The only thing I take seriously is my Freedom. And Bacon.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

I'm Kind Of Glad He's Dead - Second Chapter

“It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.” ― Thomas Paine

Dale and I had been friends since I joined a volunteer emergency medical services (VMSC) corps  when I was in my early 20’s and Dale was just a few years younger than I. Our volunteer days were in  late 80’s early 90’s (think Madonna, Whitesnake, Wham).
Also popular back in those years was the movie Top Gun. People joked that Dale looked a bit like Tom Cruise (Dale’s image would change drastically over the years but to give you a reference point, he did look like Cruise and was short in stature also).  I never had any interest in Dale and he never had any interest in me (except this one drunken night and that was simply him being drunk, he tried, but nothing happened except him peeing on a fire hydrant and dropping a cigarette on the apartment rug).
Dale’s best friend was Alex. Alex was also a volunteer with the EMS unit. Dale and Alex had been friends since high-school. They did household construction jobs for family and friends. Vacationed together. Worked together. Volunteered together. Dale left his landscaping job and became a cop, and Alex followed him, becoming a dispatcher and then a policeman in the same department.
Dale was somewhat of a timid pitbull, mostly bark, little bite, not out to make friends.  Alex was a more of a Labrador – loyal, a hard worker, a good friend. Alex was the peacemaker. The listener.
They were always together, short dark haired Dale and tall blonde hair Alex.
Dale was also one of those friends who thought he knew better than anyone. He had strong opinions about people, ideas, situations.  He was content grumbling behind closed doors, or loudly to his friends,  but when it came time to actually make a difference, Dale would often make excuses rather than speak up and be heard.  He’d say to me: “If I say something, it won’t change anything.” “No one will listen to me anyway.” “It’s not worth the bother.”
He was often better at giving advice than he was asking for advice.
Dale had “Showoff Syndrome.”
We all have various things we like to show off. Bodies. Cars. College Degrees. Houses.  
Dale, however, had a terminal case of Showoff Syndrome.
I fist noticed it when he started dating Deandra*. Dale was in his early twenties and Deandra was a senior in high-school. She joined the VMSC. Her parents were wealthy, she was a bit spoiled, and she was pretty and got along well with everyone.  Dale told us he disliked her because she was prissy and pretentious. But everyone liked Deandra, especially the guys, and Dale ended up dating her. It seemed odd to me that he had been so full of dislike for her, yet when they started dating, he loved to show her off, but still would complain to us that she was pretentious and prissy. He complained she was all about show (best diamond, designer purses, fancy cars), but the thing he didn’t realize was; that’s exactly why he was attracted to her. Because she was someone he could showoff. And he had no problem giving her all the expensive things she asked for.  And because she was a few years younger, he often liked to tell her how she should act and do things. It made him angry when she wanted to do something on her own, or learn something from someone else. She had designer taste and he catered to it. The spent more than 5 years together, through her college and into part of her pharmacy education. They got engaged. Like most relationships, they had their highs and lows. But most of the time he seemed unhappy (and so did she) and it was no surprise to any of his friends when she broke off the engagement.
Dale always had to have the best of everything himself.  The biggest truck with all the gadgets. And he would keep that truck clean and shiny. He bought the latest iPhones and computers.  His living room was like walking into a TV showroom. He had the latest greatest systems that were always upgraded. He had DVR’s that recorded downstairs  and had them hooked up so that he could send the shows he had recorded upstairs to his bedroom TV.
How could he afford all these things? He lived with his mom who had been divorced and single since Dale was in elementary school.  
 Dale’s friends gently suggested, as he grew older, late twenties, early thirties, late thirties, maybe he should think about buying his own place. After all, his only sister had married and started a family of her own. Maybe Dale should spread his wings too.
But his sister getting married was the excuse he used in order to stay at the house. Because now, Dale often told me, he was the only one who was going to be able to take care of his mom. The funny thing was, his mom was working and in good health, dating, going on vacations, painting, very active, literally until the last few months of her life.  
