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Friday, July 29, 2005

Clarification: Unfortunate Coincidence

I was recently alerted by a friend who was reviewing this page that my pseudonym I was using as my last name also happens to be the name of a prominent German weapons manufacturer. This was completely a coincidence, I use the random name generator to generate all the names I use on this site, and for my own personal convenience, try and find names that have the same sound or similar syllables to their originals, so I can remember them easily.

Since I've already used "Mauser" in the previous posts, I'll continue with it through the rest of the story. However, I figured I'd post this note simply to clarify that this was not an intentional selection of my name, and doesn’t have any meaning at all with regard to the story.

Chapter 4: The Patients

“Ross Mauser!”

“Ross Mauser!”

“Is Ross Mauser in this room?”

My eyes snapped open. This was a dream, all a dream. I had a horrible dream that my life turned upside down, that things unthinkable had occurred to me, things that would normally only happen in a nightmare. But I was not in my bed, I was not in my house. It was real; I had awoken to the same situation which I fell asleep to the night before. My only chance for complete escape was gone – this was not a dream.

“Who are you?”

The room was pitch black, and it was evidently a very early hour. The door was open, and a bright light was shining through, making it near impossible to see.

“I’m Ross Mauser.”

“Come with me,” the female voice instructed.

I climbed out of bed and the woman led me down the corridor towards the small room where I had been separated from my mother the previous night. My eyes, adjusted to the darkness, could barely determine the direction I was heading, and the early hour, along with the emotional stresses of the entire event led me to be in a confused, almost hypnotic state. Simply following orders without thinking, I entered the small room, where three other teenagers were standing, all girls.

“You have to have your blood drawn this morning,” one of the nurses explained. “In addition, you will have to have your vital signs taken every morning and afternoon for the first seven days you are here.”

I had the impulse to explain that I was only going to be there for the day, however I decided against it, as it really didn’t matter in the scheme of things. I still needed my vitals taken that morning.

When it was my time in line, a nurse sitting down in a chair instructed me to sit in the empty seat next to her, then attached a blood pressure cuff and took my blood pressure, along with my pulse. After writing both pieces of data on the sheet next to my name, she asked me if I was feeling any pain, to which I replied in the negative. Next, she drew blood from my left arm, then instructed me that I could return to my room, and that the official wakeup time would be in an hour.

I promptly went back to bed, and by the time that I reawoke it was officially the wakeup time. I dressed and then headed down the corridor to a room on my right at the end, where I had been instructed to go.

The room contained a television, several upholstered chairs and two couches, and a collection of books, most of which appeared to be on the elementary school level. I quickly learned that there were also small children in this wing of the building, however their common area was at the end of the corridor that I had my room on. Halfway through the room was a folding wall, beyond which was a series of tables and chairs where the meals were eaten.

After all of the adolescents had assembled in the common area in the center of the room and attendance was successfully taken, they would proceed to the meal area. Carts containing trays had were wheeled in, and each person would find the tray with their last name attached to it with a sticky-note. Though completely new to the process, I quickly picked up the routine, and found my tray on the carts. The tray was made of a thick plastic and was composed of a top and a bottom. The bottom was an off-white and the top was a greenish-grey. After one opened the tray they were presented with their breakfast. The first morning’s breakfast was French toast. I did not eat French toast, so I ignored it and inspected the other items of the tray. There was a box of Frosted Flakes, which I quickly consumed, a carton of milk (which I left alone, as I eat my cereal dry), a few sugar packets and a muffin. I picked up the muffin, and undid the wrapper, not thinking to taste it cautiously and simply shoving it into my mouth. It had no flavor, was overcooked, and was dry enough that it seemed to act as sponge, soaking up all of the moisture in my mouth. I through the rest of the muffin back on the tray and quickly swallowed what I had in my mouth, resisting the urge to vomit repeatedly. The one remaining item on my tray was a clementine, which I attempted to open. The fruit had the hardness of a bowling ball, and judging by its size was probably picked three months earlier than it should have been. Even when I was able to pry the skin away from the fruit, it was practically tasteless and filled with seeds which I had to spit back onto the tray.

After having little to eat, I reassembled my tray and placed it back on the cart. I then took a seat in one of the upholstered chairs in the common area, waiting for everyone to finish their meal. They were soon done, and a woman in her mid thirties pulled a chair on the middle of the circle that the chairs and touches formed.

There were eleven teenagers in all, or “patients” if I preferred to use the official language of the facility. Seven of them were girls, leaving me in a clear minority to start off with. I recognized Clayton sitting on the fringes of the circle, and there was a black youth a bit older than me in the chair across from mine. That left me and a rather muscular looking kid who I heard someone refer to as Joey. Most of the others seemed to be inspecting those who had arrived the night before, trying to figure out who they were, what backgrounds they came from, and why they were there. Most of all, however, they seemed intrigued to simply have something new to marvel at. Finally, a girl, who appeared slightly younger than me, and had he brown hair back in a ponytail, spoke up. “Wow, there are a lot of new people.”

The woman, who appeared to be leading whatever we were doing, asked if everyone ready. “Can we do the circle thing?” the same girl asked. “The one where everyone says their name and then why they are here?” The other patients quickly concurred with the sentiment.

“Alright, it’ll be nice way to start, seeing as that we got some new people in. For all you new people, just watch what is going on and follow the lead.” Looking at the girl who had suggested the idea, she said, “Kelly, why don’t you begin, since you suggested it.”

“Alright,” she began, with tremendous excitement, “My name is Kelly and I’m here because I am bipolar, I have anger issues, suicidal and violent thoughts, I have an anger problems and family issues.”

The next girl in line was around my age, maybe a little younger, and I later learned had been born in Haiti, before coming to the United States at the age of seven. “My name is Ruth and I’m here because I have anger problems and family issues.”

“I’m here because I am depressed, I have anger problems, I can be violent, and I have family issues,” said a rather obese black girl. “I’m back because I attacked my mother with a broom,” she added with a snicker. It was beginning to seem like “family issues” was simply a generic issue that most patients added to their list of problems, only in an attempt to make them longer, as if they were something to be proud of.

“That’s enough Melissa,” the woman leading the proceedings intervened. “But you didn’t mention your name.”

“Oh, I’m Melissa,” she said.

The next person continued. “I’m Helen and I’m here because I’m clinically depressed and have mild schizophrenia.” Helen seemed to be the only one so far that didn’t come across as boasting about her psychological disorders, but rather accepting them as a given fact of life and being at peace with the issue.

“I’m Jordan,” said the first male to speak, who appeared to be much older than me. “I’m here became I overdosed on sleeping pills, and then they sent me here.”

“How did you do that?” questioned the woman in charge.

“Well, I had I kind of took one…and then, then I took another, and then I forgot about the first two because I was tired, and so I took some more, and before I knew it the whole bottle was gone.”

“I’m Lionel,” said the next boy in line. “I’m here because I have anger issues and I attacked my mother.”

“Alright,” said the woman in charge, motioning toward me. “Why don’t you introduce yourself.”

