P.51 the Last Letters

       3:33. I opened my eyes to the empty bed beside me in the muted light cast upon the brick floor. I felt the air change, and an unmistakable sensation boring into my back. I took a shallow breath and braced myself as I turned to look over at the window. 

There it stood; some eight or nine feet tall, exceedingly broad shoulders, the expected long black hooded robes cinched about a starkly skeletal waist; the contrasting white skull of either a horse or donkey stared back at me, with a stare that was most literally felt, naturally causing every hair to stand on end. 

       “In the name of Jesus Christ I demand you leave.”

 It simultaneously leapt forward at me, hands outstretched for my neck, and vanished the moment it’s hands reached me. 

          No matter how times this had happened to me before, I still often froze for a moment or had to muffle a scream; but I hated to give them the satisfaction of my showing fear. But it had been a few weeks since I’d awoken to a watcher. Usually I would say something they hated, like reciting parts of Revelation 7 or most often simply commanding in the name of Jesus Christ that it leave; which every once in a while took standing up and saying it a few times, but never failed. 

       As a little girl I was of course afraid of the dark, always tucking the covers around me on all sides;  but I swore that I could see things moving about the room, and would hear the ringing of a bell on one of my toys put away in the dresser drawer, or other things moving around. Sometimes I would hear a voice call my name from out of the darkness.  I was told and later in psychology studied that some of this was considered a normal phenomenon, but I never believed that was the case, because typically hypnagogic or other related- type hallucinations were accompanied by sleep paralysis or dissipated upon sitting up. But as I grew older the instances became much more frequent, aggressive, and vivid; until throughout my teenage years I was familiar with three demons in particular that would stand around my bed, which was in a corner. Every night I would open my eyes to find them there, and wonder how long they had been there for, or what they were doing. But each time the three would either lunge at me and disappear until they came back later that night or the next; or they would pull me out of my body and I would physically wrestle with them, but they would make a game of keeping me away from my body, which I would see lying on the bed. When the instances grew too frequent, I would often sleep with worship music or otherwise uplifting music playing; because I concluded they didn’t like that either. 

I hadn’t awoken Melisa. 

      Oftentimes I could feel something in the room that I couldn’t see, or sometimes in various places I went, or even people. I suppose you could say they can speak to you like most any person if you knew what to listen for, but I neither sought this nor ever spoke back to them. I already knew and had been told various times that their assignment was to kill me. Which up until a few years ago made me want to stick around some more just for the sake of saying fuck you. 

       Oddly enough, I was afraid of the dark until the day we moved out of that house when I was 19; only some time later did I realize my instantaneous cure of it. As though some affirmation that I had not been simply hallucinating all those years, the buyers later contacted us to say that there was a voice that had been calling their names in my old bedroom, moving things around, and other such behavior. And that day I knew I wasn’t crazy. Not in that regard, that is. They followed me back and years ago however. I suppose like cockroaches; until the trash is cleaned out of the mess that has become my life and my health, It was no wonder to find them coming back again to watch. I still however wondered what it was they really did while I was sleeping. I still was a stubborn fuck and would never give up my territory though. 

I went back to sleep, drifting into a world where perhaps someday color would mean something to me. 

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P.50 

        When I checked back the next night, 3rdEyeOfHorus had replied within only a couple hours, with a mini- novel; of which I was further intrigued. We sent a few messages of equivalent length back and forth before concluding we obviously vibed inordinately well and exchanged cell numbers. I had my usual reservations about becoming potentially involved with any romantic expectations, but figured I wouldn’t get ahead of myself and should at least try talking to someone other than a therapist.

Only things went much differently than the norm I had expected;  I actually started caring about using my phone during the three allotted evening hours, during which we talked the entire three hours each night via text; things got intense very quickly, along with the whole finishing eachother’s sentences, feeling as though you’d known them for the longest time, and all of those other cliches that usually made me rather nauseous. We talked like this for just under a week, until one night he never replied.

          I waited- rather aware that I was being ignored, but figured there was a reason; I wasn’t angry, as in my life I had been forced to grow very, very good at waiting. But I wondered in a somehow tormented silence if I had somehow managed to say something wrong, despite that I had still been rather vague as to the true nature of my life. He knew I was in treatment but as usual I downplayed how bad things were. I worried in a manner so highly uncharacteristic of me- had I scared him away, did he think I was crazy, or what in the hell was the deal when we seemed to be getting along so supernaturally well.

