Ducklings don't belong in the Scottish highlands and roses don't belong on a Ford Mustang.
Does that sound foolish to you?
People say and do foolish things all the time.
Sometimes a person will do foolish things in the name of bravado. Sometimes a man will say foolish things for love. Sometimes a man will do foolish things and say foolish things to convince his friends or himself (or both) of something that isn't true.
Those aforementioned foolish and reckless (and invariably stupid) things will almost always land the guilty man-- and those he drags along with him-- into a hot mess of trouble. Sometimes they end up in prison, or hurt, or dead. In other cases they end up breaking something inside, some mental tent pole holding up the fragile canvas top that makes up their sanity.
We take that sanity for granted, those of us who have it. We pride ourselves on how sound of mind we are, how easily we're able to function and integrate into the status quo and take our places in the great cog machine that is society. We mock those who can't do the same, use the word "crazy" as a pejorative, throw around colorful and crass phrases like "mad as a hatter" and "nuttier than squirrel turds." Those who live on antipsychotics aren't really broken, we think. They collect disability checks (or "crazy checks") and we cast them off as lazy, worthless sponges who use mental illness as a way to get out of working like the rest of us, or out of the legal trouble in which they've found themselves.
Oftentimes, we never stop to consider that they might be genuinely broken, that they might have been pushed past some proverbial line in the sand. Something drove them to a point of no return. Circumstances beyond their control. Daddies who beat them with belts and called them sissies. Uncles who molested them for years. Cheating spouses. Children lost in car crashes. Freak accidents.
When you stop and think about it, it isn't that difficult to push a person to that point. The tether that keeps us from floating into the ether of insanity is as frail as a spider web. We teeter each and every day on the abyss, keeping a precarious balance and hoping that nothing happens that would send us over the edge.
What we fail to take into account is that the universe has a cruel, sometimes downright sadistic sense of humor. Some call it irony. Some call it “God's will” and that He “works in mysterious ways”. Call it what you like. Most people don't take this dark sense of universal humor into account, either because they don't want to see it or because their hubris will not allow them to do so.
Take this as an example: There was a girl who came from Germany to America as an exchange student. She dreamed her whole life of being a prima ballerina. She put everything she had into proving her worth as a dancer and into earning top marks in school. Through her-- as the expression goes-- blood and sweat and tears, she pursued her ambition as tirelessly as a cheetah pursues a three-legged gazelle. Her every single waking moment was taken up it, to the point that it almost became an obsession for her. However, obsession or not, the prestigious Juilliard School in New York accepted her for their fall semester and she was ecstatic. It seemed like all of her dreams were coming true.
Then came that terrible, black irony.
The day before graduation, she was out riding in a car with friends. Nothing so unusual about that, is there? They were celebrating the end of high school, the end of childhood, the realization of her dreams. The celebration came to an abrupt and unwelcome end when the car smashed into a tree. Everyone except Fraulein Ballerina escaped with only minor scratches. Both of Fraulein Ballerina's ankles were snapped and mangled to such a degree that she had to have reconstructive surgery.
With time to heal, she'd one day be able to walk again without the aid of crutches, but her dream of being a ballerina? Well, we'll call it the one fatality that the car accident could claim. Little Helga would never dance again, at least not professionally.
Isn't that one of the worst things you've ever heard?
In those moments, it would be easy for the jaded amongst us to blame God; to point a finger at the heavens, curse Him, and say that surely such a terrible incident-- a ballerina losing her ankles the day before graduation-- couldn't be mere coincidence!
It would be even easier for the faithful to dismiss it all and say that God was working in those “mysterious ways” I mentioned earlier, that He had plans for her. What plan? No idea. His mysterious plan is always mysteriously unspoken and full of mysterious mysteries. What was clear was that He had to snap her ankles. Otherwise she'd just go off and follow her dreams and it would be that much harder to get her to fall in line with this unknown plan.
It would be understandable if a person got angry at such a thing and told Him to send an email next time.
Perhaps it was just a chain of circumstances that started with her climbing into the car that day and God had nothing to do with it? Perhaps it was man's highway infrastructure and man's automobiles and man's lack of consideration or regard for each other that ultimately led to such a cruel turn of events.
Regardless, when things like that happen and people are pushed beyond their ability to rationalize, or internalize or to deny, the tent poles begin to snap. Then they become these so-called monsters.
Monsters. That's a dismissive word, just like EVIL.
He murdered thirty.
She drove the school bus into the river.
They went to school and shot twelve classmates and a teacher.
