This is fiction based on a true story of a Jekyll-Hyde situation. The opinions in the story are not the opinions of the author. It was originally written in 1994. I just needed to get it on paper. For her.
Names have been changed, and some facts rearranged. It was terrifying to witness, and to write. And is still terrifying now; it seems that hatred is all around us, as if it is contagious. Truth is stranger than fiction. May not be copied. If shared, may not be changed. This site must be mentioned. – Suzanne
It’s him again. I turn my head for a moment, literally lift my fork, then turn back – oh, why did I stop paying attention?
That look in his eyes. Unfocused, wandering in two directions. The grim mouth – tight, compressed. Something, someONE has taken hold. My James is no more. HE is here, in his place.
No one would believe me. He’s brilliant, charming, dangerous, this one. So different from my James, from the one I love. This one knows how to slip in beneath – he’s had a lot of practice. If I look at the pattern, we usually have about 3 good weeks before this one shows up. But it always startles me.
“The food here is terrible, he says now. “Can’t you pick a place with food fit for a man?”
“You told me you wanted a place with a salad bar.”
“You should know I really want meat.”
I look at my plate, the salad piled high. I was hungry when we came in. We held hands. Made love today. I let go, even ran around naked.
“This is another example of the way we don’t mesh…” he continued.
“We have just spent ten years not meshing,” I said, as calmly as I could.
“Ten years of a roller – coaster. Oh God, a fly!” His voice drips with disgust.
I am no longer hungry. This is not the James who prayed on his knees with me for spiritual unity. Who knows I don’t like to be kissed, who can dance like he was born doing it. Who inspires others with his wisdom. Tall, handsome, wise….It is the other man who lives in the same body, his wraith, his demon, who has emerged.
“I’m ready to go,” I say, looking at the un-eaten salad.
“I left my money at home.”
“You owe me. Again.”
“Some wives take their men to dinner.”
“Some husbands work.”
“There you go again with your nagging.”
“Who is taking you to dinner these days?”
“And your paranoia. Let’s go.”
We entered holding hands. We leave with invisible walls around us. When will I learn?
I put my purse beneath the cupboard by the back door. In case he starts in. His hands have been around my neck one time too many.
“I”m sleeping out here,” he says.
If I go to the bedroom, there will be no way out. Night has come so quickly. Neither of us makes a move.
“You know my bladder,” I say, finally, walking over to the mattress. Keep away, I think.
Darkness is falling as he moves to the bedroom. Sits down at the desk and lights a candle. He stares into it, his back toward me.
After so many years, I still try to make sense of the senseless. “James,” I speak through the thickness, “what happened?”
“You took me for granted,” he says tersely, coming to the door, slamming it. The man in my house is not my husband.
I cannot stay, wondering what state of mind will follow this séance, how it will escalate, like before. I cannot stay. There are a few dollars left in my purse. And I have the checkbook. I will have to leave everything behind.
Gorkey, darling kitty, rubs against my leg. No, not everything. I’ll put him in a pillowcase, grab some cat food, go –
A laugh from behind the door. Mindless, mirthless. Has he started using again?
Gorky jumps up on the wooden box we call a table. Ten years, with little to show it. Mattress for a couch, boards and bricks for a bookshelf. Books. Faulkner. The Great Gatsby. “Next to Hemingway, the greatest writer, Fitzgerald.” he said.
”I met him once,” he said. The Spoiler.
“James, he died before you were – “
“I met him in space.”
No use thinking of this now. The photograph catches my eye in the waning light . The silver frame infuses the room. The two of us, on the day we met. At the race track. James , siding up to me:”I’m going to marry you next week.”
“I’m already married.”
“So am I. But we’re both about to end it. I came to wait for you. You came.”
Yes, the red flag. Then, my own crazy voice in my head: “I can tame him.”
Next to the photo, the roses he gave me yesterday. What a jerk I am. How stupid, to forget. To hope, maybe now it will be better.
