The Dark Undone

By D. R. Haney



The thought came to me when I was fifteen and trying to sleep on New Year’s Eve. Nothing I recall had happened to incite it. I’d spent the night babysitting my younger siblings while my mother attended a party, and she returned home around one in the morning and everyone went to bed. (My parents had divorced, though they continued to quarrel as if married.) My brother was sleeping in the bunk below mine, and as I stared at the ceiling and listened to the house settle, I thought: Why don’t you go into the kitchen and get a knife and stab your family to death?

It wasn’t an impulse; it was a kind of philosophical question that I found myself pursuing. I thought of true-crime cases and wondered at the difference between, say, Charles Manson and me. Why was he capable of killing? Why was I not? Was it a matter of morality? But for me morality was tied to religion, and I’d declared myself an atheist a year or so before. Nor did man’s law amount to an automatic deterrent; some killings — those sanctioned or even performed by the state — were viewed as “right.” But wasn’t a life a life? So, if I wanted to get a knife and stab my family to death, as I knew I didn’t, why would that be any more “wrong” than a soldier killing in combat? Because my family was “innocent”? But weren’t many victims of war also innocent? And why was I wondering in the first place? Didn’t serial killers similarly brood before acting? I knew some did. I’d read the letters they sent to the press and police: Stop me before I kill again. I don’t want to do it, but I must. Maybe I was one of them. Maybe there was no difference between me and Charles Manson. You can’t choose what you are; you simply are.

I tossed and turned. The quiet of the sleeping house was loud — how loud was the quiet that followed murder? Maybe I was destined to know. I desperately wanted proof — irrefutable proof — that I would never hurt anyone as, more by the minute, seemed inevitable. It explained my interest in warfare and horror movies and birds of prey. I was literally sick with fear.

Though years would pass before I first heard the term, I was having a panic attack. I also had Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Not that I physically performed the compulsions: repeatedly washing my hands or counting my steps. No, I suffered from what’s now known as pure obsessional OCD, commonly referred to as Pure O: morbid, or in any case unacceptable, ruminations “cleansed” by still more ruminations. The subconscious logic is homeopathic — like treated with like — and I was afraid I was going to kill, so over the next several months, I would dwell on murder when the fear came over me, repelling action with appalling thought.

Welcome to hell.


I avoided knives, and if forced to use one, I would hold it limply afterward like a rat by the tail and quickly discard it. I refused to see any movies or watch any TV shows potentially featuring violence, including comedies. So it was with books. Once, for an English class, I was assigned to read Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” about a Southern family on a road trip, which struck me as the funniest story ever — until the family encountered The Misfit, an escaped convict who killed them one by one. I naturally saw myself as The Misfit, and, socially speaking, I was a misfit: I favored crowds over intimate settings, thinking crowds would keep my “urges” in check; but even then I might spot a pretty girl and picture myself killing her, since I knew that lust and murder were synonymous to a certain kind of homicidal mind.

I confessed my thoughts to my parents. They were dismissive, knowing my tendency to exaggerate, though my mother was concerned enough to seek out a therapist. He proved passive and useless, but there was a psychologist at my school, Mr. Hughs, who helped me considerably. I saw him for an hour every week in lieu of attending class, and he assured me that I wasn’t a Manson in the making. I didn’t believe him. I knew little about Manson at the time, but he was the most famous killer in America (though he never technically killed anyone), so I’d fixed on him as a prototype.

“But you’re nothing like Manson,” Mr. Hughs repeatedly told me. “You’re an exceptionally smart, talented young man.”

“And don’t you think Manson is smart? I mean, why can’t you be smart and a killer too? It happens, right? It’s got to.”

On and on it went: me trying to talk Mr. Hughs into confirming the worst. Finally one day, in the middle of a session, he stood, exasperated,and reached for a diagnostic tome.

“This is Charles Manson,” he announced, and he read aloud a profile of a psychotic personality type. I don’t remember what the type was called, but I instantly knew it didn’t apply to me. Of course, I might still be a killer of another type, but I learned something else from Mr. Hughs that somewhat set me at ease: he was counseling a teacher, a man, who’d been troubled by thoughts of killing his family. But they were just thoughts, Mr. Hughs emphasized. Everyone has strange thoughts — including those of murder.

The obsession began to lift, replaced by others. I had “cancer” on numerous occasions. I was “manic-depressive” and “borderline,” and only slowly did I realize that my real problem was OCD, which no therapist, including Mr. Hughs, had ever identified, since, again, I didn’t manifest the compulsions.

And then, years later, my first obsession briefly returned.


I was living in L.A. by then, and conducting another round of my long affair with a married woman I’ll call Anne. We’d met in New York, and I was friendly with her husband, but I lusted for Anne as she did for me, so we fooled around and stopped, and then we started again when I was in New York for an extended stay. I felt guilty about the affair, and returned to L.A. thinking it was over, but Anne followed me, telling her husband she was visiting friends. She’d obviously fallen for me, and her behavior seemed increasingly proprietary, with her insistence on serving me, as if trying to force a sense of debt, sulking or crying when I didn’t respond as desired. I was ten years younger than Anne, whose intensity rattled me, though it did make for pyrotechnics in the bedroom.

One night, as I was driving her to a bar in Hollywood where she’d arranged to meet friends, I pictured myself clubbing her with a tire iron that was lying on the floor of the car. Somebody had broken into the car that day, smashing a window, and the Santa Ana winds were blowing, causing traffic lights and palm trees to eerily sway, and Anne was sulking in the passenger seat, as she’d been sulking before at the house. All of this contributed to an anxious frame of mind, and the thought of attacking Anne triggered memories of similar thoughts at fifteen, and I was suddenly sure I must be a killer after all. I imagined Anne’s murder in horrifying detail, afterward dumping her body like the Hillside Strangler, an L.A. serial killer who’d surely driven with a victim on this very stretch when the Santa Anas were blowing. I was trying to scare myself, of course, as I had at fifteen, treating like with like, and that sparked a panic attack, which was worsened by the silence in the car and Anne’s ignorance of my ruminations. I sweated and struggled to breathe, my pulse racing, till finally, desperate, I did the unthinkable.

“Anne,” I said, as calmly as I could, “I have to tell you something: I just thought about killing you.”

Yes, I admitted it, but she wasn’t distressed. She’d always had an interest in psychology, especially of the abnormal sort, and her curiosity outweighed her fear. She immediately asked me a series of questions as if conducting an intake session, probing my childhood and drawing connections between this event and that one. We talked raptly till the very second we greeted her friends, somehow acting normally with them and resuming our talk the second we left the bar. I’d never been so forthcoming with anyone, including Mr. Hughs, and Anne was equally forthcoming with me. It continued for hours, both of us sharing our darkest thoughts, even in bed, where we seemed to melt into one another when the talk gave way to sex. I’d always thought fucking was fast and hard and making love was slow and gentle, but I was wrong, as I learned that night. In fact, before then, I’d never made love, since I’d never been truly naked. That was the difference: shedding all that hid my heart and exposing it to touch and light.

A reedited version of this piece appears in the nonfiction collection Subversia.

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D. R. HANEY is the author of a novel, Banned for Life, and a nonfiction collection, Subversia, the inaugural publication of TNB Books. Known to friends as Duke, he lives in Los Angeles.

12 responses to “The Dark Undone”

  1. D.R. Haney says:

    Original comment thread:

    Comment by Matt
    2009-11-06 08:47:26
    Damn, Duke. And I thought I’d been having a dark frame of mind lately.
    This was great. Real nice turn there, at the end. And whatever other flaws she might have had, bless her for being there and being so compassionate about it. I don’t think any of my girlfriends would have been so understanding.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 09:11:36
    Yeah, she was great. We had a very complicated, very fucked-up relationship in a lot of ways, but she absolutely came through for me at that moment, and many others.
    I’ve been sitting on this piece for a while, unsure whether I should post it, since it’s obviously not the kind of thing most people would admit, but it happens and it happened to me and I was okay, and that’s finally why I decided to go ahead. And who knows? Maybe it will help somebody.

    Comment by Matt
    2009-11-06 10:15:14
    I would add that I think, despite the more difficult periods, this is an understandable, and much more healthy way of dealing with these sorts of thoughts. You actually had an internal debate about the morality of these actions, and–Big O or not–didn’t act on them.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 11:33:17
    It was really, I think, a crisis brought on by my loss of faith, at least initially. I was raised pretty religiously, and without God, I was left to work out why one thing was right and another wasn’t, which is very heady stuff for a kid, particularly for a kid as rebellious as I was, meaning that I was inclined to disregard almost anything put forward as right by convention.
    The best way to handle disturbing thoughts is to simply let them pass without digging into them. But I did the opposite, and opened up a huge can of worms, even though I always really knew I was incapable of senseless physical violence.

    Comment by Matt
    2009-11-06 13:06:30
    I don’t know about that. Letting disturbing things pass without digging into them might be the easiest way to handle them, but the best?
    As you say, part of this was brought on by your walking away from the structured, dogmatic morality of your upbringing, so it’s possible to see this as your struggle to then create your own moral code to replace the one you lost. And I don’t know if there’s any other way to do that other than to dig your heels in and take it head-on. Of course, the existential crisis that come with it is a huge bitch.
    As someone who was raised in a secular, non-religous household, this was a discussion I had many times with the more fundamentally religious people I encountered, especially as a teenager. It usually centered around the idea of “How do you know right from wrong, if you don’t believe in God? How do you understand what goodness is, if there is no higher power to define it?” The answer, I think, is going to be different for each of us, and unfortunately it’s often difficult to obtain–far more difficult than simply finding it in a holy book. But that, I think, makes the struggle worth it.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 18:17:34
    Matt….I’m curious, and you don’t have to answer me if you don’t want to, but if a person walks away from their religion and its moral code, haven’t they already begun to form their own moral code?
    I mean, I can see if someone was pushed out of a religion, the church no longer allowing them to participate, that they would feel as though they lost something, but what if it was choice? Have they still lost, or have they gained?
    again…just curious…I don’t want to hijack the board.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 18:44:39
    Go ahead. Hell, I’ll hijack my own board.
    I’m very, as I see it, open-minded on the subject. On the one hand, I think that if you belong to a faith, you’ve automatically bought into its ideology, and if you disagree, break away, since you’ve already broken faith.
    On the other hand, institutions have to reinvent themselves in order to survive, just as people are forced to reinvent themselves as they pass through life’s various stages.
    But I suppose there’s something in me that resents those who think institutions should reflect trends. It strikes me as narcissistic.
    That’s a prejudice, and I lean toward it, but not doggedly so. I’ve never been able to arrive at a definitive position.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 19:09:31
    I have no definite position on faith either. People tend to call me a Pagan when they learn about my odd little belief system….but I do think its rude of them to classify me that way when they know nothing about me.
    But when it comes to walking away from a religion as opposed to being forced out, then free will comes into play. I’m just curious as to the “loss” that people feel when they walk away from something. I personally tend to see it as a gain. You walk away from something that makes you unhappy, or whatever, and you gain something in return. Be it confidence, sense of self, or your own moral code. Though, if you are pushed out of the religion, for whatever reason, but you still want to be part of the religion…I can completely see that as a loss. OR at least how someone would feel the loss.
    I don’t really resent institutions for what they believe, because that would put me on the same level as said institution. I do agree with you…institutions need to reinvent themselves in order to survive, and unfortunately, not many do. I think that has been the reason a lot of my generation tend to be agnostic or atheist. There just hasn’t been enough change.
    I’m not sure any of that makes much sense….

