I was a psychiatrist at a prison. If it sounds blunt and to the point, it is. It’s a no-bullshit kind of job and I took it very seriously because you could be the one who makes or breaks a person and you don’t want to be the guy to have anything come back on you. If you paid attention to the first sentence I wrote here, I say I was a psychiatrist at a prison. The reason why I stress this is because I quit way before I would have reaped any benefits for retirement, before official job security took care of me for the rest of my life. Yes, the job I applied for straight out of college and worked at for years became something that made me weak to get up in the morning years later — when I met one man and heard one single story. His name was Martin Brahm.
Typical for somebody in my profession, I was not only there mentally for others, but also ‘in spirit’ so to speak. When I first met Martin, a very troubled man, the biggest thing for him that he repeatedly told me was that he had been a family man. Now it’s not right of me to assume that every person in the prison is a bad person and that their demons are probably justified, but most of the time I would mentally jump to that conclusion. Something definitely seemed ‘off’ about Martin and it was hard helping him open up. I told him when I wasn’t there, that he should keep a journal and write his feelings. The third time I met with Martin, he left the journal in my office and I immediately took it home and read it as my wife slept next to me.
You take for granted the most important things in life sometimes, you walk blindly through your days thinking you’re invincible. I’ve learned quickly that neither of these are true. And the slightest slip up, it can cost you everything you know and love in your life. You can just as easily turn into a shell of a person as you could become successful. I’m aware of my actions, but I don’t think justice exists anymore.
When my daughter Amy started pissing the bed every night at age five, I guess it was silly of me to react the way that I did. I was always a calm-hearted person and she saw me as a superhero, and I suppose I would have done anything to live up to that name. I was so tired from waking up and taking care of her and missing my wife and going to a job that I absolutely hated that I was at wit’s end but there was no way that I could look her in the eye and say the words I had always stressed were the worst words in this world: I give up. And so I kept pushing on, at the end of my line, no matter what it took. I guess I should have just taken a breather and enjoyed the simple things in life a little more. Don’t we all forget that important lesson?
I moved my unemployed brother into the home during the most stressful time of my life. I couldn’t face the fact that he would be on the streets and here I was living the real life in my own mini-mansion, who can do that to their own brother? I remember Timothy had fucked up a few times somewhere on the road to shaping himself, but he was a really good guy. And Amy just stuck to him like she had found a best friend, something she needed. She was spending less and less time with me doing the simple things in life. Less bedtime stories, less spending extra time playing with toys in the bubble bath, less time drawing in my office while I took a break and joined her on the floor. I…don’t know why I let things get that way. Pretty soon I was spending so little time with her that the little girl I had known was becoming like a faded memory, actually BEGGING me to play with her. And I was yelling at her for something as stupid as pissing the bed every night…
I called home from work one day and asked Timothy if he could please take my Jeep and pick up Amy from daycare because I was going to be late. He told me he would be more than happy to and expressed that he had cleaned the house top from bottom, including the wet bedsheets from the night before. Hearing my brother tell me this gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach but I thanked him and hung up the phone. I sat there with my head in my hands, bawling in the break room and thinking about how much time I was missing with my own daughter. I didn’t know how to change things, how to get back on track.
That night I came home and I heard Timothy reading a bedtime story to Amy in the next room, and I realized that I was missing some of the best parts of her life. The child I raised and spent so much time with had lost the father she had known. He was currently sitting in his study, doing damn work at almost 10 at night. I heard my daughter yawn and thank Timothy and then the words came clear as day, “You’re the best second daddy ever.” I don’t think I got an ounce of sleep that night.
Things continued on like this for some time. I was working toward a promotion and the work load was insane. Timothy was so used to picking up Amy from daycare that he just did it regularly without asking. Then one day, finally, I was able to leave work at my scheduled time. I came home and saw that the Jeep was there and I was so excited to surprise my daughter and take the rest of the day to ourselves. Maybe get some ice cream, make something special together for supper. She deserved it.
I came inside to the smell of piss and blood. I came inside to a suicide note that my brother had left saying he couldn’t play a father anymore. That he was getting nowhere from all of this. I saw my daughter’s dead body on the couch the moment I came through the front door, her mouth open wide, her soft skin splattered in the warm blood of her insides. The sheets she had pissed on the night prior, wrapped around her.
There was a clatter from the other room and when I entered, Timothy was tying a makeshift noose from the ceiling fan. Before he could utter a word or try a thing, I knocked him out with a baseball bat and stabbed him 1,826 times. That’s the equivalent of five years, five years I just lost out on with my daughter, five years that she watched me go from a superhero to someone she didn’t even know anymore. You can imagine how badly my hand hurt and how destroyed he was after the first couple of stabs but I didn’t even care.
I don’t think I belong in the position that I do, but maybe in a way I’m getting what I deserve. Because, here I sit all day in this cell alone with my thoughts, and I realize that I took all my time for granted. I was so worried about a promotion that I stuck a burden on my mentally unstable brother that should have been my burden. I miss every little thing about her, from her tiny little voice, to her mousy little face, to the way she used to wiggle her toes in the sand on the beach, to the fact that she pissed the bed every night. You take the good with the bad when it comes to parenting. I’m still a parent, and I’m not a bad guy. Anyone in this prison can say the same thing and they are probably right. They’re not bad people, they just did a bad thing. And most often times, it was justified.
I quit my job a week later, not after how much stress the journal entry had caused me, but because I realized I was working my life away. I doubted that my daughter could even remember my name anymore, so I spent my time getting back on track and making things better with my wife. It proved to be a success.
So to some guy out there named Martin, who decided to pour the turning point of his life into a journal, thank you.