The Secret

This is the story of my friend Blake Goldman and his greatest secret. It is a story about the things people hide and the masks they wear. It is a story about a young man who was at war with himself.


1. The Secret

I discovered the secret of the infamous Blake Goldman one year ago.  Blake was a large and handsome white kid, with short blond hair, a snarky smirk, and considerable muscle mass.  He stood at six foot five and always sported a pair of wrap around sunglasses, regardless of the day’s UV index, indoors or outdoors.  A much less impactful secret of Blake Goldman is that he only wore them to conceal his ever-dilated pupils, or so he told me.  The shades were reflective and completely nontransparent, adeptly obscuring incriminating evidence.  His cold blue eyes were, perhaps paradoxically, the most expressive part of his body, but I rarely got a glimpse of them.  I still think that Blake was only being half honest when he explained his sunglasses to me.

Things went well between the two of us first.  I met him through a mutual friend named Brendan.  Brendan and he had been best friends for about three years at that point.  Almost anything social they did, they did together.  Brendan sometimes seemed more like a lackey to me, pliable and susceptible to Blake’s influence almost in full.  But Brendan would insist to me that, behind closed doors, Blake would bear his soul to him.  He would utter sweet words of compassion and reliance…of dependency and insecurity that no one else would hear from him.

Blake wasn’t the sort of person I should have ever associated with.  He sold everything from marijuana to heroin, though he specialized in pharmaceuticals.  He’d gone to jail over credit card fraud.  I was, however, in a point in my life when I wasn’t inclined to care about much of anything.  Over bottles of antidepressants, psych ward stays, and a couple near death experiences, I found myself uncomfortably numb.

Once, Brendan was driving with the two of us back to my house after a concert.  It was about one in the morning, and we tried to go to a Jack in the Box.  We stopped the car and found that the place was closed.  Without a word to us, Blake shot out of his seat and slammed the door behind him so hard the blue Xterra almost seemed to rattle.  (That Xterra has seen some interesting days.)  He popped the trunk and pulled out a baseball bat, brandishing it as he stormed towards the building.

Brendan and I stared at each other questioningly behind locked doors.  Blake swung back his arm and drove the bat against a payphone.  There was a long PONG as the metals collided at full speed, all of the musculature of Blake’s six foot five body propelled into the bat.  Again and again, we heard the metal smash into each other, denting as the phone flung outwards.

“Oh my god…” Brendan said, squirming in his seat.  “Lo, stop him!”

I arched my brow, observing his actions cautiously and somewhat curiously.

“I’m not talking to him when he’s like this.”

 “Talk some sense into him!”

There was no “sense.”  Not when he was like this.  There was too much meth in his system, and if I were to approach him at such a moment, I would put myself in severe danger.  He was unpredictable and hazardous.

Fortunately, Blake stopped before anyone interfered.  He slid back into his seat, panting and covered in sweat.  His face was flat and completely composed.  Brendan laughed nervously, and Blake and I were silent for the next several minutes.  Blake never mentioned this again.

I knew that this person was out of control, and out of a lack of regard for my own life and emotional numbness, this didn’t intimidate me in the slightest.  We watched movies together.  Blake insisted that I become very well acquainted with Grandma’s Boy.  We went to Six Flags, concerts, and we misbehaved in ways that shook me out of whatever sort of funk I happened to be in at the time.  At least in the moment.  There were good memories by the dozens.

However, his behavior would deteriorate from normalcy to uninhibited and unprovoked emotion to general and well-focused apathy and even cruelty.  I held a grudge against him from an incident where he met a girl with an innocent laugh and a sort of vulnerable shyness and sheltered naïveté about her.  I became her friend.  She hid behind me in social situations and confided in me when she was upset.  I tried to talk her out of dating Blake, but she told me she knew better.  She ended up with sad eyes, a bored and perpetually unimpressed spirit, and a cocaine addiction.

