Part Seventeen: The Degenerate

I was 16 when I met a man who was to become like a persistent virus in my life, destined to come and go repeatedly without any real way of predicting his arrival or the form his departure would take. I was hanging out at a local counterculture establishment known as The Atomic Cafe in downtown Rapid City when I first encountered this individual. He and two friends had made their way to the area only recently from somewhere I can no longer recall, and I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time otherwise I might have avoided meeting them…and my life would have been a far less interesting landscape.

I got a bad feeling about him the moment I saw him walking down the alley towards where my friends and I were hanging out and smoking. It’s difficult to explain, but it felt like I knew him already, even though he had never visited South Dakota in the past…I knew that no good would come of his being there, as if I had caught a momentary glimpse of the future that was ahead of us. It’s funny to me that I dismissed that intuition, because I have never been so perfectly on the mark before or since.

I should tell you a bit more about him, before I get going on our numerous interactions with one another.

It wasn’t too long after first meeting him when he was arrested for public intoxication, which led to him being in jail for resisting arrest and assault. The police picked him up drunk and disorderly and placed him in the back of a cruiser only to have him roll onto his back and kick the window repeatedly until it shattered. He continued fighting, handcuffed, until they placed him into a second car where he immediately began kicking that window as well.

He was removed from the car and forced onto the ground where some of the broken safety glass ended up lodging itself into his jaw, leaving him with a scar that he will likely carry with him as a reminder for the rest of his life. They did finally get him under control and escorted to the jail and he remained there for the next month or so before being hauled off to a treatment facility an hour or so away. I just wanted to share that little bit of his story with you so that I could adequately set the stage, because this man was a real piece of work.

Even though I had only met him a few times and spent small amounts of time with him since he had arrived in town a couple of weeks prior to the incident, he ended up placing me on his visitation list and requested that his friends ask me to come and see him in jail. Against all better judgment, I did indeed visit him quite a few times while he was locked up…to this day I have no idea why.

During the time that he was locked away his two friends left the state, returning to whatever corner of hell they crawled up from, which led to him having no one else to keep him company but the mother of my oldest children, my best friend at the time, and I.

We also visited him while he was in treatment during one of the days when he had a pass. We took him out to lunch, drove around for a while so that he could feel like he had a little bit of clear air, and I even gave him a Christian Death live cassette that I had in the car so that he had something to listen to while he was finishing out his stint in treatment.

After he was released he began a relationship with a friend of mine from Sturgis, and I still feel bad about introducing the two of them, though they did end up producing a pretty adorable daughter who will hopefully turn out to be a more worthwhile human being than either of her parents have managed to.

One night, after my oldest daughter was born, they were visiting us and he ended up downstairs getting drunk with my neighbors in the apartment directly below our own. During that time his significant other was in our apartment spending some time with my daughter’s mother and I. It was a nice night until he inevitably came upstairs, heavily intoxicated and apparently feeling hostile because he started in on his girlfriend almost immediately after coming through the door about the gambling problem she apparently had. We will side step the obvious hypocrisy of the alcoholic tearing into the gambler about the shortcomings associated with their addiction in the living room of their friends’ apartment…no one ever said that he exercised much by way of self-awareness or common sense.

I had to repeatedly ask him to keep his voice down because our daughter was asleep in her crib on the other side of the wall from where he was raising his ruckus. He would apologize, lower his voice, and shortly thereafter begin to increase the amplitude all over again…another example of the long term memory skills of a drunk.

Finally I got tired of the noise and the accumulation of recriminations between the two of them. I reached over to him, grabbed both sides of his face to turn him so that he was facing me, and told him to shut the fuck up. That was when the degenerate bit into the meat of my right thumb and clamped down as hard as he could.

I let go of his head, jerked my injured hand away from his mouth, and lunged at him…throwing him across the few feet into the corner of the room. I attempted to restrain him while displaying remarkable self control under the circumstances, until he lodged his teeth into the nearest part of my body again, which happened to be my inner thigh this time. Even with jeans on, I later discovered that I had an almost perfect dental imprint of punctures in my leg. The bastard had some sharp fucking teeth and impressive jaw strength, I have to give him that. The scar has long since faded, thankfully.

