James Willis – By Marc Isaac Potter



Author’s note: I really feel as though …what I can contribute is exploration of themes related to mental illnesses.such as what is mental illness in the first place. And in this particular story, I explore as  what is multiple personality disorder…


… My setting, the setting of the story, such as a courtyard – Ms. B says that is important.  Such as:  …  She walked through the lovely courtyard.  Or.  She moved like a princess through the extravagant courtyard, Butler in tow.

I never thought I would make it to college.  I did not understand what bullying was, not really, not until Mommy – she says to call her Mom now that I am this age, but I still like to say Mommy[1] it is a warm word. … I like to use warm words.  Bullying almost killed me.

I used to think that we were poor when Frederick was my Father.  But then when Albert was my father I felt warm, even though we ate soup and lived in a shack[2].  Do you know what a shack is?

When Albert was my father he told interesting stories that made me feel as though I was wrapped up in a warm blanket.  I mean I was also wrapped up in a real blanket there in the shack, but also the words – all by themselves – were like a blanket, like being wrapped up in a blanket.

  Then Marvin[3] came back as my father – or -.   Or Marvin’s money came back, but Marvin left again. And Loretta became my father, and she stayed and her money stayed and Mommy said that Loretta’s promise to stay might be really real. … Anyway, my story for my teacher Ms. B: …  The leaves in the courtyard enjoyed seeing Mrs. Knickerbocker pass by each morning at  9.47 am.  Mrs. K had worked so hard to make her money, coming up from nothing – fighting her vicious “husband” for control of the company. …  …  Mrs. K walked conquering through the courtyard at 9.47 am.

 The point – the point of the story that Ms. B is teaching us in her class is for me to have a warm feeling toward wealthier people – and that wealth, just like autism – is a gamut, a range.  Yes, I have a warm feeling for Father Loretta, but Marvin was a pig.  By that, I mean that Marvin was interested in his money, just the way a pig is interested in food.  If you throw a live person in a pen full of hungry pigs they will eat him alive.[4]

Wealth is not a bad thing and wealthy people are not inherently bad – rather there are good and bad people – I mean there are bad people, good and bad people, and good people in every socio-economic class.  Socio-economic class – do you know what that is? 

Anyway, … … My name is James Willis, but my writing name is James BJW[5] Willis – so it is easy to find on the internet.  I have not read Hemingway yet.  Let’s get back to the story I am writing for my teacher Ms. B … you remember, the story about Mrs. K.

Mrs. K’s father had been an unusually kind and philanthropic man who was born into money.  But tragically, after giving half of his money away he was cheated out of the other half and – tragically just as I said – he died as a pauper.  …  The birds in Mr. Albert’s[6] garden – Mr. Albert, you will remember is Mrs. K’s father[7]. …  The birds in Mr. Albert’s garden blamed themselves for his money having been cheated away from him.

 …  by 9.53 am …  Mrs. K was standing on her massive deck, coffee in hand, the painted soft rolling hills before her.  At 10.05, Roland would call.   He will have just come out of a meeting with the Yale University admissions office, a rather private meeting.

 Roland had already been assured …  days before …  that Yale wanted his attendance and that his academic standing was more than sufficient.  …  Mrs. K was amazed that – of her 8 children – Roland was the one to be the most academically quick.   At 14 he was nearly begged by Yale to join their Quantum Physics Dept …  a full scholarship … to study M Theory,[8] Time Crystals[9] and the like.

At   10.02 am,  …  the ringtone for her daughter Julianna blasted.   “ Mrs. Knickerbocker, your daughter Julianna has been hurt badly; …  well … the Police think it is a mugging gone wrong, .. or an attempted kidnapping … my job Mrs. K ..  please come to the hospital right away, right way, please.  ( Billy …  bring me that crash cart !)[10]

Mrs. K’s coffee cup was already on its way, via gravity, …  to smashing on the redwood deck.  There had never been a daughter like Julianna.[11]

Part 2 – My Name Is Albert

I wanted to tell you something more about myself, really I did, … but in the last piece that I wrote to you, Mrs. B said that I was supposed to write a short story, so I did that instead.

