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Baa Baa Black Sheep
Herding Multiple Personalities
By E. B. Byers
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Text copyright © 2013 E. B. Byers
All Rights Reserved
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For my daughters who have suffered the most and
whom I love deeply.
Caveat: Should I repeat myself in this book, it is t...
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Table of Contents
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eigh...
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Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Ch...
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Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Ch...
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The Curve—
You can find Dorothy next to their creative degree.
The most cryptic message left for me by my alters.
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Do I hallucinate or am I seeing ghosts and images left by
time? Don’t we all have many parts of ourselves? When does it
...
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Chapter One
I cannot tell you when it started, only that it did. One of
my earliest memories is of being in one of the t...
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try to figure it out. I just went back outside, back to the
warm clods of earth around the splashy-green infant tobacco...
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outside. I was stillabout four and it wassummer. I
waswearing one ofmy favorites: seersuckershorts with
different paste...
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Why Ichose to leandownto pick up that little green car
instead of going to the step below it,I will neverknow.
Perhapsi...
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We lived on a tobacco, corn, and soybean farm in
southern Maryland. Idyllic in so many ways, it was a child‘s
dream—unt...
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am looking down at my right arm, which is scraped deeply
and covers my elbow and forearm. It looks angry. Time spits
on...
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Chapter Two
I have been switching all day long. How do I know
sincewhen you switch you don‘t know you‘re switching?
Wel...
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all major appliances: microwave; oven; refrigerator; in,
under , around and on top of my computer.
Then I saw it. No, n...
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Now every time I pass that Christmas card on the
lady‘s desk, it‗s at a different angle.
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Chapter Three
One of the truly exasperating aspects is the lack of
human interaction. The aloneness is unbearable. Yet,...
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I was afraid. I was always afraid, afraid of everyone
and everything and I was the only one who knew it. My
parents wer...
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stood for money. Cool, long, drawling, and empty—that is
how I remember this impressive singular and most
important ban...
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Another point of interest was the ten cents store. There
you could find a little bit of everything: It was the embryoni...
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childhood but young adulthood as well.The store also sold
clothes—mostly women‘s and young children‘s. Since my
mother ...
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green jumper with a matching paisley blouse. I hated it. I
hate it to this day. My school picture when I was ten was
ta...
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permitted more than one glass of milk a day (my father
decreed that milk is not a thirst-quencher). We were not
permitt...
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girl scout cookies (the number was strictly monitored),
cereal (there wasn‘t much to choose from in those days, but
gen...
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architectureand founded the American Studies department
at the University of Maryland, remaining its chairman for
twent...
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parents‘set monogramedwitha‖B.‖ It was a full set fortwelve
with alltheserving pieces: tablespoons, tea spoons, soup
sp...
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out the vegetables. We were not asked if we wanted moreor
less than they gaveus. Sometimes there was enough food for
se...
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Chapter Four
Calling it a black out is misleading because it intimates
that there was time there to begin with. Lost ti...
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―What?‖ I couldn‘t believe what I was hearing. ―No,
I‘ve never been in the psychiatric ward. I went three times to
the ...
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upward. It was no man‘s land. Could I have requested such
a change in care and not remember it? If so, what was the
las...
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simply is not there. It does not exist. You leap from ―Past‖ to
―Future.‖ That is lost time. Maybe they should call it ...
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Chapter Five
Oddities. It took me awhile to understand the terms
associated with DID. I am still not comfortable with t...
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9:00 p.m. I will begin to feel restless. Even my body will jerk
around. They will keep me up all night that way, too.
I...
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degrees. I popped it back. It didn‘thurt at all,but that finger
never healed quite right and I cannot stretch it out al...
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Sometimes it is objects thatbecomeafocusrather than an
action. Once each of my pairs of glasses disappeared one by
one ...
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The candle is a good example of another coming out for
a relatively short amount of time as gauged by how far
down the ...
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bands,umbrellas, combs, medications, purses, pajamas,
lipsticks, electric heaters, shredders, books, CDs, shoes,
rakes,...
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giving my bedroom a general good garden variety
sweeping. I unearthed more dust bunnies than you can
believe, and from ...
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not yet had the occasion to wear them.If he decides he does
not like the arrangement, the glasses will disappear again
...
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Barclay), 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, Edgar Allen Poe:
Complete Tales and Poems (Castle Books).
CDs? This Christm...
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Citizen Cohn, Man of the Year, ThePlague, Final
Fantasy:TheSpirits Within, Ring Around the Rosie, Harry Potter
Years 1-...
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Chapter Six
When I was still very young, at night I would hear a
voice calling my name. It was deep, brittle, raspy, br...
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imbued with a kind of life or awareness andI felt
asthoughthey were always castigating me for being a
descendant, a sen...
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touch, hung a huge oil painting of apastoral scene.
Originally, it hung at the dark end of ahallinEaglesmere, a
vacatio...
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gothroughthe door that led intomysister‘s room—she got the
canopy bed—, and fromthere through the door to my
brother‘s ...
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just did everything backwards, a statement on my family in
general. But, as I said, so much for that.
So much for bathr...
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as well as visual. The aural kind pestered and scared meto
noendlaterin my life. The visual onesbegan early, thatis, if...
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but I was always gettingin trouble for not cleaning out my
hairbrush. Ijust didn‘t see the importance of it.Or maybe I
...
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middle of the night sweaty and uncomfortable. But there
was no leaving it on at bedtime. Finally, my parentstook
mercy ...
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Another truly irrational fear I had was that in the dark
of night Iwould wake up to see my dead great aunt sitting in
t...
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tableand chairs with white leaves swirlinginand out of the
wrought iron crisscrosses of the skeletons of the chairs and...
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over that person‘s characteristics. She left my father
everything she had.
And so I quivered at night in horror that sh...
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forth from the house to the trees and back again. Pete, who
took care of just about any contingency on our and the
surr...
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and close. And doors I left closed wouldbeopen and vice
versa when I went upstairs. The original front door to the
hous...
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basement, the secondpartof the basement, and theback
basement. The first part had an old couch quietly
deteriorating, a...
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Lighting was sparse in the basement and consisted of
naked light bulbs with chains. There was one in each part of
the b...
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The scariest part of the basement was the back
basement because the light was not at the partition but
inside and you h...
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Chapter Seven
When I reached the bottom step this morning, I did
what I always do. I unplugged my cell phone from the
c...
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Someone took the phone and then returned it. Unnerving.
Ghostly.
I always leave my cell downstairs at night, even
thoug...
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Chapter Eight
What ahorrid day yesterday was.I woke up with a bad
sinus headache—migraine but not typical migraine was ...
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to sleep, so I got up around 9:45, wentdownstairs to the
kitchen, inhaled three clementine oranges, and drank
pomegrana...
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I still felt awful. Out of it. Just about totally dissociated,
somehow stubbed my toe and fell, scraping my right
elbow...
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Chapter Nine
No one knows the horror and terror that goes on
among these walls and halls. The closed eyes of statues
op...
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cloud spewing from my wide openmouth.They dancewith
their freedom and creak along the stairs and through the
walls.Frie...
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And they are all part of me, and somehow, somehow, I
must find an advocate among them.
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Chapter Ten
timothy timothy come
out and play the
sun is shining the
butter cups
say and the
daisies are
giggling
at th...
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—E. B. Byers
When I first saw Timothy, I was about 24. He was
standing, a hilly run down from the house, by the two old...
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steel thumb tacks and more rusty nails along the edges ofthe
insidesof the windows.
Its furnishings included a child-si...
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had spaghetti straps, a bodice of layered black satin, and a
waist from which the glamour of the dress gracefully
flowe...
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As we grew, we abandonedtheplayhouse and thefield
mice found it.Thetwo dresses wereruined as they slowly but
surely bec...
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whose hair as her life progressed turned totally black. But
Timothy will always be three and tow-headed. Nothing will
c...
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the others—we try to protect him, but he is afraid of us too.
He spends his time hiding inside,the motherless child.
Bu...
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timothy
works
with
his
hands
and
his
eyes
are
filled
with
colors so
many
colors
he
can
not
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see
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Chapter Eleven
There has to be a better way than playing musical
chairs with the termshallucination, dream, and reality...
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and I saw someone else‘s eyes looking back at me. It was a
male, and he was seeing me with pure, unadulterated
objectiv...
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they are not all the way out, can effect changes—what you
say, how you look, what you hear. I heard, ―You‘re pretty.‖
I...
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strength. And no one had to tell me shewas pretty. Here is
someonewhocamecompletelyout and whatismore surprising
is tha...
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little black girl about six who was once a slave on
aplantation; and I know that Carol is a tornado of rage and
destruc...
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danger of switching can trigger a switch atany time of the
day or night. It is 2:30 p.m. now, but a full-fledged switch...
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the new date and time. Not only did I cancel, I set up a new
appointment. I thought I was out of the switch because I h...
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hear me say? I have no idea. How did I sound? I have no
idea. Did I say anything inappropriate? I have no idea.
Having ...
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again. I often go to the Weis grocery store in the plaza where
Ilive just to bearound otherhumans, justto havethechance...
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business. There is a pharmacy there, too, and a bank;
accommodations to pay your utility and charge card bills;a
Red Bo...
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come back. And that hurts. It is better not to try. It is better
to find a safe way to live in this world of strangers ...
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Chapter Twelve
At one point my parents decided to take me to a child
psychologist. Why, I am no longer sure nor is ther...
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during which he did not even get out of bed. My mother
fought her own demons as well. I can still see the
prescription ...
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heclosed the door—or attempted to. Hekept pushing it and
waiting for a click that stubbornly would not happen and
final...
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―pets‖ until my mother put her foot down. There wasthe
requisite hamster (with a nasty bite) andthen acompanion
hamster...
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And so we wentonthrough the parade of pets, natural
and otherwise.And I remember blowing the shells of seeds
from bird ...
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When my mother told me the story of the
psychologist‘s diagnosis and the fact that no cat was
anywhere on the horizon, ...
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fence and gothishead caughtthere. My father had to resort to
clippers to free him.Finally, in requiem,heand the post to...
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Chapter Thirteen
Between my psychological pursuits and a horse
accident, thebusiness of life carried on.School;searing
...
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hosted a hostof parties themselves but wentto a host of
parties as well.
In this pocket of tobacco farms, a whole other...
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sidewalks, looking frequently over their shoulders as if they
did not really believe it was all over, that a President,...
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Invasion we three each got Beatles‘ wigs. I think it was the
same Christmas we each got Mexican jumping beans and
slink...
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we were youngadults,we started getting invitations to
parties,but most ofour experience in Ebyn society was our
parent...
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bedroom in her slip. She stopped abruptly,looked at me, and
said, ―I don‘t know what it is! I always start getting rea...
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with cucumber slices. Women in short white cotton gloves
and netted pillbox hats of pastel hues stood in chattering
ci...
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Townhouse crackers; curried egg, French onion, clam, crab,
and artichoke dips; bowls of macadamia, cashew, and pecan
n...
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leave (as indeed the first to arrive). Their tires crunching
down the driveway tookthemback to their owntobacco fields.
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Chapter Fourteen
A yawning chasm looms before
meonwhoseprecipiceIteeter with the conniving strength ofa
tight rope wal...
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driveway wasof bricks, the grass was mowed, three little
Oriental children laughed and played on a swing set. It was
t...
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I had lost at least five months of time.
It is not my fault.
I spent my internship as the black sheep of the family at...
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My daughter tells me that I have only six years of
money left andthatI must get a job. She tells me that I am not
faci...
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economy.‖I would still be paying vet bills. At the time of the
writing of this book, she simply does not understand th...
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only one of the dogshoarded. The other was named Jagger
and the two had adjoining kennels. And the shelter saw that
Dy...
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get away. First, it waspeople he couldn‘t handle.Hecouldn‘t
contain himself. Thenonce people were conquered, it was
sq...
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pass right through them. They are not real.I am in a fugue.
Everything seems to float. I am removed, setaside, shifted...
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It is not myfault.
My daughter tells me she is terrified. Shetells methat
she and her husband are trying to figure out...
