed to and from the bathroom.
Then I asked her to lower the dosage, and, after the next night on
one pill, I woke up smeared with chocolate and surrounded by
Snickers wrappers. After another lowering of the dose, I woke up
clean but very irritableapparently I was furious that I couldn't get
my midnight chocolate fix."
I laugh hysterically throughout this story, with tears at times.
"Matt, should we go into Target now?"
"Well, I just met you..."
"We've known each other for at least three weeks."
Matt and I linked almost immediately upon meeting and, while
we're both gay, we're just friends, though our sexuality is one of the
very many levels we relate on.
At the counter for the fitting room, Matt hits me with a catalog filled
with coupons and says, "HereRead this!"
I throw it across the aisle behind me and say, "I can't read!"
Laughing, picking up the catalog several yards away, pointing to
one of the coupons, Matt says, "If I ever got something at that low a
price, I'd throw it at the cashier and demand it for free."
"Your phone is ringing."
Handing it to me, "Answer it"
43

"Wha"
"It's a blocked numbermake sure it's Ally and not my crazy
neighbor."
Answering it, "Are you crazy?"
Ally laughs and answers, "Yes. I'm in Target now."
"So we! Sowwy! Sorry." To Matt now, I say, "I need to go make
sure Ally knows where we are."
"She's fine."
As I start walking away, I pivot and respond, "She's fine."
Ally very soon finds us and as I'm pouring a huge pocket-full of
change on the counter to count.
Feigning embarrassment, Matt comments to the woman behind the
counter, "SorryHe's crazy."
"I'm just more distracted recently", I say as I pull out a pen and a
small worn piece of paper already filled with crowded writing. "I
have to write this down to use in a story." I explain to the woman
behind the counter, who has said very little so far, that I'm told I
have "hypergraphia" that's just gotten worse recently, but I also
intend to use much of what I write for stories, essays, pieces of
music, and books of poetry.
Ally comments how she saw a cute boy walking past us. I say, "I
knowhe's from my high school, but I didn't talk to him because I
wasn't proud of myself."
Ally laughs and then asks, "What should we do now?"

44

Matt responds, "I want to go somewhere."


"Where do you want to go?"
In an obnoxiously animated and strange voice, "CHINATOWN
DISCOUNT FURNITURE WAREHOUSE!"

45

Chapter Ten
Suicidal Ideation
December 15, 2005 Journal Entry:
Things have only gotten worse. I wish I could make sense of all in
my mind. I have so many thoughts that they all run into each other
and I can't finish attending to even one recently; I only get confused.
I have found some poems in looking back through my bags and
bags of collected scraps that better articulate than I can now at least
some of what I am feeling.
I sit here researching painless and easy ways to commit suicide
while the heat has been turned off in my on-campus apartment for a
few days after most students have left for break. I don't care. I
hope someone finds this and at least understands what happened to
me. I want this to stop so I can feel okay again; but if I can't, then I
shouldn't do anything. I'm not sure if that's rational, but then that
only goes to show how irrational I am recently; and, I'd rather die
than be this way. But then I feel this writing doesn't represent
myself accurately anywayas nothing can, and as nothing is
certain, and as I'm screwed up.
Psychotic Entanglement
I am trapped in a maze of mazes,
using a faulty mind to distinguish confused thoughts from sane
ones,
all the while wanting to communicate some sense of deep beauty,
only to bewilder or be misunderstood.
Retreat of the Mind
I hide in the shadow patterns
within vortexed labyrinths
and am safe, yet think myself to sleep.
46

Psychotic Burden
It is sad that I can neither share exactly the way that I experience
nor allow myself to just enjoy thoughts and feelings I find intensely
meaningful.
It Shines Through
whatever it is you do
it is the sadness that shines through
Sleep Now
Sleep now, child, for day is waking
and all that was is not forsaken.
That thou hast lost in battle strong
is but a weary eye in evening song.
A morning star will rise again:
You will sleep,
but soon will wake,
for you some unseen form will take.
(All this, you know, is ill-lived brattle;
silent thoughts, once spoke, unravel.
Just imagine as you die
that something's worth it,
something lasts.)

