Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Ugly Face of Violence:

The Journey from Hell Retrospective

This song always brings me back to all the folks I've known who didn't hop off that ol' Junk Train in time. I remember spending this one night in May picking gravel out of my head and broken glass out of my hand. A very good friend of had decided to attack me after going on a two-day Angel Dust, cocaine, heroin, Jack Daniels, and Painkiller bender. I hit him twice square in the jaw and once in the gut, pulling my punches to not hurt him. And then I realized that he had that murder look in his eyes, pharmacueticals coarsing through his veins and completely oblivious to pain. I ended up having to beat one of my best friends to a bloody, unconscious pulp to keep him from running a knife through his ex-girlfriend's new lover.

Sometimes, I have to remind yself of how far I've come to remind myself of where I want to be someday.

I had a realization last week that I've essentially become what Coloradoans refer to as a "Granola Head." My freezer is full of fair-trade coffee and Morningstar Farms vegetarian burgers and "chick'n" patties. My fridge is full of soymilk, Newman's Own products, Gator-Aid, and Iced Tea. I had a Luna Bar for breakfast. I've got some insense burning next to some Virgin of Guadalupe scented candles. I'm debating what to take to a colleague's barbeque this afternoon.

I rarely stop to think about how lucky I've been to make it in this world, or how truely blessed in life. Its so funny to think I was once considered the leading candidate for an state-provided orange jumpsuit by several teachers and considered most likely to be dead by 21 by my peers. The first girl I ever kissed-kissed (at 15) ended up going to prison for her involvement in a double murder and has since commited suicide.

I remember having to keep friends from choking on their own tongues when they'd OD. I remember stepping in front of a Glock 10mm at this party in Midlothian, Virginia, to keep a girl's boyfriend from shooting one of my boys in the face. I look at my hands and realize that the arthritis I'm developing in my 27-year-old hands is nothing compared to the damage those hands have done to earn that karma.

And now I eat Luna Bars for breakfast and research information poverty. Life can be such a twisted, ironic bastard...

Back when I was 17, beating the living crap out of a friend of mine to keep him from doing something stupid, I remember looking at myself in a bathroom mirror afterwards and feeling nothing but weakness and hopelessness. I remember pouring peroxide onto the teethmarks on my shoulder and washing my head down with rubbing alcohol. I remember the stench of the shit-filled broken toilet next to me, the smell of the grasstains and black earth ground into my clothes.

I remember looking into that damned, graffitti-covered steel looking glass into my own blood-red savagery. I remember feeling the loss of my humanity as I scrubbed my friend's dry, blackened blood off my face, chest and hands, naked and cold against a backgrop of naked, cold tile. I couldn't close my right hand very well; I had a pretty good gash above my left eye. I remember scrubbing so hard my skin was almost raw - worried that my grandmother and sister would see my shame. I worried that the Admissions Offices at Virginia Tech, Northern Colorado, and Colorado School of Mines (all three accepted me and were waiting on my final decision) would get a call from a probation officer saying that my ass would belong to the Commonwealth of Virginia for 1-3 years.

A 1390 on my SAT, a 3.0 GPA, and afew weeks from graduation. I outweighed my friend by about 50 lbs. Imagine a 145-lb Welterweight stepping into a boxing ring against a 190-lb cruiserweight. My biceps were larger in diameter than my opponent's legs. If I hadn't pulled my punches or controlled my temper, I would have possibly permanently injured another human being. I could've earned my oft-predicted orange Department of Corrections outfit with one wrong blow to a temple or one misplaced knee to the throat or spine.

That face that stared back at me that night, that face is etched in my memory forever. And I don't ever want to forget how pathetic and weak I looked. My brutality ripped out a piece of my heart and left it smeared all over a gas station bathroom. My friend's quest for revenge over something as silly as a high school relationship turned him into a lustful demon consumed by the reflection from his own blood-red reflection. Violence, in the end, only brings about pain. It is not a lifestyle, it is not a purpose, and it is never the ultimate answer to anything.

Now I'm a librarian pushing thirty, a decade removed from that night in Buckingham County, Virginia, a decade's worth of growth and settling into this whole Middle Class thing. I live on a street with happy children who fill the air with the sounds of innocence. I'm worried about the world they'll grow up in.

I'm content with myself. I've rejected that long-held illusion that I'm somehow the same scared kid I was back then or that my entire existence will be judged on that one moment in time.

I can afford to be an optimist. And I can afford to drink my fair-trade coffee and eat my meatless patties on whole-wheat buns.

Blessed be the peacemakers, after all. Even those who only make peace with themselves.


Ms. Monkeythong said...

It IS pretty amazing, isn't it? But it's so good.

I wasn't a candidate for jail, but a mental institution, ummmm, maybe. My high school class voted me "Most Likely to Drop Out of College and Join a Cult".

Nuthin' like having a hippie babysitter read Penthouse Forum to you when you're six years old so "you won't have hang ups when you get old."


Mexicana 1 said...

Holy shit, dude! I always wondered where you got your self-control. Damn, Betta told me a little bit about how you grew up, but I never knew you were that hardcore, homes.
I'm glasd to know you don't beat up on yourself about that shit. It can be hard, but you have to move past.

K...honesty...I'm like fucking crying right now, because I had this friend who ended up doing the same kind of thing...except he didn't hold back. Busted his best friend's kidney. He felt so bad he enedup killing himself. (sorry for tipos - just lost a contact and my roomates are reading over my shoulder)

I honestly never knew that you wnet through that. Holy shit. You definitely aren't the same scared kid, man! I remember when I met you in Denver that first time, I thought you were this stupid Anglo who just wanted in my sister's pants. She kept saying over and over again to Mom and Pedro that you too had more in common but i didn't understand.
Dude, you fucking rock. And you shoud be proud of yourself. Don't beat yousrlef up for the past. You're more of a real man than half the fucking losers at UNLV - faculty included.

