I have spent a lot of time thinking deep about what happened that led to the 13 Parking Lots Incident.
What happened that led me to feel I needed to write it out of me and write those things, which in retrospect were probably more damaging than healing, except for the parts about turning pain into art. I could do that without wagging my finger. Not okay. That just sets up divisions and intolerance. I donât want that. So I will edit the finger-wagging out of something that should have been constructive and not destructive. Thatâs called self-reflection and growth.
I have this tentative name for my new project: âHow did we get here in the first place?â By that, I mean the totality of the continuum that has made us who we are. Personal history. Family history. Regional history. Ethnic and gender history. Sexual history. Political, war, systemic codes of behavior history. Economic history. All of it. Itâs made us a mess. If we can mend those gaps, we can become less messy.
I failed in my response to the 13 Parking Lots. I didnât fail in the processing through art and writing. I failed by not being compassionate and not coming out of my sense of personal injury to try to understand the person who caused it and why.
In the heat of the moment, when something happens so jolting that my entire neurology and physiology short-circuit, the darkness can seem so big. Try as I might, it pushes me down, and I forget how to step one toe outside on solid ground to save myself. In fact, saving myself seems all I can do.
The dark in these moments is not a static dark. Itâs a swirling dark that canât be pinned down. Tornado dark. Caved in road dark. Windowless closet with no door handle or light bulb dark. Back bedroom with melting monsters dark. Hiding under the stairs in the game closet dark. Back seat of cop car dark. Hand cuff dark. Tiny cell with no window or toilet dark. Deer heads, rifles, and poker cards dark. Heavy feet and truck door dark. Bad taste and aftertaste dark. Bulging faces bleeding black into each other dark. Booze tongue cigar dark. Pillowcase over my head dark. Gun barrel on lips dark. Boot on chest head hitting porcelain dark. Knife to throat dark. Back seat banging on the car door dark. Pissing pants in fear dark. Dead brother stare dark.
The dark keeps coming. Itâs an avalanche of dark. Itâs so big. It rattles inside head and heart like razor blades and loose gravel. Its serrated blanket smothers all psychic and physical cosmology in suffocating merging histories. They dissolve into each other and into me. I (we) canât come up for air.
909-291-5873But what would happen if I did? If we did? Come up for air. Breathe. Open our eyes. Look. Feel something other than ourselves/myself?
What would happen if I didnât give into the dark? What would happen if I stepped outside of myself and didnât let the undertow take me? What if the person who is hurting me is actually himself hurting so badly that he doesnât realize what he is doing? In fact, he is hurting me to hurt himself and doesnât know what he is doing. Not at all.
It goes on for years. We never talk about it.Â The hurt keeps growing inside both of us. Until we reach the end of the line, the end of our rope.
We hang ourselves and our hearts in a dark parking lot when he tells me to do the math. Numbers unravel, tumble, and shatter on tarmac. Everything shatters into unsolvable equations. We are both crippled birds. Wings cut, flapping, waiting for the next truck to run us over. When we are the trucks.
He uses the math and deploys numbers like grenades not knowing that heâs trying to blow everything up and put it back together at the same time. Not knowing the answer is killing him inside. Heâs using numbers and equations the way I cut up pictures and mash them together. He’s trying to make sense out of what it feels like to look at photos of me or read stories from me about my past. It touches something dark inside him. Itâs a thing he has never looked at, so he looks at it through me. I am the dark thing inside him in this moment in the parking lot.
What if this man is a profoundly loving and sensitive person who has injuries that donât have names? What if the Parking Lot is an instance of something inside him screaming to be let out and acknowledged, or something that has caused him to unjustly drown himself in self-loathing so deep that it comes out as arrogant and hurtful because the shame is too much?
What if the man is a tender spirit in a world that clipped his wings when he was just a child, and he’s has been trying to get off the ground ever since. Over half a century of dragging his clipped wings through history in a world where there are no definitions for what he has become because of the brute forces that stomp all over the fragile spirits.
The fact is, and I know this, he is carrying ten million tons of ugly that should not belong to him. Because there is no vocabulary for it, the injured person inside him cries out and assigns numbers and slurs to my injuries because at least they have a name.
What if the math and numbers are pieces of his broken body and heart falling out of his mouth onto the parking lot because they have never had anywhere to go? I understand now why this person hates mirrors. If he looks in the mirror he will see a person â the boy, the man, the angel, the devil â the world put inside him. The person who has no name in our world.
I see now that this loving, tender spirit was born out of time in a place where he never had a chance. His own injuries are so deep they cracked him in half, broke his body and smashed it to bits. Heâs still caught in the undertow. And he looks at me â the words I write / a photo from my teenage years â and something about me pokes, prods, and stabs at something he didnât even know he had inside him. And that thing inside comes spilling out of the manâs mouth saying things that I know this man would not say.
