The Cask of Zachariah

Or, how a girl named Brianna became the final brick in the wall.

BRICK #1 – 1995: I was raped by two men while waiting for my older sister to get off work.

BRICK #2 – 1996: I suffered humiliation and ostracism and was called a fag and rejected by Joplin. I gave up my virginity to a random skanky girl just to prove they were wrong to myself.

BRICK #3 – 1997: I was kicked out of my Christian contemporary music band because “everyone thought I was gay.”

BRICK #4 – 1998: I transferred to Seneca High School and lost all hope and motivation of getting a good education or into a good college. So I completely gave up even though I had scored a 31 on the ACT in 8th grade.

BRICK #5 – 1999: I did not make it into acting school. Instead, I went to Greenville College and began to take on mountains of debt for one of the most worthless and miserable years of my life.

BRICK #6 – 2000: I transferred to UIC and promptly dropped out at the promptings of my girlfriend, Nicky. She also encouraged me to build up my credit card debt. When she was done with me I was over $30,000 in the hole on just plastic alone. I have still never paid it off.

BRICK #7 – 2001: Nicky dumped me and I checked into a hospital without insurance. I walked out a week later over $70,000 in total debt.

BRICK #8 – 2002: I dropped out of college again because I couldn’t keep up with credit card payments and classes. Then I lost both my jobs. At one point, I found myself going through trash for food. I lost all my dignity.

BRICK #9 – 2003: I joined the Air Force and was tricked into switching from EOD to linguist under the pretence that I would be a Chinese linguist. I got assigned to Arabic. I fought for six months to switch to Chinese pr back to EOD. Unable to handle it, I got black out drunk twice and found myself in a hospital once and at a stranger’s house another time, losing what little dignity as a human being I might have had left.

BRICK #10 – 2004: My hero, Grandpa Bob Wiedeman, died a couple months after my Grandma Rosie (his wife). I was devistated they never lived to see me make anything of myself and I am devistated to this day. On the bright side I was switched into Chinese school… but…

BRICK #11 – 2005: In my quest to reinvent myself as the most honorable and best Airman I could be, I made enemies with other unscrupulous Airmen who stopped at nothing to bring me down until I was stripped of my honor as Flight Chief – something I worked 8 months to attain – on completely made up (yet corroborated by two individuals) accusations of making racist remarks. I also privately confronted an Army Sergeant (Brooks) who bragged to my classmates about abusing prisoners when he was an interrogator at Gitmo. In order to silence and get rid of me, he and an Army Master Sergeant and Army Captain conspired together and had me kicked out of Chinese language school three months before graduating. I was reassigned to computer network maintenance. At my next tech school, I met and fell in love with the most amazing girl in the world, but…

BRICK #12 – 2006: After financially and emotionally supporting her when she lost her job and house in Katrina, she moved to California with me and once she got back on her feet, she dumped me and complained to my First Sergeant to kick me out of our house with only 2 weeks notice. Then, I found that not only she been telling other people that she was single the entire 18 months we were dating (and living together), that among the many excuses she made to guys who “found out” about me was that I was “just some creepy stalker guy who was obsessed with her and thought we were dating because I didn’t have a grip on reality.” That excuse happened 6 months into our relationship when we were discussing how she could move to California with me and whether or not we should elope.

BRICK #13 – 2007: My next roommate kicked me out with of her apartment with 4 hours notice because she thought my dog stayed at the apartment one night. My dog stayed in my car that night because my ex threatened to take her to the pound if I didn’t come get her that same day. Cracking under the stress of my failed relationship and continually taking heat from my Commander due to the fact that my ex was still was calling my unit to “complain” about me (despite the fact that I had not seen or spoken to her in months and about opposite things: “The utilities are all still in his name!” Then next week: “He canceled all the utilities!”). Eventually I found out that she was threatening to falsely accuse me of a crime, so I begged my commander for a way to get out of California and away from her . He helped me get a fake diagnosis to get out for “mental health” reasons. Thus, despite making Staff Sergeant in under 4 years and having one of the most promising Air Force careers in decades, my “career” came to an abrupt halt. I vowed to “give her her space” harboring the secret hope that she would feel bad for what she did and someday come back to me. I never heard from her again.

BRICK #14 – 2008: I was fired from being a Kaplan tutor because of a misunderstanding in the first week of training about our teaching assignments, thus crushing a dream and derailing something I had worked so hard to achieve… Then I started my job as an RA which marked the beginning of the end of my straight-A college career that I miraculiously was allowed to restart at UIC.

BRICK #15 – 2009: I became involved in Undergraduate Student Government and fought to make positive changes only to have my efforts overwhelmed by slimy “politician” wannabes Joel Ebert & Chris Olsen who almost stole an entire election but failed – due to my tireless efforts to expose their fraud. I nearly failed out of school and my efforts were rewarded by… nothing. I became the victim or a negative PR campaign and lost my reputation, my credibility, and some of my closest friends.

