How I Got To Be Who I Am
This continues the story from Almost 6,000 words of wisdom.
Once upon a time there was a man boy named Buck. He was like other boys in that he loved to build with blocks, to play cops and robbers, to ride his bike and to collect bugs and get into all manner of trouble.
In short Buck was like every other ten year-old boy in all ways. Well, almost all ways. When Buck was eight he watched his mother and father die in front of him. They were robbed on a street corner. For less than twenty dollars a man stole their lives and profoundly influenced an impressionable little boy.
At first Buck went to live with his grandparents. He was happy there and for a time it began to appear as if the chaos that his life had been thrown into would be erased. His grandfather still worked as an accountant and his grandmother continued to be a housewife. In many ways it was very similar to the life he had been living with his parent.
But life has a way of not allowing you to grow too comfortable. Become too happy and some supreme being decides that you are ready to be tested or messed with. It doesnâ€™t really matter why, all that matters is that it happens and you have to act or react to it.
In Buckâ€™s case the second great tragedy of his life came when his grandmother had a heart attack and died. It was a natural death, she was 74 years-old. Buck sobbed through her funeral and alongside his grandfather he enjoyed a very somber ride back to the house. While in the Hearse his grandfather explained that it was time for him to grow up and that this would be the last time he could cry in public. If he wanted to be a man he needed to show the world that he was tough. From now on he had to be a soldier, he had to be like G.I. Joe.
And that meant that he had to listen to the orders of the General and there was no misunderstanding who the general was or why he was in charge. Before his grandmother had died he would come home to a warm house in which someone was glad to see him and interested in his day. Not to mention the many occasions in which she surprised him by having baked cookies. The house always smelled great and years later the smell of fresh baked cookies would always make him think of his grandmother.
Now he returned to an empty home. It was dark and uninviting, a cold home that had once held so much warmth. Buck couldnâ€™t blame his grandfather, it wasnâ€™t like he didnâ€™t speak to him or act uninterested in his life. Grandfather was always careful to inquire about school, to offer his assistance and to try and be a father. But in the best of times he had as much warmth as a porcupine and so it was that a little boy in dire need of affection never really got what he was looking for and so desperately needed.
Time passed and the months turned into years. Buck was no longer just a boy, not in any sense of the word. By the time he was fourteen he had grown into a very solid young man, while not very tall he was quite broad and quite strong. Not to mention that he had a very heavy beard and dark hair peppered his chest. And so it came as no surprise to anyone who knew his story that he found himself getting into trouble.
His grandfather still worked an eight hour day, but it was becoming clear that he would not be able to keep that up for much longer. The death of his wife had aged him as had taking on the responsibility of raising a child. Still grandfather kept on moving. He didnâ€™t know any way to live other than how he had for years. So he trudged into his office and in darkness he returned home.
It was an autumn day when life punched Buck in the mouth again. There was a chill in the air and grandfather had decided to split some wood. It was one of the simple pleasures in life he took. He would tell Buck that there was nothing more rewarding for a man than working with his hands.
Out in the crisp clean air he pulled on his gloves and began to prepare firewood to be used on the colder nights. He hadnâ€™t been working very hard or for very long when his heart gave out. Grandfather died of a massive heart attack. Again it was a natural death, at the ripe old age of 83 he left the world and went to wherever the body and soul go after death.
Buck was 17. At the funeral he remembered his grandfatherâ€™s words and like a good soldier he shed no tears.
The Past Is The Present
Some people never develop any coping skills. The wounds of their past never heal, scabs and scar tissue build up and momentarily halt the bleeding, but it is a temporary fix. And like all such band-aids are prone to being ripped off. Sometimes the exposure to air is good for such hurts and sometimes they remind you that the pain is never far from the surface.
Physical pain can be debilitating, but it never will hold the same sway as mental pain. Mental pain hangs over you, a banshee whose wails of pain and sorrow remind you of past failure, the scream a bitter reminder that there are times when you just didnâ€™t get it done or that sometimes your best just wasnâ€™t good enough.
So the question comes down to how you deal with those moments. Can you accept your shortcomings and move ahead or do you get bogged down in the what-if moments and spend time replaying the moment in your mind searching for a better outcome.
The greatest professional athletes learn how to overcome this. The Michael Jordans of the world donâ€™t remember the shot that they didnâ€™t make or the play that fragmented. They live in a space in which the rarified air they breathe doesnâ€™t allow that. Supreme confidence that they will change the outcome to one that is more favorable allows them to move past the failures and they do fail.
Jordanâ€™s dream of becoming a professional baseball player didnâ€™t quite materialize. Only a few remember Nick Anderson stealing the ball and the eventual loss to the Magic in the playoffs. It was a momentary setback, but one that spurred more work and more effort to reclaim his spot at the top of the pyramid.