47

Chapter Eleven
Hospitalization
How odd for my parents of all people to rescue me. Or maybe not
that odd. I want to go to Minnesota to start college and life in a new
place, but they tell me that only exemplifies why I need to seek
professional help.
*
I write ferociously on a bleakly snowy ride down to the Yale-New
Haven Hospital, trying exhaustively to wrack my brain for any way
to end my suffering without hospitalizationany conclusion that
will finally end this cycle of searching, spinning, and searching, as
I've sought for nearly three years.
*
After all, it's not so bad herebut some days it feels prison-like,
when one of the doctors isn't in, for example, and I just feel trapped,
rather than in the middle of progress. At least I get passes to walk
around the building... Next week I may be approved to get "home
passes"or it doesn't necessarily have to be a visit to home; it could
be to see Matt and/or Mel.

48

Chapter Twelve
Respite from the Hospital
I feel like this is the first ounce of freedom I've had in my life. I
ride a bus to Pittsfield, where Matt and Ally are waiting for me, on
my first "home pass". I'll see my parents toosomething I
seemingly oddly look forward to. But, for now, this is near-ecstasy.
*
"So Ally had to go where?"
"I don't know...to Boston, to look at a cup."
"Hahah... What does that mean?"
Matt does a little dance to answer me and, as we are on hard
pavement at the bus station, I intensely scream, "I'm afraid you're
gonna fall and KILL yourself!"
Matt and I decided to go to the local Mall, and we catch up while he
drives.
"I hope you are happy to know that I told the people at my work
in the meeting I was inthat I had to excuse myself to go on 'a very
important adventure'. The group leader was amused but very
confused, so I said that I had to visit my friend from a mental
institution. ...I didn't leave it at that, though; and, they understood
and let me go."
"That was nice of them."
...
"So, Tom came to have dinner with me at my new apartment."
"Did he eat more?"

49

"...What? ...But I really had to work on a paper; still do."


It's May, but I interject, "Maybe it will snow", meaning maybe
school will be canceled.
Once we arrive at the mall, we decide to first go into a coffee shop.
Regarding the coffee we both decide to get, I say, "I like it."
"I don't."
"Me neither." I motion chucking the hot coffee and two big
shopping bags filled with clothes I just manically charged to new
credit cards over the railing onto shoppers and their children below.
"What if I did that and it hurt at least one person, but I apologized as
if it were an accident, but it wasn't an accident?"
Later, Matt takes a baby doll from a basket outside a toy shop and
holds it to my face, saying, "Tell it a secret." I whisper in its ear, but
Matt says "He didn't LIKE it" and whips the doll through the air so
that it very loudly hits the wall on the other side of the shop
entranceto its left, while we stand to its rightbut lands in
another basket. "NOW you made me KILL it."
...
We were planning to stay over at Matt's new apartment but, at two
in the morning, we decide to drive to the beach instead. As we head
on our way east, thinking she might still be up for some reason, I
leave a voicemail for my friend Diana. I had talked with her just
earlier in the day and forgotten to call her back soon after, even
though I said I would. (I was just getting off the bus when she
called.)
"Matt, she is a princess. Like, she's the sweetness nutmeg I've ever
blown away. ...But she's not answering. ...But I still love her; we've
kept in touch since I first went to Syracuse, even though I don't see
her often. Maybe you'll meet her soon. Ohlet me leave her a
50

message:
"Hi, I was wondering if maybe you'd want to rent and watch a video
of 'Lamb Chops's Play-a-long' with me? We could drive to Iowa
City to a video store there, and if we don't have a TV, we could buy
one there and plug it into a telephone pole wire in a field somewhere
to watch it there. But also, we should get candy maybe at a gas
station on the way somewheremaybe Pennsylvania. And, if we
don't have any money for these things, maybe we could find a way
to sell our bodies in order to afford the candy and/or video and/or
gas and/or TV, and then we could watch 'Lamb Chops's Play-aLong' in that field."
"That was a beautiful story."
...
After the sun has started to rise and we start passing through beach
towns, we notice a lady jogging with three ferocious-looking dogs
on leashes. Matt comments, "Are those wolves?"
"No, they're dogs." I flip them off as we drive by.
"Did you just flip them off?"
Angrily, "Yeah, I hate wolves."
We soon reach the beach. As we park, I semi-excitedly comment,
"We can go look at the tidal poolsthere are crabs there."
"I want crabs."
"Remember when I had crabs? I had them then tried to get rid of
them but they didn't go away but then I got rid of them."
"Ohthat's the best story that anyone's ever told."

