29 January 2010
Mission City - Foreword
It started, there, in that picture, I think. There has been a lot of changes to the UT campus since 1977, but I went searching for a place that looked like what I had seen in a vision dream. This vision dream did not recur, but it is part of the mission city-- a place I have dreamed of of since childhood.
It is not a "Mission" in the since of a Church structure, although it is a spiritual place; rather it is a place where I always find myself in what I call, "Mission Mode."
I like being in Mission Mode, it is exciting, it is comfortable, it is purposeful and it is familiar. I like it in this life, and I like in my vision dreams where it is even more real. In real life, less real, it is when the adrenalin has been kicked in by some outward threat. Somewhere and sometime along my life, I became so accustomed to be in such situations that I no longer experience fear, at least not in any distracting way. Part of PTSD, I suppose, but a really good symptom to have-- like another symptom that is a good one to have: hyper-vigilance.
When you wake up several nights a week, being kicked and punched, these things happen. That, however, is not what this is about-- just a short explanation of how I came to find grace and poise in battle.
When there is no justice, and revenge must be denied, vigilantism IS justice.
The last recollection I have in real life of Mission Mode is when I was told that a man behind me on the bus and with whom I had some words a few minutes before was now holding a knife in his hand with an exposed blade. I smiled. I smiled because I knew how it would end. I knew that if he attacked me, he would end up bad, and I would be unharmed. I'm not bigger or stronger. The only advantage I have is the one that cannot be easily overcome-- I lived it so long, that such sudden combat is a normal part of life for me. When I came out of that life with daily beatings, daily attacks, constant and unpleasant surprises, I worried how I would survive in a less violent world.
It turns out, that in a less violent world, that not being restrained from fighting back as I had been for sixteen years, had a very healing sort of feel to it. The abusers, the bullies, the evil people can get hurt in this new life of mine, and on a few occasions, such persons have been.
I sense such people. I have no good idea as to what it is I recognize when such abusive, bullying people are near, but I know it when they are close. Call it intuition.
I am easy prey. Slight build, a face that when relaxed smiles and eyes that are always searching, indicating (giving away the fact) that I am always expecting someone to hurt me. I expect to be hunted, and harmed. I am just the person sociopaths seek out, just the person by appearance, I should say.
Sixteen years of experience, and I know exactly what it takes to prompt the enemy into taking the first shot, the first punch, or make the first lunge. Few would be able to notice any threat, and before any does, I not only have noticed, I am waiting for opportunity. I am both bait and trap. "Everybody needs a hobby," I joke with friends who have seen me do this without understanding, but who are concerned that such a side of me exists.
Up until a few months ago, I had not punched a person since I was in high school. Over sixteen years in that life I had just before coming to Austin, I could not punch-- or would not allow myself to do so. In fact, in the first combat situation I experienced after coming to Austin, I remember saying to myself, in my mind "Don't punch him, don't punch him, don't punch him..." throughout the thirty seconds that the combat lasted.
I was afraid not during, but on a few minutes after it was over. I was afraid because the mans face was red and swollan, and he was bleeding from somewhere. I pulled a freind aside, almpst frantic, darm near crying, and asked in fright, "Why is he bleeding I didn't hit him did I?"
My friend answered, "No, he did it to himself, hit his face on the table to try to keep from falling."
You see, I had been talking to my counselor about my biggest fear: What I might be capable of when unleashed. Now that I saw what would happen to me if I only resisted, only tried to subdued, only attempted to restrained evil. Evil does not just use violence, evil also uses lies. You can't beat evil by being patient.
It was a simple lie which ended my life as I had known it, ended my ability to do my life's work, ended my family. Evil had no fear of me. I could have punched a certain fear into the face of evil, but I never did. Having lost everything, I worried very much what someone with nothing left to lose might do in releasing that rage.
It was so bad, my expectation and my fear, that I had taken to sleeping with a bowie knife in one hand. Not under my pillow, but in my hand. Over sixteen years, most of the attacks came when I slept, and even though I was no longer vulnerable to that person, I began arming myself, because, I knew I was now able to release my rage. Also, because I still expected to be attacked.
