When I slid the knife across my bicep for the fifth or sixth time, a chunk of my flesh fell to the floor. It was surreal for some reason; time did not slow down, but I did. My rage had stopped completely, and somehow my room did not seem like my room. I was stupefied. I was supposed to be an angry monkey, doing an angry monkey dance that was only mildly taxing, costing only a few minutes of blood and pain, followed by perhaps a month of self-conscious over-dressing. In other words, this was all strictly business as usual.
My room was an angry place, where nothing was remembered or considered; the space existed solely to contain the rage of the young man who lived there. It was, in other words, an angst-torn shit hole. A place not befitting an individual as talented or intelligent as myself. Or anyone else, really, with the sense to see it for what it was. At least no human being who has not been convicted of murder or some other loathsome atrocity. I picked the piece of flesh up off of the carpet and looked at it. In that moment, as I stood somberly examining the bloodless, rubbery thing, and feeling a strange urge to protect it as though it was somehow my child, and also to try to put it back where it had come from, or to somehow experiment with it, for the first time it occurred to me what an interesting story all of this might make for a lover to hear.
“So, while we’re on the subject of scars, now that I’ve shown you where my second vagina used to be, would you mind telling me where all of those small, white, parallel scars on your upper arm came from?”
Oh! Scarification! Of course!
“I was trying to carve the constellation Orion in to my arm. Yeah, ummmmm… I was like, dating this girl, who was like, really, really, really, like really,really in to astrology.”
“Isn’t Orion the hunter one? Those scars don’t look like a hunter.”
“Well, the constellation doesn’t really look that much like a hunter either.”
“It looks more like a hunter than your scars. I mean if your scars don’t look like a hunter, they should at least look like a constellation. Which they don’t.”
“Oh-uh-well-um-uh. I let her do it. I let her cut me. And she just went crazy with the knife. Yeah. Then I broke up with her.”
What the fuck am I doing to myself?
Most of the other scars are easy enough to hide, because they’re plenty difficult to see in the first place. Now, here was a large pink gash which clashed with the otherwise delicate pallor of my skin. The gash barely bled, and like most large cuts, it didn’t hurt that badly. It had a dull, indignant sting, but that was all. There was a spongy network of fat stretched across the exposed muscle, which seemed particularly obscene and a bit mysterious, but that was the worst of it.
The gash was made in a manner similar to the way a log is bisected with a hatchet: Parallel upward and downward cuts had intersected inside the body, destroying the tissue that connected the piece of flesh to its base. I figured that I was actually kind of lucky. Lucky that I hadn’t behaved like more of an idiot I suppose, but still lucky. I had been concerned about the damage that my cutting might be doing to my muscles and perhaps my nerves for some months by that time, and here I had opened a gash on my bicep large enough for me to see the whole works.
I had finally hit bottom. Metaphorically of course, I’m positive that I could have cut deeper if I had tried, but I digress. So, bottom, finally, yes. So, enough of this shit. Mother would have to go. It didn’t matter how, or where, but mother would have to go.
So what was this all about? I doubt that Lifetime would buy my story, and if they did, I doubt that they would be very generous in the telling of it. All that happened was that my mother had accused me of stealing something of hers for maybe the hundredth time. Here I have trouble with the word accused. What she actually did was this: She woke me up very early in the morning by knocking on my door (I used to dread this by the way; it never, ever meant good news), and when I answered it, she explained that she wanted me to put the purse (one of her “spares” I suppose) that I had taken back where I had found it before she came home from work that evening.
Or else, I suppose. Or else what? Police maybe. She had threatened that before. Any threats were problematic though, because I had no idea what she was talking about. I was being given a demand that it was impossible for me to comply with. She had a hundred fucking purses, and I had never even looked through one of them unless I was asked to.
