Did I ever tell you about the time I loaded all of my possessions in a boat and slowly paddled toward the south. I was taken in by my brother and his wife. And I would go out and seek a livelihood. I was just learning how to row this new boat and everything took so long. I paddled down freeways and boulevards.
Sometimes I sat in my boat and watched people look so together, then I would push my boat away from the side walk and try to get unlost again. I laughed at people with compasses, took another drink and wished I was brave enough to ask for directions. But I think that happens a lot in that LAnd.
My boat washed up to a beautiful promenade, and I was seduced by the music and the beautiful people. I thought that I could find my livelihood here. There had to be something. But my boat knocked against the rocks and a beautiful girl came out of seemingly nowhere. She said there was work there; it would be hard but rewarding. She would introduce me to him.
I love a challenge and like any hero in a story I can’t step down from a challenge. I followed her into the cave. I was looking for a teacher, a mentor and maybe this was my mentor. We met. The lighting in the cave was bad: my stomach told me not to do it, but I didn’t trust myself. I had made so many bad decisions. He was so successful, he must know the secret. Once the girl introduced us, she left us alone and kept eye contact with me until he rolled a stone between us.
He interrogated me… Why should I trust you? Where do you come from? How old are you? Where do you live? His manner was terrifying. He told me about how harsh he would be to me and this fired a competitive flame in my belly. “I’ll show him! I can take it!” He explained how his family was very rich and he had grown their fortune.
He showed me a mountain of gold in a separate room. And in the shimmer of the gold the man’s figure lit up. He was no man, he was an Ogre. I had already promised servitude. He heaped work on me. It was impossible. He fed off of my anxiety. I had some really good ideas and he hadn’t had anyone in my position who had really good ideas before.
During the day the beautiful girl would emerge, some days she was radiant. Some days she was trembling. We would sneak off to a part of the cave when the Ogre wasn’t looking and smoke cigarettes. She would tell me I was doing a great job, the best of “any of the others”. “What happened to the others?” “They didn’t make it.” We were constantly checking our phones in case the Ogre should wake and need one or both of us. My gut told me to run, but I figured he would tell me how to get my own pile of gold. I never felt safe in this world, so I was convinced that my own cave and my own pile of gold was the only thing that would make me feel safe.
Sometimes even when you did something amazing, the Ogre would scream at you just for fun. And I used to be able to sorta pretend that I’m tough and I just can’t anymore. The last two years have taken that mask away. I am strong, but if I gotta cry I cry. Maybe I am just tough and moist. I don’t know anymore. The Ogre was impressed with my work. I had spun some straw into sunshine and he loved it. I felt good with him sometimes when he was happy. Turns out we had a lot in common, which alternately excited and terrified me. He showed me another room in his cave. This one was where he kept a smaller mountain of something: a white powder. I looked at him. “What is that?” He called me a goody-two-shoes.
The beautiful girl got shakier. She would bring me presents and random things. She said I made her feel guilty. I didn’t know what she was talking about. When the Ogre was out getting drunk she told me about how he would chain her up and do anything he wanted to to her. She also said that sometimes the other Ogre that I hadn’t met yet would do the same thing. “Leave! Go! Disappear! Never come back! Do you know that he is assaulting you!” I flipped out. “I shouldn’t have told you.” She said. “It just feels wrong and I don’t know what to do. It’s worse now that you are here. The ogre’s done it to almost everyone but you.” I couldn’t talk to her about it anymore because she shut down.
The ogre came back. That fire that was in my belly that had been yelling at me the whole time turned into illness. I stuck around for a while, trying to figure out how to save the maiden. Seeing her go into the chamber and the ogre follow. Or the Ogre order her into the chamber and see her just get up and walk in.
Something really big in our cave broke and the Ogre called the Wizard. But he made a fatal mistake. Never be a dick to a wizard. The wizard refused to speak to the Ogre and I had to act as a liaison. The wizard read me like an audiobook (cause we were on the phone). He took a chisel of truth and wedged it into my forehead and cracked it open. The wizard gave me clarity, some hope and fixed the thing that the Ogre broke because I say things like please and thank you and sorry I work for an Ogre, he breaks stuff.
Armed with clarity, I could no longer be in the Ogres presence in good conscience. The beautiful lady still needed to stay.
The trigger was so simple. One of the Ogre’s many tantrums. PTSD is crazy. The trigger can be a scent, a smell, a sound, a word. He broke more of his stuff and then screamed and slammed his hand on his wood desk. The slap of a hand on a wood desk. The slap of flesh on wood. Wood on flesh. That sound triggers memories of hundreds of times I was struck. Pulling the oak rod out of the drawer. The oak rod would always hit that one spot on the dresser on its way out. Wood on wood… Then wood on flesh, over and over again. Our hero (me?) couldn’t hear the Ogre’s screaming anymore.
The hero walked out of the cave. Past the gold. The pretty lady wasn’t in that day and our hero felt guilty, like she was abandoning the girl. But, the hero couldn’t stomach someone taking the abuse. It scared me that someone could take more than I could. I left. This Ogre is truly brilliant and carries the burden of madness that goes with it. But, there are ways to balance madness and brilliance. I was so depressed.
Is this the real world? I don’t think so. I rowed my boat north to find the real world. Just like the wizard said I would. Later, I realized that the Ogre was a gruffer version of the Pastor. Why did I have to dance that dance again?
Recently, I got a message from the pretty lady, she saved herself.