But there is a reason why the world is populated with fewer Michael Jordans and more ordinary people. Before Georgie I had been much more like Jordan able to just move on and forget. But that was the past and now I lived in a world that was not so bright, the light was much dimmer and the prospects less interesting.
I live in a place in which I yearn for instant replay, the prayers in which I beg for a referee to come out onto the field and penalize the other guy for an illegal play. A chance to gain yardage that was unfairly stolen from me. An opportunity to ignore Georgieâ€™s advances and to take the other path.
It never happens, even in my dreams, even those moments in which she is still by my side I always witness her departure and relive her loss.
And it is all because I let myself be taken in by that asshole Georgie. Georgie who stole all that was good and holy in my life and replaced it with shit. In the fantasy books of my youth Georgie was the demon whose magic made him appear to be beautiful but to those few who could really see he was always a hideous repulsive maggot eaten mess.
The long arm of Father Time eventually wraps us all in his embrace, but it is a hug that is neither tender nor loving. The claim that time heals all wounds is a myth, it merely dulls the pain.
A Soldier Follows Orders
Just prior to the start of the funeral the family was invited into a private room to say their goodbyes. Artificial lighting shone upon faded blue paint and bad artwork. Couches that had seen better days and lamps that looked like garage sale rejects added to the sterile ambiance.
Buck found himself standing next to an open casket, his grandfather lay before him. He was clad in a black suit. A cigar was in his coat pocket and his arms were laid out alongside the body. Whoever had prepared him had taken the time to add a little color to his cheeks. It was done to make the body look less dead but there is a reason that corpses are described as being pallid and once the light is extinguished it is gone for good.
After a few moments the director of the home quietly interrupted Buck and asked him if he expected any more family members to arrive. A short nod was all it took to indicate that Buck was it. Outside in the chapel there were only a handful of people there to bare witness to the interment of Buckâ€™s grandfather. None of them came back to the house and only one or two of them spoke with Buck. It wasnâ€™t clear if they were trying to be courteous or considerate of privacy. But it was very clear to Buck that he was finally completely alone.
The house was paid for and as the sole heir the title was given to Buck as was a very modest inheritance. It wasnâ€™t much, but it was enough money to cover his needs for a short while, especially given his Spartan lifestyle. Many teenagers in similar circumstances have found it to be overwhelming, not Buck. For all intents and purposes he had been living on his own since the death of his grandmother, if not his parents. So he had become accustomed to solitude and had long since developed a tremendous work ethic.
The combination made it easy for him to adjust to his circumstances. In fact, he preferred to be by himself. Crowds and large numbers of people made him uncomfortable. He didnâ€™t enjoy small talk and if forced to socialize would find a corner of the room in which he would sit quietly, dark eyes impenetrable but observant.
A short time after his grandfatherâ€™s death Buck received a letter from the local draft board informing him that Uncle Sam was ready to receive him as the newest member of the armed forces. In some ways this was one of the best things that could have happened to Buck. He hadnâ€™t been much of a student and did not have any ideas on what kind of profession he was interested in.
Military life suited Buck. He liked the discipline and the sense of purpose it gave him. He made it through basic training without any major issues and in time was shipped overseas where it became apparent that if he had been a man of faith he either would have lost it completely or become a devout zealot.
Thanks to shithouse luck Buck had become acquainted with death at a young age, but it wasnâ€™t until his squad inadvertently stumbled upon an enemy encampment that Buck learned about death first hand. If you were to ask the survivors how it all happened none of them could tell you how, but they could answer the what, at least when it came to Buck.
People react differently during moments of trauma and great stress. Here is what we know about Buck. The expression on his face hardly changed. Bullets were flying and he looked like he was playing poker. While returning fire his rifle jammed, but he remained nonplussed by it. There are stories of men who during moments like this charge the enemy in a suicidal rage determined to take as many out as they can.
Buck got up and just began walking towards the men who were firing at him. His steps were measure and with purpose. It was clear to those who saw him that this was not battle fatigue or a manifestation of a mental breakdown. He knew what he was doing. Somehow he got to the other side without being hit. This is the point at which the stories of the other men conflict with each other.
Some say that he grabbed an enemy soldier and cut his throat. Others say that he beat him to death with his rifle. The one thing that they all agree upon is that Buck killed a man and then took a moment to remove the head from the body and he did it without a smile, a grunt or any indication that he felt anything at all.
When asked about it later he had refused to discuss it and so no one really knew why he had done it, just that he had.
The love that I had once known entered my life when I was still in school. Iâ€™d like to say that like so many great love stories I knew from the start that one day she would be mine, but that would be a lie. We started going to school together when we were in junior high, but neither one of us knew each other then. Different circles and different classes made certain that our paths never crossed each other.