In fact ladies’ purses are very much a thing with me; I find them gross for some reason. For some, the vagina is a sticky little mystery; for me it’s purses (incidentally, the vagina is a science museum). Imagine how all those sets of keys, pairs of glasses, loose coins and spare tampons must feel cooped up in that hot leather (or worse, vinyl, Fucking Ew!) bag all the time, and the whole mess is covered with that sticky girl-goo vibe that permeates pink bathrooms, and the pages of Cosmo and Seventeen, where everything is none of anybody’s business, but not exactly secret.
There had been no purse-grabbing, and if there had been, I’m not sure why I wouldn’t have taken the purse that she uses every day. You know, the one with the fucking money in it. Unless I didn’t want her to find out? Like I wanted it to be a secret that I had stolen a worthless old bag from the worthless old bag? Or something?
Incidentally, there hadn’t been any jewelry-snatching either, though I sometimes wish that there had been. If I had at least taken her jewelry, as she had loudly accused on innumerable occasions over the years, and pawned it, I might have something to show for all the abuse I that I began to endure once my mother’s collection of… I don’t know, actually, if I’ve ever seen what the idea of it is even supposed to be, I can’t remember, so yes, my mother’s… “stuff” collection, began to “disappear.”
The problem is that when you have as much stuff as my mother, some of your stuff will inevitably begin to disappear into the rest of your stuff. Even your house. Your entire fucking house. Will live underneath your stuff. And then you’ll get to make coy little jokes with your friends about perhaps being “one of those people, like on that show on TV.” Yes, very funny. Filthy motherfuckers who hoard banana peels. A grand little troupe of tumors, to be sure. How lovely for your husband! And your son as well, how lovely for him! And you’re so personable besides! He must just adore you!
Poor father. Suffering forever through chemotherapy and cancer, with a son who he can see tries his best to love him, though he finds it difficult because when The Wife calls, he must answer, and when The Wife is upset, he must defend, and his son, with his bad grades and dirty underwear, can see right through him. His son knows that he is weak, and only loves him as much as he can’t forgive him.
His son knows that he never really wanted anything more in life than a woman who loved him and needed him. Maybe some stability for once: A real place in the world. A perfectly vulnerable little boy in a man’s sweaty skin. And now all that woman that he lives for does is hide at work and buy even more shit that the family can’t afford to further clog the hallways and the staircases, all supposed wares for her stupid flea market space, which she throws money away on every weekend just to be with her friends.
His son knows that the fact that the house is a god damn torture chamber is as much his fault as it is hers, and that all of her talk about running away is manipulative bullshit that he just can’t own, because he’s bleeding inside, that he’s really been bleeding his whole life. The acceptance of The Woman in his life is what is most important. His son knows that bleeding well, because he also bleeds. For those whose self-worth belongs to a woman who is never content, the notion of self-worth is only a wound.
Somehow my father managed to marry a version of his mother, an uncompromising woman who finds domesticity tedious, and managed to aid in replicating for his son the near-exact conditions of his own upbringing: A home in which the father isn‘t there, and the mother doesn‘t care.
He didn’t realize that the “coping mechanism(s)” that toxic women employ might vary. He may not have even known what a toxic woman is. He probably didn’t even know well enough what to look for. This was all before the internet of course, so there was no search bar that he could type the words “girlfriend/mother (insert adverb/noun/adjective here) inappropriate” in to, and even today psychology is often ridiculed as a waste of time and money.
Of course there were libraries, and my father loved to read, but why would he go and kick a sleeping dog anyway? He felt great! Nothing was wrong! He was a man of modest means; one child of many, from a house with an alcoholic mother and a step-father that he didn’t think much of. But suddenly things were working out! With A Wife, and A Good Job, a house, A Rental Property On The Side, and a son; who’da thunk it! Him! The oddball that no one cared about! Now, Oddballing like an oddballing ass oddballer, motherfucker.
Now, the house is in shambles; cluttered, infested and overgrown, the rental property turned out to be a big fat money pit which would never attract anyone but welfare moms and drug dealers as tenants, The Wife turned out to be a psycho, a huge corporation bought the company where he worked and fired him (ostensibly because he never went to college), costing him his precious career, he was so busy being a big shot that he neglected his extended family, estranging himself from them, and he never spent any time with his son, who would always righteously hate him as a father.