We refuse to entertain the thought that something-- even something small-- might have pushed them over the edge. And why should we? It's easy to deny the abyss until we fall into it ourselves.
Not all broken people are evil, and not all monsters are creatures from storybooks, from Stephen King novels and from Lovecraftian nightmares. Some monsters are made.
I see you looking at me. You think I'm talking about me? Or maybe you think I'm a monster and should be talking about myself.
I'm not a monster. The other one... the bad one... she was the monster. I don't know why she did it. I think her tent poles snapped a long time ago. Her circus tent came tumbling down.
In the end, it doesn't matter much anyway. I'm never going to get out of this... this prison in which I've found myself. I'll be stuck here forever. I'll die here and be buried here. The world will forget about me.
Whatever. There's no reason for anyone to remember me anyway. I think it's better that way. I no longer want to be remembered. Not like this. Not the way I am now. I want to be forgotten, to be blown away. Kansas once said that we're dust in the wind, and I find a strange peace in that. One day, Jacob Julius Jamison, or Three-J as my friends used to call me, will be forgotten to the sands of time. I will not even be a footnote in history. And when history forgets me, they forget what I've been accused of doing. What the other one-- what she-- actually did. And when history forgets that? Well, I guess that means history also forgives it.
Is that tape recorder rolling? Sigh. Guess I get to tell this story again.
I began my life in the upper-middle class neighborhood of Boogle Heights. A ridiculous name for a neighborhood whose local Home Owners Association enforced the rules with such strictness that it could be best described as dogmatic and overzealous. It was not unusual for lawns to be checked with measuring tape to ensure they weren't so much as a millimeter over the limit. The most minute details of external home maintenance were mandatory. Excessive fallen leaves during autumn resulted in reprimands and threats of fines.
The neighborhood was strict, yet there was a feeling of safety for those of us who grew up there. It was order, normalcy, sanity. Somewhere beyond the walls of our beloved gated community there was crime, but to me these were little more than scary stories repeated on the evening news. Our subdivision was a haven, a safe and sheltered port of call in the midst of a stormy and chaotic sea. Drive-by shootings and rape, murder and liquor store robberies; these were realities for others, but not for children who were kept to a strict curfew of 8PM on school nights and 9PM on weekends and holidays.
My best friend during the eighteen years those gates and closely patrolled streets protected us was my neighbor Thomas Durnam. Thomas was everything that I never aspired to be: popular, athletic, masculine. He was popular with the ladies as early as the fourth grade, when it was big news on the playground that he and Katie Miller kissed behind the bushes. Some even whispered that he'd shown her his wiener. She would neither confirm or deny it. She always responded: "Don't be gross." When I asked him about it, he turned bright red and wouldn't say anything.
In every way, Thomas was the all-American boy. He was every apple-pie eating hometown hero who ever was. He was a patriot (once he was old enough to know what that meant), he was a proud Boy Scout, and he loved his mama.
In stark contrast, I was none of those things. While he was Mr. Popularity, I was more than happy to have but a single friend. I despised everything that resembled sports and machismo. Saluting my flag seemed like an empty and meaningless gesture. And showing girls my wiener? Perish the thought! I lacked any interest in the fairer sex long after I'd started growing a tuft of pubic hair and waking up each morning with a throbbing erection. I knew I was gay by the time I was thirteen.
To all outside parties, Thomas and I could not be more of an odd pair. That we had managed to sustain such a mismatched yet deeply close friendship for so many years without so much as a single quarrel baffled some and led others to believe (during our mid-teenage years) that we might be lovers.
Though this was something I wished for in secret, Thomas never showed any sign to me that he had any interest in other boys. If anything, his heterosexuality grew more pronounced the older we became. By the time we were fifteen, it was rumored that the first girl he'd ever kissed-- Katie Miller-- had let him go all the way with her. It was the wiener thing all over again, but escalated.
She denied ever doing this, and he, ever the gentleman, confirmed to everyone that it was only a rumor. It was one of the things that I adored most about him. He'd had an opportunity to become a legend among our peers and let people believe he'd banged a girl before he'd received his learner's permit, but he chose the high road.
"If I ever find out who started that goddamn rumor, I'm gonna kill him," Thomas told me about a week later. We were sitting on the school bus on the way home. He was sitting directly behind me and the rage in his voice was unmistakable.
I turned and stared at him, my expression blank.
"Why do you think people do stuff like that?" I asked.
"To be assholes," Thomas said.
