Broken Puppet

Photo cred: Natalie Johnson

Photo cred: Natalie Johnson

By: Nick “Tapobu” Rohlf

*Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in a six-part series. The next article will be posted on November 15th.*


Broken Puppet

I said, “I will watch my ways
and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth
while in the presence of the wicked.”
So I remained utterly silent,
not even saying anything good.
But my anguish increased;
my heart grew hot within me.
While I meditated, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure.

“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be.

“But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.
Save me from all my transgressions;
do not make me the scorn of fools.
I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
for you are the one who has done this.
Remove your scourge from me;
I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
When you rebuke and discipline anyone for their sin,
you consume their wealth like a moth—
surely everyone is but a breath.

“Hear my prayer, Lord,
listen to my cry for help;
do not be deaf to my weeping.
I dwell with you as a foreigner,
a stranger, as all my ancestors were.
Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again
before I depart and am no more.”

Psalm 39

As summer began, I was alone.  Or rather, I felt as though I were alone.  Although I talked to various people from college almost daily, the absence of my two friends was the only thing I seemed to notice.  I had hours upon hours of conversation with friends on the phone, on the internet, and in person that I simply do not remember.  I had always stayed up late into the night during summer due to the heat, but this particular summer I began walking.  I walked all over town, but there was one dark, lonely road near my home that I especially enjoyed.  I went up and down that road for hours each night – talking with God, arguing with Him, bartering with him, begging Him, cursing His name.  Night after night I walked down my sacred road, and night after night beneath all my rage and pain, I felt the quiet voice whispering through the wind: “Be still and know that I am God.”  I wanted to be still.  I really did.  But I couldn’t.  I kept spinning my webs, trying to force everything to turn out like I wanted.  Each time I prayed, I prayed that God would want what I wanted.  With the failure of each new day to bring me what I so desired, I grew more and more desperate.  And then, before I knew it, the summer had ended and school was back in session.

How I survived that semester for so long, I do not know.  I saw her everywhere.  And with her, all my friends that I used to hang out with.  Some of them still deigned to talk to me, but even they would fall away in time, through my own failures and weaknesses.  Early into the semester, I auditioned for the children show play, Jungle Book.  This, more than anything, allowed me to carry on with my life.  On most of campus that semester I felt like an outsider, a broken puppet pretending to be human.  In the theatre, however, I was alive and I regained some semblance of myself.  Just being around the same people every day and forcing myself to interact with them did so much for me.  The acting helped me forget.  Though I do not often speak with many who were in the cast of that show, each of my fellow actors is forever ingrained in my memory as a small part of what helped me survive.

The semester bore on until I finally was beginning to feel as though I could come out of this.  Then the letter came.  A letter explaining why things had to be as they were, why we could never speak again, why we must never be friends.  Suddenly the wound was open and bleeding again.  This time, however, there were no apologies, no empty pleas.  There was only wrath.  I cannot bring myself to say what my response was, but suffice it to say that this ended all ties with those friends of hers who did still speak to me.  This was too much.  This was my tipping point.  As my sanity slowly slipped away, I grew more vile toward those who I perceived to have hurt me.

At last the tipping point came.  November 29, 2009.  It was Thanksgiving break, and I had more or less sat alone in my room for the duration.  As evening came, I was well aware that my former friends had returned to campus.  I desperately needed to speak to someone, anyone.  I made a phone call.  No answer.  Another.  No answer.  Another.  Another.  Another.  No answer.  I began leaving messages.  The damage had been done.  I was called into the administration office the next day and told that I would need to go to the hospital or go home.  I chose to go to the hospital.  The moment that began my salvation had arrived, but at the time it felt as though I was descending into hell.


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