Balance.

Been wracking my brain over the last few days for what I was going to write about. Needed to write about something but couldn’t get right back into some of the things I have written previously. Not feeling drained, more like released from so much that I have consciously or subconsciously been holding on to for years.

Decided that writing about balance, and my struggle with it throughout my life would be a good place to start. I am still trying to find a sense of balance within this website, even. I have begun typing this out on May Twenty-Sixth, Twenty-Seventeen. My last post was May Seventeenth, Twenty-Seventeen. Just one day short of one month — from the day this website was started.

In that time, one month; fifty-one pieces were published.

Balanced out to just about half old, half new. I cranked away night by night. So much that I caused a little bit of a rift in my marriage for a few days. I lost a sense of balance in myself and my life. Focused solely on this website and writing — I saturated myself in them. Like the true addict I am. Found something new and interesting, took my fancy, and I dived headlong in. Had it not been for Megan I may have run myself into the ground affecting me and us in all sorts of negative ways.

Balance is something I have always struggled with. Plenty sure there is an earlier memory about it that my parents could recall, but one that sticks out to me most is when Pokémon first came out for the Game Boy. I was in the second grade. Had a friend at that time, Michael. We would hang out after school every Monday before his parents got home from work — so he would have company and could skip day-care.

After booting up Pokémon for the first time, though. Hanging out with Michael didn’t matter to me so much.

Enthralled by this new world that took the gameplay style I had learned from playing Final Fantasy titles, added cute creatures to collect and level, and was portable. I could play anywhere in the house and get away from everyone to play alone if I wanted to. It was the perfect escape. Which video games have proven time and time again — are. For me, and many others I can only assume.

The first Monday after getting Pokémon Blue (Alan got Red) as a gift I didn’t take the bus to Michael’s. He didn’t take the bus either — Michael went to day-care that day. I had told Michael some nonsense about why I couldn’t be at his place. Couldn’t tell you what. When I got home I don’t remember anyone else being present, though the tiles in the kitchen or walkway had recently been re-done. Was in possession of a key to the house but don’t think anyone was expecting me home — so they weren’t.

Awesome. One of my favorite things in the world is a silent, empty house.

There’s something about it. I feel in complete control of my surroundings and in my element. In those times really nothing should happen that I don’t want to. You know, in the realm of a normal calm sunny day, in the privacy of my home.

So I did what my eight year old self wanted to do, and had been thinking about all day. I ran upstairs, grabbed my Game Boy, and plopped down on the stairs to play. Couldn’t have been very far in at this point, but it had its hooks in me deeply. Doesn’t take much for a video game, movie, or any creative media — honestly. A half an hour or more must have gone by before my mom walked through the front door and asked me what the heck I was doing on the stairs with my Game Boy.

Knowing me, some good ol’ baloney came out. My mom had already gotten a phone call from Michael’s about the bullspit excuse I spewed. So she was legitimately just checking to see if I would tell the truth or not. Mom is good at that.

We had a good long talk after that. About balance, and what is important.

What friendships can provide that video games can’t, and how doing what I did would make Michael feel. I abandoned something that meant a lot to a person because I wanted to play in an imaginary world.

Still have a lot of difficulty with balance, and priorities, and how to get them right. Not professionally — there’s an iron fist in life about that able to keep me in tow. Free time though, how I manage it, what I do with it. Still a daily struggle for me.

I am an addict. I have written about that a few times now. I like to get addicted to things. Now, I am not a twelve-stepper, nor do I adhere to the normal living style of recovering addicts. I still drink alcohol and smoke marijuana. Those are two substances I believe I can control myself with and be a functioning adult perfectly well. I have seen alcohol kill plenty of people I am close to or affect them severely negatively. I really just like a glass of scotch or a beer after a long day to take off the edge. I enjoy the taste, and I don’t often get a buzz, but I do feel better about life.

Regardless of how this living style is perceived by other recovering addicts or people who are not addicts at all, I don’t care.

My current personal and professional life give evidence to my ability to be a responsible adult with these decisions, so that’s all I need to provide if you want to question me. Barring a little coke after the death of my cousin, Paul (which is the only drug I have said I would not say no to if it was in front of me, though would not seek out), I have not touched anything aside from pot and alcohol in nearly ten years.

Well, there was that time where I did some molly, also not long after Paul’s death. My [redacted] [redacted] put it best when he refused, though. “There’s nothing else I can learn from it any more”. Lo and behold, I didn’t. Spent more time trying to figure out what the hell it was cut with that I could see in it and feel in my system than actually enjoying it. Done with that one for a lifetime now.

With that said, the things that I was truly addicted to: cigarettes, personal relationships with people brought closer due to hallucinogenic & drug induced experiences, the rush of trying a new substance, and opiates. Those I really do my damnedest to stay away from.

Opiates are a tough one, because our society medically just doesn’t think about it all that much. How it is literally lab manufactured legal heroin. How addictive it is, and how many lives it destroys without proper monitoring, after care, or an alternative. I have had pain killers within these years, struggled with them as well. I am glad to have family support around me when prescribed painkillers. Things would get terribly ugly otherwise.

Feel like I have lost my way on a few paths here in this piece, but both have to do with balance, and my struggle with it.

I was imbalanced even in the beginning of this website. Thinking I could legitimately handle forcing myself to put out two things per day after I ran out of old things.

This piece was a long way of me talking about my issues with balance, and how I am doing this website almost entirely for me. I really, truly appreciate any and all audience, but also need to recognize balance and to keep myself grounded. I do not need to set precedent about how often posts will go live. I also do not need to feel guilty about when there is nothing new up some days. Nobody is paying me to do this, I do this because I desire it.

So, in the future, still expect my posts to come out at eight o’ clock in the morning. Just don’t expect them every day. Sometimes they will be, sometimes they won’t be. I am going to try and have a little bit more balance in my life, and keep things a little bit more realistic for my health.

As always, thank you for reading. The fact that I have an audience means the world to me and does push me to keep writing.

I was afraid that I would find it difficult to write again after over a week off — but as usual, the fear makes it a lot more difficult than it really is. Especially after getting started.

Thank you for reading and following. If you have any interest in looking for things I have written that you have not read yet. Please check the table of contents, here.

©2017 Trevor Elms
A name and relation has been removed from this piece for anonymity. It will not be added in the future.
Featured photo by Trevor Elms ©2006

 

Ride.

Megan is an Extrovert — with introverted tendencies. I am an introvert, which I have written about a few times. This means that we’ve literally had to work with our marriage counselor about talking, and how much of it I can handle.

How to properly express myself when there has been too much talking and I need to take a break from it. Likewise, for Megan to see this as not being a slight against her and to be able to respond calmly with understanding in kind.

True communication. Recognizing, at base, who each other are as people so that the small things that pile up on a day by day basis do not tear us apart from the foundations. True love in that fashion as well. We love each other with such depth that we want to continually work to communicate better, and reduce the daily friction that occurs between people.

One of the ways we do this is by experiencing things together in which we are not allowed, or cannot easily talk.

Something that we can then have an entire conversation about afterwards that I am not only engaged in, but am incredibly excited to jabber in detail. Movies either at home or in the theater, musicals, plays, and I’ve even dragged myself to some ballet with Megan as it was Swan Lake, after all.

