There was silence. Danny V by now had retreated to his bunk and with that question began to stare off into the distance, his eyes glazed over, showing no particular focus. “Dallas had been correct” I thought. “This guy is suicidal.”
“Look,” I said, “I don’t know if you’re telling the truth or not; the real answer is I don’t care really, but if you’re not right, if you’re crazy, you need to talk with one of the shrinks. That may be your solution.”
“I’m not crazy,” he said.
“Well, then, maybe you should get one of your girlfriend’s friends, or ex-boyfriends to say she’s crazy if she’s lying.”
“I don’t know any of her friends,” he said.
“You don’t know any of her friends? How can that be? How long you been going out with this girl?”
“About four years.”
“Four years! You’re trying to tell me you went out with a woman for four years and you don’t know any of her friends?”
“She wouldn’t let me meet them.”
“She wouldn’t let you meet them? What the fuck does that mean?”
“She was really jealous, and she didn’t want her family to know about us, so I never met any of them.”
“In four years, Daniel?”
“She’s Asian and she didn’t want her parents to know.”
“She’s Asian?” I said. All I could think of was that she probably looks like she’s way too young to be involved in any of this. She’s going to get on that stand and cry and everybody is going to look at you like you raped a child. “Your lawyer’s right, you’re going to prison. She probably looks like she 12 years old.”
“She’s not twelve, though, she’s 25.”
“Are you stupid? You’re not hearing me. No one cares what you have to say. That prosecutor is going to make everybody in that courtroom believe this girl is a victim, an immigrant victim, and you’re Ted Bundy.”
“She’s not an immigrant,” he said, never really grasping the seriousness of his predicament, “she’s lived here all her life.”
I just shook my head in disgust. Not only did this guy not get it, he truly wasn’t as bright as I wanted him to be. In fact, on top of being weird, he wasn’t that smart either.
Danny V was a dark-haired Italian kid, whom I believe the girls did consider good looking. He was about 5’10”, lean with an angular muscular body. He worked in retail at the local Wal-Mart selling electronics or something, but to be 28 he didn’t seem very sophisticated. All I had ever overhead him say before was something about video games and how much he liked them. “Did you go to college?” I asked. “I mean, what do you want to be?”
“I was in college,” he said, “but my girlfriend made me drop out. She said she was worried about me cheating on her. So I did it. I figured that that was what she wanted so I did it.”
“Dropped out? Your girlfriend made you drop out? This was crazy. Now I was confused. Could he possibly be that lossed. But what do you want, Daniel?” I asked. “Who do you want to be?” I got no answer. “What about your family? Are your parents still married?”
“I never knew my father.”
I suspect from that standpoint, Danny V wasn’t much different than the rest of us. Turns out Danny V grew up in a home with seven other siblings and a mom who was a single parent. His recollections are that his mom didn’t really have time for him. That, although it was his father who had married her, the fathers of his siblings had not. And yet, it was he, she had no time for. In his recollection, she hated his father, and in his world, took it out on him.
Unfortunately, I believe a lot of that to be true. Whether it occurred or not, in the mind of the child that was Danny V, it was quite real, especially the part about him feeling that his mother had taken out her frustrations on him. I could see the pain in his eyes. It was unmistakable and it was real.
Danny V is an eerily sad kid. He seems desperately out of place, not just in here, but always. I suspect it became evident, even to him, anytime he was around other people. At 28 years of age, his response to conflict and stress is precisely that of a four year old. More than anyone else in here, and more than anyone else I have ever met, his strategy to always blame his actions on some object outside of him was stronger. He had no control of himself. Someone else was always responsible (and that was real for him too).
There were seven other siblings in his family and he admits to being close to none of them. That, in and of itself, speaks volumes.
In a big way, he is weak, passive, and not very self-aware. If asked, innocently, “Why do you think you did that?” He’d retreat to a neutral corner of the cell, give the impression he was in thought, but what he was really doing was retreating. It was like watching a group, or family, of monkeys on Animal Planet. His behaviors are so primitive; it’s as if he stopped developing psychologically as a human being at five or six years of age.
I believe his description of his relationship with his mom is accurate. It certainly explains the episodes of screaming and crying through the phone that we all witnessed in his attempt to get her to help him. He appears to have lost the ability to communicate with words and thus has resorted to emotional signals. He is as a child who has yet to master the language and therefore uses crying as a form of communication to indicate that there is something he needs.
In order to engage me, to win me over to his way of thinking, he had given me some of the papers he had been working on to read. I had refused them before, explaining, in accordance with jailhouse code, that “I did not want to be in his business”. Danny V however wanted not only me, but everyone, in his business. He just had to have the attention. He couldn’t exist without it. Before he had “moved in” to my suite, I watched him carrying those papers around the day room like an attached “ball and chain”. He actively sought the opinion of whatever unknowing soul who would listen. The entire module had grown tired of Danny V. I know I had. And that is how I came to meet him, by default.
The papers were legal sized tablets, the yellow kind, and every available space of writing surface had been filled in with small writing, the kind you would expect from an ant, that is, if ants could write. It reminded me of the rows and rows of booklets that Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt find in the murderer’s apartment in the movie “Seven”.
In the text, he was not so much telling his story, as he was talking around his story. It was not specifically a narrative, but more an incoherent list. The story he tells is a frightening array of flight of ideas with long periods of gibberish interspersed with even longer ramblings that have absolutely nothing to do with the apparent action at the moment. He would throw out things, negative and degrading things, about his girlfriend but offer no way to prove it. He apparently had also enlisted “his new girlfriend” to corroborate his story:
“…I went back, I was over her house and I was working on my computer. When I left, but then I came back. She had poured orange juice in it. The Asian cop, Yang, I told him that was what happened…”
“Daniel” I asked. Where’d the cop come from?” I handed him the text to examine. “This is making no sense.”
“Oh, I called him… I guess I left that part out. She had told them I had tried to run her over. I didn’t. I was following her and sideswiped two cars. She was going down a one-way the wrong way.”
“But in the line just before you were talking about your computer. I got to tell you. This makes you look very crazy. You need to stop writing this kind of stuff. If I’m on your jury and I read this I think this guy’s crazy. He’s guilty.”
He glanced off in an attempt to look sad, but turned right back to ask, “Do you like video games?”
“Video games,” I asked. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m also working on this video game.” In short, the video game was a medieval depiction of the courtroom, with the judge and the DA representing dragons and monsters.
“You need to stop and think about who you’re going to be when your trial starts” I warned. “Everything here says guilty. In fact, like I said before, this stuff makes you look like Ted Bundy in training.”
“You…you…said that before. I…uh…I don’t know who that is.”
“You’ve never heard of Ted Bundy?”
“No…no…I haven’t. Who is he?” He asked with a distant far-off look. I was not sure if he was telling me the truth or just really, really crazy.
“He’s exactly the guy the DA’s going to make you out to be when he gets you in front of the jury. In the ‘70’s he was one of the most prolific serial killers in American history. He raped and murdered 20-30 college-aged girls across the country.”
“But I didn’t do that. She’s lying.”
“Well, if she’s lying, you better find a way to prove it. Cause if not, you’re going to prison for the rest of your life…however short that may be.”