    Comment by Matt
    2009-11-06 20:34:20
    Debbie, I don’t know if I can honestly answer the question, as I’ve never belonged to any religion or dogmatic belief system. As to what the experience is in breaking away–by choice–I’m inclined to think it’s a different battle for everyone who does it, depending on their reasons for doing so.
    I don’t know that it would necessarily be liberating, either, at least not automatically. When one leaves the structure of belief they’ve been raised in, they’re leaving behind what’s familiar, even if it’s harmful, for the unknown. I imagine the fear caused by doing so might be overwhelming, and might make what had previously seemed harmful appear in an entirely different light.
    It is, I think, much like the reason why some battered wives find themselves going back to the same husbands who beat them….and why some never leave in the first place.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 20:47:09
    No big Matt, I was just curious where you stood on the matter.

    Comment by Matt
    2009-11-06 20:58:48
    Why is everyone assuming I’m offended tonight? Did I suddenly become some prickly cactus without noticing?

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 21:00:40
    I dunno…I don’t know you well enough to know if you’re offended. the last comment was just my exhaustion kicking in. My brain is too tired to actually form a decent response….maybe tomorrow.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 16:59:09
    No, Matt. You’re no prickly cactus!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 17:08:52
    I see that I missed a thread here. I’ll return to it later, but why are you calling Matt a prickly cactus?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 17:19:06
    No… I’m calling him a NOT prickly cactus!!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 17:28:37
    I know. I was just trying to wind you up.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 17:32:58
    Oh. I’m very literal minded, don’t you know!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 17:35:44
    I am too. As we’ve established. Which is why it was especially cruel for me to bait you.
    I’m sorry.
    But did you see that I officially have an Australian little brother?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 17:39:02
    You may bait me anytime you feel like it.
    I did see that! And he’s a little beauty too.
    I guess that makes you half australian, hey? Hmmmm.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 17:46:28
    Aren’t you half Australian?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 17:49:26
    They’ll try to claim me if they know that.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 17:51:54
    Well, apparently by default, I’m half Australian too now. I wouldn’t mind it if they claimed me.
    But I guess it’s different for you. You Kiwis are kind of hung up on the convict thing, apparently.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 17:54:38
    Listen to you! You’re sounding like an Australian already….
    We are only hung up on the convict thing because we are the butt of many sheep jokes. It’s the only thing we can hit ‘em with.

    Comment by Stephanie St. John Olear
    2009-11-07 17:57:51
    wait, i’m just interrupting to say that I really like your new gravatar, Zara.
    It’s a Zaratar!

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 17:59:52
    Oh hey, Steph! Thank you! I was having an identity crisis but I think I’ve sorted it out now. My new Zaratar is the new me.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:16:14
    Again, I keep seeing the same gravatar. Huh.
    I am proud to be half Australian, even I’ve only been so for a few minutes. And thank you for the compliment about my little brother. We do have exactly the same color of eyes, you know, as was established that day in L.A.
    However, I’m sure I wouldn’t look even half as fetching in a blonde wig and bra, and even without them.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 18:24:53
    Maybe you need to log out and then log back in again. But I wouldn’t trouble yourself.
    You DO have the same eye colour as your new little brother.. and it is a very rare and pretty shade, may I say.
    You and Simon obviously both inherited the fetching gene and that shines through, even without a wig or bra.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:27:35
    Well, I have just logged out and logged back on again, but I still don’t see the new gravatar. This is perplexing.
    You’re very kind to say what you do, but no, my little brother got the looks in the family. He’s also psychic, you might be surprised to know. Aren’t we Australians the best?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 18:30:24
    That’s me -perplexing.
    As for Australian’s being ‘the best’ -I couldn’t possibly comment, being a proud nationalistic Kiwi.
    But Simon already knew I was going to say that…

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:42:06
    Simon appears to be gone.
    Gosh, little brothers these days.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 18:46:01
    Oh he’ll be back. He’s probably still out dancing.
    Meantime, I think you should start learning the Australian national anthem.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:48:22
    What?! I have to learn an anthem?!
    I’m suddenly not so sure about this Australian thing.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 18:51:16
    Of course you do.
    ‘Advance Australia fair.’
    It’s pretty shit.
    NZ’s is much much better.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:54:49
    I’ll have to see if I can have a listen on YouTube somewhere.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-11-07 19:02:14
    Duke, believe me, it’s far better than ‘Oh, Canada!’ or whatever it is you guys sing in America.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 19:09:22
    I believe it’s spelled ‘O! Canada’, but I haven’t checked.
    But I would have to defend the American national anthem, if only because so many people dislike it, finding it impossible to sing, with unmemorable words, and so on.
    I must say, I like the idea of the song, of the flag being seen throughout a night during battle. It was written during the War of 1812.
    Sorry for the impromptu history lesson.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 19:12:57
    But aren’t you half Australian now? You can’t be defending the US national anthem if you’re half australian!! You will have to submit to their beach-loving, kangaroo-shooting, dingo-loving ways now.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 19:16:10
    Does this mean I can’t also like Katherine Mansfield? I mean, who are the famous Australian writers, apart from Simon Smithson?
    Anyway, you know, the adoption papers haven’t gone through yet.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 19:21:31
    I much prefer Australian writers to NZ ones. Oh, Oh I am going to booted out of my own country now.
    But it’s true. Clive James, Robert Hughes, Germaine Greer…

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-11-07 19:24:47
    It’s OK. I like American writers better than Australian writers, so it all balances out. And apparently I’m American in my heart…

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 19:26:49
    So Duke wants to be Australian, you want to be American.. Why doesn’t anyone want to be a fucking Kiwi??? What’s wrong with us??

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 19:31:35
    I think Kiwis are awesome, Zara, but I think I’ve reached my limit for citizenships. Two is the most you can have, right?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 19:32:56
    Thank you, Debbie -we are awesome.

    Comment by Richard Cox
    2009-11-07 19:51:37
    Hey, I watched a film the other night called The Quiet Earth. Apparently it was filmed in New Zealand. Some woman and two dudes were the last three people on Earth.
    She slept with both of them and then the world ended.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-11-07 19:56:54
    Yeah, Kiwis are probably going to be the root cause of that shit.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 19:57:59
    Oh yeah, that’s a pretty typical Saturday night here in NZ.
    No, really? I haven’t seen that since I was a teenager. We had to watch it in high school. From what I remember it was pretty bad… am I right???

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 19:58:45
    Two words for you Simon. Puberty Blues.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-11-07 20:04:56
    Fair cop.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 20:58:33
    I’d forgotten about Hughes and Germaine Greer — but does the latter still self-identify as Australian?
    But don’t worry, Zara, I like Kiwis. I really, really do!
    And Simon’s longest residency in the U.S. was during the Civil War, during which he fought for the wrong side, so I don’t know how American that really makes him.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 21:19:49
    I’m glad to hear that, Duke. We Kiwi’s always fight on the right side.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 21:26:04
    That’s because you’re so intuitive, as Gypsies and race horses can confirm.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-11-07 21:30:29
    Hey, not all the Confederates were fighting for slavery, you know.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 21:33:27
    I’m afraid I’m dubious of history as taught by fortune tellers.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 21:39:40
    I have to back Simon here. He would always fight for the right side, confederate or not.
    He is first and foremost after all, an ANZAC. I’ll fight them on the beaches with you, Simon.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-11-07 21:43:06
    Thanks Z!
    I may have to put together a blog post about that visit to the fortune teller.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 21:43:25
    Hey, I’m trying to create some second-act tension here.
    Also, teasing is what brothers are supposed to do, especially obnoxious older ones.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 21:48:31
    This will nest weirdly, but that sounds like a great idea for your 3.0 debut, SS.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 21:48:36
    Stop it with your dirty tricks!
    Simon and I are supposed to cause the second act tension.
    Aaaaaand I think you have it the wrong way round – It’s the younger siblings who are supposed to be obnoxious and obstreperous.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 21:51:24
    Well, older siblings are supposed to slap the younger ones around, but I can’t very well do that from L.A., can I?
    Not that I would want to, mind you.
    And second-act tension can be caused by anyone, I’ll have you know. It’s the misunderstanding that counts.
    Speaking of which, I’ve really gotta work on that screenplay! It’s due by midnight!

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-11-07 21:57:04
    Aren’t I supposed to ruin your dates and get you in trouble with mom and dad?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 21:58:40
    Yeah, you’re supposed to blurt out embarrassing secrets at the dinner table. But you’ve surely already experience with that kind of thing. I mean, you’ve been a younger brother all your life.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 21:58:44
    I would avoid the bottom bunk if I were you, Simon…

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 22:00:50
    A reference to the piece?
    Oh, God. I feel terrible.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 22:02:20
    Oh!! I was joking! You told me to be flippant.. Too flippant? Sorry!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 22:04:02
    It’s okay. I’m pretty flippant myself at times.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-11-07 23:26:41
    We can neatly dodge this by talking about the SSE: this morning, in the paper, there was an article talking about how Germaine Greer refuses to give up her Australian citizenship despite living for years abroad.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 23:33:33
    Gee, I wish you were my little brother too, Simon.
    Did you know Germaine Greer was the first woman to swear on NZ television? She said ‘Bullshit’ and may have actually been deported for it. I’m pleased to say that I continued this proud tradition by saying ‘panties’ on air once and was mightily censured for it.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-08 00:27:31
    I think he is your little brother.
    I’m surprised that “panties” is a bad word. Really? But brave for continuing in the tradition of Germaine Greer, who, we now know thanks to SSE, is a proud Australian.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-08 00:48:22
    Nah, I don’t have those pretty coloured eyes that you and he share.
    And yes, ‘panties’ is apparently the worst word ever. I found out after I said it, that it is the word of choice for perverts. Who knew???

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-08 00:53:45
    I didn’t. But I still think it’s ridiculous. Did you receive hate mail? If so, that must have been fun.
    And of course you realize that eye color is the only physical trait that Simon and I share, alas.
    One hopes he appreciates these compliments.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-08 01:00:42
    Oh you are far too modest about your physical traits…
    It is kind of a yucky word and to be honest, I did say it because I knew I would get in trouble. I received a big telling off from my bosses and a few ‘you should be ashamed of yourself’ letters. And I had to promise never to say the P- word on air ever again.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-11-08 01:04:19
    Ha! I remember you telling me about saying panties on air!
    (Duke, c’mon, you know me. Complimenting my physical appearance will always make me happy)

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-08 01:10:22
    Ha! It may have been my proudest moment.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-08 05:32:25
    I still don’t see “panties” as being all that egregious. It certainly isn’t seen that way in the U.S. I’m fairly sure it crops up on Oprah routinely.
    But if it amounts to your proudest moment, who am I to quibble? Congrats. And may you offend many more.
    My, that Simon Smithson certainly is handsome, yes?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-08 09:48:45
    Okay, maybe it wasn’t my absolute proudest moment. I really must stop exaggerating.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-08 09:53:20
    But it’s so much fun!
    Oh, and please don’t miss an opportunity to compliment Simon.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-08 09:58:17
    But why do we have to always compliment Simon? Why can’t we compliment me instead? Simon is just going to get a big head if we always talk about how handsome he is.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-08 10:01:49
    Going to?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-08 10:06:53
    Wow, I am glad I don’t have an older brother.. older brothers are such teases! Anyway, I’m glad I’m not handsome. Actually I was called handsome once and I took to my bed for a week.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-08 10:10:46
    I remember you telling me that, though I don’t recall the part about taking to bed to a week. But “handsome” isn’t the ideal word to apply to the fair sex.
    I was just trying to set Simon up for a good one-liner, you know.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-08 10:19:13
    Okay I’m exaggerating again.. I didn’t really take to my bed for a week. And actually I think it was just my nose that was called handsome, which I think is just code for large and straight.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-11-08 15:32:22
    Sorry! I was too busy off writing my other post to get in on the back-and-forthery here!