I felt foolish and childish, I felt that I had grown already somehow attached to this person who was barely more than a stranger. What the hell was going on with me? I had always been so great at not minding anyone or being ignored; how could this person’s doing so hurt so much? Was I becoming obsessed? I usually didn’t even give a shit if people liked me. I had no idea what was going on with me. I felt mixed up since the first day we spoke; like my insides had been ripped out and set on fire, but in a way that simultaneously felt as wonderful as it did hellish; like everything was wrong and right at the same time.

         I heard from Jacob a bit over three days later, of which he said that he had needed some time alone to “think things over;” Things I wasn’t exactly sure what.  He said that he was confused because he was always one to be very careful and reserved to not get carried away in mere childish infatuation, but that he felt he was in love with me. At first I was so surprised I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t exactly know if what I felt was love, lust, a bit of both, or simply getting too caught up in a chemical cascade; but there was definitely an undeniably compelling  attraction- a thing I had never as much as felt before in my life. I was pretty sure I’d never even been “in love” before- much less one to prematurely assume such- but ventured to say that I loved him too. And that was when the fighting started.

….

P.48

I ascended the flight of steps and rung the doorbell, to which Tom answered, obviously very surprised to find me there- as we were strictly disallowed to ever be in the front yard unsupervised. He actually looked surprisingly angry, which was out of sorts for him, usually being one of the more timid and reserved day staff members. Tom was a quiet man of likely 60 years of age, of whom most of the residents didn’t particularly like, for reasons difficult to specify; perhaps he simply didn’t know how to deal with most of us, or was overly careful with his words- but he tended to unintentionally get walked all over around here. He turned out to be one of the most sensitive of the staff- in a good way- but we never really got around to talking much at all until the very end of my stay. I guess he was trying to put his foot down with me or something, but he did not believe my story about the owl and the raccoon, thinking that I was trying to play him and avoid consequence- of which I urged him to go look for himself. I stood in the lobby for a few minutes, so as to not drip water all over the house while I watched Tom go out the back door, and then quickly come back in the house, with an “oh” look on his face. “That’s a big raccoon,” he admitted. Apparently this bitchy racoon was having at the lemon tree, and made a show of charging at Tom as well. I felt a bit foolish for being chased off by a raccoon, but I’d seen what one had done to my dog as a kid.

Leaving an adequate rain puddle in the middle of the foyer, I went into the living room to watch the five of them crowd around the window seat, trying to find the raccoon as though it were some terribly interesting spectacle. The TV was still terribly loud, and the movie was then in the middle of the part the company wakes in Lothlorien and Frodo is speaking with Galadriel.

              “I give you the light of Eärendil,” she said.Our most beloved star. May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”

I realized then that I was a nerd with too much free time as a kid when I could quote most of her speech; but that line in particular had long stood out to me.

I decided to take another quick look on the computer at the message I had previously received, and I guess because the power had gone out so suddenly, I hadn’t noticed another few messages. I sorted through a handful more, but was particularly intrigued by the profile of one by the username “3rdEyeofHorus”.

“Black isn’t your natural hair color is it?”

Ok, so it wasn’t exactly the most brilliant starter line, but it was sure more decent than most of the others; but most notably, the length and inordinately intricate nature of his profile self- summary and question/answers showed that this was a deep- thinker and a highly-detailed individual; lots of esoteric references, a decent mention of God; A late- August Virgo- like the last 5 or 6 people I had met up with from the site- with long jet black hair and an apparent penchant for writing and music. I figured what the hell, worst case scenario I could ghost him and disappear like I usually do with anyone I talk to, so I ventured sending him a quick reply, and a simple question or two about his hobbies; then logged off for the evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.47

        It was an outing day, which evidently excited almost everyone, but attendance wasn’t optional, so Nice Mom accompanied the six of us to a Target store some cities away. All dressed in black, we probably looked like some kind of Gothic Breakfast Club. 