People liked my father, they thought he was an interesting guy. He didn’t pull his punches, and in business, he was both righteous and competent; a showman even. If a television show had ever been produced that featured bespectacled men adorned in suits kicking ass and taking names, and reviewing that spreadsheet of combustible dynamics variables (or whatever) like that shit really matters, my father would have been the man to talk to.
He remembered absolutely everything that anyone ever told him during a conversation, especially if it was about business, and he would repeat people’s lies back to them without a second thought when tested. It could be quite a show. The only time I felt like I really knew my father was when I was visiting him at work, where there were several scale models of old cannons on his desk, and a sheet of real Confederate war bonds hung on the wall.
The man went to his grave with his wife thinking that he was this meek little pussy, probably because where she was concerned he basically always was, unless he was watching Star Trek, but before the big fish ate the little fish, and my father lost his career, he was King Shit. The Vice-President, motherfucker. He didn’t get there by accident.
My father didn’t need my mother; he really, really didn’t. But he may have needed me. He loathed rejection more than anything, and that made our relationship a bit incestuous. In his mind, my love and respect were supposed to be compulsory, and I was destined to be his best friend, and to validate his interests, except that I wasn’t. I was never going to be a Good Republican, or a Big Sports Fan. I despise the draft, and phony Beatlemania had bitten the dust; I was never going to be a child of the 60’s, and I was always going to favor quiet, solitary activities that tested my mind and taxed my will.
I believe he was afraid I’d “turn out” queer, though he was a dandy himself, but he never said so in any case. I never came around to his side, but eventually he came around to mine. It was who he really was anyway; his inner adolescent longed to overpower his inner child. The problem was that it took him so long, and the resulting changes were so ineffectual, that it didn’t mean much to me when it finally happened.
Because of his cancer, we came to work together, and after talking it over many times, my father still would not see reason about mother. One day after work, mainly for the benefit of my own conscience, I surprised him in the driveway by giving him a hug and telling him that I loved him. It was, in part, a reconciliatory gesture.
Months before, on Christmas Eve, my father was scrambling to help my mother get the house ready to receive guests. This involved stuffing all of her worthless shit into certain rooms and closing the doors, and making several runs to and from her storage units with a panel truck.
These actions would facilitate seating arrangements and clear room at the dinner table for people to actually eat a fucking meal. I was in a screaming rage for the duration of the ordeal, because my parents had continued to ask for my help after I had righteously refused several times. I reasoned that my father and I were certainly more worthy than any of our extended family to experience a mother-engineered version of a clean, wholesome environment, and that my mother obviously didn’t care for my father and I as well as she did her sisters and her other children, otherwise we would be entitled to at least the same treatment year-round. Maybe a goddamn apology every morning.
And then she might make a full time job out of cleaning her fucking house, since that is how the whole works imploded in the first place. Obviously all my mother had to do was point her finger and my father would infallibly spring into action. So what was the fucking problem for the rest of the year? How about the ten years before that? She didn’t give a shit then, but she does now? Twice a year on average? And every other day she obeys every instinct that she has to make the problem even worse? Not cool. And that is the fucking understatement of the year.
I restated my earlier offer; to help haul all the shit directly to the dump; and I told my cancer-ridden father point blank that if he dropped dead lugging my mother’s shit around in the snow that it was no less than he deserved.
The hug that I gave him was meant to at least equal that in meaning, and I think that it did. I don‘t regret either action. I resent the fact that I was the one who had to initiate our reconciliation, which historically had already always been the case. After that, things began to change a little, and my father tried to clean the house up a bit and get rid of some of my mother’s things, but when she fought him over it viciously, he gave up.
She would always ultimately hold the key to his self-worth and security, and no matter what progress the two of us made, I was always going to be his competitor for mother‘s affections, and a liability to the sense of calm (though a cluttered house is always the antithesis of calm, so I use the word loosely) in the house because I wouldn’t just go with the flow and stop saying and doing things that were likely to upset her.