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-08 15:46:47
    I should think so too. You just come in, dangle a few choice comments and then piss off, leaving Duke and I to manage all the back and forthery. Bad form!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-09 06:50:41
    Sorry, but I abandoned the back-and-forthery myself. I got caught up in the move to 3.0.
    It. Has. Been. A. Fucking. Nightmare.
    I hope you had an easier time of it. I’m dealing with a lot of mess.

    Comment by Don Mitchell
    2009-11-06 09:40:08
    I don’t know about saying “I did that too” to Duke not long after I said the same thing to Matt, especially since, unless somebody sneaks in ahead of me, I’ll be following those two.
    But indeed. I remember the first time, as a boy, that I realized I could imagine myself doing anything at all, including things I knew absolutely should not be done. I can’t say I drew any explicit lessons from that, except not to confuse imagining doing something with actually doing it.
    And so the times in my life, my adult life, when I transgressed, I recognized the same feeling . . . I can do this if I choose to, wrong or not. And I do.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 16:57:31
    I’ve been trying, ever since I saw that you posted this comment, Don, to think of something profound to say in the matter of choice, and I’ve come up empty again and again.
    You said it better, and much more simply, than I ever could. There are things that can be done but shouldn’t be, absolutely. I know that now, and always really did, but I tried to work out the fine print in a way that wasn’t necessary. I wish I’d had the kind of mind that didn’t confuse imagination with action, but I did, and I can only hope I benefited from it in other ways, though I can’t at the moment see how.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-06 10:02:36
    Wow, Duke. As always, a powerful and bracing read.
    It’s interesting how your thoughts of killing were never when you were enraged or angry but seemed more like simple ruminations. I think everybody wonders whether they are capable of doing horrific things and in what circumstances.
    I can’t say I’ve ever thought about killing anyone, but I understand what you said about man’s law not acting as an automatic deterrent. I find myself thinking about what I’m not supposed to do quite often and then thinking -says who?
    Like paying taxes. When did I sign up for that?
    Great, great piece. It will leave me thinking for the rest of the day, like all your other posts do.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 11:52:04
    Well, not all of them, I daresay. I’ve posted some definite fluff pieces. But thank you, angel.
    I think I had underlying anger, both because of certain childhood events, but also because I inherited an angry disposition, coming as I do from farming stock. I think farmers are often angry at core, always dealing directly with the elements and their capriciousness. Make it rain, God. Why won’t it rain? Now it’s raining too much. Why won’t the sun come out? And angry dispositions can lead to ugly thoughts, however fleeting and ultimately disregarded.
    But has the thought of murder never crossed your mind, even for a second? It’s part of the human condition to have such thoughts, or so I came to believe. I didn’t at fifteen, because at the time I had a pretty black-and-white view of things, and even now I can lapse back into it.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-06 15:33:07
    Nope, I can honestly say murder has never crossed my mind. However, grievous bodily harm has entered my thoughts on occassions.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 15:59:55
    But it’s very close, yes?
    And I’ll tell you, I have had fantasies on very rare occasions of doing grievous bodily harm to an individual or two, and I feel no guilt about it whatsoever.
    Nope. Not even a whiff.

    Comment by Matt
    2009-11-06 17:21:46
    I’ve actually committed grievous bodily harm on a person or two, and you know what? No regrets.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-06 18:26:38
    Yes, well. I think men tend to inflict bodily harm on others whereas women tend to inflict it on themselves.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 18:27:49
    Me too, actually. Ditto.
    I was limiting myself in my earlier comment to ideation of grievous bodily harm.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-06 18:33:42
    My comment was more in response to Matt’s having hospitalised a couple of people. I can’t imagine many women actually being able to do that. Having said that, I did break a girl’s nose once. That wasn’t very nice of me.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 18:48:47
    By accident? I can’t imagine you doing it on purpose.
    Also, I think you’re right about men inflicting violence on others as opposed to themselves, Sid Vicious being a notable exception. That guy was like a human ashtray! And there must be others like him. But we’re obviously speaking in generalities.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-06 18:51:17
    I’m sorry to say, I did it on purpose.
    Well, I didn’t mean to break her nose, but I did mean to punch her in the face.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 18:52:36
    Was this last week?

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 19:00:34
    I’m going to have to agree with Zara here. Men tend to inflict bodily harm on others purposely, while women inflict bodily harm in self defense. Not in all instances mind, but I think in most.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-06 19:05:53
    Duke: Noooooo it was a long long time ago. When I was rotten arse teenager.
    Debbie: I do think women are capable of terrible violence and can inflict great harm on people. In fact, I mentioned here a while ago, that the head of M15, Stella Rimmington, said she thought women made better spies than men because women have a much greater capacity for cruelty. But to speak generally, I think that men will strike out against another person when angry or frustrated or even sad, whereas women (on the whole) will hurt themselves rather than another person. Unless, as you say, they are acting in self defense or have just totally lost it. I don’t know which is better actually. Neither, probably.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 19:16:29
    I agree with Stella Rimmington: women would make better spies than men, only because we tend to be (on a whole) more subtle. We blend easier. And I think we are the more vindictive sex.
    I absolutely agree that women are more likely to hurt themselves when sad, or angry or whatever. I can’t really speak for all women, but I’ve had to defend myself (a few times) against violence, and let me tell you, my capacity for violence is staggering. A lot of that, however, is my will to survive.
    I don’t know which is better, either, Zara. But I can tell you this: when it comes to him/her or me, I will fight to the death.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-06 19:22:14
    Debbie, I truly hope you never need defend yourself again. X

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 19:23:17
    me too, Zara, me too.
    And I hope you never have to break another girl’s nose again.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 19:35:42
    Okay, here’s my very considered opinion. Ready? (Note self-directed parody.)
    I think Zara’s comment above is pretty accurate. I think men tend to strike out physically in lieu of verbal assault, at which, I’m afraid, women have the upper hand. Physical violence by women tends to be more methodical, as in murder, which for them typically involves detailed consideration. A notable exception is child abuse; in the U.S., at least, women are more prone to it than men.
    In revolutionary circles, women are noted for being more extreme than men. This probably dovetails with Zara’s M15 quote. I don’t know that it makes women more “cruel” than men, but apparently their zealotry runs deeper.
    In general, I’d say that when women are violent, they really mean business. But violence is still rare for women as compared to men, who, as the cliche of old movies has it, can punch somebody one minute and buy him a drink the next. But that’s a reflection of how reflexively men resort to violence: no big deal. Is that less cruel? But how can we one chart such a notion? By intent or percentages? It equals out in the end, I think.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 19:43:31
    Maybe cruel isn’t the right word. Women do tend to be more patient, acting violently at the perfect moment…generally without any outward signs.
    I think, as a race, both men and women are equally violent, but in different ways.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 19:46:09
    Vindictive — great word. I agree with Deb here.
    But you know what I think is really cool (if I’m not sound too corny)? Two strong women who really know themselves talking about what they can and can’t or will and won’t do. It’s fascinating for me as a guy to be a fly on the wall.
    Does that make any sense?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 19:54:07
    This is going to nest weirdly, but I agree with you again, Deb, when you speak of the perfect moment and different ways.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 19:59:09
    Its not corny…at least I don’t think its corny. Thanks for the compliment…but I don’t think I would classify myself as strong. Just alive.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-06 19:59:22
    I think you are right Debbie, women are patient. I know so many stories of women who have suffered years of abuse and without the slightest outward sign, are planning murder. They tend to go through with it without the slightest regret – the natural empathy having long ago been drained from them. I have the greatest of sympathy for these women, however, I don’t condone killing in any form unless of course it is in self defense. One could argue I guess that if you have been physically and emotionally abused for years then self defense could be a valid argument here. But premeditated killing is murder no matter what the reasons.
    And I agree, Duke. Women can be more extreme and maybe that’s what Rimmington was getting at. Historically, I have been more appalled at violence committed and condoned by women, but maybe this is just because I buy into the stereotype that women are traditionally the life givers and nurturers and it seems to go against the grain. In violent situations or harmful acts, I always hope that sympathy for the victim will kick in at some point and I guess I think that women are more likely to feel sympathy for a victim. However, I don’t know that this is true.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 20:08:51
    Don’t get me wrong, Zara, I buy into the stereotype that women are life givers and nurturers….hell, I’m a nurturer. But what if you kill to protect your child? or your family? I’ve heard of mothers committing incredibly violent acts to save their children.
    I personally think there are just too many gray areas involved. No one is right or wrong, but where is the line drawn? I hope that women are more likely to feel sympathy for the victim.
    But when it comes to abuse, I firmly believe the person abused is the victim, whether there was planning involved or not. I feel greatly for those women (and men), and I completely understand their thinking. I’ve been in those shoes, though, and wanted, desperately wanted, to be the one that killed my abuser. But I wasn’t, and I’m kind of glad, because I don’t have to live with that on my conscience for the rest of my life. And that is where I think the difference lies. A woman would have that on their conscience, whereas (some) men are able to put it behind them in a way that I don’t think a woman can.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-06 20:22:02
    Absolutely. I would absolutely fight to the death to protect my loved ones. No question.
    As for anyone who has been systematically abused, yes I totally agree that they are the victims and I understand why they would feel murderous either for a) simple revenge or b) as an exit from the situation. And you are right, very seldom is it a black or white matter. I am so sorry that you ever had to find yourself in this situation.
    It amazes me, the capacity we have for rage and violence. It also unnerves me how in those moments, women and men alike, find they have a well of unnatural strength. I guess it’s the survival instinct kicking in.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 20:28:49
    I am constantly amazed at the capacity that we have for rage and violence as well. On the news here in Florida, this week alone, there are have 5 murders reported. Two children went missing, while one that went missing two weeks ago was found dead. I have no idea how anyone could kill just because. The thought of killing someone sickens me.
    The survival instinct is a wicked thing. Even when your mind wishes for death, your body refuses to give in and die.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 20:39:03
    Deb: Very true about the mind, body and death, etc. Debbie Goad, who with her husband Jim, published one of the great zines of all time, Answer Me, used to write constantly about wishing to die, but she retracted it when she was diagnosed with the cancer that eventually killed her.
    I hope you won’t mind if I say, however, that Florida strikes me as a particularly, weirdly violent state.
    Zara: I like hearing you say that you would fight so hard for those you love, even though it’s not unexpected. But don’t you think it’s finally good that we have a capacity for violence if it’s in the interests of survival?
    On the other hand, it’s unfortunate in the extreme that such a capacity is necessary where it’s man who threatens man’s survival.

