"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Aug 11, 2010


Sasha* never saw her 25th birthday.

Andy* never saw his 30th.

I knew them more than a decade a part, both in their youths, both in their wasted primes. Sasha lived with us, when my ex- thought Jesus wanted her to bring home every hooker, addict, whore and lost case in the city. At one point, we had seven people in our flat, four of them "sex workers." Of those four, three have died. Perhaps I'll have the courage to tell more on that, later.

Andy worked for with me, then for me, after he got me a terrible job I desperately needed. I'd just got myself fired for letting my employees unionize. They lost their jobs the day after I lost mine. Of the nine people terminated over that two day period, seven of us had children to feed. A lesson, there, about who really has power.

I used to let Andy and his friends skip school at my store (the delinquency officer had no mandate on my premises), and smoke pot (discreetly, please...) behind my dumpster, as long as they kept their compatriots from robbing me blind. They also had a willingness to solve problems which kept the police away. It worked out well. And we became friends. Sometimes good ones. Sometimes, the age differences really showed.

I learned to accept that Sasha would invariably come home green skinned with heroin. I cleaned her vomit, because she never failed to overdose. I tucked her sheets, and went to work to feed them all. Three jobs. No days off. I ran a kitchen for a coke fiend by day. I washed dishes at a Greek restaurant by night, taking home lamb and spinach and pita to feed my house full of permanent guests. I worked in an industrial laundry part time, on the weekends.

I enjoyed that work, they simplicity of it. I really did. I grew lean. Felt the palms of my hands grow rough with callouses and burns. Felt pride in the gifts I could give, the guests we could feed, the feasts we could fashion. Too much pride for bitterness to take root, there, at least.

Once, Sasha thanked me. I tell you the truth - gratitude sometimes covers everything.

Every now and again, while my ex- fucked whatever rich bar troll she thought would free her from the grime of our shared existence, would erase our failures of the spirit, our lost faith and the ashen hulk of our dying affection, Sasha would comb my hair. She didn't judge. She didn't commiserate, either. I tell you no small thing: rare, the person who can share a moment, carrying into it neither solace nor condemnation.

Somewhere along the way I realized Sasha never had a chance. That the heroin did her a truer solid then any person every had, and ever would. As dirty a wet chocolate mess as I've ever known, but she taught me how not to judge her. And when I agonized over my faithless ex-, Sasha taught me a truth I've never forgotten.

"It's just an orgasm, Jack," she said, "She fucks away her demons. Don't we all?"

I met my ex- by accident. When I needed to flee the law, she came with me. She didn't hesitate. I liked that. And I expected too much. When you start by abandoning everything, what else do you have to give?

We lived homeless in Maine. For the summer. We both loved a fiery Jesus. I prayed with Benedictine monks: matins, lauds and vespers. She turned everything into sadhana. We fucked for Jesus. We washed dishes in the shekhinah of the Lord. We preached on street corners, wild haired, sticky with rootless wandering.

She dreamed big and terrestrial, of church complexes and flocks of disciples, of the gospel in the flesh, of a barbarian horde of faith and redemption. I built empires of the spirit, in my head. I learned the Bible, the Quran, the Gita. Eckhart and Boehme, de Mello and Merton. Juan de Yepes, Julian, the Theresas and the Cloud of Unknowing. Vedanta. The Upanishads. Laotzu and Chuangtzu.

Doomed, you see.

Both running from life, from sexual violence. Running into the mist and fog of obfuscation, of other worlds and other realities which didn't have our pasts at the heart of them.

At seventeen, a holiness preacher raped her. He told her Jesus loved her, and she should show gratitude to the messenger, the apostle who saved her. He took her childhood and she has never gotten it back, no matter how hard she tries. He taught her to fear demons, demons in her vagina. Demons in her breasts. Demons in her lust and loneliness. Demons which she learned to see, hovering before her eyes. Demons which I imagine still haunt her, though that singular, revolutionary Jesus has long died and gone to Sheol. The preacher smashed her to pieces, and I don't think they've ever coalesced again.

When she finally found the courage to speak, to cry for help - they ran her out of town.

As a witch.

I kid you not.

For that alone, I can often forgive the horrors she would later visit upon me...

At a younger age than that, a right bastard took mine. I'll write no more than that except to tell you that sometimes, I could kill that faceless motherfucker, that I kill him more often than not, in the myriad ways I have sabotaged my life. I've also killed him by staying alive. I killed him, homeless in Boston, fighting for a sense of myself that survived the degradation, the grey filth and wanton abandonment that comes in the shadows and subway tunnels of an old American city. And I killed him the day my firstborn fought his way out of my ex's womb, when she and I became such bitter enemies that to this day we find our baser instincts strangle to death the common bond we ought to share.

