“You know, some people, and I was one of them, as I can see clearly now, are so full of rage that it seeps out whether they intend it to or not. In cruel humor, in merciless sarcasm, in turning away at exactly the right moment, refusing to answer or make eye contact. Mostly, I suppose, in a complete refusal to see the thing from the hurt person’s point of view,” said the skeleton of my father from his grave a stone’s throw from quiet Cortlandt Road just north of Peekskill.
“I’d have to say that’s the most powerful and effective way to do it– wait until someone is hurt and then simply coolly and methodically negate whatever they say to try to express it. Works every time, Elie, as you know.”
Works, of course, as far as effectively causing severe pain, is what you mean.
“Well, sure, that’s the whole point of righteously raging, to inflict harm on someone who desperately needs harming,” said the skeleton. “Like I said, the beauty part is that it often oozes out with no conscious awareness that you are expressing rage. When the other person starts whining, you can be righteously indignant instead of sympathetic, since you are truly not aware of having done anything hostile. Your righteous indignation will greatly increase the harm you are inflicting.”
Wow, I see the great advantage in that. If your goal is to be an unaccountable asshole who can spew rage at anyone at any time for any reason.
“OK, you’re being mocking. But why not just transcribe that little poem you scrawled in your notebook on the A train the other night?”
I will give no quarter
there is nothing
you can say
that will force me
to see things
from your point of view
I will stand firm
I will win
even if this battle
kills us both
“You got that exactly right, Elie. I don’t know if it’s a poem, just because you put it on lines, but it hits the mark, I think. An enraged person would literally rather kill and be killed than back down from rage. If not physically, and murderous rage is the province of psychotics, or whatever you want to call them, then certainly verbal rage kills psychologically, psychically. It kills all trust and kindness in the relationship, and any future we may have as friends or family, to utterly negate your right to express what I refuse to let you express. Phew, that’s hard stuff.”
The icing on the cake of rage is the refusal afterwards to take responsibility for the damage your anger has caused. That’s the beauty of what Harry Shearer calls the if-pology. “IF your weak ass feelings felt bruised, if you are such a contemptible weakling that you need to hear it from me, THEN, I’m sorry you are so weak and needy and I apologize for whatever it is you think I did to you– from the bottom of my heart, you needy fucking pussy.”
“The cherry on top, certainly,” said the skeleton. “Read that little coda to your subway ‘poem’ the other day, tough guy.”
of guilt later,
little good use
might as well
keep it for yourself,
you will need it later
“An expression of guilt, without remorse… nice thing to lay on somebody you just did something shitty to, I need you to help me feel like a good person, I feel so guilty… though I’ll do the same thing next time… and feel just as guilty next time, because I’m a really good person…” the skeleton watched a couple of crows wrangling over by the sole mausoleum in the bone yard.
“Well, I don’t know how far you’ve come from your days as an enraged infant, an enraged seven year-old, an enraged adolescent, an enraged thirty year-old… we have no way to measure such progress, really, since you can’t see directly into a person’s heart….”
Don’t ask my neighbors in this apartment building about the late night tourettics of their misogynist, klansman neighbor…
“Yeah, well, if a man doesn’t have a right to scream obscenities at the top of his voice in the middle of the night– what rights does a man have, Elie? The bigger question for me, I suppose, is how, after literally decades of raging at you, you were able to be as kind as you were to me as I was dying. I mean, if anyone had a right to be a little snide, or sarcastic, or cruel, let us say, it would have been you. I certainly gave you openings when I lifted the whip over myself about what a clueless, heartless, obstacle strewing horse’s ass I’d been to you and your sister.”
Funny, that ‘horse’s ass’– I never heard you use that phrase in your life, yet you used it several times to describe yourself in the last conversation of your life.
“Well, I knew I was being recorded for posterity, I suppose, and didn’t want to strew things like ‘complete fucking asshole’ and ‘fucking merciless dick’ and things like that across the official record.”
Understandable. As for my mildness as you were expressing regrets that would only be extinguished by your fast approaching death… I had spent years getting to that point. I had no desire anymore to be the word-slinger who could outdraw any witty asshole and shoot them to the ground. You know what you call that kind of virtuoso? A witty asshole. I didn’t want to win an argument at that point, particularly an unwinnable argument. I just wanted to be respected and heard. I suppose if I had any hope at all as I drove to the hospital that last night, I would have hoped to hear what I heard– my father finally taking responsibility for what a tragically, senselessly destructive father he’d been.
“Well, you got a bit of that, I think,” said the skeleton quietly.