We do plenty of experiences with talking as well, usually to a bar or a sporting event. I really like to listen to people talk in public. Some people call it eavesdropping, I call it observation. So when Megan and I are in a place where I feel like people could and would be doing the same to me, I don’t like to talk very much. I’m a fairly private person in public. Loud spaces make me more me — I’m willing to speak my mind more freely when the evidence in front of me tells me I am much harder to be heard.

Funny to write about being a private person in public, considering all this private information I am writing about myself for the world to see. Though, when it comes to representing myself in writing, I’ve pretty much been free with myself online since before my teens. Also at least, when it comes to who I am as a person — I don’t mind people being able to read it. My thoughts can be edited here — I’m bad at editing my spoken word at times.

Back to experiences, though. Ones where Megan and I don’t get to talk much. I’m going to write a sentence now that I think some people have a hard time understanding — or it will offend them.

Every time I get on my motorcycle I am comfortable with the idea that it may be my last time.

Megan and I haven’t spoken about it yet, though I am sure we will before this is posted in the morning. I am fairly positive she is comfortable with this now, too — and I never begrudge anyone who isn’t. You have to be to get on one of the things. If you don’t think about that decision before getting on one, you should.

Recently Megan and I truly started riding together. I have owned my motorcycle for four years and crashed it twice. Once my fault, the other not. It’s been two years since my last accident. I learn more through my accidents than anything else, and I learned a lot from those.

Don’t think I am a newbie, either. I grew up riding dirt bikes with my friend Jake in his back yard. Took the motorcycle class, got my endorsement, and then rode a moped for a significant amount of miles in Hawai’i before I got wasted and it got stolen.

Riding a motorcycle is like the rest of life, you can be cautious, but it is just as unpredictable.

So to have Megan finally comfortable, so comfortable and trusting she closes her eyes on rides, means the world to me. We do not ride dangerously, we ride extremely defensively and can count out by number when we get home how many accidents we avoided — as well as where we could have died had we not been aware.

We go on these rides together, sharing an experience that no one else will ever get. We see the breathtaking Colorado landscape and sunset — carving in the curves along it.

Knowing full well that if this is our last, it’s our last together.

That is one of the very best things about riding my motorcycle with Megan. It is an experience we share together where at any moment, we could both perish. I know that sounds terrifying to people — but I have have found that being scared of death itself is a great way to not actually live. It’s a great way to hold yourself back from things you want.

When Megan and I get on that motorcycle together, we are comfortable with the idea of Death taking us under its cloak and never letting go. We’re not asking for it, we don’t want it. We sure as hell don’t spend the entire ride worrying about it, though.

No, it’s that slight level of fear that is needed to ride and stay safe. The one that can be acknowledged but conquered. With warm air flowing all around, and a rumbling engine beneath. It’s that feeling of taking back some of the choices life makes for us, and making a choice for ourselves. Doing and experiencing what we want, because it makes our daily life more enjoyable and brings us closer together as people and as a couple.

Riding is one of the many things Megan and I do as opposites so that we can communicate better and enjoy each others’ company better. It’s quickly become one of our very favorite things to do now that Megan is so much more comfortable than she used to be.

Now we can go through this year’s catalogue to pick out a better seat and louder pipes for the highway — because the thing is completely paid off! I wrote about catharsis and football, how there are things that give me great release. I just feel better about life after a ride. Not even football compares to how happy and complete I feel as a person — when Megan is on the back of my motorcycle and we are riding through beautiful scenery.

I’m really happy that as the years go on we are still finding new ways to properly enjoy and appreciate each others’ company. I look forward to seeing what rides we map out next in life.

Thank you for reading.

©2017 Trevor Elms
Featured photo by Trevor Elms, Megan Elms Pictured. ©2017

 

Superman.

Haven’t been reading all that many comic books lately. Not sure why. I think a lot of it has to do with my free time. I want to be writing or doing something else. Sure when the winter comes around again and Megan and I aren’t able to go on so many rides — I’ll be reading more regularly again.

Even though I’m not reading them much at the moment, comic books and their characters are very much a part of who I am. My pantheon, if you will. I’ve written more subtlety at times, and others not; I’m not a believer. So when it comes to symbols and moral compasses that I like to identify with and have a sense of “faith” with,

comic book super heroes fill that space.

One of them above all I really see as the manifestation of being a good person, symbol of positivity, and hope. Superman. If I am ever having a moment where I don’t know what to do, or feel like my issues with my emotions might get the better of me. I just think of Clark Kent.

I wasn’t always this way. For the longest time Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern was my favorite super hero. He still is, to an extent. Originally I loved him because that was the longest and coolest comic book I had growing up. It was a collection of the original Hal Jordan origin, a few other issues, an Alan Scott issue, and then a Kyle Rayner issue or two. If you don’t understand these names, that’s okay. I love Hal Jordan because he is a brash ladies’ man with a cool ring that can do anything with imagination.

That was my kinda gig growing up. I wanted to be and was that guy, with a really powerful imagination and some major reckless abandon. Come twenty-thirteen and Man of Steel, though, everything changed.

At this time I was not much of a Superman person, and I hadn’t read all that many comic books either. Just the stack of thirty or forty I had growing up, none of them being about him. Plus all the New 52 and Post Crisis Green Lantern I had read at the time. I subscribed to the general idea that Superman was a boring character and was overpowered, and I really only read comics for GL.

Man of Steel was on my radar purely because it is a Zack Snyder film.

Zack is the director that really took hold of me with his visuals and unabashed style in my teenage years. My brother Alan introduced me to his first movie Dawn of the Dead not long after it came out on DVD. By the time 300 came around I was able to see ‘R’ rated movies in theaters, and did so for the first time when it released.

Watchmen got me particularly interested in actually heavily reading comic books beyond the ones I grew up with — not long after my mental break with reality. It kind of reawakened that spark.

So when I discovered Zack was working on a Superman movie, I was all in. Didn’t have to watch any trailers and didn’t even want to. Since I had some negative preconceptions about Superman I felt like this was the only way to go in — completely blind. Used to do it less, but I am doing it more and more these days. I honestly think it makes films better — to go in blind.

Know the genre, director, actors, screenwriter, studio — what have you, ignore the trailers. In my experience anyways. If you’re on the fence, by all means. If you already know you are going to go? Why bother spoiling any aspect of it for yourself?

I think this is the best thing I did. Not only that, I went to see Man of Steel completely alone, weeks after release, in a nearly empty theater. That may sound super lonely to some people, and if it does — you can’t imagine how stoked I was.

man_of_steel_poster_3_-625393010135

I’m quite the introvert. Alone time doesn’t make me feel alone, it makes me feel complete. I like to spend time with people but it really drains my energy more than anything else.

That’s why I love Megan so much, she’s one of the few people who wears down my energy incredibly slowly. I still need time away even from her and the pets to center myself, but not anywhere near as often as I do from people. The dreaded people.

Because of this — a nearly empty theater with no one’s crinkling, crying, coughing, or chattering, was great. It also meant that when the movie was loud enough I could do what I like to do in intense moments at home — exclaim. Not loudly of course, certainly not loudly enough to be heard from the single couple more than ten rows ahead of me.