Thomas, to the best of my knowledge, never kicked anyone's ass, but Katie became a close friend to both of us. She became the voice of reason, the Hermione Granger to our Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. To their credit, Katie and Thomas never allowed their friendship to grow into anything more. I don't know if it was because they were afraid it was spark new rumors, or if the experience that had brought her permanently into our lives had snuffed out any romantic spark between them.
Not that there had been much of a spark there, anyway. Thomas was a boy of action; when he felt that something needed to be done, he did it. If it was something that he couldn't change, he would make attempts to find someone who might be able to help. If it was something that no one could change, or something so far out of his sphere of influence that his voice would be ignored, he let it go.
Katie was the polar opposite. While big on common sense and great with a word of good advice, she was all talk and little walk when it came to the issues. She crowed loudly about human rights, about dignity and political correctness, yet she did nothing about it. She posted frequently on Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat. She wrote a weekly column on Blogger about injustice and the unseen suffering masses. She was what the internet community mockingly refers to as an SJW-- a "Social Justice Warrior".
Social Justice Warriors. A mocking term for those who complain about societal issues from behind the safety of keyboards but do little to nothing to resolve said issues.
And she was one. One of the biggest, in fact. She fought a brave fight for gay rights; she fought for the rights of the Syrian refugees; she fought for the defeat of Donald Trump in the 2016 election; and she did it all from behind the anonymity of her screen name and almost exclusively through comments, rants and snide remarks. She felt at the time that she was doing something important, something great. It seemed-- to her, at least-- as though she was part of a movement that would be written about in the history books. Our generation would be remembered alongside Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King. And our war cry? Our marching chant as we goose stepped onto the battlefield?
And I think that our generation will be remembered, though not with the fondness of which people like Katie dream. Not with the greatness of the civil rights leaders of the past.
We will be remembered as fools. Fools who listened to terrible music, wore bad haircuts, bitched a lot and did very little.
That was Katie to a T.
Although Katie, as I found out over the next three years, was rather adept at reading people. That was one of her positive traits. She was the first person who correctly deduced that I was in love with Thomas.
"You should tell him," she said to me one day while I was sitting alone on the bleachers, watching him during football practice.
"Tell him what?" I responded.
"That you're in love with him," she said with a smile.
I stared at her for several moments, the blank and bored expression on my face never changing, before I looked away.
"I don't know what you're talking about," I said.
"I think you do," she replied, her voice kind and supportive. "Jacob, I've seen the way you look at him. I've seen the sadness and anxiety in your eyes every time he shows up with a new girlfriend."
"You're imagining things," I said.
"Am I?" she asked. "So you're telling me that you come out here and watch him practice because you enjoy it? Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you always saying how much you hate athletics and machismo?"
"Maybe I'm just being supportive," I said. "Maybe I show up here to be a good friend."
"Maybe," she echoed. "Maybe that's it. We both know it isn't. You don't have to lie to me, Jacob. I'm not going to spill your secret. I'm just worried about you."
On the field, the whistle blew and the players began their march back to the locker room. I tried not to imagine them in the nude, their bodies lathered up with soap and glistening beneath the fluorescent lights. I tried. I failed.
"Why are you worried?" I asked. "What difference does it make?"
"Because you need to tell him," she said. "His answer might surprise you."
At this, I did turn to look at her.
"Did you ever wonder why he's always parading around with a new girl, but he's never lost his virginity?" she asked. "Why those girls never seem to be with him more than a couple of weeks? He's the most desirable boy in town. He could have had it from just about any girl he wanted as far back as seventh grade."
"So why hasn't he?" I rasped, my voice all of a sudden as dry and rough as gravel.
"Think about it," she said with a smile. She got to her feet. "Then go talk to him."
With that, she walked away.
I left right after she did, but I didn't go home. I needed some time alone to figure things out. I ducked into the trees right across from the school and took the path down to the old drainpipe. My head was full of heavy thoughts, a loud and overwhelming hurricane of ideas that were all jumbled together. They all cried out in deafening voices, each demanding to be heard over the other. Was Katie trying to tell me that Thomas was in love with me? Or was she just encouraging me to find out? Was Thomas so skilled at hiding his sexuality that I'd somehow missed it for all these years? Was he in love with me? Did he somehow know I was in love with him?
These relentless questions were battering at me and chipping away at me little by little. I felt my anxiety growing and my composure slipping.