    Comment by Matt
    2009-11-06 20:42:25
    I’m coming back to this kind of late, and the moment has somewhat passed, but I do want to point out that everyone I’ve inflicted GBH on was trying to inflict it–or worse–on me first. And I did try to reason with them before hand (with one notable exception, of course). Aside from a direct attack, it’s actually pretty hard to provoke me to actual physical violence….though threatening my loved ones is a good way to do it.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 20:44:40
    It is a weirdly violent state. Its because we are a transient state. I think I referred to it as an insane asylum once. I have been planning my escape for years now. By next May, I will be gone for good, before this place can make another statistic out of me.
    I agree, it IS unfortunate that we fight so hard against our fellow man to survive our fellow man.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-06 20:56:51
    It is awful.
    and I apologise to Matt for my comment above, I was being flippant. Sorry.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 17:26:26
    I’m glad you’re getting out, Deb. I must say, I don’t like that place, and I certainly don’t want you to end up as a statistic.
    Also, as per the loved-one thread, I think I’d be much more inclined to get into a fight to protect a loved one than, for instance, if someone had insulted me. I was in a bar once and a guy kept jabbing his finger into my friend’s chest during an argument over the pool-playing rules. He wasn’t jabbing him hard, but I slapped the guy’s hand away and said, “Don’t do that to my friend.” But it made for an interesting conclusion: the guy patted me on the shoulder and said, “You’re a good guy,” and walked away.
    Too bad more altercations don’t end that way.
    Oh, and you may be flippant with me, Zara, any time you choose.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 18:00:02
    I’m really glad your jabbing incident ended that way. I do wish more altercations would end that way. I’m also more inclined to fight for a loved one or close friend than I am for myself. I’m not really sure why that is…..but its true.
    To be honest, Duke, I’m really glad I’ll be leaving as well. There is just too much pain here for me and not enough happiness. On the upside, I’ll be somewhere in your neck of the woods….at least on that coast….so I can harrass you in much more interesting ways.
    Oh, and hey Zara!! I really like your new photo.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 18:06:34
    Thanks, Debbie!
    I think the reason we are more likely to fight for our loved ones is because we treasure them and can not bear the dreadful possibility of being without them.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 18:08:12
    That is an excellent reason…please do not alert my brothers to this fact. I’ll never hear the end of their teasing. But I think you’re right. Living without a sibling, or a friend, is incredibly difficult. I don’t wish that pain on anyone.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:12:45
    Once, when I was a kid, I pretended to be dead for a second, and my sister freaked out: “Oh my God! Mom! Mom, he’s dead!”
    I hadn’t realized she cared.
    Are you referring to Zara’s Facebook photo, Debbie? I seem to see the same one. Or is the new photo something that only the special people can see?

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 18:15:34
    her new gravatar…its quite fetching.
    HA! Thats a terrible joke to play on your sister….even though sisters might wish their brothers would disappear (or sell them to the highest bidder) we actually care.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 18:17:03
    Oh no, I have a special new gravatar!
    Oh and you just reminded me a truly awful thing I used to do when I was a kid.
    I would be in the bath and I’d stand up, thump and wall and make a big splash. My mother would then call out for me and I wouldn’t answer. She’d call out again and I would hear her coming to the bathroom to check. I would then lie face down in the water. I think it only worked once.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:18:59
    I continue to be unable to see the picture. I demand the pill that makes it possible.
    It was a spontaneous game I played with my sister, and it only lasted for a minute. I instantly sprang to life again to console her. But I’m sure, on most occasions that, yes, she’d have preferred me gone.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 18:21:48
    I bet she wishes you were closer now, as irritating as I’m sure you could be.
    I think maybe your computer won’t allow you to see her picture because your just not special enough. Or maybe its just slow.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:23:58
    I think it’s the former.
    I like Zara’s trick in the bathtub. I think if I tried the same thing now with my landlords, they would immediately produce fireworks and dance jigs to celebrate.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 18:26:07
    HA! But I’d bet youd have to wait a while, since landlords only check up on tenants when rent is past due.
    I doubt its the former; most likely the latter.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:29:12
    Well, I would call them and say, “I’m drowning in the bathtub.” They might come over then. Armed with fireworks, of course, and a stick to poke me to make sure I’m dead. Or possibly a gun to finish the job.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 18:33:18
    Would you like me to smack them over? No one messes with my loved ones…

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 18:33:24
    wow…your landlords are AWFUL!
    I hope they dont bring a gun…but fireworks would be nice. I like fireworks….mostly just the OOhs and AAAhhhs that they inspire.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:40:39
    Yes, the oohs and ahs are nice.
    Zara hates fireworks, I believe. Oh, and Zara, I’m suddenly getting a little paranoid about Google searches, so I won’t say what I’d like. You know I’ve had some strange happenings in the past, Google-search wise. Certain Playboy models reading posts, etc.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 18:41:27
    Zara..why do you hate fireworks?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 18:43:50
    I hate them because my dog hates them and I love my dog – whatever she hates, I hate.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:45:14
    That’s good policy, generally, but how does your dog feel about cats? This might explain the problem you have with your cat.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 18:49:48
    thats reasonable, Zara…I’m pretty sure if I had a dog I would hate what it hates too.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 18:49:49
    My dog is scared of cats. I am too. Especially my psychotic one.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:52:11
    Gosh, you and your poor dog. You didn’t get lucky in the cat department.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 18:55:42
    Cats and I do not
    see eye to eye. Maybe why
    I much prefer dogs.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 19:00:20
    Well, dogs are bigger
    so you can see eye to eye
    easier, I’d think.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 19:03:17
    I do not trust cats.
    too cunning and sly for me.
    I like loyalty.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 19:10:33
    I’m too one for dogs,
    though I’ve come around to cats.
    I used to hate them.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 19:16:20
    I wish cats liked me
    but they seem to think I’m the
    feline antichrist.

    Comment by Richard Cox
    2009-11-07 19:33:59
    The mighty cat named
    Rob Lowe does not believe in

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 19:36:32
    Rob Lowe is awesome
    If only Rob Lowe could help
    save me from my cat.

    Comment by Richard Cox
    2009-11-07 19:48:18
    The cat would like you
    to sacrifice a dog to
    the altar of Rob.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 19:51:35
    What an evil cat!
    I will not submit to it.
    not even for Rob.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 20:53:14
    So! What do I find?
    Haiku by Zara and Rob!
    How Lowe can you go?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 20:54:45
    A terrible pun.
    Please don’t bother to say it.
    I know it was Lowe.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 21:22:58
    It was a Lowe blow.
    and yes, a very Lowe pun.
    it Robbed me of speech..

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 21:25:14
    The bad-pun duo.
    I promise to be better.
    See? No bad puns, Z.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 21:35:55
    I see! No more puns.
    good or bad or otherwise
    Duke, I like your style.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 21:46:46
    I return your praise.
    But I’m sure to slip one day.
    Advance forgiveness?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 21:56:19
    It’s yours already.
    Better to seek forgiveness
    than seek permission.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-08 09:55:22
    Did you make that up?
    It’s terrific either way.
    No permission asked.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-08 10:49:27
    The real quote is this:
    Better to ask forgiveness
    than seek permission.

    I did not say it
    no one seems to know who did
    Jesuits maybe?

  2. D.R. Haney says:

    Original comment thread (part two):

    Comment by sheree
    2009-11-06 10:03:30
    When my eldest son turned ten the sight of knives and scissors put him in a state of panic. He has addhd I always just thought it was a part of his brain on overload. He eventually got past whatever it was about the knives and scissors that sent him into a panic.
    I feel horrible after reading this because if he was in fact suffering as you did, I never knew about it because he never gave a reason for why it bothered him to see them. I would never let the Doctors keep him medicated with retalin which seemed to help but not without dire health issues I could not bare to watch him suffer through for the sake of being able to sit still and color inside the lines.
    His lack of sleep and weight loss could not be justified in my mind. Even though it meant I would not have to listen to momma momma momma momma momma momma every fifteen minutes throughout the day. I’d rather listen to that than watch him quietly melt into the carpet.
    Thank you Mr Haney for being so honest in this post. You have helped someone by posting this. I am going to talk to my son about this the next time he calls me. I think now that he has out grown many of the symptoms that plagued him in childhood that he may be able to talk about what it was that bothered him about the knives and scissors.
    Maybe it will be a weight lifted off of him. He still feels a lot of guilt over having addhd as a child and the battles that we fought together while he was unmedicated. I love my son deeply and unconditionally he knows that without a doubt. I’m praying that will be key in his ability to talk openly and honestly about this with me now as an adult.
    Again thank you for this post.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 12:32:29
    And thank you for thanking me. As I more or less said to Matt above, I’d like to think it could help someone. A few years ago I drunkenly told the story of “Anne” at a party (I was with a few friends in a secluded corner), and a few days later I got a call from a guy who’d been troubled by similar thoughts, and he was relieved that I’d spoken as I did. I was the first person, he told me, who’d made him feel like he wasn’t alone.
    As for your son’s onetime fear of knives and scissors, I know yet another person with the same fear, and the cause is the one I experienced at fifteen. It’s an awful thing to admit, so your son may never be that forthcoming, but if it brings him any peace or it brings the two of you closer, I obviously hope he’s willing. It’s a terrible, terrible thing to go through. I couldn’t bear the idea that I was a potential danger to those I loved. But what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, yes?

    Comment by Richard Cox
    2009-11-06 10:15:59
    Wow, man. Powerful piece. Your prose always impresses me, but this was especially intense.
    I would never have admitted to someone, especially a woman, that I’d had thoughts of killing her. I’d be too worried about her reaction, and I’d also feel like, since it would never happen, that there was no reason to worry her. But now I understand why someone would, and appreciate the honesty and understanding she showed in return. And the closeness, the nakedness you two felt, those are the kinds of feelings that I believe are rare and precious in this world.
    Sorry about the thoughts that inspired this, but very well done, man.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 13:57:28
    It means more than you know, Richard, that you say what you do about my prose, because I’ve admired yours since I arrived at TNB in April. I left one of my first comments on one of your posts; another was on a post by Nick Belardes. I felt especially shy at the time and only dared to comment when especially struck by something.
    The awful truth is that I said what I did to “Anne” without thinking much about her feelings. I know I thought about them to some extent, otherwise I wouldn’t have fought the impulse for as long as I did — seconds that felt like hours — but the alternative, as I saw it, was embarrassing us both in front of her friends, not knowing how to pretend I wasn’t in deep psychic shit. Also, obviously, I didn’t want to be thinking what I was, and I guess I wanted her to know it, especially since I somewhat blamed her for it. She was driving me crazy! But I bottled it up, trying to deal silently with her sulking and crying and so on — but that, I later decided, was a somewhat reasonable reaction to my defenses. And when the defenses came down, it was indeed rare and precious, but I think it freaked us both out. Even she was unnerved by it, though she was wiser by far than me. We weren’t sufficiently prepared for the gift we’d been given, or as she put it at a crucial moment: “You’re going to ruin me.”
    I hope that isn’t too much information. But I thank you again for your comment.

    Comment by Richard Cox
    2009-11-06 21:27:38
    It often happens that we make choices for ourselves that ultimately benefit others. In your case, you may not have been thinking of Anne as much as you were thinking of other things, but it turned out well nonetheless. And in any case I don’t think we plan for these things. When we do they often don’t turn out the way we envisioned. And when they happen unexpectedly, that’s where the magic lies, I think.
    This relates to what I tried to say in my previous piece about friendships, and in the essay A. F. Passafiume wrote about love being a lightning bolt. Those instances of perfect chemistry and honesty and preciousness can’t be planned. It drives me crazy when I hear of people “looking” for love. Even if, by looking, you are increasing your chances of finding a suitable mate, by “looking” I believe you are placing yourself in a frame of mind that keeps you from “seeing” properly. As much as I am a student and disciple of logic, this is the one area where I prefer magic over science.
    I love how she said, “You are going to ruin me.” I know just how she feels.
    And thanks for the kind comments about my own prose. I always feel a bit behind the curve here at TNB. The bar on this site is awfully high.

