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Feathers

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say, then, Walk in the spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

Galatians 5:14-16


Chapter 1: Rob

	CO-HORT
Coordinated Health Outreach Team
To: Gail
Marlene
Byron
Jeff
Gene

From: Janet

Regarding: Case 019

Please open new file Case 019 and add this to your records.

I have scheduled an Intake Meeting on this case for Friday, March 27 at 3pm. If you are unable to attend, please let me know.

Thanks.

Janet Dawson, PhD RN

Project Director

JD/sm

Suicide Note: Case 019

This is a 17-year-old white male high school student with no previous attempts who died by drowning during a youth group retreat.

Brian's Note

Dear Ear,
There is no reason for me to be alive. I just can't take any more pain and suffering. I've failed at everything. I'm sick and tired. I can't stand it any more. Nobody even cares about me. All my efforts are met with failure. The pain and suffering of my life has become unbearable. I understand that what I'm about to do may not be the right thing, but it's the only thing left for me. So if I can't succeed in living, then surely I will in dying. Why couldn't I have killed Felix? I'm sorry. Goodbye.

Love,
Brian


Case 019 - Interview 019-10rs

INTERVIEW WITH ROB (I)

INT: Good morning, Rob. Thank you very much for agreeing to talk with me today. I don't believe we've met before. My name is Janet Dawson, Dr. Dawson. I'm not a medical doctor, I'm a psychiatric nurse with a PhD and a trained psychotherapist. As Mr. Busboom explained to you earlier, I'm spending two years here at Eagle Hills High School talking with students and faculty as part of a national project to understand and prevent adolescent suicide. We're talking with friends and families of people who took their own lives. People like Brian. We're hoping to get a better idea what Brian was going through, and perhaps to prevent others from trying to solve their problems the way he did. But first maybe you could tell me a little about how you and Brian got to know each other.

RES: Ear!

INT: Ear?

RES: I'm sorry. I guess I'm a little nervous. I've never talked to a psychiatrist before.

INT: Yes, you look a little nervous. And I'm not a psychiatrist. I'm not here to do therapy with you. I'm just trying to find out what happened with Brian. Brian was a friend of yours?

RES: Yes. I killed Felix.

INT: Oh. Then you knew Brian pretty well?

RES: What? What do you mean? I - uh - no. Why do you think that? Who?

INT: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. But you said `Ear' and also `I killed Felix' and I understand that Brian used those expressions.

RES: Well yeah. Everybody says Ear!

INT: Everybody says `ear?'

RES: Ear!

INT: I hear you saying `ear' but I don't think I understand what it means to you to say `ear,' or what it meant to Brian to say `ear.'

RES: It's just an expression, like `Wow' or `Hey.' It's something we say in the youth group. It doesn't mean anything.

INT: And who is `Dear Ear?'

RES: What does `Dear Ear' mean?

INT: Let's start over. Hello, I'm Janet Dawson, Dr. Dawson. Maybe you could tell me a little about Brian.

RES: Brian?

INT: Yes, Brian. The boy who died.

RES: Oh, yeah. We called him `Bwi.'

INT: That was his nickname in the youth group?

RES: We all called him Bwi. I don't think he appreciated it.

INT: Uh huh. And did you know him well?

RES: No. Ben knew him better than me. I think he played guitar. Yeah. He played guitar. He tried out for the band, but Ben didn't want him. He wasn't funny, and his guitar had a bad sound. And he was kind of a dork.

INT: He wasn't funny?

RES: No, he was a bastard. He deserved to die.

INT: I beg your pardon?

RES: I'm sorry. That's just an expression. He didn't deserve to die. I don't know why I said that. I didn't mean that. That's an awful thing to say, some guy kills himself like that, in such a pathetic way and all, and then I say "he deserved to die." I'm the bastard. I'm the one who deserves to die. But that's not true either. What was the question?

INT: Maybe you could tell me what you remember about Brian's death. You said it was a pathetic way to die?

RES: We were on a retreat. Brian was in the same cabin with Ben and me and Bill. One night, when we went to bed, he wasn't there. We didn't think much about it. He was always getting lost. When we got up the next morning, he still wasn't there. Then we kind of started to look for him, but we were pretty busy building these fences, so we didn't think about it too much. But when he didn't show up for dinner, people started to wonder. He usually came to meals. Then Ben took this note out of his pocket and read it to the table. It said Dear Ear - we thought that was really dumb. Then it said about how bad his life was and how he was going to do something right for a change. [begins to laugh] That's what was so pathetic. [laughs harder] He said he was going to do something right for a change ... and then [laughing harder] ... he screwed up his own suicide ... I'm sorry ... I know it isn't really funny ... but it's so dumb ....[gathers his wits] Nobody really knows what happened.... But you know all this, right?