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Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
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Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities
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A personal account of someone with multiple personality disorder (MPD) or dissociative identity disorder (DID) and its impact on their life.

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Baa Baa Black Sheep, Herding Multiple Personalities

  1. 1. 1 Baa Baa Black Sheep Herding Multiple Personalities By E. B. Byers
  2. 2. 2 Text copyright © 2013 E. B. Byers All Rights Reserved
  3. 3. 3 For my daughters who have suffered the most and whom I love deeply. Caveat: Should I repeat myself in this book, it is the nature of the beast.
  4. 4. 4 Table of Contents Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen
  5. 5. 5 Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty-One Chapter Twenty-Two Chapter Twenty-Three Chapter Twenty-Four Chapter Twenty-Five Chapter Twenty-Six Chapter Twenty-Seven Chapter Twenty-Eight Chapter Twenty-Nine Chapter Thirty
  6. 6. 6 Chapter Thirty-One Chapter Thirty-Two Chapter Thirty-Three Chapter Thirty-Four Chapter Thirty-Five Chapter Thirty-Six Chapter Thirty-Seven Chapter Thirty-Eight Chapter Thirty-Nine
  7. 7. 7 The Curve— You can find Dorothy next to their creative degree. The most cryptic message left for me by my alters.
  8. 8. 8 Do I hallucinate or am I seeing ghosts and images left by time? Don’t we all have many parts of ourselves? When does it become DID?
  9. 9. 9 Chapter One I cannot tell you when it started, only that it did. One of my earliest memories is of being in one of the tobacco fields at home in the summer and hearing my mother call my name. I was far from the house, but I didn‘t question it and ran immediately to the house because if my parents called you, you were expected to show up immediately if not sooner. At four years old I understood this well. While this is one of my earliest memories, the very earliestwere for my mother. I was about two years old, she said, and my father was the disciplinarianfor the three of us. One day he cameto herand told her she would be the disciplinarian from now on because he had spanked me and Ihad notbeen the same towardshim since. More middle child syndrome. But my mother had not called me that first day I was in the warm, sunny tobacco field. It was late afternoon and I found her in the kitchen looking surprised to see me. I didn‘t
  10. 10. 10 try to figure it out. I just went back outside, back to the warm clods of earth around the splashy-green infant tobacco plants and resumed whatever it is a four-year-old does in a tobaccofield on a caressing June afternoon. But it was not to be the first time I was to hear my mother call my name when I was out on the farm somewhere playing. It became so frequent that I heard her call my name and then find out she hadn‘t, that I began to slowly ignore it. I would cock my head and if I heard her call just once, I learned that it meant nothing and she had not in fact called for me. That was the litmus test. The number of times I would hear her. If it was more than once, it was worth checking out because, as I said, my parents had zero tolerance for lack of respect shown in any way, most of all that which they conjured themselves. And because they conjured much of it themselves, you were always in the dark, which left you at a distinct disadvantage. The next thingIremember isasmallchartreuse plastic car on the second step of the areaway. The areaway consisted of steps of cementandpebblesleadingdown, enclosedonboth sides, darker, darker totheonly basement door leading to the
  11. 11. 11 outside. I was stillabout four and it wassummer. I waswearing one ofmy favorites: seersuckershorts with different pastel vertical lines with a matching sleeveless top. And barefoot. Wealways wentbarefoot in the summer. We were not permitted to walk barefoot on tarred roads or any pavement. My mother and father regarded these places as dirty and youmight even catch something from them if you walked on them barefoot. But it was OK to go barefoot on the farm. After all, you were walking on God‘sownearth. There is nothing dirty or threatening about that.I remember squeezing my toes in the sandy floor of the tobacco barns where the dust of hanging tobacco mixed with the sandy ground and the oasis of the barn were cool enough to alleviatethesummerheat. We would play in these barns, squirming on our stomachs beneath the lowest tier of hanging drying tobacco. No, we weren‘t supposed to be there.Itwas alright to playthere whenthe tobacco wasgone, butwhat was the fun in that? It was like the corn fields. We weren‘t supposed toplay there either, but itwasjust too much funchasingeach other through the rows of corntall enough to hide smallchildren. And the silt. Mixed with your perspiration, it itched like the devil.But it didn‘tstop us.
  12. 12. 12 Why Ichose to leandownto pick up that little green car instead of going to the step below it,I will neverknow. Perhapsitwas justthe foolishness of a child. Had I not beena child, it would have been just plain stupid. Anyway, I leaned down—and kept going. DownI tumbled on the unforgiving pebbled, dank stepsto the basement dooritself to land in the damp leaves surrounding the drain. The miasma was dankand musty. Idon‘tremembercrying orany pain. Iamsure another came out tohandle what musthavebeen a harrowing experience for achild that young. It is the only possible explanation. And when I look back now I can see the lapses of time and that someone had comeout to deal with asituation I could not as a child. My mothertold me later that she and my father decided to take me to the doctor after Ihad beenwalking around for a weekwith one shoulder higher than the other.
  13. 13. 13 We lived on a tobacco, corn, and soybean farm in southern Maryland. Idyllic in so many ways, it was a child‘s dream—until it turned into a nightmare. I keep falling whenIwalk Dylan. I cannot tell if I trip over something or slide my feet rather than lift them up. It has been going on for years. I cannot trust my own feet. Always on the right side,my elbow andknee. It goes on and on. As soon as the wounds have healed it begins again, so thatis about every two weeks. The scrape on my elbow is deep and swaths my entire elbow. Now I am looking out of my own eyes down at my right arm. I see nothing else because I am looking from the inside out , because my eyes direct my vision. I am small.I
  14. 14. 14 am looking down at my right arm, which is scraped deeply and covers my elbow and forearm. It looks angry. Time spits on me.
  15. 15. 15 Chapter Two I have been switching all day long. How do I know sincewhen you switch you don‘t know you‘re switching? Well, here‘s the laundry list and I‘ve saved the best for last. First, if it was the first—it‘s impossible to know because you‘re switching and you don‘t know you‘re switching because it is the nature of the beast that you are always the last to know. Now, where was I? Keys. Yes, I‘ll say the keys were first. No, wait a minute. It wasn‘t the keys. They came later. It was Dylan‘s training goody pouch. After much ado, I found the dog treat bag in my purse. No, it is not a place I normally keep it. Then came the keys. Actually, it was the cell phone and the keys. The keys turned out be on the kitchen counter. I usually keep them in my purse to avoid such situations as this. The cell phonewonthe prize. I looked everywhere. Even the dishwasher, where I found it once before. So I checked
  16. 16. 16 all major appliances: microwave; oven; refrigerator; in, under , around and on top of my computer. Then I saw it. No, not the cell phone. That would have been easy. I had, in the spirit of the season, put out for decorationonly a new green taper candle in a cut-glass holder. I now have half of a green taper candle. It had been burned halfway, wax drippings frozen in their tracks. And I have no idea when I lit that candle or blew it out, but somebody did and no one is talking. As I have my Advent wreathe out, I hope nobody decides to light those candles as well . As for the cell phone, I leave that to your imagination.
  17. 17. 17 Now every time I pass that Christmas card on the lady‘s desk, it‗s at a different angle.
  18. 18. 18 Chapter Three One of the truly exasperating aspects is the lack of human interaction. The aloneness is unbearable. Yet, you cannot expect people to be at your beck and call—you must learn to exist by your ownself, notrelying on any other. Others are living their regular, normal lives. They even in their best moments just cannot give to you what it is you need. Who or what can? An unanswerable question. It is not loneliness. It is aloneness. And thank God for all those people who do not have to piece this puzzle together. Maybe it is why I have always hated puzzles. I remembergoing to kindergarten. It was a co-op then. Preschool did not exist. Kindergarten was the preschool oftoday. I remember my mother helping metake offmy raincoat and galoshes in the basement of the Ebyn Elementary School. It was raining that day, and raincoats, hats, and galoshes smelled of plastic.
  19. 19. 19 I was afraid. I was always afraid, afraid of everyone and everything and I was the only one who knew it. My parents were just not available for dispensing that kind of comfort. My mother would often send me into the bank to get this or that slip—refusing was not an option. Terrified, statued, I did as I was told. A harrowing experience for a five-year-old. Why couldn‘t she have parked and gone in with us? The bank,one ofseveral in Ebyn—Ebyn then consisted of only banks and lawyers with asmall public library thrown in(it was the county seat, after all) and could boast a main street the length of a projectile stone. The bank was tall and marbled and cool andblank with mirrored windows that stretched from ceiling to floor. It was mammoth. The clattering heels of female bank employees click-clacked in and out of the yawning vault that held an endless number of lockboxes and the cash substitutes that
  20. 20. 20 stood for money. Cool, long, drawling, and empty—that is how I remember this impressive singular and most important bank of Ebyn. Hushed voices, rope-ringed lollipops, whispers, coolness that bordered on cold, high ceilings that echoed all that went on beneath them.The only bastion of the middle class in Ebyn was the Ebyn Savings and Loan, a quarter the size of Suburban Bank, a little lonely at the far end ofEbyn. My parents started a savings account for each of us there when we were born and my mother later used that money to take each of the three of us on a trip overseas. My brother, the antique expert, she took to England and Wales; my sister, the glamorous and talented night club dancer, on a Caribbean cruise; and me, the genetically prone Latin student of a mother who taught Latin at the University of Maryland, to southern Italy, mainland Greece, a cruise of the Greekislands,Istanbul, and Ephesus. The Ebyn Savings and Loan took my brother and sister and me across the waters and then went out of business. Suburban Bank, meanwhile, swallowed up yet another smaller bank.
