Monday, April 21, 2008

Fuck Them

This is a personal one. If you came for pop culture crap, come back Tuesday.

He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts.

Mine was not a happy childhood or adolescence. As I've discussed here, some of it was my own damn fault, and some of it was matters beyond my control. But I've never talked about the part that was the other kids. In some ways, it was the worst, and had the longest-reaching effect on my life.

I'm not gay myself, but I've always been able to sympathize with gay people who have talked about always knowing, even back into childhood, that they were different from other people. I can't think of a time where I didn't feel a step removed from the rest of humanity. I think it's because of the part of me that's a writer, the part that's always looking at the world from a detached, unsympathetic point of view. It cuts through illusions and says, "This, here, is how the world is." It makes it hard to connect to people when part of you automatically thinks of them as grist for the mill of observation and dissection. But whatever it is, I could always tell. And so could the other kids. Kids are generally more perceptive than adults that way. It's a trade-off, though, of perception for compassion. Childhood is where we're closest to our primal, animal ancestry, and in the jungle, difference is weakness, and weakness is to be dealt with unforgivingly.

It wasn't everyone; it never is. But there were a lot of them. For nine out of twelve years of schooling, I was a very popular target (although not by far the only one, and I confess with shame that I was more than willing to deflect attention from me to those lower on the totem pole). I was "That Weird Kid"; even many of the ones who didn't actively harass me often looked at me askew. Changed direction to walk on the other side of the hall, pointedly sat in other seats, and so on.

Them, I didn't mind so much, because I was too busy with the overt cruelty. Gym class, regular classes, lunch, the playground, the school bus; nowhere was safe. The school bus was the worst; there was a song. I won't discuss the song. Suffice it to say that when the word "malice" turned up on a word-a-day calendar I owned, I read the definition with a hideous sense of intimacy.

He thrusts his fists against the posts, and still insists he sees the ghosts.

I wrote a story recently, currently in revision, about ghosts. My take is that they're not revenant spirits, but psychic parasites made of a kind of living memory. They attach themselves to hosts and force them to relive their most painful and horrible memories, often related to the death of loved ones, and feed on the anguish and self-loathing that follow. When I was writing the first draft, I thought this was simply a McGuffin I'd pulled at random out of the ether. Upon revision, I know better; this ghost story is based on a real-life haunting. Mine.

My ghosts are still with me. To paraphrase Adrian Cronauer, I am in more need of an exorcism than any man in history. They take the form of any from a long list (yes, there is a list; the names come to me more easily than those of friends and relatives) of faces and voices twisted with the hideous contortions of the adolescent torturer. They've taken up permanent residence in my brain, bountiful source of food that it is. I hear them constantly. Every time I think, I'm no good. None of these people wants anything to do with me. My writing is meaningless. No would could possibly care what I have to say. Don't bother talking to her, she's not interested in me, I'm pathetic. I'm a nuisance. I'm a failure. I'll never be anything. I'm going to die alone. It's no more than I deserve.

He thrusts his fists against the posts, and still insists he sees the ghosts.

There's a cute little one-off cartoon from Animaniacs about a back-country woodchuck who goes to Hollywood to get famous in the movies. One of the running gags set against some wonderful Jonesian physical comedy is that the woodchuck asks people who piss him off to sign their name in a notebook, so that when he's famous he can make it a point not to like them. At the end of the cartoon, as he returns home in disgust and defeat, the list fills a stack of notebooks so tall it dwarfs the woodchuck, who promptly retires to his room to stew in his own juices.

The scene is farcical, but all too real. Richard Nixon was hardly alone in keeping a detailed list of those who had wronged him, and devising elaborate revenge. Don't we all have at least one person whose crimes against us we enshrine as an immortal testament to the heartlessness and calumny of the universe? In some cases, of course, it's justified: an abuser, a swindler, a rapist. But all too often, we give too much weight to the slings and arrows of people we barely knew and will never see again; petty, venal, incidental figures whose words are worth less than a gnat's fart.

Or maybe that's just me. I am, as has been noted, an obsessive motherfucker. Which is the answer to the obvious question, why do something that stupid? Why base my personal life around the opinions of assholes from fifteen years ago? Well, everybody does stupid things, and for me, they all revolve around letting thoughts fester and metastasize in my head until they're all but running the joint.

Well, fuck that. In fact, let that be the "The power of Christ compels you!" for my exorcism. Fuck those thoughts, fuck those people, and fuck the person I was then for listening to them. And fuck the part of me now that still does.

Fuck not talking to people in a crowded room.

Fuck being afraid of what an attractive woman might think if I approached her.

Fuck thinking I've got nothing to offer.

Fuck giving over control of my life to anyone or anything else.

Fuck what they think. They don't know shit. I'm a good writer, a good friend, a good man, and fuck anyone who says otherwise, myself included. Because I'm fucking good enough, I'm fucking smart enough, and goddammit, people fucking like me.


Jeff said...

Fucking right.

Anonymous said...

Fuck yeah.