The story that follows is about the single-most influential time period of my life – something that forever changed my life course. This story is a continuation of “The Making of a Martyr” – Part I and Part II.

swanI can’t recall the first time I noticed her, or the first time I began to develop feelings for her. She was the kind of girl who would go mostly unnoticed. Though pretty, she was quiet and seemed invisible and bookish. Perhaps that invisibility is partly what drew me to her.

I shared a few classes with her and eventually learned her name was Lina. Lina was from Bogotá, Colombia and had an identical twin sister named Claudia. No one could tell them apart.

Both were off the social radar. Claudia seemed slightly more outgoing and bubbly. Lina seemed more shy and introspective. Though they may have looked identical to everyone else, their differences to me were like night and day.

For years, my deeper love had all been directed toward just one girl, the wildly popular Tara M, but now suddenly, things began to shift. I started to notice Lina’s every gesture – the way she held her pencil, the books she read, the way her hair would fall against her shoulders, its shine – and it wasn’t long before I was head over heals in love with her.

I sat behind her in class, just staring. It wasn’t just that I was falling in love; it’s that I kept falling – deeper and deeper and deeper – into a love that seemed to have no end. Although this love was as sweet as anything could ever be, it was something that brought with it an unbearable torture. As I sat in class taking her in, I would sketch both images of love and brutal portraits of faces screaming.

During this period, my depth began to grow. I tapped into my own genius and began expressing it through poetry, writing, and art, though these skills weren’t developed enough to adequately capture the passion and fire that was blazing inside.

johnkidMy love for Lina wasn’t anything normal. For one, it was completely asexual. There wasn’t a trace of sexual thought anywhere near her. To me, these worlds were very different and I wanted the love to be as pure as it could possibly be. To me, Lina was pure innocence. Probably what she really represented was a simple and pure part of myself that had been long misplaced somewhere in my ego formation – a part of myself I longed to reacquaint with.

Secondly, I didn’t want her to become real. I both yearned to talk with her and dreaded it as I didn’t want the reality of her identity to interfere with the goddess-like image I had built up of her in my mind.

This was an impossible attraction from the start. She was too simple and innocent for a relationship. My chest condition created an impassable barrier anyway. Then, add to that a romantic notion that wanted to keep her mythical. It was a disaster in formation, and as my love continued to expand into ever-deepening territories, this tragedy began to unfold.

Just as it’s hard for someone to really understand pain or sickness when they are not experiencing it, it’s hard for me to convey my true experiences during this period. I was taken into realms of existence that I didn’t know were possible. I was tapped into forces of nature that are not commonly encountered. It felt literally as if the Gods were manipulating me like a puppet – my body being smashed and slammed against the oceans of sensation. It became humanly impossible for my limited self to contain the profound love that I was feeling and it began ripping and tearing me apart. Although the pain was exquisite, I was in direct contact with the very essence of Life, and this pain was felt as unimaginable bliss.

There were times when I would go and stand outside of her home at night and quietly scream with reckless abandon, completely immersed in the infinite depth of the passion. My surrender was nearly total. During the screams, I noticed a tiny spark, or part of myself that remained as just a witness. I hated this part of myself for being so cold and for not disappearing with me into the immersion.

A part of me so desperately wanted to see this love realized, and despite my own objections, I forced myself to talk with her on several occasions. The moments leading up to these approaches were some of the most wonderfully nervous and difficult moments ever. There was even a time I braved asking her to the prom. Caught off guard, she quickly lied and said that someone else had already asked her.

At a certain point, it became evident that this could never be. Because of my chest and my refusal to attend gym class, it was already determined that I would be unable to graduate high school. With my future prospects crumbling, there wasn’t a compelling case for me to stay in school.

Compared to my profound love for Lina, nothing else had much value or meaning. When everything you want in the world can be concentrated into just one thing, and that one thing is wholly unattainable, then there is really nothing left to live for. With nothing left to live for, it was time for me to go away and die.

At the time, my only spiritual reference was Jesus. Because my experiences did not fit into anything I could comprehend, I thought that perhaps this is who I was. I offered myself to God, vowing to live my life in service to the world.

It was now time to tell my friends and parents I was going away.

My friends were easy. They either didn’t believe me, or thought it was cool. I was able to make them realize the beauty in waking up and grabbing hold of life while young.

I was in the 11th grade and I had made my decision. Though in many ways tragic, I was fulfilling my romantic dreams – to go away and die – perhaps in a ditch somewhere, I didn’t know. Though difficult for anyone to understand, my decision was one with the pulse of life. I was tapped into something extraordinary, and there were no other options. I was in an infinitely pure place.

My relationship with my family was good. I gathered the courage and told my mother of my plans to leave and gave them a two week time period to prepare. Where I was going, I really didn’t know. Intuitively, I felt that the “west winds were calling,” and that I would probably just follow any signs saying “west.”

My parents understood my utter conviction, and felt that it was time for some urgent intervention.  They asked me to see a psychologist three times before leaving. I knew it was pointless, but with respect to them, I agreed to meet their request. I met with the psychologist of their choice and I got the sense in my three sessions with him that he yearned to be in my shoes, following his heart and walking out into the unknown.

sunset01The sessions failed to make a difference and my parents pleaded for one last option. They found a specialist and asked me to just meet with him once. Again, I loved them and knew this was a big deal – it was the least I could do, so I grudgingly agreed. Unfortunately, this man was horrible – a Sigmund Freud cookie cutter quack, who quickly went to work trying to dismantle and categorize my psyche into his pre-defined columns of neuroses. He assumed that I was somehow diseased and went to work with a hammer drill trying to find it. It was a pretty pathetic ending to a beautiful departure.

He found nothing. I was surrendering to love. And it was exquisite.

I packed my belongings into my ’78 Honda Civic, said my goodbyes, and drove away, heading westward.

>> This is a special poem I wrote about Lina during this time.

>> This story continues here.