        I felt like shit as usual, and my ass had practically been dragged out to this Target, so I decided to just sit and try to write or people watch in the Starbucks therein while I waited for everyone to finish their shopping. I was strongly tempted to get up and run while I had the chance, but my legs were too heavy and my chest already too tight; I had to be put on some medication anyways that made me dizzy and nauseous as hell. Writing had already become like drawing blood from a turnip, especially without any cognitive enhancing substances. I was more bitchy, tired, sedate, and frustrated with being forced to eat a diet that didn’t seem to work for my body- particularly with severe blood sugar regulation issues. I already wanted to go home, but that would have only been going back to doing what wasn’t working for me, and I wasn’t currently welcome there; but I felt too exhausted to do anything else- much less treatment. I was already beginning to feel that I wasn’t getting the things I needed physically, and was at my patience’s end with Jacqueline ‘s continual “testing” of it. 

Nice Mom did take us to the gas station afterwards however to get  cigarettes, and on the regular- which smoking was still the highlight of most everyone’s days and nights. I always thought it was ironic, an RN taking us for smokes; but she was nonjudgmental and bought a blowtorch lighter she would for the future enjoy nearly burning our faces off with every light. 

      Weeks began to pass in this normal blur of a routine. Some days I couldn’t bring myself to do anything but refuse to leave my room because my mind continued to feel inexplicably dark and terrified. The proper diet and rest were surprisingly not helping at all with regulating my severe moods or physical pain and exhaustion.  The spells of confusion and dissociation that had first begun with the seizure continued, but I was told that it and the physical pain and exhaustion were in my head. I confessed to Shawna to stealing some painkillers from the nurse station, to which I received only a room search and severe chiding from Jacqueline and Brendan; as well as a locksmith in the next morning to change all the locks. Through some irrelevant means, I inadvertantly got Andre in trouble. More than once. I was legitimately remorseful and ashamed- I’d never felt so guilty as when it involved Andre- but I was also angry and weary of running to stay in place everyday. I didn’t think I could be helped because I didn’t believe they truly even understood or believed my situation; I didn’t even know if I wanted help anymore. I was tired of wasting everyone’s time and good intentions ; and I was beginning to figure out that this place wasn’t helping me, only draining me, and I began to really question why I needed to be there, and putting up an unconscious resistance to treatment which became more evident to everyone. 

        It had been raining heavily for the last couple days, which was a welcome change from the hell that summer always seemed; so while everyone was watching a movie- Sabrina had chosen the first Lord of the Rings and it was at an uncomfortably loud volume to me- so I slipped out into the rain to sit beneath the lemon tree, veiled by darkness in the far corner. I had taken to sitting there each day at some point, usually when I was upset- which was confessedly most of the time. Though he did not meet me on this dark, rainy evening; I had befriended a baby hummingbird that I named Highlighter- because his bright red chest sparkled with a surreal brilliance than I had never seen. But each day when I would go out and sit or lie beside the lemon tree, Highlighter would buzz up a moment later, perch in the lemon tree, and sit with me until I left- however long or short that was, as I usually went out there to be alone to think, pray, or often confessedly to simply weep. 

I laid down on the brick lining of the lemon tree’s raised planter, blinking up into the rain and sighed heavily.

           “God, what the hell am I doing here? Why do I need to be here? This is stupid. You know full well that they can’t help me. They don’t get it. They don’t understand that I’m not just getting up in the morning and choosing to feel like a miserable 75-year old lady; And the many problems I may have with eating or anything else really won’t matter when I feel like there’s really something wrong with my brain; I don’t feel right in the head, and I don’t know what’s going on but it’s scaring the shit out of me. I try so goddamn hard but I really can’t control whatever the hell these episodes are. One minute I’m angry enough to break shit, the next I can’t even leave my room I’m so depressed, the next I’m climbing the walls- literally suffocating, and then I’m fucking asleep; in a nearly endless loop. I need to go home. I need to go back to hiding, there’s no point in people seeing me. Therapists and shit may act like they like me but what’s it matter, no one in the real world would love me.”

I finally shut my mouth and waited for a reply. 

     “You’re right. This isn’t about helping you.” I could have sworn I heard the voice in my mind say.

“So what, am I supposed to be helping someone? How?? I’m apparently doing the worst of the six of us.”

       There was a “secret” whiteboard in the staff office, sectioned off into one for each of us. Leo had the night before peaked through a slit in the covered window and read off to all of us what ours said; everyone was quickly third level in privileges and I had been stuck at  second,not even being the only one to misbehave. Mine was the only one with a new big red “hazard” and the old “suicide watch” written  underneath. They hadn’t even seen a fucking hazard yet. 