    Comment by Richard Cox
    2009-11-06 21:31:16
    P.S. I wish I had been around earlier to participate in some of the ongoing discussion. This afternoon I made a surprise visit to the dentist, who took a grinder to one of my teeth (gotta love that smell), and then I was on the road to visit my parents for the weekend. Luckily my dad, ever the technologically hip guy, has installed access to a T1 line here in the boonies, and even knew the password to his WPA-encrypted wireless network. Go dad!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 17:06:04
    Ha. Did your dad read the piece that you wrote about him? You sent him a link, yes? I think I remember you saying so in the comments afterward.
    My dad doesn’t have a computer. It’s probably a good thing. I’m not at all sure that I’d want him to read my contributions to TNB.
    I’m very much of the “let love happen” variety, which must put me squarely in the “magic” camp. I have to confess to finding the match.com thing very weird. I see those ads (or ones similar) every time I go to salon.com, and it strikes me as a bit sad, somehow.
    I’ve got to say, though, that whatever perfect chemistry I had with “Anne” was long in arriving and short in staying. We tried and tried and tried, but it never worked. I always felt like a bull in a china shop around her. Weirdly, you’d think that blurting out that you’ve thought about killing someone would be the worst you could ever say to them, but that apparently wasn’t the case. I could hurt her, it seemed, simply by saying hello — and undoubtedly did.
    I’m glad you’ve been able to take part in the discussion to the extent that you have. I don’t know why you’d feel behind the curve, but I understand the feeling, having had it often myself.
    But a “surprise” visit to the dentist? You mean you had a dental emergency? Pardon my nosiness. Anyway, I hope you’re sufficiently recovered.

    Comment by Richard Cox
    2009-11-07 19:42:51
    Well, in the “love as a lightning bolt” blog almost everyone commented that the lightning bolt-type love was usually unsustainable, whereas love that is discovered gradually tends to last. And I can see why. But I still would rather try to make a lightning bolt work than go into a relationship knowing there was someone else out there who I connected with more acutely.
    The dentist visit was for a cracked tooth. I’ve never had any real dental work done and couldn’t believe the grinding. It was sort of an emergency. Now I can’t stop running my tooth over the temporary crown. It’s the low-grade OCD at work, I think.
    And my dad did read the piece. He loved it. I’m thankful to everyone who suggested I send it to him.
    So you wouldn’t want your dad to read your posts here? I don’t think I would, either. I don’t know what he’d think about all the penis enhancement talk. Haha.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 21:13:09
    I read the “Lightning Bolt” piece, but I didn’t really think I had anything to add to the discussion. Obviously, love doesn’t tend to last when it comes on fast and furious, but it certainly makes for more interesting stories. Also, I do tend to trust first impressions, to some extent, though I’ve probably been the victim of them. I’m always being told how serious I came across.
    It seems as though your most recent post was about as racy as you’ve gotten, so other than that, your content would probably be parent-proof. I’ve written about pedophiles and drugs and vandalizing and drunken debauchery and, well, now this. I’ve also gotten into trouble with friends for some of my content — people taking umbrage at this or that. Ah, the problems of being a writer.
    Don’t let the OCD advance to another level, if you can possibly help it, as no one ever can.

    Comment by Stephanie St. John Olear
    2009-11-06 11:18:43
    Speaking as someone who is getting her masters in mental health counseling,
    (as in I am getting my masters in mental health counseling – why am I talking the
    third?) – it shows great mental health your amount of awareness and your ability to communicate to her what you were thinking and feeling in those moments.
    And speaking as a mom, one of the greatest things that is being taught to our son Dominick, who has sensory integration issues causing him to have some challenges with controlling his impulses, is to talk about his feelings, as opposed to act on his impulses.
    And just as a person and fan of your writing, sigh, you always bring it home, don’t you?
    So, bravo, on many levels, Duke.

    Comment by Stephanie St. John Olear
    2009-11-06 13:53:28
    and alsoooo – just as an aside – in my teen years, I had daily fantasies about
    doing something pretty terrible to my step-sister.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 14:20:00
    Yeah, well. I am going to post something in the very near future that’s going to add a definite subtext to what you just said about your stepsister.
    Of course, I blush considerably at what you say about bringing it home. I usually try to hit for the parking lot, which is not to say that I always try, or that I succeed when I do. But I thank you for your kind words.
    Richard said something interesting above about not wanting to worry a woman by reporting that he’d had a thought about killing her, so I have to ask myself whose mental health really concerned me when I said what I did. I know it was better for me, and I finally know it was better for her, but I wish it didn’t point to narcissism on my part that I didn’t take her feelings fully into account at the time.
    But it was very eerie, that moment, with the wind whipping around and the traffic lights dancing on wires and the silence in the car and so much tension between us, which had been brewing for days — months, really. I don’t know. I did what struck me as best. And, again, I finally think it was.

    Comment by Stephanie St. John Olear
    2009-11-06 19:30:00
    Does the subtext include a hammer? Then I’d be psyched.
    Yeah, I hear what you’re saying about that your needs were possibly superceding her needs in telling her what was going on – but by telling her – you were able to move through it and find a deeper intimacy. And probably on some level you knew it would be ok.
    And I guess what I meant about mental health was more having to with your state of mind – that you were aware of your feelings and that you talked about it, as opposed to stuffing it away, smashing it down or even acting on it. Though, I have this feeling that there was no way you were ever or would ever act on that. But talking about it, as you now know, is goooooood. And repressing anger is baaaaaaad. But we have not necessarliy been taught healthy ways to deal with all of our varied and intense emotions. And everyone has varied and intense emotions – it’s just a matter of who’s the best at repressing or redirecting them or even better – feeling them.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 20:13:39
    Let’s see. A hammer? Hmmmm. No, I don’t think any hammers were involved.
    I agree with you wholeheartedly about repressing and redirecting and so on, but then, I think most problems between people come down to communication or the lack of it. And you’re right: I think I did know it would be okay. I think one of the reasons she was acting as she did was because she was looking for a window into something deeper and I was withholding.
    Well, I certainly gave her something deeper. But she was ready for it. I think, to her, anything was better than this strange dance of evasion that had been going on, even though she’d participated.

    Comment by Stephanie St. John Olear
    2009-11-07 03:53:35
    I was just kidding about the hammer, btw.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 16:51:40
    I knew you were. I was kidding back.
    That worked out nicely, huh?
    Please feel free to kid me more. I would like to continue this strange experiment.

    Comment by Stephanie St. John Olear
    2009-11-07 17:53:44
    lol – yes two overthinkers trying to communicate through a comment board – recipe for lots of zany sitcom-like antics.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:07:00
    Are we resurrecting the sitcom now? Or is this an idea for a new one?
    Those Darned Overthinkers!

    Comment by Stephanie St. John Olear
    2009-11-08 03:39:58
    Overthinkers Think The Darndest Things!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-08 05:29:34
    Ah, another title. Excellent. But if overthinkers do indeed say the darndest things, does it take them a long time to come out with them? I mean, I’m afraid it might come out like: “Well, see…I think…wait…no…but wouldn’t…yes, I think…but no…”
    But maybe if it’s all scripted out in advance, it would work out just fine.

    Comment by Stephanie St. John Olear
    2009-11-08 11:17:33
    Well, technically, it’s that they think the darndest things, so the
    dialogue would be about all the ways things get out of hand because of the
    miscommuncations – and all hilarity would ensue.
    Maybe there could be an animated cloud above the thinker with what
    crazy overthoughts were happening between talking.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-10 06:15:10
    Only just seeing this.
    Your genius for sitcom-classics-of-the-future never fails to astonish.
    Can you guess what it’s in my bubble at the moment?
    I can’t. I’m overthinking it.

    Comment by Ryan Day
    2009-11-06 12:16:02
    I admire the hell out of your ability to be honest both in the moment and now as you share it which can’t be a simple thing. I think that a lot of psychological pain that we all suffer and that deeply, maybe more deeply than anything else, divides us from each other, could be avoided or at least minimized by this kind of straight forward admission that thought processes are complex, often metaphorical and fairly regularly fall into the category of what may be labeled perverse.
    I found reading this to be somewhat therapeutical, which may be more telling than I care to be…
    Way to write a post that does exactly what writing should.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 13:16:10
    I’m humbled, Ryan.
    I don’t pretend to be wise, but I do think, within reason, it’s best to be as honest as possible. I’ve seen so many problems escalate due to withholding, and it’s only afterward that the truth comes to light, but by then the damage has been done. I don’t just mean I’ve seen others withhold; I’ve watched myself do the same. And I’ll no doubt do it again.
    Violence takes many forms, or as a certain poet put it, “Not with a bang but a whimper.”

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 12:41:56
    This might just be one of my favorite posts that you have written, Duke. I love the raw honesty and the intensity.
    I, too, have had these thoughts, but for VERY different reasons. It takes a lot of patience to reason yourself out of those types of thoughts, so bravo. At least it does with me.
    Again, great piece of writing. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 13:04:06
    If this has indeed given you something to think about, consider it lesser compensation for your pumpkin bread, which is the tastiest damned thing I’ve eaten in weeks. I only hope it doesn’t sound flippant to say as much in the context of such a serious piece. I’ve posted other serious pieces, but this one is probably the most sensitive, since people are liable to think I’ve lost my mind — or those of them who didn’t long since assume I’ve lost it already.
    But they’re only thoughts, right? Which, come to think of it, is what Winona Ryder says to Angelina Jolie at the end of Girl, Interrupted, a movie I saw in Serbia when there was nothing else in my native English to see. Man, I hope this piece is slightly better.

    Comment by Matt
    2009-11-06 13:08:04
    Significantly better. I have nothing against Angelina Jolie, but for her to win an Oscar for that movie pretty much proves 1999 was largely a slow year for cinema.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 13:17:20
    And yet 1999 was regarded at the time as one of the best years for American movies in a long, long time.
    I swear it’s true.

    Comment by Matt
    2009-11-06 13:21:47
    You know, aside from Being John Malkovich and Three Kings, I don’t think anything I saw that year really made much of an impact on me. I liked American Beauty at the time, but man, it has not aged well.

    Comment by Greg Olear
    2009-11-06 13:49:54
    You forgot The Sixth Sense, The Insider and Talented Mr. Ripley. Those plus American Beauty and Being John Malkovich makes it a pretty strong year indeed. (I’m sure there’s support for Magnolia as well, but not from these quarters).
    Toni Collette should have won Best Supporting, though.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 14:01:23
    What was she in again?
    Alas, I must side with Matt about American Beauty. But Being John Malkovich was fantastic, though people have since become a bit jaded about Charlie Kaufman.

    Comment by Matt
    2009-11-06 14:26:30
    @Greg–I did like The Sixth Sense, but the movie has nothing left to offer after about 3 viewings. Collette is fantastic in it.
    And I totally forgot about Magnolia, which is in my personal Top 10.
    I didn’t see The Insider or Talented Mr. Ripley until a couple of years ago.

    Comment by Greg Olear
    2009-11-06 14:43:29
    Don’t get me started on Magnolia. I left the theatre, went to the closest bar, drank six pints, and ranted about how lousy it was for four hours afterward.
    If you’re going to make one of those lots-of-loosely-connected-stories-and-characters films, theme is the glue. If Magnolia has a theme — other than “Weird shit happens” — I missed it. Total waste of one of the great beginning sequences ever made.
    Now, Happiness, on the other hand…THAT’S how you use theme as glue.
    Agree re: Sixth Sense, but the first two viewings are so good, it doesn’t matter. I love American Beauty — I actually like it more now than I did when I first saw it — but I understand why other people don’t (Solondz makes fun of the plastic bag blowing around thing in Storytelling, to great effect).