Sure, I'd dreamed of this possibility many times over the years. How I'd fantasized as a boy of Thomas coming into my room in tears, telling me he couldn't hide it anymore. In these dreams, the end result varied. If I was dreaming in public somewhere, he'd only kiss me and I'd kiss him back. If I was alone in the privacy of my room, the kissing would lead to passionate lovemaking. I would picture him on top of me, sweat beading on his forehead as he thrust into me again and again. I would claw his back and moan his name as his boyhood probed inside of me.
It was a fantasy romp very much like this one that led me to have my first orgasm at the age of fourteen. Still, a fantasy is all it was and all it would ever be.
Unless you do something about it, I heard Katie say, somewhere in the back of my mind. All of these things could happen if you just tell him.
I can't, I replied.
Some day he will find someone, Katie warned. And when he does, your heart will be more broken because you'll never know if it could have been you.
She was right. I knew she was right. I needed to tell him. I knew our friendship was strong, and that even if he didn't reciprocate my romantic feelings it wouldn't destroy us. I had to know. I couldn't wait any longer.
I knocked on his front door but no one answered. It was Friday night, which meant date night for his folks. He was usually home by this time, though. I figured he must have gone out for a pizza with the guys or something. No big deal. I could just let myself in-- after sixteen years I was like a member of the family-- and wait for him in his room.
I walked into the backyard and retrieved the key from under the rock where they always kept it hidden. I unlocked the back door, walked across the kitchen and through the living room, and made my way upstairs.
The upper landing of Thomas' house consisted of three rooms: a single shared bathroom, a master bedroom and a secondary bedroom. The master and secondary bedrooms were joined by a large walk-in closet with slotted doors at both ends. One half was reserved for Thomas; the other half for his parents. Thomas had been chastised or punished many times during their childhood for allowing his things to end up on his parents' side of the closet.
Thomas' room was a testament to everything boy: sports trophies, dirty laundry, muscle car pin-ups (complete with bikini-clad bimbos), empty Gatorade bottles, an unmade and dirty bed.
I sat on this filthy bed, then curled up on it and brought the blanket to my face. I breathed it in, the smell of Thomas. It was a manly scent. A scent of gases, of sweat, of dirt and cologne. I let myself believe in that moment that it might all be true. Thomas loved me. He would come in and we'd talk. I'd confess. He'd admit that he felt the same way. We'd share a tear-soaked hug that would turn into a kiss. Then we'd make love, right here on these gassy, sweaty, Old Spice blankets.
I smiled at the thought and clicked off the light. I lay there in the dark, thinking about Thomas and all that we'd been through. How should I approach the situation? Should I have a lead in? Should I just cut right to the point and throw myself at him? My, that would certainly surprise him.
Speaking of surprises, if he came home and found me in his bed in the dark, my hand down my pants-- how long had that been in there?-- he'd be surprised all right. It might not be a pleasant surprise, either. He might find it a little weird. Not a good way to start things off.
Maybe there was a better way.
Maybe I could work the surprise into it.
Then it hit me. I'd hide in the closet (save the wise cracks about a gay man being in a closet, if you please), jump out at him and scare him. He'd be mad at first, but we'd end up laughing about it. We'd done it to each other loads of times. That would get us horsing around again, and that would give me an opportunity to steer the conversation towards... well... us.
I stepped into the closet and pulled the door shut behind me. I crouched there in the dark for no more than two minutes, giggling and thinking of the look on his face, then headlights illuminated his room and I heard the unmistakable rumble of his car in the driveway. The mechanical whir of the garage door followed, then all fell silent. I expected as much. The garage was soundproof. His father had done it several years back. He'd had this idea of turning it into a recording studio, but the project had been abandoned when the ever-diligent Home Owners Association reminded him that every home with a garage was required to have a functioning automatic door. Disabling it to turn it into a soundproof studio wall was a violation of his contract.
From downstairs, a door closed. There were footsteps on the stairs. Too many footsteps. Someone was with him. I heard voices. One of them was distinctly female.
"Are you sure your parents will be gone all night?" the girl asked.
"Positive," Thomas said. They stopped outside of his bedroom. "We'll be all alone."
A sound of kissing, then giggling.
"Let's go to your parents' room," the girl suggested. "I'll bet they have a nicer bed."
"I dunno," he said. "It's kinda... I don't..."
"Pleeeeaaase?" she purred. She did something that made him grunt in pleasure and give in. Their voices moved toward the bigger room, and I decided I'd wait for them to enter, then I'd step out of the closet and make my way out of the house. No point in wondering any more if Thomas was straight or not. His voice was so full of lust and desire.
