call a spade a spade," he said. "Get thee behind me, Satan."
I stood up. "Piss off!"
I left the class and the premises. Despite the people at the church, I had felt like I was gaining some spiritual strength and moral fiber from attending meetings there. The Pastor, or Pastor Steve, as we called him was a rather jovial fellow who was easy to talk to and we’d had several long conversations which made me feel comfortable seeking guidance from him. I needed the regular positive reinforcement against my self-destructive tendencies. Deep within me, I had an abiding faith in God. However, I was soon to all but abandon that faith in my anger and hurt.
Tom Hammond was angry that I dared stand up against him. Evidently, he thought that I should have meekly accepted the label of Satan. He voiced his complaints to Pastor Steve. Pastor Steve is a good man, but he has one minor flaw. He appreciates the value of money over the value of God. Tom Hammond had a lot of money and he contributed generously to the Church. Pastor Steve’s livelihood depended upon contributors like Tom Hammond. He could ill afford the risk of offending someone who put the bread and butter on his table.
Having demanded a public apology from me, Tom would accept nothing less and, financially, Pastor Steve could afford to do nothing less than demand the same from me. There was no give and take here, I saw that I was expected to shoulder the entire blame of the matter. I couldn’t bring myself to apologize to someone who’d branded me Satan, and felt like I might be the one who was owed the apology. Hell would freeze over before that would happen.
My Grandfather had a lot of respect for Pastor Steve and pressured me to make an apology. I refused. Of course, my job at Aerocet evaporated into thin air as my problems with Tom Hammond mounted. My Grandfather took this as a sign that I wasn’t shouldering my responsibilities the way I should and he kicked me out of the house.
Heather’s parents came to the sudden realization that I was a loser and started pressuring Heather to date other people. One of their suggestions was my friend, Max, a long-haired work-out fanatic who, at the time, worked as a painter for a Boeing subcontractor just down the street from Aerocet, where I had set him up with a job. Despite singing in a rock band, composed of several of my other friends, he didn’t smoke, drink, or swear, and he came from a family that Heather’s parents had a lot of respect for. Heather let it slip to me one night, and I was furious. I told Max, later, and he just laughed.
Still, though I realized that I could trust Max not to move in on what I considered mine, it was just one part of a concerted effort by Heather’s parents to see that I become an ex-boyfriend instead of their future son-in-law.
I bounced around for a few weeks, staying at friend’s places. Then my health gave out and I wound up making an extended stay at the hospital.
Baseball Bats, Suicide, and the Voice of God
Every night I prayed for death. I’d had too much and I was tired of struggling for every breath. Finally I put a sawed off shot gun to my forehead. I sat there on in my bedroom, holding the gun with my finger beneath the trigger guard, feeling the cold metal of the barrel on my skin, sweating as I tried to pull together enough guts to pull that trigger and end it all- go to a place where I could breathe easier, a place where I wouldn’t have to endure the daily struggle to merely exist. Minutes ticked by, and then hours as I wrestled with my hidden will to live. My arms ached, and finally, exhausted, I let the gun drop, and I fell to the bed, completely drained of energy.
I didn’t have the guts. Some instinct for survival kept me from the simple act of pulling the trigger. Still, I wished for death with a fervency that only the most devoted prayers of a priest would contain.
I was born, screaming, into the world on the 19th of July, 1968, just before dawn. I weighed seven and a half pounds. My mother, Felice, and my father decided to name me September Peterson. It was a hippie kind of name; my parents were very hippie kind of people. My name must have lasted a whole five or six minutes after my grandparents caught wind of it. They insisted that it was a dumb name to give a child, and had it changed.