Posted: Jan 22 2012, 10:55 PM
steering clear of t r a g e d y
Group: East Sider
Member No.: 759
Joined: 22-January 12
ZACHARIAH SHILOH SWITHIN
i'm the owner, i go by KATJA.
you know you love me, don't deny it.
my hook-up's at AIM: spatzikat, so stay in touch
my little family consists of COLE RIDLEY, KENDALL COETZEE, DOUGLAS CARMICHAEL, EDWARD RAINES
i came across this dandy little place at EMILEE’S POCKET
am i under fourteen? NO sir!
I M A G I N E D . I D E N T I T Y
...EVERY STORY HAS A START...
FULL NAME: Zachariah Shiloh Swithin
DATE OF BIRTH: November 8, 1986
OCCUPATION: Metalwork artist and graduate student at Bishop University (with aspirations to someday open a centre for troubled youths)
LOCATION: East Side
...JUST A MAP OF THE WORLD...
HAIR: dark brown and worn at various lengths but always very shaggy and often falling in his eyes
BUILD: fairly slender but not without muscle
Tattoos cover both of his arms, including but hardly limited to:
`eagle tattoo on the back of his right forearm
`dragon tattoo on the underside of his right forearm
`rose tattooed on the underside of his right bicep
`tiger/dragon and clouds tattooed from his left bicep to the top of his forearm
`”G H” in old script, with opening gates on either side on his right shoulder
PB: Jarrod Gorbel
...WITH THE POWER TO BE...
Somewhere in Bishop City’s East Side, in a dusty old workshop that could desperately use a good interior decorator, a bare lightbulb hangs from the ceiling, filling the post-midnight air with a harsh brightness that goes mostly unnoticed for the din of saws and torches and clinking metal. Entirely in his element here, Zachariah Swithin is oblivious to just about everything, save his work. In fact, if someone were to sneak up on him with a crowbar just now, it’s not unlikely that he would wake up hours later with a hefty headache and empty pockets. As a whole, Zach is not the most clear-headed of people. He is easily distracted, eager to start new things even when he has neglected to finish whatever it was he was working on in the first place. Too often, he throws himself into projects (metalwork or people-work or a combination of the two) without stopping to weigh the pros and cons or consider what might get in his way (or, conversely, what he might get in the way of). He has the best intentions at heart, at least ninety-seven percent of the time, but good intentions are, unfortunately, not worth as much as he’d sometimes like. Fortunately, he takes much more care with people than he does with his sculptures, at least to the point where he is still focused on helping them and not the other way around. Once they step too close, Zach is inclined to snap, to throw himself into the abyss of friendlessness. For, if one has no friends, one has very little to lose… and less, for that matter, to turn to ruin.
Fatalistic though it may sound, it takes quite a lot for Zach to get to this point. He loves friends—the more the merrier—so long as his past does not come into the equation. If it does for any reason, he will speak of nothing further than his family—who he adores and will praise until the end of time—and his move to Bishop City. Think there are holes there? We do, too, but dear Zach is inclined to remind us all of that abyss and kindly asks that we back off, now.
He’s affectionate, almost to a fault, hugging when hugs are less than appropriate, kissing cheeks of mere acquaintances (and strangers, on the rare occasion) before he stops to think that they might not want their cheeks kissed just then, or over-enthusiastically shaking the hands of people who didn’t offer them in the first place. He’s not so much unaware of his place as uncaring of it. Everyone needs a hug now and again, and a little discomfort (though not on his part) is not always the best motivation for abstinence. In any case, who ever said that discomfort was a bad thing? For the same reason, he clings to sarcasm like a child with its brand new yo-yo, enamoured with the fun little tricks that can be done with it. He loves to watch expressions dance across people’s faces, from puzzlement to offense and everywhere between. He’s not afraid to offend people if it doesn’t cause direct harm. He’s also not afraid to point out flaws, to get in people’s faces if necessary in order to tell them they ought to shape up, if not for sake of those around them, then at least for themselves. He cares, and deeply, even if his way of showing it is less than conventional.
