Strange and Abnormal

As I mentioned earlier, the library was a place of refuge in my younger years. I would grab a few books, sit in a comfy chair and read for hours, sometimes til they closed, since I dreaded going back home. One book that really made an impact in my life back then was “Escape to Witch Mountain”, by Alexander Key. It seemed to touch upon a lot of things I was feeling at the time. It is the story of two children who had unusual gifts. They were different from everyone else. They were strange. They were abnormal. They were “Other”. They were looking for their own people, those who were like them. I happened to randomly discover this book in 1975 on a library shelf. I was 11 years old at the time. I had no idea that a movie version would be released just a few weeks later. It seemed I was fated to read it, that it had a message, that I had been guided to it somehow. It seemed to give me glimpses of things to come. While I loved the film version, it was very different from the book, which had a more mystical quality. It seemed to have been written just for me. There were sequels and TV spin-offs but they were all crap and didn’t have the same effect. Escape to Witch Mountain, the book moreso than the film, had a huge influence on me in my pre-teen years. It gave me the sense that I was not alone, that there were others like me. The children in the book had adopted the last name ‘Castaway’, which was sort of how I felt back then. An unwanted castaway who didn’t belong and everyone thought was weird.

It would still be some years before I connected the dots that I was a witch. More recently, the Harry Potter stories had a massive impact on me. There were so many connections to my own life. Like myself, Harry endured verbal abuse growing up and had been called “strange and abnormal”. Like myself, he was 11 years old when he began his magical discovery. His story inspired me to stop using my birth name and start using the name Potter. His story affected me deeply. Just because Rowling made those comments doesn’t mean I have to suddenly turn my back on all of it. She’s not the first famous problematic author. She may have given birth to Harry and his story, but the Potter fandom has evolved beyond her. We’ve sort of taken it over and made it our own. “We’ve eclipsed her”, as a friend so succinctly said. The Wizarding World has meant a lot to me and it still does. Harry Potter was one of the things that helped bring my mother and I closer together. She was a fan as well, and it was one of the few things that we bonded together over. I can’t just toss that aside. I have used the name Potter for over 20 years. My father’s last name meant absolutely nothing to me. I hated it. The bullies in school used it against me as a slur, an insult. Everyone I remember from my dad’s side of the family were either alcoholics, fiercely racist and homophobic, constantly in and out of jail, or all of the above. I severed myself completely from the whole lot of them long ago. The name Potter suits me just fine, thank you. I consider it my real name even though it is not the name on my birth certificate.

People still think I’m strange and abnormal.
I’m perfectly okay with that.

I think sometimes when the gods or higher powers want to speak to us, they will do it through things we respond to. For some people it’s art or music. For me, one of those things has been books and literature. At some point during my childhood, I was given a book of mythology. The Celtic gods stood out far above the rest. Cu Chulainn. Lugh. The Morrigan. Brighid. Cerridwen and her cauldron. Something about the Celtic gods really called out to me. They seemed familiar, like the occult books I had read. They seemed connected somehow.

At another point in my childhood, I was given an ESP (Extra Sensory Perception) Kit that contained a pack of Zener cards. Designed in the 1930s by parapsychologist J. B. Rhine, each card contains one of five symbols: A circle, a plus sign, a square, a star, and three wavy lines. These usually come in a pack of 25, and the object is to try and visualize the symbol on the card before you turn it over. It is a tool used to develop psychic and telepathic ability. I don’t remember who gave them to me, but I remember spending hours upon hours with these cards. I’m feeling rather sentimental as I write about them, as I know they helped me a great deal. I did get rather good at them, but I also learned that psychic ability isn’t something one can always turn on and off.

Most of the time, at least for me, psychic information enters my consciousness unbidden. It is a sudden awareness, a sudden knowing. Even in my younger years I remember getting sudden flashes of insight about people around me, things about them that I just knew. I envy people who are able to tap into their psychic abilities at will. I’m not quite there yet.

