It was early in May of 2015. I don’t think I was even supposed to be there, but I ended up there. The only reason I knew anything was happening was because of someone mentioning the occasion without knowing that I’d not been invited. I was hanging out with a friend at my place when it slipped out that something was happening the next evening and we then realized that there was some kind of oversight or omission taking place. For whatever reason, I did eventually receive a last minute invitation to attend after it became known that I was aware of the event, so I couldn’t help but feel that the invitation came as the result of some sense of social obligation rather than a genuine desire for my presence. Regardless, I accepted the invitation with the benefit of the doubt given that the person organizing it is prone to last minute invitations. I rarely had more than 24 hours notice whenever anything was happening at his home, so it wouldn’t be completely out of place to not hear anything until the day of the gathering.

This was a place I’d been to many times before in the previous 4 years, the home of someone I’ve been friends with and collaborated with for some 20 years. It had become something of a “thing” to go there and enjoy certain “indulgences” and depart into the realms of spontaneous creativity and these events had come to be of great importance and value to me. They were occasions when I felt a unique sense of belonging and camaraderie coupled with the deep satisfaction of unfettered creativity. In fact, it had even sparked my ambitions to the point where I believed, at one point, that this connection with these people was THEE creative outlet that I had spent so much of my life searching for. However, I had realized that those ambitions were not going to come to anything a while back for various reasons I don’t feel pertinent to this recounting, but which may become evident because of this story. Suffice it to say that, while I no longer envisioned any public manifestation of this interaction, I still enjoyed participating in these private occasions as they still provided a unique social and creative outlet.

So, with doubts about my inclusion at this event at the back of my mind, I engaged with the evening and its stimulations without reservation and soon found myself fully enjoying the company and the activities. In fact, it was a particularly satisfying evening as I felt my creative efforts working well and sensed a great deal of appreciation from those who were there. That is, with one exception.

Throughout the evening, my “host” continually seemed to have subtle objections to whatever it was that I was doing. Not anything significant, but I got the distinct impression that I was being “micromanaged”. Despite the encouragement and approval of everyone else, this person seemed to be “off” somehow with whatever I did. At first, it was just little things like fussing with settings or interrupting me when I was in the middle of something. Then it was a more pointed “less of that” remark tossed off in passing. I barely noticed it, but, in retrospect, it felt rather curt and impolite - like being scolded by your dad. I didn’t really know what to make of it, so I just continued enjoying myself and doing what I normally did at events like this. I was, in effect, just being me in the way that I interact with this type of scene which I had thought was why I was there. You know, to be me and do what I do.

It was sometime shortly after that while I was responding to a humorous comment with what I believed to be an appropriate punctuation when the host suddenly burst into my view, openly angry and hostile and demanding that I STOP doing what I was doing. The irony of this moment was that, right when it happened, someone else there was enthusiastically complimenting me on what I was doing. They were genuinely fascinated by it and thought it was incredibly cool that I could respond to the situation as I did. But my host had, for some reason, decided that he was having none of it and, after getting in my face and letting me know in no uncertain terms of his disapproval, proceeded to physically shut me down. They effectively closed me out of interacting and ostracized me from what was going on. This was done perfunctorily and without comment. I was simply shut off.

When you are involved in certain states of mind precipitated by certain indulgences, there is a kind of unspoken sacred trust that exists within such social settings where one chooses to do such things. When it is a closed setting with “friends”, it is generally anticipated that you are not going to have to deal with open hostility or rejection. In fact, such actions from one individual to another can have very serious consequences. Certain forms of stimulation result in mind alterations which make it possible to leave deep impressions on someone’s psyche. When you open yourself to the universe, being rejected in the process can be devastating.

In this case, I was in a heightened state of sensitivity and ecstatic joy when I was plunged into the depths of despair as my connection with the environment and the people in it was suddenly and inexplicably severed. My attempt to request the host allow me to resume my engagement went ignored. My sense of rejection and isolation even manifested in an instance where another of the guests did the complete rounds saying warm goodbyes to all those in attendance upon his departure, but I was entirely & systematically ignored. This may have been an honest oversight, but the symbolic impact in that state of mind was inescapable.

From then on, it was as if I ceased to exist. Only the host’s partner took any notice of my condition and made some silent attempt to console me. I had been hurling along on this wild crazy train having the time of my life when I was suddenly thrown off it by the “conductor” and tossed into the abyss. After sitting there, dejected for some time, I quietly packed up my belongings and exited.

All I could think of was how I felt like I’d been treated like an object, like some piece of equipment that had displeased its owner and was shut off to silence it. I kept thinking of how I would have never done anything like that to anyone, most of all the person who did it to me. It just felt like such an act of arrogance and selfishness, betrayal and cruelty. For one, I couldn’t fathom what was so objectionable in what I was doing. Everyone else was enjoying my contributions. It was only one person who took exception. The act of shutting me down felt like some kind of primal display of control, like “I’m the alpha monkey here and you are under my control.”

