Monday, April 26, 2010

Madness takes its toll...please have exact change

In penning a crash course in world vampire myths, I was reminded of a glaring fact common to all these tales. Vampires are certifiably insane. As if being undead wasn't enough, they are also obsessive-compulsive, prone to fits of unpredictable violence, and from time to time psychotic. Like so many of our myths, I think much of this stems from our basic human desire to explain that which we do not understand. Madness is a unique condition. It can strike anytime, anywhere and anyone. Most illness we can see and otherwise wrap our heads around, but a previously stable and normal member of the village suddenly spouting gibberish necessitates a supernatural explanation. There is a reason one of the few universal truths to all legends regardless of where they originated is that a suicide can become a vampire. Likewise, most cultures believe if you scatter seeds, rice or other small objects around a vampire they are compelled to pick them all up one by one. The poor souls who suffered from mental illness at a time when such a thing was a totally foreign concept were labeled as monsters. Do I believe this explains away vampires and other monsters entirely? I do not. The world wouldn't be the same without a little mystery. There is no reason why science and the supernatural cannot coexist. And here my 5th grade teacher thought I was wasting my time with all those books on monsters. Turns out, on some level, doctor and vampire hunter are closer than you think.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Heart of Darkness

I am on a true crime kick. Besides watching an obnoxious amount of shows like Law and Order and Criminal Minds, I have picked up not but a few books on serial killers. Many of them have striking similarities and one bears an uncanny resemblance to a young man I evaluated in the ER one night. I have talked to many patients who have a history of or a potential for violence, but this guy was different. I have never felt so unsettled except I couldn't pinpoint precisely why he caused me to feel this way. His macabre desires and compulsions were in their fledgling stages, preventing anyone in our profession from keeping him for more than a week or two at the most, however, I will not be surprised if I see his face one day on the news under whatever titillating moniker the press is calling him as they unearth another victim. I wonder in reading these books what the family and friends of those discovered to be serial or spree killers think. How must it be to raise a child or sleep every night in the same bed with a spouse only to one day face the heinous things they'd done. More often than not it seems the killer wants the spotlight, reveling in the glory of their own sociopathic joy, but the family is thrust into the limelight as well and in their darkest hour become social pariahs. How could you not have known? Wasn't there something which tipped you off? Why didn't you stop them? Let's face it...when it comes to our nearest and dearest, there is much we forgive or ignore for the sake of love or civility. Why should these families be any different than the rest of us? If everyone from cops to doctors to teachers interacts with these predators among us and they raise no red flags in even those trained to spot deviant behavior, what hope do their families have? I wonder sometimes if my mind wasn't playing tricks on me. Maybe that patient I saw was more benign than I remember and it is my overactive imagination filling in the gaps. Or maybe this is what should be seen at rare moments of vulnerability early in their criminal career. What few witness and even fewer appreciate. As with so much, only time will tell. I, for one, would lock my doors and don't trust anyone who comes knocking. Evil is insidious and most effective in a pretty, unassuming veneer. With that comforting thought, I wish you all pleasant dreams.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stranger stop and cast an eye

I've been going through old pictures (back before the digital age) scanning them in so they don't disintegrate before my very eyes. I miss having the time to stroll around cemeteries and photograph. Cemeteries are serene and the odds of meeting other people there are lower than in other public places. It is partially why I go on vacation to New England in the early winter. I think part of me never liked sharing and was not happy when ordered to share with younger siblings. When it comes to alone time, I want true solitude. Empty beaches, surf angrily crashing into the sand, wind howling like a banshee is a zen experience. Cemeteries, while technically densely populated areas, contain their inhabitants under a thick layer of dirt making them ideal places to gather ones thoughts. In perusing these pictures I decided some people have an odd way of commemorating the deceased. Some are simple, containing one or two words. Some have eerie statues, hooded figures or sobbing women, immortalizing the passing of a loved one by reminding the passerby mortality is self-limiting. And then there are a few truly bizarre ones like the tomb with only the words, "She is not dead...she is just away." One of my favorites is the pyramid with the angel and sphinx on either side of the door. I like the Egyptian imagery. I can't put into words precisely why this tomb in particular is so captivating, but like any good art it sneaks its claws into you without warning or explanation. There are others which I find endearing, but for now this will have to do.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Obessions, addictions and other ways to pass the time.

I have discovered an undeniable truth...I am addicted to writing. I pretend it is a hobby, but in reality it occupies more of my time than nearly anything else I do. I finished the fourth book, thrilled that at last I translated the story which took up residence in my brain since college into a tangible form. I closed my laptop, put away my flashdrive and celebrated with my husband. Not two days later, I found myself scribbling at work a short story about one of the characters during the days of ancient Rome. I know every detail, every facet of each of the characters' lives from the major protagonists to the most minor who are barely a blip on paper. I am privy to their more intimate thoughts, see through their eyes, feel what it is to walk in their skin. As much as I remind myself they do not exist, they feel real since they are now firmly ingrained as part of me. I remind myself this is what fiction does. Good fiction enthralls us, blurs the lines of reality and fantasy. Growing up, I distinctly remember falling in love with Sherlock Holmes. From the second I read "The Speckled Band," I knew this was the man I was going to marry. As I aged, I understood this character as a product only of Doyle's fervent imagination yet a part of me clung to the unattainable (and dare I say, unstable) man. The crush faded as most do, but enough of my desire for the ideal remained that my husband decided to usurp this character and found a creative and effective way to profess his intention, unwilling to be upstaged by a fictional detective in his beloved's affections. What is the point of this digression? Fiction lures us in and a truly captivating story becomes part of our reality, shaping our thoughts and the world around us. Right now, my reality remains in the world of monsters and men, but I hear the quiet murmurings of new stories, new characters. Like shimmering phantasms, they wait in the periphery, pulling energy and gaining momentum until they can one day be fully formed. And so I pick up my pen and once again lose myself to my own world. This is an addiction I hope to never be cured of. I enjoy this murky universe too much.