On Becoming a Murderer


It’s one thing to bloody an old friend, quite another to end them.

It’s been two weeks since I murdered Ian. No regrets yet.

Ian and I grew up together, but I pretty much ignored him until May of 1984. That was the month Beth and I used the L word and turned a long-distance friendship into a long-distance romance. Beth and I had connected in Yosemite back in January of ’82 when she was invited to the nineteenth Birthday party of some Australian college student on a working vacation. Luckily for me the seniors on her high school trip were badly chaperoned. We connected for a few days but by February we were back to our respective lives, romances, and countries. I was surprised when she sent me a letter. I wrote back. She wrote again. I wrote again. Two years later we were still writing.

The guards on the drawbridge must have been on smoko when I lowered my defenses to admit Beth because Ian slipped in as well. He sat his angular frame in a straight-backed chair and watched from the shadows as I surfed the waves of rapture that accompany heartfelt obsession. He saw the thick letters from Beth arrive every week and listened to our rare dollar-a-minute phone calls as we made plans for our in- person reunion in December ’84. He spoke his first words to me in September.

“Get over yourself. You don’t really think you’ve got a shot with a beautiful and intelligent Berkeley Sophomore. You barely graduated and you’ve got a shit job in the Queensland Public Service. Ten minutes after she gets a look at you and Brisbane, she’ll be on the plane home.”

“Fuck off. She’s writing to me every day. Our phone calls are amazing.”

“That was over summer. She was bored. She’s back at Uni. She’s in a Sorority. She’s going to Frat parties. You’re old news.”

The worst thing about Ian was that occasionally his paranoia was right. My letters increased in volume, frequency, and intimacy. Beth’s letters dwindled and coordinating a call was almost impossible. Ian gloated but I believed it would be fine when Beth and I got together.

And it was fine. Better than fine. Beth flew out just before Christmas. We swam on pristine beaches. Snorkeled over rainbow reefs. Made love to the point of sweat soaked exhaustion. Ian said nothing when Beth and I got engaged in Cairns on a balmy New Year’s Eve in 1984, seven days before my twenty-second birthday. Beth and I figured out a plan. She would go back to the States and finish her school year while I saved enough money to fly out for our wedding in the summer of ’85.

Ian was quiescent over the next few months. He handed the baton to my friends and relatives who had plenty to say. They thought I was bat-shit crazy.

“It’s nice that you love each other, but why flush a safe career, a loving family and strong network of mates down the toilet? What the fuck?”

I knew they were wrong. I knew a love this intense, this powerful, this overwhelming would weather my relocation to California. Ian agreed with my friends and family. He wasn’t convinced that my love was reciprocated. In fact, his meticulous analysis of Beth’s letters and her phone comments made him wonder if this twenty-year-old woman was ready for commitment. I was convinced that his red flags were just herrings of the same color and ignored them all.

There were a few hurdles. Beth and I did change our plans a little, but by July ’86, we were secretly married and settled in a studio in a rough but affordable part of Oakland. Beth had her Sorority Sisters, her family, her Senior Year classmates, and me. I had Beth. And when she wasn’t around, I had Ian.

We had our big church wedding, Beth graduated, we both got jobs, and we moved down to an East Bay city that was an affordable mid-point between her biotech job in the South Bay and my finance job in SF. My work required travel and Ian was happy to take the flights with me. His memory was phenomenal and he loved to use our alone time to analyze my recent conversations with Beth.

“Beth said she had to be at that alumnae meeting on Thursday. Why was she back at Berkeley on Friday? And sure, it’s responsible not to drive when you’ve had too much to drink, but she never used to spend the night away from you. Are you sure she still wants you? Don’t you think she would be happier hanging out with her single friends?”

This time I didn’t push back. I knew Ian was right. My career was tracking up. My marriage was in a downward spiral. It crash landed early in 1989. Ian wanted me to go back home to Australia. I was too stubborn. There was no way I was going back to swim in a sea of “I told you so”. I stuck it out. Emotionally Beth matured and became the sort of partner she had wanted to be five years earlier. I didn’t grow. Ian and I sat around and discussed how to hone my role as the scarred victim of an unjust past.

Ian left me alone when I was at work but the nineteen mile drive to the office was fair game. He was there beside me as each traffic delay was met with a lower intestinal cramp that warranted a freeway exit and a hunt for a friendly gas-station loo. By 1992 I knew eight traffic minimizing circuitous routes between San Francisco and Foster City and the location of fourteen easy-access public restrooms. The day I made use of three of those loos on a half hour drive I knew something inside me was broken. And when I turned the car around and my guts immediately felt fine, I knew the problem wasn’t physical.

Ian objected strongly before my first visit with Dr. D. With every session he belittled the doctor’s observations and suggestions. I told Ian to shut the fuck up and pushed on. One evening Dr. D observed that every time I left home by myself, I was afraid Beth wasn’t going to be there when I got back. Ian screamed in frustration. It was all too much for him. He locked himself in the attic in a huff.