Zachariah believes in not taking life too seriously. If there is a joke to be told, he’ll gladly be the one to share it, even at someone else’s expense. He’ll make silly faces for a laugh, even if he is the only one laughing. He’ll laugh until everyone else does, too, because, after all, laughter is good for the soul. And without a soul, what is man but a mere shell? He believes that art is a form of breathing, a way of letting the world know that they are all alive together, like one giant entity that creates individual pieces of beauty that stick to the uglier parts of the world like glue. He’s making the world a better place one sculpture at a time.
The dream does not end there, however. Though he’ll deny it, both from fear and shame, there is a past that lies beneath all of that joy, a past that has influenced Zach for the better despite the pain he’d rather not remember. But remember he does, because he can never let himself forget what pain he caused those he loved and what graces they extended in spite of it. Because of this past, because of those graces, he dreams of giving adolescents the chance that he was once given: a chance to start fresh, to become better than their circumstances. He firmly believes that nothing is too great to be overcome and that every child has at least half the heart of a true angel. He may be an artist for now, but what Zachariah Swithin really wishes to do is to harvest the hearts of Bishop City’s broken youth and make them whole again.
`being intentionally difficult
`grafitti (he doesn’t necessarily support it, but he admires the talent)
`ordered chaos (he specialises in it)
`being observant, when he wishes to be
`guilt about his past
`drugs (he is terrified to ever walk that road again)
`anger (the old temper flares up now and again; he tends to say and do things he’ll later regret)
`kittens, small children, pouting, and other irresistibly adorable things
...BORN IN BLACK AND WHITE...
PARENTS: William Towers – biological father, 49 (unknown to Zach and unaware of his existence)
Linette Magoon – biological mother, 47
Stuart Swithin – adoptive father, 51
Katrina Swithin – adoptive mother, 53
SIBLINGS: Daniel Swithin – adoptive brother, 26
Adam Swithin – adoptive brother, 23
Elaine Swithin – adoptive sister, 21
Lauren Swithin – adoptive sister, 16
OTHER SIGNIFICANT FAMILY:
PLACE OF BIRTH: Boston, MA
He heard it every day of his childhood. It is the first thing he remembers his mother telling him, her hands grasping tightly—too tightly—to his as she promised that he would become someone great, someone who would change the world. She interpreted his dreams as visions, calling him a prophet, kissing his head and whispering that she could smell God on his skin. He clung to her words, listened eagerly to the stories she told him of Noah and Moses and the prophet Elijah, and believed that every bit of it was true. When she told him that the angels talked to her and told her the secrets of heaven, he never once thought that she might be somehow mistaken. In his eyes, his mother was perfect, invincible, and infinitely wise. She was his guardian angel, and he… he would change the world. She’d told him so.
At first, he found it easy to ignore the teasing of his peers. They could think what they’d like, thought little Zach, but it would not change the fact that his Mama was special. She wasn’t retarded or weird, she was brilliant. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t always happy, or that she sometimes got scared and slept in his bed. What mattered was that she was his Mama, and no one could ever take that away.
He was nine when the fire happened. He’d been at school, diligently writing his assignments, completely unaware that his world was being taken apart piece by piece as he went on with what was, at the time, normal and safe. When he walked out the doors of his school, he had no idea that he would never again set foot there or in the cramped little apartment he called home. He saw the flames from the school bus but thought nothing of them until he climbed the steps down and his neighbour, Mrs. Gerard, took him by the hand and promised him that everything would be okay. When he saw his Mama, she was being loaded into the back of an ambulance, burns on her hands and arms. She yelled at him to keep watch for the angels, but they closed the doors before he could ask her why and how. He screamed as the ambulance drove away, screamed until he could scream no more, until Mrs. Gerard’s shirt was soaked with his tears and his sobs had turned to quiet hiccups of pain. He cried himself to sleep that night and every night that week. He prayed that God would bring his Mama back to him, but He never did.