But, while worrying what if, I had a burglar wake me one morning, with a flashlight in his mouth going through my wallet. I never showed him the knife, hid it from his view, never touched him, but last saw him picking himself up off the street, where he had knelt, begging me for forgiveness. I was both relived and ashamed. I was relieved that I found restraint and control of myself -- a part of my character had not departed me; but I was ashamed that what the man saw in my eyes, was enough to have him fear for his life and beg. I wore dark glasses after that, unless I was in a place so dark as not allow what was in my eyes-- or what could be in my eyes, to be seen. I was hiding the part of me that not only scared me, but others.
My counselor smiled when I told him, and said, "You do not have it in you to seek to harm someone, or even to plot their harm. You are who you are, and whatever you may become will not deviate from what you are." I wanted to believe him. But so far, I had merely met and confronted one abusive sociopath, and struggled with and subdued another. What if neither confrontation or subduction would suffice?
So it is last summer, sensing evil, I paid close attention. I set a trap and waited for the abuser to find it. My friends simply left the table when the sociopath began acting out, I sat quietly until I alone remained with the abuser and his lackey. Soon, he sprang the trap, and I knew he would. I knew, and I was in control, but an abuser never, ever, expects their prey to be prepared. I was not only prepared, I was plotting.
In a discussion about Werner Von Braun, we disagreed. I was proven wrong, and took it well, how upset can aperson be to have said, "I don;t think Von Braun was ever an SS officer" and then learn that the Nai rocket scientist, indeed, had been? Taking it well was not what the sociopath expected, nor wanted. So his lackey announced to everyone within earshot, "Don't f**k with me about history! This guy should not have f**ked with me!"
That is obviously an over-reaction to being proven correct in a gentle discussion about a Nazi scientist. I flipped my hand and continued smiling, indicating to them that I was nonplussed. After all, it was quite a bit short of what I was used to. I could, and probably did, sleep through worse verbiage and at higher volumes.
They were nibbling at the bait, but not yet biting. The sociopath, not his lackey, was the one I wanted to battle. Having gotten no reaction from me, other than a dismissive and non-threatening wave, the sociopath lost patience during the silence and repeated, in a loud voice intended to draw attention from others, not so much me, "You really should not have f**ked with my friend."
He didn't know me, he was not sure if I was the prey he sought. He wanted to try a little verbal push. I took it and said nothing. I thought he had just bitten, but waited for him to run with it. My lack of response prompted him again to break the silence, this time, nervously sharing some comradery with his lackey. "Man, did we score some good s**t tonight?!"
"Yeah, man, that was some good stuff."
They were talking about some cocaine they had been bragging about before the others started to leave the table. The source of false self-perception I was witnessing-- and which I was manipulating was in part the cocaine talking, and partly the personality disorder.
The bravado went on like that for a few back and forths, and in my quiet observation, the lackey used his eyes to indicate to the sociopath that they had retained my attention. The sociopath leaned forward toward me, and I leaned forward, scooting my chair closer to the table to indicate I was going to speak something quietly to the two. Surely they assumed I was going to ask for some of that cocaine.
The sociopath looked almost friendly, like he thought I wanted to join in and be a bad boy as they thought they were being-- as they wanted everyone to think they were. Instead, I very quietly, for their ears only, spoke, "I don't like the way you have talked to me. You have no call to speak to me that way, and I don't plan to put up with anymore. Is that clear?"
It took a few seconds for what I said to seep in. I said it in a friendly, conversational tone, but there was no question being asked of them. It was statement, and they knew it.
A normal and sane person would have taken the unexpected reprimand with some form of backing off. A friendly personality would have apologized. A person on cocaine would have stopped short of apology, but backed off the abuse, pretending it was not intended. But a sociopath would do what this guy did do.
He went ballistic, began cussing and yelling and pounding the table; and drawing no reaction from me, as I smiled and watched, he stood and stepped so close to me (still sitting in my chair) that he went beyond "invading space" he actually began bulldogging against the chair, trying to turn it over as he continued his rant.
I stood up so fast that he stuttered in shock as he finished yelling that I would have to fight him for talking to his friend the way I had done. A rule of sociopaths is that no one is to tell them to stop being abusive. He waited for me to throw the first punch. That surprised me. So I provoked him, with the same sweeping motions of the arms he had been using to draw attention to himself at the table, I bellowed back at him, "The way I spoke to your friend? I haven't heard a single utterance from your mouth without the word 'f**k' in it, and half of those have been directed at me. And you don't like it? You don't like it that I told you not to talk to me that way? I haven't even used the word 'f**k' yet, and you two can't stop yourselves!"