Enough that in moments of great triumph I can feel it even more, though. Even just to myself. I love that feeling. Despite a lot of popular opinion that I have found online, I feel like Man of Steel is filled with many moments of triumph and hope. It’s what really turned me on to Superman as a character. The pragmatism of Jonathan teaching Clark how to be a good person, because he should be. Not for any other reason. Because it is the right thing to do. There was also the realism and fear of what this dark and judgmental world, prone to anger of things they don’t understand — would do.

It all felt so real to me. Hope, intertwined within this constant barrage of life trying to make it all hopeless.

There really wasn’t anything that made me feel like he was overpowered, too. The thing about Superman that “holds him back” is his humanity. He was also just a kid starting out in Man of Steel, so he was super green and didn’t know what he was doing. His humanity would get in the way during the fights though. Either from when he lost his cool for his mother being attacked — causing him to bring the fight into Smallville which gets laid waste. To in the same fight saving a helicopter pilot from a death plunge, leaving him open for attack.

There was just such practical good person and hopefulness throughout the whole movie for me. The real life kind. Which is hilarious considering the subject matter of a man flying around in tights and a cape.

Man of Steel was the movie that got me to start reading Superman comics, which then blew open the doors of the rest of the DC Universe for me, which then blew open the doors of Marvel Universe (616), the Mignolaverse, The Walking Dead, etc. etc.

Superman, though. Superman is my symbol.

I am a person that does not believe in any established higher being, I am one of a very populated species on a rock floating in space that circles around a star. In a universe riddled with billions of floating rocks following this same pattern. It’s hard for me to believe there isn’t other life out there — just based on the pure mathematics of it.

So when I am feeling overwhelmed, enraged, or plain depressed. I can think about the guy in blue tights and a red cape with a giant “S” on his chest. Typically he’s smiling and telling me to pick my head up, ’cause he’s got my back.

He’s a good person, like me, just trying to get through life day by day. He just happens to have more power than you and I. So he chooses to make a difference.

I think whoever your Superman is, if they’re doing the same for you as he is for me, then they’ve got to be a pretty good person. Just follow their lead.

Superman-2
Art by Tim Sale & Bjarne Hansen ©1998

Thank you for reading.

©2017 Trevor Elms
Featured image by Frank Quitely & Jamie Grant. ©2005

Gun.

Recently I wrote in my story Grocery about my fears of losing my mind and potentially going to jail for it. This is going to be the story of how I kept my cool as best I have since my legal troubles — and how I nearly went to prison for it anyways.

I was on probation for felonies, aware that this meant I was unable to own a gun. My awareness however seemed to skip over the fact that I could not even handle a gun. For months I’d been going up to the mountains shooting with a friend.

I am comfortable with and know how to properly handle a firearm.

At this time I was working for Hustle Paintball — and if I wasn’t the Operations Manager yet, was very close to it. Small place, I got in at the basement. I was “important”. Because of this I knew the combination to the gun safe as well as the fact that it already had a handgun with a round in the chamber — and a full magazine to go in case of emergency. I want to say it was a glock.

I look forward to when I do, because I can — I have not held a gun since last holding that one.

I was working late in our first retail location. We had extended some hours of the week to around eight at night and took shifts taking care of it. This was paintball, and I love the sport — but we had plenty of bad customers like any industry.

The particular type of customer I am talking about is the kind that likes to talk really big, buy really small, and then return something after it has been used for a full day. That type of customer.

We as a respectable establishment had allowed it to go on long enough, and stopped allowing it. Then the customer stooped to sending his kid in alone, trying to guilt us into giving the refund.

I had finally had it that day. I wasn’t going to give him the refund no matter what. I explained to the kid exactly what his dad was doing and how it wasn’t cool. That no person with respect would be doing that.

I don’t think dad liked that very much. After the kid left the store, most likely to relay everything just said — he came in with a very large huff.

Now I am not a large man, but I am not small either. I’m more of an actual man now, physically than I was then — and it seems I have gotten slightly taller as well. I was at this time a good 5′ 11″ (and some change), 195 lbs., though.

This chucklehead about my height, maybe a little shorter — looked like his upper half was just sweating with the steroids in his blood stream. Certainly seemed to enjoy his tanning beds, too.

Hey, you do you, I got no problems with it — just don’t be this guy aside from that. I’m only describing him.

With this wild character established, I can continue about how he charged in across an overly large, open, and empty retail area. He had such purpose and anger in his strides. It was really a sight to behold — how confident he was that his money was going to be returned to him and that he would be allowed to continue shopping at the establishment. Like a retail location can’t handle losing a single unreasonable customer.

The veins in his neck were already popping when he addressed me as “kid” — I believe I was twenty-one at this time. Definitely a kid in many ways, definitely didn’t like being called that. It’s been long now and I tuned him out enough during — so I can’t remember minute details of the dialogue.

I just remember a lot of flapping arms and pointing, with threats of friends and loss of money.

I remember telling him politely over and over that his business was no longer allowed at the establishment. That we would not be accepting his return or his refund, as our legal return policy stated we did not have to — and that I would like him to leave the premises as soon as possible. That he was now trespassing.

I knew there were cameras watching, which was a good thing. I however did not think about the fact that they did not record audio. A big mistake I made in being able to press charges or not at the end of this whole ordeal was the fact that I did not point to the exit. I don’t think this is an experience I will go through again as I do not ever intend to work in retail again, but I will never forget that mistake — nor will I repeat it.

Angry-Chicken-Leg-Muscle-Man, didn’t want to hear any of it and refused to go anywhere.

So I did the next best thing, I pretended to give him what he wanted. I told him that if he walked calmly to the superfluous foyer we had, that I would go into the office and process his refund (as I needed to use “managerial computer powers” to do so). I would then walk out of the office, cash in hand and give it to him. The caveat being he had to wait patiently and quietly.

This is when I made a decision for my and others’ safety that could have changed my life forever.

I was not at the store by myself, though I was the only one at the store running it. A couple of friends and one of their girlfriends were there. One of them was at the time the resident part-time paintball marker tech and he was doing maintenance on a bunch of them.

When I walked into the office, which Mr. Aggressive could see through a window from the foyer; I went directly to the gun safe. Made another mistake here — know the gun was a glock now. Did just about everything correctly, I pulled it out of the safe, barrel down towards the ground. Proper finger discipline straight out along grip, above the trigger, not touching it. Then I slipped this loaded and ready firearm with no standard safety — into my waistband.

Mr. Aggressive did not take kindly to this action and left the premises immediately. He then called the cops from his truck. I’m very happy he called the police officers, I just wish they could have arrested him for falsifying a report. This man had already showed his true colors earlier trying to use his kid as a guilt chip on adults for a whack refund request. He took it a step further though when he told the police that I pointed the gun at him, cocked to the side like some wannabe gangster and said:

“You scared, bitch? You want some?”

I get if you’re going to try and embellish to make a point, but at least make it somewhat believable. Thank goodness for those cameras. The police officers honestly seemed inclined to believe him until I showed them the footage. That was only the beginning of my concern, though.

