Written by Devan T. Penegar & edited by Camille Dalke-Rogers.
“THERE’S BLOOD IN THE SINK. A LOT OF IT.”
The young lady gave me no reply. I walked back to the bed where she was now, with laser-like focus, cutting a line of blow on the nightstand with a credit card. Again I yelled, “WHO’S BLOOD IS THAT?”
Life didn’t start out so strange. When I was eight years old my parents lived in this magical place called Oakridge Acres. The roads weren’t paved and it was deep in the woods, perfect in its isolation. The rest of the world didn’t seem to matter out there. Who could be concerned with scandals in the news when ducks and geese ran freely across the yard? It was Heaven.
My favorite pastime was pretending to be a movie director. I would tie a t-shirt around the neck of my tabby cat, Milo, fashioning a cape. I would then setup a VHS camcorder and film us as caped crusaders, chasing the geese (our sworn enemies) down to the pond.
My parents owned half of that pond. The property line went right down the middle. The neighbors were laid back and I could go over into their yard at any time to play with their abundance of goats.
One day I carried a basket around and gathered up what I thought were berries, not realizing they were perfectly spherical little goat droppings.
I bonded with one goat in particular named Bucky. He was an ornery motherfucker to everyone but me. Some mornings I would just sit with Bucky and stare out at the pond, content to do nothing but listen to bird songs.
That all felt like a lifetime ago as I sat in my psychiatrist’s office at age 15. He gave me an extra dose of Depakote (all hail the emotionally flat lining answer to lithium in the 2000’s). He said something about how my dosage needed to be increased. It should have occurred to me how unusual it was to be asked to take a pill during the session, especially without parental consent, but, in hindsight, many of his oddities were overlooked. Before this particular day, I thought the man was merely an eccentric who bent the rules. It sickens me to say, but I thought of him as cultured and worldly. I looked up to the bastard.
With sheer exuberance, an unusual emotion for the man, he turned his PC monitor to face me. At the time, I didn’t really understand what I was seeing. I realize now that it was a poorly shot snuff film. And I do mean poorly. If you’re going to take the time to film your hostage being tortured, you should at least have proper lighting to emphasize the pain on her face. That’s just common fucking courtesy for the viewer.
Yes, the times are different now. That shit wouldn’t fly these days. Thanks to the Internet, America has devolved into a bloodthirsty beast that thrives on being a vicarious witness to two emotions: joy and pain. And if you’re capturing the latter, by god, it better be in high definition.
In the previous sessions he had been talking about how he wanted to expand my thinking. He was encouraging me to shed my Christian upbringing like snakeskin so I could embrace, as he called it, “the knowledge of the unchained.” That sounds all good and noble but there was nothing remotely free on that screen. The woman was tied up for fuck’s sake. Aside from her nudity, there was nothing particularly sexual about the video. Even in my highly medicated zombie state (I was on a cocktail of unnecessary anti-depressants that year) I realized this was becoming less porno and more crime footage by the second.
A man in a black leather mask was caressing the tip of a drill bit.
Finally, after enough foreplay, he entered the power drill into the gagged woman’s asshole.
I should have asked why the sound was off.
Fuck that. I should have asked why the hell he got up to lock the door as the video played. I should have run, fought, or done something. Anything. But I felt like I was in a trance. I wanted to look away but couldn’t. It was becoming a struggle to hold onto a single thought.
Right as the blood was splattering, at close range, from her drilled hindquarters onto on the lens of the camera, the realization hit me: The pill he gave me had a different taste than Depakote. It was something else. What was happening?
My eyes were getting heavy. The drug kicked into full gear.
Everything went black.
I was asleep yet awake enough to know that I was asleep. I could think semi-coherent, cloudy thoughts and was aware of my surroundings. I felt myself being moved but could do nothing to stop it.
My body was numb.
A deadweight vessel.
A mime wanting to scream.
A horror show with a man’s heavy breathing as the soundtrack.
I woke up at one point to find that my psychiatrist was erect in my mouth.
“If I didn’t break you, someone or something else would.”
He said that as if it were his noble duty. Like he did me a favor.
My mind went black again.
The next time I came to, it was to find what was previously in my mouth was now in my ass. This isn’t how virginity is meant to be lost. It was in this particular moment, a light burned out in my mind. I became something not quite human. In the years since The Incident, I have often thought of myself as an actor from another world cast in the role of a human, hoping no one sees through the facade.
My eyes watered. I was still in his office. So close to the outside world. So close to getting help. Yet my throat failed to scrounge up a scream and my body was still too numb to move.
In the words of Dante Alighieri, “There is no greater sorrow than to recall our times of joy in wretchedness.” I imagined a simpler time, an age without prescriptions and vague labels of personality disorders forced upon me. When the mind chooses to focus on a positive memory to avoid dealing with a negative experience, psychologists refer to it as reverting to a tangent memory.