“I’m Ross,” I began uneasily, “and I’m here because of an overreaction. A wrote a document that detailed my life for a few months and then I sent it to some girls and they took offense at about three lines out of the forty page document. The school just wanted me to come checked out here, for liability reasons.”

The woman in the front of the room frowned, and thought for a moment. “What did you write?”

“Well, mostly about my life during the period I wrote it.”

“No, what did you write to cause you to get here?”

“Oh, a few different things. Mostly things along the lines of comments that were not meant seriously, such as, “These people should be taken out and shot.”

“Well, you obviously have some anger issues, that’ll be something good to work at – how about you?” she said to Clayton, not giving me a chance to respond to her accusation of my alleged “anger issues.” It was assumed because I was sitting in that room and participating in the activity, that I had at least a fair array of psychological issues. If I believed I didn’t, then I was also in denial, which course of course be treated.

However, the woman running the activity only seemed to be a nurse, if even that. Possibly just a common staffer. Once I had a chance to talk to the doctors, they, with their years of training and experience, would quickly realize I had no issues, that I was a perfectly normal boy suffering from the restrictions and overreactions of a society recently disturbed by a rash of violence.

Clayton seemed two or three years older than I, and a few inches taller. He began by introducing himself, but then stated that he didn’t know why he was at the facility.

“We’ll work on that,” assured the woman in charge.

My name then called by a nurse who appeared in the doorway of the common area. I stood up from my seat and walked to the door. The nurse directed me towards the small room where I had my blood drawn early in the morning. I took the seat in front of the desk and, behind which was a woman with black curly hair.

“Hello,” she greeted me, extending her hand. “I’m Dr. Smith, and I am the doctor who will be overseeing your stay here. You will meet with me once per day for a few minutes to discuss how things are going.”
“Hello,” I replied, shaking the extended hand.

“There will be a meeting with your parents later today to discuss the situation. They will be permitted to visit you as soon as the meeting is over. However, for now you will need to fill out this,” she told me, pushing the paper on the desk in front of me and handing me a pen. “It’s a meal plan for the week. Circle which meals you want for lunch and dinner. Everyone gets the same thing at breakfast.”

I accepted the schedule and began to complete it, though I knew it would be of little use given my quickly approaching departure. Once the menu was complete, I was given a schedule for the remainder of the week.

“But I really don’t need this,” I protested. “I’m going to be leaving soon.”

“Just take it anyway,” the doctor replied. “You never know.”

I really couldn’t argue with the statement, so I consented and kept the paper.

“Well, that’s about it,” she said. “We will discuss things more after I have spoken to your parents.”

I rose from my seat and walked out of the room to the common area, where the group was still sitting in the chairs and couches that littered the area. Several were slumped over on the arms of the furniture they occupied, half asleep from the sheer quantities of the anti-depressants they ingested on a daily basis. Others sat gazing about at the newcomers to the group, but no one talked.

Several minutes later, the woman who had begun the circle activity before breakfast returned, and announced that Mr. Propp would be soon arriving for “school,” and that we needed to make our way to the tables that we had eaten breakfast on. A few of the patients quickly became excited when they heard that Mr. Propp was arriving, both most expressed dissention about actually having to do work.

Soon a balding man of moderately tall stature arrived pushing a plastic cart on wheels. He rolled the cart onto the linoleum tile that was the floor of the eating area, and the staffing woman pulled an expandable wall between the common area and the eating area across.

Mr. Propp quickly noted the number of newcomers to the group and began by introducing himself. “I’m Geoff Propp, but you can call me Geoff. I’m a part time teacher at a nearby school, but during most of the week I come here to teach you guys.” He explained that he had worksheets on different levels, and that we could take what we want. All pencils were available from him and they all needed to be accounted for before he left.

Students quickly began lining up for work at his cart, but I took my time and was somewhat skeptical. Work was available from level one to five, with an increasing amount of difficulty as the number grew. The highest level of math available was basic arithmetic. When I had reached the front of the line, I took a pencil from Mr. Propp while he questioned what difficulty I would like.

“Level five,” I told him. I felt like adding a “bring it on,” but I refrained from doing so. After all, if I was going to get out that day, I’d better maintain good relations with everyone.

“Are you sure? I think you’d better start with level three.”

I took a level three sheet and sat down by myself at a table. The sheet consisted of paragraphs in which words were missing and one had to fill in blanks. Somewhat like the SATs, but the words were on about a fifth grade level. I blazed through the sheet and was soon back up for more.

“Level five,” I told him. He took a look over what I had completed an handed me a stack of level five sheets. I took them back to my seat and examined them. The words were slightly harder, but still at least a grade level or two below my current ability. I began working through the sheets, and casually glanced around – some patients were struggling with level three sheets and others were simply doing nothing. A few were sitting down with their heads on the tables.

The staffer that had conducted the morning activity returned through the doorway in the portable wall, and glanced around the room.

“Kelly,” she said, walking over to the short girl in a bright orange shirt, “You have to stay awake during school and do your work.”

The girl raised her head. “But I’m tired,” she whined.

“Try to stay awake and do your work.”

I turned and looked out the panel of windows which wrapped around the dining area. It was about a two story drop down. Outside there was an area cordoned off by a gray picket fence that held two large green dumpsters, a small pond, and a one story brick building off in the distance.

The window was thick. Not bulletproof thick, but thick enough that you couldn’t break through it with sheer manual force. It was a prison I was in, a prison without bars. Outside, just through a few inches of glass lay freedom. But I was not a criminal, I did not belong in a prison. And I would be outside the glass in just a few hours, as soon as my parents had completed a meeting with the doctors.

By the time lunch had arrived, I had heard nothing from either the staff or my parents - I was being treated like any of the other patients at the facility. However, one had to be fair to everyone – I had to assume that they couldn’t indicate to the others that my departure was nearing as it would probably bring cries of “Why him and not me?”

The trays where wheeled out on their carts, and I lifted the one that had my name attached on a yellow post-it note off and brought it to a table by myself, where I lifted the top off. Inside was a hamburger, with some type of beans on the side, a container of fruit juice and a small roll. I picked up the hamburger and squeezed a plentiful quantity of ketchup onto it, and took a cautious bite. It was far too overcooked, and therefore could not even be described as meaty, but rather, crispy. It had no flavor, and the bun stuck to the top of my mouth. However, unlike the breakfast food, it was partially edible.

Upon completing my meal and returning my tray, I was asked to come with one of the staff and they led me to one of the rooms where my parents were sitting. I, too, took a seat and noticed that the doctor I had spoken to that morning was also present, along with a nurse.

“Ross,” the doctor began, “I’ve just finished talking with your parents and I’ve explained to them what is going on. As I’m sure you’re aware, you’ve generated a fair amount of text that we need to analyze. We simply don’t have time to review everything with regard to your case today, and the doctors are not here on the weekend. Therefore, you are going to have to stay here till Monday, at which point we will review what you have and make a further determination about your status.”