Throughout my elementary school years I was frequently beaten up, kicked and called names. I endured abuse both at home and at school. The teachers stood by and did nothing. I had no support whatsoever. Later, my junior high and high school years were a period of discovery. I was coming to terms with my sexuality and exploring my life’s path. The junior high school was conveniently located just around the corner from my grandmother’s house, so naturally I skipped school on occasion. My grandmother took a taxi to work, (she cleaned motel rooms for a living), so I would hide behind the house until she left and then sneak back inside. In high school I was very active in the drama department and was in several plays. This was also when I started writing. I wrote several short stories and a one-act play. Sadly, these are all lost now, left behind decades ago in the house from hell. While still in high school I auditioned for college theatre productions and got cast in several of them. These productions were intended for the college theatre students, so I didn’t tell anyone I was still in high school. I looked older and more mature than my high school classmates. It was a wonderful escape, and the many nights of rehearsals kept me away from the house. I had dreams of being an actor, but the truth is I really wasn’t that good. They were small roles with few lines, but I didn’t care. It gave me a chance to be someone else for awhile, to live in a different reality.

Throughout my high school years I continued to have strange experiences. I learned to expect them and was pretty sure they weren’t happening to anyone else. I read all I could find that might explain what was going on, and getting weird looks from other students who saw my books about witchcraft and the occult. I was one of the outcasts in high school, and the other outcasts were my friends. We were the ‘different’ ones that everyone avoided. One of my friends was a girl whom everyone thought was a witch. She had long, straight black hair and always wore black clothing, black nails, black lipstick. The story was that while in gym class, another girl was bullying her, so she angrily threatened the girl, and then all of a sudden, the lights blew out, leaving the windowless gym in total pitch darkness. This apparently made her a witch. Maybe she was. Another friend was male and bullied like I was. We became close and spent a lot of time together. All of us had some sort of label attached to us. I was the ‘weird’ one. At lunchtime we didn’t sit at the tables with the other students, we sat together on the floor of the cafeteria next to a wall. We didn’t care what people were saying about us. We didn’t want to be like the pampered football jocks always talking about the next game, or the snobby girls from well-to-do families preparing for their next cotillion. We were glad to be the oddballs and misfits, and we bonded because of it. These friends made high school somewhat tolerable, but I didn’t really associate with them much outside of school. After graduation I threw my yearbook and class ring in the nearest trash can and put the whole miserable high school experience behind me.

At some point, we had a dog at my grandmother’s house. It belonged to my uncle, who also lived with us for awhile. One day the dog ran out of the house and into the street, where it was hit by a car and killed. That night I had a dream I will never forget. I was in water, or what seemed like water, up to my neck. It was very dark, but light from an unknown source was reflecting onto the water. There were no stars or moon in the sky. As I looked up, I saw five faces looking down at me. Only their heads were visible and they were talking to each other. I sensed they were talking about me, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Then suddenly, I saw the same dog that had died earlier in the day, and it was running towards me across the water. This frightened me and I abruptly woke up.

The first time I experienced clairvoyance, I remember wanting to speak to my younger brother who was not in the house at the time. I closed my eyes to visualize where he was. I saw him clearly in my mind’s eye, walking up the sidewalk towards the house. I ran outside to look, and there he was, walking up the sidewalk just as I had seen him. I told him about this experience, and naturally he thought I just imagined it. It’s all in your head…

On another occasion, I was sleeping in my bed when I was suddenly jolted awake. I sat up on the side of the bed and looked around. As I turned to look at my bed, I saw myself still lying there asleep, my head still on the pillow. But I was also sitting up. How was this possible? I froze for a few moments, and then my eyes opened and I felt my head against the pillow again. Was it all just a dream?

After I graduated high school, I was awarded a grant so I could attend the local university. I majored in Theatre Arts and Speech Communications. I spent more time on theatre productions than on my regular studies, my grades suffered as a result and I lost the grant after two years. I did not graduate, and I couldn’t afford it on my own. From that point on, college was out of the picture. Luckily, my mother invited me to come and live with her in California. This was my chance to escape the town for good. I left the town in 1984. I swore that I would never set foot there again and to this day I never have. I hear it has changed considerably, but I honestly couldn’t care less. I still have this fear that even if I did go back for whatever reason, I would somehow be trapped there, unable to leave again. I’ve had recurring nightmares about waking up and finding myself there again, as if my whole life had been a dream and I had been there this whole time. These dreams are not as frequent as they used to be, but I still have them. Being there again would be quite traumatic. Just thinking about it gives me anxiety. It is the one place on earth that I never want to see ever again. If the earth opened up and swallowed the whole town, it would not affect me in the least. It was a small consolation when I recently learned that where my grandmother’s house once stood is now a parking lot. Shortly after I moved to California, she developed breathing difficulties and had to have an oxygen tank. She still continued smoking until she died, even with one lung and an oxygen tank.