I remember them asking me if there was anything I needed to tell them for the report. Couldn’t tell at that time if they had already run my details and were probing — or if they actually didn’t know. So I told them all about my probation and what I was going through. I told them my concern and that I really didn’t want this to negatively affect my recovery and rehabilitation as a citizen.

I was honest.

If they hadn’t before, I know they did after this because things took an even more serious turn. It went from them asking me questions like I was a victim — to treating me like a criminal. They told me to sit tight and that they needed to get in touch with their superior. I got to sit for a good long while.

If I remember correctly it was about forty five minutes later one of the officers came back with more warmth again. He reminded me that I am on probation for some serious felonies and that I cannot handle a gun. He asked me if I understood that. I told him I understood that I could not be in possession of one by law, but I took that to mean I could not own one. Not that I could not touch one. I was educated this is not the case.

Some may call it luck, I call it being a responsible adult. I was let off with a warning.

I know they talked to my P.O. for a time, I think a lot of me getting let off and not being charged with breaking my probation — is how responsible I was about it.

I did not miss an appointment. I was not ever late. I was always in touch and kept them up to date. I took my probation extremely seriously from day one because I had friends growing up that got on probation for the smallest thing and were still on it ten years later because they couldn’t make smart decisions. Probation gave me the discipline I didn’t manage to learn growing up.

To this day, though. As a normal functioning citizen that is not seeking trouble, this is the most I had feared for my safety and others — from another human being. I feel pretty proud of myself for keeping my calm and for taking care of the situation in a really logical fashion. Especially because at this time I was not taking medication or admitting to my mental illness.

I’m not exactly sure what the deeper meaning is in this one other than keep your cool, be smart, and learn from your mistakes.

It’s not the easiest thing to do all these things, all the time. Though I do think striving to can help us through a lot.

Thank you for reading.

©2017 Trevor Elms.
Featured photo by Douglas Montgomery ©2011, Trevor Elms pictured.

 

 

Belt.

Belts are great. They hold up your pants. Especially for men like me who have nothing to hold up their pants without one. There is a particular belt I own that means the world to me, twice over. It’s the twice over part that gets me.

You see, when I took this belt that I am talking about; from my grandfather’s corpse. I expected to hold on to it for the rest of my life. It’s a symbol to me, at that very moment it became one. The Model-T on that belt buckle is like my “S” insignia, it became hope.

If you have been following my writing for some time I am sure you have read about my cousin, Paul. Paul was the little brother I never had. He looked up to me with these eyes. Eyes I have only been able to enjoy again since my nieces and nephews began to use them. He was also my best friend at the same time — because we were exactly two years apart. So it flipped between the two, but more often than not he would look at me with such admiration. He did it more as I got older, and I still miss it dearly.

It’s this reason why no matter what anyone tells me, I feel a particular guilt about his loss.

I know he had plenty other influences around him, and I saw him but maybe twice a year for most of our lives after our early childhood — but damn do so many of those times define me. I want to think they did him too.

I remember before he was even smoking cigarettes — riding bicycles to town so I could go buy some. He would ask to have one and I would oblige, knowing full well if he wanted to no one was going to stop him anyways. It’s not the sharing that sticks out to me, it’s the bicycle ride.

Just like my friend Alex, so much of the time I spent with Paul was purely with him. Just him. We didn’t need or want anything else, and so many memories I have of him are like titanium encrusted across my brain. So a lot of the things I said and did, I feel like they stuck with him.

Like I wrote, I know there were a multitude of other influences and I was far from the largest. But I still did then and now feel a modicum guilt for the path he went down and ended at. Paul made his own choices, but I think with any loss we feel like there is more we could have done.

This is going to be about what I did do, though. I gave him the belt.

It’s funny, thinking on it — I didn’t even physically hand it to him. I believe I gave it to my Mom and she gave it to my Aunt Mary to give to him. That titanium memory though is from Megan and I’s wedding. May 4th, 2013. Just over four years ago now.

Belt 2
From left to right: Paul Perkins, Mary Pillivant Perkins, Kevin Perkins at the Elms/Taft wedding. Photo by unknown. ©2013

The wedding was over. The reception was over. It was the after party. I can’t remember which relative’s room we were in, but it was facing on the starboard side of the hotel. There were two beds, most likely queen — it was in the Boulderado in Boulder, CO, which is a historic and old place. You know the deal, shiny whites and golds, filigree, encrusted and rimmed mirrors, don’t forget the pretty chandeliers. This room wasn’t filled with all those things, but there were two windows on the far side facing as you walked in.

Paul and I stood amongst the room that was so loud we got called in on a few times. We were center, in front of the beds. Center again, in the gap between the door and the windows. Center. In a world of our own. We just stood there and talked. It’s one of those conversations I only got to have with him once and I was looking forward to checking in on it a few years later to see how things progressed.

It started with him telling me he did not like my now wife until that very day.

Something he saw in her, in me, in us that day. It made him realize something about growing up. How he didn’t exactly know everything. He apologized for it and we had a great heart to heart about him getting to know Megan better.

There was alcohol involved, but I know we both remembered this whole conversation clear as day. Since he had already broached serious subjects I decided that it was the perfect time for me to have yet another talk about his health, and making the right decisions — not putting his body in danger by making bad ones. I was well within my recovery at this time. I was not off probation, but I was on emails only at that point.

I said to him, after probing questions about what his plans were over the next couple years,

“Paul, I’m going to give you Grandpa’s belt. Understand something. If you fuck up again I am going to take it back. I don’t want it back, you don’t want to give it back. It’s Grandpa’s belt.”

He was over the moon about it. I remember him calling me after he got it and being concerned about needing to put a hole in it.

“Paul, Grandpa had a fatter waist than me, I put a hole in it. No worries, wear the thing.”

I really, truly, never wanted that belt back. I am not going to lie, I missed it sometimes. When I would see him and he wasn’t wearing it, I got bummed out — but I know he wore it. From my own recollection, family’s… and how worn that new hole is.

This is why I say the belt means the world twice over to me. I took it off my Grandfather, I hoped to inspire my cousin, and now I keep them alive inside and on me with that belt. I think about them both every day. I have them with me every day.

What I wouldn’t give, though. To be bummed about him not wearing that belt when he could be.

Thank you for reading.

©2017 Trevor Elms.
Featured photo by Trevor Elms ©2017

Grocery.

Feeling a little drained of my writing juice again. One must push on, though. We don’t get better or accomplish anything by sitting on our laurels. Now I am at the point of writing in multiple drafts before I hit my groove and finish one. Maybe I finish this on this sentence, or maybe I go to another draft and keep writing. One will be finished.

I’ve felt I was beginning to ramble a bit there but I think that is a good thing. Sometimes I still ramble, and sometimes I am still really uncomfortable and just don’t feel mentally healthy. A thing that I no longer feel uncomfortable about is going into grocery stores.

Something happened after I lost my marbles. I was terrified of grocery stores. I think the most interesting thing about it is I have always been able to explain it — I even owned it when it was happening. I would refuse to go to grocery stores alone and be very uncomfortable in them. I’m pretty sure when Alex visited me in Hawai’i we only went to ABCs and the like. Mom did the grocery shopping.