Some people say that my real name is Albert, that I am one of the 8 children of Mrs. Knickerbocker – that is why it was so doable for me to write that story.  Giving myself a name like James Willis was like trying to grow a banana on a loganberry tree – it does not fit, but it is distracting enough to focus your attention away from me …  for a minute or two.

And also, I am shy – I know that – …  I am not only shy but … here is the thing …  presenting an accurate account of anything – is this too forward to say … presenting an accurate account of anything is a problem.[12]

The doctors say that I have autism, but also I have something else.  They have tried to explain something else, they have, but it is like steam rising from a teapot on the stove, rather difficult to get my hands on.

Often my mind has a lot of dialogue in it.  I do sometimes hear suggestions of things that I should do, coming out of my mind – not from Mom or any of her friends. Some of her friends used to come to live with us, but not since Father Loretta has come here, not since then.


I am Albert.  I am hoping that I have introduced myself by now.  Sometimes I can remember things and sometimes I cannot remember things very well at all.

One time when Father Loretta took me hiking in the Fourth Eagle National Forest, I fell over a log … I was running too fast.  We were very far from home, so I had to go to a doctor that I did not know, a doctor that I would never see again.  He took a lot of my history, of my medical history.  He took a long time with me, a lot longer than I thought it should take for someone to sew stitches on a boy’s leg.[13],[14] 

As he was taking all that medical history, the doctor told me that I could not possibly be Autistic, because I can remember so much of the past …  so much from long ago.  What?  So many doctors by then had said that I do have autism.  What does that old Country Doctor know anyway?.

Then I told him that I hit my head once and fell off Father Melvin’s[15] boat, which was really a yacht.  And by then Dr. Lighthiser was busy doing something else and he was no longer listening to me.[16]

… Part 3 – Gilbert …

…  the truth is that I do not know who I am[17], nor do I know who my parents were[18].  I live in this luxurious ditch, the envy of everyone in the camp.

My part of the ditch is high enough that rain drains through it; generally speaking – as a general rule – water does not sit in this ditch.  I have a few short 2 by 4’s crosswise in this ditch so that the water runs under me in all but the most ferocious rains. 

Sth …  Most nights there is a yellow Chevy Spark® in the parking lot across the creek and it comforts me to imagine that it is my very own and that in the morning I am going to get in that yellow miracle and calmly drive away from this thief infested camp and the living hell that it indeed is.

Why is life so unendingly painful?  Where is the relief from that pain?  When will my brain allow me to say the seemingly wise things that go whizzing through my mind fast that a Lamborghini® sucks fuel alcohol through its twelve valves? 

I am a man named Albert who had a woman friend named Hilberta.  Hilbert was a very caring attentive woman who seemed delightfully not of this world. …  …  I mean I was Hilberta and I was Albert, and I still sometimes – but usually I do not know when I will be them.

Life is so easy here in the camp when you are the camp leader’s number 1 Bitch.  The secret is being  number one …  then you don’t get bullied.

… Part 4 – Hilberta …

I used to be Hilberta[19] …  …  I used to be a bisexual woman named Hilberta, but my inner self was a raging bull.  … No let me say that differently: I used to be a man named Albert, but I was narcissistic[20] like a raging bull who had been chosen to fight the main matador, the number one matador.

I was bisexual, but then I was a cross-dresser, but then I was transgender, but no – no – I wanted to be transgender,  … that is it … I thought that I wanted to be transgender, I just was not comfortable over there, I could not go through with it… I thought I wanted to keep pushing the envelope, but it was not really for me. 

And I was fine with bisexual and a little cross-dressing now and then.  Just like my Psychiatric Diagnosis, no one believes me …  they always say that sexuality is a gamut until I come along.

