The cruelty of children

The cruelty of children

There are some who say that cruelty is learned, and not inherent – the result of trauma and abuse early in life. Freud’s view was that cruelty is natural; that sadism (the want/need/desire to do harm to others) is the forgotten child of sexual desire and aggression, based in biology and psychology and a deep-rooted part of human nature. I’ve always liked British psychoanalyst and author Christopher Bollas’ view: He believed that beneath hatred and hateful behavior lies a pure and simple emptiness; that anger and hatred and subsequent cruelty are nothing more than ways of filling that emptiness. And, he said, importantly, that it is better to feel cruelly than to not feel at all. Cruelty among others Johns Berry came to live in our neighborhood the summer before we started eighth grade, and only a few days before my 13th birthday. He lived in the house across the street from mine. A house with three stories. Mine has only one. The third story is just an attic for storing things you wouldn’t be sad about never seeing again, but it was nice. It has big windows facing the street and pillars like Old Rome across the porch. Nobody else in the neighborhood cared about his house, though. They cared about his face. There was a rumor going around that that Johns Berry’s face was burned all the way through, caught in a fire when he was a baby, and now he wears a mask to cover it up. A hospital-blue mask that hangs loose around his skin. There was always spit running down his neck because he...
Why I like the rain, and why a dream is different during the day

Why I like the rain, and why a dream is different during the day

The sun shines through the window across all the stuffed animals Lala left behind in her room. It rained last night. There’s a rabbit sitting outside of my window, staring at me. So skinny I can see its ribs. The ghost of my grandmother comes and visits me every morning around this time, but today it’s just the rabbit. I believe in science, but she comes anyway. Science says if things move fast enough, they disappear. So we don’t really exist. We’re just moving slow enough to see what’s going on around us. Part I: Home Mom is watching TV on the couch, sweating with her stomach hanging over her knees. Tucker must be around somewhere else. I don’t hear him like I usually do when I get home from school. Maybe he’s in the garage. Maybe he’s out with a girl. It’s hot. Mom has the fan blowing right on her face so no one else can get at it. The AC is broken, it has been since last summer, and all we have is one fan for the whole house. She hogs it all to herself. Except for the one that Tucker uses in the garage, but that one is built into the wall so we can’t move it anywhere else. We don’t have any cereal left in the cupboard. I make myself a peanut butter sandwich instead. Food doesn’t last as long when it’s this hot. If we leave the bread sitting on the counter for just a week it turns blue-green and moldy. That happened once and mom got so mad at me I thought...
A festering past, unacknowledged wrongs, and our role at present

A festering past, unacknowledged wrongs, and our role at present

Born and raised in the Midwestern United States, I learned quickly not to bring up subjects (past, present, or future) that might cause strife at the dinner table. Not with my immediate family – where discussions, dissent, and even discord were welcomed as long as tones and topics remained respectable (and even the word “respectable” remained rather broad and undefined) – I was raised into a family were the idea of talking about something/talking things out was the only way that they would/could actually get solved/be addressed. But elsewhere I found this to be a problem: The holiday tables of my grandparents and great-grandparents. My second-cousins and their friends. The unfamiliar homes of classmates and their parents. The tables of strangers and in the workplace. Riding public transportation. In the aisles of grocery stores. At neighborhood barbecues, where everyone laughs and drinks beer, but-don’t-offend-the-man-who-sometimes-shovels-your-walk-for-you-in-the-winter. I was born in Hackettstown, New Jersey.  I don’t remember the coast. My older sister, Kaela, born two years before me in Freiburg, Germany, remembers more. She remembers leaving, at least. We moved to Huntsville, Alabama for a brief period, where my sister was born in the humid, mid-August heat And then drove north to St. Paul, Minnesota. This is being written in the time of Donald Trump. Judge Roy Moore was recently defeated in the Alabama special election, arguably the largest shift of the tide since the election of Donald Trump to the presidency in November of 2016. Moore, an accused sexual molester, at best, and the owner of such regressive philosophies as homosexuality is “sin” and deserves punishment, and that times were better...
As long as love I live: The unchanging nature of people

As long as love I live: The unchanging nature of people

Yesterday We stand in front of long white walls: No pictures or wallpaper or paintings or even scuff marks to show that once, once, we had lived between them. The photographer takes two pictures. One I will send to grandma, where it will sit on her mantel next to old pictures of granddad and mom young, and the Christmas decorations she forgets to put away. She doesn’t put up pictures of Jesus, though: She is more into the fantasy of lights and colors; the notions of goodness within herself rather than from the Book written by men. She goes to church: She goes for the people, and for the coffee. She goes to see her friends. Nessa and I stand arm in arm. Nessa weeps softly with her head against my shoulder. The photographer steadies his camera, keeping his head down and covered so as to keep the whole thing impersonal. Distant, professional. But I know you, I think and I tell him with my eyes, I know you from the streets. From the alleyways. From the pictures of crimes and rapes behind buildings that you captured and published next to boxes of text trying to explain what happened to our world and all of the people in it. I can hear the streets outside moving in ways they didn’t use to. The sun shines now in a way it never did before. A year ago the streets were empty and dusty and alone. There was no one. Feral dogs pick through trash bins next to people with beards and long coats. A year ago the only shouts came...
Thoughts on cooking at home

Thoughts on cooking at home

Many things I make for myself to eat at home I would never serve to anyone else. Many of the things I’ve made are strange but I eat them anyway. When the kitchen cupboards and refrigerator and counters are at my disposal then it is time to experiment, cooking what is available and hope that it turns out. And if it doesn’t, I eat it anyway. Usually. Especially when funds were low and the cupboards, refrigerator, counter were mostly barren. It was an episode of “Chopped” just to get dinner made and on the table. Okay, chefs. Here are your four ingredients. Because there were only four ingredients left in the kitchen before we had money again to go grocery shopping. Always rice – a big bag of it in the corner. Often potatoes. Canned black beans. Tomatoes if we were lucky, though they never lasted long. Sometimes pasta from the back cooked in an old bottle of red wine turned to vinegar, with those leftover pine nuts and some long-gone basil in a drawer. Ample amounts of salt and black pepper. And always, always some sort of hot sauce. And when it got worse than that we stole loaves of bread and peanut butter from the gas station. The friend with the largest Carhartt jacket slipping a 6-pack of shit domestic beer out the door because the buzz would help us forget our situation. I was caught once with a deli sandwich stuffed into my armpit. Turkey and cheese with mayonnaise. I pushed the man who grabbed my arm and dropped the sandwich. He let go. I ran. I’ve...