“Kylie,” his voice jars me. Oh, too late – he’s standing in the door, a shadow within a shadow. I can’t turn on a light, can’t move.
“It has been decided.”
The pause. I know better than to speak.
“I’m going to be a millionaire,” he says.
“Then we can pay the rent.” I say hastily. My mouth.
“You’ve always had a negative attitude,” he says calmly, with a matter – of – fact tone, “but it bounces off me now. I have a new name. It comes up with all of the numbers. Master, Avatar…”
He’s in it now. I should go to the kitchen, pretend to feed the cat, slip out the door.
“Kylie, you need to hear this. I’m doing it for you.”
The hook. I wait.
“It came to me through the fire. MacBeth. Jason MacBeth. My new name.”
I shuddered. MacBeth. Blood. Depravity. I’m afraid now. He begins, the way he does during such a diatribe. I mustn’t argue, or he will anger.
“I’m going to stop the aggression of the blacks and the Jews and the Indians and the Mexicans, of everyone who isn’t white. That’s what I’m here to do. I knew there was a reason. For being here. Stuck on this planet. Penalized. I thought. But no, I’m to do this great thing. Stop the aggression.”
I swallow, my mouth dry. “Oh my God!” I whisper. I take a breath. Finally, I ask.
“How. Will you do it?” I”m caught now, in deadly fascination. I wonder about the mind of this man with whom I have lived. About my own, for staying. Wishing that Mother didn’t live in New Jersey. Wishing that I could go, before he starts in again. Wishing that we had never met. Wishing that I had had a child, thankful that I hadn’t; I wouldn’t want to pass on this – schizophrenia? No one would believe this moment. Or any of the others.
He continued. “We’ll live in a house with a waterfall. We’ll have a pool with dolphins.”
“I’m Jason now!” I pause, unable to call him by this name.
“ Don’t you need to rest, then?” I finally ask.
“I have writing to do, have to call the radio stations, have to call New York.”
“It’s too late, James – Ja—”
“It’s not too late for my wisdom.”
I resign myself to the mattress – still in my clothes, in case I have to run – as he sits with the bedroom door open, calling radio talk shows, and in between, writing. With only a candle for light. Just the orange fire, surrounded by black.
I awaken. Still dark. Stumble to the bathroom. The bedroom feels cold, menacing. The door is open. He is not there. I grope towards the kitchen. The light from the all – night gas station glares through our second-story window. The faucet drips its’ metal – laden rhythm. Plunk, plunk, plunk. Without seeing, I know that the rust stain in the sink is enlarging, leaving its’ trail to the dark drain.
Where has he gone? Groggy, exhausted from the emotional toil, I fall back on the mattress and sleep dead.
The alarm rings as it usually does. I lumber to the bedroom. He is still gone. I change clothes. Cannot afford to lose work now. Tonight, I’ll pack.
Work is a gray blur. No light, now. Shadow. How did I get here? How have I stayed for ten years?
After the marriage: he tended bar. Once, home late. That’s when I first noticed the look.
“I had to teach someone something.” he said as explanation for being late.
“Like how to get married before getting married?” In those days, I had grit.
“No. How to pray.”
Today, he still catches me off guard. I wish, now, that I could pray.
A manuscript lay on the table. He’s nowhere in sight. It reads: Preventing Dilution: How to keep Elements from Polluting Our Society.
I am sick. I go to the kitchen to look for the coffee can with my getaway stash. This time, I’m going. I’ll swallow my pride, call Darlene. Won’t tell her why. Just ask for asylum. I’ll have to take some clothes, and Gorky.
I’ll take an armful of blouses, skirts, underwear down to the car. No – he might find them. I’ll put them in a basket in the laundry room. Then grab Gorky. And run….
There’s also Sue, if Darlene can’t have me. But she’s a bit nuts, too. The last time I saw her, she was doing the Ouija board, and it told her to start a business. She decided to practice astrology. She’s good at it. Doing surprisingly well, now. I could stay there, in a pinch.
