At 7 A.M. January 3, 1978, a very distressed mother phoned. She said she had read an article about how I had prepared Go Ask Alice
from an existing diary, and Voices,
not then released, from personal interviews; how I hoped both books would help educate young people as to the problems and pressures and weaknesses of their peers, and make it easier for them to consider alternatives and make wise decisions in their own lives.
The lady said her son, Jay, had kept a journal—a seminary book—and many papers and letters, which she felt could also be of benefit to both kids and parents looking for answers and ways out.
Jay, l6 ½ years old, had been into witchcraft, how deeply neither his mother nor his father had ever suspected, until after Jay put his father’s pistol against his right temple and pulled the trigger.
As Jay’s mother and I plowed through the many containers of favorite footballs, basketballs, tennis rackets, trophies, diplomas, awards, letters, notes, books, etc., that she had not been able to part with, she remained calm and helpful. Only when she unfolded Jay’s worn, stained “grub jacket” at the bottom of the last box did she cry; telling me how she had put the leather patches on the elbows after his motorbike had gone out of control and spilled down the slope and into a tree, how she had replaced the front pocket with an emblem he had picked up on a trip to Las Vegas, how he had stained the front lapel and shoulder helping his dad bring a deer down on a pole slung over both their shoulders, how he had made the long slash on the right arm when he had rescued their cat, Hamlet, from the top of a 200-foot tree, how the two stars over the left breast represented his “eternal and forever” buddies, Dell and Brad.
From the corner of the lining she patiently pulled out a half-eaten, linty M&M and holding it, as reverently as though it were the Sacrament, she whispered almost to herself, “Jay always thought he could handle anything, everything!”
Jay was an exceptionally intelligent and articulate boy, with an IQ of 149+. In his journal, he often worried that his best friends weren’t able to handle things the way he could because of his detached, intellectual approach. He analyzed, composed lists, fought against giving in. But he was sometimes relieved when he didn’t have
to handle things—drugs, alcohol, the occult, or even sex.
Jay’s journal became his intimate confidante. In it, he felt free to express his confusions, his hopes, and his fears.
Hoping to fill in sketchy gaps in Jay’s journal I interviewed many of his friends and teachers. As a whole they said he was a “mostly just like everybody else” boy. Three kids who had been into the occult with him seemed more skittish. As long as we were talking about school, dating, family, drugs, hobbies, or sports, they were relaxed and friendly, but when I tried to question them about witchcraft they changed, became frightened, secretive, withdrawn. Through bits and pieces I gathered that they were under some strange kind of “sacrifice my own life or have it taken from me” type of programming. They sincerely seemed to fear that I could bring harm to myself or my own kids if more information were divulged to me. Their obvious and abject terror was contagiously and hauntingly real. I wanted out and I wasn’t even in!
Jay’s mother’s voice returns, “Jay always thought he could handle anything, everything!”
That dirge, much more repeated than most people imagine, mixes with the lonely cry of every frightened little girl I ever worked with or talked to who found herself pregnant: “I didn’t think it could happen to me!”
The voice of every kid hooked on drugs, alcohol, or the occult joins the sad chorus, “Not me! I didn’t think it could ever happen to me. I WAS SURE I COULD HANDLE IT!”
—BEATRICE SPARKSJuly 2
For two weeks now my Sunday school teacher and my scout master and everybody else have been on my ass to keep a journal. It’s the biggie now! The new “everybody’s got to do it” thing! Mom bought me this one and left it on my bed when the hassle first began. I know she expected me to be “appreciative” about something I didn’t even want and more especially don’t want to do! But like usual, what I want
is not important, it’s what I’m supposed to do
that counts! The old man is always moaning about how he works his tail off for us, and how . . . Oh Judas, this isn’t what you’re supposed to put in a journal. You’re supposed to put only good things that your kids and grandkids and all of posterity can read. Man, I don’t want any kids if they’re going to turn out, burn out, anything like me: sad, rebellious, angry, searching . . . searching . . . searching, and for what? I’m going on fifteen years old and no answers yet have ever really satisfied me. I want more . . . and more . . . and more! But more what? What in the hell do I really
want out of life? That’s one of the things this dumb-ass journal is supposed to help me find out, but at this rate it’s just going to get me into more rocking trouble than I’m already in, if that’s possible. If the kids read it they’ll go tattling to Mom and Dad, and if they
read it all hell will break loose and I’ll get grounded for completely through the millennium. Crap, what kind of a monster have I started here?