  21. 21. 21 Another point of interest was the ten cents store. There you could find a little bit of everything: It was the embryonic drug store of today. You couldn‘t fill prescriptions. You had to go to the grocery store for that. But its shelves were brimming over with a child‘s dreams: marbles; jacks; slinkys; diminutive plastic World War II soldiers, bridges (my brother blew them up with marbles), Indians (more accurately Native Americans now), covered wagons, horses, machine guns, cars, trains, railroad tracks; tiny little plastic dolls with plastic clothes; china tea sets (plastic was not as prevalent then as it may seem). All in little bins and everything five or ten cents. Attached to the ten cents store and part of it was a bridal shop with cheap mannequins dressed in flowing gowns and invitationally posed. I often wondered why the ten cents store had a bridal shop. I mean, were there really enough brides in Ebyn to warrant one? Didn‘t wealthy Southern Maryland brides go to Garfinkle‘s or Lord and Taylor for wedding and bridesmaids‘dresses? Apparently not because Ebyn‘s bridal shop was not only a part of my
  22. 22. 22 childhood but young adulthood as well.The store also sold clothes—mostly women‘s and young children‘s. Since my mother did some shopping at Woolworth, I really couldn‘t see much of a difference between its inventory of clothes and that of the ten cents store. But I alwaysnoticed how mymother studied any garment she boughtat Woolworth, going over itwith a fine tooth comb, looking for holes and loose threads and loose or missing buttons before she would decree that she would purchase it. It seems that Woolworth was a step above the ten cents store but a lot further away. The back bone of our wardrobes came from Woodward and Lothrop. At that time it was the median of the major department stores. You had Garfinkles‘ one step above it and Hecht‘s one step below it. My mother dictated our wardrobes. When we tried on clothes, we were not asked if we liked them. There were no options. We wore what my mother liked. She would not buy anything pastel or white because they were colors that would show dirt and little ones get dirty. And nothing was dry clean, even winter coats. I remember in particular a
  23. 23. 23 green jumper with a matching paisley blouse. I hated it. I hate it to this day. My school picture when I was ten was taken in that infernal jumper. It was one of my mother‘s favorites so I wore it far too often and not at all would have been too many times for me And paisley. I hate paisley too. I still hate it too. But it was one of my mother‘s favorites. It crept intomy wardrobe until I had lost all control overit. We had pants to wearat home. They werenot quite denim and notquite not. Who knows what they were; they came from Woolworth‘s. ThepairIhated the most was a reddish pink. They had a waistband and buttoned at the waist.They never seemed to fit quite right. But I said nothing as we were not permittedto comment on our clothing. There was a host of things we were not permitted to do. We were not permitted to sit on the furniture as my parents felt we were certain to somehow damage it. We were not permitted to play in the house; that was strictly an outdoor activity no matter what you were doing. We were not
  24. 24. 24 permitted more than one glass of milk a day (my father decreed that milk is not a thirst-quencher). We were not permitted to snack between meals. Wewerenot permitted todrink sodas. We werenot permitted to have more than one piece of chicken when that was the evening fare, although we were permitted to say what piece we would like. We were not permitted tohavethe chicken breasts. My parents feltwe could not appreciate the white meat. We were not permitted to have any of the white matter that cooked out of ground beef, referred to as ―the essence.‖ Nor could we appreciate orange juice (It was frozen only back then.), grapefruit, shad roe, eggs, bacon, sardines (they came plain in oilthen—no mustard or hot sauce, certainly no water), slices ofcheddar cheese from the block as there wasno such thing as already sliced cheese then, cheese or peanut butter on crackers, bread at dinner. We were allowed toast and soup—Campbell‘s ( because it was the day before food brand competition), peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, applesauce, apple butter (imagine that), grilledcheese sandwiches, hostess cakes and
  25. 25. 25 girl scout cookies (the number was strictly monitored), cereal (there wasn‘t much to choose from in those days, but generally my mother bought the cheapest), boxed Russell Stover candy at Christmas (the box went around the dinner table at dessert three times and that‘s all you got and you didn‘t ask for more), cream cheese and olive sandwiches (I feel nauseous just thinking of it.) My sister loved them and so we frequently got them in our lunch boxes. I tried a few times to trade sandwiches at lunch with the fewfriends Ihad (They always had tuna sandwiches and to this day I love canned tuna fish.), but noone would. AndIcertainly can‘t blamethem. It was awful. We were not permitted tojoin in conversation atthe dinnertable. Only my motherandfather did that, very formally. When my brother went through his ―Why?‖ stage and brazenly asked a ―Why?‖ question once at the dinner table, he was abruptly told by my father that he did not carry information like that around in his head. Itwashard tobelieve. My father carried everything around in his head. He had anational reputation in colonial medicine, life, and
  26. 26. 26 architectureand founded the American Studies department at the University of Maryland, remaining its chairman for twenty years. This was a man who definitely carried information like that around in his head. As far as I was concerned, I staunchly believed that he knew everything to the day of his death in 1977. And I still believe it today. Letme say here that dinner was a formal affair. Whilewedid not have to dressfor dinner,the sterling silvercandelabra onthediningroom table was alwayslit by my father, and we were expected to observe the etiquette of the day: napkins in laps;no elbows on the table; no objects brought to the table;no asking to be excused when you wanted to leave the table until everyone was finished eating; placing your knife, fork,andspoonatfive o‘clock on your platewhenyou werefinished eating.A dour ancestor lorded over the room and the tablein particular. I still havethatportrait. He‘s asgloomyas ever but he is, after all, my ancestor, and he still sits proudly inhis huge gilded frame and now surveys my singular comings and goings with great panache.We ate with sterlingsilverware—my
  27. 27. 27 parents‘set monogramedwitha‖B.‖ It was a full set fortwelve with alltheserving pieces: tablespoons, tea spoons, soup spoons, knives,forks for salad,forks for main dishes, cake cutter, butter knives, large slotted spoons for foods that needed draining. Andwewereexpected touse each andevery oneofthesethings appropriatelyand always. We ate frommy parents‘ chinaset shipped from England, also a setting for twelve. The set had all the appropriate pieces: dinner plates, breakfast plates, salad plates, bread and butter plates, tea cups with saucers, chocolate cups with saucers, espresso cups with saucers, a creamer, asugarbowl with a top,egg coddlers, twoside serving dishes, two platters ofdifferent sizes, a gravy boat. Should we go on with the glassware? Tumblers, old- fashions, orange juice, liqueur, wine, coasters, shot glasses, brandy, cognac, water, tea.Salt was in what has alwayslooked tomelikelittle glassbaptismal fonts with atiny sterling silver spoon to administer the spice to your food. Plates were passed first to ourfather, who alwayshelped out the meat, and then around to my mother,who alwayshelped
  28. 28. 28 out the vegetables. We were not asked if we wanted moreor less than they gaveus. Sometimes there was enough food for seconds, but rarely so of meats and never of desserts. The three of us were expected to set the table, pour iced tea into glasses, clear the table, clean it. The only anomaly in all this was that my fatherwashed the dishes. Yes,that‘swhatI said. My father always washed the dishes by hand (although we had adishwasher) and fed the dog and we all dried and put away the dishes. It is truly to our credit and amazing that notonce did any one of the threeofusbreak aplate or dent a spoon. We were trained seals. Our entire lives were enclosed in parentheses.
  29. 29. 29 Chapter Four Calling it a black out is misleading because it intimates that there was time there to begin with. Lost time is more accurate because it was never there in the first place. Not for someone with DID. I have lost whole months and years of my life.I can look for it all I want, but the time simply is notthere. People will tell you things that happened and you have absolutely no memory of anything even close. I remember when my daughter, in conversation, referred to when I was in the psychiatric ward. ‖What?‖I said. ―When you were in the psychiatric ward.‖ She began to look at me with confusion in hereyes. She paused.
  30. 30. 30 ―What?‖ I couldn‘t believe what I was hearing. ―No, I‘ve never been in the psychiatric ward. I went three times to the Psychiatric Outpatient Program at Deering Hospital. That must be what you‘rethinking of.‖ ―No, Mommy. You were in the psychiatric ward for twenty-four hours.‖ ―I was once in the psychiatric emergency room, but not the psychiatric ward.‖ ―Mommy,‖ she repeated. ―You were in the psychiatric ward for twenty-four hours.‖ I remembered how in the Psychiatric Outpatient Program, people would appear and disappear. If they disappeared, we were told that so-and-so ‖chose a different level of care.‖ That level of care was on the second floor, and you could just feel everyone slowly turning their eyeballs
  31. 31. 31 upward. It was no man‘s land. Could I have requested such a change in care and not remember it? If so, what was the last thing I remembered and when did I re-enter the present? It was impossible to know. I was stupefied. I simply did not believe it. I had no memory of such a thing, none at all. How could it have happened if I had no memory of it? I asked her to write it down so I could show my therapist. And I asked her to sign it as the person who witnessed this phantom stay in the psychiatric ward. Lost time. Imagineitlike this: Get an8 ½‖ x 11‖ pieceof paper. Draw a vertical line down the center of the paper and label it ―Present.‖ To the right of that line draw another, leaving some space, and label it ―Past.‖ To the left of ―Present,‖ leaving some space again, draw another vertical line and label it ―Future.‖ Now bring the future line so that it meets the presentline. Fold. What do you see?Twolines nowinstead of three, and the ―Present‖ linehas beenobliterated by the fold and only the ―Past‖ line and the ―Future‖ line are visible. In other words, the ―Present‖
  32. 32. 32 simply is not there. It does not exist. You leap from ―Past‖ to ―Future.‖ That is lost time. Maybe they should call it ―folded time.‖ They sit immobile around a circular table because everyone is equal there, like King Arthur‘s Round Table. That doesn‘t mean they respect that equality.The table hangs in ethereal darkness, yet they are all sittingin chairsnevertheless.There are ten to fifteen of them—I think, at least at this point. I do not know them all and they have no faces. If they had individual faces equality could never be achieved. Sometimes they are calm and quiet, other times in disarray and confusion. They can be cantankerous, pugilistic, aggressive, demanding, angry, petulant, critical, unempathetic, unsympathetic. But they can also be happy, gentle, conversational, protective, understanding, serious, compassionate, cooperative, andmore. And all of this without end.
  33. 33. 33 Chapter Five Oddities. It took me awhile to understand the terms associated with DID. I am still not comfortable with them, and I don‘t know why. Allofthese personalities are called the system and the system has a name. The name of mine is The Land of the Hungry Ghosts. They arenot really ghosts, although Ihave seen ghosts. There is a gatekeeper, a sort of intercessor between you and the system. My gatekeeper is Jacob. He is somewhere in his twenties, stoic, overworked, and underpaid. He triesto keep them all at bay whether things are going well or badly, because matters can change on adime. It is usually at those times that they manage to slip through and come out. They can come out asa co- presence or they cantake over altogether. They can stay out for hours, months, years, or a few seconds or minutes. They can come out completely and keep me up all night. This is an ongoing battle that has required me to establish and follow to the letter a daily routine so that they do not come out and keep me up. But sometimes when I‘m lying in bed around
  34. 34. 34 9:00 p.m. I will begin to feel restless. Even my body will jerk around. They will keep me up all night that way, too. Insomnia, restlessness. So I sedate them. Yes, I sedate them. I go into the DID Pharmaceuticals, Tonics, and Perfumes, takeamed, and knock us all out. It‘s worth it for a night‘s sleep. It occurred to meonce that maybe Reagan in The Exorcist was afflicted with DID not a demon. She jerks uncontrollably as I do. And I knowthat the physical attributes of a person with DID can change according to the alter that comes out. Their voice can change. Their facial expression can change. The sizeoftheir hands canchange. One of the nights Ididn‘tfollowmyroutine,someone very strong cameout. I don‘tknow whoit was, but I wasable toput a ringthat was onmylittle finger onto my ringfinger. It was always far too small for that, hence the little finger. It was, infact, my mother‘s wedding ring. Her engagement ring fit my rightring finger perfectly. Anyway, when I more or less cameto, Icould not get that ring off my ring finger. I had to soap it and pull on it and do a fair amount of swearing. I got it off, but the night before it had gone on and come off with ease. On another all-nighter, I remember looking down at mylittle finger of my left hand. At the knuckleit was bent 90
  35. 35. 35 degrees. I popped it back. It didn‘thurt at all,but that finger never healed quite right and I cannot stretch it out all the way. It looks arthritic but I know the truth.I asked the system, ―What‘s up with the little finger?? You‘ve tortured them both.‖Then there are the mysterious afflictions that show up in the morning for which I cannot account: big bruises, little bruises, bruises even in private places; sore lumps on my head as if I‘d hit it hard on something;stretched aching muscles; magic marker lines on my body. Andeverything meanssomething. How amI aware that one ormore have come out and for how long? After the first night in my townhouse in Deering, I came downin themorning to find the kitchen plundered. Or when I was unpacking after deciding notto moveafterall coming downto thebasement inthemorning and finding boxes thrownall over the place as if someone in a great tiradehad hurled them helter skelter. So sometime in the night I have switched, analter or other has come out, and done as heorshe pleased. I gettoclean it up. Nor isthereany guarantee that the exact same thing won‘t happen again.
  36. 36. 36 Sometimes it is objects thatbecomeafocusrather than an action. Once each of my pairs of glasses disappeared one by one over aperiod of months andthen reappeared oneby one over a period of months. Bythat time I had replaced the glasses at great expense—four pairs, botholdand new prescriptions.We play the glasses game a lot with prescription glasses, transitions lenses prescription glasses, magnifying glasses from the drug store. AndI find them in the oddest places, andyet in places I am sure to look sooner orlater or places I frequent often.It isas ifthe object has purposely been left in a place I will be sure to find it.One popular way of returning objects, apparently, is to placethem inanarea where I always go, and my foot will hititanddepending on what it is, it will skitter across the floor, usually the kitchen floor, and Iwill find it that way. ThingsIconsciously don‘t even knowwhere they were have appearedthis way: earrings, rings, bracelets—a lot ofjewelry. Andall of itmeanssomething. Every little incidentmeanssomething. Most of the time Ican‘t figure itout. Sometimes with the help of my therapist I can.A few times Ihave actually figured it out on my own.
