>>> Against Your Will
By staff writer John Marcher

March 31, 2008

I remember the day the fire started within me. It was a long, long time ago, more than 20 years ago in fact. I'm only 25 as I sit here and write this now, and the story I am about to tell you might seem far too detailed for a person of such a young age to remember. All I can tell you is that I’ve been blessed with one of the most uncanny memories in human history.

Not a photographic memory mind you—I don't remember everything I see or hear, and in fact I have no clear control over what I remember at all. Furthermore it's useless under pressure. For example, if you were to ask me to remember a long sequence of random numbers on the spot, you'd no doubt find that I'm quite average at this exercise. But, when my memory works, it’s like a steel trap: whatever falls into it is there forever. Unfortunately, for the most part throughout my short but extraordinary life, the most mundane and subtle of details have become ensconced in this steel trap, to my ever lasting chagrin, inundating it with a bevy of useless but very personal information.

“I was an incredibly innocent young man, not the hardened, destroyer of worlds I am now.”

When I was two years old, my family moved from The Woodlands, Texas to South Hampton, Pennsylvania. Across the street from our new house was a family named the Keeney's. They had three girls, the youngest of which was my age, named Katie. If you can scrape the mold off of your brain and think back to this time in your own life, you'll no doubt realize that this was somewhat of a big deal, to have another family with a child the same age, in the same class as you. And for the Marine's and the Keeney's this was no exception. My mother had a curious way of dealing with this, and in general a curious way of dealing with the Keeney's. I've come now in my old age to understand the world of psychology, and one facet of this grandiose discipline concerns the concept of persona.

We all have hundreds and hundreds of personas, one for each different person we deal with and also overarching sets of personas for the environments we inhabit. You have a work persona, a school persona, a friends persona, a family persona. But more specifically, you also have a Dad persona, a Mom persona, a Jimmy-your-buddy-from-school persona, and a Kristi-who-you-have-a-crush-on persona as well. The basic concept being that you act differently in each environment and more importantly with each individual person you deal with. Well my mother had, and would always have, a social persona that was exemplified by extreme courteousness and a desire to appease. It differed so much from how she acted in private that I really didn't know what to make of it at first. And I first came to see it in action with the Keeney's, my mother as polite as ever, dealing with the endless charade of worship Mrs. Keeney continually directed at her daughters’ accomplishments, however mundane.

I'll tell you flat out, Mrs. Keeney was a fat frumpy bitch. Jewish to the marrow, she had a bowl cut that Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber would be proud of. She loved her daughters with reckless abandon, but at the innocent age of 3, I thought for sure she hated her husband. Mr. Keeney was a computer engineer; he would work long hard days at his office, come home and sit on the couch and have a single lonely Heineken while he watched the news every night.

Except he never got a chance to watch the news; Mrs. Keeney was too busy bitching at him. Bills, the car, the girls' soccer practice, it never stopped for this guy. He was so silent, so beleaguered, so beaten down when this would happen, it defied what little I had of real-world experience at the time. He would just sit there nursing his beer, his face on his hand, every so often sending a soft “yes, dear” her way for appeasement.

But the bitch was never appeased, and in fact she didn't even listen to him, she just kept bitching like she was trying to pass a large bowel movement and had to get it all out at once. When she was done, she would throw her hands up in the air and saunter off muttering about whatever she happened to be pissed about to the kitchen (she was always in the kitchen), more than likely for a large bowl of ice cream. I remember one night I asked Mr. Keeney why his wife was so mad at him. “Because her sister married a doctor,” he replied, flashing a sly smile and turning the channel over to the Flintstones for my enjoyment.

I started spending time at the Keeney's more and more after we had gotten settled into our new house. They had a computer with cool computer games like King's Quest and Microsoft's Flight Simulator, and while this probably sounds pretty lame, in 1986 Flight Simulator was one of the sickest games ever made, and it blew the lid off anything my Atari 2600 could do. One of the trying things about spending time over there, though, was the fact that Katie was very mean to me. I want you to take a second here and realize that at this point in my life I was an incredibly innocent young man, not the hardened, curmudgeonly destroyer of worlds I am now.

But when the fire really started burning, that all started to change. Which is really what this story is all about anyhow.

Having two older sisters made Katie privy to all the best ways to take advantage of a more innocent mind than her own, and my own naïve belief in the greater good allowed her to play out these cruel scenarios with ruthless efficiency. Katie would do anything to take advantage of my innocence. Want to playa card game? Sure. It's called 52-card pickup. How about a game of hide-and-go-seek? Okay, go hide, I'll count to 100. Except I would hide and she would never even come look for me. I would go to Mrs. Keeney (in the kitchen) usually after hiding for an hour, or eating Play-Doh or some other heinous shit and tell her what happened.

“Oh, you're full of soup, Jonathan,” she would say, leafing through her Macy's catalog, not even bothering to look up at me.

That's when the fire began. Not in earnest mind you, but the first small sparks of what would one day come to be a raging inferno of anger started right there in the Keeney's kitchen, listening to that frumpy bitch care less about what I was telling her. I remember it seemed so unbelievable, that her daughter could do whatever she wanted no matter how mean, and all I ever got was, “You're full of soup, Jonathan.”

I guess the real reason this struck me as so obtuse was that my own parents dealt with things very differently. When guests were over, they were treated kindly and I certainly would not have gotten away with tormenting them. In fact, the opposite was true if anything. I was held to a higher standard when other kids were around, and right or wrong, I felt at that time, and even to this day, that this was the way parents were supposed to act.

The fire, the anger, it’s like a muscle you have to realize. These days it's a well-formed muscle, taut, strong, the bicep of a professional body builder or the like. The fire in my stomach is so incredibly strong, in fact, that I don't think it will ever extinguish until I lay dying in the final moments of my life. But back then it was a newly formed entity, and just as a bodybuilder’s biceps at one time felt their first strains, I too felt for the first time inside of me a flicker, a brief twang deep in my abdomen, below my throat but above my stomach—a fire kindling.

Continue to Chapter 2 »