you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you
From “If You Forget Me” by Pablo Neruda
~ 39 ~
The Sixth Visitor
Tim was never big on visitors. Up until today he only had five.
He didn’t count people that were forced to visit him of course, like his court appointed attorney or team of psychiatrists and then there was his new friend Agent Pagano. None of them counted. He finally began processing that they weren’t really his friends, but people that had no choice in the matter. That was a hard pill for him to swallow. He wanted so much for people to care about him because they loved him, not because it was just part of their job. It was hard for him to figure out which was which. They said it would get easier but he had a hard time believing them.
He didn’t really enjoy where he was very much. He had his own room with a small bed and desk with one chair. He also had his very own bathroom complete with standing shower, sink and toilet.
The one window he had looked out onto the courtyard where people seemed to do nothing but pace back and forth. He was allowed out there on Wednesdays. Today was only Monday. He wished he had a radio or TV or anything he could use for entertainment but his doctors said he wasn’t quite ready for that yet.
After the first month, they gave him a pen and paper as a reward for making good progress. They would take the pen away at night or when he was out with the other patients. They were afraid he might use it as a weapon. Because of all the dead bodies, they viewed him as violent. He had to show them he wasn’t in order to be trusted.
They didn’t fully believe him when he testified about his father doing all those things alone. He had watched but wasn’t a part of it. The lawyer representing the state argued that he could have done something to stop his father if he really wanted to and if he wasn’t violent then how could he kill his father in cold blood the way he did?
There was no one to testify on his behalf of course. He had hoped that Nick and Howie at least would show up and say something nice. Tell them how he had saved his friends from the wolves and brought them food and medicine when he could have just left them all to die. When he did finally see Howie in court on one of the final weeks of his trial, he had smiled and waved a few times. He was sad when all he did was look away. He yelled “Where’s Nick?” but the judge warned him he would be taken back to his cell if he kept making noise.
When Howie was called to the stand, instead of telling the jury about all Tim had done to save his friends, he talked about how he had almost died twice because of Tim’s hot temper. He then looked Tim right in the eyes and said “I wish I had taken the poker and hit him again and again until he died.”
Tim just sat there and cried.
The trial lasted for about a month before the verdict came down and he ended up here in this place for what will probably be the rest of his life. It wasn’t a prison but it sure felt like one.
He cried every single night at first. He kept asking when he could go home. He had to clean his cabin because he had left it in such a mess. He was sure his food was spoiled by now. He would have to go grocery shopping again.
His mother came to visit him every night after lights out was called and the room became too dark for his liking. She sat with him on his bed and rocked him back and forth, telling him it would be okay and reciting his favorite poems to him just to calm him down.
He would call to Candice in hopes she might make an appearance with their children, but she never came. She probably found someone else who treated her better. Besides, it was probably best for his kids to not see him in this new place. It would scare them, just like it scared him.
In his therapy sessions he talked a lot about his father and how he didn’t deserve to feel the way he felt. It was nice being told that maybe just maybe he should have been allowed to be happy and grow up normal.
Slowly, very slowly he came to realize that his mother was just as much of a problem as his father was. Their relationship was unhealthy. In fact, every single relationship he ever had was unhealthy.
The psychiatrists put him on several medications at first and all he seemed to ever do was sleep. He didn’t mind that very much, it made the days go by faster, but he found himself longing for more. In time, they found the right mix of medicines for him. He was less anxious and more lucid.
After about 6 months, the visits from his mother stopped. She had showed up one night, ready to read to him when he turned towards her and uttered “I don’t think I need you anymore.”
Just like that she had disappeared and Tim’s road to recovery officially began.
Instead of talking to his dead mother and yearning for his dead girlfriend, he found himself regretting all he had done. He understood that Candice wasn’t really ever his girlfriend but someone who was being held against her will by his father. He could have helped her get away anytime he wanted. He could have taken the keys to the car, grabbed her and brought her back home to her family.
He discovered at the trial, that she did have a family. A mother, a father and a husband who loved and cared about her very much. She had told Tim that over and over again while she lived with them. She had begged and pleaded for the chance to get back to her husband but he refused to even listen to her. In his head they were together. There was no room for a husband or family in his brain.
One night he decided to write a letter to her husband. Every day he had showed up at the trial and when Tim wasn’t sentenced to jail he actually stood up and made such a fuss, he was escorted out of the building. Tim didn’t understand why he was so mad at the time, but now he did. So, he wrote and wrote all about Candice and the time they spent together in the cabin, how she mentioned him often and always in the highest regard and that up until the day she died he was the only one she ever loved. It broke his heart to write that all down, but it also eased his mind just a bit.
He asked his Psychiatrist to mail it for him and hoped that he actually did.
After writing to Candice’s family, he decided he would do the same for Annemarie’s. In fact, he made sure to write a note to everyone his father had killed in his presence even if it was only a sentence or two long. Even the girls who had laughed at him and made him feel bad, he realized it wasn’t their fault. They were victims of his father just like he was.
