Somewhere life became a series of bad days. Then it became about how to try to make each bad day better as it happens. But the bad days just keep coming.
Somewhere it became about how to keep believing in good days. How to believe in the good throughout the waiting. Waiting for everything. Waiting and still giving in to hope, just giving and waiting.
Somewhere it became a tug-of-war of giving and waiting. I can’t help but wonder what happens if there’s nothing left to give…I can’t help but wonder when life became more about waiting and less about living.
Somewhere it became about how to say how I feel. How to say how I feel without saying it the wrong way. Most of the time people only hear what they want to hear anyway. And people only see what they want to see. Seeing isn’t always believing and believing isn’t always seeing.
Somewhere it became about filling up the emptiness. Some days I can convince myself that doing good things helps. Most days I just accept the void.
Somewhere it became about just not wanting to be tired anymore. Tired of trying and of giving and waiting.
Somewhere it became about pretending and smiling. About making small talk to make it all look good. Besides, smiling just makes appearances better.
Somewhere it became about staring at the television to drown out life. Staring out the window just doesn’t stop the tears.
Somewhere it became about just filling time. Anymore, time feels as empty as I do. No matter how hard I try, the emptiness is all there is. Time doesn’t seem to care.
Somewhere it became about wrestling myself to silence. I started lying to myself just to make it through the day – every single time. I’m running out of lies but these damn days just keep coming.
Somewhere it just became about giving and waiting.
Somewhere life just became a series of bad days.
* * *
I’ve read that when rats ingest poison, their blood thins. As they move around in a state of confusion, they run into walls, they run into everything. This eventually causes them to bleed out. In their weakened state, their brains swell. The toxin becomes too much to fight off. It makes them thirsty as their kidneys fail causing them to seek water for relief. It’s a gruesome, slow death. It’s inhumane and the poison only works when ingested.
* * *
People can be poison. Their toxicity may not lead to an imminent death, but the process is a slower one, the same as for the rats, as the partner seeps into the mind of his victim and over time, finds his victory. The death of his prey happens mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. While the body is still alive, its only thriving and will to continue on, has become the mercy of the perpetrator.
It’s here where not all damage is immediate. Not all damage happens in one quick motion. It’s just like that poison. It’s not a swift blow with hands or an object intended to kill on impact. It’s a poison and there is no doubt that its intent is to harm and to weaken its victim over time. It infects the intended person.
It’s a slow process. It’s a death of character. It’s not necessarily a death of self but it is just that in the same aspect. Sometimes it takes a long time. Sometimes the victim won’t even realize it, as the poison continues to be fed and ingested.
The originating modalities of the perpetrator are inviting, like bait – something about him makes him appealing. Something about this makes ‘it’ the thing she wants most. But that’s just on the surface. What’s underneath and being underhandedly served, isn’t obvious until it’s too late. It’s too late when the poison has completely taken over causing for a chaotic state, one of confusion and complete manipulation of self. It’s a slow death and it’s painful.
There is no mercy for those unlucky enough to fall prey. The poison dominates the instant it takes over. Complete control is the objective – and it happens over time. There’s no escaping the damage it causes once it’s beyond half. The greater the amount ingested the better the chance the perpetrator can have what he wanted all along and wants to maintain. Once it’s beyond that halfway point, the process seems to quicken. The victim may begin to fight the process realizing something is different, but by this time, the confusion has made its way inside, and she no longer knows what it felt like before this. She has lost her identity and who she was before this all began.
Sometimes the damage comes in a sweeping motion, like a wave. It will knock her down but she can always find some grounding to re-assert herself. After the initial onset, periods of distortion become common. She will get knocked over as the waves start coming in stronger. She will no longer be able to believe that a way something was, was in fact the way it had always been. She will question her own authority to her own life. She will question all that she knew compared to what she knows now. Over time, she will tire of questioning it or making sense of anything, and she will easily accept the change.