I dreamed I was in Oakridge Acres.
I dreamed I was playing with goats.
[Fast forward to sometime in my early 20s.]
A woman with jet black hair was on the floor, erupting into a fit of hyena-like laughter.
What had we become? We weren’t making any sense. My head was pounding. What fucking day of the week was it? Was the weekend over? Have I already been fired from work? And why are my nipples so fucking sore? These important thoughts rattled around in my skull. To calm my inner storm I had to pick one question and ask it. I went with the most pressing one.
“Yo, why are my nipples so sore?”
She stopped laughing just long enough to offer up “clothespins” as her only explanation.
During a hazy night of snorting crushed Xanax, I escaped from a boring party with a chick to a hotel. I didn’t remember her name. Maybe I had never learned it.
I rolled off the bed and stumbled around, gathered my clothes and nearly tripped over an empty bourbon bottle. In the bathroom, there was dried blood in the sink.
“THERE’S BLOOD IN THE SINK. A LOT OF IT.”
I walked back to the bed where she was now, with laser-like focus, cutting a line of blow on the nightstand with a credit card.
“WHO’S BLOOD IS THAT?”
She giggled and said, “Enough yelling, dude. It’s yours. You were flossing last night.”
“All that blood is from flossing?”
“Dude, you lost it. You were flossing for like an hour. Til blood was pouring out of your gums. It was creepy. Like your mind went elsewhere and you just kept flossing on autopilot like a lunatic.”
I checked the mirror and feigned a toothy grin. I looked like hell.
This had happened before as a teenager. Memories of The Psychiatrist having been in my mouth constantly resurfacing. When I attempted to floss or brush my teeth, a flashback would hit, followed by an unclean feeling washing over me. By the time I snapped out of it, the sink would be Jackson Pollocked with blood. For a while I just avoided dental maintenance altogether, hoping these episodes would stop. I was known for my horrendous breath in my late teens.
In my early 20s, nearly every night was a wild, drunken party. I was having fun, right? I thought these detached mental outbursts were finally over. After the dirty hipster girl put her clothes on and left the room, I stood there terrified I would repeat this bloody sink scenario again and again.
Nietzsche’s “The Gay Science” springs to mind. Nietzsche presents a hypothetical ‘what if’ scenario: A demon creeps up on you late at night and informs you that the life you have lived, and will continue to live, will be the same life you will live again and again in an eternal loop.
Every moment of joy.
Every moment of horror.
All to be relived again.
Nietzsche’s question, paraphrased, “Would you cry out in despair over such a prospect, or would you think it to be the most wonderful outlook ever?” At that age, facing my bleeding gums in the hotel mirror, I wouldn’t have found anything wonderful about that outlook at all.
One of my favorite moments in television is episode five in season one of True Detective. There is a scene in which the dialogue hit home, stabbing into the heart of PTSD. The two detectives find a boy and girl, victims of sexual assault, locked away in a room. The boy is dead. The girl is catatonic. After rescuing the girl, detective Rust goes on a Nietzsche influenced rant.
“Someone once told me, “Time is a flat circle.” Everything we’ve ever done or will do, we’re gonna do over and over again, and that little boy and that little girl, they’re gonna be in that room again and again and again. Forever.”
Sure, that character was arguably speaking about time theory in a literal sense, it also serves as a metaphor for PTSD and how those afflicted find themselves reliving a moment again and again.
Medical experts who have handled cases of PTSD are unanimous that some of its symptoms are not only psychological but also physical. The psychological impact that they treat are, largely, the effects of a physical process that has taken place in the brain. This takes place when the brain is subjected to extreme duress.
A research study conducted by the University of Alabama on the effects of stress revealed that people who experienced sexual assault at a tender age had physical alteration to the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that handles stress, learning ability and memory. It interacts closely with the medial prefrontal, the area of the brain that controls reactions to anxiety and fear. When somebody suffers from the PTSD, their brain becomes so active that the hippocampus’ volume or size can reduce by eight to ten percent. The rate of shrinkage in victims of sexual violence was concluded to be five percent higher than that of people who suffered from PTSD caused by other factors.
After reading about this research I couldn’t help but wonder, “What would a scan of my brain show? How much damage has been done?”
Days after the bloody sink scenario, I found myself connecting with someone. The potential for romance was there.
Of course, I denied myself. I’m sure she took it personally. Obviously I didn’t take the time to explain that it had more to do with me, not her. She belonged to the world, just like all creatures fully immersed in it. Not me. At that time I just wanted to observe. I wanted to detach from all emotions and move through this planet as a mere spectator.
At a very safe distance.