She liked to tell me that she was certain that we had passed each other in the hall. She said that I looked familiar and she wondered if we had swung on the same swing set at the park or if our families had eaten at the same restaurant on the same nights. It was all possible, we did grow up a few miles apart.
Of course it might as well have been ten thousand miles because I really didnâ€™t know a thing about her. If I hadnâ€™t decided to take a biology class instead of life science I might not have ever met her, and even then it took a push from someone else to make it happen, namely the teacher.
Mr. Constantine liked the lab partners to be couples his term, not ours. He said that it made for less fooling around in class, that the boys were less likely to try and impress the girls by doing something stupid if they were paired with a girl. During our first lab she was all business. I canâ€™t remember anymore what it was. Again if this were some kind of movie Iâ€™d say that the reason for my memory loss was because I was too busy staring at her. But that is not the case.
I donâ€™t remember because I didnâ€™t much like the class and I spent as much time as I could day dreaming about other places. She didnâ€™t appreciate the lack of attention and made a point of telling me that she expected me to carry some of the load because she wouldnâ€™t accept my getting the same grade as her unless I did some work.
That was the day I learned that I was insouciant. Of course I didnâ€™t know what the word meant, but she was happy to tell me. I suppose that she knew what her feelings were for me long before I realized that I was interested in her. I was a goofy high school kid who couldnâ€™t decide whether I wanted to be tough and cool or just tough, or just cool. That is the beauty and the curse of high school, the chance to become someone or something.
If you asked me to tell you when it was that I noticed her I couldnâ€™t tell you that either, at least not specifically. However I do remember when I realized that I was attracted to her. She was wearing a skirt with boots, black boots and some kind of top. Her black hair was in some kind of feminine hair torture device and she smelled amazing. It was awesome and scary.
Scary because as I realized that I was attracted to her I got the normal teenage boy response and didnâ€™t know how to hide my attraction and excitement at being close to her. I must have turned red because she asked me if everything was ok and I really began to feel a little sick. I was sure that she could see that she had gotten a rise out of me. We were standing at our lab station and I did everything I could to try and hide behind the desk, not that it mattered. I felt naked and exposed. So I did what teenage boys do and tried to be cool as I launched a spitball at the guy at the station next to me.
I donâ€™t have to tell you that she didnâ€™t think that it was cool and that her disdain only made me feel worse. The boy that was on the receiving end of the spitball returned fire and I threw a book at him. It wasnâ€™t his fault, but raging hormones made me act like an idiot. It wasnâ€™t the last time that I acted the fool because she was close to me.
Constantine made it worse by grabbing my shoulder and trying to spin me around to get my attention. Since I was already in full blown idiot mode I threw him off of me and stormed out of the classroom. As a thank you the school gave me a two day vacation and detention.
And then just to rub salt in my wounds when I returned from my suspension she tried to switch lab partners, said that she couldnâ€™t work with someone who was so childish. I donâ€™t think that Constantine ever forgot or forgave me for my part in embarrassing him in front of the class so he refused to move me. I think that he thought that she would be a bitch and punish me, or maybe not. Who knows, it really doesnâ€™t matter anymore, does it.
All I know is that I spent my suspension dreaming about her and fantasizing about asking her out. At last school had a purpose, there was a reason for me to attend. Now I just needed to figure out how to get her to go out with me. And that was something that I had no clue how to make happen.
But I figured that a boy who was insouciant had to be of some interest to her, didnâ€™t I?
Girls Love Their Toys
There was a time in her life when it had all seemed so much simpler and maybe that was just the way the world treated your first love. She had heard that there was no love like that of a mother for her child, but she wasnâ€™t all that sure that was true. The boy that had stolen her heart had taken more than just that, he had grabbed her soul and run off with it.
She had given it gladly, willingly. It had been her nature to share herself with those she loved and it was something that she felt like she needed to do. It was almost an obsessive compulsion to try and show the boy that there was nothing that she wouldnâ€™t do to make him happy. When he smiled at her the world stood still, but like so many boys he didnâ€™t quite understand what he had in her.
It wasnâ€™t that he mistreated her or that he didnâ€™t care for her, but he didnâ€™t quite understand what it was that drove her. He thought with physical actions and she thought with her heart. She had always felt that he had a tender side and that if he could get around the emotional walls that boys build so that they can become men she might be able to really share something special.
Again, it is not that it wasnâ€™t special, it is, but there was a deeper level to it and she desperately wanted him to see that with her. If he could open his eyes he would understand that there was no reason for him to ever question her or wonder about the other boys.
Once he wrote her a poem. It was kind of silly, really rather foolish, but arenâ€™t loverâ€™s jokes just that way.