I have not been able to explain completely why, but the repetition of all the items made me feel really uncomfortable.

I’d hazard to say it was almost like a form of claustrophobia? There’s plenty of room in grocery stores so that is the worst way to explain it. I felt like all the products on the shelves and produce in the baskets were aggressive. Like they were an army encroaching with knives lodged in their teeth to pounce on me. That was a terribly oppressive feeling to be getting from Aunt Jemima, Mr. Peanut, & the Green Giant.

I felt like shopping carts were warthogs snorting and charging at me. When a squeaky wheel went by it would summon a twitch.

I would still at times have thoughts that the people handing out food samples might want to poison me.

This was after getting out of Kahi Mohala, this was after starting therapy, this was just an every day thing that I had to deal with and fight against. It lasted up until around five or six years ago as well. I have Megan to thank for helping me through it because those feelings don’t come up any more. I used to have even more that I can’t even remember and am happy to be so far removed from the ordeal now that I don’t.

Megan accomplished this feat in the sweetest of ways, too. She would just softly nudge me to go to the grocery store for one thing. In and out. Just continually dip my feet in. I think there was one day where Megan was out of town and I needed to get more than one thing. If I remember correctly she stayed with me on the phone and walked me through the aisles so that I didn’t lose myself in there.

That’s certainly a laughable matter, a grown man getting lost in a grocery store — but I wasn’t laughing at the time. It was a matter that needed to be taken seriously and I needed to keep myself grounded and focused. Otherwise I very well could have just lost myself in an abyss of madness again. Who knows what I could have done the second time, and I surely would have broken my probation, therefore giving me a cool one-hundred-twenty years.

I can’t remember exactly how the DA came up with that one, but I think I remember it having to do with my plea deal then being broken at that point, so the assault would revert to being on a police officer — and they would have the ability to double the max sentence of all crimes committed. That would be a really hairy situation to put myself in over beef jerky looking at me the wrong way.

It’s my awareness about these feelings and the fact that they were unhealthy that differentiated me from the person who makes an irreversible scene. That’s it.

I think that’s something that some people don’t realize about mental illness. I am much more balanced now that I’m far removed from my substance abuse and mental break with reality. For the longest time, though,  I was just on the verge of cracking again.

This was before I got on medication, I was still refusing my diagnosis of being bi-polar. Let’s be honest here too — these things I  was dealing with go a bit beyond bi-polar anyways.

Megan’s small pushes in the direction of getting myself acclimated with them was perfect, though. She wouldn’t ever belittle me or make fun of me for it, but she would totally call out my nonsense and say that it was something I needed to work on to function. That I would need to go to the grocery store at times because she wouldn’t be able to go for me.

When I write it out like that I feel like it may make her sound a bit motherly. She definitely wasn’t motherly. At that time it was more like an embarrassed girlfriend wondering what cuckoo she had gotten herself stuck with. I needed every bit of that.

Megan would often make me laugh at all the ridiculous stuff that coming out of my insanity would cause me to do. The fear of grocery stores sticks out to me most of all — and the others were so minute that I would have to ask her, I have forgotten.

This is another time where I am not sure what the meaning is, but damnit I am going to try and find one, and it’s going to be about conquering your fears. I picked this draft because I just needed to pick something. I had a fear that I wasn’t going to be able to write a full article because I haven’t in a couple days and lost a bit of my spark for it.

Here I am nine-hundred-ninety-five words in. Just a few more to go and I have a full piece to edit and post in the morning. Just like my fear of grocery stores. Conquering it started small but then it grew into something more and more. Until the journey to the end becomes so overbearing compared to the fear of the beginning that you end up seeing the end much sooner than you may have thought.

It’s really nice to set the mind to conquering a fear, and then doing it.

Thank you for reading.

©2017 Trevor Elms.
Featured Photo by Trevor Elms ©2016

Fifteen Minutes.

Dahlia is a mutt of epic proportions. We’ve done a DNA test on her. Just under fifteen percent shar pei, less than five percent of chow chow & bernese mountain dog. The rest of her is thousands of other breeds with such a small percentage that it could not be discerned what they were.

She is incredibly healthy at nearly 6.5 years old and still learning new things. Many dog owners will say this about their own, and I am no different; she is the smartest dog I know.

Sometimes I feel like animals are not given enough credit just because they don’t speak our language.

For one, from what I know about history and the evolution of human bone structure over many thousands of years — we are animals. We are a part of the animal kingdom just the same.

We wear clothing and create machines while drinking roasted and distilled beans. We have also selectively bred a common ancestor of the gray wolf so that we can have these creatures by our side. However all the empirical evidence standing in front of us says we came from the Earth just as naked, just as in-eloquent, and just as naive.

That is why my dog understanding what “fifteen minutes” means is so fascinating to me.

Make no mistake, it’s not that she understands exactly what “fifteen minutes” is, but her response is extraordinary just the same.

One of the things that sticks out to me is how she listens. Like with human beings she makes a connection via looking dominantly at the eye of her right. I am not sure if you have noticed this, we do it quite subconsciously — but this is how one human looks properly in another’s eyes. We use our right eye and focus on the other’s left — it creates cohesive eye to eye contact.

Dogs having this ability really floors me every now and again. It is part of what  I understand makes them “man’s best friend”. As you can see in the featured photo above — she’s known how to look at a camera from very early on as well. It’s clear cats have this ability too, they just don’t care to do it often, or at all, depending.

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Dahlia, just over 4 years old. February 1st, ©2015 Photo taken by Megan Elms.

When I call her name calmly, “Dahlia” — the reaction is just the same as a human. Instant response in the direction of the utterance.

She will come up to me sometimes, just after having been brought inside or after dinner looking for something. It will not be time for what it is she is asking for — which could be an entire rundown from getting a duck treat, or checking the window to let her know I am aware of what she needs to tell me about.

We will make eye contact, just the same as I would with you, reading this writing. I say to her “fifteen minutes”, with love — and a touch of sternness. She will typically (though not always) immediately drop eye contact with a high-pitched “hmph” — as much as a dog can manage anyhow. She likes to talk like us, a lot. She just isn’t capable of the same sounds.

Then it will be anywhere from ten minutes to an hour, but she comes back looking for the same exact thing she was asking for — and I give it to her. Satisfied she will then lie down for a nap.

This is just one of the many things she is capable of understanding. Dahlia’s ears will often pick up when the word “she” is used around her. Megan and I have also noticed that she is regularly able to tell the difference between “she” when we are talking about the cat, and “she” when we are talking about her. We noticed this based on how invested her ears are in what we are talking about.

When we drive to Niwot and roll down the windows on 63rd St. — she starts to go crazy whining, wagging, and sniffing up a storm.

She knows exactly where we are going, and who we are going to see. It’s so touching when Megan and I take her to the empty house for our own getaway weekend. She will grab a bone from the basket, run a full circle around the first floor, run up the stairs — and then stop. Dahlia will then realize her plight and ask to go outside. Where she would ask to go if they were home, too — because she is a dog.

