For Charles and the Future Mrs. Manson

Can I just say thank you to you, Charles, and the future Mrs. Manson for announcing your nuptials the same day of my therapy session? The timing had everything to do with uncovering an irrational fear of mine around the concept of safety. A fear I'd never told anyone about, and surprise, surprise, your name came up.

Synchronistic, as Carl Jung would say.

By the way, are you reading in prison? Reading can be an excellent tool to expand your mind beyond those high cement walls. I used to teach writing in a men's medium security prison and witnessed first hand how deeply the inmates were encapsulated in time. At least they had routine, predictability. Not like on the outside, where certain experiences force you to change, and not always for the better. I have to admit, Charles, it gets rough out here. I mean stuff happens, man. Stuff that can make you bitter, hard and closed off. I've never been keen on having bad events turn me into an unyielding person. In fact keeping them out has been a personal quest of mine.

That's what brought me into therapy. Although I've been living for over sixty years, it seems I've been approaching it wrong. The mighty shield I've constructed to protect me has kept stuff out but has also kept stuff in, like that secret irrational fear. What's the fear? I thought you'd never ask.

I've been terrified of being murdered in a house.

That day, I confessed to my therapist.

"The visual flashes started after we moved to Europe," I said. "I'd be in the kitchen of our house when I'd see blood splattered across the glass on our back door."

He knew I had no history of violence, chaos, yes, but violence, no.

"Were you in Los Angeles when the Manson murders took place?" he said. Your announcement must have popped up on his computer screen, too.

"Yes," I said. "I was."

Is it possible forty-five year old murders could still be affecting me? The personal losses that came after were reasonably understood losses which, with help, could eventually be integrated. Your event gutted a community, a movement an entire city. Had I assumed that because it was a group loss, it'd be divvied among us to such a tiny portion, it'd have to disappear? Or that escaping LA for Europe after you were caught it'd vanish with new scenery? If I hadn't been a peripheral player on the scene then maybe, but I'd been close enough to imagine details.

I gave him the whole story.

"On August 10th, 1969, the day after the murders, I was working at a boutique theatrical agency in Beverly Hills. My friends and co-workers were friends of those slain that night along with Sharon Tate. I'd been inside that house at 10050 Cielo Drive a few times with my boyfriend, Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys when it was Terry Melcher's house. I'd admired the slant of the vaulted ceilings, seen the white walls where vulgarities were later written in blood, and I'd looked out the windows to the beautiful green lawn and the driveway."

My therapist is young and his office is in a suburb of LA where I now live, and he had no idea what LA used to be like. I wanted to make him understand how it'd been transformed by your murders. How do you explain a vibe? The only way I could; articulate what it was like before.

"On August 8, 1969, before the murders, LA was a small town," I said. "The revolution was melding in with the establishment. People were accepting and leaning into the changing mores. Doors were left unlocked friends 'fell by' friend's houses and windows were kept open day and night. It was the dawning, man. You could feel it."

"And afterward?" he said.

"Everyone was suspect," I said. "Hardware stores had a run on locks: Locks for windows and extra locks for doors. There was one window in my house that wouldn't shut all the way. I had to nail it down. For three months the police stopped anyone who remotely resembled a hippie. They'd pull me over weekly on my commute over Laurel Canyon. "Just checking, Ma'am," they'd say as their eyes would cruise the interior of my car."

As I listened to my own reasoning surrounding this secret, it became clear the choice to live in apartments all these years was not a choice at all. It was your 1969 style terror attack infringing on my freedom.

Incidentally Charles, in case you weren't aware, there's a new kind of terror happening. Guns are involved. Crazy people now use semi-automatics to kill in malls, companies where they work or have worked, movie theaters, high schools and elementary schools. Little children shot down where they and their parents thought they were safe. Oh, it's bad.

Oh, Charles, fifty minutes goes by so fast. We had to close the session. But, before I left my therapist's office I thanked him and said, "Now that I've opened up about this, I hope safety hasn't become so old school that I can't reconsider my concept of it. The meaning of the word safe still holds, doesn't it?"