Those closest to him knew he wanted that house. Indeed, he put much work into it, always updating it, always a construction project. In his mind, the goal was his mom would sell the house to him, and he always promised her she could live in the house. We’d had many conversations where he was frustrated that his mom wouldn’t sell the house to him. His mom was afraid Dale would kick her out of the house. Where most men would long to have privacy and space of their own, Dale wouldn’t even contemplate the thought of leaving that house.
After Deandra breaks off the engagement, Dale is not happy. For years he harbored anger. Not anger that he ever acted out on, just anger that stopped him from moving forward. Anytime someone offered to play match maker for Dale, he would refuse. His excuse in the beginning was that he didn’t trust women. That he had been broken hearted (and didn’t see it coming – yet we all did).  
There was a time he made out with one of his co-workers, Carla*.  Both of them were relatively new to the police force at the time. Both were drunk. She was dating someone else. As far as he’d ever told me, it was a one time thing.
As the years progressed, it seemed everyone but Dale had grown. Dale did change in physical appearance (don’t we all) however, his weight morphed, he kept his dome head shaven and for a-while he was so obese he reminded me of a Weeble Wobble.
It’s not that nature has been unkind to Dale; it’s that he has been unkind to himself. I had suggested he work out, but he said, “No time! I’m busy doing so much with work and fixing up the house.” Or “Work made me gain weight, the shift work makes it impossible to eat healthy.” This is somewhat true, but it’s an excuse. I know many men and women who work shift work and they are able to find time to eat healthy and workout. After Gabby came into his life,, he had lost some of the weight, but was far from looking like Tom Cruise. Now, you might feel I’m being somewhat mean here, but to understand this story, you need to understand how Dale grades women on their appearances, which is something that has always bothered me.  
When people suggested women for Dale to date, he either claimed they weren’t good enough, or   
they came with ‘baggage’ (divorced with children). Some friends offered to set him up with a single woman and he took one look at her picture and said “No!” Apparently, she wasn’t attractive enough for Dale. His complaint to me? “She wasn’t thin enough.”
He had his standards, he told me. It was all I could do to not say to him, “Have you NOT looked in a mirror? Your belly hangs over your belt, you have so many chins you could claim them as dependents on your taxes, your bald head is shaped like a dome, and you sweat when it’s only 10 degrees outside!”
It was frustrating, to say the least. It’s like me walking into a BMW dealership and then presenting them with my paystubs.I would not be driving away with a BMW.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

I'm Kind Of Glad He's Dead


“When your victimhood is your empowerment, recovery is the enemy. And working on changing yourself becomes counterproductive.”

In the summer of 2017 one of my oldest friends veered off the path of normal, jumped the curb of crazy, and planted himself in a ditch of obsession and delusion, where he has since remained.
I never thought I’d be writing this story. I never thought one of my best-friends for 30 years, a police officer, would be handcuffed, charged with stalking and identity theft, and “perp” walked out of the police station he had worked for the majority of his life.
This is a story about two police officers; Dale* and Gabby*. This is a story about lust, obsession, status, betrayal, and revenge. I have only heard Dale’s side of the story. I don’t know Gabby.
The idea to write a fictional crime story came to me (in the late summer of 2017)  based on Dale and Gabby’s odd relationship at the time.
 As an author, I often turn true situations into wild situations. Over exaggerate the details.  I have one of the most active, creative imaginations (ask my poor family).  And what started as a romance turned into a serious match of head games – which is when the idea of a fictional story came to me. But then as the summer gave way to fall and the fall to winter, the “romance” became over obsessive. I ended a friendship because the friend refused any offers of help or suggestions. It was almost as if he enjoyed making a spectacle of himself in front of certain people.  I know I am far from perfect, but Dale had the important things in life: a stable job, a gorgeous home, friends, family, decent health. Losing your sanity over a girl, a girl with a history of accusations, is so…unnecessary.