What if I didnât let that other voice inside him win and destroy everything? I understand now that when those things come out of him, I am witnessing a person whose life has been so fractured that he has divided himself in two parts, and probably more. He has buried the ugly injury deep inside himself. It has no form. It spreads through his mind and body in an ominous mass.
When it surfaces, it casts the manâs ocean blue eyes in a thick layer of tar. The âthingâ only knows how to come out as infectious bacteria. It wants to spread its disease and make everything sick. It broods, brews, and bides its time until something unzips a tiny opening and lets it out. I am that opening. I understand that this is not my fault or his. Itâs all the things that got us here in the first place, that led to the parking lot where our world was undone by numbers with no logic.
The man hemorrhages the thing and spits it to the surface in words coated with ugly fucks and dirty shame. Words the man with the sky in his eyes would never say. Words not in his vocabulary. The thing inside him latches onto these words because there are no equally filthy and shaming words to define what it feels. What the man has spent his lifetime trying not to âreallyâ feel. I see this now. How the shapeless thing with no name attaches itself to the vocabulary of my history because history has not allowed a place for or given a voice to the manâs thing.
The manâs thing is not in the dictionary. It has no lexicon. My history makes it feel even more erased. It latches on, takes solidity and form by assigning shame and blame to my injuries. It does this to try to give credence its broken body and missing tongue. Give shape to something that has no name or tidy slot to slip it into. It is not the material of movies or heroism.
What if I understood this and did not let my injuries drown everything? What if I rise to the surface instead of sinking to the depths? What if I stop doing my own counting by stacking up the smack the words the man with the sky in his eyes does not realize he is saying when black tar makes him blind? What if I reach out before itâs too late and say: PLEASE STOP â ITâS GOING TO BE OKAY â IâM HERE â GRAB MY HAND â LETâS PULL YOU OUT OF THERE â HOLD ONTO ME! And he does. And we both make it out before the avalanche can smother us.
Blame is easy. Why did it take me this long to realize that answering blame with blame is no answer at all?
Itâs so easy to put things in terms of good and evil, right and wrong, angel and devil. But arenât we all both?
The whole purpose of the project that Iâm working on is to dissolve those kinds of barriers and divisions.
But we cannot dissolve anything unless we look the truth in the face and speak it. Even if itâs ugly. Even if it stinks of shame. Shame is a construct. Letâs dissolve ugly shame with the barriers. Bring that shame shit down.
Let us give our ears and hearts to each other so we can all speak our truth, our pain, our joy without fear of being shamed, hurt, humiliated, or dehumanized. Speaking the truth together, we can become compassionate together, help each other, rebuild each other.
I am certainly no saint, and probably more devil than angel. I do my share of bad and wrong every week, every day. But Iâm also trying to do right.
I want to right my wrong of writing judgmental statements against a person so deeply injured that he sometimes becomes the very thing he loathes in the world and tries to destroy the one person who loves him and understands his injuries. But I havenât understood them enough. Until now.
In so many ways, Iâm trying to not be so focused on âsaving myself.â But when the âthingâ that uses my life as a weapon surfaces with its destructive wave and stench of throat choking slut slime, I immediately have fallen into âsave myselfâ mode instead of seeing that the person I know I love could never say these things, but that they are coming from injuries over a half-century old that were never given a voice or name, so instead they gave themselves a voice through my history and used it in a way that could not help but being heard.
LISTEN TO ME it says with math that makes no sense.
I know that the person who hurt me is one of the most gentle and kind people I have ever known. I have watched this man care for injured animals with such compassion, and I have understood that in doing this he is caring for himself and creating the world he wished he lived in. I feel a deep eternal connection to him, yet when this thing inside him surfaces, I flee, fight, freeze and accuse instead of using my compassion to try to understand and help if I can. I know better!
We are both injured and hobbled. Yet, my injuries cut the wings off his. Somehow when he looks at how I give voice to my injuries, the acute pain of his internal silencing causes him to flail and hurt.
Witnessing me speak my history and hearing me tell my truth makes the silencing he has endured his whole life unbearable. He becomes a crumpled bird pounding its wings in his chest.
Imagine living in this gendered world and being a man in love with a woman who had been whored as a child. And you yourself have injuries that have never been given a name or solid form. Injuries for which there is no simple name like âwhoreâ to define them. Imagine you are a man who has been mutated by cruelty and who must be silenced living in this culture of men. You systematically become broken and fractured, dividing yourself into many selves, keep the pieces shuffling, yet still are never able to give form to what hurts so much.
This man feels like the whore who must be silenced, yet feeling like a whore is demeaning and ugly so he demeans the child whore to dodge the dirty shame he has no name for and has buried so long that he does not even know he has it.