Explanatory Note: Check-In

This is another partially compted chapter that is needed so readers can understand future events, but I haven't fit well into a chapter yet, nor edited much. It, again, will be a supplement to this week's formal chapter.

My mother and I were lead through a labyrinth of corridors that snaked through the interior of the facility. The place seemed nicely maintained – a carpeted floor, freshly painted walls, well lit corridors and silent – it seemed as if everyone was already asleep at nine o’clock. I noticed that many of the doors we went through required a card to open them – the facility also seemed to be pretty well secured. But it didn’t emanate an uneasy feeling as one would expect to come from a psychiatric hospital.

We finally came upon an area which was introduced to us as the “adolescent ward.” Immediately in front of us was a large circular desk, where several females, who were probably nurses, sat. Beyond the desk, and also to the left of it, were two branching hallways that were lined on either side by doorways. A common area, which had upholstered couches and a television sat to our left –surrounded by clear Plexiglas windows, it could easily be observed from the nurse’s station. And finally, to our immediate left, were two office-like rooms, each with only a desk and three chairs – two in front of the desk, one behind. We were directed to the first such room, and my mother and I sat in front of the desk, while a nurse took a seat behind it.

She talked about the facility for a bit, then started filling out paperwork. I provided my name, my date of birth, my insurance information – she wanted to know if I had a past of any psychological illness (I hadn’t), if I ever had an IQ test (I had, but never found out the results, my mother said that I was somewhere between 130-140, but she didn’t exactly remember the number), and a variety of other questions about my past.

I then had to remove my shoes, as they were not allowed due to the risk shoelaces posed to the suicidal patients, give my wallet and any other valuables to my mother, and then was told I needed to have a physical and formal check-in done by the woman who had originally escorted us in. Hours were set up for a meeting with my parents tomorrow, and visiting hours we discussed. I would receive a room I would have to share with one other patient, who was already checked in.

I said goodbye to my mother, and left with the woman who was supposedly head of the facility. We walked through another maze of doors, till we ended up on the far side of the building, in a room designed to generally resemble a doctor’s office. I sat down on the examining table, and she pulled out some paperwork from a manila folder that already had my name on it.

After conducting a brief physical exam of asking about any previous medical history, taking a set of vital signs, listening to lung sounds and so forth, I was directed to take a seat next to her, where she proceeded with an interview.

I explained to her the chain of events which lead up to me being admitted to the facility, and, unlike her counterpart at the hospital, she listened to my entire story attentively and took notes.

“Well, I don’t see anything wrong with what you did,” she told me.

Finally. Finally someone who understood, someone who was reasonable.

“Everyone can get upset at points, and say things they don’t mean,” she added. “However, I have to fill out this entire form, and I’ve got to ask you all these questions that may not apply to your situation.”

“Sure, I understand,” I told her, now much more relaxed.

“Have you ever hurt yourself intentionally?”
“No.”

“Have you ever thought about hurting yourself or others?”

“No.”

“Have you or has anyone in your family ever been diagnosed with a mental illness?”

“No.”

“Have you ever consumed anything that might have been considered an illegal substance?”

“No.”

The questions continued on for another twenty minutes, after which the woman assured me that I was likely fine.
“You’re probably just a good writer,” she told me, “You’ll probably end up being the next Steven King.”

She escorted me back to the adolescent ward, and to my room, after explaining to me that tomorrow I'd have to be formally checked out by the doctor in the adolescent ward. When I arrived back, my roommate was already sound asleep, along with the rest of the patients at the facility. My mother had placed a few changed of clothes in shopping bags in the corner, and I climbed into the unoccupied bed and fell asleep.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Chapter 3: Through the Safety Glass

After fifteen minutes in the waiting area of the emergency room, a nurse with a clipboard walked in and called my name. My mother and I stood and the nurse instructed me to sit in a nearby wheelchair. She pushed me down a short corridor, lined on either side by curtains that acted as a temporary barrier between the hall and beds where patients could be placed. At the end of the hall was a medium sized room behind a door that had a small safety-glass window. The room had a speckled linoleum floor, white walls, a bed with a wrap-around curtain, and two brown plastic chairs, set facing each other in the middle of the room. I climbed out of the wheelchair, and sat down in the seat furthest from the door.

A burly man appeared. He spoke in a thick accent and identified himself as the director of the psychiatric services at the hospital. He took a seat and began promptly:

“Why do you think you’re here?”

“Well,” I replied, somewhat shaken by what had already happened but not fully realizing the significance of the interview, “you see, there was this document. I basically detailed everything that happened in my life, and of course there were good points and bad points. I wrote it in August and finished it up in December, and then I kind of forgot about it. Two girls that I liked pressured me to send it to them and so I complied.”

“Yes, but that’s not why you are here. You can write a journal and not be here.”

“I really shouldn’t be here, it’s all kind of a misunder-“

The man interrupted me. “I don’t have much time. I’m a very busy man. Answer the question.”

“Well, as I said there were good points and bad points during the three months I wrote the thing. That’s normal, everyone has ups and downs in their life. Once or twice when I was upset, I would say things I didn’t mean. Everyone does. However, when I sent the document to the girls I made sure they understood the circumstances under which-“

“As I said, I am very busy; I don’t have time for your answers. What did you write?”

“Well, on one occasion, I used the phrase, ‘These people should be taken out and shot.’ Not seriously, of course. It’s a common phrase my father-“

“I don’t have time for this. Why did you want to shoot these people?”

“I didn’t want to. I didn’t even hate them. I was just upset and it’s just a phrase that people-“

The man made a motion with his hand to cut me off. “Did you hate these people you wrote this about?”

“Not at-“

Sensing an answer that didn’t profile me as a serial killer, the man quickly interrupted with his next question before I could say that I didn’t hate those people or anyone at all, I was just upset at the time. “What else did you write?”

“Well the majority of the document was just about my life – the girls I liked, the things I did, the-“

“That’s enough.” The man stood up, walked to the door, and explained to my mother, who had been standing outside, that he would be back in a minute. He picked up a piece of fax paper from the desk near the room as he walked out and in a few minutes a nurse returned, instructing me to sit in the wheelchair. I complied, and was wheeled back down the hallway through which I came, past the waiting room, and into a small square room, about six feet on all sides. I was told that my mother would be with me in a moment, that she was speaking with someone else, and the door was closed behind me. There was no inside knob to the door. I was locked in.

I looked around my cell, for that’s what it really was. The walls were padded in thick foam up to about my eye level, and off to one side was a small bed. As I sat down on it, a nurse opened the door to the room and my mother walked in, looking rather shaken. She sat down on the bed beside me.

“There is a fax, the nurse has,” she began. “It’s from the school, and has some strange things on it, things that I don’t think you wrote. Did you?” She looked at me.

“Things like what?”

“Well, one of them said that the entire football team should be shot.”

“I never said that. I said, “The entire football team should be taken out and shot, not literally of course.”

“It doesn’t say that on the sheet.”