Usually just telling the truth, or breaking something that had shown up in the hallway for no reason after I had tripped over it. Or fallen down the fucking stairs. Steel-toed boots do wonderful things to stupid little baskets, and other worthless pieces of shit. Or moving festering garbage from countertops into trash barrels. Big time iconoclast here.
On the night that my father died, I read his gasping, comatose form the first chapter of The Hobbit, which is something that I know he would have appreciated, and the last thing I said to him was “I love you, Dad. Goodnight.” I had already said that to him many times, and at times when he could hear me say it, and it really did matter.
Before that night, when I visited him in the hospital, he always seemed surprised to see me, and much happier because I was there. Contrarily, he usually wanted mother to shut her fucking mouth and leave him be, instead of constantly pandering and needling him.
No, he didn’t want anything from the house. What he wanted was not to be dying, or at least to have his mind taken off the fact that he was. If she couldn’t help with that, she could at least shut the fuck up. I can relate. But if I really was the light in his smile, why was I always the one who was wrong, even if I was only making arguments that he wanted to make but couldn’t? Why was I always the one who had to leave? The one who was threatened, or ultimately punished? He obviously would not have been happier if I had left, and neither would my mother.
I was and am my mother’s prized possession, just like all the rest of the useless shit taking up space in her house. So why is it my fault every time something is wrong? Now that my father is dead, why should I care that I’m all that she has left? I wonder why the fact that I’m her son, and that she should be concerned about how things work out for me didn’t occur to her ten years ago.
If she wasn’t going to be better than average, she didn’t have to torture me, and she could have at least kept a clean house. It’s obvious to me that she prefers her possessions to people, probably because they conform exactly to her tastes, they don’t judge her, and they’re easy to control.
She’s always there with the money, but the money doesn‘t help me love her, it doesn‘t erase the past, and spending money on someone isn‘t the same as being responsible. She can never buy enough steak dinners or movie tickets or gallons of gasoline to soothe the anger I feel when I think about the boy who broke my arm when I was small, and how there was no punishment for him or his family.
There was no pat on the back, or any form of consolation whatsoever. Just ridicule at school, and nights sitting alone, picking the cotton from my cast.
Or the nights when I reached out to my father when I was lonely, and he was always more interested in some book than me, and how he never wanted to do anything. Because of the way these memories fester, and become one, long, miserable event, the only just fate for anyone who was involved in the whole debacle is murder. Since thinking about my past makes me want to kill everyone, obviously I just don’t think about it. I haven’t moved on to just telling a big fucking lie that I’ve made up from scratch, but I’m slowly coming to that point, just so I’ll actually have something convenient to say to strangers that explains all of my damage.
“Tell me about your family.”
“I’m an orphan. I never knew them. My foster family were all assholes that didn‘t care about me.”
I think that would get the point across.
For now though, I am a man without a past, with twenty-eight years of bad news behind him that nobody wants to hear about, not that anyone should want to.
I have other problems besides. Why are many of my friends sorts like amateur criminals and ex-band members that couldn‘t get their shit together? Why are sociopaths so warm with me? What’s on the other side of the fence? Why should I want to join society? To succeed? Were my parents society people? They were assholes who didn’t give a shit.
It’s obvious that society wouldn’t piss on me, even if mixing piss with me would cure cancer, and all I see, from everyone around me is exactly the sort of miserable reptilian behavior from practically everyone, but if it’s coercion, it isn’t crime, and if it’s a law, then it can’t be wrong. I’m forced to wonder, what is authority? What is respect? What sort of consolation is it when someone tells me that I can be The Boss? If fairness is a lie, the world is obtrusive, and responsibility is an imposition, what is authority? What is respect? Who wants to hire someone that asks these kinds of questions?
