September 1, 2006

Primal Fire

Here is another story from the Window Pain work. It's another attempt to deal with some issues that were pretty common in my family when I was a child. Note: This is a work of fiction. I'll get back to the essays soon.

The fleeting yellow tongues of flame lick the air. They give off their heat and their light but exact a price from flesh that comes too close. He had watched the flame for so long that his eyes were finally dry. Here was a solace. Here he could look without shame. Here there were no eyes of pain peering back. He held his unsteady hands up to the heat and looked through the strong battered fingers. Hands that were supposed to be creative. How could they be capable of so much destruction? Even now he struggled to keep the rage inside. Inside where it harms only him.

The blows were few but hard. Tender flesh torn in furious battle but not battle because battle requires opponents, more an onslaught, an attack. He could not rationalize the anger, could not understand this revelation. Could not accept this new dimension, this sickness of self that he had seen in his father and his uncles and his grandfather. Knowing that despite the help, the education, the honest attempt at change, that he might only be a product of what he had seen and come to know so well. A living echo, a reverberation of the same impulse to seek violence and to be destruction.

Immediately pulled back to all that he sought to escape, the feeling of insecurity, of self-loathing, the knowledge of being trapped in a backwater dump where the people are lost, never to be found, happy in their desperation. Forced into being either a man with a big truck, a big thirst, and a Confederate flag or to be in some dogmatic denominational prison, held in check by the promise of hell and a hint of heaven. He had walked both roads and found them to be really both about the same. These were the choices, neither acceptable.

But this, this was worse. He could not, and never would, try to rationalize or minimize his responsibility. The fault was his own and he would always bear the stigma, would be seen as something that deep inside he knew that he was not, had never been and yet the scene was there in his mind, irrefutable proof of his malevolence. In trying to find a new road, a road out of and away from the tangled, chaotic and ultimately destructive childhood he found that he had doubled back on himself and remained lost. An act that called into question all that he thought he knew about himself. Somewhere inside was a darkness that resisted the light.

So he weeps. Tears of shame flow unchecked down his face. A small steady hand touched his back. He got up to apologize, to say that he would leave so that this would never happen again and then caught the muzzle flash, heard the deafening roar. He felt his body collapse, his knees buckle, his heart stop, but he did not feel his hand as it fell into the yellow tongues of flame.

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