I was not looking out my window last night. I was sitting reading a book while the Boy watched Paracyte, an anime about a high school kid who gets taken over by a sentient alien parasite that eats his right arm, sits in its place, and takes over the high school kid’s life. It is a cool little story about empathy, team work, good and evil and what it means to be human. “Migi” (means ‘right’ in Japanese) the alien, was busy saving the hapless hero from some real monsters when I heard a howl from outside.
Most of the time I ignore the goings on outside. Sometimes I don’t want to know. Sometimes I don’t want to get involved. Sometimes I don’t feel nearly up high enough to not be in danger. If I hear a child crying, a woman screaming, a large disturbance or what might be a little bang bang action, I’ll peek outside. This was different. This sounded like a dangerous confrontation. I sighed as I crossed my fingers and hoped I would not have to make a decision on whether to call pigs. Fuck 12. But that said, I don’t want some excitable boy putting a cap in someone’s ass out there, and the victim bleeding out, or some kids deciding to play tough guy with sharp things and no one cares…or some woman needing help to escape an abuser or would be rapist. I am not the kind to turn my head.
“Fuck you bitch! Fuck you! I am gonna FUCK YOU UP, BITCH!” The words floated up into my front room, along with some heavy thudding sounds. It sounded as if someone was taking a beating out there. “Get the FUCK away from me!” I couldn’t hear another voice, but it is hard to scream when you have had the air kicked outta you. I took the risk and peeked through the voile curtains. One man was standing outside, bent over double. As I spied outside, he straightened himself up, smashed his own head against a wall, and screamed again. “You are GONNA DIE! IM GONNA FUCK YOU UP. FUCKING BITCH! FUCK FUCK YOU!” He smashed his own head again. This was a man in a terrible war against himself. There was no attacker. There was no guilty party. This was a man who was too drunk, too fucked up on PCP (at a guess) or DMT (maybe), or wasp spray, or any combination of dissassocitive and stinking liquor and engaging in a desperate battle. Him against himself. His right hand against his head. His head against the wall. His psyche against himself. This was some real heavy self hatred. This was some serious schitzo action. This did not look good.
Calling the cops on his ass would have not helped him. He was conscious, not hurting anyone else, and hopefully going to quieten down, pass out or move on soon. At least he could not remain at that level of ‘me vs me’ fractured psyche for long. Sober time comes around soon enough. It was a real bum trip. A real heavy ride. He was real twisted. His body contorted as shook, as he vomited outside my window, howling.
Deciding that I was going to help a brother in arms out, I looked at my youtube playlists for some soothing music to play towards his suffering. I decided on The White Album. Blackbird started singing at the break of dawn as the howling intensified, and the headbanging became more intense.. He was clearly not a Beatles fan. “No nonono! It is making it worse!” I yelped as the Boy cut the music. Stones…Warren Zevon….None of it looked good to me. I finally settled on Alright, by Kendrick. Kendrick rapped about how it was all gonna be alright, and the man outside appeared soothed. Calmed. Quieter. At least vaguely soothed as he puked up the outside wall of my apartment building. He was still shouting horrific slurs at himself, still hurting himself, still furious all directed inwardly, but with a little less vehemence. His shit was still definitely fucked up. His trip, his deal was on the rocks, but at least his storm was quietening down.
I don’t cope with men getting loudly angry. I cannot handle the sounds of violence. It is too reminiscent of getting the shit kicked out of me. It makes me feel unsafe, even within the walls of my home and the door locked. I don’t give a damn if it is reasonable of me or not. It is not a choice, it is a knee jerk physical reaction. It is as involuntary as breathing. I don’t want to hear about counselling. It won’t work. It might if it was a one off incident that caused me trauma that was within a life that was otherwise safe and normal. Instead it is an entire life of trauma with no framework of normality.
Don’t tell me it is all going to be ok, and it is unreasonable to be wary and scared, because I will just call bullshit on it. Don’t draw the curtains when there might be monsters out there. Monsters that rape and maim and kill and hurt and torture. No. I will not be consoled with bland reassurances. A bucket of valium and a suitcase of adderall might work. A fifth of rum and a bundle of 1990s New York smack might ease the anxiety, but short of that there is no way of training a mind to accept something that is not reality, and besides it would be dangerous for me, me with THIS life, to act as if my life was safe. It is not. It will never be. Safety is not for me.
It is ok for lecturers and academics to opine wistfully about the benefit of living a life bravely. They have no idea about real bravery when a life is on the line. They don’t have a passing clue about what it actually means to risk everything. What do they risk? Their peers rejecting their thesis? A bad review? A tenure in some third rate institution teaching media studies to groups of bored young people putting off the inevitable drag into adulthood. Fuck that shit. You be brave. I will be clever and alive.
The howling stopped and the sound of a man staggering down the road commenced. He was still berating himself. I absolutely heard him. I know that inexorable attraction towards self detesting bliss and isolation within the absolute knowledge that we are all a bit shit really sometimes. He left behind more vomit than a human being should hold in their stomach, an empty bottle of crown royale (fancy!), and a lasting impression. Kendrick was overly optimistic. It won’t all be alright. It never was. It won’t even be mostly ok.
As Mr. Bright Idea Im Gonna Drink A Swimming Pool (yes, I am jealous…so what)…walked down the road, a group of middle aged people gathered outside talking in some Asian language I do not understand. They were busy vaguely being upset at each other. A woman slapped a man. A man held back another man. I do not know these people. They don’t live here, but perhaps a few doors down, I suppose. Whichever, whatever, they decided my window was a good place for an argument. I turned up Lou Reed. Street Hassle. It drowned out the bickering and pushing, the slapping and outraged grouching. It blocked out the marriages and relationships dissolving and filled the cracks in the sidewalk with crazed sound and thought and expression of the art as it sits in the gutter and bleeds out into the night of the city. This city. New York. Any city with its street hassles and inhumanity, and struggles and battles of self against self, stranger versus stranger, and loved ones against each other.
“Sha lalalala man! Why don’t you just slip away?” Lou drawls in irritation. There is nowhere to slip away to. Bad luck follows now as it did then. The fighters and erstwhile lovers drifted uphill, taking their hassle with them, and the clock struck 11pm. I had had enough. I crawled into bed, put Hunter on the nightstand, and the covers over my head. “You can watch TV in here, dear…” I told the kid as my eyes shut. I find other people’s dramas so exhausting nowadays. I am going to have to do something about it. I can’t be this damned tired all the time. Sha la la la la man…I guess I am gonna slip away….
It would be difficult for one who has not faced the trauma you have to deal with what you are faced with on a moment by moment basis. For you, it has to be that never ending nightmare. I did not deal with near the level you do, yet there are still the lingering effects of what I did. Something will be said, an action, hearing an argument, any number of triggers..it is not something one “gets over” its been forty years and I still have moments.