â€œGirls and boys have their joys, But The Girls just really love their toys.â€
He had written it down and given it to her alongside a picture of himself, a picture in which a book hid his pleasure at the thought of seeing her. He never did understand that she loved the poem and the picture, that it was something that he had made and as such it was precious to her.
Her thoughts were shattered by a loud noise and the realization that she was thinking of a past that was long gone in terms of the present. It still made her smile to think of the poem and the picture, it was one of the few possessions that she still had, a thing that she had stashed away where it could be recovered. She giggled and said â€œMy preciousssssssâ€ and then got up to grab some paper and a pen. It was time to get organized.
Inside the bedroom she systematically took inventory of the possessions she had acquired since her arrival. Underwear, pants, bras, a pair of white Keds, pair of jeans, overalls, a portable CD player and three CDs. The Immortal Otis Redding, Johnny Cash- Greatest Hits and U2â€™s The Joshua Tree.
Those three CDs also traveled with her. They spoke to her in so many ways. At times it felt like Bono, Otis and Johnny were singing to her. She had sat at the dock by the bay, knew what it was like to have a ring of fire and The Joshua Tree, â€œWith or Without You,â€ â€œWhere the Streets Have No Nameâ€ and â€œI still Havenâ€™t Found What I am Looking Forâ€ described her perfectly.
Sometimes it was still painful to listen to the album, to hear her life expressed so poignantly. Perhaps it was the music or the recent flight from her latest relationship, but she felt a little bit like crying so she switched on the player and suddenly she was a schoolgirl again
â€œI want to run
I want to hide
I want to tear down the walls
That hold me inside
I want to reach out
And touch the flame
Where the streets have no nameâ€
That said it all, yearning and desire to be with him, to run away and give up the trappings of society. If he would have asked her to leave she would have gone with him, but he never did. And in some ways that was best. If she had known what was going to happen she might never have begun dating him.
The changes that she saw were so hard to watch, it was just raw. And the hardest thing was that he couldnâ€™t see how he was being used, couldnâ€™t stop it, or wouldnâ€™t stop it. It felt like watching someone slip into madness, it wasnâ€™t that hard to watch Alzheimerâ€™s take her grandfather because he had been a bastard. But the boy, he had been special.
And she had tried hard to tell him, to save him when he wouldnâ€™t help himself, but he wouldnâ€™tâ€™ listen, brushed her off and told her that she was acting foolishly.
The next song came on and there the truth of what she had been looking for was revealed. She choked back the tears for a moment listened.
â€œI have climbed highest mountain
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you
I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you
But I still havenâ€™t found what Iâ€™m looking for
But I still havenâ€™t found what Iâ€™m looking forâ€
Everywhere she went she still sought to find the magic of that first love, to recapture it and bottle it up where it could never escape her grip again. And try as she might it never quite happened.
Finally the third track came on and as Bono sang the first verse the sobs rolled outâ€¦
â€œSee the stone set in your eyes
See the thorn twist in your side
I wait for youâ€
Deep, heart wrenching sobs that racked her body and left her tearstained face a mess.
â€œWith or without you
With or without you
I canâ€™t live
With or without youâ€
The boy was gone. The relationship was over and the time in which to mourn that loss had long since passed. The song ended and she forced herself out of bed and into the bathroom. As she washed her face she reminded herself that the future was ahead of her and not behind. Sentimental journeys were for the old and decrepit or the mentally weak. It was time to give this crap up.
A First Love
Iâ€™d like to say that I came up with some kind of well scripted, beautifully executed plan. Everyone wants to be the cool guy, to look like the hero and I was no exception. I spent untold hours considering how to make this happen. It felt to me like nothing of this magnitude had ever come into my life. This was a decision that could impact my life forever.
Now I chuckle at teenage naivetÃ© because who the hell really knows anything at that age. I was an ignorant fool, but ignorance is bliss and that is where I was heading, towards endless bliss. It sounds crazy, it sounds stupid, but that is where I would find myself, but I am getting ahead of myself.
High school students are not known for being well heeled and where I came from there was no question about it, money was a commodity that I did not have a whole lot of. And as I was relatively nervous about what to do and where to go I decided to go with a very simple plan. I would take her to the zoo. I didnâ€™t know what I was going to do there, not one clue for how it would work.
All I knew was that I desperately wanted to be her boyfriend, to end the misery of watching her and dreaming of the day when she would call me on the phone, walk through the halls holding my hand, wear my jacket and do all those things that I had seen other couples do.
I even had a goofy thought for how to kiss her.
As I look back now it makes me cringe to even think about it. Basically I hoped that some of the animals would engage in some kind of sexual behavior and that this would give me an opportunity to try and start something. From the perspective of time and distance it is easy to say that I was an idiot. What the hell was I thinking. It is not like I could count on the chimps to suddenly begin an orgy.