I don’t tell people where I really came from. The town was never my home. I tell everyone I’m from California, since after all, I did live there for twenty-two years. It was the first place in my life that truly felt like home to me, and as far as I’m concerned, that is where I am from.

A few summers while I was still living with my grandmother, I was invited to visit my mom and her husband-at-the-time, in whatever state they were living in. On one of these visits, her husband broke my nose. They were having an argument in the hallway. He yelled at me to go outside, she told me to stay in the house. Go outside! Stay in the house! Go outside! Stay in the house! This went back and forth, and I was panicked, not knowing what to do. Then he grabbed me by the arm and dragged me into the bathroom, where he punched me in the face and broke my nose. I had to wear bandages on my nose for two weeks. Ever since then I’ve been very self-conscious about my nose, which is now obviously crooked, and I could never afford to have it fixed. I think it was traumatic for my mother too, because she never spoke of this incident, and the one time I mentioned it she denied that it happened. But I remember. It was just one of those things we didn’t talk about.

Another of her husbands would get one of those plastic orange strips that you put together to make a race track for Hot Wheels cars, and would beat me with it until he drew blood. I remember my mother screaming at him that he was hitting me too hard, and he completely ignoring her.

Yet another of my mom’s husbands used to get in my face and scream at me. This was shortly after I moved to California. One night it was horrific. His face was inches from mine, and he was literally screaming at the top of his voice that I was going to hell, and he was throwing me out of the house. I sensed that he was trying to break me, break my spirit. He gave me two weeks to pack my things and find somewhere else to live. I had nowhere else to go. He was a big, intimidating man who loved to raise his voice, proud of his macho ego, and my mother was terrified of him. He had been physically abusing her, and had already dragged her out of the house once by her hair. I appealed to the universe for help, any of the higher powers that might hear me. Exactly one week later, he had a massive heart attack and died. I was there when it happened, and if I said I wasn’t relieved for both my mom and myself, I would be lying. He was an awful, horrible human being.

All of these experiences with abuse could be why I’ve become such a stoic and solemn person. There are huge blocks of time from my past that I don’t remember at all. I have two large scars on my forehead that I have no idea where they came from.

Contrary to my Gemini astrological sign, I do not have a bubbly, outgoing personality. I’m not a social butterfly, and definitely not the “life of the party” as Geminis are frequently described. I’m the first one to leave the party. I tend to keep people at a distance until I know them better. Sometimes even when I do know them better. People think I’m anti-social, and I guess it’s true to a certain degree. It’s not that I dislike people in general, I just prefer solitude, and having personal interaction in small doses. I don’t need people around me all of the time. I’ve always been a bit reclusive. I was already social-distancing long before Coronavirus. Gemini traits that would describe me accurately are my writing, teaching and organizational skills. I’m opinionated, unapologetic, and proudly, lecherously gay. To me the sign of the Twins implies a balance of duality. Light and Dark. Magical and Mundane. Structure and Chaos.

Throughout my teenage years, and through high school and college, I spent a lot of my free time learning about meditation and psychic abilities, and how to develop them. To this day I adore the works of Shakti Gawain and Thích Nhất Hạnh. I read books by Buddhist teachers and learned a few chants, mantras and visualization techniques. Practicing these different forms of meditation brought me peace and serenity. Granted, the local library in those days had a limited selection of these topics. I looked for these kinds of books in local bookshops as well, but the metaphysical books were always hidden away in a back corner, lumped together with the UFO’s and stories of Atlantis. I read about famous psychics, like Edgar Cayce and Uri Geller. I practiced Clairvoyance, Astral Projection, Telepathy and Psychometry. I can say I’m still somewhat successful at these skills today, but nowhere near where I’d like to be.

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