“Kylie.” He has just come up the stairs. I didn’t even hear him.
“We need to go. Got an appointment. Getting a photo for the back of the book.”
“I’ll stay. I’m tired.”
“Wives should stand by their husbands.”
“I’m too tired to stand.”
He comes and kisses my cheek. It’s a power kiss, not a love kiss. I shrink back. He laughs.
“It’s what I do, now,” he says, then, “you won’t have to work much longer. I might buy you a diamond ring tonight. You’ve been waiting too long for me.”
“James, we have to discuss the rent.”
“Damn!” he hollers. “There you go with your negatives! All right, I’ll go. Going to meet someone. Work on the project.”
“Who’s paying?” I ask.
“Jason. Jason MacBeth.” he says, glaring. I hold out the keys, limply, still carrying the clothes.
Back up the stairs. He has put another rose on the table. “We’re on our way to glory,” he has written.
In the other handwriting.
Gorky jumps up on my lap. I fall asleep, sitting there.
Two days have passed; James has not returned. I rode to work on the bus yesterday, but when he wasn’t home when I returned, I called the police.
Darlene called a minute ago, out of the blue.”You’ve been on my mind,” she said. I spared no small talk.
“James has disappeared.” I said, offering no preamble. No explanation.
“Let me feed you,” she said, “He’ll be back.”
“You think I’m nuts for staying.”
“That is not the subject right now. The man has two sides. We all do, but his are – miles apart. I’m concerned about you right now.”
I cannot answer. I think about the good times. How I saw his potential. The “P” word has been my downfall.
“He took the car,” I say, finally.
“Then I’ll come up to you. Hope you’re hungry.” she says, hanging up.
An hour later, red – haired, red-nailed Darlene, is carrying, between her large bosoms, homemade spaghetti, garlic bread, wine, a flower.
She coaxes me to eat. As I take a mouthful, I realize it’s the first I’ve eaten since – when?
“One day, this will all be behind you,” she says gently.
I wolf it down, tears flowing.
I am sipping the wine when the phone rings. She gives me a look of recognition.
“This is James,” says the voice. The old voice. My heart pounds. She comes near, holds my hand.
“Kylie, I’m at a bus. I can’t read the sign. Kylie, I’m scared.”
“Where have you been?” My voice trembles in rage and relief.
“I’ve made a mess. I’m scared. I’m messed up. I need you. Help me, please help me.”
“What did you do, what have you done, where are you?”
He cries. The sob, not the sniffle. The sniffle is the pseudo – tear he produces when he wants sympathy. When he is manipulating. The sob is the real thing. How cynical I have become about him. How hard. And how utterly vulnerable to this, now, his plea for help.
“Is there someone there with you?”
“No one – a boy.
My heart jumps. “How old?” I ask, testing.
“About eight. Kiley, can you come?”
“Ask him where you are now.”
I hear a muffle, then,
“Excuse me, little boy, can you help me? Where are we?”
“Read the sign, mister!” I hear the boy say.
“I can’t, I can’t read it.”
The boys’ voice softens. “Fort Wayne, man. Downtown.”
Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“James,” I say when he’s back on the phone, “get on the bus to Albuquerque. I’ll meet you there.”
“I have no money. My pockets are empty. I don’t know how I got here.”
I don’t know if he’s lying or not. I never do, with him.
Darlene is doing the dishes.
“Stay there, James. Hold on.”
Darlene says “I”ll call the police. Keep talking to him.”
She puts on her pink coat, gives me a squeeze.
“Keep talking to me, James.”
He babbles on about the day we met, and being in a bus station, about how cold it is, about how he didn’t want it to be this way.
He is home now, with me and Gorky. The car was found. It will cost a boatload to return. We’ll have to do without. The “treatise” has disappeared. Has it gotten into evil hands?