The foster care system was kind to him. He moved only once, from a temporary home to a long-term one. His foster parents were all kind and generous, his “siblings” wary at the worst and overjoyed at best. He sat silently through it all, holding out for the day when the Almighty would come down to reunite him with his mother. He did what he could to keep his spirits high, assuring himself that this was only temporary, that his mother would be fine and would come to take him home any day now. Days and weeks turned to months and years. Four years passed without word, and though his spirits sank just a little each day, he kept praying, kept hoping, kept believing that things would go back to normal soon.
Shortly after his thirteenth birthday, Zachariah’s foster parents sat him down to explain those things that he had never understood about his life. His mother, they told him, would not be coming back for him. She was in an institution, being treated for something called schizophrenia, which was the disease responsible for making her accidentally set the apartment on fire that day. The words had no meaning to him, but the one that was spoken next stood out so clearly that it made his blood run cold: adoption. They wanted to adopt him. Shaking, he tried to tell them no, but the gentle hope on their faces made him realise once and for all that this was his life. He was no longer Zachariah Magoon, son of Linette Magoon, future saviour of the world. He was just Zachariah, no one, future nothing. He might as well, he supposed, have a name to go along with his miserable existence.
He tried, for a time, to be the son that they expected them to be. He did chores and homework without being asked to and joined in family activities without complaint. He never spoke out to say that, name or not, they would never be his family. He never said or did anything to lead them to believe that he was dissatisfied, until the anger finally built like the flames that had destroyed his life and he could no longer hold it back. His acts of defiance were small at first but steadily grew along with his anger. He’d ignore the sink of dishes he’d been asked numerous times to clean, sneak out of his bedroom window when he was supposed to be sleeping or doing homework, or blatantly refuse to eat his dinner. Gradually, the infractions began to add up, making for increasing tensions with not only his parents but also his siblings. He took their frustration personally, using it as further reason for misbehaviour. Every effort on their part only drove him further away, inclined to be anything except for what they wanted him to be.
He was a fish floundering at the bottom of the high school food chain when Teagan came along and saved him from himself. He’d not had the sense to realise that punching someone bigger and stronger was not, perhaps, the most sensible thing to do, no matter if that bigger and stronger someone had blatantly insulted him. He’d been inches away from having his arm or nose or something broken when Teagan stepped in. It was a quick and close friendship, one that was, clearly, built to last.
He slipped easily into the older boy’s life, from smoke breaks between classes to after-school basketball matches in the park. It didn’t bother him that Teagan was often unavailable, for the few minutes he spared here and there were like pieces of gold to Zach. Though they were only a year apart in age, he felt very small and unwise when placed beside his friend. He hung on to every word that Teagan spoke to him as if it was somehow life changing. It was for this reason that he did not ask questions when he was invited along one day rather than left alone. If Teagan was taking him, then obviously there was no place he’d rather be.
Looking back, he cannot remember any precise moment in which a choice was verbally presented to him. No one asked, “Are you sure about this?” or cautioned him to weigh his options. There was, of course, a question of whether he’d be loyal, whether he’d stick with his new family no matter what, but by then loyalties had been built and hesitant bonds strengthened. There was no reason to think of saying no. There was the initiation, in which he’d felt almost certain he was about to die—but no, they’d only been giving him a small taste of death so that he’d never forget what could happen to him if he turned traitor—and that first group embrace in which he’d finally found what it was to belong. But in the end, no one asked him, “Zach, is this really what you want for your life?” However, if they had, he in his naïveté would have undoubtedly answered yes.
