far too much writing, far too many photos

This morning: woke up in the early hours from a strange, vivid dream. Lay thinking about it for a while, found it not only wouldn’t fade like most dreams do once I open my eyes and slide back into waking life, it seemed to extend tendrils of meaning out into other, earlier parts of my existence, my thoughts following them, the process going on and on.

The dream: me, in a church of some sort. Not for what some might call worship — there with someone else, a woman, either sightseeing or me simply tagging along while she took care of business of some sort. While she spoke with someone, I wandered down an aisle, walking close to the pew ends, trailing my hand along their top edges. At some point, a guy approached from behind me — tall, nondescript, wearing glasses — wanting to pass. Which should have been no problem, except that he didn’t want to take the simple, logical route of going around me in the aisle — he wanted me to get out of the way so he could walk right alongside the pews. I’m not sure his presence even registered with me until he was hovering directly behind, making physical gestures designed to push me out of the way.

If he’d said something polite — some version of ’sorry, mind if I get by?’ — I probably would have stepped aside, let him pass. With him making moves calculated to intimidate me into getting out of the way, however, I found I had no intention of doing so, finally came to a halt as we reached a pillar, told him to back off and go around.

He seemed to take me standing my ground as a welcome challenge, as the perfect excuse for a physical confrontation. Smiling, he took off his glasses, put them in a pocket, advanced to within inches of me, began verbal intimidation. And as he started in with threats, apparently intending to take things to a more intense, physical level, I reached out and smacked his head against the pillar. Didn’t even think about it, just did it. Took him completely by surprise, him apparently not expecting any kind of aggressive reaction from me. So I did it again, two or three more times, the guy dazed, unresisting, until someone rushed over and stopped me.

I woke up not long after that, from a scene in a police station interview room of some kind, me being questioned.

My first thought on coming to: I have seen too many episodes of Law & Order.

My second thought: I can’t remember the last time I got into a physical fight. And I don’t think I would need more than the fingers of one hand to tally up those events. In fact, if the memory banks are pumping out a product of any accuracy, it will only take four fingers to do the job.

Fight #1: at age five, a brief bout between me and Norman Nielsen. Brief because the pudgeball me of that era outweighed skinnyass Norman by a hefty, decisive margin. Don’t remember what provoked the conflict, but it ended as soon as I got him down on the lawn and sat on his chest. Post-event, my mother seemed to find me defeating Norman that way to be hilarious, nearly doubling over with laughter any time the subject came up. Hmmm. (Norman: a good guy, actually. Became a drummer in later years. Wonder what became of him?)

Fight #2: four or five years later, in the school playground. No idea, once again, what provoked it, but I found myself on my back, Arthur Goldfinger sitting on my chest punching my face. I think he thought he was a badass — but as soon as he got up, I did too, unharmed, quickly forgetting about it.

Home life in those years had become heavy with violence, my mother in particular grabbing The Stick (a length of thick doweling she kept up on the stove in the kitchen) and whaling away at me any time her temper got the best of her. My two older brothers were many years older and off in their own lives, so that I essentially found myself alone in the house with the old lady most afternoons until the old man returned from work. Making me a convenient target. My only defense: a defiant smile that I tried to maintain no matter how wildly she was swinging away at me, trying to show that none of it had any actual effect. Which only pissed her off more, of course, so that she’d go at me more intensely. Compared with that, Arthur’s silliness felt like assault by powderpuffs — I waited it out then went on with the day.

(My mother: not a bad person by any stretch. Just lost, unhappy, trapped in a life that had gone off in directions she hated, with no emotional/psychological resources except the dogma of the Church, which didn’t do the job. And I suspect she found herself occasionally on the receiving end of a blow or two from the old man as their matrimonial life drifted downhill, both of them at the end of their tethers, quietly desperate.)

The physical goofiness at home continued until the day I grew big enough to grab the hand holding The Stick, bringing all that kind of excitement to an immediate end.

Some growing up in violent homes deal by seeking out fights away from home, using something they’re already familiar with to vent rage, confusion, all that. Had the opposite effect on me — I didn’t see the sense in getting into fights. Getting hit hurt. I already went through plenty of it, why seek out more?

And many years slipped by before I found myself in another fight.

[continued in next entry]

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Dusk, mid-September, northern Vermont:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

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