The real events that ensued led me to abandon the fiction aspect because the lessons in the real story are more compelling. I am mystified by the stories Dale told me. What was true? At times I feel duped, but then I worry that what if his stories were true? As I write this (July 3, 2018) I only know of the crimes he is accused of. What if he is not guilty? Though he is certainly guilty of losing his shit over a girl. That is undeniable in the last few conversations we’ve had.
I had many hesitations about writing this. But when I look back at the people I didn’t tell about this romance, a letter of warning I had written but never sent to the Police Chief, because I wanted to protect Dale’s privacy (but now it seems keeping things to private is part of the problem), and thought maybe, you know, my imagination was just over reacting. But when he was arrested, I realized my worries were justified.
My fear is that this unfolding story could end in murder, suicide, or both.
My hope is this story concludes with no violence. It could end on a positive note as a life lesson. I’m optimistic this might end with Dale recognizing it’s never too late to drop his victimhood, grow and change, and this will have a happy ending. You can start over anytime. Truly.  
This story is also a warning to readers to learn the signs of manipulation, how you may unwittingly (or wittingly) be feeding into it, and muster the courage to walk away from abusive men/women before it’s too late.
And finally, this story is about failed friendships. How long do you remain loyal to a person that has no interest in helping himself?
The events in this story are true, however, I have taken liberties to protect the subjects
characters and places – when you see an * after a name/place, this indicates it is an alias.  
Finally, a word about the title which I was going to save to the end of this story, however, I think it needs explanation now. The fictional story was going to be that, completely fictional. The idea behind the fictional title will be explained, however, I decided to keep it as the current title. We can leave old habits, addictions behind. We can bury them. It is possible to change – there are many inspirational stories about people that totally changed their lives. So, for now, I’m keeping the title; it’s a metaphor. I’m Kind of Glad He’s Dead – because no matter what happens in the future (which will not be easy for any of those closely involved) – the person who allowed his life to spiral out of control (as I have done in the past and was able to grow and change) – will hopefully bury his old self and grow for the better.

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.  – Viktor Frankl

One - I’m Kind Of Glad He’s Dead

“Three aspects of the self betrayer's conduct always go together: accusing others, excusing oneself, and displaying oneself as a victim.”

“I’ve got a great book title for the story I’m going to write about Dale and Gabby,” I told my husband who was outside grilling sausage.
He barely glanced at me, sighed audibly, because in the 10 plus years we’ve been together, I come up with many book titles. Coming up with book titles is the easy part. It’s like coming up with a diet plan. Following through though…well…
“If only every title you thought up would be worth, oh, ten-thousand dollars, I could retire and you could pay all my bills.”
“Well, this one is a good one, it’s a great one.” My brain felt like the wheel of a roller coaster – greased, going up, up, up with momentum.
“Don’t you want to hear it?” I asked as John flipped the sausage over.
“Do I have a choice?” He asked.
“Ok, now it sounds crass, but it’s not really that crass when I explain it…”
I loved the title I had chosen, and it fit the story so well; this odd romance that was happening between my best guy friend of almost 30 years – who had been single most of those years, but now this young woman he worked with,  20 or more years younger than he, had turned his life upside down.  It was a secret relationship (no one at work knew they were seeing each other) that was driving him crazy (and he was driving me crazy in the process).
“Are you ready for this?” I waved my arms triumphantly in the air.  
Now I had my husband’s attention.
“I’m Kind of Glad He’s Dead.”
“Have you been drinking?”
“That’s a horrible title. He’s not even dead.”
John frowned and shook his head.
“Look, I’m not WISHING him to be dead, I’m just saying, the way things are going, she’s either going to kill him or he’s going to kill her, or he’s going to kill himself.”
“The guy might be going crazy,” John said. “But I don’t think he’s going that crazy.”