The mind is a funny thing. It will tell you what you need to know. It has a way to process information, a way to sort out ‘fact from fiction.’ It operates all on its own, independently from the whole but the entire body needs it to function. It is separate of the whole but it directs everything. Even in its persistence of maintaining information, it’s capable of taking in new information as well. Sometimes repetition makes this easier.
When I studied Latin in college, I had to learn by repetition. Having previously studied Spanish, and deciding this other language would complement my English degree better, I opted to take on Latin instead. It wasn’t easy. The semantics of Latin were not the same as Spanish. When forming sentences and conjugating verbs, the entire structure was different. I had learned Spanish easily. I actually enjoyed it. But it wasn’t until I was already mid-semester in Latin that I realized I had made a mistake. Starting over and going back to the original foreign language seemed to not make sense to me as an option. I still believed Latin was the better choice. I pushed through it. I continued on three more semesters, making myself learn it. I learned by intentionally studying through repetition and memorization.
Every part of me hated Latin. I hated that it was hard to understand. I thought it was somehow my own fault for not easily retaining this new information. I convinced myself that continuing on would make it easier and that over time I would understand it. I believed that it was the right choice so I made myself continue studying it. Repetition works. I was able to pass tests and complete assignments. When the new information kept coming in, I kept adjusting and force feeding my mind. It wasn’t easy and I struggled. But repetition made it move from impossible to doable.
The mind just works that way. Even if new information is disagreeable to what already exists, we can find a way to make it work for us. With the onset of uncertainty, persistence and repetition can convince us of anything. The new information floods the system. Eventually, it becomes part of the old. It doesn’t happen all at once. What seems chaotic at first, begins to reside. The processing calms as it’s ingested and the mind begins accepting this foreign information easier.
* * *
I remember the day he told me to pick out that camera. I loved taking pictures. I took a lot of them. There was something about candid shots that made me want to capture as many as I could. We were in the middle of the department store. I had come with him, as I always did. He had decided to buy a flat screen television. 55” to be exact. It was the largest he could get while having 3D capability. It was the best purchase he could make. When he decided he wanted something he had to have it. So, here we were, in the store. As he searched for the best surround sound to accompany it, I had ventured away from him. He would get whatever he wanted to buy regardless of my opinions or thoughts. He would ask me what I thought, but if I ever said anything that disagreed with his own opinions or beliefs, then he was always the decider. His opinions mattered more. What he wanted mattered more. He mattered more.
I had opted to just spend time looking around since I had to be here anyway. He never did go anywhere alone. I always had to be with him. Walking up and down the aisles, I had discovered the cameras on display. I had been looking at them, carefully picking each one up, and putting it back as I had found it. Nothing else in the store had my interest and I just needed to fill my time while I was there.
“Pick one out.” He was behind me. I had no idea he had made his way back to me. We had been fighting two days before this. Why we did, I don’t remember now. But sometimes the details of memories get lost when the same things happen so often.
“What?” I looked at him confused. This was the first direct statement he had made to me in two days. It was the first time he had addressed me directly since he was on top of me on the floor that night. The scratches were still visible on his face where my nails connected with his skin in my struggling to get away from him. Every time I had looked at him since then, I was reminded visually of what had happened. I had avoided looking at him the past two days. I just wanted to forget it had happened. I always wanted to forget it when it happened. He must have noticed the surprise in me from his command. It was the last thing I’d expected to hear. He had to have noticed my surprise because he smiled before he walked away.
* * *
Over the years, I had grown accustomed to being left out of everything. When we shopped it was always for him and the kids. The price of anything never mattered – if they wanted it they got it. But when it came to me, I’d just learned early on that I was the exception to this. It never really bothered me I guess, I didn’t want expensive things. I was happy when the kids got the things they were given.
I’d actually grown to hate shopping. I hated shopping for anything. After weekly trips for groceries and leaving the receipts on the counter for inspection, I had grown to hate the lectures that followed. There was always a time for correcting me and corrections were made when I would spend money. Actually, I was corrected when I did anything. I wasn’t able to do anything right. It was strange since in the beginning I did most things right. I was always told how much I was appreciated. Eventually appreciation for me stopped. I gave up waiting to hear it. I gave up a lot of things, but not all of them were easy.
