You can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamn contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbrush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail, you’ll see something, maybe. ~ Edward Abbey
I found myself wandering in traffic yesterday, cars whizzin at 40 mph, swerving, horns blaring, and OH SNAP I’m standing in the middle of a street, lost in reverie.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and burst out laughing. It’s funny, imagining what it must be like for people who never end up in life threatening situations, for whom life threatening situations just never happen, while for others it’s all that ever happens. And it does just happen, nothing you set out to do, more something you’ve been conditioned to do, and over the years take steps to unlearn, until that fateful and inadvertent gap in vigilance, mixed with the sense that you’re probably indestructible by now anyway.
Home again, happy and safe with my stereo, cats, coffee and cigarettes, I could reflect on events and figure it all out, but that would be going against the received wisdom of what to make of people labeled like me. We’re just not deep enough, lacking of insight and given to exaggeration, unreliable personal historians, whose experiences are meaningless symptoms of severe and persistent mental illness, and as such completely divorced from reality, which is why I keep chasing the documented evidence, there’s no denying the records were kept. One day we will free the bound periodicals.
I heard from my living brother Marky this week, first time in ten years. I learned most of my family’s alive, if sad, incoherent, in treatment, in foster care, stumbling, blind, and that’s for real, stone blind, he said, the one I used to call Bestdad, mom’s second husband, Gordy, he just up and went blind some years back. A karmic cliche, perhaps, but nothing I would wish on the man, who really did do his best by me, within certain characterological limitations. He stopped himself when he was about to molest me, that’s the truth, and all the facts matter, not just the bad. I woke up with him pressed against me and moving, then he shifted his motion and made it safe and fatherly. He could have gotten away with it, there was nothing stopping him, I was ten, didn’t say boo, never understood anything about what was going on. He’s moving against me one minute, then out of nowhere stopped in his tracks, broke down in sobbing shock and apology and grief so sorry I cried too. Probably one of the best things that ever happened to me growing up, seeing one weak man compare so favorably to the ones who came before and the others still to come. He left for good the next day. Some parents do that, make unintelligible, drastic changes without explanation, as if kids don’t think, don’t provide their own context, don’t invent, for the same reason adults do, but unlike adults have no one to blame but themselves. Thanks for waiting til I’m old enough to know better, go blind in both eyes some more, I can say that’s a mystery, don’t look at me.
This wasn’t on my mind yesterday when I found myself walking in traffic. I was thinking about that Hawkins boy who killed 8 people at a shopping mall. My brother Ricky’s birthday is coming up, even though he’s been dead a long time his birthday is a dependable stressor, it is for everyone in my family and we all act weird when he moves into our fields. That was one of his lifelong goals, to take out a shopping mall, and one reason our mom had him forcibly committed, it seemed like he really could do it. Objectively speaking, yes. That did not happen, no thanks to him being forcibly committed, which was just a pause in his trajectory, if anything, the humiliation of being declared insane, a very public ceremony, only made him more determined to have his angry public revenge. These are my impressions, I am shaping experience, an exercise in meaning-making that the powerful negate because power prefers the void. Not for themselves, though.
I was remembering the first time he shot someone I was seven, he was twelve, a neighbor boy named Terry played golf in his yard the same time everyday after school. Rick took Bestdad’s hunting rifle and scoped Terry out for a couple days, just stood at the window with the boy in his sight, then on the third day he shot him in the face. I was in the ravine that day, my underground haven, dozing on a bed of crushed leaves, inhaling burnished wood and looking at the sun filter through the golden trees in certainty that no one had any idea where I was when my brother Mark woke me up and said you have to come home, Ricky shot Terry, he didn’t mean to, it wasn’t on purpose. I got up and followed behind Mark who never looked like that before, stricken, gray, muttering to himself all the way home; he didn’t mean to, it wasn’t on purpose, it had to be an accident, had to.
A few weeks later Mark was caught laying out with arms akimbo in the middle of Thompson Avenue, while a group of schoolkids stared in amazement as horrified drivers slammed on their brakes to avoid running him over. There were long tracks where the cars made rubber, and punishing adults asking what in gods name possessed you to do that? Mark explained it by saying he was just playing chicken, and from that day on boys will be boys became the official story, no one ever asking why he wanted to die.
I couldn’t understand why the police were wearing brown, that’s all I could think when we entered the house. Two policemen wearing brown taking Ricky away, because he shot a very sweet neighbor who plays golf everyday. You look for clues to explain what’s happening, something to tell you it’s all a big mistake, something askew sticks out and that was it, police dressed wrong isn’t right, policemen wear blue uniforms, these police are dressed in brown, this must be a dream.
While walking yesterday I was thinking about what boys can do instead of shooting people, and what will happen when the redemptive properties of imagination are misapprehended as symptomatic of an underlying psychiatric disorder requiring outpatient commitment. The way ignorance that doesn’t recognize itself as ignorance looks at something it doesn’t understand, and says this must be stopped.
I don’t know where I’m going with this, but just turned on the Saturday afternoon movie, and see they’re showing Taxi Driver today. I guess someone up there is watching over us.