Dahlia creates attachments to stuffed animals that she is not ready to fully disembowel yet. She has a pig almost five years old that my brother gave her. We legitimately have to hide it when other dogs come over because she is possessive of it. She won’t get snippy right away, but she gets very upset and doesn’t want to share. She will share all the rest of the toys however begrudgingly, but nobody touches the pig. I would hazard to say at request — considering the eyes Megan and I have both gotten about that thing.

We both believe the attachment to the pig comes from it being given to her by Alan. She sees him but maybe twice a year and it’s the most excited we see her in that timeframe — when he first walks through the door.

Dahlia is happy, healthy, inquisitive, and aware.

It’s the awareness I want to focus in on as I close out this piece. Dahlia is not the first of her species, or the only species that I have seen an awareness of some kind in. Plenty of them may not have the same level of awareness as a dog, but it is awareness — and thoughts just the same. Plenty have more awareness than a dog, just not the the same strength of connection with us.

There’s a bit of cognitive dissonance I have to have when I think and feel these things. Because I very much love to eat meat and I have no intention of stopping. Cows have been bred to have much less awareness, and chickens really don’t have much to begin with. Though I do know what goes on and I just have to live with that as something that happens in nature. Nature is unforgiving and cutthroat.

So it’s just something I like to appreciate when I can. That we share this planet with all sorts of animals that there is a connection with. An awareness and sense of some kind. Maybe not the most provoking of thought — but it is life that can feel pain, loss, happiness, fear, comfort, and plenty other emotions.

It makes our connection with Dahlia just that much more special. Plenty of people call themselves “Mom” or “Dad” when they have pets, and it really isn’t off. Dahlia looks to us as her protectors and defers to us as her parents. She doesn’t understand this world without us. The three of us have developed a language where she understands us and we understand her.

I feel pretty lucky to have that connection with a completely different species.

fifteen-minutes
Dahlia, just over 6 years old. February 6th, ©2017. Photo by Trevor Elms

Thank you for reading.

©2017 Trevor Elms
Featured photo by Trevor Elms ©2011

Football.

Catharsis. One of my very favorite words. Football is something that gives me great catharsis. Right up there with being tattooed, & riding my motorcycle. I love to watch football with my family, or even entirely by myself at home. Because of the great catharsis it gives me to get emotionally invested in my team and the game — and give in to those emotions entirely during it.

This is something I wish I understood more when playing ice hockey. I’d like to have been more emotionally invested in the game, anything, in those times. Though I guess when you don’t understand emotions at all it’s hard to understand your own — as well as when and how to harness them.

I really wasn’t the biggest football fan until turning nineteen, going crazy, meeting Megan, & starting mandatory therapy. Now, I was a Broncos fan — since the start of the 1997 and Super Bowl XXXII winning season. Which was when I was getting Sports Illustrated Kids in Andover. Many articles about Terrell Davis & John Elway, my then idols, were consumed. I was also eight years old and had spent a fair chunk of my life outside of the US playing soccer as a goalie on concrete during lunch. My first real exposure to football that I can actively remember was after moving to Andover, and watching Super Bowl thirty-two on the fancy big screen.

I went to a number of Broncos games and CU Buffs games growing up. Relatives will tell you I’ve also been to a handful of Patriots practices at Gillette field, don’t believe them. Not a word, I won’t admit to it any longer.

Football just didn’t click with me, though. Elway’s retirement and Davis’ subsequent injury-forced one are the first real heartbreaks I can remember. Aside from losing my great-grandmother, Nana. So I kind of forsake the sport for a good amount of time.

It just awoke in me one day, though. I can’t even remember what caused it.

My brother has given me a hard time and tried to postulate that it was because of the Tim Tebow season. However I have fine evidence of me watching the Broncos have a grand ol’ time fielding Kyle Orton — and watching that garbage fire of a season before 2011 when he was thankfully replaced part way through. I remember really disliking Josh McDaniels as well.

Of the ones I have seen, that 2011 season is the most hilariously successful season the Broncos have had. Watching that glorified halfback attempt to hit the broad side of a barn for three quarters, then have the defense & Von Miller’s Defensive Rookie of the Year season — keep it close to save his butt. The guy continued on to pull out some halfback/quarterback nonsense, to win the game.

It must have been so infuriating for the opposing fans. Then there’s that wildcard playoff game against the Steelers. Where the Broncos won the first overtime game with the updated rules in league history — on the first play. On a Tim Tebow pass of about 15 yards to Demaryius Thomas who took it to the house.

What I really want to talk about though is the stadium experience, that’s my favorite.

There’s absolutely nothing like it for me. I have been to a lot of places and experienced many different things, going to a live NFL football game is one of my very favorites. I’ve certainly found it to be one of the greatest natural highs there is for me. Even starting with waking up on game day. Megan and I, or anyone that I go with, typically make a whole day of it. It’s a vacation, for that day, to Mile High and the surrounding area.

Orange, a sea of orange as far as the eye can see is something that just gives me such warmth and comraderie. I feel like I am a part of something that is just in general positive and fun. I’ve met and shared so many laughs with strangers whose faces I will never forget and names I will never remember.

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A literal sea of orange at the Civic Center in Denver. Super Bowl 50 Parade — February 9th, ©2016. Photo by Trevor Elms.

Usually we sit in the five-hundreds which are the highest section up. I prefer to sit in the center field and those are the most affordable tickets for us at this time. I also like to be able to see the whole game. As long as I can read the numbers I am good, and there’s not a bad seat at Mile High for seeing digits effectively. It’s live all-22 film, I will never get enough of it.

That’s what’s so frustrating about watching the sport on TV sometimes. They spend so much time focusing on the football and the quarterback that you honestly don’t see all that much. There’s been so many times now I have been at a game and I see a big bomb in our favor or theirs before it even happens. I love groaning or gasping before the ball is even thrown — it’s exhilarating.

Speaking of exhilarating, let’s talk about the crowd.

That’s where most of the catharsis comes from. Starting with the walk up the ramps to the five-hundreds where I can see the crowd below and there’s just such anticipation that can be felt in the air. The excitement is palpable and invigorating! It just makes me feel satisfied with life. That I am at a place with all kinds of human beings just trying to get through this chaotic journey of ours. This is something we all share — regardless of religion, political beliefs, or any other such thing that causes people to not like each other for whatever reason; we share this. We are all football fans and share a love of something together.

Of course there are always jerks that either drink too much or take rivalry too seriously. However, for the most part the grand majority of the crowd I have found to be good respectable people looking to have a good time. I’ve had great heckling sessions with all kinds of opposing fans where we end the game no matter the score with, “good game” and shake hands.

When kickoff — kicks off, that is when I get to release any frustration, anger, depression, or any other in a breadth of emotions that just need release.

One of my favorite things about Mile High is not only how loud people are with their vocal cords. It’s the stomping. You can literally feel it throughout the stadium. From what I understand it isn’t anywhere near what the experience was in the original Mile High — but it’s good enough for me.

I get to roar at the top of my lungs. It’s absolutely liberating in the best of ways. My parents always taught me not to boo excepting very particular circumstances, and not to curse because there’s always going to be kids. So I end up yelling things like “Get him! Saaaaaaaack! Pansy! Laaaaamo!” or I just yell with all my might. Sometimes I will go so hard I almost pull a muscle in my core. I have before, it’s not fun — but it is at the same time. I do slip up and say nasty things sometimes, I try not to though.