INT: I'd be pleased if you could tell me the kind of information you all received.

RES: Oh, OK. Well, they said that he went out in the rowboat, and he was going to [begins to laugh again]... drown himself. And I guess he was going to tie himself to the anchor, because the water is only about four feet [laughing harder].... um ... ah... four feet... hahahhahahah.... ahem.... four feet deep. But then, when they found him - ogod - I'm sorry - I know this isn't really [laughing uncontrollably] isn't really funny, but it was just so dumb....

INT: Perhaps you'd like to take a minute to pull yourself together. Would you care for some water?

RES: Thank you. Yes. Um. Uh huh. Thank you. Anyway. [takes a drink, sits quietly a moment, and then bursts out laughing, spraying water everywhere] Oh, dear. I'm sorry. That got your papers and everything all wet, didn't it? ogod.... Are you wet, too?

INT: No, it's OK, I'm fine, please don't concern yourself. Please go on.

RES: OK.... hahahhahaha Yes. Anyway, they um....hahaha...they found him...hahahahaha... they found him stuck underneath the boat, all....hahahahaHAHA... all tangled up in (excuse me, I'm sorry, I know this is really serious, hahahaha), in the weeds under the boat and the anchor rope and stuff ... hahahahaha ... but his foot was still tied to the anchor ... hahhahahaha ... and the anchor - ogod, I'm so sorry, help me, please help me ... the anchor was still in the boat. hahahahahaha I'm sorry. It isn't funny. Is it?

INT: Sometimes we express strong feelings in ways that are surprising to us. Did Brian's death upset people much?

RES: No. Nobody really cared about him at all. They didn't even notice he was missing for a whole day. Nobody seemed to care too much about it, even after it happened. But everybody at dinner thought the note was pretty funny. Of course, most of that was the way Ben read it. Do you know Ben?

INT: No, but I believe I'm scheduled to speak to him tomorrow.

RES: Good luck.

INT: Good luck?

RES: Ben's kind of hard to talk to. He's a pretty unusual guy.

INT: Unusual?

RES: Yep. He's pretty strange, all right. He's so mean! He's so weird!

INT: He's so mean?

RES: No. Well, sometimes. He's awful to his mom. You wouldn't believe some of the things he says to his mom. He treats her like crap. It's hilarious. And she's so nice to him. She fixes him french toast.

INT: He likes french toast?

RES: It's all he eats.

INT: Ever?

RES: Ever. Well, except for french fries and milk shakes and cookies. Sometimes he eats cookies. And he wears a skirt. All the time. It makes his mom really mad, but she can't stop him. No one can stop him.

INT: He sounds like a very unusual person. I'll be looking forward to talking to him. But if you could please tell me more about Brian.

RES: He was an okay guy. I just didn't know him very well. Nobody knew him very well. He wasn't a popular person. I don't think he had any friends, at least in the youth group. People thought he was a homosexual.

INT: Is that what you thought?

RES: I don't know. I don't think about that. But he kind of acted ... feminine, I guess. He had kind of feminine mannerisms. I felt a little funny undressing in the same room with him sometimes. I thought he was watching me. Guys don't like that, in another guy. I don't like that. I mean, it makes me feel uncomfortable. I'm not prejudiced or anything, it's just the way I am. Homosexuality makes me uneasy. He was always accusing people of crawling in his sleeping bag. When he wasn't there, I mean. He was always talking about guys rolling around in his bed. I thought that was pretty strange. And I think he was a fag.

INT: Uh huh. You think he was a homosexual and that made you uncomfortable.

RES: No. I don't know. It doesn't matter. He's dead now anyway. He had no choice.

INT: He had no choice?

RES: No. He was determined.

INT: I don't understand what you mean

RES: He was a turtle.

INT: He was a turtle?

RES: He was a turtle. We have a little joke in our youth group about turtles. They're the source of ultimate evil, you know. They're creations of pure desire. Turtles are the cause of all human suffering. Those bastards!

INT: I see. How unusual. I understood from mythology that the turtle was often the force for good. Maybe you could explain to me how Brian got to be a turtle, and thus the source of all human suffering.