“Well I wrote that, I’m sure. I always was extra careful after anything I said to explain that I didn’t mean it seriously. All of the comments have disclaimers after them.”

My mom told me she would try and go explain that to the psychiatrist, and left. As she did, the nurse who had been standing guard at the door closed the door once again.

A few moments later she returned and sat down next to me again. “They don’t really believe you. They want to hold you overnight at a place in Riverside, not too far from home. Just overnight, it won’t be bad. It’ll be fine, don’t worry. But they insist on moving you by ambulance and they can’t do that till six tonight. I told them I’d drive you but they wouldn’t let me. I’m going to go home and tell dad about what is going on. Just stay here and I’ll be back as soon as I can. Just hang on, you’ll get out of this soon enough.” She gave me a hug and left the room.

I had long wondered what it would be like to be in prison. What torture it must be to be restrained in a tiny room for years, having an infinite amount of time on one’s hands, with nothing to do. It is almost the inverse of the lives of the free – too much to do, but not enough time to do it in. While the free man always wishes he had more time, the captive wishes his time to be short and pass quickly. At times much earlier in my life, I had sometimes wished for a few hours of time to spend in a room away from all the disturbances, demands, and responsibilities of life – now I had it and wished for it to go away; I craved to be back beyond the door of my cell, to be able to go home at night, to be able to experience the stresses and ups and downs of a normal life. In a matter of a few hours, I was transformed from a model high school student, the type of student that every parent dreams of, to a convicted criminal, locked in my cell of padded walls without judge, jury, or trial.

I stood. The floor was composed of linoleum squares, the ones on the outside having a slightly different color than those in the interior, so the outer tiles formed a box around the inner ones. I walked to the door, imbedded in which was a small safety-glass window. Outside, people roamed freely around the ER, making no notice fact that it was a prison, that its purpose was to hold as well as to heal. There was a clock on the ceiling panel with a red LCD readout – it read 3:27. I turned back into my room, and I walked around a few times, then checked the clock again. It was 3:28. I stood and waited until the clock read 3:29. Then I began walking around the linoleum box, one foot directly in front of the other for maximum accuracy. Each time I would pass the safety glass window, I would check the clock, and keep a mental count of how many times I walked around. After twenty-seven times, the clock changed to 3:30. I tried again, and again, and again. It was always twenty seven. Yet I did not stop, except I now never needed to check the clock, as I always knew what time it was.

It was almost fun. The fear of the unknown and the emotional shock of the events of the day had left my mind desperate for even the smallest hint of entertainment. Besides, the walking and the counting required a good degree of concentration – losing count meant starting again, and the goal of the game was to do that the least number of times as possible, so I wasn’t able to worry about what was ahead of me.

What was ahead of me was the Stole-Barton Behavioral Health Center – what I or any student would have called a psychiatric hospital, or even possibly a insane asylum – a place where only those with severely altered mental states would be sent. However, the term, “Behavior Health Center,” a euphemism at its best, was comforting in a way. It was a center to study my behavioral health, which I knew was perfectly fine, and so “they” would obviously conclude everything was alright, and discharge me immediately.

2,027 squares later, the door to the room opened. A lady introduced an African American man wearing scrubs and explained he was an Emergency Room doctor. She wanted to know if I’d like some company, an idea which I consented to happily.

The man sat down on the bed and left the door open.

“I’ll leave the door open if you promise to stay in here,” he told me, and I nodded. “Even if you run, you won’t get far; the doors down the hall can be instantly closed from the desk.”

“I don’t want to run,” I explained, “I just want to get through this. Running wouldn’t help anything.” He looked at me, but said nothing, so I continued. “You see, this is all a terrible mistake.”
I explained what had happened to him.

“Yeah, you have to be really careful what you write these days,” he admitted, in an almost Orwellian reference. However he showed little sympathy towards my cause, but the fact that the person you are conversing with has been locked in a padded room for three hours can destroy any hope of credibility one might hope to have.

“I didn’t intend to harm anyone and I didn’t even want to distribute the thing,” I explained. “They talked me into it, and now they are turning back on me.” He didn’t respond, save a slight nod.

My mother then appeared at the door, so the man got up and left.

“What did dad say?” I immediately questioned.

“He was surprisingly calm, actually,” she said. “I let him know what’s going on, and that it should only be a matter of one night. He just wants to see you out of this.”

I was greatly relieved, as I was only to be at Stole-Barton one night, but I would have to live with my dad twenty four hours a day throughout the rest of the weekend, and however long the proceedings at school took. It would be almost intolerable for him to be bearing down on me about what had happened – as it was he didn’t want me to be involved with any popular girls at high school.

“He brought this home for you; he thought you might be hungry,” my mom said, revealing a cardboard container filled with fried clam strips, one of my favorite seafood dishes. I picked up the box, and began nibbling on the strips, in sheer contrast to the usual enthusiasm I wolfed them down with. However, the strips were good and they were from the outside world. Also, my mom had brought along the new issue of Popular Science that had arrived in the mail that day. I placed it on the bed next to me and we sat in silence for a few minutes.

“Everything is going to be alright,” my mom added.

A nurse stuck her head in the door, which had been left open. “They’re ready,” she said, motioning to the hallway.

“Alright, let’s go,” my mother said to me.

I stood with her, and she clutched her purse as we walked out the door. At the desk which filled up the center of the emergency room were two EMTs, dressed in blue uniforms.

“How are you doing?” one of them asked me.

“Alright, considering the circumstances,” I replied.

“We’ll were just going to be transporting you to Stole-Barton.”

“Alright.”
My mother arranged to follow the ambulance and the other EMT gave her directions. Then we left through the hospital doors and I climbed into the back of the ambulance, which was parked immediately in front of the emergency room entrance. After getting into her car, my mom pulled in front of the ambulance to let them know she was ready to go. I sat down on the bed in the back with the other EMT.

The ambulance pulled out of the parking lot, then drove down a street until it reached the highway. As we picked up speed, I reflected all the times as I child I was given the opportunity to climb into the back of an ambulance. I was never quite sure if I’d ever be riding in one, but if I were, I knew that it would be taking me somewhere to heal whatever injury my body had incurred. I had no way of knowing that the first ambulance ride I would have in my life would be one that would take me not to a place that would heal some preexisting injury, but one to that would try to find a way to keep me locked away from society for as long a period of time as could be arranged.

After about fifteen minutes, we arrived at Stole-Barton, and the ambulance stopped in the front parking lot. The EMT who had been riding in the back with me opened the door, and I hopped out and walked with them to where my mom was standing by the door. We went in together, and a security guard who looked to be around forty greeted us, saying that someone would be with us in a moment. The room was empty except for a few chairs, and there was an open window with an office behind it. The EMTs sat down also, and my mom began conversing with them about the calls they receive.

About five minutes after we arrived, a woman in her seventies came to the front desk. She introduced herself as the director of the facility and the lead medical doctor. The EMTs handed her some paperwork and left, and she then opened a door leading further into the facility and motioned for us to follow.