I heard them enter the master suite and I took it as my cue to try and leave. I pushed on the closet door, but it would not budge. The door had closed completely, snapping the latch back into place. The only way to disengage the latch was to turn the handle on the other side.
What was I to do? I couldn't get out through Thomas' side of the closet, and I certainly couldn't walk through the master bedroom without causing a terrible scene and looking like a complete creep. He wouldn't be in the mood to hear my excuses for hiding in his closet.
And even if I'd been willing to take the hit in reputation to respect his privacy, my panic had cost me too much time. The girl, for reasons I will never know, took two extra seconds before falling into bed to secure the closet from the master side. I was trapped between the rooms with no way to get out.
I thought it couldn't possibly get worse.
Then it did.
Then the sounds began.
The kissing. The sighing. Thomas admitted to her that he'd never. She said neither had she. Then she asked him to undo the clasps on her bra. There was more heavy breathing. More sounds of kissing. I dared a peek through the slats. I don't know if it was morbid curiosity, the anxiety of not knowing how long before the moaning and grunting began, or the ache of my broken heart driving me to perverse desperation. No matter the reason, I could see more clearly than I wanted to, and what I saw...
Jesus, what I saw!
I began to grow light-headed and disconnected, almost as though I was watching myself watching them.
Thomas was in nothing but his boxers, and she was in nothing at all. She was doing something with her mouth that would be inappropriate to mention in polite conversation. He moaned and closed his eyes.
How long had I been hard, and how long had I been fondling myself?
"God, I want you," he said.
"So take me," she said. "There's only one thing left to do."
I refuse to describe what happened next. In all honesty, it's hard for me to remember. I think I blacked out, because my memories become hazy. The next thing I recall, their coitus was over. I was shivery all over and my face was soaked with tears. At some point, I'd ejaculated all over the carpet, all over the back of the door, all over the high-heeled shoes and what looked like an expensive set of golf clubs. I sank to the floor as they engaged in pillow talk. I fought like hell to keep myself from sobbing.
After what seemed like forever, they got moving again. He said he needed to take her home and clean the place up before his parents got back. Then, as almost an afterthought:
"Jacob came by the field during football practice today. Again."
Why did he make it sound like such a big deal? I heard weariness in his voice. And a loud sigh. Like he was talking about someone he didn't like.
I could hear them getting dressed.
"The kid who lives next door. The weird one."
The weird kid who lives next door? Was he too ashamed to call me his best friend? Was he... ashamed of me? I didn't understand.
Silence from her, then:
"Ooh, the gay one. Right."
"Yeah, the gay one," Thomas said. "He's, like, crazy in love with me."
"That's sweet," she said.
"No, it isn't," Thomas snapped. "It's gross. And creepy."
I felt cold inside. That two-faced traitor.
"Because he's gay?" she asked. She seemed mad now.
"I don't care that he's gay," he replied. "He's weird. It would be a cold day in hell before he'd ever suck my dick."
The latch on the closet door clicked. I ducked behind a pile of stuffed animals.
"I'd suck your dick again if you want," she said, then giggled.
Thomas opened the door just far enough to toss in his duffel bag full of football gear, then he shut it again. He didn't even see the cum hanging from the slats like wet streamers.
"Tammy, don't be gross," he said.
The bedroom door closed behind them and I heard them walking down the stairs. Everything was going in reverse. The door that opened into the garage. Then the garage door opening. Then the revving of Thomas' car.
The house was silent after that. It was in this moment that I finally allowed myself to cry. I cried harder than I ever have in my life. I sat naked on the floor of the closet and bawled. Why had Katie encouraged me to do this? Why couldn't she have just left well enough alone? What Thomas and I had had worked fine for the fifteen years before she came into our lives. The only reason I saw my best friend lose his virginity to-- to who? Who was that whore?
Something inside felt loose.
Something inside was rattling.
Something inside was rumbling like storm clouds.
The abyss was calling.
After I freed myself from the closet, I went home and cried. I tried to calm the storm inside of me, the typhoon of heartbreak that I felt was destroying me. I called Katie and told her what happened. She was as upset as I was. She told me everything was going to be okay, that she'd take care of it.
I thought she meant she was going to talk to Thomas at school.
I had no idea she was going to kill him.
"That's when you decided to kill him," Doctor Rathgib said, looking at Jacob over her spectacles. "You killed him, Jacob."
It had been three years since the bloodbath at Boogle Heights. One year since he'd been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in psychiatric care.
"I didn't kill him!" Jacob shouted. "I would never have hurt him!"