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Motioning toward the main beach, "But I want to go look at the


fancy first!"
As I gather all my belongings, Matt soon outpaces me, yelling,
"Hurry upI'm out of breath!"
Dragged down by my bag full of notebooks for writing, my
computer, ethnic flutes, a sweatshirt, other clothes, and hats, I
complain, "Why did I bring my bag? I think to be cool or
something..."
"Hahah..."
"...Oh, and guess what?"
"What?"
"...I don't remember."
...
"Look at the boat!"
In response to this request, I hiss and stick my tongue out at the
boat.
Feigning intense anger, Matt says, "What's that!? I hate this rock",
as he picks it up and throws it. As we continue our slow, leisurely
pace along the beach, the tide suddenly rushes under our shoecovered feet. Matt very passively says, "Oh... We're walking into
the water by accident."
We decide to sit for a while on a towel Matt brought in his
fashionable beach tote. I share stories about the hospital so far and
ideas that I've come across, including realizations about what's been
going on with me for a few years now.

52

"Although I feel my mind has gone on vacation recently, apparently


I'm articulate, which I don't think is truebut it's at least true to this
relatively slow schizophrenic man on my floor. He told me that I
have a 'good... what's it called... VOCABIHLARYthat's it...'."
Matt laughs and then I continue, "It's also been offered to me that
losing the only worldview I had ever known, which would be
anxiety-provoking for anyone, was basically traumatic for me in my
obsessive and high-anxiety personalitythough I already knew that
I guess... and I may have 'Psychotic Disorder NOS' and/or bipolar
and/or a type of temporal lobe epilepsy called 'Geschwind
Syndrome'... I don't think I know anything anymore..."
"You know a lot; you're just going through a hard time, to say the
least."
"And something else I've found is that I have some difficulty being
serious... But you are a good friend."
"I don't have that problem at all, either..."
"Haha... But I guess humor is a great way to relate to someone on
many levels simultaneouslyfrom irony to enjoyment, mutual
understanding, camaraderie..."
"That makes sense. And I really think I wouldn't be in the relatively
functional state I am today if it weren't for you befriending me at
MCLAI probably would have stayed friends with those people
who today are heavily involved in drugs."
I smile and, after a pause, I refer to a scrap of paper I've been
keeping clenched in my fist with a pen to write on every few
minutes. I say, "Hey, listen to this; let me know if this makes sense:
"'...This change may involve felt equal to more to less congruence/
positivity. The way one would feel the most congruence/positivity
and with what determines what one will achieve the most success
53

with. Congruence may not be proportionate to what ultimately/


absolutely causes things, but as long as there is congruence amidst
perception, this is all that matters and all that can matter in terms of
one's well-being, at least for a time...'"
I stop then say, "...Wait. I'm confused."
"It's okay... I think I get what you're saying."
"I don't get what I'm saying. But I do feel better recently on this
new med mix they've given meI just feel less 'spinny' in my mind
and less cringingly 'angsty' about thinking and reality and things
like that. ...And I guess I feel more able to slowly reason out what
I've been looking for for so long: something to base my life on
again."
We sit in silence a bit before getting up when, as Matt has sand all
over the seat of his pantsas probably do I, I pretend to be a
snobby female teenager that snobbily, though with sincere surprise,
comments, "Vanessa, are those shit stains on your pants again?"
Matt responds, "What the fuck!!!?", spoken as if an angry
developmentally disabled fat teenager who doesn't much move her
saliva-stuffed mouth, bloated tongue, nor jutted-out lower jaw.
...
As we pass a sign posted on one of the empty lifeguard chairsa
poster of a seal with a "thought bubble" over its head housing a
question mark, Matt comments, "That horse is saying 'question
mark'."
"Do you believe in horses?"
"No."
...
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Matt drives me to my parents', which is on the way for him back to


Pittsfield. I ask him to cover all his gay-themed bumper stickers in
mud ahead of time. And, since he wants to come in and meet my
parents, though I'm hesitant about that, I tell him to talk about his
"girlfriend" who doesn't exist.
Matt and my parents make some friendly small talk as I rush to use
the bathroom after the long drive from the beach. As I come back
out, Matt says, "Your parents and I talked for like eight minutes."
"What did you all talk about?"
"Well, actually, we mostly danced."
"I wish I could dance."
"Well, maybe if you had some friends..."
"I don't."
"You can go to Old Sturbridge Village and make friends."
"I don't want to be friends with people who pretend they're from
another time."
...
As we all bid farewell to Mattafter a surprisingly pleasant
interaction between him, me, and my parents, I notice that he
forgot to hide a very loud and large rainbow peace-sign magnet on
the front of his car, but I'm sure the world won't end about it.