       I was still waiting for another reply, when a massive white owl swooped down of the Cyprus overhead, talons outstretched for my leg, which was crossed up over the other. I kicked out to change its trajectory less than a mere foot away from me.

    “What the hell???” 

     I figured it was a rogue event and went to refocus my attention to listening. The owl swooped down a second time, I kicked at it again, then jumping up and making my way across the patio to the lamp by the door; when a raccoon came charging  out of the brush straight at me, between me and the back door. I didn’t want to mess with a raccoon; So I turned right back around, ran around the house, and over the fence to the front yard. In the light of the waxing moon in Aquarius I found myself beneath that great oak, which was accompanied by a few smaller oaks. I saw that one of the oak trees had fallen and now laid across the brick walkway. It’s trunk remained in the ground, but it had been broken in two a bit more than halfway down, seemingly by a great force of which I could not account for. The break had had revealed a large hollow section in the middle of the tree, and upon closer examination of the break, I couldn’t help but imagine it having been struck by lightning, though I hadn’t heard anything so that was perhaps foolish. But I was also struck by an undeniable sense of deja vu standing beside this broken oak. But I got an idea- one I would likely not use for years- but I stored it away in my mind for the proper time. 

P.45 the Last Letters

   “I’m sorry,” she repeated. “It’s easier to listen than to respond. When I begin to speak I realize that I have too much to say- which bothers me- so I stop before I get to where I mean to be going…”

      “That makes sense. I’d like to listen though, if you ever feel so inclined. Who do you usually talk to?”

“No one in any kind of depth or regularity. It’s so hard reconnecting or restarting with anyone, or Keeping any relationships at all, because I fear so much that I’ll disappear or fail them all over again, and waste their time. Because so often I just can’t feel anything but absolutely impenetrable and hopeless misery. I’d rather they remember me the way I was before. At times I so dearly want or need to reach out or reconnect but I stop myself or once I’m there, it’s impossible for me to maintain, for a myriad of reasons. There’s this weight, unease, and out of placeness that seems I may be better off alone regardless; or maybe it’s better for them that they simply believe that I don’t care.”

       I never forgot her words. 

       “I think I understand.” I said.   But actually I completely understood, because I’d lived that way my entire life. 

But the gentleness and agony of her spirit I knew would remain in my thoughts and in my heart for many years to come. And it did. 

***

          I gained cell phone and internet privilege that evening as well, of which the only remotely relevant part to me was being able to listen to music again; of which YouTube or other music streaming sites had been my company every evening for years. Everyone was out in the living room lounging about in pajamas; skyping, texting, chatting, socializing shit, etc. Sitting down to the computer in the small nook right  past the kitchen, I suddenly felt the random inclination to check the online dating site I had been so foolish to bother using some time ago; as I had any business nor intention of a serious relationship. With a few guesses at my  password, I skipped over a few sleazy pick up lines before my attention fell to an abnormally lengthy message from a “HereOnMyLunch” username, sent at 5:54, just under a week ago, one of the last evenings I was in Alhambra. It read:

     So when I pulled up your profile, instead of messaging you about flirting or common interest, I felt that the Holy Spirit wanted me to send you a word of encouragement. 

I feel like God is really proud of you- where you’re going and where you came from. He’s also proud of you exactly where you’re at. The thing/things you’ve had to deal with haven’t been easy; but you’ve chosen to follow Him regardless. I feel that you often get judged because of your appearance, and potentially because of your attitude, but in your heart you follow God regardless. I just felt an overwhelming sense of satisfaction that God has in you; that He is blessed to know you as His daughter and that there’s nothing higher, taller, bigger, or longer than His love for you. 

He has only good plans for you. You are the “background picture on His phone,” the “wallpaper on His computer;” He had made you fearfully and wonderfully and is FULLY pleased in who you are. He has imparted to you all authority under heaven and Earth, for it is Christ who lives in you.”

        I put my head down on the keyboard and veiled my face behind pitch- black locks to hide that I had begun to cry, for the first time since checking into Alhambra; for I hadn’t allowed myself to think about or feel anything. Now everything about the life I was failing to run from came crashing down upon me in all its usual violence. The moment that rogue tear fell to the keyboard, the lights flickered out. 

