Beyond The Pale

From the Dark, Forward, Prologue

I’m starting a new blog series, which for the time being I’m going to call Letters from the Dark, though that title’s a little passé, so I’ll try to come up with something else as I see exactly where this is going. Letters from the Dark will be loosely associated with my series On Childhood, as it must be, treating as it does of events in the same life and, sometimes, of the same periods of time. I’m presenting it as a different series because of the different nature of the subject matter. The theme is much darker here, more oppressive, less laced with nostalgia and more with melancholy, treating with a decade long struggle that I suspect some would call depression, though I’m both hesitant to self-diagnose and wary of the term “depression” because the mental images that it conjures are not, in my mind one-to-one correlations with what I have experienced. I believe something else was going on.

Before I start, I have one major decision to make about this series of remembrances. During my life, especially in the years between 1997 and 2007, I have not always behaved like the person that I believed myself to be, or to phrase it differently, the person that I aspire to be. If materialists are right, and we are nothing more than the results of our actions, regardless of design or intention, then what I have hoped to be has nothing to do with what I have done. All that matters is the results of my actions, some of which have turned out well despite evil intentions while others that were well intended have had negative results. On the other hand, if I’m to assume a providential, theological view of events, then many of my actions that came to good end have actually been evil, and many events that brought about unwelcomed results have been, from the long view, virtuous.

All of this is, however, irrelevant from the perspective of a writer trying to make himself understood. Many of the events of my late adolescence and early adulthood are known only to myself and one of two other people. Some of those actions I would prefer to hide from everyone, other from only a few people. When I come to points in the forthcoming narrative where these events have bearing on why I felt, thought, did, or said what I felt, thought, did, or said, I will be presented with a whole new set of decisions about what to keep back in the spirit of self-preservation and what to expose, regardless of the costs in terms of my pride.

At that point, I suspect that my decisions about what to keep close and what to expose to the world will have less to do with my own feelings on the subject than they will consideration of my wife and parents, both of whom still insist on viewing me as a good person. Most of my life is fully known to my wife, but that does not mean that she is comfortable having what is, after a manner, her dirty laundry exposed to the world for stain study and crotch sniffing. Maybe we should have kept different hampers for all this time, but that’s a slippery slope that leads to different bank accounts, beds, and lives. My parents, on the other hand, only know of my inner monologue from guess-work and supposition, if that. We’ve certainly never talked about it, and I don’t think that we will. Do I have the right to destroy their image of me when I know they follow my writings? I think only when it’s necessary to tell the story.

Some readers may find the subject matter of all posts in this series disturbing. Of you are one of those readers, allow me to point out that I am still here. If this simple fact is not enough to calm you, allow me to encourage you to search for more edifying reading material and skip over any posts that start with the words “from the dark.”

Enough of this.



The red and blue alternating lights feel like lasers, scarring the backs of my eye sockets while the super-compressed blood pumping into my brain but, like the dead sea, finding no exit, swells the goose egg on my forehead. Walking across the road, I look down to see thirty feet of rubber skid reflecting up the light of the ambulance and police cars. Shattered plastic and bits of chrome trim are scattered about everywhere. I bend over to pick up a fragment of taillight, turn it over in my hands, rub my fingers over the pyramidical triangles of its inner surface. All is chaos. All is the beating of my heart. All is silence.

Now would be a good time to pass out.

I look around for a good place, and seeing a nice bit of ditch with little in the way of smashed car detritus in it, I stagger over and make a Victorian show of fainting delicately into the long grass. In a week I’ll be excessively proud of the spider-web cracks that my forehead put into the window of the Cadillac when our stopped car was hit from behind at fifty miles an hour, but for now I’ll lie here and stare at the stars, think about tonight, think about dying. I find myself humming, start to doze off. Could have been killed. That would have been nice.

My feint at fainting must not have been well executed because someone walks up to me and says my name calmly, Chris Hines, I think. It was his mother’s car that we were riding in, chasing my parents on their balloon ride, when we were hit. Chris and I are the best of friends. Next summer he’ll be involved in a snipe hunting prank, and in my rage, I’ll stab him in the stomach with a sharp stick. He’ll be hurt, but not injured; the only injury will be to our friendship, which will never be quite the same, no matter how hard we try.“The EMTs want to talk to you,” he says.

“Ok.” I sit up. “I’ll be there in a second.”

Sitting in the back of the ambulance, I hate the noise, I hate the bright. The EMT is nice, professional. “I just want to ask you some questions,” he says, “just to make sure that bump you got on the head isn’t anything big.”

I nod.

“What’s your address?”

“Eleven thousand, two hundred Crottinger Road,” or something like that.

“How old are you?”


“What’s your phone number?”

“I don’t know.” He tilts his head, concerned. “I’m not concussed though. We just moved there last week. Ask my parents, they’ll tell you.”

He says he thinks I’m fine. I could have told him that. I wonder if he’s going to tell me to stay off of that bump for a couple of days. If he does, I guess I’ll just walk on my feet like I usually do. Pity, foreheads sure are useful as third feet.

“Can I have some Advil?”

He gives me some, and I tell him I’ll be lying in the ditch if he needs me. That gets me a interested look. I like lying on the ground. It’s a good place to think, to remember. On the way over, I suck the candy off of the Advil and then spit it out. I flop back down and start trying to capture that one, briefest instant when the truck barreling up behind us smashed the trunk up into the back seat. What, besides the smash of my head on the windshield did I feel?

Not a thing.


November 25, 2009 - Posted by | Childhood, From the Dark


  1. No comments yet? Five days of silence? Appropriate I guess.

    Gazing into the dark. Or speaking out from echoes originating there. I’m going to both like this series and not like this series as needed. A terrifying episode here, and yet the calm post-storm. In that after moment, silence reigns. Time? It fizzles out, fuzzes away. I remember the potentially-fatal car wreck of my own youth (was mine really at 10 years, too? How strange). Time moves so fast that it ceases to mean anything. Later, in retrospect, those fast moments will slow to an observable crawl.

    Seeing into the shadow here. I suspect it’s not just about the occasional immanence of physical death.

    Comment by wordorgy | November 30, 2009 | Reply

  2. This is the one I’ve read so far.
    Don’t want to sound like an ass by saying I’ll enjoy reading this because they are personal experiences, but they are well written and I believe I will enjoy them, if only for the chance to continue reading and learn from something so well written. I see you’ve posted a new one, and I’ll push to read that tomorrow. It’s late right now.

    Comment by jonathanmichaelsestrella | December 18, 2009 | Reply

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