RES: We never actually called him a turtle. I was just kidding about that. But the turtles got him, didn't they? Ate his face right off under that boat? Haha!

INT: Please, Rob, tell me more about the turtle and desire. What desires does the turtle represent?

RES: I'm not talking about specific desires, I'm talking about desire in the abstract. [VERY long pause] The metaphysical entity desire. Or turtle. It's kind of a monster. It gets into every aspect of people's daily lives. It makes people popular. Or not.

INT: You said Brian wasn't popular.

RES: Being popular isn't important. He had no choice. We're all determined. We have no control over our lives. Everything we try to do is meaningless because it's all determined. We think we have free will. We're just fooling ourselves. Everyone is innocent. People do the things they have to do. You can't blame anybody. Bwi had to kill himself. I don't mean to insult you or anything, but this project you're doing isn't going to change what happens. People are going to do whatever they're going to do, and you can't change it. But that's OK, because you're going to do whatever you're going to do, and I can't change it. And neither can you. It's all futile. It's all vain. It doesn't matter. And yet we have to pretend it matters. It's all so obvious. It's just what we have to do. Some people have to kill themselves and other people have to care about that.

INT: Which are you?

RES: What?

INT: Are you a person who has to kill himself or a person who has to care?

RES: Oh, I don't care.

INT: Have you ever thought about killing yourself?

RES: Sure. I guess everybody at this age thinks about killing themselves sometimes.

INT: Mmhmmm. Have you thought about it lately?

RES: Yeah, I guess. Sometimes I think about it at night, while I'm watching TV.

INT: What do you think about?

RES: Oh, I think about how funny it would be if I just got in my car and drove off a cliff someplace.

INT: Mmhmm. Have you ever thought about which cliff that might be?

RES: Naw, I just think how funny it would be. [laughs] Just driving along and all of a sudden, boom.

INT: Boom?

RES: Boom.

INT: Boom.

RES: Ear!

INT: And that would be funny?

RES: Yeah. It would be hysterical. Here I am, I'm 17 years old, I'm a product of the best medical care, best food, best education money can buy, I'm my parents only son, they love me so much, so I take my nice, expensive car that they gave me and I kill myself [laughing]. What a riot! Ogod.

INT: Rob. I'm concerned about some of the things you've told me. I hear you saying that you've been thinking about suicide and that you might even be thinking that suicide is OK because you have no choice. That concerns me. I wonder if you've been feeling sad at all.

RES: These are terrible things to realize: that I have no free will; that I can't hold onto anything; that I just have to stand here helpless while everything is ripped away...[starts to cry]...ripped away

INT: Yes, I see that you're upset. [offers tissues] It must be very difficult to have those feelings. But I think you may find it helpful to share them. I think you should come to talk to me on a regular basis and if at any time you feel like you might want to hurt yourself, I would like you to promise that you'll call me. I carry a beeper and can always be reached at this number. [gives him her card] You can call me at any hour of the day or night.

RES: That's OK. I have to go to the bathroom. Thank you for this card. I don't think I'll have to call you, but it's good to know you're on my side. [leaves]

 



Janet stood and stretched, lifted the hair off the back of her neck and rubbed her shoulders wearily. She crossed the room and paused next to her bookcase, inspecting the vase of droopy daffodils. They'd looked so hopeful, so auspicious when she brought them in on Monday. Now they just looked bedraggled. Janet inspected herself. "I look pretty bedraggled, too," she said aloud. She stuffed her blouse into her skirt for the hundredth time that day, tugged the overstressed waistband of her pantyhose back into place, and straightened the seams of her skirt. "I wish I were tall," she told the daffodils. "Oh, and while you're at it, slim and energetic, with one of those geometric haircuts. An Ann Klein suit, some Italian shoes, and a handsome young lover." Then she blushed, laughed, shook her head, and reached behind her psychometrics book to turn off the tape recorder. "Time to go home," she announced, and dumped the daffodils in her wastebasket.

She walked into the parking lot past the baseball players. She took a deep breath of the damp March air and thought about getting back into her garden. Spring is such a hopeful time, she thought. It's ironic to be working with suicides in the spring.

She stopped at the sitter's to pick up her daughter. Britty at five was in kindergarten for half a day and spent the remainder of Janet's working hours with Mrs. Entwhistle. Janet once again thanked God for sending her a capable daycare provider. Convincing Dirk that she should take on a full-time commitment before Britty started first grade had been difficult. Without Mrs. Entwhistle from the church choir, it would have been impossible.