  37. 37. 37 The candle is a good example of another coming out for a relatively short amount of time as gauged by how far down the candle had burned. ButIhave had split second switches, too. They are the most unnerving. Once I was cleaning up the sink in my bathroom. There was a bottle of nail polish on the sink, and I put it in the bathroom cabinet. Then, I turned to see if there was any more nail polish around on surfaces in the bedroom. WhenI turned back around, the nail polish I had just put in the cabinet was back on the sink. I remember telling this tale tomy psychiatrist because I found it frightening. ―It was just a split second,‖ I told him. ―And it will happen again,‖ he responded. Little comfortin that.However, there is a general dearth of comfort when it comes to DID anyway, and I was grateful for his warning.Other objects—about anything you can think of— disappear for long stretches of time: pens, pencils, rubber
  38. 38. 38 bands,umbrellas, combs, medications, purses, pajamas, lipsticks, electric heaters, shredders, books, CDs, shoes, rakes, shovels, notes to myself, food items,brooms, bracelets (I had a beautiful multi-colored sapphire tennis bracelet that has yet to reappear and it has been two years.), computer equipment large and small—laptops, Ethernet cables, keyboards, mouses, mouse pads, computer ink, all-purpose computer paper, photo computer paper, speakers, computer equipment cleaners, extension cords, surge protectors, cables of all kinds. The list is breathless andI could never name them all oryou would stop reading this book rightnow. Sometimes, when things disappear, I have to negotiate with others sothey will return an item. Not too long ago I had to negotiate with Jason. Jason is a jack-in-the-box. He took my favorite and prettiest pair of prescription glasses and kept them in his box with him. He liked them too, thought they were pretty too, and wanted them. So he took them. I finally agreed that he could keep them but he couldn‘t have any of my other glasses because I needed them myself. One day when I was ―uncluttering‖ my house to stage it because I thought I was moving at the time, I was
  39. 39. 39 giving my bedroom a general good garden variety sweeping. I unearthed more dust bunnies than you can believe, and from behind a chest my broom dragged out two dusty and dirty black trash bags that looked like they had been there forever. With the glasses on top. Nor were the glasses dusty or dirty. I thought about this for a long time because I knew how much Jason liked those glasses and how pleased he was to keep them in his box with him. In away he had something pretty the others did not.So why would he return them? I told mytherapist that I thought he returned them because he knewonly Icould pack them to move to a new place. And hehadtaken a hugeleap of faith in returning them to me. I could have reclaimed them right there andthen. But I didn‘t. Instead, since I did not move after all, I putthem in a case in a hidden drawer in the piano desk with my other glasses, and I havenever wornthem. Ah, but Ilovethose glasses, too. So I bargained again with Jason and asked him ifhe would accept an arrangement in which I could wear the glasses inside and when guests were in the house only. Ithink he doesn‘t mind, but I have
  40. 40. 40 not yet had the occasion to wear them.If he decides he does not like the arrangement, the glasses will disappear again and the negotiating process will begin all over again. After all, we all have to live together in this body. We have no choice but to get along with one another somehow. Otherwise, alters come out willy nilly whether it is appropriate or not (Is it ever appropriate?). People report to me things I‘ve done or said that I don‘t remember or of which I may have only a very hazy memory. Sometimes the memory is only a feeling, let alone any specifics. Then there are the books, CDs, and DVDs that showup thatI‘ve never seenbefore. The books are always pristine, as if they had just been bought. And a lot of them are uncharacteristic of me. They run the gamut: I Never Promised You a RoseGarden (JoanneGreenberg), Sacajawea(Anna Lee Waldo), The Mambo Kings Play Songs ofLove (Oscar H‘ijuelos), Middlemarch (George Eliot), Daughter ofFortune (Isabelle Allende), The Other Boleyn Girl (Philippe Gregory), As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who WasRaised as a Girl (John Cola pinto), The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova), Never Look Away (Linwood
  41. 41. 41 Barclay), 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, Edgar Allen Poe: Complete Tales and Poems (Castle Books). CDs? This Christmas Ifound a sealed CD called Holiday Magic stamped ―Pier I‖ above the price. Do you know the last time I was at Pier I Imports? When I was a teenager. Eons ago. Epochs ago. Jurassic-dinosaurs ago. I don‘t even know where a Pier I is. Somebody likes Pier I, and, truth be told, I had always liked it myself but couldn‘t afford it. But Pier I with Christmas CDs? What‘s up with that? As for the DVDs some had never been opened; others I just did not recognize, but they had been viewed. It is impossible to keep straight which ones I don‘tremember and which ones I never watchedand which ones were still sealed once unsealed after their discovery. These unfamiliar ones, newand old, includeThe Mirror Has Two Faces, You Know My Name, Nights in Rodanthe, Shadow Boxer,The Ghost and the Darkness, Abominable, Black Rain, Snap Decision, MotherGhost,Domestic Disturbance, Star Trek, School Ties,
  42. 42. 42 Citizen Cohn, Man of the Year, ThePlague, Final Fantasy:TheSpirits Within, Ring Around the Rosie, Harry Potter Years 1-3, three copies of The Wizard of Oz, and two of I Am Legend. Somebody wanted to make absolutely certain I haveThe Wizard of Oz and I Am Legend.And the most baffling of all, three Tartan Asia Extreme films that arenoteven in English (???): Whispering Corridors, Wishing Stairs, and The Maid. Also among the DVDs are those I just can‘t watch because they will trigger a switch. Among them are Identity, Secret Window, The Three Faces of Eve, and Sybil, all movies about multiple personalities. I couldn‘t watch the series ―The United States of Tara‖ for the same reason. It would make me switch. And I was flabbergasted when a ―Golden Girls‖ episode included a character with two different personalities. I felt ambushed. I would never have watched the episode had I known. Both of theseseries seemed to make light of DID. I found that deeply disturbing because having DID does not make a comedy of your life: It makes a shambles.
  43. 43. 43
  44. 44. 44 Chapter Six When I was still very young, at night I would hear a voice calling my name. It was deep, brittle, raspy, broken, and husky, like the voices of people who are in their seventies or eighties and have smoked cigarettes all their lives. I would pull the covers over my head andhunkerdown in the bed,burrow a tunnelfor air, and wait for itto stop.It came from underneath the always-closeddoor from my roomto the old servants‘ stairs. Wewere not allowed to use thosestairs. They were very steep and covered in a crimson carpet. Its walls were a shrinetothe ancestors,covered with old pictures of those who had gone before. There were portraits of ancestors in the rooms of the house as well, brooding from their costly frames looking still disgruntled over the long, watery trip to the New World. One lorded over my father‘s desk and watched his comings and goings. These portraits seemed to me somehow still
  45. 45. 45 imbued with a kind of life or awareness andI felt asthoughthey were always castigating me for being a descendant, a sense that I didn‘t measure up. Then there was the Wall-Eyed Man. That portrait was just as huge as the rest but it was of someone my family didn‘t even know. He surveyed from his gilded frame my brother‘s life.It was my mother who labeled him The Wall-Eyed Man because no matter where you went in the room, his eyes followed you. My father said the portrait had been in a fire and the artist who restored it had painted one eye a certain way so that they both followed you. I took him with me when I left the house because my mother did not want him anymore and, after all, he was a nobody. But for me he was a surrogate ancestor and I treated him accordingly. I talked to him, chided him, laughed with him. He was alive. Valuable oil paintings from all kinds of periods of art also hung in the house. My father could tell you when a picture was painted, how it was painted, the materials used to paint it, its age,and from whatperiod it came. In the living room over the harpsichord, which we were forbidden to
  46. 46. 46 touch, hung a huge oil painting of apastoral scene. Originally, it hung at the dark end of ahallinEaglesmere, a vacation spot in the Pennsylvanian mountains. Eaglesmere did notknowwhat it had,but my father did. And it was signed, too. My father bought it from the resort. Iwas afraidat home in my room, even in the daytime sometimes. It was all the way at the end of the house. My parents at one point had made an additionto the house that enlarged the bedroomofmy deceased grandmother, my father‘s motherwith whom he renovated thehouseandlived there with her until her death. This became my sister‘s room and the addition included anew bedroom, mine, and anenlarged formal livingroom where myfather had his desk and would grade papers; write articles; and type, hunt-and- peck.Thehouse was anold one, so structurally there was no hallway off which bedrooms and bathrooms were. It was just one room after another. Our bathroom wasjust off,almost in, my brother‘sroom. Hisroomwasthe largest and hadtwo beds, one twinand adouble rope bed. Hisbureau was gargantuan: wood and marble carved and heavy. To get to the bathroom frommy room, I hadto begin in my room,
  47. 47. 47 gothroughthe door that led intomysister‘s room—she got the canopy bed—, and fromthere through the door to my brother‘s room to the bathroom at the end. He took great pleasure in shooting me with rubber bands as I tried tonavigatetothe bathroom. The only hallway, if you can call it that, was a short one from the door to my brother‘s room to the main staircase that led down into the dining room. The only modern aspect of this hallway is that you could reach from it my parents‘ bedroom and their bathroomwhich was acrossthe hall from the bedroom. Their bathroomandours were backto back. The space had once beforethe daysof plumbing been another bedroom that my father andhis mother split in half to make twoupstairs bathrooms, one for us and one for our parents. Downstairs was what was supposed to be the equivalent of the half-bath. It tried hard to liveup to its name but it was so small that you had to open the door completely, shimmy through the door and radiator and then close the door before you could use the facility. Toleave, you
  48. 48. 48 just did everything backwards, a statement on my family in general. But, as I said, so much for that. So much for bathrooms. The lay of the land is important, at least to me it is. I really can‘tremember for howlongIheard the voice beneaththedoor to the servants‘ stairs, but it did go on for quite a while. WhenI was in my twenties,I asked my brother if ithad been him because he used to sneak backinto my room at night in the dark and scare the bejesus out of me. In general, he spent a greatdeal of his time torturing me in one way oranother—our behavior cementedus together for years and years and the love-hate relationship became one of love. He told mehehad not done it, andI believe him. He was just a child himself then and couldn‘t possibly make his voice sound likethat. From thispoint on Icannot besure if the things that happened were dreams or hallucinations, which were aural
  49. 49. 49 as well as visual. The aural kind pestered and scared meto noendlaterin my life. The visual onesbegan early, thatis, if they werehallucinations andnot dreams. And I wonder about that because in SecretWindow (yes, one of the movies I can‘t watch because it will trigger a switch) Johnny Depp turns out to have DID and switches when he sleeps, and he sleeps a lot to escape his failed marriage andhis writer‘s block.The question becomes, when he sees this stranger who seems to hang around a lot, is he dreaming or is he switching when he thinks he is sleeping? One of the worst nightmares I have ever had occurred at this point.Inthe dream (?) it is night andIwalk into my lamp-lit room;by my bed on the rug my aunt hadsentme from someforeign country made from the fur ofsomeforeigncreature,six hairbrushes just like mine were standing straight up on their handle ends on the rug. They each had a differentcolor of hair in them—I remember how brilliant the bluewas— and one had myhair in it. There was a nude arm and leg lying from under my bed. Icannotexplain the arm and leg, which terrify me to this day,
  50. 50. 50 but I was always gettingin trouble for not cleaning out my hairbrush. Ijust didn‘t see the importance of it.Or maybe I did but just didn‘t care. That changed after that dream. Such events as this did nothing to comfort the constant fear I felt in my room. Not only was my room at the end of the house, it was also a constant fifty-five degrees in winter because the furnace just didn‘t have the umpf to properly warm the one radiator in my room. Nor did it help that that one radiator faced straight through the doorway into my sister‘s room. The story ofairconditioning units parallelsthat of theradiator.Myparentsforalong time hadtheonly airconditioner in the house in theirbedroom. It was another case of the children not being able to appreciate something. With time, however, my parentsinstalled aunit in the far corner of my brother‘s room. It cooled his room and my sister‘s but could not navigate the last corner into my room. And the windows stayed closed since the airconditioner was running.But Inever understood why my parents shut the air conditioner off when they went to bed and decreed that we were to do the same. When you do this, you wake up in the
  51. 51. 51 middle of the night sweaty and uncomfortable. But there was no leaving it on at bedtime. Finally, my parentstook mercy onme andinstalledanairconditioner in my room. The only problem wasthat they didn‘tputit in the windowat the far end of my room; they put it in the window that faced directly into my sister‘s room where the one radiator was. Consequently, you cannotsay that my room was air- conditioned. So I lived inthat room either in arctic coldor equatorial heat.None of this added to the allure ofmy room. I truly could not appreciate the privacy of having my own roombecause it was so uncomfortable, decked out in pine antiques—bureau, mirror, bed frame,bedside table, and a longtable with leaves where I did my homework. I was constantly in trouble for the mannerinwhich Iopenedmy bureau drawers because I tended toscratch the wood beneath the handles. But there wasnootherway of opening the drawers. So Ibegantoleave them partly open with my clothes sort of hanging out. This way I did not havetouse the handles. Then I gotintrouble for not foldingmyclothes properly andkeepingmy bureau drawers closed.I was stuck.