The man in front of me is broken. His right eye is puffy, his nose swollen. His arm is bruised. I dare not speculate. I dare not ask.
The dark pupils of his eyes obscure the green. He trembles. His voice quivers. He has remembered something:
“Jason MacBeth is gone.” he says, finally.
Finding courage, I ask.
“What are those marks on your face, your arm?” I’m quiet, shaken. I feel sick inside. What if he has hurt someone?
“You will leave me one day,” he says.
“James, what happened?”
“Oh, please, will you have me now? I’ve never needed you so much.”
Before I can answer, my stomach is churning, he says,
Don’t answer now. Let me prove myself. I’ll look for a job tomorrow.”
“The one you had?” I ask warily.
“Jason had that one. And he’s gone. Gone for good.”
“Did you have a fight?”
“We did. He – Jason- he was going to kill someone. I told him to go away. Told him he had a dark hand coming down and ruining things. Told him he was manic-depressive paranoid schizophrenic.”
I am feeling crazy. Is this manipulation, or insight?
“Is he – what did he say?” I finally ask.
“He didn’t. He laughed. And disappeared. Now, he’s gone.”
I take a deep breath, and phrase my next question carefully.
“Did he hurt someone?”
“He tried to kill someone,” said James.
“Did he succeed?” I thought that my brains would fly out of my skull.
James giggled nervously, his eyes darting back and forth, rapidly, as if watching a silent enemy.
“I didn’t let him. But he put up a fight.”
“James, who did he try to kill?”
He was silent for a moment. His eyes darted back and forth, before he screamed, “Keep him away from me. Don’t let him come back!” and then he broke down in sobs.
The police in Fort Wayne had turned him over, no questions. He wasn’t a danger to himself, they said. He sounded sane, they said.
When they arrived, there he was waiting calmly, talking to me on the phone as if nothing had ever happened. The got on the line, and agreed to put him on the bus; we’ll have to pay them back. I gave them the phone number. I picked him up and brought him home. They advised me to take him for help.
I haven’t slept. My imagination runs wild. I wonder what happened, yet I am frozen with inertia. I know that I should speak out. I fear that someone, somewhere has been harmed. By the Spoiler, no, by my husband, James. I call and talk to them. No they have had no reports. They’ll keep my name on file.
He got a job today. As a waiter. He’s bringing home his tips. He brought me a picnic tonight. Food, wine, himself.
“I’ll do anything to make you happy, from this day forward,” he says.
“James – “
“I need you. You are my life.”
I try to remember when the Spoiler last visited. Remember that he hasn’t gone away. Remember the facts.
“I’ll understand if you don’t want to.”
“James, you need help.”
“Have you no belief in me? I’ll prove it to you, you’ll see.”
He speaks like a forlorn child.
I want to speak, to have courage. To tell him no, tell him that he must go with me for help, or it is the end. I look into the face, the face which is in so much pain. I won’t abandon him now. The scratch marks have almost healed. There has been no word in the papers, or from the police.
Tomorrow, I’ll make the call. I’ll make an appointment. Tonight, tonight, I must think. I’ll keep it light, non-threatening. Tell hm about friends, neighbors, work. Tell him about the strange phone call I had from Sue.
“James, this is so bizarre,” I said. “Sue, my friend the astrologer called me today. She said she had had an illumination. She said it came over her like a trance. She’s decided to change her name. This is weird, James. She’s changing her name from Sue to Jill. To Jill Mac Beth.”
-Suzanne copyright 2015
The author witnessed the delusional personality changes, and the subsequent return to”normal.”
Kylie (not her real name) died of her second bout with cancer two years later, surrounded by loving friends and family, including this author.
She and James (not his real name) broke up just before she was diagnosed a second time with a different cancer. Rest in Peace dear friend.
James lives. He teaches about spirituality. In his lectures, says he has been clean and sober for many years. He does not discuss his lapses of reality.