"No, it was Katie," he insisted. "She got mad because she knew Thomas was hiding who he was. She knew that bedding the Tammy whore was just a way to bury his feelings for me. I never asked her to hurt him. I didn't want her to hurt him. He was my best friend."
"Katie killed Thomas because he had sex with Tammy to disguise his feelings for you?"
Rathgib sighed. It was the same old thing. These therapy sessions with Jacob never went anywhere. She dismissed him and the orderlies came and took him back to his room. Alone, she looked over his case file. She liked to consider herself not a good doctor, but a great doctor. She'd done groundbreaking work, had published three books, had testified before more courts in more countries than she could even begin to count.
Jacob was a tough nut to crack. She didn't want to call him hopeless, but they'd made no progress in the year they'd been talking. Every session ended almost the exact same way: he'd tell her the same story about how close he'd been to his friend Thomas. By the time he was done, he always pinned the blame back on Katie and he always had a massive, unconcealable erection. Sometimes he would fondle it and she'd have to ask him to stop.
She'd tried once-- and only once-- to help him progress by telling him the honest truth, from beginning to end. He had reacted violently, had called her a lying bitch, and for the next three weeks refused to say a word.
"It isn't true," was the first thing he said when he started speaking again. "Don't ever tell me those lies again."
The "lies" were documented in exhaustive detail in his case file, in the tabloid magazines, on murder enthusiast websites, and in two books written about the events.
Three-J was indeed raised in Boogle Heights next to a boy named Thomas. They'd had a friendship when they were very young, but something about Jacob didn't sit well with Thomas. He distanced himself from Jacob, but Jacob refused to acknowledge it. Thomas still talked to him in passing, mostly out of pity. During their fourth grade year, Jacob began to spread rumors that he and Thomas had kissed behind the bushes, and that Thomas had exposed his genitals to him. In truth, there had been no kissing and it had been Jacob who had exposed himself. Thomas had not reacted well to it, and Jacob, in an effort to save face and to keep himself from being the subject of ridicule, reversed the story.
In later years, he would embellish the story further by removing himself and substituting a girl named Katie.
The other children, to their great credit, knew better than to listen to such nonsense and supported Thomas. Thomas' parents came to the school and caused a scene, which in turn led to a conference with Jacob's parents in attendance. It was decided that Jacob would be required to visit a child psychiatrist once a week, and that no further action would be taken if no further incidents occurred.
This was not the case.
Over the years, Jacob continued to entertain the fantasy that he and Thomas were the best of friends. At least once a week, he attempted to sit with Thomas during the lunch period. Thomas would more often than not ignore him and eat his lunch in silence. Some days, he would get up, throw his lunch in the trash, and walk out. In some ways, it reminded Rathgib of Schroeder from Peanuts, playing his piano and doing his best to ignore Lucy.
As Jacob entered puberty, he began to exhibit predatory and unsettling behavior. He would brag about how he and Thomas had never had a single fight, and that they were as close as two people could be. He would randomly make up stories about people asking him if Thomas was his lover.
In reality, no one thought they were friends, let alone lovers.
By the time Jacob was fourteen, he'd started showing signs of Multiple Personality Disorder. There were long periods, sometimes lasting two weeks or more, where he'd don a long, blonde wig and answer only to the name of Katie Miller. Katie Miller, according to Katie herself, was best friends with both Jacob and Thomas. She was the Hermione to their Ron Weasley and Harry Potter, respectively. According to Katie Miller, Thomas adored her and had kissed her behind the bushes in the fourth grade.
Jacob was not allowed in school during his Katie periods. He was kept at home except when he was being seen by a psychiatrist. The school recommended long-term psychiatric care. His doctor recommended the same. The Jamisons did not want their baby boy in what they referred to as "the booby hatch". They argued that they were more than capable of taking care of him.
It was during these days that the debate over the rights of transgender students was getting heated, and the school board did not want a legal battle on their hands. They agreed to let Jacob remain in school so long as his behavior did not become threatening and that he remained on his best behavior.
Less than four months later, Jacob attempted to start a rumor that Thomas and Katie were having sex. Thomas fervently denied it, though he needn't have bothered; no one believed it but Jacob himself. According to reports made by other students, Thomas confronted Jacob about it on the bus, threatening him without actually doing so.
"If I ever find out who started that goddamn rumor, I'm gonna kill him."
"Why do you think people do stuff like that?" Jacob asked.
"To be assholes," Thomas said.
