Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Abnormal (20)

The pleasant smell of lilacs and cherry trees sweetened the warm evening air in early June. A  frozen yogurt shop had just opened in the strip mall down the street. My family wanted to try it out and I reluctantly complied. It was crowded, small children playing with the projected images of bubbles on the floor screaming with delight as each one pops under foot. The excited roar of multiple family groups all discussing the new flavors and tasty fruit and candy mix-ins they were all enjoying.  I walked in and confidently chose my favorite frozen treat and covered it with fresh strawberries, blueberries and kiwi fruit. After we sat down to enjoy our own concocted confections, I began to realize that I was in a crowded, small area. It was loud, people and children running around bumping into each other. This was a scenario that would ordinarily make me feel very small, uncomfortable and unable to think or make any decision on my own. I would become almost child-like. This was a great contrast to how I behaved on this occasion.

After we finished our treats and began the short drive back home, another strange feeling became apparent,  It was new, uncomfortable and hard to identify. At first it set me at unease with its unfamiliarity. Like soft feathers lightly sweeping up and down my entire body I struggled to name this new feeling until after a few moments, it was LOVE? HAPPINESS? JOY? No that couldn't be it. I’ve never felt that before. Most of all not at the same time. As I parked our car in the garage that night, I very much wanted to pick a fight with my wife or one of the children. I wanted to manufacture a reason to scream and yell at them. To make them hate me like I hated myself for feeling such joy.

“How could anyone become happy after finding out such horror and depravity perpetrated upon them?” I asked. “I suppose it is moments like this that make the all pain worth it,”  answering my own question.

I really wanted to go back the the old me that day, to fight and yell like I always did. I wanted to punch a hole in the drywall, break windows and feel the warmth of my own blood as it formed rivers down my arm and dripped into a growing crimson pool on the linoleum floor. I wanted to feel my heart pound in my chest with hate and rage until it felt as if it could break out of its cage and smear the opposite walls with its own life giving juices as it fell to the floor.  At least those feelings were familiar, comfortable. I knew how to be angry. I was confused, I did not know how to be happy.

I unbuckled the children and sent them inside to get ready for bed, and before I shut the garage door to go inside I looked up into the starry backness of the night sky hopeful to catch a glimpse of the “other shoe” before it smashed into my skull from the empty space above.  It wasn't there, I went inside, prayed over my children, kissed them goodnight. It was a good day.

The week following, my normal became abnormal and my abnormal became normal. I was living happy.  That was until the next Monday. As was my pattern, I went to the gym in order to continue my weight loss goals. I opened the trunk of my Le Sabre to retrieve the gym bag, the phone in my pocket rang. It was Derrick.

We had been emailing back and forth recently in an effort to find a day where the other pastor, Derrick and I could get together and talk.  We had finally agreed on a day and I was looking forward to it. Our meeting would take place the following day at Derrick’s church. I really did not want to risk running into AFB in the hallways at the other pastors church building. I honestly could not guarantee his safety. I was in the best physical shape of my life and I most certainly could do a great deal of damage. So we made the decision to meet elsewhere.

“First, I want to tell you that it is ok to be angry. Just don’t sin.”

“Fuck, this isn’t good,” I thought.

“The other pastor canceled.” I could hear in Derek's voice that he was very disappointed. “He said that he consulted with the church board and that there would be too much liability for the organization if we met with him.”

My heart sank, grey nothingness swirled around me like the void of purgatory that is neither here nor there. All energy drained out of me. My bones shattered like glass as I fell to the pavement in the parking lot of my local 24 hour fitness. No more fight left in me, I couldn't . . . I just couldn’t.

“GET UP!” I heard a voice command as  I layed on the ground, my life force spilling out of the thousands of  gaping, bleeding puncture wounds. With what little life was left of me I picked myself up and went inside. I did a cardio routine and some weight training, pouring every flame of rage into the weights in my hand and against my feet. After a time the consuming burn of anger faded into one final smoking red ember. In one final whisp of smoke it was cold.

“I am alone.”

“I can't do this by myself.”

“I have been abandoned and betrayed by the church once again.”