I asked him if he loved her once.  He hid behind his sunglasses and paused for a while before changing the subject.

However, his apparent disregard for the lives he wrecked was made evident in a conversation I had with him in that same Xterra.  He pointed to a stretch of rail.

“You see that hill?”

“Yeah, I see it.”

“I was in the car with Kathy Porter about a year ago.  I flipped my car over that rail.  It was totaled.”

“And then Blake just crawls out of the wreckage…” Brendan added amidst laughs, shaking his head at the oh-so-characteristic absurdity of it all.

“I did.  I crawled out of the wreckage, sat by the street and had a fucking cigarette.”

“So you were okay, I assume,” I answered, flicking my cigarette ashes into a metal cigarette tin.

“I didn’t give a shit.  A handful of Xanax does wonders to keep things in perspective,” he said, that snide smirk wormed into his tone inseparably.

“And what about Kathy?”

Blake paused, his hand rested on his palm as he stared out the window from behind his opaque sunglasses.  I watched him, the accessory obscuring any expression he might have had.  And then, once again, that smirk.

“You think I give a damn about that bitch?”

I took a deeper hit off of my cigarette and shook my head as I exhaled.  At that moment, he appeared to me as the caricature of a sociopath - simple, remorseless, and evil.

“She’s been through a lot of physical therapy since then.  She says she has back pain every day or something,” Brendan specified.

“Shit, I hope she gets better.”

“Like I said,” Blake interrupted, his voice so snide as that very same smirk dominated his face.  “I don’t give a shit.  Kathy Porter was a dumb whore.”

“Yeah, she was pretty stupid,” Brendan agreed.

As I sat and listened to this, I noticed a callous and lack of empathy on both of their parts, though Blake’s particularly.  I was closer to the two than Kathy ever had been, but I assumed that in the end, I was no different.  My wellbeing and safety might be compromised in an instant without hesitation or remorse if it were necessary.  And so, I detached.  The time came when Brendan told Blake I had Xanax.

“So, I hear you have some point fives.”


“How about you hook me up with some of those?”

I shook my head, not fazed by his offer.  I was used to these circles.  But I didn’t want to incriminate myself by selling off my legitimately prescribed medication, especially not to someone as untrustworthy as Blake.

“Sorry, man.”

“That’s fucked, Lo,” Blake said, his voice low.  “We’re friends.  Friends need to help each other out.”

I resented the pressure but kept myself cool.

“Even if I wanted to, I can’t.  My mom keeps them in a safe.”

He probably thought I was lying.  I was not.  There were many things he didn’t know about me.

“Let’s go to the Do-It Center, Brendan.  We’re getting Lo a hammer.”

“No,” I stated, my voice serious and free of any lightheartedness.

“Then you don’t get the magic prize,” Blake quipped snidely.

“I guess not.”

It was that sort of thing that gradually wore away at our already dysfunctional friendship.  I began to think I knew Blake Goldman.  I knew people like him: one-dimensional, dishonest, unable to experience empathy, reckless, conscienceless, and utterly content with it all.

My ex-girlfriend was a girl with mischievous eyes and a preternatural ability to create drama out of any and all situations.  I spoke to her once about Blake.

“You know he raped a girl…”

“You’re fucking serious?” I asked, surprised as I took a hit off of my pipe and took the substance deeply into my lungs.

“Serious.  There have been more.”

I was skeptical.  The veracity of the rumors she told was of little consequence to her, especially when it came to someone she didn’t like.  God knows it never stopped her from sullying my name.

“How many?”

“Three that I know of.”

This is one of Blake’s bigger secrets, if it is, in fact, true.  But it’s still not the secret to which I was referring.  The second to last time I ever saw Blake, he told me he was going to move to Temecula, a town about two hours from anything worthwhile to me.  I asked him what the hell brought him to Temecula, and he said he had friends there.  I thought I might never see him again.  I did encounter Blake once again though, after that.  But only after I had discovered his secret.

