Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Mark's Wrinkles

We often hear about how people must hit rock bottom before they accept that they must change in order to live. Sometimes it takes living through hell to realize that a normal life is a better direction. Some information and a photo below are graphic, so reader be warned.

Eight years ago today, Mark was working as a disc jockey at a bar. He drank while he worked and was very intoxicated by the end of the night. When two customers came in near closing time, Mark introduced himself and learned they were from Alabama. They too had been drinking and didn’t want to drive home, so Mark invited them to stay at his place.

After talking for about an hour when they got home, Mark asked one man if he wanted to “fool around.” He shook his head yes and they were intimate. Afterwards, the stranger told Mark he’d be back in a few minutes, and Mark passed out because of his heavy drinking.

When Mark awoke, the man was sitting on his chest screaming that he was going to kill him. Mark knew he had been struck by something, but didn’t notice the blood pooling on the bed. Even in his drunken haze, Mark realized his life was in danger so managed to push the man off. He started screaming and yelled his mother’s name as loudly as he could. The stranger heard Mark’s mother walking upstairs, so bolted up after her. He quickly found her and put a star-shaped knife to his mother’s throat, forcing her downstairs.

The stranger kept saying that he was not gay and he was going to kill her son for what Mark did to him. Mark’s mother apologized, but the crazed man told her to get on the bed. She was afraid she would be raped if she did, so instead she sat on the arm of the couch and calmly talked to him about his family to distract him. After about 20 minutes of gentle coaxing, she was able to convince him to leave.

As Mark’s Mom went upstairs to call the police, Mark staggered to the window and saw that his brand new car was gone. The adrenaline was firing through his body, so he didn’t worry about himself or feel the pain from his face, now a bloody pulp. He was most upset about putting his Mom in danger and his stolen car. But he did go to the hospital where pieces of a shattered wooden stool were pulled out of his head. He lost 98% of vision in his left eye and had a broken cheekbone from the assault, so he knows he is very fortunate to be alive.

A week after the attack, Mark’s wrecked car was found on the Briley Parkway with a temporary license tag replacing the original plate. In addition to the “drive-out” tag, the assailant left a job application for a banquet server position at Opryland Hotel. All information about how to reach him was on the application - essentially directions to where the assailant could be found.

When the court date approached, Mark thought he’d stand alone. He didn’t want his parents there, so he was grateful that two people from the Gay and Lesbian Coalition came to show support. In addition, the mother of a Ft. Campbell soldier who was slain because he was a homosexual was also there for him. She told Mark that he was a survivor and although her son didn’t make it, he should hang in there. Mark found her very inspiring.

The detective who investigated the case told Mark and his mother that since the 19-year-old was attractive and had served in prison, he probably snapped after the sexual experience. He admitted to the police that his intent was to kill Mark.

The case was eventually settled out of court, and the man who had committed the heinous assault was sentenced to five years of probation. However, he quickly violated parole and was sent to prison after being found guilty of 12 charges including cocaine possession, assault, driving on suspended license, using his vehicle as a weapon, evading arrest, and more. He is eligible for parole in 2007.

After the trauma of the assault, Mark suffered through many emotions, including guilt and anger. He regrets the things he’s done to cope, including drugs and attempted suicide. He says he has been clean and sober for six years. After he hit bottom, he woke up one day and asked his Mom if he could return home. He quit using drugs cold turkey and said it is possible when you focus your life on something else. Mark has become a stronger person because of these experiences, but he still worries that people will judge him on his past.

Mark focuses his life today on helping other people. He is a caretaker for his nephew on weekdays when his brother works out of town. In addition, when he read online about how the “Christmas for the Children” was going to be cancelled, he organized the Skate for the Children fundraiser to raise funds. The money is being used to buy clothes and toys for the less fortunate children in LaVergne and Smyrna during the holiday season.

If Mark continues to dedicate his life to helping others faced with poverty, pain, and strife, then he is bound to find the joy that has been elusive in his own life. Through his “pay it forward” attitude of transcendent giving, Mark’s own fate will be a matter of choice rather than a matter of chance, his life an example of how to live rather than how not to live.


Blogger Ivy, the Great and Powerful said...

Oh, holy shit! Mark, you are a brave person to have gone through all of that.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Lynnster said...

Yet another great batch of wrinklesm KT. And yay for Mark, big applause on not only surviving that but going on to do such wonderful things.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Lynnster said...

Ack, wrinkles, of course, not "wrinklesm". It'd be nice if I learned where the "Preview" button is.... ack. :)

11:08 AM  
Blogger newscoma said...

Very brave of Mark.

2:17 PM  

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