       “Really…” I heard Andre exclaim exasperatedly from the kitchen, probably using some ridiculously large knife. 

“Hey Andre, can you try flipping the breaker? The power is out.” I heard Shawna yell from the staff office. 

       “Oh I hadn’t noticed the pitch- blackness Shawna...” I heard him mutter, somehow still sounding polite as always.

The electricity came back on of its own accord only a few moments later. I flew by Andre without a word, flipping off Fish as I passed through the kitchen. Lizzy had moved him back so Andre would have company. 

      “Where’s the rush Sunshine?” he called after me. 

I turned around and flipped him off with a weak fake smile. 

      “Oh. I’ll let you be.” he crossed his arms in an X in return, flipping me off with both. 

P.43

      “Well then I guess it’s fortunate that if you run away from here, I can just sit back and call the cops on you.”

Lovely. That sounds like a challenge to me.”

      “So I’m thinking if you can behave yourself for another day, and at least get started with your writing assignment, I’ll give you internet privilege and put you in the back room with Melisa. I think you and she in particular may have a bit in common.”

“What, did she try to off herself too? It’s the quiet ones- always the quiet ones.” 

“I can neither confirm or deny anything, but you’ll have someone as talkative as you are out there; you can have all sorts of silent conversations,” she gave me her disconcerting smile.  

***

        It was my last day of bed rest, and I was itching to up and run around the building a Couple hundred  times. It was visiting hours and Andre kept me some company and snuck me my first tiny half cup of coffee when Shawna was out on business. Leo later did some poorly executed ninja roll by the doorway, shooting a weighed paper airplane, but missing my face. Unfolding it, it had the word “Sunshine” written all over it in twenty different places. Evidently this was the nickname they too had all agreed upon for me in my absence. “A Ray of Fuckin’ Sunshine”. Sabrina had already taken to calling me Kitty Kat as loud as she could, each time she walked down the hall.                           

Lizzy still always had her headphones on, with continual slipknot, My Chemical Romance, and Pierce the Veil; Though I’m not sure how she always managed to have her phone outside the allotted evening hours. Amberlyn’s face was perpetually buried in a book- whether novel or school textbook. Leo had taken to knitting a different beanie for himself and scarves for essentially everyone and their dog. But he actually only liked cats. Everyone eventually learned to knit here and there, like a bunch of institutionalized grannies. Sabrina was an artist and usually at the small table outside the kitchen, sketching macabre portraits of everyone on the ward as well as made up characters. Her artwork was fascinatingly morbid, and she always did a fantastic job in capturing everyone’s persona. I don’t know what Melissa did, or where she always was. Probably in the room. 

Jacquelyn (who was apparently Tough Mom) and Shawna (Boss Mom) had been in the staff office with Nice Mom and all the other counselors for the last few hours; basically once a week they all discussed each of us individually in reassessing our treatment plans. The quiet was much welcome and I finally got to some writing. 
       

        “Did Shawna tell you the story about the bookcase in the living room?” Andre came in and sat down beside the couch. 

    “No….what about it?”

“Have you noticed all the big black spots on its white paint? They don’t look like a part of the wood, or a part of the paint; They look like eyes.”

“I didn’t think about it, but now that  say- I know what you’re talking about. I had unconsciously assumed they were natural eye spots in the wood; but thinking about it, that wood  was all completely sanded and then painted – so how did the markings get on top? And they’re all the way up to the top of those ridiculously tall ceilings, so no one could have reached up there.”

   “Ah, now you’re thinking. That’s because there never were any markings. I’ve worked here for a few years now and I can tell you that that bookcase was all gloss white. Well, we had a resident last year- a girl your age, who claimed that she saw a ghost one night, and that it went into that bookcase. And the next morning- overnight- the bookcase was covered top to bottom in those eyes. I saw it myself Kat, some freaky stuff.”

   “Oh no… I believe you alright.. ” I said with a chill. “Don’t tell Shapiro but I see them too- though I don’t believe they’re ghosts.”

    “Are you serious? You’re messing with me.” 

“This may be the first time that I’m not. But now I’m kind of worried that I’m going to have a run in with that one. I hadn’t seen anything the last couple nights, to my relief.” 