“But that’s just it,” I said. “Look, you know how often he calls me and holds me practically hostage on the phone. And he’s so love struck. And this girl, this Gabby, she’s like that song…the one that goes “she only come out at night, lean and hungry tired…”
John interrupted me, “Man Eater. Hall and Oates.”
“Yes, Man Eater! I mean, first Dale tells me Gabby was having an affair with poor Hank who had cancer, then he says Gabby filed a report against her field training officer because he was stalking her, then he tells me that Gabby’s sister’s fiancĂ© called off the wedding because the fiancĂ© proclaimed his love to…Gabby!”
John transferred his sausage to a plate and shut the lid with a THUD. My husband didn’t like drama, to be fair, I don’t usually like drama unless it’s on a Real Housewives show or in a movie, where I know it’s fake.
“Look, I just want to eat my sausage.”
“But this could be a bestseller!” I followed him inside to the kitchen.  “And it’s a perfect title, though it’s too long.”
“Then stop telling me and go write it. And let me eat in peace. Thank you.”
I couldn’t blame him for not getting excited. I’ve had so many stops and starts with my writing, with different creative ideas that sometimes I see to fruition, sometimes I don’t. The one positive though, it that I’m always trying (this is what I keep telling myself). I mean, even John would have to admit that. But it’s why he doesn’t get excited.
But this was the first real project I was very enthusiastic about in a long time. I needed a vehicle to tell the world how my best guy friend was going crazy over a somewhat attractive girl. There were lessons to learn in this story (little did I know there were far more lessons than I knew at the time).  Dale and I had a steady, quiet, old friendship that started when we both were volunteers at an emergency medical station. As we got older, he became a police officer, and I became a paramedic (and then I became a writer, and Fortune 500 salesperson, and had a brief radio show, and  youtube channel, and worked in diners and grocery stores, but Dale has always remained working at Horton Police Station.)
“I’m Kind of Glad He’s Dead” was, in the beginning, taking the odd crazy relationship Dale had with Gabby and making it into a murder mystery. Dale seemed so lovesick, lovestuck, and even though Gabby kept telling him, “It’s not going to work.” He would try to close the door but leave it open just an inch and TA-DA – she would walk back in again.
And then when that would happen, Dale would call me, and we would talk for two to three hours. TWO To THREE HOURS. I HATE talking on the phone. Seriously. And I am a phone coward, I can never disengage and say, “Okay, bye!” I have to wait until the other person has worn himself out. Which, in Dales case, took an eternity.
During our long conversations I would say the same thing over and over again, “If she really liked you, she wouldn’t care about the age difference. If she really liked you, she’d stop playing these games.”
“But she introduced me to her sister! And her brother! That must mean something.”
What did it mean, I wondered? After all, I was a woman. I’d dated, mated, married, divorced, dated, married, divorced, dated and then married. I’d been in abusive relationships. I’ve been in great relationships.  I know there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. I do know the difference between healthy and sick relationships though, and what may have started out as healthy with Dale and Gabby, didn’t take long to spiral into sickness.
Back to the idea for the title of my book though: I had the idea for it on August 17th, 2017. I keep a journal … and this Dale/Gabby insaneness had been going on since May. I didn’t always write down everything, but on that day I did write down “Idea for a story! I’m Kind of Glad He’s Dead!”
I was growing weary and annoyed by all the phone calls.
I had a job to deal with. A book I’d been working on for three years, (I know, it’s a LONG time but I WAS (am!) still working on it, (shout out to JOHN who is impatiently waiting for me to finish while I consistently get sidetracked), my daughter was graduating from highchool, my family was coming for a visit, my oldest daughter was mad at me, I had a lot of shit going on and then I had Dale calling twice a week for two hours, driving me bat-shit insane. But he had been there as a friend for me over the years. I just wasn’t sure when to give up on a friend. I Googled it, and there seemed to be much dissent about when to give up on a friend, and, according the mafia, you never give up on a friend.