I didn’t see Ian again for several years. Beth and I started a family, and my focus was on work and raising two wonderful children. For a while I thought he was gone but in 2003 he reemerged, and we started to talk again. When Beth and I argued he provided the ammunition and later the in-depth post-game analysis. I lost more weight, the driving-triggered stomach cramps returned and thanks to a different health care plan, I started seeing Dr. J. After a lot of digging, Dr. J. asked me what was holding me back from accepting Beth’s love now. I realized it wasn’t what, it was who.

Ian and I fought. I hit him with every tool Dr. J. provided but no amount of logic was going to get him out the door. A workbook called “Feeling Good” drew Ian’s blood. Guided introspection poured poison though his veins. But with Rasputin-like tenacity, he clung to life. He dragged his bruised and convulsing body into a corner and cowered. In hindsight I should have killed him then but it’s one thing to bloody an old friend, quite another to end them.

One drizzly afternoon in 2007 I was unpacking boxes. The kids were at school, Beth was at work, but I had enough vacation time to put in some hours settling us into our new home. In a cardboard box crammed with Beth’s old college textbooks there was a notebook sized journal. Ian was there in an instant.

“Open it.”

“It’s not mine.”

“She’s your wife. She’s told you there are no secrets between you. Open it.”

I did. The contents hurt. They hurt bad.

“I told you.” Ian said. “I’m the only one you can trust.”

“But this shit happened over twenty years ago.”

“Doesn’t matter. A lie is a lie. You can’t trust her.”

Ian helped me plan my attack. Beth was blindsided. I was vicious. I lowered the drawbridge and kicked Beth out. Ian stayed in.

And that’s the way it stayed for three more years. Ian and I were intimate in a way we had never been before. Beth was bewildered. We managed to share the same bed and stay miles apart. Ian was there in 2010 when I further fractured the crumbling foundation of my marriage. Ian and I discussed what our life would be like after the divorce. Where we would live. What we would do. He helped me put together the checklist needed to end a twenty-five-year marriage.

Ian was listening as I spoke to a friend in the process of ending her marriage. She had a checklist too, and it included a marriage program called Retrouvaille. I’d never heard of it, but she told me that once she finished this program, she knew her relationship was done. If this program couldn’t save it, then nothing could. Ian pushed back but I told him if I was going to leave my confused and heartbroken wife, I was going to check every box first.

Ian was right to worry. He fought every step of the way.

“What is this Retrouvaille bullshit? Why do you need to understand what Beth is feeling? Why do you care what anyone is feeling? It’s what people do that matters. It’s what they have done to you that matters.”

Beth and I stuck with the program. For the first time Beth and I saw each other naked. It wasn’t pretty. We had been hiding some grotesque attitudes and wildly inaccurate assumptions about each other that we’d been too scared or ashamed to share. But share we did. Block by block we cleared the rubble and built something new together.

Ian was doing everything he could to save the fortress he and I lived in now.

“You can’t stay with Beth. Think about what she did.”

“What about what I have done to her?”

“You were the injured party first.” Ian continued.

“Doesn’t matter. We were both injured, and we can both heal.”

“Forgiving someone for hurting you is weak. I’m the only one who has never hurt you.”

“You tried to convince me that I should base my self-worth on shit that happened nearly thirty years ago. I’d count that as trying to hurt me.”

Ian ran. I followed and cornered him in a dark room. I could barely see so I ripped back the dusty curtains and daylight filled the room. Ian had put on weight. His hair was grey, he carried a paunch, and a delta of wrinkles fanned out from the corners of his watering eyes. He pleaded.

“You need me.”

“No. I don’t. I’m sorry it took so long to figure that out.”

“I don’t like the light. Please shut the drapes.”


Ian lunged past me. Just a few seconds of sunlight had turned the skin on his arms and legs beet red. He scrambled up into the attic and pulled the trap door behind him. Scraping and clunking sounds suggested he was piling the dross of my psyche onto the entrance to keep it shut.

I ripped off the fucking roof. The sun beat down. Ian scuttled from one corner to another, hunting for relief. I watched Ian’s skin blister and bleed. He staggered, spasmed and collapsed. He lay on his back, his jaw stretched in a silent scream as his flesh sloughed off into a fetid pool on the attic floor. Part of me hoped he would disappear in a vampiric puff of ash. But he was ugly in life and ugly in death.

That was two weeks ago. Still no regrets.

Previously Published on medium

Join The Good Men Project as a Premium Member today.

All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.

A $50 annual membership gives you an all access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.

Register New Account

Log in if you wish to renew an existing subscription.

Choose your subscription level

By completing this registration form, you are also agreeing to our Terms of Service which can be found here.



Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.

Photo credit: iStock

The post On Becoming a Murderer appeared first on The Good Men Project.

Older Post Newer Post