BRICK #16 – 2010: The greatest love of my life, Brianna, and I started a newspaper only to falter due to two of our partners and coworkers being incompetent, lying, substance abusers. We lost sleep, lost GPA standings, and lost many friends in the process…

BRICK #17 – 2010: Due to excessive turnover and a small core of vital team members continually failing to follow through with their commitments and duties, Bri and I gave up on our newspaper, the Argus, but not after first working 80 hour weeks, losing numerous friends and almost losing each other. It burned us both out to the core. I dropped out of school (again) to try to keep it going. This caused my GI Bill to go “retroactive” simultanioisly indebting me to the government for several grand and causing me to go into collections on all my credit cards. Bri and I swore we would reinvent the Argus again someday and that would be the first of many business ventures we were planning together. I came to value Bri as the yin to my yang and couldn’t image launching a business venture without her.

BRICK #18 – 2011: After a rough year, Bri and I broke up/took a break. My roommate and former Argus Editor (and one of Bri’s and my best friends), Tommy Barnett, screwed me out of over $1000 in rent and attacked me with a knife when I threatened to sue him. Bri was horrified. It nearly destroyed what little relationship we had left.

THE FINAL BRICK – NOW: After my relationship with Bri began to show signs of mending, I turned down a job offer in Chicago and took a promising ($$) job in Indianapolis to help Bri get out of Chicago ASAP (she told me she HAD to get out of Chicago) and help us become financially independent enough to go anywhere and start our own business together somewhere. I moved to a stange city where I knew no one, left all my furniture with Bri, slept on a foam mat and bunched up blankets, ate PB & honey sandwiches and cereal every day (sometimes I would have a lunch meat sandwich as a bonus to myself) to save money, tripled my rent and living expenses, and took what was supposed to be a temporary salary cut (while I built up my “pipeline” in this 100% commission job). All while paying Bri back $$ she had loaned me the year before when the business was failing and I had lost all my money in it. I paid her full rent every month since I left.

If curiosity can kill a cat, can false hopes kill a Zach?After being gone two weeks, Bri started to have a breakdown and supposedly missed me so much it was driving her crazy and making her feel so much pain… After a crazy “argument” one night which basically revolved around nothing I did being good enough for her, Bri and I decided that she had codependency issues with me and that it was unhealthy for both of us to talk on the phone every day while adjusting to the seperation. We (I thought) agreed to take a “technology break” and only write letters. This “seperation” killed me and caused me to feel even more lonely and stressed in my new unfamiliar environment, but I vowed to keep it up “for Bri” and I wrote her letters weekly.

After a month of this, I visited Chicago and saw Bri and learned that she at first had misunderstood our “mutual” agreement and thought I had “commanded” her to not contact me (which didn’t actually fit with the text messages she sent me after our last conversation thanking me for our conversation or the fact that she went from 3-4 phone calls per day to zero after that night). Even though she was “slightly angry” with me for this but “getting over it” she was grateful because the separation was actually helping her realize some of the “best and most positive changes in her life” that she had ever experienced. We left on good terms and she told me the only thing really preventing her from writing me back was that she didn’t have stamps.

I sent her a book of stamps in next letter to her. The next week, I received a very positive letter that said she had never felt so happy in all her life and “thank you for the stamps.” I wrote her again offering to visit her on her Birthday (April 11), but never heard back.

Meanwhile, my discomfort with being “stranded” in Indianapolis without a car, striking out week after week at making friends, my low income, my dog, Starbuck, not living with me, and the stress of discovering myself “failing” in my new job all started to weigh me down. The only thing keeping me going was a going away gift Bri gave me (a handmade framed art piece of all the things that Bri and I shared) on which she wrote on the back that she missed me, she was proud of me, and she would be joining me in Indianapolis soon. I might have been miserable, but the one thing that kept me going was the hope of soon being reunited with Bri.

I returned to Chicago this weekend, slightly puzzled that I had only received just the one letter from Bri that month despite sending her four letters myself, but cluelessly optimistic about seeing her and catching up and receiving that breath of fresh air to return to Indianapolis and be miserable and lonely for another month.

Instead, Bri “greeted” my return (via text) with coldness and anger and a refusal to see or speaking with me. Completely confused and getting no explanation of the seemingly sudden change of heart from Bri over texts, I finally got her on the phone.