Leading up to August 17th notation in my journal I’d noted 5 conversations with Dale almost in a row. What started it all off though was August 4th when Dale had called me, angry that Gabby had not mentioned it was the anniversary of the date that Dale got shot (almost 10 years prior). He didn’t get hurt in that shooting. And Dale’s friend/coworker Alex was also on that call and got shot at. Everyone had moved on, except for Dale. Dale would bring up “that time I got shot” so often that it became a joke between my friends and me.  
I know, I’m sounding cruel and harsh, but I know people who have been shot and hurt in the line of duty, and they bounce back. I know people shot and wounded in the military, and they don’t talk about it. Ten years ago, a crazy man shot as Dale and Alex – no one got hurt, but Dale has turned the situation into movie scene from Platoon.
So, on August 4th, Dale was bitching that he was tired of always being the one who was the “giver” in the relationship, the one who left notes, the one who always reached out, the one who always there.
He also called me August 5, 12, 14, and 15th. Well, I’d had enough.  Each call was of him explaining how wonderful of a man he was, all the nice things he did for Gabby, and why couldn’t she just accept he was older than her and he was the best thing that could ever happen to her.
So for me, not knowing Gabby, and only hearing one side of the story, it really did seem like he was being used. But no matter how many times I tried to tell him to walk away, he couldn’t seem to stay away (this, I would later come to see, was the big red flag called obsession).
I had tried not answering his calls, but I could only do it for so long. At times I wondered if he was on the brink of suicide, in fact, I’d asked him, and he said he’d never tell anyone if was planning on killing himself, he’d just drive somewhere to the woods and do it there. I thought if he did that, the phone calls would stop coming. And in a way, I’d be kind of glad he’s dead.
And that’s where the idea for the title came in. It was an intriguing title. What kind of person would be kind of glad someone is dead? The reader would wonder who could be dead?  A murderer? An abuser? Obviously someone who had done something horrible! Or maybe the writer is a horrible person for being happy anyone was dead.
Dale’s phone calls had me feeling depressed. Which was no surprise, looking back over our relationship, Dale was always complaining about something. He just didn’t like to fix things. Oh, he liked to fix trucks, and dishwashers, and light fixtures, but things other than construction? Nah. He’d speak up behind closed doors, but when someone in power to change things asked for his opinion about a situation that needed fixing,  he’d say everything was great, no need to change a thing!
 And there was me, the total opposite.  The ultimate sunshine girl. Sure, I’d bitch. But I also talk to the boss if I needed to, and if that didn’t work, I could always write. Or make a video. But I always had a solution to a problem, if I couldn’t find a solution, I knew I’d have to accept things and stop complaining. But no matter how may ideas or solutions or suggestions I gave to Dale, none were good enough.
 That August 17th  was a warm day and I sat outside and fleshed out the story. From things Dale had told me about Gabby, I crafted a plot around events and information that could (in the story line) lead up to Dale being found dead in his house.  It looks like a suicide. He left a note about his unrequited love for Gabby and had changed his will so that Gabby would inherit his house and truck. But Dale’s best friends suspected Dale wouldn’t have taken his life. He has nieces he adores. He is, though not practicing, a Catholic. And he does have a bit of an ego. He wouldn’t want anyone to think he’s a coward, and that rejection from a woman could cause him to lose his senses and ultimately take his life.
His friends do some sleuthing and end up figuring out sweet Gabby had Dale killed and made it look like murder. That way she inherits everything. And she could play the victim the entire time. She’d make a sympathetic character: “If only I would have realized. Maybe I could have done something.”
It would be a murder mystery that would have people guessing until the end. I was practically bouncing off the walls I was so thrilled to have fictional production in the pipeline. I hadn’t been inspired to write fiction in awhile, but this was practically writing itself!  I went to work on it, writing in long hand in a notebook. I liked to sit outside in the sun and write. When the sun moved in the sky, I moved my chair. I wrote so fast my hands cramped.  