Even when we lose, I feel better about life after a football game; that’s true catharsis.

I think these are things we need to find, escape — release. I’m learning as I get older that true experiences are meaning more to me too. I absolutely love video games and comic books, but there’s really not anything like actually going out and experiencing the world. Doing something with my body and with other people. It’s making me feel more connected and less of a meaningless speck.

At the end of the day because I am quite a bit of a nihilist (sans the rejecting moral principles portion) — I still think I am a meaningless speck, on a meaningless rock, in an ocean of so many meaningless rocks and stars that if you tried to visualize the number it would wrap around the Earth many times over.

But, in a way, isn’t that what makes life and this existence beautiful?

That if all I have, is this and these experiences? That I do what I can now because there is nothing, and no one after? It makes me feel pretty optimistic, really. The fact that I am happy and enjoying my life. This website in a morbid kind of way is meant to be my mark. Regardless of if people like this or want to read it, find meaning or not — I am finding meaning in it.

Just like football. What football means to me is that it is absolutely a part of me. It gives me great catharsis and happiness. It allows me to push on and appreciate what I have when I wonder, truly, if anything myself and we as a species does matters. Because honestly, from what I know about space, stars, time, & the universe — it would go on without a sneeze if we disappeared tomorrow.

That makes football, and life, so spectacular to think about for me. I’m really happy I get to experience these things, with people I love. That is what the meaning of life is to me.

Thank you for reading.

©2017 Trevor Elms
Featured photo taken by Trevor Elms ©2015, From left to right: Trevor Elms, Alan Elms.

Pops.

This isn’t something I was intending to write yet. I’m going to be honest though, I was drinking and I got to thinking about him so couldn’t help myself. Don’t worry. I don’t write inebriated for the most part — I will start a draft, close it, and finish it another time as I am now.

My Pops, my Dad, my Father, my Hero, my Man, my Idol, my Map; has saved my life.

Probably more than I can recall. I’m sure he knows more than I do. This is about the one time, though. The one time he had a conversation with me that I know he remembers maybe more than any other.

I’ve heard it a lot of times from his perspective, but I’m not sure yet I’ve shared it from mine. This will be the closest in the timeline yet that I have written about — to when I lost my mind.

Kahi Mohala
The courtyard my family and I threw a football together in, at Kahi Mohala. Photographer unknown.

I was still in the mental hospital at this point, Kahi Mohala. It is a facility that I volunteered (was deftly convinced) to put myself in after being bailed out of jail, in tow of my Mother. I remember trying to hide from the “Yakuza” in the car seat — backed all the way down so nobody could see me, on the way there. It wasn’t even just on the way there. We stopped at another facility beforehand that didn’t have the capacity? Or something. Before that we went to the Punchbowl memorial. That is when I remember realizing I was being “followed”, though it wasn’t even the tenth time I’d made that realization in the preceding few days.

If you go to the memorial today, I remember signing the guest book. It was 2008. If the page is still there I may have signed it Trevor, Trayber, Travor, Trebor, or otherwise. It would have been December 24th.

That and my soap totem are a story for another day, though.

I remember my Pops and I sitting in some furniture. It was on the other side of some glass, with an enclosed garden beyond it. There was a, if I remember, budless tree surrounded by rocks within the garden.

I sat in the chair, facing parallel with the glass on its right side. I cannot remember the color — but the pattern was raised, and consistent. It created a sense of comfort.

Pops sat nearest to me in the corner of a sofa. The sofa was placed in a ninety-degree rotation of the chair, facing to view out the glass. It was of the same fabric. I need to place the scene very deliberately because that is the last I can remember of it.

Everything else I can remember is the pure intensity in his eyes.

I wrote earlier that I was deftly convinced to volunteer myself unto this place. It couldn’t have been seventy-two hours after that — I decided I was perfectly sane and should be released. Pops’ entire mission was to convince me not only to stay, but that I wanted to stay, and he succeeded.

He remembers the exact words he used with much more lucidity than I. What is in my memory though is that he made me feel like I needed the people in that place. Not only for my future as a functioning adult in society, but as a person.

Pops remembers convincing me to stay because I needed the doctors to tell the lawyers and the judge that I was just some kid that made a mistake and needed to learn from it. I remember him convincing me that those doctors, and those nurses, actually had my best interests in heart.

That I was safe. That I was where I should be and that I wasn’t okay.

It was like a pinhole camera. My Dad was the light and he found his focus, holding on for dear life — my dear life. I was not at this time capable of looking outside my insanity. I was still bopping to random Beyonce songs on the radio and drawing really uninteresting tribal shapes thinking I was some sort of messiah.

He broke through, though. I can only explain how by the intensity of the love that he had within his eyes when he spoke to me. I’m not sure I have ever seen so much concern and care in a man’s eyes before. It makes me feel like a better person just thinking about it now. The connection he made with me, and with his eyes in that time — legitimately brought me into a moment of true, realistic, clarity.

I don’t remember what it looked like, but I know he does. He’s told me about it. That he could see my body language, facial expression, and own eye contact — return to normal for just the slightest of moments. Enough for it to register.

It wasn’t shortly after I went into an existential conversation about how the Devil & Angels live among us and I am a combination of them both realized — or some such nonsense of the like.

I stayed, though. Without much more complaint or argument.

Details of my time in there are still rather fuzzy for me, but I did stay, and did behave; as well as have a number of the patients enjoy spending time with me. I did the activities and talked about my feelings and must have balanced out a bit — because I was out a week or so later.

Another powerful memory I have about that place was leaving it. I can remember how satisfying it was to finally smoke a cigarette again. To smoke it just outside the premises before getting in the car with my Mom to a hotel room. It gave the experience such finality to me, at least the Kahi Mohala portion of it.

I still wasn’t right for a long time, and I’m not sure if I ever will be. There’s definitely a lot less wrong with me today maybe than ever before in my life. I owe a lot of that to all the support I got from everyone throughout the ordeal.

In this piece though, in this moment in time, I owe it all to Pops.

Thanks for being there for me, Dad. Thank you for finding a way to get through to me that day. I’m not sure anyone else could have.

Thank you for reading.

©2017 Trevor Elms
Featured photograph taken by Derek Lofgreen ©2013

Jury.

If you have been reading my writing of late I am sure you have noticed a theme. I am often tip-toeing around a very particular time in my life. Bringing a lot of my experiences back around to it, but not specifically writing about it.

Not yet.

People who know me closely know my recollection in person, but I am not ready to write what I remember of my insanity yet. Often when I write something it is released from me. I feel a weight lift up and outside of me. Or at least, the burden of that experience and those thoughts lessens.

I think through life we are constantly gaining more burdens and finding more strength to carry them. I am not ready for that burden to be any lighter yet. It’s something that keeps me in check every day.

So this will be the story of how I got to be a jury member on a murder trial, and how seriously I took it.

I want to say this was five or six years ago now. So a year or two into my probationary period. I got called into jury duty like any normal person, but figured I was Scot-free because they would tell me to get out as I walked in.