My entire reason for waking up each morning and fighting the deepening, dark, depression in my very core was canceled with a snap of the fingers. Canceled out of fear of liability and litigation. I took care of my children as was my daily routine, as if on autopilot. I was waiting.

Saturday came; my wife was going to be home all day. I woke up that morning out of a nightmare of being gang raped into an even worse (if that were possible) daymare of uncontrolled emotion. To say it was, what is becoming a cliche in this book, “rage” is an understatement of epic proportions. It was like after the space shuttle Challenger explodes just after take off, the announcer opens his mic and says, “Obviously a major malfunction.”

To this day, as I write this, the garbled memories are confusing at best, heartbreaking at worst. I was not me.  The best way to describe is to quote the prophet Jeremiah when he said “. . Like fire shut up in my bones. . . ”

I needed a way to release the uncontrollable overwhelmingness, the only way I could do that was to scream, to yell at the absolute loudest volume I could . . . but that wasn’t . . . jumping up and down, slamming my feet onto the floor. Screaming, jumping, screaming, jumping.

I’m on fire! I can't release the . . . it hurts so that I . . . SCREAMING! JUMPING! SCREAMING! . . . trying not to . . . SCREAMING! JUMPING! SCREAMING! . . . I need to destroy! . . SCREAMING! JUMPING! SCREAMING! THROWING . . Got to contain myself  . . . SCREAMING! JUMPING! SCREAMING! . . . Get away from  . . . SCREAMING! JUMPING! SCREAMING! . . . my family . . . SCREAMING! JUMPING! SCREAMING! . . . need to write . . . SCREAMING! JUMPING! SCREAMING! . . . vent on paper . . . SCREAMING! JUMPING! SCREAMING! . . . not at family . . . SCREAMING! JUMPING! SCREAMING!

My wife looked at me, and as still as a rock, said to me, “You need to go.”  I didn’t know what she meant.  The words did not process.  My son was asleep.  My daughter was playing.  She was my only target.  She calmly said, “You are not being an adult.  I am not speaking to the man I married.  This is out of control.  I need a husband, not an abused child spiralling out in complete absurdity.  I love you.  You need to go.”

I found out later that my wife was in a spiral of her own.  She was deciding to stay or go.  I did not know how dramatically this was effecting her or my family because when you are in a spiral the only safe place to look is at the center--at yourself.  I was giving my family emotional whiplash.  I went for weeks of pure joy and being the man I wanted to be to being this other thing.  Thing is the only way to describe it because I was not a man at that moment.  I believe the only way I was holding me together was by the confines of my physical body.  My family did not exist except on the peripheral.  I don’t know why she didn’t leave.  the steeliness of her eyes hovered somewhere in back of my mind, but their impact did not register.

Somehow I made it to the nearest coffee shop. “Need . . . coffee.” was all I could verbalize. Projecting calm, I handed the cashier my money and I found a chair with my back to the wall to write.   

“WHY THE FUCK DID YOU DO THIS TO ME, YOU ASSHOLE!?”  The world churned on around me, people coming and going enjoying the sunny warm weekend oblivious to the ticking grenade, the turmoil and despair just under the calm exterior of an anonymous man quietly sipping his drink and vigorously writing in a leather bound book. Hours passed I was glued to my chair writing, writing, writing. Poison and venom pouring from my pencil like warm milk.

The pages of hatred, anger and venomous revenge gave some relief to my troubled and confused soul. As I wrote that day it seemed as if the still small voice that said “This really happened” was beginning to drown out the somehow quieting shout of “Its not real.”  I began to understand and accept the reality of the abuse perpetrated against me that day. A symphonic cacophony of acceptance and denial.

After I got home, I was still very angry and my body reverberated with rage. I was calmer and better able to communicate without excessive profanity.  I know my wife gave me an ultimatum, but it was wrapped up in the cloudiness of aftermath.  Although I could not remember the words, I remember the intent.  I collapsed that night in emotional exhaustion. Asleep, but not asleep, my heart still pounding in its rage.

Groggy, I awoke the next morning full of regret. I hoped I didn't do any permanent damage. The smile of my saintly wife greeted me “Are you feeling better today?” she asked.


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