Living in a Dead Man’s Journal

He wrote the following in his journal on November 14, 2009:

I wish I could bring myself to reveal all the secrets I’ve kept locked away for so very long. One day, perhaps, I’ll write a memoir, though I suspect the revelation of all those secrets would require an autobiography—a lifelong accounting of mistakes and undisciplined decisions that, taken as a whole, would describe unforgivable flaws in the hope they would be forgiven. Anger with no source. Lust with no limits. Rage born of low self-esteem and fear. So very, very many faults and weaknesses and such a paucity of strengths.

He left the journal open and on top of his desk, no doubt intending to continue writing in it the following day. But he did not return the next day, nor any day, because he was killed that evening when he stumbled onto the subway tracks, just as an express train sped through Clearwater Station.

Some might call the man’s death tragic, but I doubt he would have considered it so. In fact, I question whether he stumbled and fell onto the tracks or, instead, deliberately jumped in front of the train, knowing he would never have the strength to reveal all of those secrets. We’ll never know, of course, but reading his chaotic entries that describe an almost manic-depressive pattern of thinking, the evidence suggests his death might have been intentional.

He kept more than one journal. The one on his desk was the one in which he hinted at his secrets, but never fully revealed them. Another one, whose entries imply yet a third and fourth journal that I’ve not yet found, exposes them. His expressions, hidden from the world in that journal stored in a safe, assert he did not want to hurt anyone by revealing his secrets. He had been unfaithful to his wife on multiple occasions; as far as he knew, she was unaware of his infidelity. He was an alcoholic, though he was able to hide his disease from almost everyone but his wife, who finally seemed to turn a blind eye to his heavy drinking. He believed he suffered from depression, but thought his was a mild case of the illness in comparison to other, more desperate souls and, so, he never sought treatment.


Kilmer Transom was complex. His journals divulge an inquisitive man, but one who skipped from topic to topic with such frequency that he never seemed to fully engage in what one might call “deep thinking.” He skirted the edges of profundity, but never took the plunge into the depths of the pool. He said of his own interests, “they are quite broad but remarkably shallow,” acknowledging his inability to conjure sufficient mental energy or mental capacity to delve deeply into anything.

After spending six months reading Transom’s journals and interviewing his wife and his daughter, I came to believe I knew Kilmer Transom better than anyone else ever did. As odd as it may sound, I came to consider him one of my closest friends, though we never met.

[So, perhaps this will serve as the foundation for something I will finish writing one day. If nothing else, it gives me enough of a skeleton to allow me to start packing some meat on the bones. The narrator, who will at some point be revealed to be a newspaper investigative reporter, will be a “stand-in” for the protagonist, Kilmer Transom. The POV will switch between the narrator and Transom, with Transom’s POV presented through both his writing and the narrator’s interpretation of Transom’s writing. More to follow, perhaps, one day.]

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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