Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Genuinely Frightening Things I've Been Experiencing Third-Hand

I've been considering writing an entry like this for a while... and I keep thinking that I shouldn't. I think that I don't really have a right. I guess I'll just start writing and if, through the act of getting it down, I find some kind of justification, I'll post it.

A few months ago an online acquaintance of mine posted about his friend, infamous for telling distressing stories for the sheer love of distressing his audience, sharing a story about an Adams-Morgan landlord emptying an apartment whose tenant had vanished and failed to pay the rent for an extended period of time. When he looked into a duffel bag before throwing it out on the sidewalk, he found the dismembered body of the missing tenant.

This is a distressing enough story, but moreso to me because the person in question, nicknamed Tymex, was someone I had met at a party a few months earlier. It was a party at the apartment of a former coworker, and I knew maybe three or four people there. Introvert that I am, I wasn't doing too well with rooms packed wall to wall with strangers. Tymex introduced himself to me and we immediately started talking music. He introduced me to several people there and generally made me feel more at ease. He seemed very excited about the upcoming Fischer-Spooner show at the 930 -- "my BOYS!" he repeatedly called them -- and offered to get me on the guest list. I gave him my email address, but never heard back from him.

That was the only time I met him, and yet the news of what had happened to him distressed me greatly.

Why is it that loss of life seems so much more tragic when you can put a voice and an actual experienced personality to the name? Maybe the real question is why it seems so much less so when you can't-- when the person is just a name and a photograph. An abstraction. Yet how little it takes to breathe life into the name.

{In college, Junior or Senior year, I met a first-year once or twice who later ended up on the front page of the Brown Daily Herald. He had died either by suicide or in an autoerotic asphyxiation gone wrong, exactly which being a point of no small controversy. We had never, I believe, had a full conversation. I don't remember his name. We were at a meeting or two together, he danced (to the music on his own headphones, out of step with the rest of us) at a friend's birthday party. I recall my actual reaction being one of disbelief. Denial. Death is the kind of thing that only happens in the abstract. It couldn't happen to someone I'd actually met, even so briefly. I suppose the same is true with Tymex, except moreso due to the horrific nature of his death.}

A few weeks back I joined a coworker for a few drinks after work at Saint-Ex. I had mentioned to her previously the strangeness of such a violent thing happening to someone I had met, but this night she had something even more distressing to share: "Remember that thing you were telling me about the guy in the duffel bag? How you knew him?"

"We'd met once."

"Well, I knew the murderer!"

The guilty party had turned himself in. I hadn't previously known this. "This was a guy who I partied with, he gave me a ride home a few times. And he's a murderer!"

One more to go...

A good friend of mine who goes to school in Baltimore makes extra money modeling. The photographer she usually works with lives in Philadelphia. When he has work for her, she'll go up there or he'll drive down and take her to the location for the shoot. After her most recent job with him, he had tried to get out of paying her, first claiming to have left the money at home when he dropped her off at the train station, then claiming a sudden death in the family as an excuse for not coming back with it before her train left, and finally saying that he was having money problems and couldn't pay her right away. When she insisted he write up a contract at least giving a deadline for payment, he became more and more belligerent, finally refusing to take her calls and announcing that he'd delete any Emails from her unread. He finally agreed to put something in writing when she threatened him with a lawsuit.

Then the truly distressing news came: The photographer had been arrested in the murder of one of his models.

Apparently many of his models had noticed his personality becoming darker and darker. Some of them became frightened of him, someone they had trusted before. My friend, understandably shaken, now questions her instincts. She had done similar light-bondage photoshoots with this man, even worn the same gag the victim was found in.

Finding a personal connection with death, no matter how tenuous, even sudden violent death, while distressing, is no comparison to learning of a personal connection with depraved slaughter. That these kinds of things happen is common knowledge, but it is a knowledge through a reasonable buffer. A reminder that the people who do these things are real people, people we could have met, people who could have harmed our friends... it's... well... a little too overwhelming to put an adjective to.

In Lighter News...

D. is running off to Paris. She will be taking the Bernie, world's laziest cat, with her. (I amuse myself imagining Bernadette in a beret and black-and-white horizontal stripey shirt, squeaking at the Parisian birds.) I need to find another housemate or another place to live. Last time I was in a situation like this, my friend M. came through and offered me the room I inhabit at this very moment typing these very words. She has since moved out and bought her own place, and now she's offering me her basement. There's an odd not-quite-symmetry to all this. M. first introduced me to the Cafe where I now work, along with a significant percentage of the people I know in DC. It seems almost as if taking another not-quite-favor from her would put me dangerously close to having my very soul in hoc. Also, it's twice as far away from work, the basement has purple carpets and wood paneling, and I shudder at the thought of packing all my books (among one or two other things) yet again.

Still, faced with few leads from friends and therefore the growing specter of having to take out an ad and interview strangers, it seems more and more like another move may be in my future.
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