Once I got home it was like I had been tossed into a pit of despair. I felt like I’d been totally abused by the situation - like someone had kicked me in the head. The next day, I got an email from the host’s partner containing her apology for his behaviour. That was appreciated, but what I needed to hear was his apology from him. Any subsequent communication that I did received from him, however, deftly avoided anything of the kind. First it was “I was out of it - I don’t remember what happened”. Then it was, “We just got our wires crossed” and then I got “I was distracted by someone else’s problems.” Again, no apology. No expression of regret or remorse. Basically the attitude was “I did what was right for me and you just don’t understand.”

I needed that apology. It was crucial to me that they showed that they understood the damage they’d caused and there was damage. Because of my state of mind at the time it occurred, the instance was burned into the deepest parts of my psyche. It stamped an entirely new perception in my mind of the person who had abused me. Yes, I consider it an abuse. I was vulnerable and exposed and they engaged in an openly hostile and aggressive act of rejection. It changed the way I saw them. It snapped into place with a host of other observations gleaned from past experiences of similar if less blatant examples of hostility. It tied together abusive behaviour I’d witnessed towards others over the years. Something in my mind instinctively rejected this person, a person I’d considered a friend for decades. They weren’t there anymore. Instead there was this other person. I couldn’t talk to him. I still can’t talk to him. I don’t feel safe around him. I feel only hostility from him. I don’t feel any love or affection. His attempts to show these things feel empty and insincere. I don’t believe him.

Since the initial event, I started to think about other times when this person had cut me off (less abruptly, albeit, but cut off nonetheless). I can remember numerous occasions where it felt like we were hitting on a particularly effective improvisation when suddenly he’d stop everything and claim that he was trying to “capture” it properly or some such excuse, but what always ended up happening was that whatever I was doing was thwarted and displaced and never allowed to flourish again. I can’t help but have suspicions that, on some level, there was some kind of insecurity being expressed. And I’m quite convinced that there were other occasions where deliberate sabotage was deployed in order to shut something down that he wasn’t happy about rather than openly declare any hostility. I can’t speculate on his motivations, but the pattern of being cut off whenever I felt like I was hitting a high point was too consistent to be ignored.

I began to connect this behaviour to other instances of what I can only call “passive aggressive” hostility. I remember an occasion where he was struggling with a rhythm section and I tried to offer some simple guidance which resulted in him storming out of the room and, though I can’t be certain, I got the distinct impression he punched the wall in the other room. He often became defensive at the slightest question or comment, no matter how innocuous and incidental it was. Anything would set him off. A casual joke would be taken as a personal insult. In some cases, I discovered much later on, he would hold onto these for years feeling resentment and hostility. It was all completely UNNECESSARY.

The thought of being around him now is something I have no desire to experience. I can’t trust him. How do I know that he won’t turn on me again when I’m in a similar state of exposure? His actions set off a chain reaction which caused me to descend into a state of depression that lasted for months. Every day I’d be stuck with this scene replaying in my head, over and over. The wound never healed. It’s still there. I could never feel safe in his presence again. I still feel that way. I can’t imagine being able to feel at ease to the point where I could be creatively expressive when I know that any arbitrary thing might set him off.

The experience sent me into such a deep hole that I went into full “turtle” mode. I shut down my social media accounts for several weeks because of it. I killed my creative identity because of it. The whole thing forced me into an entirely new identity. I needed to become something new, something that had no relation to anything else, something with no past or future, just a focus on the "now". “Mr. Fist” died that night. He was killed by betrayal. He was killed because someone he believed in and trusted shot him in the face.

This breakdown had even more extensive long term destructive impacts as it infected my social bonds with anyone connected with the source of my anger and pain. Like ripples in water, relationship after relationship fell into the distance and faded away. When you fall out with someone who is a significant social hub, there’s a heavy price to pay as loyalties strain with people who don’t understand why you can’t deal with this person anymore. This is a pattern with which I have become far too familiar.

Since then, there hasn’t been a day that has gone by where some scenario connected with these events doesn’t play out in my head. My brain is like a theatre where there’s always some player strutting and fretting their stuff in some attempt to deal with some conundrum. I’ve had so many scenes play out of what I should do or say or how I should respond. What would I do if I ran into him? What if they actually did the unthinkable and apologized after all this time? Would it mean anything? The wounds are so infested now that I can’t foresee any situation where I could be comfortable with him again. I will always be on my guard around him, always wondering what whim would be required to have him turn on me again. All the things we created together are now packed away and closed off and I have no plans to ever share them again. They all feel like a terrible waste of time. Accusations of misuse and exploitation have been levelled at me and he has done a very good job of portraying himself in the “victim” role in relation to me. Another reason I can never trust him again.

I had thought we were the proverbial “chocolate & peanut butter” combination that worked so well together. I can’t deny this person’s practical talents, but every attempt I made to bring what we had to someplace other than his basement was spurned and rejected. Always rejected whenever it got really good. That was always the pattern. So now I don’t look for collaborators anymore. I’ve given up on that idea completely. It always ends up the same. I spend all my effort and time to create something that can never do anything but sit on a shelf and collect dust. The only way forward that I can find is going it alone. So that’s what I’m doing.