Explanatory Note: The Document

A note of explanation. This was originally going to be a chapter somewhere in the book, but I decided it didn’t fit well anywhere, so I’ll post it as a clarification to readers and as a supplement to this week’s chapter.

It began thus:

This piece will lack a formal introduction, as I feel that the cover page is self-explanatory. Personally, I find my life interesting – a tactical situation which requires careful planning and execution. It is composed of hundreds of ups and downs each day; it is as volatile as the stock market itself. Unlike my “Life Story Site,” Daily Journal, or other such efforts to record my thoughts for later retrieval, this document will not be organized by days and I will not make an attempt to continue this ongoing saga daily. In all due respect, some days are just boring and they do not need to be mentioned or remembered. I also will not group events by their date, as I am writing this as a story, not a diary. With the above in mind, enjoy.

What followed was forty-three pages of rants and raves, ups and downs, victories and losses, bouts of anger and moments of pure bliss. The uncut emotions of a high school freshman, torn by the middle school social system and thrust into the status quo of the regional high school.

It was meant to record my life and later, to persuade. It was an outlet for my anger and creativity alike. It was my Life Story. It was my freshman year.


I had always liked to write. In school, English was my best subject, and on my own, I’d sometimes compose the occasional short story simply for personal enjoyment.


I was not the typical high school freshman. In middle school, I was an individual who could easily be tagged as a nerd, and as many middle school students do, I experienced the trials and tribulations of harassment and teasing. During the eighth grade, I took a position on the “Eighth Grade Government” and student respect increased exponentially. And as many of my peers in middle school did at one point and time, I liked a girl.

The girl’s name was Britney Whitfelt. She was popular (this was back when popularity was a big deal), she was attractive, and she was nice. I didn’t have a chance. But that didn’t stop me. Having never liked a girl, I began by making every possible mistake I could. I told Doug, a distant friend of mine, who happened to be relatively popular and a good friend of Britney’s. He immediately convinced me to allow him to allow him to tell her during lunch the next day. I can still visualize him, getting up across from his lunch table, marching across the cafeteria floor, and stopping at her table. My friends all eagerly looked on in anticipation of what was to come, and I struggled to also get a view.

George, a chubby student whose father was a well-to-do plumber, started laughing. “She choked on her food!” he exclaimed, and the table roared in laughter. I never saw her do it, and knowing George, he very well could have been making the whole thing up. What I do know is that the next day, Doug handed me a small square of glossy paper. A school picture. I stared at it and simply couldn’t make out who it was, eventually concluding that it was another girl I knew. I moved to toss it in my locker.


“Read the back,” Doug told me, obviously not seeing the reaction he expected. I flipped the picture over. On the back was scrawled, in blue pen:

Hey Ross,
What’s up? Hope you’re having a great year!
♥Britney

I smiled. She cared enough to respond. On the bus ride home, there was a girl named Michelle, who was not only Britney’s friend but the gossip queen of middle school. Doug had told her about the picture.


“Did Britney give you something today?” she asked, her voice filled with eager anticipation.


“Yea,” I replied, not quite sure how to react – I wasn’t sure I trusted this girl.


“It was her picture, right?”


“Yea.”


“You know she doesn’t like you.”


And thus began a chain of events that would lead up to The Document. I, upset over Michelle’s words, and unsure what to do, e-mailed Britney. Britney replied, saying that she wasn’t sure why Michelle said what that she didn’t like me, and that she liked me very much as a friend. The e-mail seemed successful, so every time something would not seem right, I’d e-mail Britney, and she’d reply, and everything would seem better.

Freshman year in high school, there were a number of changes. For one, we went from a school with a student population of 300 to a freshman class of 250 people, as we entered the regional high school that Greenwood and it’s neighboring town Salem shared. The social dynamic began to change also, and as I clung onto my own friends, I also sought to forge ties with Britney’s group. I would sit with my friends at lunch, and hers in study hall. I met Megan Feltz, Britney’s closest friend, and tried through study halls to become friends with people in the same social group.


Understandably, I met more than a few roadblocks, including my own (likely accurate) perception that while I was welcomed at the study hall table and permitted to talk with those there, I received little out of school contact and certainly no invitations to do anything extracurricular. I was frustrated, and in order to express my frustration, I turned to my writing. On September 29th, 2001, I began a Microsoft Word document entitled, “My Life.”


At first, I tried to begin writing everyday, however I lacked enough material to keep the document moving and would resort to mindless descriptions of mundane events in my life. Later, after everything had settled, my friend would refer two paragraphs dedicated to describing the process by which I asked for some zucchini muffins from my mother one morning. It scared him more than controversial writing, he told me.

I walked downstairs, where my mom was preparing Zucchini muffins. Many students with whom I have spoken have found the idea of Zucchini muffins revolting, however they are actually quite good. As part of the recipe, 3 cups of sugar must be added, so they end up being quite good.

My mom questioned whether I preferred the larger or the small muffins, and I replied that I would rather have smaller muffins, but would consume either size. I was informed that they we be completed in 10-15 minutes and she would bring them upstairs for me. I proceeded to hike back up the stairs to my computer, which I promptly turned on.

To avoid creating long passages that described practically nothing, I resorted to only writing when I felt there was something necessary to write. This translated to only writing when I felt like complaining or was angry about something, as otherwise I simply wouldn’t see the need to write. Adding to “My Life” became a more a method of relaxation than anything else, I could get my thoughts out on paper, save the file, and proceed with my life.

Several times during my additions, I used phrasing that could have been misinterpreted. In three sentences out of forty three pages of text, I said something along of the lines of the following, “these people should be taken out and shot (not literally, of course),” “I swear, sometimes it frustrates me so much I want to blow up her house (not that I mean that seriously),” and one similarly incendiary line that I cannot remember at the time of this writing. All were marked up to ensure they wouldn’t be misinterpreted in case they were ever read.

I finished up the document on December 3 of the same year, deciding that it had disintegrated into a complaint-ridden document that didn’t have much meaning.

I always had the intention of releasing the document informally when I had concluded it. My original plan was to write it for the duration of the school year, and then follow it with three subsequent sequels, one every year of my high school experience. I would, of course, edit out the controversial sections before I offered up a public release.

And so, on December 4th, that was exactly what I did…removed any section that anyone might find the least bit controversial, and offered it to whomever wanted it.

Three days later, I received an instant message from Megan. She wanted the full document. I initially resisted, but she argued that if we were to be friends there had to be some element of trust involved, and if I couldn’t trust her with the document, how could she trust me? It was a faulty argument I realize now, but at the time it persuaded me, and I sent her the document. She read through it, controversial portions and all, and over the next month or so we discussed it several times, even making a joke out of a few of the controversial portions.

It wasn’t till January that Britney confronted me on the document. In retrospect, it was obvious Megan had already showed it to her and she had likely read it completely. My giving it to her was primarily a symbolic act that indicated that it was acceptable for her to read it. I was even more resistant to provide her a copy of the document as she was much more frequently mentioned, and while I had known her longer, I felt I was much closer friends with Megan.

