Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Wound Unhealing

Sometimes all it takes is a snicker, a giggle, a smirk they think I didn't see. And then the wound breaks open inside of me, and inwardly I ache and I hurt and I seethe for hours, sometimes for days. As if they've slashed me with a knife, cut me open and left me bleeding in searing pain.

As if I'm suffering flashbacks to nearly 50 years ago, when I was a young boy in school suffering under the intolerable Stalinism of school bullies. Amazing that after nearly five decades, the emotional scars are still there inside of me. And they can be lacerated, broken open, by a careless word or expression which in these latter days may or may not signify a malice like the very genuine and openly jeering malice which was there in the bullies who tormented me in the lower grades.

No one who knows me today-- no one who's known me over the past 20 years and more-- would ever guess. It has been one of the categorical imperatives of my adult life never outwardly to give any sign of that bleeding wound within me. Outwardly I am always genial, benevolent, unflappable. Indeed much of the time that is also the inward me, so successfully have I papered over the ancient emotional scars within.

But then comes the laugh or the smirk out on the margins, like the razor edge of a box cutter, and inside of me at least the papered-over facade is slashed away. When I can, I retreat and draw back from human company until the darkness goes. Like I say, it has been one of the imperatives of my adult years never to betray to others even a glimmer of what then rages and roils within me. For a time I must contend with voices within which tell me I am worthless, stupid, unlovable, beyond the pale of humanity, and metaphysically deserving of all the contempt and obloquy anyone could ever heap upon me.

I am six years old again, helpless and crying and in pain as a pack of bullies sets upon me and beats and pummels me in a ditch on the way home from school. Punches hurt worse when their fists are closed around steel pins, like improvised brass knuckles. The physical pain, the jeering, the beatings... they eventually pass. But the emotional scars have never passed.

Never let anyone know. Never let anyone around me catch on. Keep up the kindly exterior. That has been the watchword of my later years. Even when within, the old wound has broken open once again.

And meanwhile in our schools, bullies are addressed with bland bureaucratic prating, and school assemblies, and deafening ideological cant. Sickening! Of course deep down those who prate are one at heart with those who bully and torment. I have no answer, except to pray that I never defile myself by stooping to the level either of the bullies who torment, or of the suits who falsely prate.

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