This is the eighteenth installment of a series about the Mountain Dude, a wandering guy with an ESP-like “gift”. The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.
There was a time when I tried to control it, the ESP and my knee-jerk reactions. It takes so much effort. Fending it off shows on my expression like in a paranormal or superhero movie where there’s mind-striving with an unseen foe complete with facial contortions and beading forehead sweat. Have you and your friends ever made a whirlpool in a round swimming pool? Round and round, faster and faster. Then you turn against the flow and confront the force of the moving water? That’s what it’s like except there’s no slowing the current once you turn against it, at least until you or the subject move out of range. But fighting the flow for even a brief moment is like struggling against some elemental law like gravity or magnetism, something impersonal and beyond mere human strength.
In my early twenties I worked with a Paranormalologist (she couldn’t legally call herself a psychologist) on controlling the flow of ESP. Dr.(?) Ziing would bring her colleagues in to test my progress. “Swim!” she hissed at me as their fears and hopes and disappointments would rush at me, images forming, shimmering and fragmenting like on an old antenna tv screen as I pushed back against the force. “Swim upstream!” I practiced backing or turning away politely instead of stumbling backwards with flailing arms, the idea being to achieve a certain level of social grace. Dr. Ziing was big on social grace.
Here are a couple typical snapshots from that stage of me trying to fit in:
I’m at a party in college. My roommate approaches to introduce a cute female friend from back home. He’s trying to help me out. The flow from her surges and approaches like a rolling wave ready to crest and I swim against it, a grimacing smile plastered on my face as I back away.
“What’s wrong?” she says. “Am I bleeding or something?” She reaches up to her head looking for the jagged wound that my expression of strained control seemed to indicate. Finding nothing but her intact and pretty face, she looks down at her clothes because surely there must be dog feces or something smeared all over her to explain my backpedaling and corpse-like smile. Finding nothing amiss she looks at my friend and shakes her head and walks away muttering.
“Nice try,” my friend says. “But I don’t think you’re going home with her tonight.”
It did get better with practice. About a year later I go to a job interview and sit down across from the HR guy. At this point, I’m able to fend off the flow and sit across from him through the whole interview while succumbing to no images or insights. A major step forward.
He only asks three times if I need the bathroom. Says I look uncomfortable. Like I’m holding something in.
I didn’t get the job.
Eventually I stopped trying. It was too hard and I couldn’t not react to the images and feelings that I got from people. I would say things, often advice or observations that hit too close to the mark, going from my brain to my voice before I even noticed. People got startled. Or scared. They got angry. They cried. They shook their heads and muttered and walked away.
So I walked away too. Into the woods, into the mountains. I started doing my own therapy.