This was the last of Jacob's insanity that the Durnams were willing to tolerate. They demanded his removal from the school. They threatened to take legal action if Jacob Jamison attended one more day of classes. The school, by that point, did not need to be threatened. They, too, were tired of the Jamison boy. His expulsion took effect immediately.
If the Durnams had placed a restraining order on Jacob as they'd planned to do, everything that followed might have been different. The Jamisons would have been forced to move, Jacob would not have had such easy access to Thomas, and Thomas would not have ended up dead. Thomas would even now be away at college, Jacob nothing but an unpleasant memory for him.
Instead, the Durnams let the Jamisons talk them out of it. They all but begged them not to get a restraining order. They'd worked so hard and had gone through so much to obtain their beautiful home in Boogle Heights. A restraining order would force them to sell. Wouldn't they please reconsider? They promised to keep Jacob on a short leash and as far from Thomas as possible. They'd even restrain him if necessary. They'd get him long-term care and send him upstate if they found they couldn't handle it.
The Durnams never should have given in.
Over the next three years, the side of him that was Katie became more dominant, and so his parents kept him confined to the house. His outlet was the internet, where "Katie" set up her own social media pages and became one of the most infamous-- and obnoxious-- Social Justice Warriors the internet has ever known. Her screen name-- 3JLOVESTD-- became an unwelcome sight everywhere it popped up. YouTube comments, Reddit posts, and her universally loathed Blogger rants.
In one of those insane and disjointed diatribes, "Katie" went on endlessly (and erroneously) about how no one was fighting for the rights of the insane, and how no one was making any effort to care for and help them. She wrote:
No one-- at least no one with whom I came into contact-- was crying for better treatment of the crazies, the broken ones, the shattered ones. The ones in straight jackets and asylums. The ones who had seen or heard things that destroyed something inside of them.
Rathgib always had trouble not taking that personally. She had spent her entire career working to help what Katie called "the crazies".
And so things quieted down for awhile. Jacob's parents managed to keep him contained and away from Thomas for three entire years. They knew he needed more help than they were capable of giving, but they felt they had the situation under control.
They were wrong.
Jacob covertly purchased a long-range camera from eBay and took hundreds of pictures with it. He took pictures of Thomas leaving for school. He took pictures of Thomas retrieving the spare key from the backyard after he'd left his own set in his room. He took pictures from downstairs of Thomas entering the code for the home security system.
For ten months, he watched the house, plotting how he'd get in. All as Katie.
On the last afternoon of Thomas' life, Jacob slipped out of the house while his mother was napping. He showed up at the school wearing his Katie wig and a short skirt. He sat in the bleachers talking to himself as he watched Thomas at football practice. Everyone noticed him, including Thomas. The staff blew the whistle, ending practice early, and called the team inside while they called the police. By the time the police arrived, less than ten minutes later, Jacob had vanished.
Inquiring at the Jamison home turned up nothing. Jacob's mother told them she'd deal with Jacob when he returned home. The police officers handed her their card and told her to call them when her son returned. They were most interested in having a word with him.
Thomas, meanwhile, was shaken by the incident and didn't go straight home. He went to see one of his former girlfriends. Tammy Clairmont was a Sophomore from a neighboring school district. According to friends and family members, they'd ended the relationship on amicable terms and had remained good friends. Thomas went to her that evening, terrified and seeking comfort. He did not tell her why, not wanting to frighten her away. They went for pizza at around 6:15PM, and pizza led to a movie.
By the time the movie was over at 9PM, Thomas figured Jacob had either returned home or had been arrested. He had indeed returned home. After spending several hours sitting in the drainpipe, he'd come back to find his mother in a rage. She slapped him and asked him what the hell he'd thought he was doing. She showed him the card from the police officers.
He responded by smashing his mother's head with her own rolling pin. The medical report stated that three of her fingers on her right hand were broken. She'd tried in vain to shield herself from the blows. His father was out of town on a business trip at the time and wasn't scheduled home for two days, so her hands were the only thing between her and her son. His mother's time of death was placed at around 9:05PM.
Thomas and Tammy arrived at the Durnam home fifteen minutes later to have sex. Jacob watched them from the closet and masturbated. When Thomas took Tammy home, Jacob went home and cried.
This might have been the closest Jacob had ever come to breaking out of his fantasy world. He'd seen for himself that Thomas was quite heterosexual. He'd heard the nasty things Thomas had said about him. He'd called him weird. He'd disregarded Jacob's affections as "nasty". For once, the bubble he'd lived in all his life threatened to pop. Thomas didn't love him. Thomas wasn't even his friend. In reality, Thomas probably hated him.
