After an hour and a half, my phone had maintained 1% battery life. Caught bored at the college bus station, my dad surprised me with a call.
After catching him up on my progress, I asked him if he was writing lately. Every day, he said. I asked if it was a sci-fi this time. “Just a drama” responded. Then he asked if Brian and I were getting along better now. “In fact it seems we are. We had a long conversation after I worked last night, and he seems excited for me to try ayahuasca.” What’s that, he asked uneasily. “Ohh, it’s mostly DMT, you know.” My dad didn’t sound like he was entirely okay until I started reassuring him of Brian’s extensive trustworthiness on the subject. “Chemically, ayahuasca is very good for the brain. DMT alone is about the same way, but—”
My phone was dead. “Shit.”
My dad never grew up with his father at all. Estranged with fundamentalist Christianity instead, his preacher stepfather put him through a lot of physical, emotional, and mental abuse. He sought escapism in comic books, tv shows, pr0n from Brian when they were younger, video games, and namely anything Science Fiction, which mainly pertained to Star Wars, and Blade Runner up until about the year I was born. Decades of his life were lost to the esoteric discipline he was raised with. Pleasure was a mostly foreign thing to his mind. Hedonism was the devil conceptualized.
He woke up during a trip to Japan when he heard the story of Hachiko the dog. Basically, he realized that mankind was the dog, the scientist was the second coming, and that psychological masochism had been in season since the Baroque era. What was he doing? Modern day meant all things could be found in the realm of possibility.
Still, he was the case that coined the term for the disorder, “Religious Trauma Syndrome” with his therapist a few years ago. When a religious reality is beaten into you, it has great potential to continuously torture you in ways that you might not ever fully get a handle on, if you’re not careful. Maybe it isn’t cyclically abusive or unstoppable, but dogma is a force to be reckoned with. It’s affected every facet of our culture.
I certainly saw how the abuse he’d endured had affected his self-esteem, and he provided good support once I left private grade school for public high school.
Physical abuse was always a central aspect of the breed of private religious schooling that I grew up with. My dad experienced it. I think my mother and her 6 siblings definitely experienced it. When Corporal Punishment first started getting outlawed in the 70s and 80s, (with fucking New Mexico coming in 50th place by 2011,) schooling systems across the board started replacing the measure with a utilization of psychological abuse instead. To make it simple for the reader, teachers who are best described as sadistic are still getting hired.
Psychological education teaches us that any kind of physical abuse, physical punishment or even merely spanking children can create bullies. From this, one might imagine how frustrated it makes me feel in every attempt to describe how difficult it has been to deprogram the SHIT that I had forced down my throat for the first half of my god forsaken life. I ask that you please don’t bother in telling me of my shortcomings, because I know it’s with myself where the any of my issues may initially sprout and I never let myself forget. This is why giving me personal shit buys you a one way ticket to hell, because due to where it is exactly that I’m coming from, giving me shit inherently will also give away the flaw in your thinking, and you’ll probably miss out on the patience I could have otherwise had for you in those moments.
So come on. Hit me, you coward.
The only person who could understand this about me was Matt.
Matt actually found god by himself. He made me realize how I did and didn’t care for religious people after I left private school. But what we had in common was that we both tried to be good people, and we left it our friendship at that.
I gingerly rolled down the sidewalk on his skateboard in front of our school with the speed of less than half a mile an hour.
Matt convinced me life was only really lived when you were learning something.
Being “poor” had its ups and downs. I rarely asked my mom for money since I figured I should just miraculously have the confidence and know-how to turn the plethora of otherwise inedible ingredients stocked in our pantry into food, so whenever Matt would mistakenly ask if I had any money, I would search my duck tape wallet to count my cash down to the exact change even if it only seemed to be 37 cents. “I have … 58 cents!”
"Wait I think I have a few quarters, too. Let’s go get a taco."
Almost every day after school he’d take his board to 7-11, and sometimes I’d skip along.
We were like mini mall rats. “Matt, get this for me. It’s only 50 cents.” Matt doesn’t respond. “Matt, can you get this for me?” Silence. I am following him through the candy section as I’m asking for an almond joy. “Matt, please? It’s only 50 cents. Matt? Matt?”
"Hold on hold on hold on," he almost mutters.
"Here, hold on a sec."
He takes my almond joy and puts on his heavy trademark jacket, adjusting his sleeves. He has made the almond joy disappear entirely. All of this in the front of the store. Matt was a blonde gypsy bear.
Between girls, he confessed he genuinely loved me in an intimate sort of way, but I refused to be his girlfriend because he refused to have intercourse with anyone outside the bounds of marriage. I was totally willing to overlook his physical fluffiness, unlike some others. But treating sex like it was gross or sinful would forge a disconnection with me in my mind over time, and I knew it. Sex was natural. I could hold back, but not for a decade until marriage or some morbidly ridiculous shit like that of which no one is really capable.
Still, I didn’t let him fade away and he remained my platonic friend after that, even. I sorta think he was just that good of a friend. It could also be that I somehow properly convinced him that I wasn’t worth it. He moved on to other girls he also cared for deeply who caused his discipline to crumble even more than it already had, but I’m not sure he ever lost his virginity. Honestly, I don’t care if he has because truly not my business. But I feel more confident that he’s in a mentally healthy place if he has.
Looking back there’s something still haunting me about what happened between us. It’s sad, because people like him have almost never happened to me other than him. After everything I’ve written here, it could be terrifying to someone how religion has kept concepts like virginity sacred and henceforth torn people apart in various manners. For one thing, I know the same thing happened to Birdman and his girlfriend that happened to Matt and I. But with Birdman, things got way too far since his girl probably thought she could change him. I think what I’m truly terrified about all of this is how the subversive fear-mongering of religion can brainwash someone to be very different from what they otherwise would be. It makes me think of malformed faces in The Wall. Because this is what Matt said to me:
"It’s just you, Camille.”