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Where Do They All Come From?
I was talking to Charles about mentally medicated people that I know. Charles takes Zoloft* and a couple of other things to curb his mood swings and panic attacks.
That put to mind a couple of people I've known for a long time. They've both been comic book buyers at my shop from about the time it opened. And once they started taking pills when they try quitting them the hallucinate voices. They didn't hear voices before they took the medication. Pretty frightening. They develop an extra mental illness. Their pills become like a vitamin, a chemical necessary to their survival.
Both of these guys are adults and live with their parents. They are virgins and have suffered breakdowns clearly linked to unmet erotic-romantic needs.
Terry is about 50. All of his life he's been dominated by his older brother (most likely also a virgin but seems happy with it). Terry's life revolves around collecting comic books and pulps for many years. Later CDs, Videos, DVDs, 'collectible' card role-playing games. His collecting became so addicting and uncontrolled he found himself in many thousands of dollars in debt. Finally his mother and brother took control of his money and locked him into a budget.
He had to be hospitalized when he 'fell in love' with a girl 25 - 30 years his junior. That is almost always a bad thing but Terry has never had a girlfriend. Ever. And he's a balding, dumpy, stuttering who doesn't have anything to offer a woman his own age.
That sounds unkind but isn't. Terry's introversion is so profound he's barely able to talk to me after 18 years. Yance, my clerk, has been his friend since childhood and even they can barely sustain a conversation.
He goes in and out of psychiatric institutions pretty regularly now. He may be under his brother's thumb but I don't know if he could survive otherwise.
Paul is a bit over 30 looks much, much younger. He's bit bland but he's blond and has a more than decent face and body. He's gay. Done day he thought he was marrying Dean Cain. A full-blown 3D hallucination in stereo. He went into an institution for a time.
Paul came out of the hospital and the closet. He's comfortable with his sexuality. For a time he went to gay bars but never home with anybody. He had offers. But Paul was preserving his virginity for 'Mr. Right.' Mr. Impossible.
Paul has never had a close friend. Gordon, the co-owner of Books Do Furnish A Room and I watched him grow up. We were the closest things he had to friends. He's the only person that I was foolish enough to try to counsel since I in my early 20s.
Obsessed with Wonder Woman: the comics have been the greatest joy of his life. He bought three Wonder Woman t-shirts and gave one each to his sister and mother. That way all three of them could wear them as they watched tv. And he loved the TV show starring the bovine Linda Carter, spending thousands of hours rewatching that and Lois and Clark. Almost every day for years. Probably today.
His mother has regulated his entire life. A humorless, unimaginative but not evil woman. She's unknowingly ruined his life. He wanted to be a fabric designer. He was sent to Elon College to get a business degree. All he got out of those four years were the taunts of homophobic jocks.
For the last several years Paul has been a clerk in a Kirland's knick-knack shop in a mall. He always goes straight home to his parents. They watch TV together. He and his mother like to buy things from QVC. On weekends he clean the house. They probably hit McDonalds for a weekend treat.
I haven't seen much of Paul during the last year. He'd stopped liking the comics he'd been buying for years. They aren't the same as they were when he was a kid. For sometime he was getting them only out of habit. He stopped coming to the shop.
I'm kind of relieved that he did. When his mother dies I suspect he'll crash and burn. He won't have anyone to order his life and he'll be living alone. No one to talk to.
Don't know what prompted this morbid meditation. Probably a dim nagging wish that they were happier. Writing for catharsis.
While writing the above my best friend of my middle school years, Randall, came to mind. As with Victor we originally became friends because we were both comic book fans. Randall was fond of Warren comics. Magazine sized, they were largely horror short stories. Vampirella a sleek, almost unclad bloodsucker from the planet Drakulon merged horror with hero.
Randall had a real passion for vampires. Christopher Lee's Dracula movies for Hammer had left me with an appreciation of the possibilties living forever by preying on ordinary people. Randall's idealized vampires were do-gooders who fought evil vampires. He wrote and drew his own comics about a good vampire who was constantly at war with his dark side. Barnabas Collins from the Dark Shadows soap opera meets Spiderman.