      “Yeah I saw you, you slept like a log alright. What’d they use sleep- deprivation torture over where you came from?”

“Basically. How freaking late do you stay? Now you’re watching me sleep? Not creepy at all Andre,” I teased. 

“Well, now I have to stick around tonight to see if this ghost comes out to get you- if you really have a target on your forehead.” he feigned laying his apron over the back of the chair.

   “Let’s just hope you stay disappointed,” I said, masking my uneasiness. 

 

P.41

…Sparing you a long rant, I’m pretty good with dealing with external hurts and problems- because most things seem like nothing when normal emotional responses are usually drowned out by constant inner battle. Of course I tried and wish the best for Uly.. But I have enough guilt in my life that I can’t afford to bear that too. I guess talking about it for the first time though, it sounds more sad than I had thought it would. But I think that back then- that was six or seven years ago- a part of my heart was alive and well intact that I think I lost somewhere in the last few years. Like no thing or no one can even touch me anymore, in any way. Life has always been hard, as it is for everyone; but I never could have imagined it being as impossible as it has become, or that I would fail entirely. What’s that song… ‘Now in the morning I sleep alone, and sweep the streets I used to own.’ So I confess to often being numb to things that should upset me, or would most people- as I’ve often been told or observed in others.”

      “I think that part of your heart is still there, just temporarily frozen or hiding.” 

“Oh the eternal optimist- but we’ll compliment eachother. Or that part was murdered. Probably by me. There weren’t enough resources to go around.” 

“What else did you read that stood out to you?” She suddenly focused past me out at the creeping oak. “Uh oh, it’s an omen Kat…” she laughed.

       A murder of crows, nearly a hundred strong had crowded together in the boughs of the oak closest to the window. 

“I’m actually legitimately freaked out….”she added. But that was usually an easy thing to do.

  “They don’t usually do that?” 

          “I’ve never seen it before.”

    After that day, it became a regular occurrence. 

       “Oh your last question…” I said, still turned about in the armchair observing the rowdy crows. “I suppose I was actually surprised to realize just how much of my life I’ve spent alone- in the literal sense, not just the feeling. I guess by bad luck or prohibition as a kid, not really being liked as a teen- or visa versa, and half choice/half circumstance as an adult.  I realized I’ve always been one to go months without seeing or hardly talking to anyone. Given, I was forcibly homeschooled after 12, and the little time I managed to spend in schooling systems afterward, I remained unspoken about how foolish and shallow I felt most of my peers were- and they were evidently afraid of me, that I was going to sacrifice their cat to Satan or something; so other than the time spent with Caden- which was a major adjustment for me- most all of the interaction I’ve had with people in my life has been over chat on the computer, whether I ever met them in person or not. But then again as a teen, I always got my ass grounded for months, so then I didn’t talk to anyone. But it became very clear reading through all that old stuff that I didn’t seem to proceed by any semblance of a normal child to adult progression or events of growing up. ”

“That’s becoming more common in this age, unfortunately- the virtual communication part. Did you purposely avoid people? There are other things you could have done to meet people.”

     “Not always. As a kid I usually played with my brother or beat the neighborhood boys- not because I had a crush though, probably to prove that female wasn’t the weaker sex- as I’d long been taught and treated, ” I laughed. “Up until about 15 I really enjoyed being with some people- I read all about that. But it’s kind of sad looking back now with a bit more discernment and realizing that I wasted my childhood and teenage years on people that left me out and treated me like shit. I guess I didn’t know anything else to know better.”

      “What changed at 15?”

   “Oh, that was when I was hospitalized for the first time. The day before, I tried to get the group together one last time- infrequently as I saw them anyway. I didn’t tell them where I was going, as I was testing them- and they had ditched me by the time I got to the meet spot. So I left for nearly four months in UCLA neuropsychiatric hospital, where I wrote each of the five of them letters saying that I was finally done with them, that all the years were enough for me to finally see that things would never change and I was fooling myself to think that I ever had any place with them. Only one ever responded to their letter, of which then nothing changed. I concluded that they were perhaps too young to understand courtesy, reciprocation, or honesty; and they were all too caught up in whoever they were dating and I was left out or the spare wheel. So that was when I started only spending time with people significantly older than myself- of which my parents condemned until some years later when they realized they couldn’t stop me.”