When she got home, she took a moment to walk around her yard and check the progress of her flowers. Crocus and pussywillows about gone, tulips emerging. Time to rake off this mulch, she said to herself. Something for her and Dirk to do this weekend. Nick was old enough to help, too. Feeling somewhat renewed, she went into the house.

"Nick! We're home! Did you have your snack?" Nick's feet thudded down the stairs.

"Hi, Mom! Hi, Britty! I had milk and an orange and some graham crackers and a bagel and some cookies. I took out the garbage. I don't have any homework. Can Britty and I go over to the park?"

"Just for an hour, OK? Dad's going to be home early. We're having spaghetti. Do you have your watch? Take a jacket, it's chilly."

"OK, thanks, Mom, come on, Britty, bye!" Nick thundered out the door, his worshipful sister close behind.

Janet put the kettle on and booted up her computer. She turned on her modem and logged into her university account. She found email there from Shipman, her old professor and mentor.

"Ah," she said to no one at all. "He found me the listening article. Good news."

 

Received: from UICVM by UICVM (Mailer R2.07) with BSMTP id 7156; Thu, 18 Mar

12:35:41 CST

Received: from argos.ustan.edu by UICVM.UIC.EDU (IBM VM SMTP V2R1) with TCP;

Thu, 18 Mar 92 12:29:03 CST

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Message-Id: <9210291829.AA15492@argos.ustan.edu>

From: js@argos.ustan.edu (James Shipman)

Date: Thu, 18 Mar 11:29:21 -0700

X-Mailer: Mail User's Shell (7.2.3 5/22/91)

To: u70306@ucmvs.uc.edu

 

Subject: Listening (don't hit me!)

An article from the recent Utne Reader:

Tell me more: On the fine art of listening by Brenda Ueland from "Strength to Your Sword Arm: Selected Writings"

 

I want to write about the great and powerful thing that listening is. And how we forget it. And how we don't listen to our children, or those we love. And least of all---which is so important --- to those we do not love. But we should. Because listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. Think how the friends that really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius as though it did us good, like ultraviolet rays.

This is the reason: When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life. You know how if a person laughs at your jokes you become funnier and funnier, and if he does not, every tiny little joke in you weakens up and dies. Well, that is the principle of it. It makes people happy and free when they are listened to. And if you are a listener, it is the secret of having a good time in society (because everybody around you becomes lively and interesting), of comforting people, of doing them good.

Who are the people, for example, to whom you go for advice? Not to the hard, practical ones who can tell you exactly what to do, but to the listeners; that is, the kindest, least censorious, least bossy people that you know. It is because by pouring out your problem to them, you then know what to do about it yourself....

 

I'll read the rest of this later, she thought. I wonder if he's still around. Maybe I can catch him on the internet. Janet exited out of her mail file and called up a telnet server. Telnet took her to California, Shipman's home, two thousand miles west of Janet's suburban Eagle Hills front yard. On her screen appeared a familiar message:

 

Welcome to Singlenesia

"connect <name> <password>" connects you to an existing character.

"WHO" tells you who is logged in to the game (case sensitive).

"QUIT" exits the game and saves your character.

NEW PLAYERS: There is a guest character, but please share. Before connecting to it, type "WHO" and make sure someone else is not already using it! If they are, please try again later. The game WILL allow more than one person to connect to the guest at once, which is kinda confusing. To connect with the guest character, type "connect guest guest".

 

To create your own character, send e-mail to: singlenesia@cajal.uoregon.edu

Please specify desired name and initial password, and allow 24hrs. Thanks.

After connecting with the game, type `help' to get help with commands.

Type 'news' for other important information

Janet typed: connect elavil CO-HORT. This command connected her to the virtual environment of Singlenesia, her imaginary home. Janet was undoubtedly one of the oldest players in this mush game. She and Shipman often met there to talk over her work and also just to chat. After she logged in, her screen read:

 

NOTE: For help with the commands, type "help" and "+help"! +help gives help with the commands that are peculiar to the island, such as the mail and com systems! ****************************************************************************

Singlenesia now has WEATHER!! Watch the skies, and read the notice in the Bulletin Booth :)

Also, be sure to check out the new command: +weather!

