To This Day- A Response

It is no secret to those who know me that my youth was marred by experiences of bullying. It is obvious to most that these experiences have shaped me in many ways. It was not clear to me the extent to which those long-ago experiences have wired me in certain ways.

So I watched the piece above and was transported away in that fantastic way only great art can. It was a difficult journey. It was hard to watch. It was enraging to listen.

For those who grew up on the top of the pile, I’m sure the video elicited sympathy. Yet for me it dredged up the toxic waste of the fallout of the daily bombings. A comic cliché, the lake-monster who wades out of the depths and snares innocent kids playing by the water’s edge, arose from the stagnant stench remaining at the bottom of my heart.

The tragic creature of accident clawed out and claimed life. It was deeply satisfying.

Yet the poem disappointed me. The enraged monster becomes a stunted goblin, embarrassing and distracting as the poet insists that I believed “they were wrong”.

but I want to tell them
that all of this shit
is just debris
leftover when we finally decide to smash all the things we thought
we used to be
and if you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself
get a better mirror
look a little closer
stare a little longer
because there’s something inside you
that made you keep trying
despite everyone who told you to quit
you built a cast around your broken heart
and signed it yourself
you signed it
“they were wrong”

Like a small boy standing amongst men, I look up and hear the words without understanding.

They’re telling the tales of how they made it through the War. I am a spectre who never made it through School. I was carried out on a stretcher with a sheet over my face.

So I hope Shane will forgive the poltergeist fury I feel at his words. Asking the child who died weekly deaths on a locker-room floor to look harder into a mirror which casts no reflection is the unwelcome reminder of what didn’t change in the years since.

I didn’t build a cast around my heart with the words “they were wrong”

I am the filthy urchin who scrawls on the cracked stone in blood-red,

THEY ARE RIGHT.

My degree from U of We Made It never came through.

And I laugh and smile with the Graduates, dressed in my robe which covers pasty-flabby naked flesh.

And I think in my head,

Good God, you learned from this? I didn’t even survive.

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  1. Affecting and transporting – your words that is. I sympathise with the lake monster, that spectre, and wish I was paying closer attention.

    No hero, I. Just another hateful little wretch who learned to fire back, consumed with his own pain, his only tears were shed for his own sake.
    The generous part of me wants to forgive that, and remember the age, but I can’t quite do so when I read posts like this.

    Thankyou.

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  2. I would like to invite you to look again at the title of the piece, and of the image of debris. It seems to me that the author’s thesis is that, had we believed them entirely, we would not be here today. Not in the sense of some absence of the soul, but in the literal physical sense. I certainly recall how it felt as if others would have been happier with me literally absent. The rational part of my mind tells me that had I left, or died, it would have deprived them of enjoyable sport, but that is not comforting. But, despite feeling like they wanted me gone, here I sit. I respirate, I circulate, I thermally regulate, and I have friends who tell me that their lives are better because I am a part of them (the lives). That is the “I made it.” I have a place in a class and an apartment, I have held jobs, and I will again. It felt like they thought that life (for them) would be better if I was gone, vanished or dead. What would have happened if I had thought that they were right? Lets rephrase that question: would I have gone quietly, or tried to make a splash? In this country, it is absurdly easy for anyone, even a child, to get their hands on guns or explosives. I knew that as early as fifth grade, or maybe even sooner. I distinctly recall the day when I explained to a group of people that, because their victims have easy access to weapons of great power, it is in their best interest to be compassionate. Of course, any proposition delivered at the top of one’s voice through a veil of tears, is unlikely to be considered as a rational statement of strategic principles.

    Of course I wrote it on the cast about my heart that they were wrong. Too bad that I did not have a pen which would leave a mark on the organ itself. I did smash that image of myself that they had built in my mind. But the pieces of the debris still lay about. To this day. Those pieces of debris lie about, and they are large pieces, and they preserve the image of the whole of which they were part. The demolition company have punched their cards and went home, paid for the job which they were hired to do, and the debris still lays about. If only I had known, when the demolition work began, that the pieces would need dealing with.

    The debris. I seek out the company of people who I think will be interested by what I have to say. I do it a lot. I have no one to compare myself to, so I have no idea whether I do it more than others, but I suspect that I do. I crave the confirmation that there are people who want to include me. I crave that confirmation over and over again. There is no “enough”. But work must be done and I must sleep, so I go away again, and then I crave again. But I also fear social contact. It is so much work. From appearance to smell, pace of entrance, level of enthusiasm, people tell me that no one will notice the things which I care about, but I will. Don’t tell me that I don’t smell, I can’t go to class without showering: I feel like I stink. This is my debris: I imagine them judging me, but I make sure that they will not find me wanting. And I judge them right back, but I feel so much pride: I judge them, but I forgive them all for their faults. How can I not forgive them, that is what I wish they had done for me.

    I wrote on the cast that they were wrong, but I did not write it on my heart. I smashed the image which they created in me, but the fragments still litter the landscape of my soul, and I must navigate around them, or by them, I can’t tell the difference anymore.

    My friends tell me how much they value my company, or my advice. But how many of them are seeking me out? I’m keeping track. When I join the group their faces light up so completely that someone would have to be a quite skilled actor to counterfeit that kind of joy. But why should I underestimate them? Underestimating someone is asking for them, begging them, to destroy you. If someone has the acting skills, it is so much easier to counterfeit enjoying someone’s company than it is to actually make them leave, especially when that someone is over 200 pounds of mostly lean muscle and very hairy. There is a part of me that says to the paranoia “shut up, the world where you are wrong is so much simpler than the one in which you are right, so you are probably wrong.” but no one ever listens to that kind of argument, much less the voice of paranoia whispering in the back of your mind. The voice of paranoia has a simple question, which makes the trusting part of my mind stop cold: how much effort have they put into seeking out your company, if they so enjoy it?

    Shane never said that it goes away. He never said that the moment that you decide to say, even in the private depths of your soul, that they were wrong, that everything will be sunshine and rainbows. He made this video for the people who have forgotten the difference between navigating around the debris and navigating by it. He made this video for the people who still have odd quirks, or very dark demons, “to this day”. He made this video to remind them that, despite everyone telling them not to be, they ARE. To remind us that just by respirating, and circulating, and thermally regulating, we are proving that somewhere, some time, we said that they were wrong. It is not enough, not even close, but it is a start. No one can go on until they have started, but we have started, to heal the damage that was heaped on us. There may be a very long road of work ahead, but we have stabilized the patient at least. He is safe to transport. And when we find the right surgeon, or become him ourselves, we can really work to put things right.

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  3. I am so sad to read these words. I am going to hope and pray they aren’t always true. I believe healing happens and I pray it will for you. But I am so sorry you were and are in this place.

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