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Friday, March 03, 2006

A Place Connected to No Other

Every time I cross the Mississippi, something strange occurs. This strange something doesn’t happen when I’m on the East Coast, or in Ohio, or when I travel to Ontario, Quebec, or Europe, but only when I’m out west.

I start to remember things. It’s hard for me to believe that what I am recalling actually occurred. Yet these are bonafide memories for which I have no explanation. These are neither fantasies nor dreams. And with the help of such resources as the Lincoln Center Branch of the New York Public Library’s drama research collection and the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), I have determined that I did not simply confuse the plot of an old television show or movie with actual events.

The first memory came in 1977 at my aunt’s place in Portland, Oregon. My cousin and I were assembling a track for slot-car racers when suddenly, I noticed myself thinking about a road. As soon as I became conscious of the thought, it evaporated. While working on the transformer that would power the cars around the track, the sensation came again. For the second time, I noticed it, and for the second time, it went away. The image kept re-emerging about every fifteen minutes or so for the rest of the stay there.

By concentrating on not-concentrating, I began to see more details about the road, until I eventually realized it was a memory: a desolate stretch of mountain highway in the middle of nowhere, lit only by the moon and stars on a bright, cloudless night. The smell of strong coffee jarred my concentration the first time I remembered it, and the image again vanished.

The coffee came from a thermos owned by a local Sheriff, whose pot belly hovered over me as I lay in the middle of that deserted road, stretched out more or less perpendicular to the center line, my feet pointing toward the guard rail that framed a nearby cliff. To my right was the back of a car, what appeared to be a large dark-colored sedan.

If I remember correctly, then what I recalled was my own death. The sheriff and deputy talked about their social life while they waited for an ambulance to arrive. Since I lay in the middle of the road, I couldn’t hazzard a guess as to the Sheriff’s height, but I reckoned he was a tall man, for he towered over the deputy. He had a long face, white hair, a bulbous red nose and a paunch that I could only guess came from years with the bottle. I could tell the deputy had fair hair because it shined in the moonlight. He also had a very neatly trimmed mustache. I would guess the sheriff was in his late-50s or early-60s. The deputy was much younger, a thirty-something most likely. I remember hearing the Sheriff pronounce me dead. I remember the sound of a trunk opening to my left, where I had gotten a brief glimpse of a 1950s squad car. I remember the deputy covering my face with some sort of blanket, and me trying to say “No! No!” but unable to.

“Only seventeen,” grunted the Sheriff, his belly hanging over me. “What a waste.”

At one point the Sheriff or the deputy shined a flashlight onto the back of the vehicle so that they could take down the license plate. Unfortunately, by the time of my 1993 trip to Phoenix, I hadn’t gotten far enough to remember the number, but I could see the top part of the license: a California plate embossed with the year 1957.

In January 1995, while taking a head-clearing drive to Tucson, I looked forward to the next installment of the memory. Unfortunately, I had no more memories of that scene. I recalled another one instead.

From the hair and clothing styles, I would guess that this second memory took place sometime in the mid-to-late-1960s. Apropos to the year, my point of view is somewhat skewed for I am knee-high to everyone else, just as I would have been in, say, 1967. You see, in this memory I am alive and breathing, although very short.

The room where the memory takes place is square. Brown paneling with just a touch of yellow covers the walls. Red and white tiles, laid out in a checkerboard pattern, cover the floor. To my left, I could see a window, high on the wall, almost to the ceiling, and it’s surrounded by a lawn that looks like it could use a mowing, although it isn’t absurdly high. Outside, the sun shines.

Below the window were brown liquor bottles. At the end of the bar, a brown-skinned man (African American, not very dark, but a couple of shades darker than light-skinned) pours himself a plastic tumbler full of scotch. I could tell that it’s scotch because of the smell. After popping a couple of ice cubes into his drink, he swizzled it around as he walked over to me and frowned. He seemed in charge, for he’s wore a sparkling white button-down shirt, the sleeves of which are neatly rolled to the elbow, and thin dark tie.