  52. 52. 52 Another truly irrational fear I had was that in the dark of night Iwould wake up to see my dead great aunt sitting in the ladder back chair facing my bed. I suppose it was because she became such a duty for the three of us. She was my father‘s last living aunt from a family of eight girls. He saw his duty and he did it. She was a tiny woman living in a Georgetown townhouse as diminutive as she was. And she was the nastiest, meanest little woman you could ever know. My father took us to see her every Sunday and every Sunday he would check in the cabinet beneath thesinkonly to find anapocalyptic supply of Nutriment from the previous Sundays. Emmy didn‘t eat much and should have, but she could not be persuaded to do much, even eat. She ruled her own roost. We were permitted to sit on only one couch facing the chairs in which she and my father sat. Therewereno cookies and juice. We were expected to sit silently without fidgeting,a realassignment foryoung children. Emmy had asmall backyard of ivy and stone with a white garden
  53. 53. 53 tableand chairs with white leaves swirlinginand out of the wrought iron crisscrosses of the skeletons of the chairs and table. Wewerenot allowed to go out there. I was neverquite sure why but generally when wewerenot allowedto go somewhere it was because the adults thought we would somehow adulterate the area. Likewise, I never saw her bedroom which was at the top of a steep crimson staircase. In it was a fabled sleigh bed worth its weight in gold. I never saw it, even after she passed away because my father alone took care of everything and thus ended our obligation to visit our great aunt, but not before she spent some time in a nursing home.When we would come to visit, we could hear her yelling at the nurses from the front door. My mother told me that when she first married my father and knew Emmy that Emmy was one of the sweetest women she had ever known. Her demeanor changed after the death of her sister, my father‘s mother, who was unkind, dictatorial, and uncompassionate. She became like her sister, and my mother told me that sometimes when one person with a strong personality dies in afamily another will take
  54. 54. 54 over that person‘s characteristics. She left my father everything she had. And so I quivered at night in horror that she would somehow resurrect in the ladder-back chair in my room. I would pull the covers over my head. I spent a lot of my time then under the covers at night. The house was full of sourceless noises. My father would always say it was just the house settling. Ifthatwere it, it wouldhave settled into a pit long ago. Two of those noises were my only comfort at night because I knewwhat they were.One was the sounds of mice running in the walls from the basement and the other was the sound of the bats behind the shutters, jockeying back and forth for space and flying in and out. Many, many years later, after my father‘s death, my mother,because so many bats began to findtheirway into the house, discovered that the attic was a roost. And indeed in the summer when at duskwewould go outside to catch lightening bugs, we could see theirsilhouettes dart back and
  55. 55. 55 forth from the house to the trees and back again. Pete, who took care of just about any contingency on our and the surrounding farmland, drovethem out with abillion boxes of moth balls whose odor filled the house from top to bottom. Fewwindows were open, if any, because so many were painted shut.I don‘t know how mymother stoodit, but it worked. If I were a bat, I‘d have left too. Then there were the noises for which there was no explanation. It is true, the house was nearly one hundred years old but the foundation dated back to the seventeen hundreds. The house burned during the Civil War in eighteen sixty-five. A tenant house wasbuilt on the original foundation. It was this house that my father and his mother renovated in Williamsburg style. Everything creaked. The steps. The upstairs hallway. The servants‘ stairs, the butler‘s pantry (which became the telephone closet), the basement stairs, the kitchen floor, parts of some rooms but not others, even doorways. As I got older and my parents wentto partiesin the evening, I always heard footsteps, not just onthe stairs but in the rooms above. I could hear doors open
  56. 56. 56 and close. And doors I left closed wouldbeopen and vice versa when I went upstairs. The original front door to the house had been converted into awindow in the dining room, and it always seemed to me that there was a lot of comingand goingfrom the vicinity of that window. It was a house with doorsthatwere oncewindows and windowsthat wereonce doors. And keys. Every door had a lock but none of them had a key that worked. Nor did any of the old skeleton-like keys, and they were myriad and stashed in tiny hidden drawers of antique desks and bureaus, open or lock any door in the house.So it was also a house of doors without keys and keys without doors. Thebasement was a dungeon. Its walls had been literally hacked out of the rock of the earth, then white- washed. It was cavernous with the hunks of white stone casting shadows among themselves. The floor was cement painted gray. There was one drain as this was far before the sump pump. It was divided into three parts. Actually, it sort of twisted around underneath thehouse so that it appeared to have three parts that we labeled as the first part of the
  57. 57. 57 basement, the secondpartof the basement, and theback basement. The first part had an old couch quietly deteriorating, a glass garden table with chairsthat later became my father‘s second desk, a long bookcase of paperback novels and Shakespeare‘s plays, an oak credenzasortofinthe middle ofthings,andtwo farmpieces builtby slaves on the antebellum tobacco plantation. One was a corner cupboard with the backsof the shelves painted adark green and the other was amilk safe ,also painted green,with the tinsall on the outside instead inside where they belonged. Mice had burrowed with time a small hole in the drawer at the bottom ofthe safe and the millionaire acres of mouse nests wasinside.The furnace washuge, mammoth, gargantuan, pentagrulean, colossal, and unrecognizable asany kind of heating unit except that it clicked on and off with a lilliputian dial that measured the temperature as set onthethermostat in the dining room above. Many decadeslater when it gaveup the ghost andmy motherhad toreplace it, she couldn‘t getanyoneto touch it untilthe asbestos was taken out. So they came lookinglike astronauts with bio-hazard head gear and took it allaway. Weused to play inthat basementallthe time…
  58. 58. 58 Lighting was sparse in the basement and consisted of naked light bulbs with chains. There was one in each part of the basement. The housein general was litby lamps with tiny chains, the only ceiling light beinginthe kitchen. The door to thebasement, which wasinthe tiny hallway between the kitchen and dining room and across fromthebathroom, was old and worn and locked with aneye and hookfor a lock. Its door knobwas dark, dented metal. The wooden stairs were steep—all the stairs in the house were steep—and slotted. Every winter my father had Pete come and plugup allthe mouse holes from the inside of the basementanddothe sameevery summer for the snakeholes. But they all gotin anyway. Now andthen you would see what looked like a leather belt draped over one of the bottom steps only to realize it was a black snake on his way to the dusky coolness beneath the stairs.
  59. 59. 59 The scariest part of the basement was the back basement because the light was not at the partition but inside and you had to walk in the dark to get to it. The pump to the surface well was in there as were burlap bags and tobacco sticks and white wooden garden chairs and benches, huge ball mason jars ofwater for when the electricity went out or the well went dry, the tools myfatherneverused,and an old and beleaguered chest piled high with any manner of things in the middle of everything. It was out of this part of the basement that I sawmyself.I was about five or six and the three of us were playingin the basement. I had wandered into the second part and out of the darknessof the third part cameanother me. She was identical to me right downtothe clothing and carried a shopping bagover her left arm. My brother and sister weretalking and laughing in the first part of the basement. She put her finger to herlips to signal my silence, andI knew she wasgoing topassherself off as me to my brother and sister. I was horrified. I was paralyzed.And I remember nothing after that.
  60. 60. 60
  61. 61. 61 Chapter Seven When I reached the bottom step this morning, I did what I always do. I unplugged my cell phone from the charger;punchedin my code;and checked the weather, notifications, text messages, and phone calls going in or out through the nighttime hours. Then I went into the kitchen and putthe phone on the counter as I always do in the morning before I begin making Dylan, my sheepdog-mix, and Elvis, my cat, their breakfasts. Then I was ready to pack up a little for my therapy session and went for my cell because I always carry itwith me anytime, anywhere, because my life is so unpredictable. But the phone wasnot on the counter whereI leftit. Generally, I have to be mindful of my phone and where I put it. I went part-way into the living room to see if I had left it on a table instead of taking it with me to the kitchen, but it was not there either. I turned around and went back into the kitchen. The first thing I saw wasthe cell phone right where Ihad originally put it and from which it had disappeared.A split-second switch.
  62. 62. 62 Someone took the phone and then returned it. Unnerving. Ghostly. I always leave my cell downstairs at night, even thoughit means if someone needs to urgently getin touch with me, I will nothear itring. Butif I take it up with me, all manner of things could happen and have. If I take the phone up with me, I will switch and make all kinds of calls and sendall kinds of text messages. I find out what I had been up to by checkingthe phone log andwaiting for people tocall and, if witchy Carol has been out, ask me what my problem is. Witchy Carol, a chapter in herself. Her state of mind always one of anger. She is the one who trashed my kitchen the first night I was here, and she was the one who threw all the empty boxes around in the basement. She is unrelenting, venomous, conniving, selfish, manipulative—in short, she has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
  63. 63. 63 Chapter Eight What ahorrid day yesterday was.I woke up with a bad sinus headache—migraine but not typical migraine was the diagnosis years and years ago—and it pursued me throughout the whole day and into the night. I have no idea how many ExcedrinMigraine, Advil, or prescription Midrin pills I took. I wanted to head the switch off at the pass. My psychiatrist says a headache like that means someone is trying to come out and ultimately come out they did. I finally went to bed at 3:00 a.m., early for an all-nighter like that. I don‘t remember much, but I know I watched ―Sister Wives,‖ a show about polygamy that I didn‘t know existed until the wee hours of the morning. I changed the alarm time on my clock—actually purposely did it instead of another doing it behind my ownback—to 10:00 a.m. and woke up around 9:00, paralyzed. My mind was working andwouldn‘tletmego back
  64. 64. 64 to sleep, so I got up around 9:45, wentdownstairs to the kitchen, inhaled three clementine oranges, and drank pomegranate seltzer water. I was so incredibly thirsty. I had every idea to stay up eventhough, frankly, I felt like shit. But the switch was notyet over and a panic attack began. I managed to make it up the stairs to my room where I opened the DID Pharmaceuticals and took a med. Then I collapsed on the bed and called Dylan, who came bounding onto the bed. I lay there for at least an hour holding onto his paw. My breathing was fast and shallow. My fight or fright kicked in . Itried to measure my breathing by Dylan‘s because his was slower thanmine.Again, I felt paralyzed. I couldn‘t move. After about another hour the worst of the attack ended, and I could moveagain. So in hopesof salvaging someofthe day, I dressed, fed Dylan, and brought Elvis up from the basement where he spends his time in extremes of weather and fed him. Then I actually took Dylan for his hour-long walk. I hate it when my own infirmities impact him.It isn‘t fair whether or not it‘s my fault.
  65. 65. 65 I still felt awful. Out of it. Just about totally dissociated, somehow stubbed my toe and fell, scraping my right elbowandknee through the layers of clothing to ward off the cold. Butthey got scraped anyway. I often fall like that when I am walking Dylan.I don‘t know what it is, but my feet sometimes slide alongthe surface of the cement, or I somehow stumble over a crack in the walk. Or at those times is someone else doing the walking, not me? Or are we both trying to walk at the same time—a recipe for disaster? As thewalk proceeded I felt a little better. Generally speaking, coming out of a switch is a lot like coming down off acid. You can‘t hold onto anything and youfinally crash.
