56. The Void

August 4, 2009

Collier Township, Pennsylvania

The digital camera turned on. Its viewfinder lit up, showing a bedroom with blank walls, and a full-length mirror — positioned at a slight angle, so that the camera and its tripod didn’t show in the reflection.

Silence.

The camera wobbled.

A solitary, middle-aged man stepped into view, in the mirror’s reflection. He started speaking. “It is easy for me to hide from my emotions for one more day: take a long drive in the car, listen to some music… daydream.”

His tone was confessional, but his expression was flat. Nothing. “My objective is: to be real and to learn to be emotional, and you know, to be able to emotionally connect with people. Because when I’m ten to twenty years older than she is, you know… she has to feel good about this thing.”

He wasn’t looking into his own reflection — he was matching the camera’s angle, looking into the lens he saw in the mirror. It was to trick some people did, to alleviate the tension that came with feeling like you were “on camera,” but while still making eye contact with the viewer.

The man was an awkward, shy, software developer, and he was recording the brief clip of himself because he had recently attended a seminar, put on by a dating guru who specialized in — as the silver-haired author had titled his book — How to Date Young Women: For Men Over 35.

At 47, the man in the mirror talked about the hope that the seminar had given him; when he heard that his chances to sleep with young women had not passed him by — that in fact, “I have approximately 15 more years to be successful at this” — he was astonished. “I didn’t realize I had that much time.” He ended the video “I’m gonna post this, and see what comes back,” and then he uploaded the clip on YouTube. Whatever reaction it originally received — if any — the internet has since forgotten, but the point of the exercise was achieved: rather than attempting live, face-to-face speech, just go online and interact. Communicate, but at a remove.

Even while he was sitting in the seminar though, he wondered if there was something wrong with him. And he realized that even if he really could achieve his goals, he didn’t want to wait another 15 years. He soon gave up on meeting anyone, young or old. Again.

The video of the mirror was from February 2008. Two months later, “The Gun Source” got a new order, for an extended Glock magazine and a “Magloader” — a little tool that lets one load a large amount of bullets into magazines without getting a sore thumb.

* * *

In August, he started a new Google account, and he was lazy choosing his password — so much so that a stranger online could guess it, one year later, and share his browsing history with the world.

At first, the engineer was just searching for how much he could sell his video camera for. But eventually, his search terms wandered:

GLOCK

GLOCK 19 9MM AMMUNITION

ONE MAN BRIEFCASE 200 GUNS

In October, he went to AskJeeves and entered, “What problems will I face today that will make me look stupid?”

Two days later, he ordered four boxes of ammunition, in 9mm and .45. The total came to $97.26 — but the gun dealer’s website offered the “NRA Roundup” program; the software developer checked the box next to the NRA logo, and his order was “rounded up” to $98.00 even. The National Rifle Association received a 74 cent donation.

He went back to Google.

SCHIZOID

AVOIDANT PERSONALITY DISORDER

CHOPPED OFF AT THE ANKLES

COGNITIVE THERAPY

SOCIAL PHOBIA

SOCIAL PHOBIA SYMPTOMS

MASS MURDERS USA

MASS MURDERERS LIST

MASS MURDERERS MOTIVATION

He owned a website. The URL was just his full name, with “.com” after it. He had bought it back in the 90s, and didn’t really use it anymore. But when the winter of 2008 came, he started writing a document there, one he updated regularly, but kept locked; online, but private. Until he was ready to share.

December 22 2008

Time is moving along. Planned to have this done already. I will just keep a running log here as time passes. Many of the young girls here look so beautiful as to not be human, very edible. After joining this gym, started lifting weights and like it.

Much info about weight programs, diet etc on the web. Or anything for that matter. Instead of TV I can Google for hours to relax. TV and most movies are dull.

The bulk of his journal entries were just him complaining about not getting laid, or wondering what was wrong with him. He kept searching.

LATINA WOMEN WHITE MEN

MEXICAN WOMEN LOOKING FOR AMERICAN MEN

HISPANIC GIRLS WHITE GUYS

MEXICAN WOMEN

OBAMA EXECUTIVE ORDERS GUN CONTROL

OBAMA GUN CONTROL

He mentioned in one journal entry that he got invited to a Christmas party. “I like [work friend’s] parties. I can meet new people and talk.” But then he wrote about how he had the whole following week off of work, and how he wanted to “have exit plan done and practiced by then. I know nothing will change, no matter how hard I try or what goals I set.”