He could not see that the things he was saying to me he was saying to himself. Nor could I. But in a moment of clarity, I woke up and I saw the man caught in the clenches of this thing that will not let him go. I want to help him set it free, once and for all. I want him to be free of it, me to be free of it, the world to be free of it. Get rid of that thing.
Why have we let this culture take us to this point? Why did I bury my heart with fury and outrage, year after year, even while I know in my heart how fragile and vulnerable this person is?
I was so caught up in âreactingâ that I blinded myself. I assigned guilt and blame. I retaliated. I was not compassionate. I didnât give this person a chance. I was too busy letting myself sink into my own hurt.
I never tried keeping one foot on the ground. Instead I would just let myself sink. What would have happened if instead of sinking I anchored myself, reached out my arms, and held onto him when he was falling into that dark hole?
For years, I thought silence was the answer. But with each silence, the tension grew, the gaps got bigger, the ugly got uglier. It festered and brewed, feeding off silence.
For years, I took the blame while blaming him. Blame stunk up everything with resentment and anger. Blame sliced our hearts in pieces with its unforgiving edge.
How did we get here in the first place? I know in my heart this person is capable of great acts of tender compassion. I could never reconcile that with the man who reduced me to numbers and left me in the parking lot at night a week ago. Now I am going to try. Because it is the compassionate thing to do. I understand that the part of him that said those things to him has been so isolated that the man himself does not understand the hurt he is causing. If he were to watch and listen to what is happening at those time, I know it would make his heart cry. It would make him feel sick. It has to hurt him to hurt me.
Can this not be the place where we try to liberate ourselves from our pain so that it does not continue to hurt ourselves and others?
I was born dodging bullets. I have fallen into the gender trap putting the blame on a person who is profoundly hurt rather than the culture that made us this way. I have unfairly played the gender card that tells us: âMen do this. Women do that.â Iâm done with divisions and binaries. Can we not do that?
Letâs not judge. Letâs fix. Each other.
I woke up today in a new light. Itâs time to step outside of myself, outside all these narratives that I have written, that the man who injured me from his injuries has written, that our culture has written. I have looked deep inside the broken bird. The bird whose flapping and flailing temporarily clipped my wings. I understand the bird is trapped in the manâs chest. It has spent decades desperately beating its broken wings trying to get out.
Can I help set it free instead of dodging in pain in accusation?
What if we got to that place in the parking lot because itâs the place that contains the potential to finally set us both free. What if this is the thirteenth way of looking at a parking lot? An the thirteenth way is the one where we drive off with our hearts free from the weight of carrying around the unsayable?
Maybe if we see the âthingâ inside him together, look it in its face, give it a name and solidity, pay witness, he can get rid of it, and I can get rid of the noose of my past. What if we all stopped and did this one someone who hurts us? Isnât it worth trying? I have to believe that we all have the capability of setting ourselves free with we do it together as a âwe.â
I woke up today and decided I am at a turning point. I need to stop âreactingâ and start âacting.â It is in that action and compassion that we can become better people.
I regret being caught in the whirlwind of my own emotions. I know the person who hurt me has been so profoundly hurt himself. I can talk about my hurt. I can write about it, make art about it. Itâs ugly and filled with shame, but at least it has a name. I am able to put a label on it.
What about people whose pain and injuries have no name or have been shamed into invisibility even more than the whore? Think about it.
I had already been thinking these things when I saw Billy last night. He has been through so much, yet his spirit is as big as the ocean. He gets that people are a mixed up bag of stuff. They are capable of causing tremendous pain, creating tremendous beauty, and showing tremendous love. It ainât easy to be human or be with humans. So letâs cut each other some slack while also respecting our limits.
People can do and say horrible things. I have said and done horrible things. That doesnât mean we should define ourselves or each other by those things. What about the beauty, love, and magic?
It doesnât mean it will work, but itâs worth a try. We all also need to know where to draw the line, but if we didnât first try to dissolve the line, then what good are we?
I reached my limit in that parking lot. There is no denying that. But I also understand now that for years I didnât âseeâ what I could have done to help two people, not just me, not just one, but âweâ / âusâ.
Instead of making the horribly hurtful into the end of the world, wouldnât it be better to try to understand where itâs coming from, attempt to make it better, and in so doing heal ourselves and make the world a little newer?
I want to firmly believe this. I know I turned a corner. I know I am working on this historical recovery project for a reason. This one. Dissolve barriers. Give voice to the silenced. Be compassionate.
I cannot let myself drown in my own pain. That is selfish and retaliatory. I guess I had to live this long to figure that out. If someone hurts me, I would like to stop and try to think about why and then think if I can help. Next chapter of life.
Certainly my past and my history are hard for people to swallow. Instead of letting it be a liability, I would like to allow it it to be an asset, to be something that can help lead the way to compassion, tolerance, growth, and peace.
Iâm going to try.