I ran into him that for the last time several years later, at Blake’s parents’ house with Brendan.  In their garage, we approached an old bicycle, the rusted front wheel cocked carelessly.  Behind that wheel was a medium sized green felt bag covered in dog hair and dust.  I easily picked it up, as Brendan instructed me to.  It couldn’t have weighed more than five pounds, the bag dirtying my jacket.  I untied the draw string, a cloud of dust irritating my nose.  There was a black cube inside, about the size of a music box.  On the black box was a white card, only slightly bent but still of clean hue.  It had written on it:


Record No. 17581   Date: 4/27/11
Name: Blake Andrew Goldman
Mortuary: Griffin

This is the secret of the infamous Blake Goldman: he’s dead.  His forgotten ashes are unceremoniously stuffed in his parent’s garage in a nasty green sack.

I learned Blake’s secret on my twenty-fifth birthday at a mall food court, meeting up with Brendan for the first time since I’d returned from grad school.  I’d been planning on running in to Blake again.  I wanted to see how he was doing.  And perhaps sadistically, I wanted him to see how far I had come after all of the times he had disrespected me.  Still, despite all the resentment, I wanted him to be okay.  We were friends, after all.

“Yeah, he’s sorta dead.”

Brendan had a reputation of taking jokes way, way too far.  I cast my eyes up at him, staring directly.

“You better not be fucking with me,” I said in my most no-nonsense tone.

“No…” he answered, his hands beginning to tremble as he fiddled with his lemonade’s straw.  He couldn’t look me in the eye.  I’d never seen him like this.  “It’s true.”

I descended into stunned silence.

“How’d it happen?”

“He overdosed on Oxycontin.  His little brother found him, and…fuck, his mouth had foamed over and his eyes were rolled back...”

I couldn’t help the nausea I felt in my gut, as if were in free fall.  I had talked to Brendan over the phone about Blake’s drug problems over the years Blake had lived in Temecula.  As Brendan complained to me about Blake, I complained about my best friend Rob to him.  They were both constantly out of jail and rehab.  Heroin would give Blake seizures, and it would give Rob heart attacks.  We would say, half jokingly, “They’re not gonna live til thirty at this rate.”

We realized what we were saying, but it was unreal to us.  Yet here it was.  Reality.  You can say you “saw it coming” all you like.  But when they’re dead, and you have their ashes in your hands, it will make your blood run cold.  And from that you realize that it could happen to anyone; youth is no protection.

“…I’m sorry, Brendan.”

“Don’t tell anyone, okay?  They know about it, down in Temecula, but most people fell out of contact with him after he moved, so no one here really knows.  I want to keep it that way.”


It seemed like an odd request.

“Blake kind of had…a lot of enemies, as you know.”

“I know.”

“They’d probably be glad he’s dead.  It’d be like they won over him or something.  I can hear the trash talking already.  So just keep this between us.”


Brendan was house-sitting for Blake’s parents that day.  We drove over later.  Brendan said he wanted me there with him, because the house was too painful alone.  Sitting in what was Blake’s old bedroom, we spoke of him again.

“There are…  Things he wrote soon before he died.  His parents gave them to me, and I can’t get them out of my head.  I can’t show anyone, at least no one who knew him.  I can’t even tell them he’s dead in the first place.”

“What about his friends back in Temecula?”

Brendan shook his head.

“I tried.  They just seem like douchebags.  They’re pissed that he’s dead because that means that they can’t get his heroin anymore.  They don’t care about him.  They were using him for his drugs.”

“His family?”

We were, after all, at their house.  Brendan had always been close with them.

“They’re pretty radical Mormons, like my family.  Blake’s a disgrace to them.  They don’t even tell people he was their son.  The only one who will remember him is his mom.  That’s why I’ve been talking to her lately.”