55

Chapter Thirteen
Hermitic Retreat
I'm sitting in the dimly-lit kitchen area of my new studio apartment
subsidized as part of a program for mentally ill young adults. I am
staring at my laptop's screen on this short, round table after scrolling
through nearly a hundred pages of a single-spaced and paragraphfree word document. I look past the screen to a candle I lit behind it
meant to replace the blown ceiling lamp bulb. The light begins to
cause my eyes to water, but then I start to cry, turning away from
the screen as if it would judge me. I tighten and curl my body and
features to steady my pulsating frame. I catch myself letting out the
beginnings of a scream.
Noticing the snow falling strikingly fully but silently outside the
windows, I soon collect myself. I shut my laptop and begin to
approach the right of my two windows. I open the window and
stretch my arm out into the cold opaqueness, collecting a handful of
snowflakes. Bringing my arm back inside, I stare at the crystals and
examine them as they melt. Though my arm is soon only wet and
my hand holds only water, I keep it cupped as if it holds more. I
close my eyes and tilt my head back. Though tears crawl down my
cheeks and with more intensity than before, a soft smile begins to
form on my face.
I return to the table with my laptop and open an envelope addressed
from my parents that sits on top of a host of other unopened mail on
the edge of the table and on the floor.

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Chapter Fourteen
Brotherly Advice
"Joe?"
"Hey, Tim."
"How are you?"
"I'm doing well, you?"
"Actually pretty well too... I'm feeling better recently."
"That's good to hear."
"I know I'll always have ups and downs, but I think it's really helped
to try and get out more and stay in better contact with peopleeven
just to ask for help. And realizing this was an epiphany that also
tackled my writing; I think whatever philosophy I come up with has
to center around the need for relationships. I feel like I finally
actually have some direction now."
"That's really great, Tim. And I would agree that any philosophy of
worth has to emphasize others. That actually loosely relates to what
I'm studying now."
"What is this now?"
"LevinasI've talked to you about him before, I think."
"Yeah! I like him... I think I need to get a little more stable before
delving into a lot of reading though; it's still kind of hard to focus on
much when I'm so drawn to think my own thoughts about
everything."
"That's okayand I actually get that way too."
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"...So how have you been?"


"Well, let me just first ask what else has been going on with you."
"...Well, I want to do this article that would sum up a new life
philosophy for me. But I don't just want to do it for myself. ...And
I know I could do other things for others right now, but I think this
is a really necessary first step in order for me to get there and then
maybe be able to offer more than I would otherwise to people."
"That sounds really good, Tim. I think this could be really healing."
"Yeah... And, just so you know, I don't want this to involve going
through my thousands of scraps! Hehe, that would be a little
crazythough I do want to do some of that later, to look for nonphilosophy-related ideas I could use for other writing."
"I was going to ask about that, hehe... Just be careful with it. But I
know you'll finish, and then we can all have a big bonfire
celebration with your scrapsif you want, I mean."
"Well... not that I'd keep them per se, but I'd like to preserve them
somewheresomehow."
"Yeah... that could be interesting for someonemaybe even you
to go back and sort through."
"But I'm really just focusing on this article nowbut not too much,
I'd like to think. ...But I'm also afraid it could never end and I'll
never really get out of this part of my life."
"Well, you know, the word 'essay' is derived from French 'essayer',
'to try'. That's all you can dobut supplemental to the support you
have all around you, relationships."

