My dad was extremely violent, and oppressively overbearing. And though, at heart I’m quite a placid person, I learned early how to assault someone in a fairly effective manner. It was expected of me. Winning fights is all about surprise, speed and overwhelming force. And commitment.
In my teens, I’d lie in bed at night running through the various permutations of assault and/or defence. I’d spend hours working things through in my mind until I’d rehearsed, and mentally countered, all possible outcomes.
Everybody who’d ever hurt me was a target. And I managed to get through most of them, eventually.
But I never learned to argue or discuss things or talk them through. I couldn’t negotiate. In our house that wasn’t something you did. I have a sister, and she argued with my dad constantly, and he would beat her up, quite viciously at times. So the message to me was clear; don’t get into a debate with this guy, because you will suffer. The worst I had to put up with was ridicule, and scorn.
My sister though, god bless her, she put up a fight; she never learned to curb her tongue. She told me once she’d rather get a beating than not have her say.
And she did. Get a beating, that is.
And now she’s nuts.
Not insane. She just behaves peculiarly.
Since those days, I’ve found it difficult to express my thoughts openly and, short of inflicting violence, found it even more difficult to sustain a course of action against the will of others, even when I know I’m right. I have no wish to impose myself on someone else, and I have no ability to do so.
My thoughts, when expressed, are heavily couched in irony and sarcasm and opacity, on the off-chance that if someone disagrees, I can discard whatever I’ve just said, like I didn’t really mean it.
It limits your options, when all you know is how to shut up, or batter someone unconscious. It hinders your emotional development. I got about as far as insincerity, and that was it. I’m not a liar, it’s just that saying what I really think, to anyone, including myself, is difficult.
When I met my girl, Ruthie, she told me that if I got into any more fights, she’d leave me. So I stopped fighting. To be honest, it was a great relief to me, not merely because over time I’ve lost a number of teeth (thankfully not any of my front ones) and had a number of bones broken, and done some frightful damage to other people, but mainly because I’m a coward and I hate violence.
But even though I’m now a sort of pacifist-in-the-rough, and feel quite pleased with my progress on that account, I’ve still not discovered how to speak my mind. Not really. It’s a skill that eludes me.
But I’m working on it.
I need to.
For how can I write fiction if I am unable to speak the truth?