  66. 66. 66 Chapter Nine No one knows the horror and terror that goes on among these walls and halls. The closed eyes of statues open. The open eyesof others blink. Ancestral paintings leer. Everything is alive. A light blinks on andoff only whenI amaround it. Watches stop andrefuseto continue their task of marking time. Gold crosses melt on my neck, bent and concave as if some great force had depressurized them. A small black creature sits by me out of the corner of my eye.Another races up and down the stairs, then evaporates when I turn to look. Echoes of tears and wailing reverberate down the hallways and bound off the ceilings. I open my mouth and exhale a trillion tiny black figures that desperately race toward freedom, leaving me to wonderwhatwill happen when the exhalation ends. Will some be left behind inside of me? Or is one gasping exhalation enough to exhume them all? Where did they come from? Were they already there or did I somehow acquire them? There are so many they are almost a black
  67. 67. 67 cloud spewing from my wide openmouth.They dancewith their freedom and creak along the stairs and through the walls.Friend orfoe? They are neither. They are themselves, unaware of anything beyond themselves. They are androgynous, featureless, clipped out of the swarming cloud as a child cuts snowfall flakes from a piece of paper. A bang as my eyesopen in the morning, loud and simultaneous with the opening of my eyes. I awake to the sound of a whispering voice whose words I cannotunderstand. I crawl along the floors wailing for mercy but always, always denied that grace. I cannot escape from those within me. They see the tiny slit of a closed window and slip through with deafening silence. My body is their body, but they do not realize it. What damage they do to me, they do to themselves. They do not understand; they do not hear; they do not listen; they rarely speak; they know nothing; they know everything; they are unruly, contentious, without conscience, pity, or shame; they dance on tables; they slip beneath doors, demonic and maniacal. Promises drool from their mouths as they turn a crooked eye and resume their tortuous activities. Hissing and shivering, they crawl on all fours along the etherium itself. Chaos reigns.
  68. 68. 68 And they are all part of me, and somehow, somehow, I must find an advocate among them.
  69. 69. 69 Chapter Ten timothy timothy come out and play the sun is shining the butter cups say and the daisies are giggling at the very thought and i promise i promise you wont get caught
  70. 70. 70 —E. B. Byers When I first saw Timothy, I was about 24. He was standing, a hilly run down from the house, by the two old slave quarters, one of whichhadbeenconvertedtoaplayhousefor the three of usandthe other used as storage for a rusty collection ofunidentifiable farm equipment, long abandoned. Bothwere little white one-room structures with heavy screening on the doors and the two windows, but no glass. Itwasimpossibleto tellifany glass had ever been there. The insidesofthesecabins were not painted and the floors were God‘s own earth. The doors had eye and hook locks but both sagged wearily. The windows followed suit and had to be lifted slightly to close them.We decorated our playhouse with two framed prints,one of a little girl and the other of flowers, crookedly hung from the rusty nails we could find on the floor or from among the beleaguered farmpieces in theother cabin. We pressed that structureintoservicethatonetime only because it wasso fullof stuff and junk andbitsand pieces and parts of anything imaginable orunimaginable, you could barely open the screened door.In our playhouse we ran bric-a-brac with
  71. 71. 71 steel thumb tacks and more rusty nails along the edges ofthe insidesof the windows. Its furnishings included a child-sized sink with a pink cabinet below that harbored two or three large green plastic teacups and saucers, a child-sized metal spatula with a red handle, some plastic bowls of varying colors, and a few plastic forks.One of its other furnishings consisted of avery small trunk, made for children, with a woodentray at the top and a larger space beneath thetray. This is wherewe kept our dressupclothes and doll clothes. Whilethe cabin itself belonged tomyfather,itseemed to me thattheinside belonged tomymother. Our dressup clothes were two of herdresses,one a black satinevening gown and the other a flowered dressin which shehad had a photo of herself taken. I nolongerhavethe dresses, butIdohavethe framed picture of mymother fromtheshoulders up in that lovely, romantic dress.She was a beautiful woman. My favorite of the two dresses, however, was the evening gown. I would put it on and swish about and hold it up so I didn‘t break my neck trying to walk in a gown made for a woman, not a child. It
  72. 72. 72 had spaghetti straps, a bodice of layered black satin, and a waist from which the glamour of the dress gracefully flowed. I would pretend that I was going to a dinnerclub— like the Tropicana (I Love Lucy was fresh and new then) and loiter about the cabin in carefully choreographed poses I‘d seen movie stars emulate. The last of the cabin‘s furnishingsincluded asmall iron stove sized for a dollhouse that had belonged to mymother as a child. It had astove pipe, a little door to open for coal, iron burners whose tops could be lifted by handles to see the fire below.Another play piece of my mother‘s in there was a doll-sized wooden cupboard with tiny china tea cups and saucers, china plates, a fragile round blue vase, and a china platter with a popular Chinesedesigninblueon the white surface.It looked very much like one mymother actually had and thatsheused on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, and for the annual leg of lamb, the whole shad and rockfish, and a Smithfield ham. The last four were not associated withany particular holiday. They were annual fare.
  73. 73. 73 As we grew, we abandonedtheplayhouse and thefield mice found it.Thetwo dresses wereruined as they slowly but surely became part of their nests, the iron stove rusted asdid the sink—a reminder of aChristmas long, longago. In summer the mice returned to the fields and the black snakes tenanted the cool earthen floor. Theyall couldvery easily get in, not because the door sagged, but because there was atiny door at the back of the cabin that seemed never to have served any useful purpose. It had no lock and so we were forever closing it, but this didnotdeter mother nature‘s denizens. I say I saw Timothy there becauseI did. If Iwas dreaming or he was anhallucination, Icannotsay. He seemedrealenough to me.He was standingby one of thetrees from which my motherstrung her clothesline, the line from which the freshly washed, spring-cleaning voile curtains hung to dry. Helooked about three years old, wearing a shirt and pants straps to the shoulders, black shoes, and socks. He was tow-headed, so blonde was he, and this he inherited from my mother who as a child was tow-headed herself but
  74. 74. 74 whose hair as her life progressed turned totally black. But Timothy will always be three and tow-headed. Nothing will change for him becausehe serves avaluable purpose. I just don‘t know whatitis. And that is thehardest part. Who is here for what.I myself was always frightened as a child and early adult. Perhaps he represents that part of me, butit isbaffling asto under whatcircumstances hemightcome out.As I said, Ihave never seen him since that summer day, butIknow ascertainly asI do for theothers that he ishere.If this sounds confusing and contradictory,that‘s because it is. A strange realization came over me as I stood at one tree and he at the other that he was the son I would never have—at least on this plane of existence. I never saw him again quite that way. He is afraid that if he comes out, he will get into trouble, the kind of trouble a child gets into: disobeying parental commands, playingin the mud and making a generally good mess of it, pulling grass from the front lawn (forbidden, being as it was the front lawn that people could see) to put in teacups with water. Myself and
  75. 75. 75 the others—we try to protect him, but he is afraid of us too. He spends his time hiding inside,the motherless child. But I know he is still in there because he likes to color and lets me know when. Then I reach for one of my many coloring books and crayons and begin to color. I can tell when it is Timothy coloring, not me or another, because he cannot stay within the lines.
  76. 76. 76 timothy works with his hands and his eyes are filled with colors so many colors he can not
  77. 77. 77 see
  78. 78. 78 Chapter Eleven There has to be a better way than playing musical chairs with the termshallucination, dream, and reality. I find it frustrating and frustration can easily make me switch, so I will coin a word to cover all three, a sort of ―pick the one you want.‖ That way I won‘t get frustrated and neither will you.I christen this trilogy―halludreality,‖ as in ―an halludreality‖ or ―halludrealities‖: hallucination, dream, reality. And this is in good keeping with English as a living language. I break no rules. I had such an halludreality just last night. No, I‘m not 24 anymore. I am 57. I walked to the bathroom mirror which is large enough to see yourself from the hips up. Only the image I saw in the glass was not me. At least it was not the me I was accustomed to seeing, although something very strange (as if all of this is not strange enough) happened a few weeks ago. I happened by chance to look in the mirror
  79. 79. 79 and I saw someone else‘s eyes looking back at me. It was a male, and he was seeing me with pure, unadulterated objectivity. Do you know how sometimes you see a picture of yourself and you wonder, ―Is that what I really look like? Is that how other people see me?‖ I know howthis personsees me becausewe were boththere in front ofthat mirror and I could seewhat he sawand he could see what I saw. Such a situation is usually called a ―co-presence‖ in which you yourself are conscious and present but you sharethe space, so to speak, with another. I have felt such a co-presence with only one otherperson, but I amsure several could share your space at the same time. I do not know who it was. It was not one of six I was aware of at that time and it truly was as if he was taking a peek at me, maybe when he could because I do not linger in front of the mirror looking at myself unless I am putting on makeup which I was not at the time. I don‘t know why I looked in the mirror then. Maybe it was because the alter wanted to look in the mirror which could be accomplished only if I looked in the mirror. Co-presences, even though
  80. 80. 80 they are not all the way out, can effect changes—what you say, how you look, what you hear. I heard, ―You‘re pretty.‖ I turned around and left immediately. Last night I looked in the mirror and saw a whole different person. No part of me at all. She was tall with smooth blonde hair to her shoulders, blue eyes and long, gracefulfingers and arms. She was dressed in a short night gown of sorts with a tie at the waist making the top look blousy. It looked like a Roman tunic. A friend of mine was with me and I turned to her and asked, ‖Is this what I look like?‖ And she said, ―Yes.‖ I did not look back again because how on earth could it have been me? Because it wasn‘t me. It was another—new— alter. I do not know her name, what memories she holds, how she protects me in situations I cannot handle on my own. But she had about her feelings of compassion and
  81. 81. 81 strength. And no one had to tell me shewas pretty. Here is someonewhocamecompletelyout and whatismore surprising is thatI was fully conscious of it. Usually if someone comes completely out, I lose time. I can‘t remember at all whattook place or I may havea spotof memory littered here and there. I must stop here to describe one of those split-second switches that just took place as I was writing. It is a ―real time‖ switch and the only reason I am aware of it is that on the outline for this book I have listed the gatekeeper and the six personalities whose names I know:Jacob (the gatekeeper), Joshua, Jillian, Gretchen, Timothy, Emily, Shakira, Carol.Another name has appeared in the list, and I did not add it. The name is ‖Shaker.‖I knownothing about Shaker except that I think he is a male. Those who come out regularly and will answer my questions are Joshua, the jack- in-the-box, and Emily who is about eleven or twelve and came up with the idea of a suggestion box in an effort for us all to co-exist. She is enthusiastic and eager. The others than Timothy and Carol I really know very little about. I know that Gretchen likes to sit next to Emily; I know Shakira is a
