I never saw him again. That would have been bad. Or maybe I'm making it up. But I remember him over twenty years later. I know what he looked like. If I saw him again I'd know.
A couple of years later, I worked with young adults as a peer counselor. Some I tutored, others I talked about how to relate to parents whose trust you have betrayed in the past, and vice versa. I had one in particular that I can't forget. I was to get him to look at jobs, learn social skills, do something besides dreaming into the hole of a guitar. Because I mention the guitar, you may think he wanted to be a professional musician or a 'rock star'. But he never thought of the future. Not that much enthusiasm, either: sure, it might be nice. He could play blues guitar really well, but not all the way through a composition. Just a neatly-combed lost soul: white skin, white shirt, wire glasses, no expression. You might think it was depression. I don't know.
Working with this guy made me nauseous and fogged. He was passive beyond belief, and nothing I tried was any good, no emotional or analytical expenditure. We met four times a week and he was always late, or missing, or vacant on arrival. I got him to look for jobs, a huge effort. He was a busboy for a day. He quit because he wanted to sit down and eat, not watch other people do it. The shrink on the case thought this was the best admission ever. "Everybody feels like that," he said. "Now we have something real to work with."
That was a new one. I realized how unthinkingly normal people defer gratification.
So, more effort. All my other work was suffering, and my boss got mad. He yelled at me (he was a yeller) and finally he mentioned my counselee's name mid-rant. After a pause, he said, "Ah-ha." I was given two weeks without sessions with the guitarist. My health, vital nature, and performance came straight back in a matter of days.
Months later, the guitarist confessed to a terrible local murder. My future husband had to go get him out. The guitarist did not commit it, alibi in full. He was not really capable, either, of anything that required fortitude of any sort. But he looked good for it because he was full of bad vibe, the big ick factor, and of course, the telephoned, hysterical confession. It was a big pain to everyone involved and also showed the only spark of acute feeling that I learned of him. The only act he ever made toward resolving guilt wasted hundreds of other people's hours.
His mother had already written him off when I first met him. That was not from lack of trying, you understand. He came from a good home. She just finally recognized a black hole. She was angry and disappointed, and now conserving her resources. The father was not so analytical. He was spending his life force, worry and money and emotion, trying to get "growing-up" for his son. The disparate reactions wrecked this marriage for all practical purposes.
The dad had heart trouble. He later died of it. I'm not sure it ever fully registered for him, or even a huge fear about the new difficulties that presented themselves. He was like Narcissus. Nothing to gaze at except the surface of a pool, summer or winter, starving or lonely. After awhile, I'm not sure Narcissus even needed to have his eyes open to see what he wanted to see.
I have known others who will take it out of you: some instantly, like at IHOP, some over the deadening or infuriating months we were employed in the same place, some over a lifetime. Some were evil, or whatever word you want to use. Some were desperate, and some were selfish to the bone. Most were ordinary, even boring, in how they try to take from you. But then there are the extraordinary ones.
This guitarist, I have never been able to classify. In the end, I think he is proof that Nature abhors a vacuum, that people will rush in to fill a silence or a lack. These are decent people who tried. But nothing dented the guitarist enough to form one of those internal scars we use to keep ourselves real.
I know this sounds hard, I know it doesn't have true cause-and-effect logic, but I am right all the same.
I think about this sometimes, when I hear about crime victims. I sometimes think they didn't trust their own sense of the vibe. I think about it with first responders, too, especially law enforcement and also prison guards. They spend prolonged time with people that make you sick. I wonder if we know what they pay to keep the sickeners away from us. I want them to have a damn good health plan that includes psych support, and a culture that allows them to make use of it.