As it worked out I didnâ€™t need the monkeyâ€™s help, my own nervousness did the trick. I kind of tripped over my own feet and knocked her into the wall. Fortunately I also fell into her causing an unexpected but altogether pleasant embrace. We shared our first kiss near the elephantâ€™s habitat. Another thing that I realized later on was that she was as interested in me as I in her because that area of the zoo stunk. It smelled like the zookeepers had been feeding the elephants something putrid and rotten. I suspect that in other circumstances I would have gagged. But not that day.
Her lips brushed against mine and I could smell her gum and an amazing scent that I couldnâ€™t describe now or then. But every so often I catch a hint of whatever combination of shampoo, perfume and her on the wind. It always catches me unaware and it always leaves me with a bittersweet taste. There is something sad in knowing that the greatest love of your life was the first and that now all it is a memory of a life that once was but is no more.
â€œBut of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know Iâ€™ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know Iâ€™ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you moreâ€
IN MY LIFE- The Beatles
A Plan Develops
â€œSentimental journeys were for the old and decrepit or the mentally weak. It was time to give this crap up.â€
She smiled to herself as she realized that from out of the past the boy spoke to her. This wasnâ€™t really her own thought, it was something that he had repeated over and over. Not unlike so many other teenage boys he wanted to be tough, to be viewed as a man. This was just one of those things he said and did to try and prove his manhood to the world.
Well the repetition had worked, at least she apparently had come to believe it. She wondered if he still did. He had tried so hard to be tough and she had tried to support him in this effort, even though she knew that he was not. He had a soft and tender side that would sneak out without warning. It was part of what attracted her to him, especially the fact that he wasnâ€™t even aware of it.
She was always careful not to let him know what she really thought. It wasnâ€™t that she thought badly of him, she loved that part. It made him more real, more human and less like some of the other idiots they went to school with. No she hid her true thoughts because men have fragile male egos and she would have been quite upset to have hurt him.
The light in the bathroom was less than perfect. It cast funny shadows on her face, making her look older than she really was. She spent extra time staring at herself trying to figure out if she really looked that old. Her body was still tight and lean, no children had come from her so nature had not done all that it could have to age her, at least not physically.
Overall she was pleased with what she saw. She wondered if the boy would still find her to be as attractive. Would he still be consumed with passion. Would he still desire her.
Back in school his desire had always been obvious. A manâ€™s body had a way of betraying his thoughts. She had taken great pleasure in finding ways to make it hard for that not to happen. It was a bit of an ego trip, but a little positive attention never hurt and for certain it was a lot of fun to try and make him a little flustered. Ruffle his feathers and keep him off balance, why not.
In the Internet age it was easy enough to try and track someone down. Type their name into Google and a couple more search engines and you could often find a vast wealth of information. It might be kind of fun to try and locate him, play the voyeur and see what he was doing with himself these days.
Although the truth was that she was reluctant to find out what his present status was. She didnâ€™t want to learn that he was married or find pictures of a family. Even though it had been years since their last communication it felt better to her to think of him as being single and available. There was some comfort in knowing that there might be a possibility of their being reunited.
Reunited. The word made her laugh. Once while waiting for a doctor she had read a trashy romance novel in which the hero had come for his love. The author had penned the classic line â€œtheir love was rekindled and reunited like East and West Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall.â€
It was so bad that she had to laugh. But maybe it wasnâ€™t that far fetched or silly to think of it in terms of the fall of communism. They had a bitter fight. It was long, protracted and towards the end very nasty. A lot of hurtful comments had been exchanged and even years later it wasnâ€™t unrealistic to think that he could be angry. Or maybe she wanted him to still be angry because it would help to validate the feelings she had about their relationship.
The truth was that there had been something very good and special about their love. There had been a passion and a level of trust that she thought she would never experience again. The men who had followed the boy would have been shocked to have seen her then, or should she say they would have been surprised at how open and laid back she was.
That is not to suggest that she was cold and distant, but since then she had become far more controlling of who and what gained access to her heart. She had been in love at least a couple of times, but the soul piercing, time stood still, kind of her youth hadnâ€™t come back. So maybe it made complete sense to wonder if the line from that book was applicable to her. Maybe, just maybe if she found him they could describe it as being similar to â€œâ€œtheir love was rekindled and reunited like East and West Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall.â€
But that was best left for a different day, the truth was that she really did need to figure out what to do with herself.
More About Georgie
If you were to ask me why I started hanging out with Georgie I wouldnâ€™t be able to give you an answer. I donâ€™t know why. It is the kind of answer or should I say non-answer that used to infuriate my father. When I was a child I could never have gotten away with explaining that I didnâ€™t know why I had done something. An answer like that would not have been acceptable to him.