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 15:17:11
    Happiness is great; we more than agree there. Never saw Storytelling or Magnolia, and one day I hope to tell you the story, Greg, of my seeing American Beauty in a theater in Belgrade.
    And Sixth Sense? Well, okay. I’ve certainly seen far, far worse. But, dude, that New Kid on the Block cannot act!

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 14:04:04
    This has, indeed given me things to think about, which is the best compensation I can think of. I’m really glad you liked it…and no, it doesn’t sound flippant.
    This bit of writing is so much better than Girl Interrupted. That movies gives me a headache. Your writing does not.
    I know what you mean about people thinking you’ve lost your mind. I constantly wonder if people look at me and think “Well, maybe she shouldn’t be allowed outside unsupervised.” I hope you don’t think my reply is flippant, considering the weight of this piece, but I’ve had a really rough week and my brain isn’t functioning properly.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 15:20:05
    I loved it. I still do, seeing that I haven’t yet eaten it all.
    My brain isn’t functioning properly either, during this rough week or any other in recent memory, so consider yourself in what I hope is decent company.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 18:08:52
    I’m sure you’d be great company, a properly functioning brain or not…I’m just not sure you’d be in good company.
    I’ve been thinking a lot about this post (all through dinner actually, even telling the person I was with about it) and I (along with Greg and others) would really like to know more about Anne. If you’re up for the telling that is.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 18:22:10
    I’m sure I’d be in good company, to sound exactly like you. But I mean it. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed consuming your consumables.
    We can talk about Anne, but I can’t begin to fill out her story in a comment. I’ve always wanted to write a piece exclusively about her, but I haven’t been able to do it. I’ve tried, but it doesn’t happen. She requires, if not a novel, then at least a novella.
    We can definitely talk about her, and hopefully we can in the very near future, when I can praise you audibly for your consumable consumables.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 18:27:57
    I accept praise about my consumable consumables (thats a mouthful, isn’t it?) any time, day or night. I have a feeling that when I open up my bakery, you and a few others are going to be fixtures at the tables.
    I’d love to hear about Anne as well….after all the praise that is.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 18:45:39
    We’ll do both, and long before I’m a fixture at your table(s), I’m sure.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 19:01:15
    hope so….

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 19:37:13
    Pumpkin bread = fixture

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 19:46:07
    There will be plenty of pumpkin bread…I assure you. Even if I have to use it to lure you into conversation. Its actually my best selling bread…second being my banana bread.
    just you wait until the stress of the holiday season hits me, Duke. You might just find yourself drowing in cookies and breads.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 19:51:33
    I must confess, I’m not that keen on banana bread. I like it, it’s good, but I’m just not keen on bananas, though I do like banana pudding.
    But no matter what, I’m definitely down with drowning in cookies and breads. Which is kind of a violent image, when you stop to think about it.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 19:56:27
    Then no banana bread for you. No great loss to me.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 20:02:58
    My God, you sound like the Banana Bread Nazi: “No bread for you!”
    But that’s cool. I’m suffice myself with pumpkin bread, thanks. Which reminds me. I’m going to have a piece any second now.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 20:11:14
    Banana Bread Nazi…thats me!
    I have to confess, I had a piece of pumpkin bread a little while ago. Toasted with a little honey. Yum.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 20:14:29
    You just reminded me again. Into the kitchen I go.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-06 20:48:36
    heh. don’t make yourself sick off it. there are cookies and stuff in there too, you know.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 16:44:20
    I already ate all the cookies. They didn’t last day. All I’m left with now is just a little pumpkin bread.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 17:10:46
    What kind of cookies? I’m living vicariously through other peoples cookie eating…

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 17:12:18
    They were chocolate chip and sugar cookies. Both were excellent, but I was a little more partial to the latter, since it’s been a while since I had a sugar cookie. I associate them with Christmas.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 17:25:03
    Is a sugar cookie, just a cookie made of sugar?? Or does it have big lumps of sugar on it?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 17:31:47
    Since I don’t know how to explain, and since Debbie isn’t around to provide an explanation, I have done a search and found a link that will show you a picture of a sugar cookie and also provide a recipe:
    I bet you have them, but they’re called something different. Sugar cookie is kind of redundant, don’t you think?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 17:34:50
    I do think that.
    I like that you have cookies for Christmas.
    We call them biscuits here…

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 17:37:32
    Wow, that seems strange.
    Do you also have scones?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-11-07 17:41:29
    Yes, we do. And surprisingly, we call them scones. I don’t like them though. In fact, I would be happy if there was never another scone made.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 17:49:39
    We don’t really have scones in the U.S. I mean, yes, they exist, but they’re not very popular.
    I have to confess to not much liking them either. They’re well-named, in that they’re kind of like little soft rocks.
    Well, something like that.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 18:06:28
    Hmm…well, then I won’t tell you that I made cinnamon scones when I came home from work tonight.
    If the sugar cookie question wasn’t resolved, here’s a really good answer: the basic ingredient is sugar, and most people roll them in colored sugar for decoration on top. I don’t do this, personally…and I also make mine slightly different than most, as they have a melt-in-your-mouth-ness that others lack. They are also known as shortbread cookies, as the Europeans call them when they order one in the cafe.
    anyway…just my two cents.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:08:19
    Yes! Shortbread cookies!
    I hadn’t realized they’re the one and the same.
    You know those Danish cookies that come in tins? Those are shortbread cookies, yes?

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 18:11:54
    they are a type of short bread cookie….butter cookies, I think. I duplicated them last year for Christmas. It was a lot of fun……but I think I’ll do something else this year, as they don’t travel well.
    hmm…which reminds me, I have to get on my cookie-gift list before thanksgiving comes and ruins me.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:20:56
    Um….Cookie gift list?

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 18:24:29
    yup. Instead of buying gifts for my friends and family at the holidays, I bake them gifts. Cookies, breads, what have you. I once shipped a triple chocoalte cheesecake to my gram.
    It started one year because I was too broke to buy nice gifts, but didn’t want to look bad. No one seems to mind it….

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:37:30
    Yes. Yes, I see.
    Exactly how broad a hint is required at this point?

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 18:39:50
    depends on how far you’d like to go…..

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:44:10

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 18:50:39
    woah what?
    dirty mind much?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:52:58
    Um. Maybe.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 18:54:15
    should I feel special, or violated? I can’t decide.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 18:56:39
    Your specialness has already been established, since you can see Zara’s new gravatar and I can’t.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 19:04:02
    good save….

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 19:11:25
    No skillet hands, these.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-11-07 19:27:30
    oh…and next time we talk….I’ll be curious to find out just how far you went….

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 21:02:05
    Not even a step, I assure you.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-11-06 13:48:12
    I used to work with this guy who I hated – I mean, hated. I’ve actually worked with two guys I’ve hated in difference jobs, but this was guy #1. I just couldn’t stand him. Nobody could, which made me feel better. He was the kind of guy who’d give you the finger behind your back (he actually got busted doing this a couple of times); just this petty, spiteful little gesture which kinda summed him up.
    To make things worse; I was actually pretty intimidated by him at the time, which didn’t help.
    We were out one night for a co-worker’s birthday, and I was at the bar, grabbing a drink, when he came in and sat down and started talking. At the time, I think we both knew we didn’t like each other, but we both pretended not to know. Sitting there at the bar, listening to this guy drone and prattle on, the thought occurred.
    Man, you could totally brain this guy with your beer right now. And think about just how satisfying that would be.
    I quickly realised, of course, that I wouldn’t do such a thing, and that even if I did, the consequences would be severe, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to. And then the paranoid thought started.
    What if I’ve already done it? What if I’m just remembering this conversation and in reality, this guy is on the floor, in need of medical assistance, and I’m just sitting here in some kind of weird temporal mental feedback loop?
    I spent two minutes trying to quiet down that panicked thought while my body, on autopilot, continued the conversation.
    RE: earlier comments.
    I’m no stranger to over-analysis myself, and I don’t think it’s always helpful. Oddly, I kinda thought we’d have this conversation a few days back; I hate it when people say ‘You think too much,’ because since when is thinking, taking the time out to give a problem or concept some mental elbow grease, a bad thing? My problem is, I just don’t think fast enough, and so conclusions elude me for a long while. And while some issues can and should be avoided, a lot of the time I think that the way out is through.
    Nice write, Duke!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 15:31:07
    Do you say ‘the way out is through’ by means of corroborating a related sentiment I made to Matt above?
    Undoubtedly not.
    Anyway (as you might say).
    I’ve often had the thought that what’s yet to happen has already happened, only we’re very late in realizing it. Which is the kind of thought that somewhat contributed to my freak-out at fifteen and various freak-outs since.
    Meantime, quite apart from any fears of The Killer Within, I’ve badly wanted to crack a bottle over the head of a hated nearby someone who’s invariably a dick of the first order, and almost always someone I don’t know very well.
    And Simon Smithson? Well, Simon Smithson I’ve missed since the day he left L.A. And I would love to speak to Simon Smithson on the phone in the very near future. It is possible, you know, and at practically no cost.
    Could you direct this sentiment to Simon Smithson? I haven’t spoken to him in over a month.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-11-07 00:37:31
    Oh, that Simon Smithson. Mark my words, he’ll get his.
    Done deal. Sentiment directed.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 16:43:16
    Now, there’s my Australian little brother.
    Don’t you wish you had one, John Cusack?

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-11-07 16:59:20
    Suck it, Cusack! You had your chance!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 17:10:29
    Ah, so this makes it official. The adoption papers are on their way. But please don’t feel this makes you my keeper.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-11-07 23:24:02
    Am I not my brother’s keeper?
    Oh, OK. Guess I’m not.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-08 00:25:10
    Well, you can be if you want to be. I just figured you’d rather not.

    Comment by Greg Olear
    2009-11-06 13:53:48
    I said it ‘afore and I’ll say it again: these are all such great pieces, you just need to combine them in some loose narrative, vaguely fictive way, and it’s a book — and a great one. A Tropic of Cancer for the new century.
    I mean, does anyone who read the piece and then scanned this far in the comments not want to know more about “Anne”? At the end of the day, that’s the key to what makes a book good: if you want to know what happens next. And you’re the master of that.

    Comment by Ben Loory
    2009-11-06 14:24:05
    hear, hear, duke. or is it here, here? in any case just make the book.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 14:53:58
    I’m not sure about “hear” and “here” myself, Ben. But if you can encourage me to make the book, the book certainly must be made.

    Comment by James D. Irwin
    2009-11-06 15:36:18
    it’s ‘hear, hear’ as in ‘hear that?’ as in ‘I enthusiastically agree with that statement and you should too…’
    awesome post.
    I’ve occasionally thought about comitting murder. Not in the ‘argh! I’m going to kill somebody if my waffles are burnt!’
    But as in ‘I wonder what it would feel like to kill somebody…’
    And of course, specific people in specific situations…
    I read somewhere that it’s healthy to fantasize about murder, and it’s one of the reasons violent video games are actually a GOOD thing. Because people who don’t indulge their natural vioelnt tendacies this way tend to act them out in real life situations.
    i.e. it’s better to think about killing your family than actually doing it…

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 16:09:33
    I increasingly have a terrible feeling that fantasies of killing one’s family are as commonplace as brown in a sewer.
    But I’m not so sure about the good of violent video games. I’m very inclined, after playing one for a few days running, to wish for a gun in standstill traffic.
    But I certainly love playing those games. Please don’t judge me, FBI. I know it might look bad in light of this post, but they’re two separate matters. I swear, sir(s).