Shopping for food though, I easily gave up. It was a battle that I conceded to forfeiting. We now shopped together, we bought food when he could be with me. I decided that just being there to push the shopping cart around as he found the best prices per ounce was just easier for me to do. I was never good at math. Having to stare at each option for each item had become a tedious and time-consuming task. I didn’t care about the pennies. Most times I was just happy to be invited to tag along anyway. After all, someone had to push the cart. It made me feel useful.
* * *
He and his scratches were telling me to pick out a camera. He and his scratches had caught me off guard. Those scratches…I have no idea if anyone else even noticed them. There was only one reason he ever had them. After he would throw me down, those scratches were the only chance I had at getting him from me. He would be choking me, yelling at me, calling me every name possible, telling me how I’d fucked up this time as I clawed at his face. I seemed to do everything wrong anymore. I seemed to do everything wrong now even though everything I did I was commended for when we had started dating. I missed who he was when we started dating. I missed who he was before I really knew him.
‘Pick one out,’ he had said. He said it so easily that maybe that was what surprised me the most. I wasn’t comfortable with this demand as it was completely out of the norm. I would have rather we’d been shopping for groceries. The decisions were his to make then. He seemed to do it so quickly. He seemed to have the process down to a science. And me, I would just push the cart around, following him as he went up and down each aisle. Doing those things that I didn’t get criticized for I learned to enjoy as they happened. I had decided that I actually liked doing this with him. It was easy for me. He would make each choice for each item, we would then drive home, and I would put everything away while he would find something else he needed to do. He would drink and do whatever ‘work’ that demanded him, while I would put everything away in silence. I learned to enjoy the silence.
I don’t remember the reason he had gotten the scratches on his face this time. But the calm after the storm, the distance between he and I during these times, I liked. He came out of no where and broke that silence as I was enjoying it. At that moment, I didn’t want to pick up another camera to inspect it. Suddenly, the price tag for each were staring me in the face – just like those scratches. I remember the prices distinctly: $699.99, $799.99, $899.99. But he and his scratches didn’t care the cost, they had just decided I should get one. The three cameras sat in front of me. I’d already held each one. I was blindsided with his statement and it no longer felt okay to hold them. Somehow the reality of the price of them made them more fragile. I was confused.
* * *
Brainwashing is a technique that has been around for years. It’s believed to have been around since around the onset of the Cold War in the 1950s. It was a technique adopted as way to control an individual by any means necessary, mainly repetition, pain, fear, and time, to take away the process of free will. In the 1970s, religious movements and cults began to use forms of brainwashing to gain followers. There are much worse cases that get left out of being defined in society.
In my teenage years, I remember watching main stream media and all of its reporting of Waco. One man was able to take control of the minds of others. One man gained so much control of these people following him that they gave up their lives for his beliefs.
I remember stories too of a similar scenario, involving aliens coming and taking believers in a sense of spiritual freedom. This guy had convinced a lot of people to commit suicide through drinking some kool-aid based concoction. Men, women, and children all died after consuming it. All dead for this self-spoken messiah.
My details could be wrong, but I’m sure the gist is all that really matters. I just remember wondering how in the hell that even happens. How does one person manage to convince anyone to do something like that?
But simple online searches say that mind control is a process that involves taking away a person’s free choice. It compromises the mind by distorting perception and behavior and motivation. The stories and definitions can be found anywhere online. The process and the results of it are astounding. Fear and repetition are used to break down the subject. It’s a coercion technique used as a way to infiltrate one’s mind. The mind is a funny thing. It can be manipulated and changed. It can be completely changed and bring a person under so much duress and control that even his demise will seem righteous for its cause.
