To the best of my knowledge, I've intimately known only one murderer in my life*. He bore a striking resemblance, both physically and temperamentally, to Yosemite Sam--excruciatingly short, ever-bearded, swollen-nosed (from near-constant drinking), excitable, and, of course, a lifelong gun enthusiast. He thought of himself as "Big Jake," which is what his immediate family called him in times of playful good humor and, alternatively, hateful derision. I, on the other hand, preferred to refer to him as "Jakey" largely because the mischievous feminist in me found much joy in addressing him with, what he considered, a feminized diminutive. (His given name was James - but no one called him that.)
Jake was the first person to successfully teach me how to roll a joint (others had tried and failed). Early in our acquaintance, he presented me with a time-tested methodology that he had employed with others in the past: essentially, he tossed me an ounce of weed and a packet of rolling papers with the assurance that, by the time I finished the bag, I would be expert at the task. (He was also the only established drug dealer I've known who never got caught--not even a scare.)
I met Jake through his daughter, Shelly - a sunny, blond-haired, blue-eyed, girl-next-door type. We had worked retail together during my late teen years and had become fast friends through our shared love of sex, hip-hop and marijuana. One evening, after our store had closed, she invited me to her home to hang out with her parents. They were sitting around their kitchen table drinking cheap beer and smoking expensive weed**. Her mother, Bobbi, was an incredibly charming and insidiously clever woman, obviously the brains of the operation. Her father, I would soon learn, was a racist, sexist, child-abusing, ex-heroin addict and, as indicated above, drug dealer. Truly, I knew that Jake was not a nice man. Hence, it did not come as much of a surprise when I learned this past spring that he had killed Shelly's grandfather (Bobbi's father) and then turned the gun on himself.
Fortunately (for me, at least), I had distanced myself from the family a year before these events had transpired when Shelly's now deceased grandfather had attempted to murder his then girlfriend (which is, perhaps, a story for another blog post). At that time, both Shelly and Bobbi had expressed a want to "finish the job" that Shelly's grandfather had been unwilling and/or unable to accomplish. I then realized that this family was far too dangerous and morally bankrupt for me to continue my association with them. (To this day, I suspect that Shelly would be a decent person, if she could only disentangle herself from her mother's foul influence, but with each death in her family--her brother had overdosed on heroin months before her grandfather attempted to kill his girlfriend--she grew ever closer to Bobbi and ever farther from a normal life.)
When I think back on the time that I spent with Jake, my stomach turns. Years ago, I assumed that his drunken rants and crazed behavior were only the posturings of a person with short man syndrome - an ill-conceived attempt to garner respect and attention. Now, I know better. Had I not determined to avoid contact with him and his family, who knows if I would have survived to write this somewhat convoluted blog post.
Honestly, I had hoped that some form of wisdom would reveal itself to me in the writing of this piece, but I've only come to conclude what an obviously senseless act murder is. If I were granted the opportunity to relive those years, I suspect I would never have become friends with Shelly. I now fully realize that I could not have saved her from her family, that my influence on them was minimal, at best, and that, rather than my pulling them out of the muck, they had succeeded in dragging me further into it. Needless to say, this has been a humbling and disheartening life experience. At this point, I can only wish that Shelly will promptly seek the professional help she so desperately needs and thus thwart the cycle of violence for the next generation.
*Excluding state-sanctioned killing by soldiers;
**Evidently, Shelly and her parents had smoked together since her middle school days.