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 15:06:50
    “Anne” is a subject worthy of a long book about her alone, but it’s a struggle to write about her even in short pieces, because she’s such a monumental figure in my life, and I’m a long distance from gaining full, or even decent, perspective in the matter.
    But if you, sir, ever want to hear a semblance of the story with as much of an arc as I can manage, you know I’ll bore you fucking silly.
    Which isn’t to say that I’m not inspired, and humbled, by your gentle snaps of the whip while calling “Miller!” I hear you, and I’ll do my best to obey, even though I’m muddling things by evoking Jack London.

    Comment by Meghan
    2009-11-06 15:07:14
    I love birds of prey. I guess I hadn’t really thought of it as a dark preoccupation (although regularly imagining myself being eaten by them probably is…sigh).
    I think it’s part of who we are – imagining things that are a bit more gruesome than those we’d actually like to occur. And I suspect it happens more at points of transition. (I remember reading something once about kids using scary fairy tales as a tool for individual construction and differentiation… or somesuch.)
    But it’s very soothing, Duke, to read something so candid. Thank you.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 15:53:14
    Actually, what you say about points of transition applies perfectly to horror films, which are chiefly enjoyed by preteens and adolescents — and that may be ninety percent of the population by now, psychologically speaking.
    And I love that you love birds of prey. Most animals that prey tend toward elegant beauty. They have sleek lines necessary for speed and sharp edges designed to shred. They also tend to be smarter than their prey, since spontaneous “thinking” is key to their sustenance.
    I was obviously neurotic at the point when I was afraid that my interest in birds of prey pointed to something horrific. I’ve long since set my fears at rest.
    But did you really find this piece soothing? Even if you were only being polite, I’d thank you for saying as much.

    Comment by Meghan
    2009-11-06 16:15:38
    I did really find it soothing. I’m really crap at lying – even if it’s to be polite. So I don’t do it. (Isn’t that awful – it’s not about morals; it’s about exhibiting prowess…or not exhibiting a lack of it.)
    I’m in the midst of organizing a horror literary event. It’s been really interesting to re-approach the genre. I found this poet who uses these short, short lines so that when you read them out it feels a bit like asphyxiating.
    Sometime I’ll have to tell you the story of last Christmas Eve at my folks’ house. They live in the middle of the woods. It involves insomnia, a coyote, and a screech owl.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 17:05:22
    Christmas Eve, the woods, insomnia, a coyote, and a screech owl. That’s a brilliant trailer — far more atmospheric than anything I ever posted on TNB. Can the literary event you’re organizing hold a candle?

    Comment by Meghan
    2009-11-07 05:12:38
    Well, I’m not sure that’s the case, but you’re very kind to say so. That land is sublime. I didn’t, of course, appreciate it when I was growing up…

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 16:40:05
    Nor did I appreciate Virginia. I’d meet people from Missouri, say, who’d talk about the wonders of my home state: “Oh, you’re so lucky to grow up here!” I’d think, Yeah, right. I’d much rather live in Missouri.
    I don’t think that at all now, of course. And I do indeed see the beauty of Virginia. Funny how distance really can make the heart grow fonder.

    Comment by Ducky
    2009-11-06 16:43:44
    You just sound like a writer, to me. But then, I guess most writers are a tad ocd.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 16:46:49
    Yep. Pitchers too.
    Next lifetime, MLB.

    Comment by Greg Olear
    2009-11-06 19:13:40
    “They can’t yank a novelist like they can a pitcher. A novelist has to go the full nine, even if it kills him.” — Ernest Hemingway

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 19:57:41
    I never heard that quote before. Did he really say that? It’s infinitely superior to the baseball remarks in The Old Man and the Sea, to wit: “I fear the Indians of Cleveland.”
    Were they generally literate, anorexics could purge themselves by reading such a line.

    Comment by David S. Wills
    2009-11-06 17:17:01
    I wonder if we all went through such grappling with our minds at that age. I certainly did. I remember wondering about morality. Even now I still find myself asking why I do something. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean I go about killing and raping and try to justify it… But I always wonder – because I’m an atheist, too -what exactly it is that makes me (or us) follow certain rules.
    This philosophical musing was more pronounced at that age. Nowadays I tend to just say “Well, this is wrong” and “That’s right” and don’t question it. But the young mind wanders.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 18:09:27
    Yeah, it’s definitely a young-mind thing, and I remember saying as much as a worldly seventeen-year-old, when I sagaciously decided that what I’d been through was typical of a crisis undergone by many of my age.
    But how I came to that is a mystery, since I didn’t know one person at the time who’d discussed it. Nor, it seems to me, is it commonly discussed now. But maybe it’s so common as to render discussion as banal as my piece.
    I’d say I’m more an agnostic than an atheist at this point. It’s hubris, methinks, to speak of such large matters as if one really knows. Logic tells me God’s a myth, but I’ve had mystical experiences on drugs that suggested otherwise. I tend to go more with logic, but I want to keep an open mind.
    But I’ll easily close it if you offer me drugs.
    I jest, I jest. The mystical experience part is true, though.

    Comment by David S. Wills
    2009-11-08 17:20:41
    I don’t think people necessarily need others to spur their minds. Natural curiosity about the world probably kicks off most spiritual and philosophical musings, and then others fill in the details.
    Maybe. I don’t know.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-09 07:24:52
    That’s certainly a prescription if you’re smart.
    On the other hand, aren’t others a part of the world? The questions that have most obsessed me have had to do with human nature, and I’d know nothing about it without confession and debate, though detached observation easily counts just as much.
    Comment by Jessica Blau
    2009-11-06 17:26:45
    THis is a great post Duke. So completely open and raw and brutally truthful and . . . revealing.
    Also, I can’t help but think that those Santa Ana winds make everyone a little crazy.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 17:53:16
    Joan Didion always said they did. But good God, what have I revealed?

    Comment by Jessica Blau
    2009-11-06 17:38:45
    Oh, and here’s a great New Yorker story by Matthew Klam that has a character who thinks about killing his wife (not necessarily what the story’s about).

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-06 17:53:48
    I’ll be sure to read it in the next few days. Thanks for the link.

    Comment by Nicole
    2009-11-06 22:32:26
    This was an interesting read for me at this time. I have to admit that murder has been on my mind as well. Families can drive one mad. I get to see all of my family tomorrow afternoon…dreading it!
    In what should be a happy event, I get to plaster on a smile and pretend everything is ok…like the rest of them. It’s awful.
    I of course will not murder anyone, but the thought of not going through tomorrow’s misery is very appealing. Why suffer? The majority of us just all suck it up and suffer in the end I think. Maybe we’re cowards…maybe I’m talking for myself. Probably…it’s late…too much to drink. I do appreciate this post. Very good. Very good timing. Very therapeutic. Thank you!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 16:30:07
    No, thank you, Nicole. Were you able to get through the proceedings without killing anyone? I hope it didn’t kill your face, anyway, what with the plastered smile. I know that feeling all too well.
    Egad, the event may still be ongoing. Ah well. Know that someone was thinking of you at the time.
    I’m glad that we’re joking around as we are. I find most Americans don’t have much of an appetite for black comedy. I don’t know why. I think I’ve got more of an English sense of humor, which must be inherited, seeing that my bloodline is pretty much British (that also includes Scottish and Irish) all the way.
    I hope you write again with a drink in your hand. I’ll join you.

    Comment by Nicole
    2009-11-08 19:14:15
    Wine in hand this time. It’s a much less aggressive drink. Unfortunately, after an emotionally exhausting weekend it also makes one awfully sleepy.
    You’ll be happy to know that everyone survived the party. Plastered smiles were less than I had figured. (Mine included. So no fear, my cheek muscles weren’t overworked.) Some more genuine (yet civil) emotions were displayed, which felt so much more truthful and thus more bearable than the fake kind. I am glad it is over. Ahhhhh… Thanks for thinking of me. Maybe your positive thoughts did the trick. Wait! They were positive weren’t they?
    Give me black comedy any day. I can take it! Ones humor undoubtedly stems closely to ones life. Humor comes from what you can relate to. Maybe we are just dark souls.
    Hope you are having a wonderful evening. Cheers!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-09 06:54:19
    Thanks for the cheers.
    I’ve been on the wagon for the last few months, and I fell off a few nights ago, but only briefly. However, after reading your comment, I feel tempting to fall a second time.
    I won’t, though.
    Glad your family day went better than expected. And thanks very much for the Tori Amos cut you directed my way on Twitter. I think I pissed off my next-door neighbor by playing it. But, then, she’d get pissed off no matter what.

    Comment by Nicole
    2009-11-09 10:24:50
    Oh no. I didn’t mean to tempt you into falling off the wagon. Be strong! With a name like Duke, don’t you have to be? I’m telling you…It’s the curse of your strong name, you must defy temptation.
    I’m glad you gave Tori a listen. Sounds like you gave her a loud listen.
    Is this the same neighbor that was blasting Tracy Chapman? If so, she deserves a little music thrown back at her. Tori can kick Tracy’s butt any day!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-09 10:30:37
    Yes, it’s the same fucking one! I’m glad you remembered that! I’d forgotten, if you can believe it.
    Bloody hell, she stomps around as if to say, “Stop it!” when I play Tori Amos, but she blasts Tracy Chapman again and again and again!

    Comment by Nicole
    2009-11-09 12:44:50
    “Bloody hell.” I love that expression! Your English roots are coming out of you.
    An old neighbor/ex of mine spent a 3 day period blasting “Chumbawamba — Tubthumping” on repeat. It’s a God awful song. Specifically designed to torture me. I feel your pain.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-10 00:20:38
    I agree. That song is egregious. And to think that Chumbawamba prided itself on being punk to the core.
    I would voice a few sadistic ideas concerning your neighbors, but those comments would no doubt appear flippant in the context of this post.
    Oh, and “bloody hell.” I’m not sure when exactly I got into the habit of saying it, but Zara and Simon — Zara especially — found it amusing when they were visiting L.A. two months ago. It’s an English affection more than English blood, I’m sure. I’ve picked up a few Blighty-isms from my dealings with Brits, and also from my reading, such as “daresay.” I don’t feel about the English as does Jason in Banned, which I always attributed to the problems he had with Irina’s husband and sister-in-law. When I was reviewed in MaximumRocknRoll, which was always pretty PC, I had knuckles rapped for that. I suppose that critic’s never been to Europe, where generalizations about nationalities are rampant. “Well, she’s French, you know.” “So typical of a German.” Etc. Also, it never seemed to occur to the reviewer that it might be characterological. But you might possibly remember that the second time Jason goes to Jim’s house in Rancho Cucamonga, he identifies himself as “English and Irish.” I mean, if someone of English ancestry can’t knock the English, who can?
    Pardon the rant. Bloody hell!

    Comment by Nicole
    2009-11-12 15:13:49
    Sorry for the late response…things became super busy…
    Rant away, especially if it’s sprinkled with English verbaige. It makes me Buffy nostalgic. I’m a bit of an obsessed fan. One of my favorite characters is often heard throwing around the “bloody hells”. I’m with Zara and Simon it is amusing to hear and always seems to make me smile.
    It’s odd that you would be criticized in an interview because of the opinions of a fictional character. For better or worse generalizations of nationalities exist. There are indeed differences between people of different countries. Everyone can’t be American, though we try ever so hard to make it so. What an awful world if we succeeded.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-12 20:46:51
    I’m late in responding to comments, too. The move to TNB 3.0 has required a lot of work.
    I completely agree with you about how awful the world would be, etc. As much as Europeans like to think otherwise, they’re more Americanized all the time. But I know we’ll never succeed globally — not to the extent desired. The U.S. may well have gone past the tipping point during the last decade anyway.
    Here’s a “bloody hell!” for the road — no, take two. I hope it brings a smile.

