Warning: this blog entry may trigger bad memories. If you are very upset about a death in your family you should not read this. This is another excerpt from my unpublished book, and this one takes place near the end. The events are largely fictional, but the emotions behind the words are quite real. This chapter was one of the hardest things I’ve ever written, and it is still difficult for me to read. Sorry it’s so long. I couldn’t shrink it down any further than I did.
The speaker is Alex Taber, and he is relating the follow information to his shrink.
“Have you ever had one of those moments,” he asked, “when suddenly everything becomes clear to you–kind of an “ah-ha” revelation someone-just-washed-the-sand-out-of-your-head type of thing?
“Well, that time in the hospital was one of those times. I do remember it. I remember everything about it with such clarity: the colors, the smells, the sounds, all of it burned into memory like with a digital laser. Every moment permanently ingrained.
“And while you’re sitting in this hospital room, suddenly everything is quiet and a feeling of peace washes over you. You don’t want to leave the room. As long as you sit in that room and don’t leave, time stops. Nothing has to go forward. You don’t have to go out there and deal with the doctors and your mother and all the relatives and the other people.
“Because you’ve been feeling so stressed and guilty and as soon as you leave that room you will feel stressed and guilty again. But not just then. You’re at peace for the first time in years because there is nothing else to do right then, and you know that this is the place you are supposed to be.
“But you can’t stay there forever. She’s getting cold and there are people waiting for you–people who need you to go out there so that they can be strong for you or who need you to be strong for them. The color you could see in her little face under the bandages is changing to gray. You’re holding her little hand the whole time, as if the warmth of your body can some how seep back into hers and everything will be all right again. Except that you know that it never will be all right ever again. Not after you leave this room.
“But you do leave that room, and as soon as you do the shit starts again and it never really stops again after that.
“And you’re angry and there’s no one to be angry at. It’s no one’s fault. It’s not your daughter’s, it’s not the doctor’s, and it’s not the other driver’s. You can blame the ex but she’s dead too and can’t be touched. You can’t blame God or the devil ‘cause you don’t really believe in them.
“But you can blame yourself, and you are always there. You knew that the ex was a terrible driver, and you gave your daughter to her. And she was with her all the time.
“And she’s with her all the time.
“One Monday you wake up too early and grumbling because you have to get up early to buy cookies at the store so that your daughter can take them to school. The next Monday you can sleep in because you no longer have a daughter because you put her in a casket a couple of days before.
“And every thing you do after that that you couldn’t do before because you were a father is tinged with guilt. Not just tinged but soaked; saturated. Everywhere you look you see things that remind you of her and you can’t even talk about it with your wife because she doesn’t even know because she had filed for divorce three months before your daughter died because she couldn’t take your spaceyness anymore and you can’t talk about it with your parents because they’re doing worse than you are.
“You see a box of girl scout cookies and the little girl on the front reminds you of her and you remember how you decided that you would just not worry about girl scouts with her because there just wasn’t time and you choke down a single cookie when you used to eat them by the box and try to keep from crying while doing it because how could anyone ever understand your crying over a girl scout cookie when your little girl was never even in the girl scouts.
“And two months after that, two months after the casket and the flowers saying all the well meaning things that you pretend to find comfort in your father starts chemo therapy for something that can’t be cured. The next thing you know he is shitting all over the floor and your doing what you can to keep your mother going and your father spirits up as they feed him with tubes and keep him in diapers and he can’t talk because he has a yeast infection in his mouth. And the ink is just drying on the final divorce your wife has filed and you don’t even know where she is.
“And as he’s dying you can’t even go to see him as often as you want because you’re shutting down–because you really can’t take it anymore. You really, really can’t take it anymore for even one more second. But somehow the seconds and the hours and the days keep passing even though you do nothing to help them along and he dies and you go through the funeral shit again. And your mom can’t pay for it so you help but your money is almost gone and you don’t have time or the energy to pay your bills and you don’t have the strength to deal with your job’s looming collapse because you desperately need to have a mental breakdown yourself. But you don’t have time for one because too many people need you to be a man and to be strong.
“But there’s simply nothing to do but watch as your world falls apart around you. And you just keep thinking about how unfair it all is and how you really can’t take it any more. You get angrier and angrier and you really can’t take it any more.
“And you can’t get the images out of your head because they are so clear, but they can’t stay in there, but you can’t get them out because they are burned in, but they can’t stay, and so you try anything you can to get them out. You slash at them. You scream at them and they still don’t go away. So you pile all your anger and anxiety and confusion and depression and all that other junk on top of it just to bury it, just to forget about it for a little while. And it helps, but you start to forget other things too, and that’s okay because it has to be.
“But that anger is still there, and it’s worse than ever because it’s helping to bury the stuff you can’t take. It simmers at the surface. And you still get more and more anger, and it still has no place to go.
“Do you want to know why I fight so well? It’s all that anger, doctor. It’s all of that tightly controlled rage, seething just beneath the surface, seeking some little chink, some tiny little hole, to escape from; all that helpless impotence that has been building and festering for your entire life.
“What happens when you take a life time of unfocussed, helpless rage and you suddenly give it a target? Here I come, a wandering lightning bolt, and I suddenly find a big fat lighting rod in the form of human sadistic scum. Someone degenerate, someone so incontrovertibly bad that there is no gray; no doubt, that he must be stopped.
“And all that rage finds a release, my friend. You suddenly become someone other. You are anger and rage personified. Anything that could once be called Alexander Taber now becomes nothing but fury contained in flesh. Anger grabs the rifle. Hatred splatters the bastard’s intestines against the wall. Righteous indignation focuses the mind like a fucking laser beam on one goal: destroying the target.
“Speed is easy because you are pure emotion. It’s all natural. It’s instinct. Destroy the foe, that’s all that you need to do. Destroy him in any way possible. No gray, no time to think, and no need to. It’s the right thing to do. End the threat with a red wet splat and you’ll be a fucking hero! Fail and you are dead, and so is everyone else–all of the innocent people–in the room. It’s a no-brainer.
“It feels godlike. All that rage comes down on that poor bastard’s head like a high-speed collision into a brick wall and he never knows what hit him before he’s leaking his greasy insides on the floor.
“But no matter what you do–no matter how much anger you release, there’s still more and more there building up and up and even when you release some it still builds up and some images still escape and you still can’t take it and it has to stop and the guilt and the anger and you’re the one that caused it and you’re always there. No matter where you go or what you do, you’re always there. And you just want to find the peace again. Somehow, anyway you can, you want to–you have to–find the peace again.”