I’d like to mention here, that whenever I start getting excited about a writing project, and actually start working on it, after I have the bits and pieces fleshed out of how to structure it, something in my life distracts me and the project withers and the longer it sits on a shelf, the more ridiculous the idea seems.
After I’d  got the book going  I start having problems with my wisdom tooth. You see, I never had any of them pulled out, because they rarely gave me any problem. But at the end of September in 2017, I was spitting blood, nerve pain was shooting into my head (like little electric zaps) and though I had made an appointment to see on oral surgeon, I called my dentist on a Saturday. Thankfully he answered the phone, I drove over, and he pulled my wisdom tooth out.
Things seemed okay. I was on pain-killers and antibiotics, but on Sunday, I started to develop a migraine like I’ve never had (and I take medication for migraines) and I was projectile vomiting. This freaked me out. I was worried I would develop an open socket (the scar would tear off of the gum where the tooth had been pulled out).
My husband had left for work – he was a cop and worked in a department (different than Dale’s) about a 30 minute drive away. His squad was already a few people down and I didn’t want to have to call him.
I considered calling an ambulance, but then I thought of my dog creating a scene and I didn’t want to waste an ambulance call because what if this was just some simple medicine reaction?
My dentist had told me to take the medication for my migraine but after an hour (that’s when it usually takes effect) – my head was still throbbing, and I was nauseous.
I texted Dale and asked him where he was at.
He said he was at Gabby’s apartment.
This was great, because he was actually closer to me (since he was at Gabby’s) than if he had been at his house.
Gabby’s apartment was only about ten minutes away and he could take me to the urgent care center.
“What’s Up?” He texted back.
“I think I need to go to ER. Horrible migraine. Vomiting.”
“Can’t John take you?”
Would I be texting you if John could take me? I screamed inside my head (in a very hushed whisper).
“He is night shift.”
“Did you call your dentist?” He texted.
Okay. Clearly, he had no interest in taking me. In all the years I’ve known him, I’ve never once asked him to take me to the emergency room.
“Yes. Never mind. Forget it.”
“If you need to go, call me.” He texted.
Now me, I would have got in my car, drove to the house knowing he was alone, and said, “What can I do?”
I don’t mind a guy trying to score, you know. I didn’t want to be a put up a road block to his good time, but really, he couldn’t do this for me? He could bring her a-long!
 I had been here for him all summer listening to his “does she love me, does she love me not? Does this sleep over mean she loves me? She left early and doesn’t want to see me anymore, does this mean it’s really over?” phone calls. It’s not like he was at his engagement party or bachelor party that night I needed to get to the ER.
 “Well fuck you,” I thought, threw the phone on the couch and headed to bathroom, heaving along the way, hoping not to get any vomit on the floor.
After I was done throwing up,  I reluctantly called my husband. He’d have to leave the squad short one guy (and k9), waste a sick day, and drive 30 minutes to pick me up (passing the Urgent care facility) and then backtrack another 10 to the urgent care facility.
After that night, I started to care a-lot less that my ‘best friend’ was being used. I worried much less about trying to protect his feelings and help him see he was stuck in a one sided relationship.
I’d also placed “I’m Kind of Glad He’d Dead” on the shelf with all my other half started stories and get on with a busy fall season.
As the leaves turned from gold to brown and broken, so too, did Gabby and Dale’s relationship. The book was no longer a priority as my youngest daughter went to off to her freshman year in college. I was still (barely) trying researching and re-editing a book I’d been working on since 2015, and of course,  getting sidetracked by politics, family tiffs, and juggling holiday work shifts. 
But then something happened in December of 2017 that would change everything. A few events would cause me to remember that book I had started, how I had planned on turning what seemed to be a harmless romantic dud of a relationship into a murder mystery, and how in the light of everything I knew now, my fictional idea could easily morph into reality. I also realized the person I had thought would be the victim, might actually be not so innocent after all.  
Before we get to the events of December 2107, maybe we should start from the beginning.