I do not like the phrase inner self, but what are you going to do? …  I do not know what happened to me.  Was i dropped when I was a baby, just barely out of the crib, when I was just barely being taken out of the crib.  … I mean that literally.  As the caregiver, the nanny, the babysitter.  I seem to remember it.  As she was lifting me up, turning in a semicircle to lift me out of the crib, my feet caught on the crib and that caught her attention the morning sun caught in her eye and I was in free fall.

I do not mean Freefall, Colorado, even though I did go through there as a third-generation hippie trying to find my purple Frisbie® from the last trip

I was not the beginning of my disaster.  The psychiatrist said I had Clinical Depression, Disassociation, Bipolar, and PTSD.  PTSD I guess from being raped so many times.  …  But the psychiatrist would never buy that I have multiple personality disorder.  … … Some people are convinced that they have multiple personality disorder without ever having it, …  but I have it.  People live in me.[21]

This ditch is somewhat comfortable and the 2 by 4’s have a certain bounce, a certain buoyancy one might say. 

… Part 5 – Who will I be today.??

Who will I be today: James BJW Willis, or Albert, Jr.  – or Albert Junior’s father who was married to my Mom Mrs. Knickerbocker.?

Or Gilbert, or Hilberta.?

The ditch itself is rather constant, and it is in a very beautiful part of the city.  I think the city is trying to clean all this up down here by the creek and make it into a little park, a little sanctuary for workers on their lunch break.  …  I do try to keep all my stuff in one place, namely in my long camper’s backpack and I keep that with me as far as Jeb’s “On-the-Go” Bicycle shop.  When I go to Jeb’s “On-the-Go” Bicycle shop.

And yes I can clean myself up enough that I do audit two classes at the University, although nothing as fancy at M Theory[22] or Time Crystals[23].

Jeb’s Mom packs an extra lunch for me[24] – I do not know if she knows that it is specifically for me, but she does pack it.  Usually baloney or braunschweiger, or pickle loaf – she is a thoroughly midwestern lady, so she is way not from around here.  …  Sometimes she gets really good meats from the Russian deli down on Almaden Expressway, right there near the freeway.[25]

I have to work on my attitude toward wealthy people.  They can be just as nice as can be, take Father Loretta, for example.  … … Or am I a truly autistic 23-year-old who only pretends to live down here by the creek – which I sometimes call a river, but this creek rarely earns being called a river. … … One of the 2 by 4’s that I sleep on could be redwood – I mean it seems somehow special and at the same time somewhat reddish – I mean sort of.

Jeb says he wants me to sweep up and I am so grateful for lunch and a place to come each day that is reliable right after getting off those hard 2 by 4’s – those ridiculous Oak 2 by 4’s … those lovely pliable …  green-white or yellow-blue. …  The sun comes up – that’s what I like.  Each morning the sun comes up. … What happened to me?  What else happened to me?

… Part 6 – Mrs. Knickerbocker…

Mrs. K – bites her nails in the surgery waiting room.  There is a slim chance, the doctor had told her – a slim chance, the doctor repeated.

Some of James’ brothers and sisters gathered.  Suzanne worked a few blocks away and was holding Mrs. K’s hand.  Loretta, whom James insisted on calling Father Loretta and almost everyone had grown tired of attempting to stop him – Loretta was holding Suzanne’s hand as Suzanne held Mom’s hand – just like those volunteer firemen in the 1800s forming a line to pass the water bucket to fight the fire.

Julianna – one of the most highly thought of among us 8 – had gotten thrown off a motorcycle rounding a curve.[26]  A little sports car slammed on its brakes for a Collie Dog and Julianna was right behind the sports car.  …  Dr. Janine Bettix was sweating bullets in the waiting room.  Every family wants a miracle.  Every family wants a shining miracle.

… Part 7 – Can I be Suzanne?

James Willis asked himself if he could be Suzanne … or even Julianna, there on the operating table toying with a Near Death Experience.  Gilbert knew that Father Loretta might be late to pick him up from College today – Ms. B said so and her word was solid as gold, solid as yellow-blue Oak.