Life in a gang was not what he had expected it to be. There were considerably less shootings and killings and overall abuse of everyone involved. There were more boys his age than he’d expected, less middle-aged, pot-bellied men in wife beaters. He’d thought that everyone would ride motorcycles, that everything would be fast-paced and overwhelming—and, in a way, it was—but had not counted on lazy moments with the other boys, laughter, and loyalty that was stronger than anything he’d ever experienced. It was easy, in those first few months, to believe that his adoptive family did not exist, though they were quick to pull him aside when he wandered in well past curfew. It was easy to believe he’d been born into this group of men and that he would die there someday, as happy as he was right then.
The first time anyone brought up drugs, Zach had laughed, assuming that it was a joke. He’d smoked before joining the gang (but then, only because Teagan had given him his first cigarette) and that seemed rebellious enough to him. Drugs were over the top, too out of control for what he wanted. However, it was hard to say no to a group of people he trusted when they were all smiling, insisting that he try it. So he did. He tried a number of drugs, ones that left him feeling as high as heaven itself and others that dropped him somewhere lower than earth. He did not always like the feelings that came with the experimentation, but there were times that he craved more and more of it. In time, cocaine became his substance of choice. They used it as a bartering chip against him; when he wanted it badly enough, he’d do most anything for it. Slowly, this new world began to take over his life. He hardly slept at home, hardly went to school. His life revolved only around his brothers and this new life they had given him. He was in too deep by then to realise that he was drowning.
He woke one morning after a long weekend to find his parents standing in his room, looking none too happy with their rebellious, uncontrollable son. It was an expression he was accustomed to, and as he groaned and turned away from them he expected to hear the very lecture he could have, by then, recited by heart. Instead, he came face to face with his own private stash—a small amount, in case of emergency—and what felt, at the time, like a life sentence. He was taken, along with a pathetic duffel of clothes that were now too big for him, to a centre just outside of the city. They’d help him here, he was told, but the words did not register. All that he could hear was the echo of prison gates slamming shut, for in his mind there was no difference.
Despite his anger at this so-called injustice, his family came faithfully, once per week, to see him. At first, only his parents came, smoothing the hair back from his forehead and holding him while he clawed at his skin and begged for something to make it all go away. He had neither energy nor any particular desire to fight them, instead succumbing to the gentle warmth of those embraces as something deep within him insisted that they should not love him as they did. He found the strength to say as much, eventually, but was quickly assured that nothing could remove him from their love. Though their eyes, filled with a sadness he’d never before noticed, pleaded with him to never do this again, he knew that their words were spoken in honesty. No matter how they should, they would never hate him for what he’d done.
Reconciliation came slowly and painfully. When he first saw his siblings again, after he had been at the centre for nearly three months, there was hatred in their eyes. For all their angry words, he had no response except to leave the room. It was only the words of his youngest sister that gave him pause. “Zach?” Lauren asked, sounding very much her age, too young to be put through this situation. “When are you coming home?” He promised her that it would be soon, kissing her cheek, but all the while had no intention of changing his life when he returned. Though the cocaine had left his system—and it was possible, despite the cravings that still plagued him now and again, that he’d never touch the stuff again—the loyalty for his brothers had not. What could they expect him to do, abandon the family who had taken him in when times were hard? No, he’d try to be a better person for his adoptive family, but he would not surrender his former life for them.
As he continued to grow stronger and healthier, drugs gradually became less of an obsession. The gang, however, took over every thought in his mind. He’d be helping to sweep out the kitchen, but his mind would be on Teagan—Where was he? What was he doing?—and how things would be when he returned. He was fairly certain that his parents knew nothing of his loyalties to the gang, that they had only seen the drugs and assumed that was the extent of his problems. The tattoo on his shoulder could mean anything as far as they knew. As far as Zach was concerned, his secret was safely kept with his brothers. Little did he know, however, that not everyone was as oblivious to gang life as were his parents.
