"Give me a couple more," I told him, "if it makes you feel any better."
"Don't you dare talk to me that way!" he said.
I looked at him. I saw folds of flesh under his chin and around his neck. I saw sad wrinkles and crevices. His face was tired pink putty. He was in his undershirt, and his belly sagged, wrinkling his undershirt. The eyes were no longer fierce. His eyes looked away and couldn't meet mine. Something had happened. The bath towels knew it, the shower curtain knew it, the mirror knew it, the bathtub and the toilet knew it. My father turned and walked out the door. He knew it. It was my last beating.
I don't often think about quotes. I usually find them exhausting and question their context. But there is one quote, one phrase that I have kept coming back to over the years. It goes something like this: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."
For me, this mantra is all about the careful consideration of what we don't know about people - about their past, their trials, their sins - the kind of circumstances and experiences that make us who we are today..that lead to the decisions we make, good or bad.
I have heard about the kind of man Charles Bukowski was. A drunk. A womanizer. A flat out mess of a human being. After reading Ham On Rye, the novel/memoir written by Bukowski, I understand why.
The selected reading is a more obvious example of the quote, but I could probably share other, less obvious examples, from nearly every month of his life. Henry Chinaski, Bukowski's alter ego, will always live in my memory. Right alongside Holden Caulfield and Oskar Schell.
The people you meet behind unlocked doors are tired of talking about the weather. These are people tired of safety. These people have remodeled too many houses. These are tanned people who've given up smoking and white sugar and salt, fat, and beef. They're people who've watched their parents and grandparents study and work for a lifetime only to end up losing it all.
"My father was a doctor," Tracy says. "The place where he's at now, he can't even remember his own name."
These men and women sitting behind unlocked doors know a bigger house is not the answer. Neither is a better spouse, more money, tighter skin.
"Anything you can acquire," she says, "is only another thing you'll lose."
The Mommy, she used to tell him she was sorry. People had been working for so many years to make the world a safe, organized place. Nobody realized how boring it would become. With the whole world property-lined and speed-limited and zoned and taxed and regulated, with everyone tested and registered and addressed and recorded. Nobody had left much room for adventure, except maybe the kind you could buy. On a roller coaster. At a movie. And because there's no possibility of real disaster, real risk, we're left with no chance for real salvation. Real elation. Real excitement. Joy. Discovery. Invention.
The laws that keep us safe, these same laws condemn us to boredom.
Without access to true chaos, we'll never have true peace.
Unless everything can get worse, it won't get any better.