I got him loose from my thigh, dragged him into the middle of the room where I could actually maneuver, and somehow managed to successfully restrain him on the floor with only a small amount of unnecessary violence directed his way.

It was around this time when the neighbors from downstairs came up to find out what the noise was all about. Seeing the guy who was recently drinking with them pinned to the floor and thrashing around like a fucking madman, they thought it was an excellent opportunity to begin kicking him while he was down. I enjoyed watching it and let it happen for a little while before asking someone if they could just call the cops so that I could get the piece of shit out of my home.

The police did show up and he was arrested…and, as anyone who has dealt with abusive relationships can guess, it seems only typical that he and his girlfriend remained together even after all of that. They were such a perfect fit for each other that she was actually upset with my ex and I for having him arrested.

This marked the first interval of peace and quiet while he was out of my life. Like all good things though, this was destined to come to an end.

He and his girlfriend popped back into our lives a while later, something like six months down the road, and there seemed to be no hard feelings. This was, of course, illusory.

One night my ex and I arranged for a babysitter so that we could visit them at their trailer in Sturgis, after being invited to show up at any time. There had been a little get together taking place that night but things had already wound down before we arrived. The degenerate and his girlfriend were in bed and my best friend at the time was passed out drunk in the guest bedroom. I decided to wake my friend up, making a nuisance of myself in order to do so. This apparently pissed off the degenerate and he began screaming at me from his bedroom.

We yelled back and forth for a bit before my ex and I decided to just return home.

Apparently we overstayed our welcome by just a second or two too much, as a large glass ashtray came flying down the hallway, almost hitting my ex in the head as it crashed into the wall next to her right where we were standing as we were about to exit the trailer.

We weren’t oblivious and we took the hint. We rushed outside, followed by the degenerate with a small crossbow in his hands. The crossbow was not the hollow threat that it might have been in anyone else’s hands, and he fired a bolt at us, hitting the ground nearby a little too close for comfort.

As we were trying to get into the car so that we could get the fuck out of there he approached the driver’s side, making it impossible for the mother of my children to get into the car and behind the wheel so that we could leave. I ran around the front of the car to draw him away from her and we ended up wrestling in the gravel of the alleyway.

The noise and activity woke up my drunk friend and he decided that he needed to get the hell out of there before the police showed up, being a minor at the time and clearly under the influence, this wasn’t the worst decision he could make (aside from the driving away element of his plan). As my friend was climbing behind the wheel of his 70s model Monte Carlo I yelled for him to pull forward while maneuvering the degenerate’s head so that it was wedged tightly against the front driver’s side tire and the gravel surface beneath it.

There was no hesitation on my part. I was fully prepared to kill that man with the unwitting assistance of my friend in his car. I was an angry young man still, the damage in me was clearly quite present, and my impulse control was not the best (it’s not so great at the best of times). I suppose that I should be thankful that my friend reversed from where he was parked rather than pulling forward as I had asked him to, but some part of me still feels that I would have been doing the world a huge favor by insuring the degenerate was out of the picture for good, his skull pulverized by the weight of the car.

I was charged for disorderly conduct for my part in the events of that night. The degenerate’s girlfriend had called the cops right after we left, fabricating some bullshit version of events which negated any part that the degenerate had played in order to try and have assault charges pressed against me. I was 19 and this was the first charge on my adult criminal record (though it would not be the last), I plead guilty to the disorderly conduct charge without any attempt to fight it.

One would think that the story might end here, but that would only be true if my life was the sort of thing that makes sense. He was out of my life for a few years after that, but not for good by any stretch of the imagination. I think I knew that he would show up again (and again, and again), there was just something about him that kept on drawing him back to me again, or maybe it’s something about me. Sheer morbid curiosity always motivated me to welcome him back, fully aware of the poor judgment involved in that decision…always operating under the assumption from that point on that I was going to end up having to kill him sooner or later.

Don’t worry, I will tell you more about him later on…also, he is still alive. I haven’t killed him yet.

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