carl macleod was the best person i had ever known.
i loved him dearly, and so did many others. he had friends all over the world and a large family whom he cared for greatly. and despite the massive area over which his friends and family lived, he was always there for them.
but not anymore - he's gone now. gone, because of me.
his behavior was impeccable. he possessed every social grace. the words out of his mouth were always right, the presents he bought were perfect, the clothes he wore fit him exactly and accentuated his handsome physique. he was greeted with hugs from guys and girls alike. people looked up to him and often followed his example. he was asked for advice often and when he offered it, it was taken.
not that it went to his head. oh no, not him. he was the most humble man you ever met. he never talked himself up, he was unselfish with his time and his money. he worked in homeless shelters on the holidays, visited hospitals to cheer up the patients (people he didn't even know), and coached baseball teams. he was the kind of guy who always stood at the back of the line. "no, you go first." he always said. he never expected a handout or to be treated better than anyone else. he could make you laugh, often by telling a self-deprecating story - that really endeared him to people.
but he was too good. no one else believed it, but i suspected, no, i knew, that he was an actor. he was fake. he had too many friends, no one disliked him (aside from those people who don't like anyone popular) and if no one dislikes you it is because you are changing to please them, you are acting, saying what they want to hear, compromising yourself. carl seemed like the greatest guy to everyone but i knew him better. i had known him longer than anyone else and i could see through it. but when i voiced my concerns to my friends they just scoffed and said i was crazy.
he had everything. money, looks, a smart, attractive wife, two well-behaved, beautiful children. he spoke foreign languages, he had traveled the world and made friends in every country from morocco to mongolia in the process.
i once thought he was the best too. i had respected him greatly and trusted him above all others. i had believed in his decisions and felt that he really knew what he was doing. i had liked who he was.
but right at the peak of his popularity, when things were going so well for him, a flaw revealed itself and i saw it. his wife didn't see it but i did. i noticed things about him that others didn't. it had been there all along but had been well-hidden. this fault confirmed to me what i had suspected and from then on i saw him for what he really was. i was always there to point it out to him, to remind him of it, to tell him it was a serious problem. i was always right there. the wonderful man had a character flaw and i made him focus on it, which made it worse.
looking at it now i guess it was a shitty thing to do to someone you love but we often hurt the ones we love the most. i guess i was so cruel because i began to hate him for it.
the flaw, the thing i started to hate him for, was an insecurity he developed: he felt that no one really loved him and he was absolutely convinced on the occasion that someone, anyone, forgot about him. for instance, forget to invite him to a birthday party or to a dinner party and his self-esteem would crumble. he would wonder what was wrong with him, would question himself, question his behavior. "what did i do wrong?" he would ask. "what did i do to upset my friend?"
that was his secret, burning weakness and the thing that i took advantage of. i used it to break him down, to prove to myself that he wasn't perfect, that he wasn't really that special after all. he kept it from his friends but i knew all about it.
he became paranoid and began to worry more about who was tiring of him rather than what his real friends thought. he concentrated more on the invitations that didn't come than those that did. he had dozens of good friends but he let a handful of casual friends control him. he handed his self-worth, his self-esteem, over to those people and let their opinions and words alter his own behavior. those casual friends were totally innocent though: they had no idea that he cared so much about what they thought. but he became so obsessed with retaining these insignificant friendships, ones that he actually didn't even value that much, that he started to let his established ones slip.
why was this seemingly confident, self-assured man imploding? i guess his ego was more important to him than love. his pride would not allow him to accept anything less than complete adoration. i guess the insecurity had always been lying dormant within him but never really revealed itself until something pushed it to the surface. he surrendered to it when it came on and he became twisted inside. he took his true friends for granted and spent his time with people he didn't much care for, just to rein in those loose friendships.
his real friends and family never really noticed the changes in his behavior, but the fear that they would further exacerbated his paranoia. he became scared of losing everyone. he spread himself spaghetti thin, running here and there trying to be everything to everyone. he hid it very well. no one really noticed but me. it drove me crazy. i confronted him, i shouted at him, i told him how stupid this behavior was, and he listened but he didn't change. i became disgusted with him and my hate blossomed fully. i ended our friendship after countless encounters with him during which he denied his problem. insecurities are for the weak and are completely intolerable to me, especially when one won't admit to them.
he was an insecure fake. no one has that many friends, it's impossible to maintain that many but carl couldn't let go of a friendship that had gone sour. when it ran from him he would chase it, leaving behind the people who truly cared for him. he altered who he was to nurture a broken bond. it was an ugly thing to see; throwing away what was real, throwing away the quality he had for the quantity he desired.
it had a firm grip on him so i decided to act. i struck. the only way was to let go of everyone completely. to no longer risk rejection. and the only way to never be rejected is to never attempt a relationship. so i decided what was best for him. one night, as he lay awake in bed fretting over a recent slight, i killed him. i destroyed him right there as he lay next to his wife.
mr. everything-to-everyone was dead. the fake was gone.
he thanked me actually. when i made my decision and carried out my plan, he saw it coming and he mouthed "thank you" as my blow struck. and then i ran from the house, undetected. i fled the country, leaving my wife and children in detroit. they obviously would be looking for me so i ran to argentina, where i knew the local language. i holed up in a cheap hotel and spent my time with strangers. i started a different life, away from fake people like carl macleod. there are some things in life worth killing for and, to me, wiping a pretender off the planet is one of them. especially someone that you admired so, that you changed your life for, that you aspired to be more like. when you find out your heroes are fakes, what should you do? nothing? what is your duty?