Gilbert tried a story about a woman named Hilberta, a woman who liked cross-dressing and who once thought she might want to be transgender.  But no, she tested it out just as the therapist had suggested; testing it out was good because then you get to see what it is like.  More fun to cross-dress – anyway cross-dressing is a different thing than being a boy – a different thing altogether.

In his mind, James imagined planting a gorgeous, blooming Peace Lily in his Mother’s beloved courtyard.


End Notes:

[1] The main character, James Willis, insists on calling his mother “Mommy” – even though she has asked him not to do so, because of his age.

[2] I really do hope to build on this “warm moment” in the main characters life.

[3] This main character has had a lot of father figures come through his life; only a few of them have been positive.

[4] Yes, I believe that this is true because I saw it on an episode of  Deadwood decades ago.

[5] What does the B in BJW stand for.?

[6] I hope they are Chickadees .

[7] Notice that in the story within the story – that Main character is writing for his teacher Ms. B – that Albert is Mrs. K’s father.  In real life, we hear about 2 other Alberts – one of James Willis’s many fathers was named Albert and also James Willis claims at some point that his own name is Albert.

[8] What is M Theory? …   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-theory …   … Friday, Jan 25, 2019  … …

[9] What are Time Crystals? …  …  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_crystal …   … Friday, Jan 25, 2019  … …

[10] Obviously the words in parenthesis are being spoken in the hectic hospital, on the other end ofthe phone from Mrs. K.

[11] Prey tell what does Mrs. K mean when she says this?

[12] Frankly, here is a space at which I hope – someday – to write more about one of James Willis’s many fathers, namely Albert.

[13] I honestly thought that I had put a footnote right here, I really thought that I did.

[14] What I meant to say is – did this doctor do anything inappropriate?

[15] No, this is not the formerly mentioned Marvin – this is yet another of the many fathers – Melvin.  I am trying to show that there were a lot of father figures coming through this kid’s life.

[16] I am trying to hint or suggest … that Dr L may have done something inappropriate with the boy.  I do not know if something bad did happen, we will have to ask Willis.  BTW, why is the kid’s last name Willis, no one else has that as a last name – was he adopted?  Or did his mother, Mrs. K,  take back her maiden name?

[17] Here Willis peaks into reality to realize that sometimes he does not know who he is.

[18] He might be telling us that Mrs. K is not his mother, or …

[19] My contention is that Willis thinks of himself as someone who has Multiple Personality Disorder – even though his psychiatrists have never diagnosed him as such.

[20] Yes that really is the way to spell Narcissistic … here is the link …  https://www.google.com/search?q=how+to+spell+narcissistic&oq=spelling+narsis&aqs=chrome.2.69i57j0l3.16673j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

[21] This last sentence is exactly something that a person with Multiple Personalities would not say (as far as I know as a non-medical person) …  As far as I know the personalities are very separate and distinct, as far as I know.

[22] What is M Theory? …   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-theory …   … Friday, Jan 25, 2019  … …

[23] What are Time Crystals? …  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_crystal … …    … Friday, Jan 25, 2019  … …

[24] Since Jeb’s Mom packs an extra lunch for Willis (our main character James Willis) – does that say anything about Mrs. K (who by the way has eight kids.  Willis is 23 Years old by the way if you did not catch this earlier.

[25] There is a real amazing delicious Russian Deli right here in San Jose, Ca – just where I am saying it is.  It is called Kalinka … The very long,  very broad general link for that search is in the Endnotes for this story.  I did not find a website so far for this deli … 

[26] You might remember that when Willis told of this accident as part the story that was his college in-class assignment, he made it a more serious event, such as “possibly a kidnapping” …


About the Author

Marc Isaac Potter (we/they/them ..?) is a differently-abled writer living in the SF Bay Area. His interests include blogging by email and Zen. His works have been published in Fiery Scribe Review, Feral A Journal of Poetry and Art, Poetic Sun Poetry, and Provenance Journal.  He was diagnosed with four different types of mental illness in 1990 and has been  in psychiatric/mental health hospitals for treatment  quite a bit since then, probably for about 10 times.