  82. 82. 82 little black girl about six who was once a slave on aplantation; and I know that Carol is a tornado of rage and destruction and greed, but I don‘t know why. Anyway, I always find these split-second switches especially unnerving because of their swiftness. I have no memory of writing that name, but there it was and I live alone and no one touches this computer but me and I have not given a hard copy to anyone (who might add a name) and no one even knows that I keep track of personalities listed in just this way or how many personalities there are or who is the gatekeeper. No oneknows thatbeyond thislist are those whosenames I do notknow sothey donotappear in the list.SonowIhaveseven—a mystical number—personalities I canname. Another refuses to give mehis name, hidesin the shadows and watches and waits. For what I do not know. I must stop here for now. I have already switched once, that Iamaware of,while writing this. It‘s a cue to me to leave well enoughalone for now. And something that puts me in
  83. 83. 83 danger of switching can trigger a switch atany time of the day or night. It is 2:30 p.m. now, but a full-fledged switch could come tonight before I have a chance to getupstairs into bed to avoid switching. Bedtime is at 8 p.m. and don‘t play with fire. Oh,they can be crafty. Very crafty. Well, it happened—a long, deep switch. I was up until 4:00 a.m. watching ―Sister Wives‖ about polygamous men. As if that‘s something that would normally interest me. I remember only bits of it. And I remembered that the plumber was supposed to come at 9:00 a.m. to fix an apparently contagious condition among my three toilets. I was pretty deep in the switch when I called to cancel. I knew I could not have anyone over to observe me for any reason, most distressingly because I would not have any idea what I was doing or saying. I know I cancelled becauseI don‘t remember cancelling, that is, I must have because he called around 9:00 a.m. to ―confirm‖
  84. 84. 84 the new date and time. Not only did I cancel, I set up a new appointment. I thought I was out of the switch because I had sleptfrom 4:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. Usually aftersome sleep I ammyself (whoever that is) again. But I was still in a switch and didn‘t realize it. I can see it now but I didnot see it then. I barely remember the phone call, and I had not written down the confirmed date andtime. Whatto do? This was the firsttime Ihad communicated with someonelike a contractor while in a switch.I mostly felt depressed because I knew I had to call himand ask him the day andtime. I disguised my debacle as the existence of a possible ―conflict‖ of which I was unaware when I made the new appointment and wanted tomake sure I did indeed have the right day and time. Hedid callme back andleftamessage. I missed his phone call because I was still switching. As a matter of fact, I discovered when I was myself again that I had several voice messages but no memory of any calls. And he sounded a little odd in his message. Had he heard something untoward in my voice? I have no idea. Didmy voice sound different? I have no idea. What did he
  85. 85. 85 hear me say? I have no idea. How did I sound? I have no idea. Did I say anything inappropriate? I have no idea. Having seen me to give an estimate, did he see something different now? I have no idea. Was he alittle miffed with all this calling back andforth? Ihaveno idea. Did he decide I was ratherstrange? I haveno idea. Was he having second thoughts about doing the job? I have no idea. This could go on forever. The ignorance of my own self is ahallmark of DID. It is frustrating, upsetting, depressing, confusing, uncontrollable, frightening, befuddling, unnerving. And it is the way I live. Mentally and physically totally exhausted. When a switch ends, I feel as though someone has indeed used my body for their own purposes and left behind just the husk when they have finished. It takes two or three days to fully recover. And if within those two or three days I switch again, then it cantakeup to a week to recover, to feel less depressed, to have some energy, to clearly understand what people are saying to me—it sometimes sounds like a foreign language—, to feel connected to therestof the human race
  86. 86. 86 again. I often go to the Weis grocery store in the plaza where Ilive just to bearound otherhumans, justto havethechance tosmile at someone ortomakethem laugh. I can get quite chatty.Weis is one of the few places I feel safe. It caters to the residents of the planned community in which I live. Their employees get used to seeing youand smile when you pass. They may even stop their work and hold a conversation with you. No, theirpricesare not the rock bottom ones you findat Aldi‘s or Wegman‘s or Walmart. But price has little to do with why I go there.Nor aretheir prices jacked up,andthey run sales all the time and frequently freeze prices for 90 days. I know my older daughter is a little baffled as to why I don‘tfind anAldi‘s becauseshe tells me about theirlow prices and examplesof how much food she is ableto get there for such a reasonable if not downright low price. But that is not why I avoid goingto Aldi‘s: Aldi‘s isn‘t safe. It‘s anew place in anew place. It‘s big andbustling. The parking lot isway too large with far too many carsin it. And I wouldn‘t dareleaveDylan in the carwhile I went in. It‘s not safe and he knows it,too, because hebarks and barksif I leave him in the car inanunfamiliar place. At Weis he quietly lies down on the back seat for as long as it takes me to do my
  87. 87. 87 business. There is a pharmacy there, too, and a bank; accommodations to pay your utility and charge card bills;a Red Box;gift cards; greeting cards; DVDs and CDs; books; magazines; bubble gum machines;a ‖try-and-pick-up-a- furry-plaything-with-our-hook-that-is-designed-to-prevent- it‖ machine; a community board;large, long black shades toblock the sunfrom customers‘ eyes; andan ATM. Asfarasthe ATM goes, I hadto turn my card over to my daughter long ago becausesomeone kept pulling too much money out of my bank account. I also had to relinquish all my credit cards because someone spent far too much money online. I have a CareCredit card good at about eight specific placeslisted by name in the brochure: the vet I go toand the dentist Igo to. Itisnot carte blanche. That ship has sailed. I do not try to make new friends anymore because sooner or later they begin to notice something is odd, something they can‘t quite put their finger on, and they begin to avoid me. I don‘tknow, either, what the oddity is that they pick up on. Some people see me coming tenmiles away. Some former close friends wander off and never
  88. 88. 88 come back. And that hurts. It is better not to try. It is better to find a safe way to live in this world of strangers and strange places. It is better to go to Weisthan to Aldi‘s.
  89. 89. 89 Chapter Twelve At one point my parents decided to take me to a child psychologist. Why, I am no longer sure nor is there anyone left living to ask, but they each had their own battles with mental illness. A life-long curse, a genetic predisposition, a hallmark passed down from generation to generation. And all three of us inherited it though that did not become clear until we were much older.It is to myparents‘ credit that they were open-minded enough to take their child to a psychologist in a time when that kind of treatment waslittle understood. I attribute it to their extensive education and therefore open-mindedness. I don‘t know if the psychologist helped me with whatever was amiss, but take me they did. My father‘s experience with mental illness was a debilitating depression. He told my mother before he married her—to his credit—that he had been psychoanalyzed when he fell into a dark pit of depression
  90. 90. 90 during which he did not even get out of bed. My mother fought her own demons as well. I can still see the prescription bottles all in a line—maybe seven or eight of them—on the top shelf of her closet, far from reach. She suffered from depression and anxiety and regularly saw a psychiatrist, but other than talk therapy the only available medications were tranquilizers.Anti-depressants were decades away. I remember what seems like only one appointment, but as I said, there is no one left to ask about it. I remember a sprawling development with sprawling houses and sprawling trees. It was fall and the ground was covered with large, brittle leaves that swished about your feet as you walked. It was a cloudy day. It sounds as though it must have been in November, and I was probably six or so. The story of the appointment was actually rather amusing. My parents waited outside while I went with the psychologist into his home office. He invitedmeto sitas
  91. 91. 91 heclosed the door—or attempted to. Hekept pushing it and waiting for a click that stubbornly would not happen and finally gave up leaving the door a tiny slitopen. He sat down then and began. ―This room is completelysound-proof and anything we say in here can‘t beheard by anyone.‖ I remember looking over at the door that refused to close completely and decided right then and there that I wasn‘t going to tell him a thing. My visit or visits consisted of lots of ink blots, I guess since I wouldn‘t talk. It wasjust one after another until my creative abilities were exhausted. The diagnosis, apparently, was that Iwaslonely, not much of a stretch of the imagination since we lived on a remoteSouthernMaryland tobacco farm surrounded by other tobacco farms as far as you could see. He suggested a pet,andmy parents must have asked me what petI would like. I said a cat. My father, however, did not like cats. He was strictly a dog person. So we wentthrough anumber of
  92. 92. 92 ―pets‖ until my mother put her foot down. There wasthe requisite hamster (with a nasty bite) andthen acompanion hamsterso the firsthamster,likeme, would not belonely. Then came thebirds. Parakeets for me and finches for my sister,who apparentlybenefitted from mypsychological problems. In summer we werealways catching lightening bugs in jarsand then letting them go. Summer also brought the undulating tobacco worm,bulbous with its redhorn on its head, forever chomping the tobacco. Tobacco is alabor- intensivecrop, and tobacco wormsdon‘t help as they haveto be picked off by hand, even if you have to get down on your knees to check the lower leaves near the soil. Otherwise, they are capable of ruining an entire field of tobacco.Mankind has yet to construct a machine ablepick tobacco worms for him. The worms themselves were rather fearful, but we‘d capture themtoo and keep them in jars with grass (I guess no one told us that tobaccoworms eat TOBACCO), and foil twisted about the top punched with holes for the ill-fated worms to breathe. But generally, wedid notkeepthem long—surely to my father‘s chagrin,being ashe was atobacco farmer.
  93. 93. 93 And so we wentonthrough the parade of pets, natural and otherwise.And I remember blowing the shells of seeds from bird seed cupsuntil Igotdown to what seed was truly left. Then you couldrefill the cups. I‘m sure this was my father‘s training in the care of parakeets. I found it laborious to cleanthe cage as itcalled for a lot of scrubbing off of feces and I was not so fond of the birds to begin with. And the feces were everywhere—on the perches, on the sides of the seed cups, on the bottom of the cage. Then one dayI came home from school and found one of my two parakeets dead on the bottom of the cage.I remember crying. I remember notunderstandingthe concept ofdeath. I remember how stiff its little body was and howblue its feathers. It wasthe first timeIhad held either of those birds because they were, well,hostile and bit me a number of times when I put my handin the cage in an effort to teach them to sit on myfinger. I was also confused concerningthe matter oftalkingbirds and was told that parakeets, like parrots, could be taught to talk. Mine never said a word.
  94. 94. 94 When my mother told me the story of the psychologist‘s diagnosis and the fact that no cat was anywhere on the horizon, she confronted my father after all the failed attempts at other pets. ―Richard, the child wants a cat. Get her a cat.‖ And he got me not one cat but two. Tom and Miss Tabitha wenamed them until the vet pointed out that Miss Tabitha was not a Miss, and so we called him Tab after that. He was askittish cat andTom justthe opposite and was later cornered in a barn and killed byoneofmy father‘s German Shepherdsthat was half wild and spent most of his time tryingto getout of the back yard. The firstattempt to tame him was to chain him withalong chain inside the fence. Then one day we looked outthe kitchen window that overlooked the fenced backyard to see him strandedontop of one of the posts, unableto move up or down. When that didn‘t work, he tried to squeeze himself through the squares of the wire
  95. 95. 95 fence and gothishead caughtthere. My father had to resort to clippers to free him.Finally, in requiem,heand the post to which he was chaineddisappeared altogether.The consensus was that he went feral because there were a few sightingsafter that. His name was Major, and there are all kinds of jokes you can come up with over that.