Britney confronted me on the document in the midst of an argument we were having online, about what I don’t I remember, but she managed to obtain it using a very similar line of reasoning: how could she trust me if I was obviously withholding something from her? Again, a faulty line of reasoning but I fell for it.

I sent her a preliminary e-mail, however, outlining everything I was to talk about in it, explaining the circumstances under which I did most of the writing, and how none of it should be taken seriously. She replied, saying she understood completely, and I replied to her understanding with an attached copy of the file.

We never discussed the document, though Britney continued to talk to me (even more frequently than usual at first) and it wasn’t until the 7th of March that I even heard it mentioned again.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Chapter 2: The Interrogation

There must have been some time before I revived myself, but it seemed as if that no time had passed at all. The symptoms started to reverse themselves, though I awoke somewhat weakened. The nurse, a lady who appeared to be about in her mid to late fifties, with light blond, curly hair, was leaning over me. The security guard who had previously been across the desk was knelling beside her, along with another of the security guards who had escorted me from the classroom. At first, only my sight returned, in black and white, and the room came into focus. The color quickly returned and the ringing in my ears subsided. The nurse mentioned something to the female security guard who had escorted me, and she left the room quickly.

The chair I had been sitting on had been moved to my left, and was now situated in the corner of the room. I was sitting, back against the wall, right where I had been before, less the chair.

“How are you feeling?” the nurse questioned.

“A little weak,” I admitted.

The female security guard returned, in her hand was a bottle a fruit juice. The nurse took it from her, proceeded to remove the cap, and then motioned for me to drink it. I raised my right arm weakly and took a sip.

“There you go,” she said, “drink it nice and slowly.”

Apparently, she had already been briefed about what was going on, as she immediately started mentioning content in the document.

The male security guard looked at me, then said, “There’s a police officer here, but by law we can’t let him speak to you until a parent is present, since you’re under 16.”

“If you’re going to call someone, call my mother, please,” I requested. I was quite worried about how my dad would react to all this.

“We did call your mother, but she can’t come down until 11:30.” My mother was a nursery school teacher, and would need to find a substitute before she could leave.

“Why don’t you want your father to be called?” the nurse questioned.
“I get along with my mother better.”

“You also mentioned your father in what you wrote,” the guard behind the desk stated. I nodded. It was true. I’d mentioned almost everybody of significance by name, after all, it was almost a complete overview of my life in those three months.

“Do you get along with him?”

“On and off. We have good days and bad. You see, sometimes he can get upset over things, little things, and that bothers me. Other times we get along.”

The nurse motioned toward the chair, which the male security guard pushed forward and I pulled myself on to it. The guard then took his place behind the desk where he was originally situated, with the female guard and the nurse sitting off to my left, on two other chairs that were in the room.

“Did he ever hurt you?”

“Hurt me? Like physically?”

“Physically or verbally. People can be abused verbally just as well as they can be physically.”

“No, he never hurt me.”

“Verbally? Was he verbally abusive?”

“He yelled sometimes. He would yell at me, or more usually, my mom. They maybe fight like once a week, once every two weeks. I mean, he doesn’t like his job, he comes home a lot and is in a bad mood because he spent all day at work and then he had to sit in traffic or has some other reason to be upset. Other times we would fight, me and him, just yelling at each other, but not nearly as much. Usually my mom would get involved. The next day he’d always apologize about it, say he was sorry, and I always forgave him. But what I really wanted him to do was just calm down and not yell so much.”

The male security guard had been flipping through the document when I was talking. At this point I was kind of rambling, I was distraught, confused, I was just talking to get my mind off what was happening to me. More than anything, I was scared about how my dad would react to this unfolding incident.

“He’s so strict sometimes. Like, about things are not such a big deal. I don’t want to be like him, I’m going to be different. Like the cars. He has two cars, and some days he has to take one, and the other days he has to take the other, because he is “rotating the mileage” on them. Like, if he takes the white car three days in a row then he’s got to take the truck two days, so that the white car doesn’t get too many miles. When I’m on my own, I’m going to take whatever car is more convenient, whatever one I feel like, I’m not going to have to take each car a certain number of days each week.”

I paused for a moment, waiting to see if I’d be interrupted. Everyone in the room was listening to me, even the guard behind the desk had stopped flipping pages. He must have found what he wanted.

“Also the phones. We always have to pick up the phones. Always. If we go outside, we have to take the phone with us, regardless of what we’re doing, if we hear the phone ring, we have to drop what we’re doing and pick it up. Doesn’t matter if we have to start all over again, we’ve got to pick up the phones. What’s the big deal? When I’m on my own, it’s not going to matter if I pick up the phones. If the phone rings, the person can leave a message, I can get to it when I have time. That’s what there’s an answering machine for.”

I paused again, and the nurse spoke up. “Honey, don’t you see you’re being just like your father. Just as rigid. He makes you pick up the phones and you won’t allow anyone to pick them up. There’s no difference.”

In my state of mind, I must not have been explaining myself clearly, and the nurse’s rebuttal only frustrated me more. “No! That’s not what I meant! I mean, you can pick the phone up whether or not you want to, it doesn’t matter. If I want to pick it up, I can, but if I’m doing something, I don’t have to.’ I’m not going to be like that, I’m not going to force people to pick up the phone.”

I seemed to have beaten the issue to death, so the security guard behind the desk spoke up. He looked down at the page he had turned to, and mentioned a passage about how I complained that I was cold in the morning, because my dad would shut the heat off at night, and it would be 58 degrees in my room when I woke up, and how I was always boiling hot in the summer because my dad wouldn’t ever turn on the one air conditioner we had (it was in his room, mind you) until it had reached at least 100 degrees that day. It was true, I explained, but that didn’t mean we didn’t have heat during the day – we did.

The people in the room seemed to take little interest and the security guard scribbled down a note or two and moved on.

The nurse had to leave the room to get back to work and she and the female security guard exited. The room returned to its original configuration, with the security guard across the desk from me, and I in the chair against the wall.

The guard flipped through the document some more.

“You mention here that the entire high school football team should be ‘taken out and shot.’”

“Not literally, of course,” I interjected, echoing the passage I had purposely included after the incendiary statement.

“Why did you hate the football team?” The guard picked up my MP3 player and started to scroll through the songs. “You know, I am the coach of the football team, so if you have an issue with my team, I’d like to hear it.”

“I don’t hate the football team. Well, I mean, it’s frustrating. It’s not just the football team. It’s just the teams in general. I was just using that as a specific example. It’s not like I hate the sport of football, it’s a great sport, and the game, and all, and the high school team is fine, it’s the just the players, the people on the team, I have nothing against the team itself. I mean, all the girls hang out with guys that are on sports teams. That’s all they talk with, they don’t talk to me, they don’t do things with me…”

“Have you ever considered joining a sports team?”