He bulldogged his chest up to mine, and I shoved him back, sending him staggering to keep his balance as he crashed through one of those plastic patio chairs one sees everywhere. He got his balance and lifted the chair, so I stepped forward to put myself too close for a swing of the chair to hit me with any force. He did swing it, but I blocked the motion with my wrist against his wrist and he lost his grip-- the chair went behind my back and clattered to the patio deck. He ran backwards a few steps to get away from me and grabbed another chair; and again I stepped inside the swing and blocked the chair with my arm.
He held on to this second chair and began poking at my face with the legs of the chair-- like a lion tamer might do. With my left arm, I shoved the legs of the chair to my left, collecting over a dozen bruises from the four legs before successfully doing so, and I believe his exact words as I did so were, "This f**ker can't talk to me that way."
He was playing to the crowd, and hearing no reaction, looked away from me for an instant. My right fist came arcing up, around and past the chair tapping him squarely in the cheek. The poor guy was still trying to talk, when he should have been more aware he was in a fight that he, not I, had picked.
The first chair was "turn the other cheek." The second chair? I had run out of cheeks. In my check- list of required actions before I allowed myself to engage, that ws the last item to tick off. He should not have been trying to convince his imagined "audience" that he was in the right, because in doing so, he never saw the punch coming and might have had his jaw clinched as mine was. What came from his mouth I have never heard from a man before. It most closely resembled the sound of a suddenly startled cat.
He dropped the chair and I was moving closer to prepare for the fist fight to ensue, but before the chair had bounced a second time, he was running away while making that startled cat sound. His lackey was nowhere to be seen.
Thirty years since I had punched another human being and I enjoyed the act itself, the self-control I felt (I really did have mental check list), and even (but to a lessor extent) the description I heard days later of his face from that one punch, "both eyes blackened, and a jaw that looked like a baseball was under the skin."
I felt like I had just dispensed one fair measure of justice and it felt very, very, good.
Oh, but my counselor was upset with me! I admitted to her that I had a strong intuitive feeling that they guy would test me, and seek me out as prey; and so I settled it in myself to wait for him to do so, and bait him if possible. That was where she took exception.
I answered, "If I had left, who would have brought fear into that abusers life? Who would have made him think twice before repeating his evil way of finding pleasure? If I had left, who would have learned that I am not easy prey? A few days after, I started hearing stories about how he would cuss out and embarrass waitresses because he knew the girls could not risk losing their jobs. I didn't know the man but my instincts were dead-on accurate. I got one of the bad guys."
She conceded both points but disliked my wanting the situation to escalate-- using my experience with such people to bring about an occasion to harm someone. Good point, I thought, except I have always wondered if my abuser and accuser of sixteen years might have been helped if someone along the way (other than me) had found occasion to knock her teeth loose for her pathological abuse.
My counselor then said she would have expected me to do what I seem to do so naturally-- that is, to look for what had hurt the other person so badly to make them abusive to others-- to have scarred their psyche so as to live such a miserable and meaningless life.
I answered, "My abuser was abused as a child, I only know part of the story. Maybe a parent or both parents, maybe a sibling or siblings? I never heard the details, well, not many of them. I also know that she killed a man, was charged with manslaughter, willful manslaughter I think it was, but was no-billed by the grand jury. She did it, but they just did not want to prosecute. She also aborted a child before I knew her, which she, as a catholic girl, never got over either. Yeah, she had it bad.
"I had compassion for sixteen years, but she stole my children and my life. I don't care about abusers anymore. I want to hurt every last one of them-- maybe that is what stops them? Maybe it is what all of their victims need to heal? Maybe it is what I need to heal?"
Well, all of that is not my mission, but it explains, I hope, why I feel "whole" when in Mission Mode, why I no longer experience fear, but only control when threatened-- and why some of my friends have voted me "most likely to die by gun shot."
If you think about, if you lost children and lost everything you owned, and lost your life's work, your hard-earned reputation, your dreams, and so on-- if you lost everything...
What have you got to lose?
And who do you desire to please?
Which brings me, finally to the story of the Mission City.