K...roomies want to post...need a cigarette and hotel room is cramped.

Megan said...

Okay...three college girls crying in hotel room. Why do you have to always post deep stuff? Just kidding man.

My half-brother was killed in 1994 in Santa Fe during a fight. The guy who did it was upset that Jaime was talking to his baby sister. The guy was drunk and high, and hit my brother once in the back of the head. Jaime died in a fucking parking lot two weeks before he left for college. I actually hated rich white people for about three years. It sounds silly, but I think if my brother had been blonde and blue-eyed or somebody would've called the cops.

My whole life I've felt like I've been wearing this big frigging banner around my neck saying that I'm a loser because of where I come from. After dating that piece of garbage that graduated from your illustrious employer last year, I was starting to feel that way again. (I wont use his name, because he may have friends reading - if they are, I will say FUCK MIAMI GUYS). Therapist keeps saying I blame myselffor Jaime's death. I think he's a little right. Survivor's guilt. I'm just in my 20s, and I feel like a war veteran. That sucks. But thanks for reminding me that I'm in a much better spot than I was when I was growing up.

Thank you so much for all the advice - personal and otherwise :). Ms. Monkeythong, thanks for the info on library school too. I'm a sophomore right now, but I'm thinking about it.

Peace, Meg :-)

Kara said...

It's amazing what triggers the reminders of distant times in our past; sights, smells, sounds, freezer burned chicken patties...

Your experiences have influenced your life, but your responses have made you who you are today; a true testament to humility, mercy, and grace. It often takes a journey through the pits of hopelessness and despair to truly realize how much we have been blessed. No matter what our perceptions, we are never alone.

Thank you for sharing some of that hope with those of us in the crossroads.

God Bless

Ms. Monkeythong said...

Book you might want to read: The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodron

It's so counter-intuitive, if you think about it: which is more difficult to do, lash out in anger or refraining from lashing out? No contest -- not lashing out. So why are people who don't lash out considered "weak"? Which is more brave: to wear psychic armor or to dump it? Psychic armor -- tough poses, a badass self-image -- needs a lot of polishing and weighs you down. You think you need it, but what if you tossed it? Take it off, and there you are naked and open -- ultimately, doesn't it take more courage to open up than to shut down? To be naked and open to wounding than to be a human tank?

You are just someone who, for whatever fortunate reasons -- karma, God, what have you -- have managed to this figure out.

Smurf said...

Jason, "pushing 30!" OMG... that makes us sound so ... OLD! Lol... who would have thought... Sebastian and I were downloading something so he could play an online game, so he would stop being upset since Dad only took Kaylee to run errands. Anyways... he clicked on the "Homeland Security Advisory System" icon in your sidebar and it went to your Flicker pics... That pic of you... wow.. you really have lost weight! I love the goat... but can you believe I don't ever remember seeing you in glasses!!! Sebastian loved the BATMAN pic...btw... what did become of the guy you beat up? He didn't die...? I also remember the reason you never liked going bowling... do look different... you look good.. but wow... "pushing 30" I guess we are getting older...(I am not saying you look old...just very different...and somehow more mature.) Love you, Shirl

Smurf said...

One more thing... it is hard to imagine you "GRANOLA." I know you eat heathy, yatta, yatta, yatta ;) But... I don't know... do you just live granola.. or dress that way too? ;)
Smurf (a Coloradoan)

Ogbuefi Stephi said...

i never would have thought...
sounds like you've been doing some incredible soul-searching of your own!

The ZenFo Pro said...

Smurf...nope, the guy lived, went on to attend William & Mary, go off to law school and become the world's most drugged-out attorney. He and I have spoken maybe five words to each other since 1996. Last I heard the guy is still pulling the "I'm too Sexy to Admit where I grew Up" thing. The blood, if I remember properly, comes from opening up a cut in his face aand rolling around on the ground a bit. Cuts above the eye bleed a lot, but are usually not as bad.

The granola thing is, I still dress like a cross between a surf-bum and a punker at work (Doc Martens and cargo pants or jeans), like I did in Greeley around town. Actually, a lot of the clothes I wear ARE from Greeley...LOL. So, no, no hemp clothes or other Boulder streetwear.

G said...

That was beautiful, man. True. One moment doesn't define a life - it's what we choose to do with those moments, those events, that define our lives, and make us who we are.

I can identify with so much of what you wrote. With ya, bro. I still see a face from the past in the mirror at times, too. Funny how the eyes remain the same, that window to the soul which is the one thing in all of us that never does change. But we recognize the rest as no longer us, blink, and it's gone. No longer that, but who we are now - who we've shaped that face from the past to become.


Smurf said...

Thinking about still wearing the clothes from "GREELEY", reminds me of how often I borrowed your clothing! So I bet you still wear some of what I used to wear ;) lol... Hmmm... it's hard to imagine me asking to wear someone else's clothes... did you volunteer... or did I just constantly ask?

Smurf said...

Sorry if that didn't come out right... I just remember wearing so many of your clothes and shopping with you for clothes for you and for me. I remember you had these button up Levi's that I adored to wear! I can't imagine asking my friends to wear their clothes, so that shows we were pretty darn close for me to borrow your clothes so often. ;) So anyways... gotta go,

KFigment said...

Just have to say it takes one to know one. You could not sit there with what you have now and realize what a blessing it is without coming from where you have.

It is those who forget where they came from that stop making peace.