“It’s really an issue of time. I just don’t have the time to go to practice five days a week and get home at 5:30 or 6. I run a business, I have to answer phones, go to jobs, deal with people who need computer help. I just simply don’t have the time to meet the demands that a sports team requires.”

The security guard nodded, wrote something else down, and the interrogation continued on.

Around eleven thirty, the door opened. Standing in the doorway was Sgt. Reich, an officer in the Greenwood Police Department. Behind Reich was my mother, peeking into the room.

I knew Reich well through the Greenwood Police Explorers, and prior to that he had helped my family change a tire when we had a flat on the way home from a family gathering many years ago. His presence immediately relived me: the Greenwood Police knew me, they knew I was a normal person, they surely would be able to clear this issue up right away.

Reich sat down to my left and looked me in the eye. I turned to face him and he put his hand on my right knee.

“We’re going to straighten this out for you, okay?” he told me.

I immediately relaxed. He was on my side, he was here to help. This might not be so bad after all. “Alright,” I said.

“We might need to look through your computer at home, since that’s where you wrote this document.”

“Fine with me.”

“Alright then,” he said, getting up.

I was alone once again with the security guard behind the desk.

“What happens next?” I asked, noticeably relaxed.

“Well, we need you to get a psychiatric evaluation before you can return to school. Standard procedure. We’ve scheduled you a 1:00 PM appointment at St. Paul’s hospital, and we’ll let your mom know how to go through with that. Then, based on the results of that evaluation, we’ll meet next week to decide whether or not you can return to school.”

“So about a week out of school, at most?”

“Well, we’ll see. See how that meeting goes, but it could only be a week.”

Shortly, my mother entered the room and asked how I was. She seemed to be somewhat shaken, but at the same time, spoke in a reassuring voice.

“We have to go and meet the police at home, and then we have to go to St. Paul’s for a…”

“Yes, I know.” I stood.

“I’m going to go to your locker and get your things, you need to go with Sgt. Reich, and then we’ll meet out by my car.

“Where are you parked?”

“Out front, second row, right hand side.”

“Alright.”

I took a left out of the office with Reich and headed out the front entrance of the school. By now it was lunchtime, and there were a variety of students milling around outside, mostly upperclassmen, eating their lunch of the tables outside of the front entrance. I walked through the doors with Reich, and a student from my Technology of Flight class recognized me.

“Ross! What did you do to get yourself in trouble?”

Reich seemed to recognize the student and he stopped walking for a second.

“Pete, just because I’m here doesn’t mean anybody is in trouble.”

“Sure it does.”

“No, I come by the school for all sorts of things.”

“Ross, are you in trouble? Are you going to be in technology of flight today?”

I shrugged, then walked off with Reich. He’d realize soon enough what was happened when I wasn’t there for my eighth period class, everyone would be talking about it. They’d figure it out, though I’d have a lot of explaining to do when I returned the next week.

Reich’s car was parked in the fire lane by the front entrance of the school. He opened up the car, removed a long, slender steel clipboard, placed it on the top of the police cruiser, and started writing.

“Now, as I said before, we’re going to need to borrow some of your things, just to look through them. How many computers do you have?”

“Two. A desktop and a laptop.”

“What kind are they?”

“I built the desktop myself, the laptop is a Dell Inspiron 4100.”

“Do you have anything else, like an electronic organizer?”

“Yea, I have a Handspring Visor, but there’s nothing on it, its totally blank. You can look through it if you want through.”

“Yes, we’ll need to do that.” He was wrote down everything I had said on the clipboard, then put it back down on the roof of the police car.

“So, when’s the next Explorer meeting?”

“I think next week.”

We casually talked for a few more minutes about the Explorers and the Police Department in general, as if we had just run into each other on completely different circumstances, before my mom emerged from the school and walked over to where we were standing. Reich agreed to follow her to our house, and I walked over to my mom’s car and climbed in.

I didn’t live far from the school, and the drive home was a short one. My mother started criticizing a bit about what I did by sending the document, how it was a stupid decision, but we quickly began talking about how we would manage the situation with my dad. He was likely to be extremely upset and we discussed a few ways of mitigating the impact of the entire event.

As we pulled in the driveway there was already another police car waiting. Reich parked behind us, with the other car to our right. Reich and the other officer came out of their car, and shook hands with my mother. We lead them to the front door, where my mom, as usual, apologized for the normally sloppy state our home was in, and the officers shrugged it off, saying that had seen much, much worse. I tried to be as friendly and as open to the officers as possible, it seemed to make sense that if one cooperated with the police this would go away as soon as possible, but that if one acted as if he had something to hide it would make them suspicious that something was wrong and only prolong the incident further.

“There’s my police scanner,” I said, pointed a older plastic box situated on a table downstairs. “My room is up here and to the left,” I explained, pointing to the stairs now in front of us. I took the lead, with both officers behind me and my mother following up the rear. I opened the door to my room, which was emblazoned with an “Area 51 – Restricted” poster and a “KEEP OUT” sign. I showed them over to where my computer was and helped them pack it up, asking if they needed the keyboard and mouse and monitor. They wanted the monitor but said the keyboard and mouse would be fine to leave at home.

Next, I handed over my laptop case, as the second officer coiled the remainder of the cables from my desktop computer. My PDA was on the desk, and I put that in the laptop case so everything would be easier to carry out.

After packaging everything up, Reich handed me a clipboard and a pen. On it had an official-looking form with the state seal on it and an inventory of everything that was being taken.

“Now, you have two choices,” he told me. “You can sign here and let us take your stuff, and we’ll have it back in a few days, just like you gave it to us. Or you can tell us to go get a warrant. We’ll have to do all sorts of documentation, go to the courthouse, go before a judge, present everything, get a warrant written out, bring that back here, then collect all your things anyway. It’ll take much longer and be a hassle for everyone. Why don’t you just make everything easier and sign here?”

He motioned to a line on the sheet that waved my right to a warrant. I knew the officer, I trusted him, and I signed without hesitation. He took his clipboard back and we carried the computers down the stairs and into the police cruiser, saying goodbye to the police officers as my mother and I climbed into her car to head to the hospital for the school’s scheduled psychiatric evaluation.

As the car pulled out of the driveway and the house faded in the distance, I didn’t bother looking back, I was more worried about facing my father when he came home. I should have looked, though, because it would be the last time I’d see my house for the next three months of my life.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Chapter 1: The Classroom

At 10 AM, it was a normal day. Classes proceeded as scheduled, students bantered about in the hallways between periods, students went about the usual chores of note taking, assignment submitting and test taking, giving little thought to anything but when the bell would ring, or, for the more studious types, understanding the material presented.

At 11 AM, for 986 of the 987 students at Joel Barlow High School, Thursday, March 7th 2002 would still be having a perfectly normal day. Chris Liebert would still attend Advanced Geometry, Jack Slaton would struggle to remain awake in his English class and Erik Snedden would try and come up with the latest excuse to continue his trend of slacking.
My reputation at the high school and at the middle school where I had spent the previous three years was nothing short of excellent. I was the sort of student to avoid trouble, as well as one who had a challenging academic schedule.