Jacob couldn't face it, so Katie took over. Katie assured him that everything would be taken care of. Jacob put on the Katie wig and skirt, both covered in his mother's blood, then went to wait for Thomas. When Thomas returned around 11:05PM, Jacob emerged from the shadows and disemboweled him with a kitchen knife. When the Durnams arrived home mere minutes later, they found him cradling their son's mangled and cooling corpse. He was weeping and saying over and over, "Katie killed him. Killed him. Killed him."
Rathgib had a difficult job ahead of her. In order to help Jacob, she had to get him to admit that he killed Thomas, not Katie. In order to do that, she had to convince him that Katie was a product of his own imagination, a girl he'd invented to try and get Thomas' attention. Thomas had never had the slightest homosexual tendency, and on some level Jacob knew that and so tried to make himself more appealing by becoming a female.
Jacob had never loved or cared for Thomas; all he'd ever felt for the boy he'd murdered was obsession driven by primal, unfathomable lust.
Would Jacob ever be able to see that?
As far as Jacob was concerned, he'd loved Thomas more than anyone else ever could. The idea that he'd actually killed the boy that he believed he'd loved so deeply was more than his already shattered mind could handle.
At least no one else will be hurt, she thought as she packed up her bag. This thought brought her no comfort whatsoever. She was going home to her family, to her wonderful husband and her two living, breathing children.
She thought of something from Katie Miller's journal that, in light of everything that had happened, seemed to resonate with her.
No one thinks of the crazy people until they have to. They try to fix them by giving them drugs. They force them to fit into a society to which they will never belong. It's like taking a piece from one puzzle and trying to force it to fit with another puzzle. The piece might eventually go in, but the round connecting edges will be bent and warped, the image on the surface will be rippled and distorted, and it will never look like it belongs there. Imagine a completed image of the Scottish highlands with a fragment of yellow duckling sitting in the center. Imagine a shiny 65 Ford Mustang with roses where the door handle ought to be.
We try to force them to fit so we can continue marching, continue turning the endless cogs of progress. When the drugs don't provide enough cover to hide their imperfections, they are sent away to asylums. Out of sight, out of mind.
And does this system work? This process of painting over blemishes or sweeping them under the rug?
It does until one of them decides to remind society that they are there, that they are human and that they are suffering.
Gunshots. Thirteen with their brains all over the carpet.
Explosions. Twenty-two blown to bits.
Rampages. Eight-four run over in the street by a truck.
Society takes notice then, don't they? They stop and they remember. They mourn their dead and wonder how it happened. Fat, dumpy women on the six o'clock news bawling into a microphone, snot running down their faces, asking WHY WHY WHY.
Because ducklings don't belong in the Scottish highlands.
Roses don't belong on a Ford Mustang.
Broken people cannot be pushed aside without eventual repercussions.
Rathgib pondered all of these things as she merged into interstate traffic.
As crazy as Jacob is, she thought, he's right.
Everything was done to hide, overlook or otherwise disregard Jacob's issues. From the first incident until the absolute last, little action was taken.
One boy shows another his genitals? Boys will be boys! Let the kid talk to a therapist.
He's pretending to be a girl? Transgenderism is a sensitive issue right now. Let's not touch this one. As long as he doesn't hurt anyone.
Restraining order? Let's not blow this out of proportion; we really enjoy our lovely home.
Why did no one force the issue? Why did no one insist or even demand that the boy receive continuing, long-term care? There were so many signs. Roughly thirteen years of them. Why did no one see them for what they were?
No one thinks of the crazy people until they have to. They try to fix them by giving them drugs. They force them to fit into a society to which they will never belong.
They stop and they remember. They mourn their dead and wonder how it happened. Fat, dumpy women on the six o'clock news bawling into a microphone, snot running down their faces, asking WHY WHY WHY.
Because ducklings don't belong in the Scottish highlands.
Roses don't belong on a Ford Mustang.
In his own way, Rathgib had realized long ago, Jacob had been using Katie's blog to subconsciously warn people of what was to come. He was screaming out for help, but his voice was drowned out by the grinding of the cogs and the thunder of the ever-moving pistons of society's progress machine.
The machine rolled over him as carelessly as a lawnmower rolls over an anthill. It sucked him in, chewed him up, spit him out. And he pulled Thomas into the blades with him, kicking and screaming.
Written by SawmillTurtle