At my Office, 1996 photo Office96.jpgIt was late Spring of 1992 when I first recollect being the me who I am now.  It came as a result of my fifth life crisis.  I was alone in our house, precisely halfway between Central Baptist College and the First Baptist Church in Conway, AR.

At the time there was the previous me, trying to make a go of life and an unformed thought of the me of now, both inhabiting the same biological structure.

Previous Me was undergoing his fifth nearly terminal event.  He wasn’t prepared.  He’d thought that since it had been 17 years since the last event, he was safe.  Maybe he would have been, but stuff happens.

As in Crisis 4, the “stuff” concerned The Woman who had rescued him from Crisis 3, The Woman whom he had married and who had conceived his daughter.  But she was trouble, that one.  This time she had been arrested for embezzling from the university which employed them both.  As had been the case much too often in his life, he had felt obligated to pay for her transgression.  And she had repaid him by obtaining a boyfriend.  

So he was feeling cold and lonely in their house and it felt like the walls were closing in.  Too much damn pressure.  He’d tried to release at least some of it by Dancing to the Oldies with Richard Simmons, and had seen his weight retreat to its 1976 level of 155 on his 6’3″ frame, what he had weighed when he was rowing lightweight crew at Penn.  But it wasn’t really working anymore.  The walls still seemed to want to crush him.  He felt as if he could stand in the center of the living room and spread his arms to touch both of he walls.  

The oscillating pulse of the walls pressurized the room.  He’d “escaped” Crisis 1 by mentally collapsing.  

That was no fun…and could have ended his education.  He’d also written to all the girls he had formed relationships with in high school and basically apologized for who he was…even if he didn’t really have an accurate fix on who…or what…that was.

He had ended Crisis 2 by vanishing, which his younger brother hasn’t forgiven him for to this day.  He’d just picked up stakes and disappeared…gone to The Haight.  It was better if Selective Service didn’t know where he was.

Crisis 3 was averted by the fact that he was too stoned to form a plan to end his life…and meeting The Woman.  She claimed to have loved him, so he followed her around, cleaning up her messes for the  next 25 years.  But he had known that she believed that the world belonged to her, so that anything she did was acceptable, so he had nobody to blame but himself.

There was no shortage of messes.

Their daughter was now living in Nebraska with her girlfriend.  So running away again was an option.  After all, he’d learned how to survive on the streets.  But he didn’t want to abandon the career he’d fought so hard to obtain.  He as Teacher Man.

He laid a knife on the table and sat down, staring at it.  And the walls contracted again and again, pushing him inside of his mind.  What was the use of having superior mental capacity if one didn’t use it in a crisis?  

There, in the dark depths of who he was lay a small still, bright sparkle of Possibility.  But no, that could never work.  “Better to use the knife,” he thought.  Following The Possibility was probably suicide in and of itself.

And the walls contracted again.  More pressure and more pressure built up…an obscene labor underway…and The Possibility took more shape, became solid, and sought an exit from the cloudiness of the man’s brain.

The Possibility had been known to reside in those dark depths for just about forever, but had never been acknowledged as more than a plaything…safe to take out from time to time, as long as it was securely locked away when playtime was over.  It had never been a real option.  He’d always been too poor, too fearful, too weak to summon it forth.

He’d mostly dealt with the first of those concerns, although “all his money are belong to The Woman.”  The fear was being overcome by the lack of options.  And the weakness, the fragility, was being challenged by that damnable contraction of the walls…of his world.

He also found the treasure trove of ideas he’d stored away on the subject of “becoming,” garnered from the hundreds of science fiction books he had absorbed in his lifetime.  But next to that bin was the one filled with all he’d read about how societies treat those who are different.  That box seemed larger and quite threatening.

Another contraction drove his inspection deeper.  

The structure of an identity is not meant to withstand that much introspection.

Art Link


The Mask

My life was a mask I wore

to hide my secrets

Bleak, flat, colorless

bland was my world

filled with responsibility

devoid of joy

Anguish washes away

meaningful emotion

The mask blinded me

to life’s possibilities

tunnel vision

eroding hope

love tainted by a lie

so immense

it can’t be seen

Lies piled upon lies

a false truth

that comforted


but me

Meaning dwindled


Heart broken


Soul warped


The walls

of my reality

were too close

Going forward



the mask

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–January 17, 2006

As he descended, he began to fade away…and The Possibility solidified and began to rise to the surface.

The knife was put back in the drawer.  But she was not yet safe.  Thinking that the company of other people might help, and since The Woman was out somewhere with The Boyfriend and his weed, she (I) decided to walk to the Food 4 Free and watch the high school students shoplift.  It was a dangerous few blocks down College, since the temptation to step out in front of a fast-moving vehicle was robust.  But I did arrive safely, spent a couple of hours there, and by the time I returned home, the birthing process was over.

And I didn’t even need to boil any water.

The real tests would appear in the days that followed.

How would I maintain my career?

How would I un-entangle from the dysfunctional marriage?

How would what was left of my family react?

Which parts of me would need to be jettisoned and which retained?

Would I be able to survive?

1 comment

    • Robyn on January 10, 2015 at 00:04

    …but it certainly is fundamental.

    I will be assembling the autobiography somewhat hesitantly/erratically and irregularly, rewriting/updating and republishing some chapters which will be rescued from the past, adding new elements on occasion, looking for holes which need to be filled.

    For that last part I ask my readers for any help you may offer in locating such holes.

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