And that is when she blasted me with so much hate and bitterness and anger for…

(a) the fact that she only just now realized that she was never happy, but was always miserable in our three year relationship (all because of me),

(b) the fact that I had “forgotten” her Birthday (somehow she never received the Birthday letter I sent her two weeks prior nor had she received the Birthday gift I bought and mailed to her),

(c) the fact that I had “abandonded” her when she “needed me the most” (for switching to the letters only communication attempt),

(d) all the drama I forced her to suffer through including the collapse of our business and the drama of Tommy Barnett,

(e) and every other transgression I had ever committed against her or someone she cared about throughout the past few years. She told me she was never really over anything or had forgiven me and had “suppressed her true feelings” about things because I “never allowed her to express her feelings to me” and I “always twisted everything into being her fault anyway.” Something I also have been woefully unaware of. For example…

Nearly 9 months ago, I disrespected and insulted her step-sister online during a heated political discussion. For this offense, I confessed my guilt and shame to Bri, begged her forgiveness, and wrote her sister an apology letter after struggling for a week just to word it right to convey my sincere guilt and sorrow over my misdeeds.  I even ran the letter by Bri for her stamp of approval to make sure it came across as humble and appropriately apologetic  Bri had told me she had forgiven me for this, and up until this weekend I thought it was all water under the bridge. But now, apparently, Bri says she has been harboring bitterness and resentment against me this whole time and that my doing that was, “an offense so great there is no recovering our relationship from it.”

At first, I reacted by apologizing for any misunderstandings and tried to explain to Bri where I thought she was assuming I felt or did things to hurt her which were either just misunderstood or completely “missed” all together (like her birthday mail that she says never arrived).

This only made her more furious and she kept coming back to the fact that despite the fact that our technology break had forced her to go through one of the most rewarding, self-discovery processes of her life and as a result she had never been happier, she was incurably angry with me for “abandoning” her. I finally cracked and went off on her for rewriting history in numerous places and discounting all the sacrifices I had been making for her and the suffering I had gone through for her sake (including the very technology break she all of the sudden wasn’t in favor of anymore and apparently never was all along despite what she told me and despite the fact she had never once reached out to me to tell me otherwise). Thus ended our phone call.

The next day, alone for several hours with my thoughts and a computer, I waded through all our old phone correspondences and texts. I sent her text after text after text detailing what had “really happened” regarding the technology break (pointing out conflicting accounts of what she said and now claims to have been thinking at the time) and complaining about her ingratitude. It was overly excessive and repetitive  I ended with a demand that she either have the decency to confront me and continue this argument with me until we worked out our differences or she had to immediately return all my furniture. I tried to get an answer out of her all day but received nothing.

Finally, after my anger and hurt subsided, at the suggestion of a friend, I decided to take the opposite approach and bought her two bouquets of flowers (18 red roses and 12 pink tulips) and a happy belated birthday card, a card with a “you changed my life” love poem in it, and blank card in which I wrote an apology for having let her down and having made her feel that she couldn’t express herself to me. I left them for her on her doorstep.

Today, having still not heard from her, I began to despair. I missed my bus back to Indianapolis having become petrified to go back feeling the way I did. I couldn’t face my prison city now that my only hope and my whole purpose for being there in the first place was gone… I tried numerous times to reach out to Bri, but she never responded. Finally, I tried stopping by her apartment, but her roommate informed me I had just missed her by 15 minutes. Then, I saw the flowers, thoughtlessly tossed on the couch and the three cards in which I had poured my heart out to her in there with them, not even opened, and still wrapped in the protective plastic around the flowers. They were already dying. Like me…

Bri’s roommate informed me then that Bri had been complaining of feeling “physically ill” do to all the stress I had caused her and that she in no uncertain terms ever wanted to talk to me again – partly on the advice of “everyone she knew” assessing the situation for her.

The worst part is, although Bri says she is getting “better” and is happier, she is doing it all predicated on a false version of reality and a gross, almost purposefully misunderstanding of my actions and intentions that have all lead her to conclude that I am the sole source of all her problems an misery whether I am in her life or I am not.

And I guess she is right. When I first met Bri she was this charming, optimistic, joyful, and hopeful girl. And being with me – from everything to the Argus to our relationship drama, from my personal weaknesses to “the Tommy episode” – put her through hell. She helped me survive some of the hardest times in my life… and I have somehow repaid her with pain and misery. Whether it is justified or is based on misunderstandings or not… I have caused her all this pain. My very existence in or not in her life causes her this pain. And I don’t deserve to live. Whether I wanted to or not, I have murdered beauty.

And I physically carry the pain of it all with me in my heart and my heart cannot take it anymore. It is signaling me that the only way to fix this – for Bri and for me – is to permanently wipe myself out of existence all together.

Then, Bri won’t have to deal with the pain of me “ignoring her and forgetting her” or the opposite of “pestering her and overwhelming her.” I will just be gone. And she will be free. And I will be free of the pain I carry, her pain and mine. I’m useless anyway. And it will be the last worthwhile thing I ever do.

And here I am. Dying. Being buried alive. Under the weight of a useless and fruitless life of squandered potential and persistent pain. Here I am watching that last brick slide into place, Brianna, making me realize: I’ve been dead these last 18 years all along. I just didn’t know it. People say “it gets better” but experience has taught me that I just keep making things worse.

And now the nightmare – for everyone around me and for myself – finally comes to an end.

UPDATE: If you are reading this (which, lets not forget the name of this blog), please be aware of the fourth-dimension and that this is but one of an infinite number of slices into that loaf. I have written an update to this (Hints, Allegations, and Things That Need to be Said), and I am on a journey now that began with a drive through this dark valley.