so now i am still here in south america. i keep my distance from the people here, never getting too close and, therefore, never getting disappointed. i hang out with whoever is at the local bar. it's mostly a tourist crowd where i go, backpackers. i make and lose a new friend every night and that is just fine with me. i never give out my phone number or my address. if no one has my phone number then no one doesn't call me, if you know what i mean. if they don't know my address then no one doesn't stop by to say "hi." i sleep with prostitutes when i need affection. a bartender slid a piece of cake across the bar when i told him it was my birthday once. that's all i need. it's simple.
of course shortly after arriving here my wife tracked me down and tried to get me to come home. she told me how my friends missed me, how my kids were confused and scared. she told me that together we could make it through the consequences of what i had done. she was a great woman, the best, but i told her i wouldn't come home. my sister came to see me once and brought some well-wishes from friends and our other siblings but i sent her home after a few days. i stopped checking my e-mails a long time ago. i told them all that i wasn't the same now and that if i returned home they wouldn't recognize or like me. they gave up on me after they accepted that i had given up on them. i had disconnected.
and that's all fine with me. it's easier this way.
i always had this sense that i had done someone a favor, that i had set someone free. i never really felt guilt until i saw how my victim's absence affected others. my sister had left behind a box and i had kicked it into the corner, leaving it for trash. but one day i opened it, i don't know why, and inside i found notes and letters from carl's friends and family, pleading with me to come back home and fix what i had done, accept the responsibility and help them move on. i read all the notes. his wife was devastated, confused, heart-broken, crushed. his kids were lost, guilt-ridden by the thought that it was all their fault. his friends missed his laughter, his kindness, his advice, his positive attitude, his fun, his love. they were all so confused, mystified at what i had done. if only they knew him like i did.
i scoffed at the letters at first but then, over a drink at the bar that night, i got to thinking about it. it was then that i realized that maybe he wasn't so fake after all. maybe he just had a small problem that was fixable, a paranoia that was treatable, a condition that millions of people in the world had. that he had nothing to be ashamed of. that a little counseling could have helped him turn his focus from the bad to the good. i took a long drink and stared at myself in the mirror behind the bar. maybe he could have learned to let go of those things that he had no control over and kept a firm grip on what was real. enjoyed with whom he was with rather than been saddened by with whom he was not.
insight filled me as if i was drinking it. with each swallow of my beer things became more clear to me. carl never really believed that his friends liked him as much as he liked them. his bond to his friends, his true friends, was unbreakable, but he never trusted that they would be there for him, even though they always were. he felt that if he made one wrong move, upset them somehow, that he would be abandoned. i could understand that feeling; i had lost my parents as a teenager and, ever since, i felt alone in the world, abandoned in a way, like an unwanted baby left in a dumpster. he latched onto people, especially those that walked away from him, like he was losing a parent. letting go was so hard for him. that's why i released him.
i left my beer on the bar and walked into the bathroom with those thoughts running through my head. guilt began to weigh me down. i stood at the urinal and looked through thoughtful eyes at some graffiti written on the wall:
nadie es perfecto
i absorbed those words and zipped up my fly. i stood there in the gray bathroom looking at myself in the small cracked mirror. maybe that was a selfish thing to do. maybe he wasn't fake after all. maybe he was a great guy with a few problems like everyone else, a few insecurities that could have been dealt with. i didn't allow him to deal with it. i just cut him off and ran. i destroyed everything behind me when i ran to south america.
i walked home to my cramped apartment and thought about all i had done. i thought of the destruction of my life, about how i could never be forgiven. sweating with remorse and regret, i got something from my bedroom, something i always thought i would use on someone else rather than myself, but argentina isn't as dangerous as i had heard. i sat down at my cheap kitchen table and started to write.
it's my guilt that compels me to tell you this, to apologize for what i did and what i simply cannot un-do. i killed a man. a beautiful man that i admired, that i loved. i took a man from his children, from a loving wife, a wife that would have accepted his fault had he told her. a man who was too scared to show his flaws and risk losing the love of his friends - a love he apparently thought was reserved only for perfect human beings...
i am sorry. i am so sorry that i didn't get help, that i took carl away. that i made a decision for him which robbed him from his friends and family. but he is gone now. and i am his murderer.
and all that is left of him is me.
my name is carl andrew macleod and i was once a great guy with an amazing family and amazing friends but i lost control of who i was. i'm a murderer of character i guess. a murderer of hope, of love, of shame. they don't lock you up in jail for that, but the consequences are arguably much worse. you lose the most important things in this world: the love of your friends and family. they wait perhaps, they stick with you for some time, but when you push, push, push, for how long can you expect them to come back? they will let you win at some point, believe me.
so i have decided to commit real murder, murder that can get you into trouble with the authorities. i got away with it last time: i killed a great guy and avoided prosecution so who is going to care if i kill off the waste of the man that remains? and, besides, how can you prosecute a dead man?
you can't. just like you can't go back sometimes. sometimes you simply sail too far away to return to the port from which you set off. sometimes holes are too deep to crawl out of. sometimes you can't wish the guilt away, can't apologize enough, can't explain it off you.
sometimes all you can do is kill it.
i've got this gun aimed squarely at my guilt and my finger on the trigger.
and this time i've got the right guy.
August 2005 - Mendoza, Argentina