The word love is the worst cuss that I can imagine. It’s something people say so that they feel better about fucking you over, or because they like to hear it said back to them. Unless this “feeling” manifests as some sort of action or at least a set of positive behaviors, I can’t for the life of me see what the fuck the use for it is.
The fact that some imagine that love and respect are supposed to be compulsory according to one’s title is insanity, as is the fact that we imagine that every woman who births a child is automatically a mother (unless she chooses not to be of course) for any reason at all, permitting circumstance.
There’s nothing that repulses me more than touch, because of how badly I want it. It melts me, so I don’t trust it. So many people that I cared for have now died, so many friendships have fallen out, and so many romances have failed, that I shun relationships reflexively. Obviously, if I don’t know any people, they can’t fail me.
There is a tortured little boy living inside of me whose word I have come to respect. He’s like a mangy, unloved dog, who’s been violently and cruelly wakened from sleep far too many times. The poor kid was never ready for the kick, and he’s angry about it. He knows all the reasons why I should never leave the house, and why I should never allow myself to love or to trust again, and why the entire human race deserves to die, and how hard it is to stop looking into the past. All that fun stuff.
I figure though, that life must be some kind of wonderful god damn gift if I haven’t killed myself by now. The more I learn about myself, and how much I’m capable of, the more I like being alive. Obviously it’s impossible to learn if you’re in the midst of a nervous breakdown, or are constantly in pain. Avoiding neurosis is a learned skill. I’m learning and improving all the time. I find out I’m good at everything that I try to do, because now that I’m not in school, I only try to do things that interest me.
I don’t know why people cut themselves. In some cases, I expect that bored people do it in order to give themselves some sort of problem to solve, and feeling pain and bleeding red blood isn‘t exactly boring. Phonies probably do it to make themselves seem more interesting. For me it was a way to dull my anger, so that I did not internalize it.
Frankly I couldn’t afford it. If I had allowed that wall to get any higher, I would have come to be made up only of those coarse bricks, and then the only thing to do would have been to climb to the top with a rifle, or smash the whole mess and start again from scratch.
The latter had already happened several times, and I simply did not fancy the idea of having to reconstruct my personality from scratch again. So, I chose to fight. Obviously the person that I wanted to harm with my knife was my mother, and that would not have worked out well for me.
More than anything, cutting myself was a way to confirm that I had been damaged, and that the damage would heal. The mind has difficulty allowing the body to burn itself; it remembers the pain. If having your mother falsely accuse you of stealing her worthless shit ultimately leaves you bleeding and in pain, maybe the brain learns a lesson then, too.
For me, it never was the case that the best thing for me to do was to simply buy a bus ticket to nowhere. I would not have been happy in nowhere, with nothing to show for the life that I had I had lived for years before. That life was not without wonderment, contentment, or achievement. It was better for me to wait, work, and save, so I have.
I now know the answers to many difficult questions. I know why many people have problems with drinking and drugs, and why I do not. I know why the battered wife doesn’t just leave. I know why all people must eventually die, and why it is usually better to live.
I know that my mother has got to go. I know this because of my scars, and because I spent $3000 of my own money on therapy this year, and at the rate of $175 per hour, at least half of nearly every session was spent ranting about my mother’s latest damage.
She treats all of the misfortune that has befallen her as a trick of the wind. A person who never admits their mistakes can never learn from them, obviously. Nothing is ever her fault. I’ve tried to make it clear to her that the most that she can possibly hope for from me is a warm goodbye, and she continues to squander that possibility as well.
On the night that I leave my family home, I will blast Right Here, Right Now by Jesus Jones. I will sing along like a complete fag, as I scream down the highway toward a white trash nowhere in my brand new used car. For effect, I will roll the windows down, and the January air will ravage my skin. I will be smiling because I will have won. Ideally I would be smoking a cigarette and drinking Coca-Cola, but perhaps not.
Usually I figure I owe to myself to behave better than that to my body, and besides, that’s romantic bullshit anyway. Though I am aware that the reason that shit like that happens in books is because people like me write them. So we’ll see.