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A handicapped writer and an alien team up to change the future of humanity. It's the free story that never ends!

The Enemy Within

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I met her at the annual Society for Professional Journalists convention shortly after moving to Los Angeles. She was a college journalism student. Having recently ended that portion of my life, I had turned down a job offer from my university and moved to Los Angeles to become a professional journalist. I don’t remember exactly how we met. I do remember the night that we met because that’s when I realized we were going to know each other for a long, long time.

The SPJ convention started with an awards banquet that brought together some of the greatest writers in the business. My personal favorites were Laurence Gonzalez and Larry Dubois. They were receiving a Distinguished Service Award for writing a multipart Playboy article about recluse billionaire Howard Hughes. They were rock stars of the journalism world, something that I’d mentioned to her earlier that day. Unfortunately, student and not yet professional SPJ members were seated at the cheap tables which were some distance away from the award winners.

We entered the banquet hall pre-dinner mixer and within minutes I found myself standing all alone. Since we had just met a few hours earlier, I wasn’t too concerned about her going off to make new friends. I mingled for about an hour until the announcement was made to be seated for dinner. I hadn’t even had time to find my table when she came walking up.

“I hope you don’t mind that I disappeared,” she said, “but I’ve been having a really nice conversation with Laurence Gonzalez’s and Larry Dubois’s wives. They’ve invited us to sit at their table. I know you wanted to speak with their husbands.”

From that moment on, she never stopped caring about me. Unfortunately, a few years later, she stopped caring about herself. It isn’t necessary to know the reasons why. Suffice it to say that when her parents looked at her, they saw pain and sorrow. It was nothing that she had done. It was sadness by association.

No longer able to concentrate, she decided to quit school and move back to Northern California. The last time I saw her was straight out of a movie. It was a rainy night when there was a knock at the door. As soon as I opened it, she threw her rain drenched arms around my neck and gave me a big kiss. She was the last person I had expected to see that night. She came in, dried off, and we talked for a while. I tried to get her to stay, but she was struggling to stay focused on the journey.

I was in the middle of a series of preplanned orthopedic surgeries and was unable to travel to Northern California. I called her often and she was always upbeat and positive. That acting job was for the benefit of her parents. Her letters to me told a different story. She was beginning to unravel and although I pleaded with her parents, they preferred to see the acting job as the real thing. They wanted to believe that she was getting better, not so much for her benefit as theirs. In their minds, it was all the same thing.

They continued believing in the fantasy until she disappeared. They called to tell me that she might be headed in my direction. About two weeks later, they called to tell me that the police had located her in a motel a couple of hours south of home.

Those were the days when suicide was discussed in hushed tones or not at all. It’s been 40 years and we haven’t raised the volume much more than a whisper. I think about her whenever I hear about a young person who has taken his or her own life. These days, I think about her a lot.

I missed a lot of the warning signs and there weren’t available resources for the ones that I did see. Today there are, but we must be alert and willing to act. If you or someone you know is fighting the enemy within, please call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You’re not just a human being; you are a representative of the human species.

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