  96. 96. 96 Chapter Thirteen Between my psychological pursuits and a horse accident, thebusiness of life carried on.School;searing summers;arcticwinters; the snow storm of the century; record highs; record lows; drought; summer storms; flash flooding; the tail end of hurricanes; Christmases come and gone; birthday cakes from The Rolling Pin Bakery and peppermint ice cream;backyard birthday parties using the long, white folding table from the basement with the paint chipping off;dry wells;burning barns; no water; laundromats;swimming pools of the rich and famous in the circles of Ebyn society; swimming lessons in Ebyn where the teacher held my head under the water for so long I thought I would surely expire. And the parties. My parents saidthey operated on the fringes of Ebyn society, but it seemedtomethatthey notonly
  97. 97. 97 hosted a hostof parties themselves but wentto a host of parties as well. In this pocket of tobacco farms, a whole other way of life was being lived. No one would ever believe that in the sixtiessuch an opulent and genteel society still existed anywhere in a changing psychedelic, war-torn, and protested world. Surely my father knew full well how riotous a change in society was taking place. I‘m sure he witnessed it every day that he went to work to teach at the University of Maryland. But he never brought it home to us. Out of it all what he allowed to siphon off to us was the civil rights movement. I can remember my mother rolling the TV to the doorway to the kitchen so she could watch the news as she cooked dinner. I remember that it was a full year before we went into Washington, called ―town‖ by Southern Maryland society. The remnants of the upheaval blared out to us into the car windows and a pall hung over the entire city as it licked its wounds. Whole blocks of stores were boarded up with black graffiti still trying to send a message. The black denizens of Washington slinked along the
  98. 98. 98 sidewalks, looking frequently over their shoulders as if they did not really believe it was all over, that a President, an Attorney General, and a powerful civil rights leader had not died in vain. But Vietnam? Veterans blamed by a misguided society for a war they were drafted to fight in? Psychedelic drugs? Marijuana? Woodstock? Tie died T-shirts? The awakening of a society spread through a renaissance in music? No, we never heard of Cream; The Yard Byrds; Bob Dylan; Joan Baez; Jimi Hendrix; Janis Joplin; Jefferson Airplane; Iron Butterfly; Procol Harem; Seals and Crofts; Simon and Garfunkle; Todd Rungren; The Troggs;Arlo Guthrie; Deep Purple; Jethro Tull; The Rolling Stones; Jonathan Edwards; Peter, Paul, and Mary; The Mamas and Papas—an endless, breathless list to which I was not introduced until the mid-seventies. In the sixties the closestwe got to this monumental shiftinmusic embracing an entire world was the Beatles, ―Laugh In,‖ “The Monkeys,”“The Sonny and Cher Show,‖and transistor radios that couldn‘t lock on to a radio airwave for all the batteries in the universe. One Christmas in the midst of the British
  99. 99. 99 Invasion we three each got Beatles‘ wigs. I think it was the same Christmas we each got Mexican jumping beans and slinkys. I buried myself in Nancy Drew Mysteries and my mother‘s old books she too had read as a child: PollyAnna, Plain Jane and Pretty Betty, Sunny Farms. I also took my first excursion into Latin. My mother taught Latin, and I asked her one summer to teach it to me. I was seven. Now I‘m 57, and I stillstudy itonmy own. I remember once when someone foundout that one of my majors was Latin they asked with a belly laugh if I read Latin before bed. I kept my mouth shut because the truth is I did and I do. I pull out my Wheelock’s Latin and the Jenny series First, Second, Third, and Fourth Year Latinat regularintervalsbecause ittook too longto learn itto forget it now. The backdrop of this was a genteel Southern Maryland society, rumors of whichreached even the highest of Washingtonsociety. The parties could not be equaled. When
  100. 100. 100 we were youngadults,we started getting invitations to parties,but most ofour experience in Ebyn society was our parents‘own parties.Sometimes there were overone hundredguests. Fences were taken down so that guests could park in the fields and walk to the blue stone circle in front of the house. Farmhands directed traffic. In summer it did not matter how many guests you could fit into your house because you could hold your party outside on the lawns, serving guests hors d'oeuvres and drinks from outdoor bars. The cocktail hour was well over an hour because you never arrived at a party at the time specified on the invitation. You came a good twenty minutes if not a half- hour later. It simply was not good manners to show up on time (and I wonder why we were always late for everything). But even this leeway was not enough time for my mother to get ready. I remember oncestanding in the little hallway off which my parents‘ bedroom and bathroom were in my pink- flowered crinoline party dress, white anklets, and patent leather shoes. Suddenly, my mothercamerunningoutofher
  101. 101. 101 bedroom in her slip. She stopped abruptly,looked at me, and said, ―I don‘t know what it is! I always start getting ready on time!‖ My poor mother. She was destined to belate everywhere allherlife. Is that karma? Anyway, to stop the gap she always sent the three of us to the slate walkway to greet guests whose names we could never remember, we were so young. I was terrified of all these strangers who seemed miraculously to know who I was, yet I did not know who they were. So we just smiled and shook hands and said, ―How do you do?‖ and generally exercised the mannerswehad beentaught with the rigor of a marine sergeant. When my mother finally came out, ourmaidCoral was tasked with guiding us through the crowd tosay ―hello‖ to guests, after which she took us upstairs to go to bed soonafter. As we grew, we were allowed to stay longer and evenhavesomehors d'oeuvres. The caterers in their black dresses and white aprons bobbed through the crowd with silvery trays of biscuits with Smithfield ham, biscuits stuffed with crab meatand melted cheese on top, tiny circles of mayonnaised crustless bread
  102. 102. 102 with cucumber slices. Women in short white cotton gloves and netted pillbox hats of pastel hues stood in chattering circlets as they fanned their bosoms with white monogrammed handkerchiefs. Men in summer suits and ties carried totheir wives drinks from the outdoor bars where black caterers in black suits and white bowties stood behind tables covered in white linen cloths. Ice clattered into glasses to make highballs, scotch and sodas, manhattans, old fashioneds, martinis, bourbon and ginger ales, whiskey sours, and white wine. Bowls of peanuts lined the corners of the bars next to piles of white linen cocktail napkins.Guests stood jovially in line for their alcoholic beverages. After a while a white-aproned black woman would emerge to announce that the food was ready, and everyone headed slowly for the house or tent.And whether the food was lodged in a house or beneath a tent, the same tables groaned beneath the weight of their fare: steamship rounds of beef; crab fondue; ham; beaten biscuits and rolls; blocks of cheddar, limburger, brie, swiss, blue, colby jack, gruyère, and gouda cheeses with sesame seed, water, Ritz, Club, and
  103. 103. 103 Townhouse crackers; curried egg, French onion, clam, crab, and artichoke dips; bowls of macadamia, cashew, and pecan nuts. Confections stood on their own: macaroons, shortbread, sugar, and chocolate cookies; peanut butter and dark or white chocolate brownies; petit fours and a host of pastries; mounds of fresh strawberries dipped in confectioner‘s sugar and chocolatePineapple chunks, grapes, and berries tumbled from watermelon fruit bowls into dishes of whipped cream. Guests filled fine china plates and gathered sterling silver dinner forks, knives,teaspoons, and linen napkins before proceeding to the main fare. Small flowered flat china plates were stacked beside the cookies, cakes, and fruit along with argentine dessert forks. Conversations and laughter echoed and droned as those who were finished eating stood at the indoor bars for brandy, cognac, and liqueurs. And as dusk settled,guests began to leave slowly at first, then faster. It was not considered good manners to be last to
  104. 104. 104 leave (as indeed the first to arrive). Their tires crunching down the driveway tookthemback to their owntobacco fields.
  105. 105. 105 Chapter Fourteen A yawning chasm looms before meonwhoseprecipiceIteeter with the conniving strength ofa tight rope walker. I do not remember coming here.There is nopath behind norleft norright. It isas if a hand throughthe heavens and ether placed me in a reality called earth.The next moveis mine for I am both game piece and player. Do I go right? DoI go left? Or do I step forwardonto that mystically invisiblebridgecalledfaith,beneathwhich thechasm like a volcano sputters and boils? It is not my fault. I found myself this way. When I lived in the trailer park, I had a rough collie named Ireland. I would walk her each day along the same route, and onthis route one day Imarveled at an unfamiliar large corner lot with adouble-wide, clean, and new. The
  106. 106. 106 driveway wasof bricks, the grass was mowed, three little Oriental children laughed and played on a swing set. It was the picture of an American dream. Oddly enough, though, they had afledgling corn stalk growing at the base of their paper box. I say oddly because it wasthe Spanish contingency that tended to placewithout discretion plant life—tomatoes among the hastas: cucumbers amongthe azaleabushes; vines of summer squash withthe gladiolas and dahlias and daffodils; and, yes, corn by the paper box along with petunias. The next day I took Ireland again on our walk along our route,and as we approached the corner lot, I stopped. The grass was overgrown. It grew amongthe bricks where it held them in a stranglehold. There was no swing set, but the trailer was still there. And so was the stalk of corn, only it was grown to maturity, brown, brittle, and ready for harvest. Corn is planted in the spring and harvested in October. And we were having an Indian summer. The next day of walking Ireland was not the next solar day. It was my next day.
  107. 107. 107 I had lost at least five months of time. It is not my fault. I spent my internship as the black sheep of the family at theMiddletown Mobile Home Park,called by the adjacent residents of Elderbury Woods Stringtown. Family members began to disappear at a breathless pace. Meanwhile, IrelandandIcontinued our walks and I would see crossing the path aheadpeople Iknewwere not there.SomeI knew,like my chiropractor, and some I did not.Butthey continued their parade before me day afterday. They would suddenly materializeby the side of the path ahead, cross it, and vanish. I still livewith such hallucinations andothers. I never asked for anyone‘shelp, did notbother anyone with the details of my daily life.They shunned me just the same. It is not my fault.
  108. 108. 108 My daughter tells me that I have only six years of money left andthatI must get a job. She tells me that I am not facing reality and amallowing my alters to handle asituation I can‘t. It is not my fault. She doesn‘t tell me; she yellsat me. Shesays she yells becauseshe wantsme to wake up and for all the alters tounderstand the situation. She says that if I donot get ajob andrunoutof money, then she cannottake care of meand I will haveto sellmy house and live in anapartment in avery badpart of town, although she does notstipulate what town. It is not my fault. She tells me I have spent $8000 this year on Dylan, my service dog, and that I should get rid of him and get another instead—somethingmy mother would have called ―false
  109. 109. 109 economy.‖I would still be paying vet bills. At the time of the writing of this book, she simply does not understand the part Dylan plays in my life. And it is not her fault just as all of this mess is not mine. I found him in the shelter one day when I just musingly decidedto gothere to look at the dogs. I have never been a dog person. Dylan is a rescue. His hoarder spent eightmonths in court tryingto gethimback. But this was her second infraction, so she lost,and the first day the shelter put himin the adoptable section was the first day I came musingly thinking of adopting a dog. And there he was. Huge, a sheep dog-mix—mixed with something very large that looks like St. Bernard—wild as a blue jay, totally unaware of his own size and strength, frisky, utterly undisciplined, ready for anyone‘s affection, the personification of unconditional love. I thoughtthenit was odd, but I understandit now. Usually, the shelter sends someone out to take a look at yourhouse,but they did not do that with Dylan. Dylan was
  110. 110. 110 only one of the dogshoarded. The other was named Jagger and the two had adjoining kennels. And the shelter saw that Dylan and Jagger were beginning to bond and they didn‘twantthat. Dylanwould be hard enough to place because of his size alone. Hehadto bond with ahuman. So just before I took him home, a shelter employee sat me down andtold me she expected me totake goodcare of ―her‖ dog.Shesaid to tie a leash to my belt straps andmake him go everywhere with me. And so I did, even atnightto bed. I took himhome andhe took meona ride down the hill to the swamp behind my house that literally knockedmy shoes off and I hadto wait fordaylight to find them. Years haveintervened and Dylan and I are a boxed set. Duringthose yearsI have trained him myself as well as taking him toclasses. Itaught him to walk on aleash without pulling meto kingdom come, which he often did.Ican‘t count the numberof times he has thrown me down in an effort to
  111. 111. 111 get away. First, it waspeople he couldn‘t handle.Hecouldn‘t contain himself. Thenonce people were conquered, it was squirrels. There is aplaceon our walk I call ―squirrel alley.‖ Once squirrels werenot so tempting, it wasbirds. He is getting better with other dogs all the time—this has taken six years—but he still loses itover deer. It has always seemed tome that somehow my family members donotlike Dylan,never have.He‘stoo big or he‘stoo rambunctious orhe‘s too unruly or he lacks sorely in dog manners. He‘s a second class citizen. But that istheir view. It is not my fault. I have panic attacks—not anxiety attacks,butpanicattacks. They are so badI must takesome medication and liedown on thebed. It is fightor flight, mybreathing is quick and shallow; I cannotmove my limbs; I amparalyzed. They knock meout for the restof the day. I feel as if I amnot part of the humanrace or any other,that if I were to reach outto touch anotherhuman, my hand would
  112. 112. 112 pass right through them. They are not real.I am in a fugue. Everything seems to float. I am removed, setaside, shifted. I stay in my house except to walk Dylan because I know that if I run across even a neighbor I may start to stutter so badly I can‘t speak. It is not only embarrassing. It is humiliating. It is not my fault. And every time this happenswho comes boundingup the steps andjumps on the bed with me? Yes, Dylan. He knows. And I try toregulate my breathingwithhis inan effort tocalmdownsome. And for somereason he always liesdown with his butt inmy face, panting obliviously. And I holdonto him. Yes, he is big. Yes, he hashealth issues. Yes, I spent thousands of dollars on him when he recently got sick and they couldn‘t figure out what was wrong withhim.And yes, he is very much a psychiatric servicedog. And yes, I need him.
  113. 113. 113 It is not myfault. My daughter tells me she is terrified. Shetells methat she and her husband are trying to figure out how to keep her paternal grandmother with whom they live in her own house through her impending old age. Shetellsme that she let it slip,the management of mymoney, and the person before her also. It is notmy fault. As for taking careofher grandmother, that part of the family seemssomewhatconfused about how it is done with the various generations. Theway it works is that the children take care of the parents,notthe grandparents. Theyare the duty of their children. It is not my fault.

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