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Chapter Fifteen
Dream-Inspired Writing
June 25, 2008 "Dream Journal" Entry:
I had this dream where these creatures in space calling themselves
my mentors revealed to me that space, time, and size are finite yet
circular or, rather, "spherical". Traveling in one direction long
enough brings one back to the same space, time loops, and looking
in a microscope deep enough brings you to the largest perspective
of things but eventually back to where you were first looking
while a telescope does the same thing but with the smallest
perspective of things, but "smallest" and "largest" really
synonymous. These creatures had resplendently white deer skulls
and called themselves the Eklohn and the Elkohn, and they spoke of
"Oracles" who knew even more than they, and then of the "Terror"
above the Oracles that no one knew thoroughly about. I traveled
through far depths of space and saw blue and pinkish lights swim
through slowly shifting metal spokes that were somehow "stars".
This prompted me to research about time and space circularity, or
"sphericalness", and led to the beginning of an article devoted to
this topic. And I think now I know how to best proceed with my
other article, which I hope to be part of a book of essays. I plan to
preface the book with the following:
"Through years of mental spinning due to unchecked ObsessiveCompulsive Disorder, I could barely finish a given thought of the
hundreds of philosophical ideas that ran through my head each day.
However, I was able to gradually build on the ones I did finish and,
though more slowly than I would have liked, I redeveloped a
seemingly coherent worldview after losing my childhood religion at
the age of eighteen. This was aided by relationships, medication,
and therapy and yet also provided therapy in and of itself, providing
some felt wholeness to my mind for once in about six years. Since
2009, I have felt able to think and write clearly about established
59

and new ideas of mine. My dream is to communicate them not just


for their own sake but to encourage people currently suffering in
ways I have.
"For whatever this book is worth, I want to dedicate it to my brother
Joseph Ballan, a mentor James Caldwell, and my friend Melanie
Cataldo. These people have provided invaluable advice and
conversation regarding the redevelopment of my worldview."

60

Chapter Sixteen
A Summative Poem
What is more miraculous,
for belief to arise from honestly-sensed mere possibility
or that one wittingly to not deludes themselves
for some hope of heaven or fear of hell?
What is less miraculous
is that sensed in honesty more probable,
what can in honesty be held.
There may be a spirit world
in the true form of things
I can only approach
and only seemingly.
Yet I tremblingly desire this form
and am thus forced to revere
unavoidable methods of thought
used even by the deluded
in all but what they've wished into their heads.
Whatever path of some consistency,
we find that self is not the way to peace.
But more peace is found in honest look within that self.
*
A gaseous thing on Jupiter
mirrors my galavanting
as a form of carbon.
Between one person's thoughts about the past,
and ink on woven wood or singing waves in space,
Between a guess about something,
and messages in hands or eyes,
Maybe a pattern similar to that of particles and their movements
61

composing all of this.


To take a child's new wonder
with a peer through a telescope,
To find a signal of a body strengthened
for helping young or old,
To take your body's energy
and devote it to helping yourself to help others is
To hopefully be aligned with spinning dots enough
for the promise of more gratification in wonder,
To show an even better self and world.

62

Chapter Seventeen
To Practice Social Effectiveness
October 30, 2009 Journal Entry:
I'm literally covered and surrounded by crumpled paper sitting on
my bed in my new shared apartment's small room; I finally went
through my scraps, much less thoroughly than I envisioned long
ago, but thoroughly enough to gather and type up writings I had
labeled as "journal entries", ideas for stories, poem drafts, and
musical ideas. Over the next few weeks, I will start organizing
these writings into personal and also potentially publishable
documents.
But I realize now that, after all this work and anticipation in
finishing my article, a book of essays, and now unburdening myself
from these scraps, I've kind of let myself down. But I know what I
have to do. Though I plan to always journal, think, and create, I
have to get out of myself. I must focus on helping others like I've
been helped.

63

Chapter Eighteen
Getting Out of Myself
I sit with my parents at a familiar restaurant, laughingly conversing,
sharing ideas, often disagreeing, but retaining mutual respect and
even interest and openness. I talk of three recent musical
compositions of mine: two chamber pieces entitled "Funeral for
Religion" and "A Lonely Night in Rural Central New York", and a
choral piece entitled "A Part of You". I go to the bathroom and look
in the mirror just to see myself rather content, though I don't smile.

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About the Author


Timothy Ballan is a composer and writer who currently resides in
Western Massachusetts. As a composer, Timothy mostly writes
accessible classical music. As a writer, Timothy mostly writes
plotless stories, atmospheric vignettes, poems, and non-pretentious
philosophy. When not composing or writing, Timothy leads several
musical groups in urban youth development programs, teaches
private piano lessons, and tutors youth in various academic subjects.
In his free time, Timothy enjoys driving on country roads, hiking,
watching scary movies, and sharing time and an absurd sense of
humor with his human and mint-flavored bobby-pin friends.

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