Hindsight 20/Something: Something is Wrong with Me (Chance, 25)

by austin beaton

Something is Wrong with Me (Chance, 25)

I was intrigued by my mom’s recollection of him. Why was she so afraid? Why was he keeping me from my Mom? Was he angry with her? What was he doing so late into the night?

While listening to her talk, I noticed that something felt wrong in my stomach, that feeling of danger. “It’s nothing. I’m probably just picking up on the fear I noticed in my mom,” I told myself.

Consumed with curiosity, I decided to find him online and begin a conversation. I quickly noticed that something was off about him. His messages would often oscillate from seemingly grounded and normal, to fragmented and bizarre.

He often rambled in scattered messages about the government and their control over the internet. In an attempt to make normal conversation I inquired about what he did for work. He told me he was the sole employee of a business:

Statistics, Human Hostage Crisis, Anti-Terrorism. Kidnappings. Solve political and social issues that most cannot resolve with science or religion… the fun part is, I do it from home. It pisses a lot of people off… you’re watched from childhood, taught the skills… you just know you have to respond.

It was hard to hold a conversation, let alone get to know him.

During our first semi-coherent conversation, he asked me what I remembered about him. I recalled a memory void of any real significance. In response, he shared:

I had a really funny thought of you and your brother last night… I’m hoping you will remember it… Ya ready? … Remember Julia [his girlfriend and the time]… When she would use the bathroom… I would send you and your brother to pound on the door… and call her… a punk’n itch [which he later clarified sounded like, ‘fucking bitch’ when children were yelling it]… her in the bathroom with ambient sounds… She said I shouldn’t teach you kids such foul language… LOL… How much do you remember about me?

I felt that odd feeling in my stomach again, but hardly noticed and didn’t think much of it. What a strange first memory to share with your daughter whom you haven’t seen in 20 years, I thought. Over time, he continued to ask what I remembered about him and I continued to wonder why he kept asking. In hindsight, wondering was safer than knowing.

This is an excerpt from Something is Wrong with Me, an essay by Chance Summers in Hindsight 20/Something forthcoming November 1st. Read the full version and learn more about the collection here.