No matter the circumstance, brainwashing can be done on smaller levels. Manipulation and control can be instilled in anyone vulnerable. While situations can induce anxiety, those anxieties can be hijacked. If excitement is introduced at the onset of fear, the manipulation can be easier. Hurt is often introduced after this point and physical pain is simultaneously given to the victim from the perpetrator when met in disagreement. If a reward has been given previously, which usually is the case, the victim can learn to differentiate that the reward is better than the pain. Done in repetition, emotionally a person will do what is expected to avoid the pain and gain the reward.
Repetition is also a strong force for the perpetrator. Belittling, negating, arguing, lying, threatening – these are all ways to succeed. Physically, pain is used to reinforce the process. Failure to comply leaves the victim at the hands and mercy of the onset of pain and the victim knows it. Ultimately, the reward becomes the goal for the victim. The victim will do anything to avoid the pain. Over time, the redundancy of the entire process takes its toll on its victim. It doesn’t happen all at once. It seeps in like poison. It’s a slow process. So slow in fact that the perpetrator is diligent in his patience and persistence because he knows it’s how he wins over his prey.
Brainwashing is an ultimate form of torture.
* * *
Somewhere between the minutes that had passed, after he and his scratches went back to the flat screen TV’s and surround sound, I had convinced myself it was okay. I told myself that he was still in there, that guy I had fallen in love with. I believed that who he was at first, was who he was now, in that moment of giving me something I hadn’t expected to receive.
But I know now that I was being bought. He had me convinced that he was all that I had and he was the only one that could provide me with anything. Even this unprecedented gift, a lavish one at that. I had no idea then that it wasn’t being given to me because he wanted me to have it. He bought it for me to win me over. It was my reward for staying with him.
The camera was a gift to be held over me, as with every other item he had permitted me to have or to use. Somewhere we began arguing often. It wasn’t unusual during an argument that I would be told to leave. If I didn’t like what he had to offer he would tell me to go ahead and go and to, “find me any dumb son-of-a-bitch that would tolerate you like I have.” I could leave him and the roof he put over my head. I could leave if I walked away. I had to walk though because the car I drove was his. The clothes I wore, he had bought for me. I had to walk because my leaving meant everything got left behind. There wasn’t anything in his house that I owned. Ownership was 9/10 of the law. Of course I could leave. I was always given the option to leave. Or I could stay and receive him and all these things he provided for me.
The mind is a funny thing. When events and statements happen enough, we might forget the detail of each precise moment but we remember them. Sometimes things happen so often that all those times just become one in the same. The details don’t always matter because the entire process is the same. Sometimes, when something unexpected happens, we remember certain details more. I just remember standing there looking at the cameras. I remember the price tags that were in front of me. I can still see them when I close my eyes.
* * *
Poison causes damage. Ingesting poison starts a process that only gets worse as it continues. Damage is the result of some opposing impact that distorts everything in its path. Damage does that. It’s the effect of what’s left after a storm comes in and ravishes its victim. It tears everything up, scatters the pieces, and leaves it all in a chaotic state. Without help in cleaning up that mess, those devastated will remember how things were before. A nostalgia forms for the loss. An appreciation overlooked for what was had, becomes an obsession in losing it all. The victim realizes there was once a failed appreciation for anything in its present state. It’s an impact that stays with thi person.
There is always a time to remember before any damage was done. There is a moment in the now, when the damage is real, and the victim can’t make sense of anything. This person’s entire life is in disarray. Sometimes there is relief given and some ‘thing’ is offered to make survival eminent. There is an instant when the future looks brighter. Sometimes there are promises of something so much better that the damage gets overlooked. The damage itself was a necessary action to receive what’s coming. It’s a way a victim stays hopeful. It’s a justification for the damage itself.
* * *
I still don’t remember which camera I had chosen. I don’t remember which price tag belonged to it. I just remember I was excited to finally have one of my own.
* * *
I can’t help but wonder now if rats really have it easy ingesting poison – maybe it is a humane process. Eventually, having suffered through the onset of poison, they come to an end. The moment passes and it’s over and forgotten. It’s as if the rat never existed. There is nothing to be remembered and there is nothing to try to forget.