His parents were likable but ignorant country folk. The only people I've ever met who read the National Inquirer for news. I went to their church once but don't remember the denomination. It was working class and fundamentalist.
I think it was under my influence that Randall became an atheist for a time. Later he became convinced that he'd committed the unpardonable sin and that no matter how good he might be for the rest of his life he was condemned to eternal torment. Your adolescent sex crisis is a rave in comparison. I spent lots of time trying to talk him through and out of it. No luck.
My friend Victor came back to Savannah with his lover John so I spent less time with Randall. And I realized that I was gay. Naturally I told him. He never said anything about it. I don't think he was homophobic but I'm sure it disturbed him strongly. Possibly because it meant that I'd be going to where the worms don't die and the flames aren't quenched.
My life was evolving and exciting. His was become ever more deeply buried in terror. No surprise that we stopped spending time together.
As I said earlier John and I would play phone pranks on him. I wish I never had but John's heartlessness was infectious.
I know he went on to Armstrong State College. I think he was studying business. Don't know what became of him. Unlike Paul and Terry, Randall while an introverted was more able to talk to people and not shy about his opinions. I hope he overcame the idea that he was inexorably destined for Hell and had a good life.
He was one of the two guys that I knew in my teens whose lives were blighted by Christianity.
I'm sure I've already mentioned Pate. Another product of a controlling mother who when he was 17 would not let him go more than two blocks from the house. She was dour, puritanical and very ignorant.
I went to his families Pentecostal church several times. Anything to get out of going to the Bible Baptist Church where Pastor Cecil A. Hodges would damn the Moon landing as blasphemy.
The folks at Pate's church were a hoot. They'd speak in tongues. Every now and then someone would get the 'gift of interpretation' and tell us what the guy was saying. It'd be something pretty simple like "I have gifts to bring you My children."
I wished I'd gotten to see the converted Jew they loved to talk about. He'd become a revivalist and god had given him a miraculous power: he could jump on the back pew and run across the pews to the front without stumbling. Mysterious ways & etc.
Pate was fairly attractive. Maybe he found a wife to henpeck him for the rest of his life. I think he might've liked it that way.
It was a tiring day in the book mines. Kevin Maroney an old customer was down from New York where he writes games. Since he felt he'd get more from me than booksellers back home he brought fifteen boxes of books.
Sorting the wheat from the chaff is the first step. After twenty years at it I'm the scythe moves quickly. Flip past Alan Derwshowitz to grab 70s Pelican sociology and psychology. Figuring out how much to pay can be worrisome. I don't want to cheat Kevin or myself. My instinct for which old paperbacks will be worth a few dollars isn't bad. Fiction is tougher. Many a novel hits the bargain tables at Barnes & Noble. Online dealers may be disposing of them for a buck. That fate is more common than becoming a rarity. It took about two hours. Eight minutes a box is a bit slow but I was chewing the fat with Kevin while I worked.
Paul showed up a few hours later. He was getting rid of his art books. The books had to go to make space for the doodads he bought at Kirkland's a mall chain retailing tasteless chintz. Kirkland's and a forgotten junque shop it absorbed is where he's worked since he got out of college.
Eight or so years ago Paul had a breakdown. He hallucinated that he about to marry Dean Cain. He was briefly locked up in a local loony bin (I'm sure psychiatrists have kinder words for it). A batch of pills later they let him out.
Paul came out. When he told me naturally I let him know I was queer as well. He didn't feel guilty. He seemed to think being gay was as wholesome as apple pie.
He started making weekly visits to a local gay bar. But he never went home with anybody. Slender, blonde, blue-eyed, decent face and looking seventeen it wasn't that nobody would say hello. I tried to be his gay uncle, as it were. Paul told me he was saving his virtue for Mr. Right. With whom I think he expected to spend a Hallmark eternity.
I've encountered only a couple of other gay guys nutty and sad enough to be members of the virginity fraternity. Now I've got enough romantic, monogamous lunacy to become a romance writer (sadly for my pocketbook I lack the other soulless attributes required for that profession). But like any sane person, when I came out, hoarding my sperm - heck, I can't think of words adequate to the preposterousness.
* This is very old. Charles kicked Zoloft.