With every note he wrote the better he felt.
The hardest letters to write were for the Backstreet Boys. Well two of them were relatively easy. He barely met the two but still felt obliged to let them know he was sorry for threatening them.
The last three were hard though. Up until them, he was able to blame his father for the evil acts while he was just the victim being forced to help or watch. When it came to Kevin, Howie and Nick he had to take full responsibility for his actions and that took the longest time for him to understand. Even though he knew he was in the wrong, he still didn’t fully understand why Howie hadn’t come to his defense because in his head, everything he had done to them was out of love so sitting down to write to them was really rough.
He had started with Kevin. Apologizing for hitting him so hard with the gun and apologizing for all the hurt and guilt he felt when it came to his friends. He understood now, why he lied. He was just trying to protect the people he loved but at the time Tim thought he loved as well. He thought he loved Howie and Nick, he just didn’t fully understand what love actually was. He was hoping for forgiveness one day.
Howie’s was a pretty long letter that said a lot of those same things. He started and stopped that one about a dozen different times not knowing what exactly to say and not sure if saying he was sorry would ever be enough. He insisted that his psychiatrist buy some stuffed animals for his two boys and something nice for his wife. He felt like he owed Howie that much.
He also wrote a letter to his mom but safely tucked it away in his room. On nights when he felt an urge to see her, he would instead take out that letter and read it out loud. He wasn’t quite ready to write to his father. That would take years still.
After the first year, he felt like a different person and he was. It was on the anniversary of his first year there, that he was told he had a visitor.
At first he thought maybe it was Agent Pagano. Even long after he was convicted and his name disappeared from the news, the agent would still come to see how he was doing. Their visits were always brief, “Just checking in to see the progress you are making,” he would say. It made him feel good to know that even though the Agent didn’t approve of what he did, he also realized that he wasn’t in his right mind when he did them.
Tim always looked forward to those visits because those were the only ones he would get. He understood why but it didn’t make him feel any better.
He took a seat at the table reserved for special guests and started whistling. He realized he did this when he was nervous or excited about things. It wasn’t until the door opened and his guest walked in with a very bad limp that he actually gasped and didn’t know what to say.
They just sat there staring at each other as if not quite sure why either was there. Finally Tim said, “Your ankle isn’t healed yet?”
Kevin was still staring at him but then looked down at his leg, “It’ll never be totally healed. It was infected. I actually almost lost my leg. I’ll limp like this for the rest of my life, but at least I am alive.”
Tim nodded, “I’m sorry.” Was all he could think to say.
Kevin actually smiled and half laughed, “This actually wasn’t your fault.”
There was more silence. Tim watched Kevin carefully; he could tell he was trying to figure out what to say next. He was sure there was so much to say. He thought he would start, “Did you get my letter? Is that why you’re here?”
Kevin nodded, “Partly. Honestly, I’m not sure why I’m here. I wasn’t going to be the one too… I think I needed closure.”
“I’m sure this has been hard for you. All of you.”
Kevin nodded, “After I got your letter I was…it made me mad at first. I wanted to come here and yell and scream at you.”
“I would deserve nothing less.”
Kevin nodded, “But instead, I just had to come and see for myself. See if you meant what you really said.”
Tim looked Kevin straight in the eyes, “I meant every word. I am so very sorry for what I did to you and Howie…”
“And Nick…” Kevin added after Tim had managed to leave his name out.
“Yes, and Nick…”
He still had a hard time even thinking about Nick. In fact, for the longest time he blocked Nick completely out of his mind from that night. As if it was just Howie and then Kevin. Nick was nothing more than a figment of his imagination because what he did to Nick was completely unforgivable.
“If I could take it all back, I would. I wasn’t in my right mind, Kevin. Everything I did, I thought I was doing out of love. In my head, I loved Nick and Howie and wanted what was best for them.”
“I get that now. I didn’t at the time, but I do now.” Kevin said as he bit at his bottom lip and looked away.
“Do you think you could ever forgive me?”
He wanted validation so much at that point. To hear the word yes was all he had dreamed about for the past year. Of course in his mind it would have come from either Howie or Nick, but Kevin was the next best thing.
“I don’t know Tim, but I do know that in order for me to get on with my life, I need to move on from this. I’m not saying I forgive you for the pain you caused me, my family and my best friends, but I will say I am glad you are sorry for what you did.”
It wasn’t the validation he was looking for, but it was all he was going to get, so he nodded and began to cry. “Thank you Kevin.”
Kevin stood up looking like he wanted to say something else but instead turned to leave. “Kevin, wait a minute, okay?”
He turned around, “What?”
Tim reached into the pocket of his pants and handed him a letter, “I never mailed this one…maybe you can?”
Kevin looked down at it and closed his eyes.
He didn’t say another word but just nodded and left the room and Tim Muntkey’s life forever.
Tim was never big on visitors, up until today he only had five.
Kevin Richardson would be his last.