He had met Clay Massey early in his rehabilitation and decided immediately that he did not like the man. He was built like a body builder, with shoulders so broad Zach was sure he could fit two of him abreast in the man’s body. He had a stern face and intense eyes that Zach could never make himself meet. Somehow, around the man, he always happened to feel guilty. However, he couldn’t avoid him, for he was one of the lead staff members at the facility. So, he took to ignoring him when he could and meekly obeying when he had no other choice. If there was one thing that Zach knew about Clay Massey, it was this: he did not want to get in his way.
He was called from his room one afternoon and, upon emerging, came face to face with Massey. Silently, he followed the large man through the courtyard and to the art building where his fellow “captives” slaved away at canvases and sculptures. It all looked like a bunch of crap from where Zach stood, until Massey came to stand behind him, pressing a piece of metal into one hand as he led him to a workbench in the far corner of the room. With surprisingly gentle movements, he guided Zach through the basic process of metalworking, keeping him there until the building was empty and the sun had long ago dipped through the sky. He was left with only directions to come back the following afternoon.
For the remaining five months, Zach met Massey nearly every day in the art building, a part of his routine which he quickly came to enjoy. Though he often sat through counselling sessions without saying a word, he found himself saying things to Massey he would have never mentioned to anyone else. Over the din of saws and grinders, he spoke of his mother and her prophecies, of his anger and the pull of drugs. When he came to Teagan, he stopped, unwilling to admit anything that might affect his future. In the end, it didn’t matter, for Massey already knew, and willingly confronted him on his tattoo. Despite the many arguments that resulted from that particular conversation, Zach eventually admitted the truth, making Massey the first person to be told everything there was to know about him.
The week before Zach’s departure awakened a fear he’d never before experienced. Here he was, seventeen years old, with no future. He couldn’t go back to the gang now, not after all that he’d been through and all that he’d discussed with Massey, but he couldn’t leave either. No matter that he’d been assured time and again that everything would turn out fine, Zach had his doubts, and they were many. Nevertheless, he did as he was told when the time came, curling up in the backseat of Massey’s Ford F-150 while, somewhere, steps were being taken to convince his former gang that he was no longer alive. He shook with fear as he waited for Massey to take him wherever they were going. When the truck stopped, he found himself in Bishop City, in a new home, waiting for his life to begin again.
Massey stayed with him for two weeks while his family packed up the house and moved. During those two long weeks, Zach lived in a state of constant paranoia, refusing to leave the house or stand next to an open window. “They’ll kill me,” he said over and over, until finally his family arrived and filled the empty house with the hope and love they carried everywhere with them.
In time, Zach’s fear diminished. He did not ask questions about what, exactly, had happened after he’d left Boston. He had no desire to know. He chose instead to move on, finishing his senior year and managing to graduate, with the help of his parents and a number of encouraging tutors. For a time after graduation, he worked as a mechanic’s assistant at a local garage, but always he missed the feel of shaping and welding metal into something unexpected. When he told his parents that he wanted to open his own shop and eventually work with troubled youth, they supported him, offering to loan him the money to buy a place while he established himself in the community and his pieces began to sell. Though they were less than happy with his choice to move to the East Side, his reasons for doing so were sound. After all, he insisted, if you want to help the broken, you’d best seek them out. What better way to do that than to live among them, as one of them?
For four years, he struggled through college courses, eventually earning a degree in Adolescent Psychology while maintaining his small metalworking shop on the East Side. Despite his lack of academic prowess, his passion and determination is enough that he not only made it through those four years but is now working to complete his Master’s. In the end, he hopes that his patience and perseverance pays off, for there is nothing that Zach wants more than to make a difference.
...I COULD BE A TOWER...
MEMBERSHIP TITLE: steering clear of t r a g e d y
SAMPLE POST: See Cole, please (and thank you)!
Posted: Jan 29 2012, 12:06 AM
.hierarchy of distrust´
Group: East Sider (admin)
Member No.: 5
Joined: 29-September 07
So sorry for the wait, dear! We both completely missed that this was here! But I absolutely adore him, and I'm so glad you're patient with us <3