Of course like most teenagers I had responded to most of his questions about what I did or didnâ€™t do with the very thing I just mentioned. It is part of a rite of passage to try and irritate your parents and I was a master at it. One of my fatherâ€™s favorite movies was Cool Hand Luke.
Maturity is a wonderful thing as it allows you to look back and see what a jerk you really were.
All those times you thought you were being cool, all those moments when you thought that you were just like James Dean have a way of being colored by time to your advantage. But if you stop and think about it, if you are honest and truthful you find that most of the time you werenâ€™t that cool and you might have even been a complete asshole. Maybe I am being too egocentric, but I suspect that I am not the only one who sees their past this way.
My father worked hard at trying to maintain a relationship with me. He tried to be my friend and to stay involved in my life. I hated it. The simple questions he asked me felt like an interrogation so I did my best to be difficult so that he would stop.
Often when he would try and speak with me I would quote Strother Martinâ€™s famous line:
â€œWhat we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach, so you get what we had here last week which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it.â€
After all if you are going to try and aggravate someone you might as well take something they love and twist it, offer it to them in some perverse distortion of itself. And it worked. After a while my father just stopped speaking with me. He gave up and I got angry. It is kind of silly because he was only doing what I wanted him to do, but all it did was piss me off.
Maybe that is what pushed me towards Georgie. I didnâ€™t have any older siblings and without my father there was no longer any sort of male role model in my life. Not that Georgie was any older than I was, but he did have some life experiences that I didnâ€™t have and he had a certain kind of charisma. I canâ€™t explain it, wonâ€™t even try other than to say that he had a magnetic personality that attracted people.
And he was confident. Lord was he ever confident. Georgie walked like there was nothing in the world that could stop him from going wherever it was he was headed. He moved with an attitude that radiated from all sides of him. Mean, nasty, arrogant, cocky, bold and confident. He was all of those things and proud to be described that way.
If you asked Georgie if it was better to be feared or respected he would have picked feared without hesitation.
Georgieâ€™s reputation for violence was earned and well deserved. You already know about Georgie and the Tree Man. Iâ€™d like to say that you have seen Georgie at his worst, but it wouldnâ€™t be true. There were moments that matched or exceeded the treatment that the Tree Man received. There were many times that Georgie made it clear that he had more than just a mean streak.
A streak makes it sound like a little thing, but that is just not accurate nor true for Georgie. He should have been the model for some Country-Western song, the kind that tells you a story. But the reason why he couldnâ€™t is that those songs almost always have a happy ending and stories about Georgie almost never did.
She knew long before I did that my friendship with Georgie was going to be a problem. She knew me so much better than I knew myself, but the problem I had was that I was young and male. My ego wouldnâ€™t allow me to listen to her. The woman I loved so desperately knew that I was in trouble and I was too stupid to listen to her.
The thing about Georgie was that not only did he have that magnetism, but he was both shrewd and clever. He manipulated the situation so smoothly I didnâ€™t have much of a chance. As he started reeling me in I began to hear bits and pieces about a womanâ€™s place, her role in a manâ€™s life. And it wasnâ€™t as his conscience.
So when she started asking me to back off and find someone else to be my friend I took it to be demeaning, controlling and obnoxious. I wasnâ€™t about to allow some woman to have that much control over my life. And I told her that. I let her know in no uncertain terms that I wouldnâ€™t have it. I was the man and if she wanted to be with me she needed to just shut up.
We had a few fights, some disagreements before this, but never like this. I had never told her to shut up with the kind of venom that lay behind those words. I had been poisoned and I was too dumb to recognize it. If I think back I can see the hurt in her eyes and I can feel the pain I caused her. When I spit those words out at her she flinched and actually drew back from me. And it just got worse from there.
For a moment I was sorry, so sorry that I had hurt her. I wanted to take her in my arms and just apologize for hurting her. I wanted to make her understand that I hadnâ€™t meant any of it, but I couldnâ€™t do that. I didnâ€™t know how because I couldnâ€™t figure out how to apologize and still show her that I was an independent and strong man.
The confusion and guilt only made me get more upset. I became even angrier that she had brought this up. I was furious with her and started screaming. For a moment she stood there and just looked at me and then she just left. She didnâ€™t say anything, didnâ€™t yell or scream. She just gathered her things and left.
There was a definite roar, but the silence was deafening. And if I had been a real man I would have stopped her from leaving. I would have insisted on talking it out and made amends, but I didnâ€™t. Instead I let her go and allowed three days to pass before we spoke again. And when we finally did I didnâ€™t mention it and neither did she.
It was the elephant in the room that neither one of us would forget or ignore, but could not speak about. It was the beginning of the end of something special and dear, the first of many cracks that would eventually cause us to shatter and split. Where there had been nothing but good there was now an ugly bruise that just ached.
