"Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart," he shouted, pacing within the confines of two squares of the immaculate sidewalk.
I passed, stopped, and turned. I felt obligated, somehow.
As I approached, he took notice, finished the next line, and turned to me with the shine of faith in his eyes.
"Hey brother," I told him, taking a swig of the cigarette in my hand, "The only thing that gets their attention is Revelation."
He laughed, then, a long and sincere laugh. The first I'd heard in what seems like a lifetime. And as he threw his head back, I noticed that the bible in his hands was marked "Provided by the Gideons", and well worn, too.
"Well, I tell you what," he said between fading chuckles, "Pick out a street corner and do it your way."
Now it was my turn to laugh, and tell him, "I tried - and they didn't take it to heart."
What could I do but wave as I walked away?
Ethanol; cortisol; nicotine. They are a holy sacrament, to feed the righteous fury. I tend it with care. I tend it with the care of miles and years, and with the simple understanding that if I don't, nobody will. That without it, there may be nothing left.
Sometimes, though, I don't know what to do with the anger.
I tell my best friend,
I am in a bad way right now. I don't know what to do with this perfect, crystalline
hate. I want to cry and wreck stuff and disappear all at the same time.
I hate myself for being weak enough to be subservient to the endless bullshit.
I'm sitting in a donut shop right now just mindlessly pissed at every human being
for what I assume they are.
Sitting over the last crumbs of a bear claw and the dregs of a mug of decent coffee, I look out the window, and feel myself being consumed from within. It's all I can do to focus the hate outwards and avoid my own glance in the reversed image of the dirty, double paned glass.
I think back on what I've done since I quit killing complete bastards for a living, and realize it amounts to very little in comparison.
I've been told that anger is unhealthy. I used to believe it. I no longer do.
Anger is the healthiest reaction in the world under circumstances that your average person may never understand. Put any animal into a small enough corner, for long enough anyway, and they will turn to self destruction and lashing-out. You may not recognize a dog's anger for what it is, but I know now that anything with a sufficiently large nervous system can feel it.
I felt the pressure rising. I've felt it for months. I am no longer in control of so many portions of my life that I feel are important that I may as well be trying to fly an airplane with reins and a bridle, perched on the roof.
The flight attendants say, "Don't mind the dumb grin on the captain's face. He knows exactly what he is doing. The scarf and goggles are all he needs."
I let myself go out tonight with claws fully extended, and what I saw in the bartender's eyes and in the reflection of the bar mirror told me everything I needed to know.
It told me everything that the terrified backwards glances from college girls walking ahead of me on the sidewalk, and the conspicuous avoidance of eye contact from packs of Freshman pledges wasn't enough to drive home on the long walk there.
It told me that the fire I keep inside had started to bleed over into my body language, and to shine from my eyes.
I am not what you would call a happy person by nature.
Yes, I take joy in things; plenty of things, in fact. But when I was nine years old I first questioned what the moral and philosophical consequences of a life without an afterlife might be, and what the conclusions might be if certain assumptions were not taken as absolutes.
I asked those questions and realized that a great many things about the way that people lived their lives was very unfortunate, and I knew even then that I would probably never have enough money to escape the rules that governed the behavior of regular human beings in the regular echelons of life.
In other words, I was going to be stuck with the same arbitrary shit that made things arbitrarily difficult to deal with.
I left the house late this afternoon because I needed to get the fuck out and away. A friend of mine once told me that "The smell of fart is preferable to that of mustard gas," and I'm inclined to agree.
I walked out, knowing what I needed and what I would find were two different things, and didn't consider the alternatives.
I hoped for a quiet place to sit and stare blankly at a television and drink something cheap. I knew better than to think I would find quiet on a Friday night in the city, so I kept walking until I found a place where the noise was at least honest, and they didn't want me to pay $10 for the privilege of gracing the premises.
I walked for about fifteen blocks, until I found a place so far down the main drag it might as well have been in another county. I thought I'd found a place where I could sit and stew in peace.
The bartender's look told me she was praying I wouldn't be the kind of trouble I hadn't realized I looked like. I realize, though, that I didn't fit in there either, and a boilermaker isn't usually the choice of the rational or the social.
"Were you in the military?" was his introduction, delivered at the precise moment my second round hit the bar top. "That's a very powerful symbol."
I can only assume he was talking about the enormous fucking patch on my back. Five entire minutes into what I guess you could call our conversation, if grunts and nods count as one side of one, and I was already sorry I'd worn the fucking thing.
The last straw, I guess, was when the guy wanted to tell me all about how he was this close to joining up, and how bad he wishes he would have. How he would give anything to take the place of one of the guys who died in the war. How "our generation" just doesn't understand what's worth fighting for.
How "... no matter what, just remember that what you did was noble."
When I realized that my forearms actually ached from the deathgrip I was putting on my beer, and the ringing in my ears was because of how hard I was clenching my jaws, I asked for the tab. As the anger grew and grew, I knew I was playing a dangerous game.
I knew I needed to call it a night. Eat something, drink something, go to bed, hope against hope that it will all be magically better in the morning.
He'd already excused himself, needing to get back to his lady friend, who "just doesn't understand", so there was no reason to cut him short.
My best friend in the entire world told me as we were getting to really know each other that as a kid he felt like a space alien.
That particular phrasing has always stuck with me. I knew exactly what he meant, and now more than ever.
As much as I would love to lay blame, to point fingers, to emphasize the righteous part of the righteous fury that can clear a path on the sidewalk of the bar district of a college town on a Friday night, I just can't.
As much as I would love to lay the blame somewhere, I could never put it down for too long. I made the choices I made with better forewarning and forearming than most ever get. And despite it all, I don't know that I would take any of it back if given the chance.
It doesn't change, though, that I'm so full of hate some days that it makes me feel sick. Hate, helpless hate, and a bitterness with the power to taint like Midas' touch.
He tells me, by way of response:
Go easy, bro. We need to survive this phase, so we can do as much damage
as possible when we're older.