"Leave, because time only salts your wounds, and grieve the death of your vibrant youth... Stomp out your truth"
-The Flatliners, "Brilliant Resistance"
The other day, my seven-year-old son said something about getting punched in the face, or wanting to punch someone else in the face, maybe? I'm not sure; I wasn't really part of the conversation at that point, but the subject came up. Have you ever been punched in the face? My niece's boyfriend said he had, only once, on his birthday, when he was in kindergarten. "Total bullshit" was his verdict about the experience. I agreed. Getting hit in the face is, indeed, total bullshit; there's no denying it.
Me? I've been hit in the face plenty of times, by a number of different people. People I loved, strangers, men and women. In retrospect, most times I probably deserved it; there are plenty of times I would like to travel back in time and punch myself in the face.
What this got me thinking of is the differences in all of our individual experiences. I remember one time when I was a kid, baffled that my friend's parents were still together. I didn't even know that was possible. And I have been thinking about this, and I can't even really fathom what life would have been like if things had been more conventional in my life. If we had been more stable, would I even be me?
I know these young people, awesome, caring, loving people, that have grown up in the same house, went to the same schools, have had the same people in the house. Their whole lives, they've never moved, have never experienced their parent's divorce, have never had to understand what it meant to meet Mom's new boyfriend, what it meant to move six, seven, eight times. They would never find themselves nearly arrested by corrupt Mexican cops for pissing in a Tijuana alley on Christmas Eve, would never find themselves fucked up and lost in a strange city, panicking, crying and confused at the smears of blurred color, would never find themselves standing waist deep in the ocean at three in the morning wondering what would happen if they just started swimming, straight out into the black water until their strength gave out... I realized that I could never understand what it meant to be stable, to feel like I knew, really, truly believed, that I was going to be OK. I swear, I am terrified even today that my beautiful life will be ripped away, that I somehow don't deserve this small gentle peace.
I left my home town in '99 or thereabout when it became apparent to me that my life had completely fallen apart and it would never get better where I was, would never change unless I did something to change it. In truth, my life had fallen apart several years earlier, thinking about it now, but I have never been one to take a hint, to catch the warning signs and interpret them correctly, so I made do, limped along until I just couldn't anymore, and then I just left. I left all my friends and my band and my Mom, I left all the horrible triggers and unwanted ghosts, I left everything familiar, everything painful, all the jagged sharp edges, all the small comforts, everything safe, everything threatening. I got on a bus and just fucking left. I didn't want to limp along anymore, I didn't want to be so aware of the people and places around me, so afraid that I will see something that would break my heart all over again, send me spiraling out of control again.
There was a time, when I had just thrown up a thin sickly mix of blood and cheap liquor, I'm standing there, this guy that I only kinda know comes up, says, "Jesus man, you can't keep this up or you're going to die. You're killing yourself, man." I looked up a him, said, "Yeah, maybe, but I don't fucking care."
Getting hit in the face usually isn't so bad. Mostly, you get your head rocked back, your lip split, your nose bleeds, your ears ring. Mostly it's better than trying to figure out who you are, realizing that your identity has become so fragmented that you don't even recognize your own face some days, and you are just doing things one after another without thought, without planning or fear of the consequences, desperate for intimate contact, pushing everyone away.
It has taken a long time, a lot of love and patience, but I finally feel like maybe I know who I am, who I want to be, a father and husband, a provider, a writer. A good man, not a monster. And now years, hell, decades later, I sometimes still find myself drawn to self destruction, but there's too much to lose, its not just me anymore, I've built a family now, and I'll be damned if I will allow this shit to bleed over, poison my peace. Even still though, somewhere hidden deep I'm scared that maybe I've been lying to myself, that I'm missing the signs, that I can't take a hint, and that it will all be taken from me. But the life I want for my sons is the one where they have never been hit in the face, the one where they know nothing about shattered lives and cold black water.
I don't know if this means anything to anyone else, I don't know if this means anything at all, but I know that I'm glad I didn't take that swim, I'm glad that guy I only kinda knew was wrong. I'm mostly whole again, pieced together over the years, taped up, patched. Things will never be perfect, but there are moments of magic and music, moments of beauty and grace. Maybe in the end if I ever face my maker, I'll have some questions I'll want answered. Maybe in the end I'll find that I don't need answers at all.
Maybe if someone finds themselves in the cold black water wondering how far they can swim until their strength gives out, maybe they will think of this and decide to turn around, to go dig their toes in the sand, still warm from the light of the day. Maybe they will try to hang on until someone can tell them they are going to be OK.
And I'm OK now, too. Safe and warm here in the black and white, and I can turn all this shit into words so it might make sense to me.
15 July, 2015
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