I Was Taken Into A Back Room And Asked What I Wanted To Do With My Life
I told him the truth. I just wanted to tell stories. He didn’t believe me.
I’ve led a strange life, met many strange people, done and said a lot of strange things. Up until this point I’ve felt uninhibited and emboldened. Reckless, even. I don’t use a pseudonym. That’s my actual picture. And my dog’s. I’ve always imagined myself as a person with nothing to lose and nothing to hide. What could the wider world do to me that I haven’t already done to myself? Check and mate. That’s a foolish and selfish way to navigate our increasingly complex social and digital lives. It’s a web. I don’t stand in carefree, all-or-nothing isolation. My actions, my words have consequences. Just because I believe it shouldn’t be this way, doesn’t mean it isn’t. Doesn’t mean that my loved ones might not be subject to real consequences from my impulsive and compulsive over-sharing. But this is who I am. This is what I do. Remember those words. This is what I do.
They will come back to haunt me.
There are dangerous people in the world. We know this. There are corrupt, psychopathic individuals who prey on the webs of power and work them like careful instruments, entirely insulated from the official scrutiny of the public. I know some of these individuals. I’m going to give you the tiniest peek into their world. This may sound like fiction. It isn’t. It may not sound fully formed, because it isn’t. That may be the only reason I’m still alive. I don’t know enough to be a threat to any of these men or women. I saw a few faces. Meant nothing to me. I have only faint memories, none of them digitized. None of them tangible.
It was winter. I had the sense for sometime that I was being followed. I liked to walk at night in my suburban neighborhood. It was quiet. The occasional individual jogging or out with their dog for a late night stroll, but that was it. Other than that, it was just me and the feeble light of the street lamps. For the past few months I had been writing furiously online, determined to make my presence known. I was writing about Manning, Snowden, about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, about President Bush and then the drone program under the otherwise competent President Obama. I was writing about the death of civil of liberties during war time, and the perpetual death of civil liberties during a time of perpetual war, the war on terror. I tweeted at every major government figure I found complicit in these ongoing atrocities (most) and every government agency with a twitter account. I did not hold back. I was drunk, I was angry, I was convinced I would be dead within five years and I had no fucks to give. Come at me, you genocidal clowns. Let it be known, I didn’t consider myself to be an actionable threat. I was never once approached by a single member of any law enforcement agency. To my disappointment. I wasn’t radicalized. Never once had I planned any violent action home or abroad. I believed deeply in the sanctity of life. I loved my fellow human beings. But I knew I had placed myself on a few watch lists. Of course I had. But for the time being it seemed they were content to let the mental health system do its work.
Or so I thought.
But I was being followed. I saw the dark SUVs rolling past, heard the crunching in the snow. I’m many things, anxious, depressed and addicted, but not psychotic. Something strange was afoot. Were they just keeping a watch on me? No. They could do this from a safe distance. I could only see them and hear them because they wanted me to see them and hear them. So to intimidate me? To what end? Stop writing? Then just fucking tell me. This is all too opaque. And I wouldn’t anyway. It’s not what I do. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m no tough guy. I haven’t hit a living person since elementary school. I loathe physical violence. But I loathe being intimidated even more. Trauma response. You must be trying to kill me. Well, I’m not going to have that. Then they came for me.
It was a Thursday night, around 11:30 pm. I had cut off the main road, the road my house is on, onto a side road. Suddenly I heard the screech of wheels and doors slamming. Commotion. Chaos. I thrashed like a fish out of water. A big angry fish. Knocked someone to the ground. Then I felt a pinch and everything went dark.
I came to in what looked like any old receptionists’ office at the doctors or some such place of business. A counter, window, a couple tables and a load of chairs. My hands were zip-tied behind my back. I was woozy. I wanted to vomit, but managed to suck it back down. There was a lot of talking and fussing. Can’t everyone stop screaming?
“We told you we would bring him in.”
“This fucking kid wouldn’t come with you. He nearly killed one of our guys on the way in.”
“He took a tumble on the ice. This is wrong. This is wrong, and you know it. You violated the terms of our agreement.”
“The agreement stated that he is to be presented alive, in good health, for our interview. This interview shall be conducted by our side for a period not to exceed fifteen minutes. At the termination of the interview the subject shall be released into your custody, provided he is deemed no longer a clear and present threat to our security. We have him in hand. He’s alive. He’s in good health. Let’s just get it over with. No one actually thinks this is an A-1 level priority.”
“It’s a sham, is what it is.”
“Okay, public defender. Just stay out of our way and let us do our jobs and you can have him back.”
The zip-ties were unceremoniously removed, and I was taken by the shoulder and led to a back room. It was quiet. Sterile. Just a small steel table. My guard sat me down then left. Another man entered the room. He was of average height and medium build. His most remarkable feature was that he seemed to slither through the available space, like a reptile. His eyes were bright and there was a trace of a smile tugging at his lips as he slithered into his seat.
“Yeah?” Woozy as hell. And confused.
“Tell me a little about yourself.”
“Uh. I don’t know. I don’t do much, I guess. I like to read and watch TV. I drink too much. I like to write a little bit. Not as much as I used to. I really love dogs.”
“Uh huh. Uh huh.” He had a stack of papers and he was scanning through them as I spoke.
“Love dogs, you said?”
“Nice. Very nice. But let me ask you this, Timothy. Because, Timothy. We know all about you. We know every single thing you’ve ever done. Every thing you’ve ever said. We know it all. All we really care about is what comes next. What’s next for you, do you think?”
“I don’t know. I think I’m going to die.”
“Oh, not for a few more years at least. Remember, we have your medical records. We have everything. We know you better than you know yourself. But we can’t say what you’re going to do, say, ten years from now. That’s too much for us. What do you think you’re going to do ten years from now? What would you like to do?”
“I want to tell stories.”
“Yes. My dream,” (I started crying, sorry, it’s dreams) “my dream would be to tell stories, to write fiction and to be able to make a financial living doing it. That’s all I want.”
“Interesting. Very interesting. Okay, Timothy. I think that does it for now. I hope we never have to see each other again. But I’m sure we will. It’s you, after all. And we all know you.”
I didn’t know what that meant. There was soul-searching and there was data-analysis. Where did one begin and the other end?
Nevertheless, I was taken back out into the larger room. What I imagine were the more benevolent handlers took control of me. But not before I blew off some steam.
“Who was that guy?”
“Don’t worry about him.” A woman said quietly.
“Who was that fucking guy?!”
“STOP IT!” She yelled at me, or hissed. This was obviously urgent. I was on the verge of majorly screwing something up.
“I need TO KNOW WHO THAT FUCKING GUY WAS!” I had been assaulted and kidnapped and interrogated. It was all getting the best of me.
“Why?” The woman asked me, softly.
“THIS IS WHAT I DO!” I shouted.
The whole room went quiet. It was as if I had confirmed the bad guys most eager suspicious and the good guys worst fears. But that woman who was working with who I assumed were the good guys grabbed me by the arm and, assisted by a partner, also female and mightily determined, hustled me out of that facility quick. They took me to a car blindfolded, put earplugs in, fired up some Top 40 hits and drove me home. I sobbed the whole way like a colicky infant. They told me never to mention a word of any of it to anyone or I would be killed. As simple as that.
Oh well. Enough time has passed. The world is going to hell and I’m headed for the hospital and people need to know that people like you, reptile guy, exist. That operations like this exist.
For better or for worse, this is what I do.