My Favorite Axe-Murderer

I had the opportunity to speak with an interesting man in my pursuit to learn about faith. His spiritual practice was Buddhism and he was particularly passionate about meditation and contemplation. As he described these cornerstones of his faith, I became increasingly uncomfortable. My discomfort came at the thought of spending time in quiet thought and reflection. What was I afraid of? Was my interior such a frightening place to dwell?

I thought it might have something to do with my lifelong friendship with a fellow I call Jack. He showed up one day, crazed look in his eyes, sweat dripping off his forehead, axe firmly planted in both hands. He even wore a T-shirt that had the word KILLER boldly emblazoned across his chest. Anybody in their right mind would keep their door tightly bolted, when he came to call. But I, naïve or stupid, I’m not sure, welcomed him. We developed relationship of sorts, and now when he pays a visit, I eagerly greet him and say, “Come on in. What hopes and dreams would you like to kill today?”

You see, Jack is the axe-murderer that lives in my head.

I first met Jack sometime around my teenage years. He would pop in occasionally to offer helpful fashion tips like, “Everybody wears these jeans. If you can’t fit your big butt into them, there’s something innately wrong with you. Buy them anyway and every time you wear them, I’ll be there to remind you how bad you look in them.”

He encouraged me to always look my best by saying, “Do not go out of the house unless you have make-up on. You are way too ugly to be seen in public without doing what you can to make yourself more presentable.”

I realize Jack sounds a little mean-spirited, but he always had my best interest at heart. If I tried to do something stupid like make new friends, he’d hold me back and say, “Whoa, you can’t talk to those people. You’re not ready to sit at the cool kids table.”

Jack wasn’t around all the time, just on occasion. He especially liked to surprise me whenever I was trying something new. He’d point out the ridiculousness of my pursuits and how I was destined to fail. Sometimes I would heed his advice and give up before I even started. But there were times when I became so invigorated by the thrill of stepping outside my comfort zone, that I found it hard to hear his voice.

As I got older, I discovered that I could hear Jack most clearly when I was especially tired, hungry or lonely. This worked out particularly well, because Jack was full of dieting tips, which almost always left me ravenous and eager to hear more words of discouragement.

Somehow or another, I got so busy with my life, career, marriage, and children, that I almost forgot my old friend Jack. But lately, he’s been coming around more and more. I guess it’s because I finally have enough time to think about new ideas and try new things. Jack is understandably concerned about the folly of my new pursuits. He says, “You can’t do that. Are you crazy? That is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. It’s destined for failure.”

It’s hard to imagine my life without Jack; he’s become such a staple in my life, but I’m beginning to think our relationship isn’t a healthy one. Jack has become a little too cozy with me of late. He doesn’t even bother to knock anymore. He just comes right in, greeting me first thing in the morning before I’ve even gotten out of bed.

When I tell him I’ve had enough, and that we have to stop seeing each other, he grows desperate, dramatically insinuating that he can’t live without me. When I tell him to leave, he obeys, but he waits patiently in the shadows for a moment of weakness that we both know will come.

It’s hard to say goodbye to a lifelong companion. We can go for long stretches without seeing each other, then he’ll show up unannounced and it’s just like old times. There’s something about him that makes me believe we belong together. I mean who knows, the places I might have gone without his stabilizing force to keep both my feet planted on the ground? There’s some comfort in that it think; comfort in the familiarity of his voice. How does the phrase go? “Better to deal with the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”

Who came up with that ridiculous advice? Jack probably. He’s full of these little idioms. But if I listen very carefully, I can hear a new voice. It’s very soft and I’m not sure where it’s coming from. I can barely make out the words as they whisper. . . “Jack, go f**k yourself!”

These words couldn’t have come from me because thanks to Jack’s tutelage – and my mother’s, I know that ladies don’t speak that way. But there it is again; a little louder this time, “JACK, please GO F**K YOURSELF! (and louder still) F**K YOU JACK! GO! BE GONE! YOU’RE NO LONGER WELCOME!  Sayōnara!” – I’m not sure why I added this last bit. I don’t think Jack speaks Japanese – either do I. It just felt good rolling off the tongue; cleansing my palette of the more crass verbiage.

And then he left. He’s gone, at least for now. If he returns, I’m pretty sure I can recall the words that sent him away. If I forget, I might have to consider a tattoo with a subtle reminder. Can you imagine me trying to explain why I have the words, “F**k You, Jack!” permanently etched into my skin?  Jack would hate that. But, it would make for an interesting conversation starter.

I don’t feel sorry for Jack; he has so many friends. If you see him, tell him I said, “Hello.”  But better yet, let him pass by without acknowledgement. There’s no need for you to be counted among his friends, or you too might be considering some novel idea about how to remember your own lost words.


  1. Anton Heseltine
    Mar 16, 2016

    I remember a few infrequent visits from my own Jack when I was much, much younger. He hasn’t been seen hereabouts since the 22nd February 1972 though. That was the day I went out on a date with Ali for the first time!

  2. KAZ
    Mar 25, 2016

    Is that why you would say in college”…you don’t know Jack!”???

    ….now I get it:)

    I love this blog!

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