At eighteen, Sasha's sometimes boyfriend brought home his teammates, and they gang raped her until she passed out, and then they raped her some more, the lot of them drunk on booze and violence. He finished her off with a pile of shit. Literally. He took a shit on her chest, as she lay unconscious. After he'd pissed all over her bed. Her only possession, the only thing she had of home, of a childhood a lifetime now and three thousand miles away. Wanted for the rape, and for sexual assault of a minor, he fled the country. I think he still lives on mommy's money, somewhere off the Adriatic.

My ex- found her not long after, though I'd known her a bit in passing. And she passed in stupor and self-destruction, deep into our lives, a worm forever in my memory.

At twelve, Andy's father died of a heroin overdose. At thirteen, a temporary step father discovered the fragile boy's guileless ego, and raped it into submission. For the next fourteen years of his life, until his death at twenty-seven, he kept himself numb with booze, and other drugs. Then, finally, with heroin. He sought a perfect love. A lover who could never harm him. Who could love him without judgment. That lover doesn't exist, but who can tell that to a boy hanging from the meat hook of violation?

The heroin killed Andy. Or he killed himself with it.

Sasha died of AIDS, alone in rooming house studio no one knew she'd rented. HIV she contracted the night of her rape, in all likelihood. But, who knows? Her rapists took everything. They left her convinced only of uncleanliness. And it became her gospel. She hooked, and sometimes I think she did it not only to complete her degradation. But to return it tenfold on every single bastard who thought he could buy her. I don't blame her. I don't judge, though I know the consequences spread further than the likelihood of her comprehensible vengeance.

Andy never took his vengeance. He turned on himself, instead; his life a short, sharp experiment in deliberate self-destruction. He purged the rape with poison. He purged himself of his self.

My ex- sees enemies everywhere, though she doesn't call them demons anymore. She can accept no blame, no hint of opprobrium. She can admit no wrong. What good has that ever done her, to confess to error? To cry out from weakness? Not one bit. I hate it, but I cannot blame her.

Sasha made her filth into a faithless religion. She had more courage, in that, than a generation of good Christians, Jews and Muslims. Than all the generations of them. Sure, she fucked away her demons. However temporarily.

We all did.

Andy and Sasha died young. Too young. Sometimes I think they got the better deal. More often than not, I know better than that...

 ...and sometimes I know that surviving comes with a unbearable cost. That vengeance sweetens the suffering, and makes you wonder, even aloud, if you have what it takes to seek straight and true the path to the heart of the monster, to the place where you turn violation and violence into your own damnation, to a damned liberation - so long as as those who visited it on you suffer. So that all their proxies, that the multitude alike to them in the world, suffer too.

My ex- flees all punishment. She refuses responsibility. Rape punished Sasha, hounding her to a decayed and infected end. Andy punished himself, squandering every accumulated quantum of potency on self flagellation.

And I, weak and stupid me, try so hard so make it through a single day where I can put my head to sleep having rightly differentiated between recompense and punishment.

I think there's a difference. I've come by the thought honestly, though I admit the inevitability of my own errors of judgment.

Those who punish almost always have power. The rapist punishes. The warlord punishes. The judge, the CEO, the executive, the President - they punish. The soldier punishes the recalcitrant native. The abusive husband punishes his wife for anything. And everything. They inflict violence as punishment - violence to shape the memories of their victims. Violence that begets submission. It commands obedience. Punishment seeks submission.

The punished take vengeance. Vengeance restores. It offers a sovereign truth. It declares the end of submission. It liberates. Vengeance doesn't require a single change of heart. It doesn't need anything. It demands. It demands, instead, a restoration. It breaks the bonds created by punishment. The punishers can take it, or leave it. Their opinions don't matter. Often enough, it destroys those who seek it. And many choose to accept that cost.

Can you judge them for it?

Do you judge us?

Do you even have the gall to dare?

* - in case it needs explanation: not their real names...


Anonymous said...

Excellent, Jack.

In late summer 2003 I read a book by music critic Ann Powers, an autobiography called "Weird Like Us," where she describes her kind of living rough. It was a pretty good read but it always seemed to me that she believed herself to be experiencing something rawer than what actually was. It reminded me of "camping" by putting up a tent in one's yard in suburbia.

Your post, on the other hand, tells me a whole lot more than her whole book did.

The stew of physical-emotional-psychological-sexual abuse is the center of everything destructive in humankind. I've often pondered that I imagine Dick Cheney was raped by someone as a boy, probably repeatedly. His response, as is that of many "sociopaths" (not a favorite word of mine), was to gain as much personal power as possible, to destroy others rather than destroy what was inside him.

Either way the destruction follows.

Michael- said...

Once in a while a blog post knocks me strait off my ass and unto the cold hard ground of human weakness.

This gorgous post did that today.


ps-I will comment further and provide links to your post on my own site...

RedPhillip said...

Utter, massive respect, old crow.

Susan of Texas said...

Vengeance is refusing to accept their lies as your truth. It's telling the truth over and over until they run screaming from it. Until they choke on it.

And then you mock them and laugh at them--with a vengeance.

Ethan said...

Thank you, Jack.

Jack Crow said...


JRB said...

Powerful! ;)