And like so many other couples it was only a matter of time before the topic reared its ugly head again and the bad feelings came back to the surface. Another fight, another argument and more pain. It became a pattern. We would fight, make up, fight and then make up again.
Eventually I tried to do the right thing. I tried to break free of Georgie so that I could prove to her again that I loved her, but the problem was by that point in time there were so many nasty remarks, so much bad blood she couldnâ€™t just believe me. I wanted her to believe in me again, but I couldnâ€™t bridge the gap.
â€œWe’re caught in a trap
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much baby
Why can’t you see
What you’re doing to me
When you don’t believe a word I say?
We can’t go on together
With suspicious minds
And we can’t build our dreams
On suspicious mindsâ€
Suspicious Minds- Elvis Presley
After it was over I can remember kidding around with Georgie that once the trust was gone in a relationship it wasnâ€™t fun lying to your partner any more. We both laughed, but my laughter was hollow.
Two Kinds of Pain Revisited
There are those who live on pain. They nurture and care for it, building a tiny garden of thorns that they tend, occasionally pricking themselves because without their pain they no longer know how to feel. They are everywhere. They live among us in places and in bodies that look like our own, but with minds that know no joy. The sun that shines is cold and unforgiving, the sky in their world is dark and forbidding.
Fear and uncertainty have become their most reliable companions. Trust is an infrequent visitor, a commodity that has become far too expensive to be purchased. And the biggest challenge of all is that it is the keystone of their arch of pain. Without it they lack the ability to pull themselves out of the warrens of darkness they have constructed, so they run.
Many people run from pain there is nothing uncommon about it. We often run from our fears. Like children who are afraid of the dark we flee the battlefield in search of a less frightening confrontation. But it can only go on for so long.
There is a limited time in which a person can run before they must turn around and decide to stand or fall. One can only avoid making that choice for so long before you lose the ability to make the choice.
The problem with pain is that there is only so much that people can take before they just crack. We all have our breaking points. Not unlike a dam, fissures develop and the pressure builds until we just lose it.
And some are stronger than others. Some can withstand incredible amounts of pain. They take whatever life dishes out and roll with the punches. They are kicked, beaten and pummeled, but they keep moving. It doesnâ€™t really matter what happens because they have figured out how to cope, or so it seems.
They bleed so that they may feel human, so that they can feel alive. The problem was that this described Georgie perfectly, he was an emotional vampire who thrived on draining me and everyone else he encountered of our happiness. He instinctively knew that the only way that he could keep me around was to feed my fears and insecurities and so he did.
He fueled the fire and helped me resolve to forget her, to ignore the past and pretend that it help no meaning, no significance to me. By trashing the past I was proving my strength and creating a brighter future. I was in so much pain and so hurt that like a moth flies into the flame I kept listening to the poison he spewed. I was so very young and so very incapable of admitting that I was wrong.I had three things working against me. I was young, male and stupid. It was easier to pretend that I was whole than to admit that a gaping wound had torn my soul out of me.
In time the pain began to take on a familiar look to me. I woke up expecting to be cloaked in its embrace. As the empty feeling gradually took over I stopped remembering what it was like to be happy and turned inward. Had I been smarter I would have recognized that I was classically depressed and done something to try and work through it.
When you are dead inside the world is a place that lacks colors. There is little to no distinction between night and day. Without a way to distinguish between dark and light the days run into each other, a blur of activity, or in my case inactivity. At least I think that there wasn’t much, I can’t really say because I just don’t remember anymore.
Truth be told I don’t want to remember. Those were dark days that are best left wherever my mind stashed them. I sometimes think that if only I could truly forget them I might be happier and that the scars might heal faster, but maybe that is nothing more than a search for fools’ gold.
The Day She Left
There are people who speak of being able to sense a change in the weather. The slower among us take that at face value, as being a literal comment about the elements. But it is much more than that. Some are blessed with the ability to sense things about others, they recognize the signs that we share with the world and act accordingly. And then are the people who cannot see what is so obvious to the others and all that they do is react to what happens around them.
By the time she had made up her mind to leave me I was so far removed from reality that I fit into the latter group. I had been stripped of my ability to empathize with others, sympathy for the common man was a weakness that Georgie had helped me evolve beyond. Remove emotion and you become incredibly powerful.
Because once you stop caring about yourself and those around you there is an incredible sense of freedom. It is a clichÃ©, but my heart was rapidly turning black, inside I was terminally ill. I eagerly consumed all of the poison that Georgie spewed out all in the name of personal growth. That is the term I used to fool myself into believing that what I was doing had meaning and value.
The end is what you would call a long time coming. Our relationship had died months before we acknowledged it. By the time we admitted it there was a definite stench and something that had been beautiful was deformed and misshapen. We were like the Black Knight in the Monty Python movie about the search for the Holy Grail. Every time we were together another part of us was lopped off and yet the body kept fighting.