He wrote again after Christmas. He didn’t mention how the party went. “I will shoot for Tuesday, January 6, 2009, at maybe 8:15. I have list of to-do items to make.”

MURDER SUICIDE STATISTICS

GOING TO DIE ANYWAY

MASS MURDERER PROFILE

He thought about the gym a lot. “My anger and rage is largely gone since I began lifting weights. Lifting drains me but I still have energy,” he wrote. “I guess strenuous exercise is necesary for a man.”

Sometimes he blamed whatever was wrong with him on his upbringing, how his mother dominated the house and his dad never taught him how to be a man, while his older brother was a bully. “Result is I am learning basics by trial and error in my 40s, followed by discuragement.”

* * *

The big day came. January 6th. “It is 6:40pm, about hour and a half to go. God have mercy. I wish life could be better for all and the crazy world can somehow run smoother. I wish I had answers. Bye.”

The log ended. But then it picked up again.

“It is 8:45PM: I chickened out! Shit! I brought the loaded guns, everything. Hell!”

* * *

He went on with his life. He got a promotion at work. Bragged about how he “survived our second general layoff,” while the economy burned. He liked his workplace. “Most people there are OK and I would never have a shoot ‘em up there. They paid me for 10 years, so far!”

AGE OF CONSENT PENNSYLVANIA

AGE OF CONSENT BY STATE

AGE OF CONSENT BY NATION

CORRUPTION OF MINORS

The feeling came back. “Some people are happy, some are miserable. It is difficult to live almost continuously feeling an undercurrent of fear, worry, discontentment and helplessness. I can talk and joke around and sound happy but under it all is something different that seems unchangeable and a permanent part of my being.”

He said he was making a “list of items that will provide the motivation to do the exit plan.” He kept the list in his wallet. Added to it, looked at it when he started to have second thoughts.

He went to a website called “Is It Normal?” — where you can ask the internet anything, and be totally anonymous — and he asked, “Is it normal for me to date a young girl?” He wasn’t talking about anything illegal, he was careful to say. “State law says I can go down to age 16. Not jail bait. Below 16 is.” He just wanted to know, “How you would react (if at all) seeing a clean cut older man with a very young girl in public.”

The users chimed in. Some were disgusted; others, not so much. “I’d think he’s a lucky bastard…it’s amoral but so what, nowadays this is the world we live in. Corrupt. Enjoy ruining the innocence of a young girl.”

* * *

Someone at work invited him to a picnic. He went. When he got home he wrote how, “An older woman there, out of the blue, asked if I liked high school. Then quickly asked if I was picked on very much. Intersting why she would ask that.”

He went back to the list in his wallet. Added some things. Then went back to his journal. “Looking at The List makes me realize how TOTALLY ALONE, a deeper word is ISOLATED, I am from all else. I no longer have any expectations of myself. I have no options because I cannot work toward and achieve even the smallest goals.”

He started making plans again. He chose August 4th, a Tuesday, and took the day before off work, to “practice my routine and make sure it is well polished.”

He wrote one last message, on Monday. A quick attempt to sum up his life. “Probably 99% of the people who know me well don’t even think I was this crazy. Told by at least 100 girls/women over the years I was a ‘nice guy’. Not kidding.” Then he shared his net worth — “slightly more than 250K” — and signed off: “Death Lives!”

He saved the journal file, and put a link to it on his personal website, behind a landing page with a banner “Life and Death.” Clicking on it brought visitors to a simple password screen, with two text fields, asking for “My birth and death dates.” He set the second password as “08/04/2009.”

Then he drove to the gym.

* * *

At the front desk, the log of membership card swipes would show him entering the gym around 11:00am. He was probably picking up the schedule for the workout classes — he would leave a copy in his car, with the 7:40pm “Latin Impact” circled.

He came back then, and saw that the class was in session. There was not a single male in it.

He turned around and left again. When he came back, sixteen minutes later, he had a duffel bag with him. In it were three handguns, including the Glock. He walked past the front desk, not saying a word, just heading straight to his destination. He went into the aerobics class, set down his bag, turned off the lights, and started shooting into the crowd. He could hardly have targeted anyone if he wanted to; the shots were the only flashes of light, in a dark room full of mirrors. He saved the last bullet for himself.

* * *

The next day, a newspaper asked the president of The Gun Source for a comment on the latest mass shooting, the third to be perpetrated by one of his customers. “This tragedy underscores the need for people to protect themselves and not rely only on police,” the businessman responded. “There is evil all around us and we must be able to handle it.”