***************************************************************************

Last connect was from ucmvs.uc.edu on Sat Mar 13 10:56:33

The Loft (#6164) A bright, airy room. There are soft chairs, a couch, skylights and bright pillows. From the kitchen, you can smell bread baking. Music plays. A cat immediately walks up to you and sheds.

You have new mail!

The Loft was Janet's "room" in Singlenesia, since she married the only place in her life exclusively hers. Unconsciously, Janet lowered her shoulders and relaxed against the back of her chair as she looked at her Singlenesia mail.

(March 12)Zalcor writes: Sorry I wasn't able to continue our discussion earlier. One of our owls got loose :( I will be out of town this weekend but hope to see you again soon. You have given me much to think about.

"Owls...." she murmured. "You, too, have given me much to think about."

 

She typed WHO, and the screen displayed a list of characters currently logged into the game. When she saw Shipman's name, she paged him immediately:

 

You page Shipman with, "Hello, James. What a day I've had!"

Shipman pages, "Janet! What's new?"

You page Shipman with, "Come over and I'll tell you."

Shipman has arrived.

Elavil hugs Shipman.

Shipman hugs Elavil.

Shipman says, "So. What seems to be the problem?"

You say, "What do you know about turtles?"

Shipman says, "Turtles are outside my area of specialization but I have a friend who's doing some research on turtle morphology, if that would help."

You say, "Nonono. Not what I meant. I interviewed this boy today. I told you about the boy in the rowboat?"

Shipman says, "The one who you think didn't really mean to do it? And then fell over?"

You say, "Yes, that's the one. I spoke to one of his friends today. Or I guess this was one of his friends. It was a very odd interview."

Shipman says, "Odd?"

You say, "Spare me your ActiveListeningSkills (tm). I'm going to tell you anyway. This boy, Rob. He kept going on about desire and determinism and being popular."

Shipman says, "Those sound like typical adolescent concerns to me."

You say, "I guess you had to be there. He sincerely thought the idea of driving his car over a cliff was funny. I was upset."

Shipman says, "Can you say more about that?"

You say, "Well, he kept talking about how no one cared about this boy. He talked alot about not caring. He said he deserved to die because he was a turtle, and turtles were the source of all human suffering. I think."

Shipman says, "That is rather odd. I don't know anything about this turtle stuff. Do you know EarNest?"

You say, "EarNest? Ear? Rob said `Ear.'"

Shipman says, "Well, he doesn't say `Ear.' He says `Slap mah fro!' `What it is momma!' Maybe he's a bot. He doesn't act human. He's really annoying me."

You say, "Can you pagelock him? @lock/pagelock me=!earnest. Then he'll just get a Reject message, and you won't see his messages."

Shipman says, "Thanks, I'll try it. I'm going to learn MUSH code RealSoonNow."

EarNest pages, "What it is, momma! Ah be baaaad!"

You page EarNest with, "You be locked out."

You sense that EarNest is going to set your head on fire!!!

@lock/pagelock me=!earnest

set

Reject message sent to EarNest.

You say, "James, the thing that concerns me most about these boys is that they seem to be so alone. They are full of feelings but have no one to share their feelings with. They are isolated and separate."

Shipman says, "I thought they were all in a youth group."

You say, "Yes, so they are. The youth group seems to have given them a common language or mythology. But it doesn't penetrate their isolation. I believe that this isolation is the root of the despair and hopelessness that I see among these young people. I wonder...."

Shipman says, "You sound like you have an idea."

You say, "I wonder - if the culture provided some kind of locus, some common - I don't know quite what I mean - if they had something outside themselves, something meaningful - if that would help."

Shipman says, "Focus?"

You say, "Er. Focus. Nothing matters to them. They have everything they want, everything they need. They have no goals, nothing to care about. If they had something that they cared about...."

Shipman says, "Do you have something in mind?"

You say, "I don't know. Rob mentioned something about a band. In fact, I'm interviewing another band member tomorrow. He sounds, if possible, even odder than Rob. I'll let you know how it goes."

Shipman says, "Yes, please do. EarNest seems to have a number of characters. I'm going to find a wizard and shut him up."

You say, "Ok. I have mail from Zalcor, he's out of town till Monday. He said an owl got loose :). But you could try Prankster, he's always very helpful. I need to make dinner for my family. Dirk will be home early for a change."

Shipman says, "Farewell. Until we type again..."

Shipman bows

Shipman has left.

Janet typed QUIT and logged out. She shut down her modem with an affectionate smile, stood, fluffed her hair and moved toward the kitchen thinking about vegetables.


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