She had called me and made arrangements to go on a real date. It was something that we hadnâ€™t done in months. I couldnâ€™t remember the last time that we actually planned a night out, or done anything in which we dressed up for each other. I was going to pass on it, was ready to push it off to a different date, but she wouldnâ€™t have any of it. Inside she knew that this was it, make it or break it.
I remember showering that day and for a moment getting lost in memories of past dates with her. There were weekends away, sunsets at the beach, a million quiet moments in which we did nothing but get lost in each other. And for a moment there was a brief ache in my heart. Inside a piece of me realized that this was going to be different, but I was too busy evolving and I stuffed that shred of sentiment back into a cage and tried to forget it about it
It was a quiet dinner, but not the kind of comfortable quiet that you share with someone you love. It wasnâ€™t quite an awkward silence either, it was something in between. I think that we went to a movie, but I am not really sure. Or maybe we went window shopping, it is really a bit of a blur to me.
She tried to reach me a number of different times, reached out in all the ways she knew how but I wouldnâ€™t let her in. And each time I rebuffed her I could feel the hurt in her build. But she was tough and determined not to let go without a fight.
Eventually we made our way back to her place. I walked her upstairs and sat in a chair while she sat on the couch. Earlier in our relationship there never would have been this distance between us. Back then it was too painful not to touch each other, too hard not to at least hold hands.
We opened a bottle of wine and gradually made our way to each other. When I undressed her I was rough, but not in the way that I had once been. It wasnâ€™t a case of my being so turned on that I couldnâ€™t wait to have her, now I was careless and selfish. The goal was not to make love, but to fulfill a need.
The beautiful thing about hindsight is that it permits us the opportunity to look back and see what fools and asses we were. It wasnâ€™t lovemaking, but sex and she wasnâ€™t an active participant. True she did it willingly, but not lovingly or happily. She didnâ€™t give herself to me, she didnâ€™t surrender, she just let me do what I needed to do because she couldnâ€™t believe that something so good had become so bad.
When it was over I got up out of bed and got dressed. There was no hug, no kiss, no words, just a cold feeling that made her pull the covers over her naked body. I was at the door when she asked me if I had anything to say.
â€œAbout what?â€ I replied. â€œTonight, is there anything you want to talk about.â€ It wasnâ€™t a question so much as it was a statement.
â€œThere is nothing to say. I am tired and going home.â€ If life was like a cartoon there would have been smoke coming out of her nostrils. I knew that she wanted to talk, but I wasnâ€™t interested.
â€œWe need to talk,â€ she said.
â€œNo, you need to talk and I am not interested in being nagged.â€
â€œThat is unfair and unreasonable. I have done nothing but be good to you, I put up with a lot of crap and you owe it to me to be a little decent.â€
She was right, I should have been nicer. I should have sat back down and spoken to her, but I was too far gone. Instead I told her again that I didnâ€™t want the lecture, that when I wanted to be nagged I would tell her. And then things got ugly in a hurry.
I donâ€™t remember what she said to me, but I remember calling her stupid and asking her when she had turned into a bitch.
She didnâ€™t yell. She didnâ€™t cry. She didnâ€™t do much of anything. She bit her lip for a moment and then asked me if I had any stuff in the apartment that I wanted. I said no and she said â€œFine. Weâ€™re done now, please leave.â€
It was a six word epitaph for our relationship. â€œFine. Weâ€™re done now, please leave.â€ I smiled at her and winked and then I left. After the door closed I thought that I heard sobbing and for a brief moment I thought about going back in, but instead I walked down to the corner liquor store and picked up a case of beer and a cheap bottle of scotch.
When I got back home I opened a beer and turned on the CD player
ALWAYS ON MY MIND (Elvis Presley)
â€œMaybe I didn’t love you quite as good as I should have,
Maybe I didn’t hold you quite as often as I could have,
Little things I should have said and done,
I just never took the time.
You were always on my mind,
You were always on my mind.
Maybe I didn’t hold you all those lonely, lonely times,
And I guess I never told you, I’m so happy that you’re mine,
If I made you feel second best,
I’m sorry, I was blind.
You were always on my mind,
You were always on my mind,
Tell me, tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died,
Give me, give me one more chance to keep you satisfied,
If I made you feel second best,
I’m sorry, I was blind.
You were always on my mind,
You were always on my mind.â€
It took a while and an unknown quantity of alcohol, but when the tears finally fell they came hard and fast, salty trails down my face. Only this time there was no one there to kiss them away, no one to hold me and let me know it was going to be alright. And I knew that if I was going to survive I was going to have to let these be the last tears I shed, emotion was a commodity I could no longer afford.