To my right stood a much shorter man, a pale white guy with shoulder-length blond hair. Unlike the professional attire of his boss, he wore faded jeans, and a white tee shirt that made absolutely no pretense of hiding his bulging muscles. His expression, partially hidden by his hair, hardly registered at all. Whereas the guy in the tie definitely gave off hostile vibes, the guy in the tee shirt almost seemed to have no feelings at all. Still, he looked threatening, for when he turned, I saw the bullwhip in his right hand as it dangled limply at his side.

In front of me was a polished hardwood stage that rose about six inches from the floor. On the stage were three women, positioned as if the endpoints of an equilateral triangle. The women in front were both white. The one to my left had long bright-red hair that she wore unbound. The woman to my right had done up her blonde locks in a French twist. The woman standing in back (or between them, however you want to view it), was a very dark-skinned woman with a very short Afro. The women wore identical sleeveless black evening gowns with plunging necklines. The hands of each woman were bound by ropes tied to the ceiling. The ropes were just high enough so that the women could support their weight on the balls of their feet. In other words, they’re forced to stand on their tippy toes.

The man with the scotch glass yelled at the redhead, “You lied to me!”

“I swear, I didn’t! I didn’t!” she said, holy terror in her voice.

“Are you going to tell me?”

“I didn’t do anything wrong, I swear! I wouldn’t lie to you.”

The man swizzled his scotch and took a swig. He looked at the blond guy, who obediently came over and whipped the redhead--and I mean hard. He didn’t just whip her on the back, but on her face, her chest, and just about anyplace else he could land a blow. Every crack would send her reeling, causing her to lose her balance and swing by the wrist for a second or two.

The guy with the scotch repeated the procedure with the other two, and again, the guy with the whip thrashed them with a kind of sadistic indifference that’s hard for me to put into words. After the black woman’s beating, I, for reasons that I can only guess were instinctive, rushed to her side. I wanted to tell her that I was sorry, as if this had somehow been all my fault. Despite the fact that her face was covered in blood and tears, she looked down on me and smiled.

This second memory is as real to me as any other memory I have. Yet, I cannot think that it is true, even though I could entertain the possibility of the first one. After all, the first took place before I was born, so it didn’t bother me too much that I didn’t have any context for it. For example, I never had to think about how I got onto that mountain road, whether I had been drinking or sleepy when I took the wheel, or who owned the car, because I don’t have any other memories from 1957. I do, however, have tons of memories about the 1960s. That being the case, the second memory doesn’t fit anywhere. I’d have to wonder when I might have been left alone to witness such an event, and at that age, for starters. I would also think that even if I repressed the event, there would be something else about it that I could remember, like entering the basement, or leaving the basement. Then again, who were these people? Wouldn’t I have seen them someplace else? It’s as though this place and these events are real, but they aren’t connected to anything else.

In 2003, I first read about Claudia Mullen, Chris di Nicola Ebner, Cathy O’Brien, Barbara Hartwell, Kathleen Sullivan and others who claimed to have received training as sex spies and assassins as young children. I won’t summarize these claims to a large extent here, for they are readily available on the Internet, and via radio shows. Their cases have found confirmation and support from John DeCamp, former attorney and state legislator of Nebraska, and Ted Gunderson, former Special Agent in-Charge of the FBI’s field office in Los Angeles, both of who have written extensively about these matters.

What I can say, however, is that those claiming to have undergone training as child sex spies and assassins have said that they too have had memories similar to mine, and like mine were repressed for many years until something triggered them.

So, for me to assume that this second memory is real, I would have to assume that I was trained as some multi-generational type of spy whose past remains secret even to himself. I don’t want to buy that. Beyond simply being too farfetched, I can’t imagine a long string of time when I could have been in training. For that to be the case, then I would have to think of a good deal of my childhood and adolescence as a false memory implanted by some nefarious shrink to mask the real ones. If that’s so, then I have lost arguably the most important thing that’s truly mine, namely my memory of past events, my own personal history. And if I can’t buy the second memory, then I can no longer buy the first either.

On the other hand, I have these two scenes that have affixed themselves in my mind as actual events. One of these days, I hope to track down what they are, and what caused them. Maybe it’s time I took Horace Greeley’s advice.

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