I was on probation for five felonies, plus some. Multiple burglary and robbery charges, multiple breaking & entering charges, assault on a police officer (which thankfully was reduced, because of a guilty plea). It was on a deferred sentence, so I didn’t have to admit to it on job applications and only the court system could pull it up.

If you did a background check on me today I would come up squeaky clean. I’ve checked.

Though I and my family have the paperwork to prove otherwise. This is nothing I am proud of, it’s just a fact. I have a criminal past that even though it was expunged and there are no state records of it any longer, I will live with for the rest of my life. If I did not admit this and did not carry it with me, I would not be who I am today. Who I was is proof positive for me of what and who I never want to be again.

Back to jury duty.

It started innocently enough, I just walked into the Adams county justice center and sat in a room with I want to say a couple hundred — maybe a hundred and fifty very unhappy people.

This was like a snow day for me, though. I was able to get out of work for the day and my boss at that time couldn’t find a way to get me out of it. He did try to tell me to figure out any way I could, but I was so stoked I got a letter from the State saying I could do something that every American citizen has a right to do — that wiggling a way out wasn’t in the cards for me. I was really hoping I had a real shot.

I very nearly sat in front of a jury of my peers, awaiting their judgement. So I really wanted to take this seriously.

When the clerk came in maybe a half an hour after signing in, she made an announcement:

“Alright everyone, we have a few civil suits and a murder trial today. Please be patient and we will get the jurors called. Once that happens everyone else can leave. We will have a short orientation video to watch and form to fill out before we get you to your courtroom.”

There was a collective gasp throughout the room when the word “murder” was mentioned. This seriously only made me more excited. If I had the chance to be on any kind of trial and try to do my best as an American citizen, I wanted a murder trial. That is something that I would take even more seriously just based on its gravity as an act.

Be careful what you wish for.

Looking back on it, it’s almost like fate or something — the way it all worked out. I was put in the group for the murder trial, the exact one I wanted. Then when it came to the questionnaire I filled it out more seriously than any test I have ever taken in school, or otherwise.

I answered every question 100% truthfully and with so much information that I ran out of paper. I admitted my criminal past and how the thought of being a juror really hit home with me. How I felt it was my duty as an American citizen and recovering criminal to give back, to do something right. To try and make it right.

When all was said and done and the voir dire process was complete, I was the 13th, alternate juror. By the end of the following day I was locked in as the 12th juror. I was in. I was going to be a part of something and make a difference of some sort that would mean something to me.

I know Bill Curren was a murderer but we had to let him walk.

One of the very first things the judge told us as jurors when he introduced himself is that all the information we hear and see needs to be put into context of the law. That the law is black and white and cannot be interpreted. We must take the law at 100% face value if we want the system to work how it is supposed to.

This doesn’t mean that the system is always 100% correct. Like anything there will be mistakes, but hopefully if taken in this fashion less mistakes overall will be made. That’s why I am still upset that I have to live with letting a murderer walk because the prosecution decided to charge him incorrectly.

I can’t remember the exact degree he was charged with but it broke down into “Defendant went to willingly rob victim and victim lost life in process”.

This man went to murder the victims first, and robbing was just icing on the cake.

That may seem like a small distinction, but it’s not. The entire prosecution was all about how Bill among others treated the victims — torturing them and then killing them, before taking the pounds of Marijuana in reward. Which was in an entirely separate location as well. There was even evidence of a meeting beforehand about murdering them and then robbing the drugs — at Shotgun Willie’s, a strip club in Denver. The case was a fourteen or so year old one that happened in the late 90s. I can’t remember why it took them so long to get a jury on it.

The trial went on for two and a half weeks or so and I was only paid $50 a day by the state, while still having to provide/purchase my own lunch. I’m lucky that I misunderstood how the whole thing works with companies legally and told my boss he had to pay me like I was working. He definitely wouldn’t have if I hadn’t, and he admitted as such.

During this trial I got to see and hear about things that I had some experience with, but these people went much farther, and lost themselves far more than I did. I can still see the maggots crawling throughout the victims’ faces after they were pulled out from under a ditch overpass on a county road — where they were disrespectfully and unceremoniously dumped.

I can still see the layout of the backyard where they pulled in an Atlas moving truck. Which was then used to transport the bodies to the disposal site. I can still see the shoes, duct tape, trash bags, and blood.

I can still remember being one of two or three jurors at the start trying to convince the entire deliberation that we didn’t wan’t him to walk, but the law stated he HAD to walk.

There’s such a dichotomy of emotions for me when it comes to this experience. Because there is a part of me that is so proud that I really stood for something I believed in, with a small group of others, and we made a difference.

Then there’s the fact that what we stood for was letting a man that all the evidence pointed to — was a murderer. A 100% arrogant, sociopath, scum of the Earth human with total lack of remorse.

Regardless, he was charged incorrectly.

It was not our duty as jurors to tell the prosecution what they should have done and then decide to find Bill guilty because that’s what we felt should happen. We needed to take this seriously, so maybe in the future the prosecution would think a bit more about what they were doing the next time.

Even during the trial itself it was interesting to me. I really felt like the prosecution thought they had the thing hook, line, & sinker before the horse was even let out of the gate.

The defense was made up of two older gentleman. One who was portly, sweaty, and often couldn’t tuck his shirt in to completion. The other looked of an aged crane, very tall and lithe with the most glorious beak of a nose you will find. Mr. Crane mostly took the lead in the proceedings and would often lose his place in his notes or his train of thought.

I believe this made the prosecution very complacent and they forgot exactly what they were supposed to be arguing for, because otherwise I am not sure how they could have chosen the course they did with the charge they went with. As I stated previously the entire prosecution was all about the abundance of evidence against Bill that his whole mission was to kill these people and then take their stash too.

So why charge the murder as if it was happenstance?

It just baffles me, still. The worst part is that the memory most emblazoned in my mind is Bill’s family walking out of the courtroom thanking us profusely. As if we had just saved their relative’s life, and that we did it from the kindness in our hearts.

Nothing about me felt kind, happy, or even correct. I think that might be what justice is supposed to feel like. I’m not sure justice is supposed to be something you feel good about. I do think it is something that is supposed to stick with you, though. Now when I hear or see about any kind of court proceeding with a jury I know what they are going through.

I have been both a criminal with the fear of a jury, and a juror with a criminal’s fear in my hand. Neither is something I want to recommend, but I do think that being a juror is a privilege, honor, and duty as an American citizen.

The larger meaning in this piece for me is that I am going to take it seriously every time. Whether it’s a traffic dispute or a murder, I want to treat it in the same way I would want my jurors to treat it if I was a part of the proceedings.

I hope you do too.

We could have just interpreted the law the way we wanted to, and given a guilty verdict. Philosophically though, where does that stop? How else could things be re-interpreted and looked at as a means to an end? I feel that’s a bit of a slippery slope to go down.

This is my burden. I may have let a murderer walk, but I didn’t compromise my values as an American citizen.

I’m pretty proud of that.

Thank you for reading.

©2017 Trevor Elms
Featured photo by Katie Wood, ©2016