Notable Dates On The Calander Of Dread - July 1989The few people who know me well know I have a rather peculiar aversion to touching anyone, and being touched in return.  Hugging, especially, is an act that I avoid, whether it’s giving or receiving, unless under special circumstances.  Even then, I’m very weary of doing so, making minimal contact, and making sure the act doesn’t extend past too long (a second or so).

Of course, normally this so-called “quirk” of mine is looked upon as something not at all strange – really, what’s creepier, the one who doesn’t hug, or the one who hugs anyone at a drop of a hat?  Exactly my point.  However, having the added vocation of attending churches where it’s expected of the congregants to engage in the affectionate – yet platonic – act of touchy-feely, more than one eyebrow has been cocked when I suddenly vacate out of the sanctuary briefly to either use the restrooms or freshen up my coffee cup (used to be I would step outside for a quick pass with the cancer sticks, but that’s long behind me now) at the onset of the “greet your neighbor” portion of the service and wait out the love fest.  There were some places that took this to mean I was somehow spiritually deficient, but that’s another story entirely.

So, what exactly was it that causes me to bristle at the hand laid on my shoulder absentmindedly?  Why is my first instinct, when confronted with an inevitable unwanted hug, to duck, dodge and dash?  Why is it, as a guy who has been stocky most of his life, I’m so great at contorting my gelatinous frame to make for the minimum amount of physical contact in even the most congested and crowded of public places?  Well…normally these questions are met with a pleasant “none of your bloody business”, and a smile that will haunt your dreams for weeks to come.  But now, for no other reason other than I’m feeling in a random blogging mood, I shall share with all of you reading this, the secret behind my aversion to physical contact with the rest of the human race.

It happened on my fifth, and ultimately final, stay at the juvenile psychiatric ward in Omaha.  I was fifteen, and a very different person then – let’s just say, young and excessively stupid, coupled with a cocky sense of indestructiveness and jacked up on the hormones coursing through my chemical makeup.  A volatile mix, to be sure.  And I ran with it, being a pudgy, foul-mouthed punk.

Not that I was brazenly stand-offish all of the time.  No, I had my moments balanced out, being the manic depressive that I was, and all the medication swimming in me at the time.  Doesn’t matter, really, because what happened had nothing to do with if I was “nice” at the time or not.  As a matter of fact, what triggered the eventus monumentus would be considered quite innocent by some.  Most, in fact.  Certainly, I did at the time.  But, I reiterate, none of that matters.

Her name was Tracy.  Not sure if she spelled it that way or not.  She was 17 years of age at the time, and was friends with another patient named Jody previous to her internment at the hospital.  I mention Jody, mainly because she was one of the few older patients that was actually kind to me, going out of her way even at times to be so, when most of the other older kids…well, let’s just say, didn’t.

Whereas most, if not all, the kids who wound up on the Fourth Floor of Emanuel Hospital were admitted by their psychiatrists, their parents, or more often the combination of both, Tracey was one of the rare residents of Four East who admitted herself.  Her reason for her voluntary confinement was a mystery at first, as was her curious aversion to talking with, or even being near, myself personally. The answer to the first part was an infuriating and sad one.  As to the second part…well…

She was habitually raped by her older brother.  Admitting herself was the way she escaped the bastard.  This information was freely given on the first group therapy session the Monday after she admitted herself.  Of course, there is no fathomable way I can even begin to relate to that kind of horror.  Why this was allowed to continue to the point of this girl having to take matters into her own hands to take herself out of there…I’m speechless.  She immediately had my and the group’s sympathy and support.

What she didn’t tell me was, apparently I looked almost exactly like her brother.

As to why this information wasn’t as forthcoming as it should have been, I don’t know.  You would think that, having just admitted yourself into what you thought was a safe haven from the darkness and horror of your every day existence, only to find out that one of your fellow residents resembled the very thing you were trying to escape, this would be some very important information to be supplied with.  It’s like being the only survivor of the Camp Crystal Lake slaughter, only to be admitted into a hospital room where your roomie is a hockey fanatic that wears a goalie mask nearly all the time.  And I really hope some of you actually get that reference.  It’s very apt, really.

Looking back, I can understand why she wouldn’t want to initially let me in on the whole coincidence.  Kind of.  But, considering what happened…

Okay, this is rather hard for me to tell.  So, bear with me.

One afternoon, after the lunch time, the adolescent-age kids would go into a gym and just knock around, play, basically what anyone would do after lunch at school.  Basketballs were shot at hoops, bouncing balls, running around, playing tag or whatever.  You get the idea.

That particular afternoon, I remember spying both Jody and Tracy and another girl their age chatting in one of the corners, standing in kind of a circle together, and I thought to my stupid 15-year-old self, “Hey, wouldn’t it be hilarious if I snuck up behind of of ’em, and do a grab-tickle under their arms and shout ‘BOOGA BOOGA!’?”  And so, due to the fact that I hadn’t fully developed the Good Idea/Bad Idea filter in my brain by that time, I went over to the nearest girl to me – Tracy – and did just that.

She seized up.  She folded onto the cold hard gym floor in a fetal position, and began trembling hard.  She immediately regressed inside her mind, experiencing a flashback, and a horrible one at that.  Only I didn’t notice all of this happening, because I was jumping around and laughing at the fun-fun goosing I just did.  Ha ha, wasn’t that a funny joke?  Wait…what’s everyone staring at?

I’ll spare everyone the details of what transpired during the following week.  Needless to say, it was a very tense week, to understate things.  After being fully assessed of what transpired and why, I tried to help pick up the pieces.  I sought forgiveness…and received none.  While Jody was the only one who forgave me after confronting me about it, Tracy never could.  And one other girl, who never really liked me to begin with, used this incident to justify her snark attacks from then until I was discharged a week or so later.

This…changed me profoundly.  Keep in mind, this all happened before I gave my life to Christ Jesus.  Don’t know why I bring that up, I just do.  To this day, I don’t like to touch, or be touched unwantedly.  Is it an unconscious form of self-flagellation, a sick penance that is neither useful or needed in the long run?  Maybe.  All I know is, I think about this woman from time to time, more frequently than one normally should really.  I pray and wonder if she ever truly escaped the horror of her life, and found peace in the only true Source of it, like I did shortly after being discharged from that place for the last time.  I wonder if she’s ever gotten around to forgiving that stupid 15-year-old doppelganger of her brother.  So many questions; an answer would be nice.  But, that’s not the reason why I write this overlong, overwrought blog post.

Well, maybe it is.  Maybe I needed to finally purge a lingering demon or two.  But, ultimately, I just wanted to expose the reason behind one of my major peculiarities.  And to have a point of reference for those who demand to know why I punched them instead of hugging them at church.