As I entered the Honors Biology classroom, I had no reason to be worried. The familiar always seems safe, untouchable. The teacher, oblivious to the significance of what would happen, stood in front of the class. Students hauled their textbooks out of their bags, notebooks opened on desktops, and the teacher spoke.

“Today we will begin our study of genetics. Please open to chapter twenty one, page four hundred thirty six.” On the page, along with the words “Chapter Twenty One” was the unmistakable rendering of a DNA double helix. At a time when the human genome had just been decoded and biotech companies were still prominently mentioned on television, understanding genetics was a topic that seemed fascinating to me.

Just as the students became settled in their desks and the lesson was about to begin, the door opened, with a security officer entering the room.
“Is Ross Mauser here?”

My head bolted upright from the textbook, and I replied, “Yes.”
I was not worried, I had been summoned by security once before, when my first period teacher failed the mark me as present. However, the security officer then said, “Please take all your belongings with you.”

I had never heard that phrase used before, and it scared me, but I gathered together my backpack and books, then I left the classroom. Once in the hallway, another security guard was waiting, and each flanked me, as if I were a prisoner of some sort.

“We’re going to Mr. Cutrell’s office,” they informed me.

Mr. Cutrell was a school administrator whose technical title was “Dean of Students” but essentially served two roles: a facilitator of student clubs and activities and the disciplinarian for the school.

I cannot recall whether or not I was visibly shaking, though it was very likely. My mind was racing, trying to figure out why I was wanted, so I could offer a defense. Suddenly, I realized it: several weeks before, I had ordered several hundred laser pointers, as I realized that there was great student demand for them. Ever the entrepreneur, I purchased varying sizes of pointers on eBay for seventy five to a hundred cents apiece and sold them for prices ranging between five to twelve dollars. The profit potential was amazing. Two days after I received my first shipment I had completely repaid my investment and only sold one quarter of the devices.

Laser pointers, however, were not permitted in school. Thus, I attached a large warning label to each package, indicating to the purchaser that they needed to leave the device in it’s packaging and only use it once they left school property. Amazingly, the compliance rate was very high and I only heard of one instance of someone having his pointer confiscated. In later weeks, I also purchased laser pointer batteries in bulk and sold them to the students.

If there was an issue with laser pointers, I could handle it. I turned to the security guard on my left and asked, “Do you have any idea why they want to see me?”

“Did you do anything wrong?”

“Not that I know of. I always obey all the rules and never get into any trouble.”

“Well, there are a number of reasons why Mr. Cutrell sees people, and we are only told to pick the people up. If you haven’t done anything wrong, you don’t need to worry.”

I knew that two guards wouldn’t have escorted me if Mr. Cutrell had a benign question to ask me.

As I entered the office, I was ushered into Mr. Cutrell’s office, where no one was present. As I made the turn to his office, I saw Megan Feltz leave the office of the principal. She did not greet me.

The Mr. Cutrell’s office was a small space, no greater than twelve feet on all sides. In it sat a mostly clear desk, a filing cabinet, and a small chair placed up against a wall, facing the desk. I was directed to sit in the chair, and the large security guard took a seat behind the desk. The door was closed behind me, and the guard leaned forward.

“Please empty your pockets for the safety of everyone in the room.”
I instantly knew everything was heading in a very, very bad direction. I complied, handing the guard an MP3 player, a collect of pens and pencils, and my wallet before returning to my seat. My backpack was taken from me and opened.

The guard turned to me.

“Do you know why you’re here?”

I was panicked, nervous, and having never been in a similar situation before, decided that the best course of action would be to be perfectly frank about what had happened, in hopes that my honesty would give me better negotiating power.

“Because I was illegally selling laser pointers in school?”

“No, but we will add that to the list of things we want you for.”

He pushed forward a forty-three page document. I knew it was forty three pages because I had wrote it six months earlier.

“Do you recognize this?”

“Yes, that’s my Life Story.”

“Since you wrote this document at home, this investigation is outside of our jurisdiction so we have called in the Salem police.”

A flurry of images flew at me, but one stood out in particular: an image of my seventh grade classroom, with an article sitting in front of me about how several students were thrown out of school after their writing disturbed school officials.

I suddenly experienced a sudden lack of energy, and a ringing began quietly in my ears. It became louder and louder, and the room transformed from color into grayscale. I suddenly couldn’t hold up my head, and let it fall back against the wall. My vision quickly faded to black, and my last memory was of the guard radioing, “We need a nurse in Cutrell’s room, we need a nurse!”

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Beginnings.

Imagine you're a high school student in a small, regional high school in New England. One day, one of your friends disappears in the middle of the school day. Rumors begin to fly, several report that he was pulled out of school by the local police. Others say there were state police at the school, talking to administrators. His locker, all his belongings, were left intact, untouched, as if he was only going to be away for a short period of time. E-mails of concern go unreplied. Weeks go by, and his name begins to fade as a subject of rumors, if only because nothing has been heard of him since his mysterious departure on March, 7th 2002.

I was that student. This is my story.

The brief anecdote above is not a work of fiction, rather, it was the reality that many experienced when I was suddenly scooped up by school authorities on March 7th, 2002. It was an event that I nor any of my peers were expecting, and for close to three months I lost my liberty and rights in an overreaction spurned by the paranoia of the Columbine school shootings and the recent terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers. I emerged, ultimately, victorious, but only after $50,000 in legal fees, countless court battles, and a trail of events and experiences I will never be able to forget.

During the events and shortly thereafter, both I and my mother concluded that the events would make an excellent book, and I set to work, on and off over the years, attempting to document in the fullest detail I could remember everything that had occurred to me. To all but two of my closest friends, I refused to tell exactly what happened, fearing that the lack of detail required to explain it in brief would result in a loss of its impact. I would tell of first few hours, till the Police initially left my home, but that was only a miniscule portion of the incident, it was what came after that were the truly shocking parts of the story.

The idea to write the book was motivated by a desire to publicize the other side of overreactions in the name of security - to put a face on the countless victims who have suffered some injustice in the name of safety. The book was not to vindicate myself to the student body or to my peers, as was occasionally suggested.

However, close to four years after the events, I have still have made little progress on putting together the book, mainly due to a lack of time and continual drive to write it, especially with all the uncertainties of publishing for the first time ahead. I then came upon an idea - post the content of the book slowly, at a regular interval on a blog. Not only might it reach more people than an under-publicized account sitting buried away on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, but it would give me the opportunity for live feedback and set a regular interval at which I would need to finish the rest of the piece.

From here, I will simply let the story unfold the way it normally would. Posts will be in chronological order, once per week. Much of what I'm posting is unedited, so there very well may be some grammatical errors which have not yet been corrected. The story in its entirety is completely true, however, to protect those who may have been involved unnecessarily or against their will, all names and locations have been changed (including my last name), though their descriptions or any other details that relate to the story itself have not been.

Feedback is always welcome. Enjoy.