I believed it, looking down at his remains.  They hadn’t even bothered to buy him an urn.  No matter what Blake did, or what relations he had with his family, I thought he deserved better than a fur-covered green sack in their garage.  If I had seen it there, I wouldn’t have had a single clue it held the body of one of my friends.  Maybe just some old gym socks or something.

“That’s really fucked up.”

That’s all I had to say.


Brendan pulled Blake’s laptop out from under the bed.  It only unlocked through face recognition.  Great.  Brendan found a properly sized picture of Blake, after much rummaging, and unlocked it.

“I don’t feel right about this, Brendan.”

“Lo, he’s dead.  What does it matter?”

I sighed.

“Living or dead, we’re invading his privacy here.”

“His mom showed me this.  I just…  I can’t get it out of my head, Lo.  I’ve told people about this, but obviously no one who knew Blake.  You’re the only one he was actually cool with.  Some of the things I read, just…  Read it with me.  Please.

After a very short internal ethics debate, I decided to proceed.  What would I find?  Probably just porn, pictures, and maybe some records of his illegitimate “business transactions.”  This was Blake, after all.

I was correct on all three counts, but there were things I could have never prepared myself for.

Blake had many strange and unusual habits.  I believe the drugs played a hand in them.  He used to speak in pig Latin for entire days.  That day, I discovered another strange habit of his.  He liked to take pictures of himself.  Dozens, and almost every single day.  There were hundreds of these.  His pupils were generally far, far too large.  The photographs were only of his face, looking directly into the webcam.  No pose.  No expression.  Just staring.  I watched his face transform as the drugs took a stronger and stronger root.  I watched him deteriorate in the ways I had missed since I had left.

But then we got into his journal, which he had taken upon himself to photograph and add to his computer.  Another one of his strange quirks.  He wrote, in neat scrawl, about his exploits, about the drugs he sold, and even about Kathy Porter.  He hated that bitch, he confirmed.  I imagined the smirk in his voice as if he had told me at that very moment.

But the scrawl grew messier, the font larger, completely ignoring the neat blue lines of the college ruled paper.

“This world is a fucked place to be.  So bored.  Bored with life.  Bored with myself.”

He admitted that he had been in love with Brendan, though we had always believed he was straight.  Yet another secret he kept from the world and from his family.  He talked about a fight he had with his father.

“My family’s ashamed of me.  They hate me.  Can’t say I blame them.   I can’t stand me either.  I can’t fucking STAND myself.”

It got worse.  The entries were in all caps, written in mirror image.  It reminded me of those times he would speak in pig Latin, and I could see Blake writing it so vividly.


“I will kill myself.  Even drugs can’t fix this.”


Speechless.  I learned more about Blake in that single day than I had in my five years of knowing him.  Perhaps he was a sociopath after all.  But he was not so simple and one dimensional as I had once seen him, an immoral being well content with his works.  What perhaps disturbed me the most was how deeply I related to his words.  At the time I knew him, I too was in that place, depressed and suicidal.  That frenzied writing, slipping off the page and onto bedsheets and desks as I too did when I was most upset, could have well been my own.  I remembered those goddamned sunglasses.

“Please tell me I’m not the only one who cares,” Brendan said softly, his voice quaking.

“I care.”

And I meant it.

Friends ask me, “What happened to Blake anyway?”

“Who knows, he was always a tumbleweed.”

When Rob, my best friend, asked, I wanted to shout at him, “He’s dead.  And you will be too at this rate.  Stop!  Stop before you end up like him!”

But my word is my word.  I won’t let it get around this town.  The secret of Blake Goldman is safe with me.

Did he rape those girls?  I don’t know.  Did he deserve what he got in the end?  I can’t say.  Yet I’m inclined to think that a life where no one cares about you is one of the worst fates a person can have.

This is a man whom I thought I knew.  I thought I knew those types.  He was simple.  Wrong and simple.  You tend to think you know people like that.  But I learned the hard way that some people are at war with themselves.  And one of those people was Blake Goldman.

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