I don’t want anybody to know what a rotten bastard screwup I am, and always have been, probably from the beginning of time and before. I’m trying to keep it from myself even! . . . yet here I am putting it all down in incriminating black and white . . . Judas, boredom is a drag, drag, drag. Writing might be good therapy for me in a way, though. Indeed, a means of getting hostile things out of my system. It seems like I’m eternally out of sync . . . kind of like I always want to scream “black” when somebody says “white,” or whatever is, to quote the old man, “argumentative, inappropriate, and revolutionary.”
He wanted in
I wanted out
He had a smile
I had a pout
I need someone to understand
God, how I need a helping hand.
Man, if people are going to keep a journal they should do it when they’re little, when all the good things happen, before life starts kicking you in the ass and in the head and every other place. When I was little before I even knew how to write was the only time things happened that were worth writing about. No, I remember going to Disneyland with the family when I was bigger, and going on fishing trips and on the deer hunts with my mom’s brothers and sisters and my dad’s relatives. We would all meet up at Big Pines and have a campground where the kids ran like wild Indians through the brush and streams and groves while the dads and big boys went up into the very tops of the mountains. Judas, it was exciting when they brought their deer down across their backs or on the tote-goat. The girls would gag and shudder while they cut the heads off and skinned the things and we guys would rub salt into the pelts with rocks and have the greatest times ever.
But then somehow I got into seventh grade and started smoking shit and stuff and I don’t know, I guess it really was in seventh grade when I started getting off the track. Man, it all seems so strange now, when I was in first and second and third grade I was so square and religious and everything. I’d looked forward to being a deacon for as long as I can remember—I really wanted to pass the Sacrament! And I’d been saving my money to go on a mission since I first knew what money was.
I was so sincere then, and I tried so hard to conform. At least a part of me did. What happened to that sweet little kid? Whatever—ever happened to that nice little boy that I will never know again? I feel sad, like someone has died, maybe a part of me has . . . the good part.January 7
Hi, you dumb bastard old journal:
I haven’t written in you for six months, haven’t even thought about you in fact, until tonight when I’m so bored I’m about to fall out of my tree. Judas, when I remembered I had hid you up in the attic, under the insulation by the crawl hole in my bedroom, it was like rediscovering an old friend. How’s that for being lonely? Being grounded is really the shits. I’ve been imprisoned for a week and I’ve read and studied and drawn till I’m about to go stir-crazy, all because I punched Kendall out for getting in my room and messing up my stuff. I just threw him out in the hall after I’d already told him a hundred million times to bug off. How in hell was I supposed to know he’d land the wrong way and break his arm?
The saddest thing is that everybody acts like I broke it on purpose. They should all know me well enough to know I wouldn’t . . . I couldn’t . . . do anything like that. They forget it was me that jumped in after him when he fell into the Snake River in Yellowstone Park; and me that packed him down the mountain when he ran through the patch of poison ivy and got it in his eyes and stuff; and me that always fixes his bicycle when the chain comes off or it has a flat or . . . Oh God, he’s such a neat little guy and I feel sooooooooo
bad inside. I wish like everything it was my arm that was busted! I’d even sit right here and break both my arms if I thought that would help any. I really would!
I’m sorry . . . sorry
. . . SORRY AS HELL! Man, I’m sorry! I don’t know why I can’t tell any of them that though. It’s like I speak Chinese and they all speak Russian or so...
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