    Comment by Megan
    2009-11-07 02:39:33
    All of this…just smashing. Uber brave to confess those dark thoughts and the mind-fucking that ensued, and then seamlessly the reader’s treated to to hot sex and the most excellent resolution of “because I’d never been naked before”.
    If the thread’s still doing sports analogies, Grand Slam.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 16:24:53
    Were there sports analogies here? My memory is failing me. But either way, you know I always love to hear from you, My Little Pony. I’m still thinking of your thousand-word piece.
    When do you depart for Wales?

    Comment by jmblaine
    2009-11-07 09:11:53
    When you show up late to the comment party
    you find others have already said the things
    you thought of saying and 100 or so down the line
    all the stuff about Luvox & King Solomon
    I was going to wax upon seems trite.
    Brave words with weight here sir.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-07 16:20:30
    Thanks, JMB.
    I have to confess to not recognizing the name Luvox. I did a Google search and couldn’t find anything that seemed to relate to your allusion. Could you enlighten me? I’m curious.

    Comment by Erika
    2009-11-08 09:44:37
    I’m totally late in commenting on your post (work has been INSANE for me lately) so I probably will only repeat what everyone has probably already said but this was so well done.
    Again you were able to transform such a horrible incident in your life in to a beautiful piece of writing.
    I had a panic attack a couple years back and was completely shaken up about it afterward in believing it would become routine for me but I have never had one since. I can’t even begin to imagine how it would feel to consistently have them.
    I’ve never really thought about murder but do daydream every once in a while about causing some major bodily harm to people and it always makes me feel better. A girl can dream right?
    As for Anne I’m glad that you were able to resolve that part of your crazy relationship. I would commiserate with you but I have never been in that type of relationship and I am thankful for that.
    Anyhow it’s now time to run some errands before heading to work but as I mentioned before….
    well done Duke, well done.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-09 07:00:43
    I certainly understand about work being insane, which is why I’m so late in responding to your comment.
    You’re lucky never have to been involved in an affair with a married person, if that’s what you mean about Anne. But the craziness persisted even after she left her husband. It’s a long story — much too long for TNB — and it ends very sadly, I’m afraid.
    There was a discussion about grievous bodily harm above. That seems to be a popular substitute for ideation about murder. But the impulse is finally similar, I think.
    Thanks for the comment. Now I have to rush off to attend to work and errands of my own. The pace never stops. But I hope yours slows soon.

    Comment by tip robin
    2009-11-08 19:12:23
    What a great unexpected turn in the very last sentence. Hard to pull off, but you did it fluidly.
    I read the first paragraph of this two days ago and I remembered thinking, I’m going to tell him that having recurring thoughts about killling one’s family is the O in the OCD, but, after reading it fully tonight, I can see that you nailed that well.
    Until this very week, I think I have the O in the OCD, and not simply because I too have had fleeting tire iron fantasies about people I very much care about that I think shouldn’t be there, but because I’ve noticed a real difficulty I’ve had concentrating in reading/studying for the GRE. I do not want to take meds for this and am ergo going to hit up the meditation and yoga this week pretty hardcore.
    So I guess what I’m saying is: thanks. It feels much better knowing I’m not the only who’s had an uncontrollable thought to off someone. The thought might be uncontrollable, but the action is.
    Any time you bridge the gap of what-people-think-but-don’t-discuss with your writing, and then ad a psychological disrobing at the end that doesn’t fall into the abyss of cliche, well, that has value.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-09 07:08:25
    Well, it was a steep edge, but I’m glad you don’t think I fell off. Writing about such things feels almost as perilous as the experience of them.
    It is good to know you’re not alone, isn’t it? I later learned that someone in my family suffered from a similar condition, so maybe it’s something inherited. And I’m with you on not wanting to be medicated. I never wanted to be live under psychic gauze — not continually. But people were always telling me I needed to be on meds. I’m sure it would hamper my writing.
    I see that you’ve posted something, and I’ll read it as soon as I can. I spent the whole night on trying to move posts to 3.0, which has proven especially difficult in my case, and now I have to try to get a little work done on pressing matters that I stupidly ignored.
    Thanks for the good word, Kip. Now, meditate, please, and concentrate.

    Comment by Irene Zion
    2009-11-09 11:31:40
    When I was an undergrad at NYU, I kept thinking that I just might jump out the window. I was then and am now, terrified of heights. But I was also afraid that I was going to jump out a window. I had a professor who explained it to me this way. He said it was the fear of the possible. You will never do these things, but your mind goes to things that are possible for you to do. Basically, he convinced me I wasn’t crazy, which was nice. Since then, I’ve thought of many things I could possibly do, but I’ve never done any of them.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-10 00:08:14
    I’m also afraid of heights, and like you, I’ve had a fear of jumping. I think it’s very common, and obviously related to the fears that troubled me.
    I’ve encountered people like your professor, unfortunately. But I never realized you went to NYU. I lived in that area for a good while — good in all ways.

    Comment by Gina Frangello
    2009-11-10 05:20:34
    Yep, I’m always afraid I will throw myself in front of oncoming trains or veer into oncoming traffic on purpose, for no reason whatsoever, in a sudden fashion beyond my control. When trains approach, I have to stand as far away as possible. Been that way for years. It is very common, from what I understand, but still makes me feel like a lunatic.
    This was a raw and interesting piece, Duke–I liked the way it veered into your discussion with Anne and the fact that she came through, which seemed surprising in some compelling way: she seemed set up to be a “character” who wouldn’t come through, but she did. That sense of unconditional acceptance that sometimes happens between two people, and total honesty, is rare and precious and can be, really, its own law (moral or otherwise.)
    I held off reading this because there were so many comments I knew I was gonna have to read them all and it would take a long time, but the comments were well worth it, especially the dialogue about whether women or men are more violent and the various manifestations therein. This post was a springboard for a lot of great stuff. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    By the way, my dad had this too, at two distinct episodes in his life: recurrent thoughts of both murder (killing my mom) and suicide. He was never a violent person at all, but he obsessed over these things and ended up institutionalized at one point (this was in the 60s.) I don’t think the man has ever even hit anybody, but he had obsessive thoughts of getting a knife and stabbing my mother and himself. The two episodes were twenty years apart, but they were both terrifying and debilitating. Now it’s been another 20 years since he’s had one: he’s almost 88.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-12 20:56:33
    Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. TNB 3.0, etc.
    I hadn’t realized how off-putting a long comment board can be. I tend to skim and pause at what strikes me as the interesting bits, even on short boards. But, yes, it did take some interesting turns this time, and I didn’t even fully participate, as I usually do. I enjoyed simply observing, so to speak, at some points when Zara, Matt and Debbie were tossing ideas back and forth.
    It’s encouraging to hear that your dad has gone so long since having another episode. In my case, I learned that this kind of obsessive thought runs in in my family, though I wouldn’t feel comfortable going into detail. But there were some eerily similar trends in my OCD and that of someone very close to me, and it seemed to resolve itself for both of us. I say “seemed” because we haven’t discussed it in a while.
    I don’t know that you’ll see this comment, Gina, but I thank you for leaving it.
    And now, or any minute now, 3.0.

    Comment by Gina Frangello
    2009-11-13 08:07:57
    hey duke.
    i am such a nosy girl, i can’t let a long comment board be without delving into everything, ha. i have to schedule time for it, and with TNB (and you), such scheduling is always worth it. the comments are often mini-posts, and whole other explorations, unto themselves. your posts are always particularly great for that. you give us a lot of meat to chew (um, which sounds dirtier than is applicable to this particular post, but what the hell, it’s TNB, we’ve got to throw a few double entendres around, don’t we?)
    3.0! Woo-hoo! I’m so excited it’s a little weird.

    Comment by chris
    2009-11-11 21:41:55
    You are truly amazing. I love the post. Such a profound write and one that I can really connect with. Not often does such a touching story come across one’s desktop. I appreciate knowing that others drop down into their vulnerabilities and shed the layers of darkness and conflict. It takes character and guts, and you have them both. Its hard work but through the process, you receive the best gift of all: freedom and the beauty of knowing the heart and the feeling of love. Good for you, Haney, for taking what I call the leap of faith. You have a clarity that not many people possess and that, my friend, is why I will always read your stories.
    “In fact, before then, I’d never made love, since I’d never been truly naked. That was the difference: shedding all that hid my heart and exposing it to touch and light.”…..I love what these 2 lines say. You’re right on the mark.
    You are wonderful!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-11-12 20:59:17
    Gosh. I’m — well, I’m not blushing, but by all rights I should be.

  3. Zara Potts says:

    Oh it’s deja vu all over again!
    The site has only been live for a few minutes and already you are in the ‘most read’ list.
    That’s as it should be. This is some great work, Duke.

  4. […] help from kids claiming to have been permanently traumatized by Jason Vorhees. I could sympathize, having endured panic attacks in my teens that were induced, in part, by violent movies. Now I was writing one. Go […]

  5. B Mialone says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I love it.

    As for, “if you belong to a faith, you’ve automatically bought into its ideology…”, that is true only if a person belongs to a faith by choice. Having been brought up in a dogmatic, cultish Christian religion, I know the experience of belonging to a faith only because one’s parents do, and because there has been no exposure to anything else. Even parroting what we’ve been taught isn’t the same as faith, which was my situation. As a youngster I didn’t know it wasn’t faith, but once I left and looked back, I realized I’d never had actual Faith, but really only parroted what I was taught to say (or else).

    I grow so tired of religious people telling me one needs God to know right from wrong, to have a moral code, to know how to behave ethically. I’m not at all religious but I am more ethical and compassionate than all those good Christians who’ve ripped me off over the years, and certainly more moral and ethical than my own family members still self-satisfied with their own sense of self-righteousness, as they behave atrociously while making excuses for themselves. In fact, a friend who is a conservative Catholic once told me that I am the most Christian person she knows, yet I’m not even a Christian! There you go. The assumption is that it is the religious individual who will know how to be ethical/moral/dependable and it is the religious that are the standard we must use to define such traits.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Thank you for thanking me for sharing this. I wasn’t at all sure that it was a good idea at the time I posted, as I’m sure I said in the commentary somewhere above.

      Speaking of which, it took me a minute to realize that the quote you cited — “automatically bought into its ideology” — came from the commentary, though I recognized my phrasing at once. Your caveat — that it’s only true if a person belongs to a faith by choice — is in fact what I’d meant to say, but I was rushed and sloppy, and I appreciate that you’d take the time to read through the commentary, just as I appreciate the sensitivity of your response.

      Have you ever read Brighton Rock by Graham Greene? In it, he makes much mock of a woman of ethics (as opposed to faith) who’s intent on seeing a criminal punished because she knows the difference between Right and Wrong (Greene, in the book, capitalizes those words). The criminal, in Greene’s eyes, has more the right idea, since he’s a Catholic and understands the difference between good and evil, just as he understands that he’s damned his soul to Hell. In other books, Greene has Catholic characters damn their souls to Hell.

      But I’m an agnostic, and guided (to the best of my ability) by an ethical code, which was probably informed by the faith in which I was raised, though, like you, I realized at some point that I’d never had actual Faith. Still, in a strange way, I’d like to consider myself a good Christian — that is, that I retained what was best about Christianity and discarded the puerile scare tactics, which ultimately didn’t work in my case. I had a gift for scaring myself without assistance, as the piece may indicate.

  6. Kymberlee says:

    “I’d never made love, since I’d never been truly naked. That was the difference: shedding all that hid my heart and exposing it to touch and light.”

    Oh, D! I have nothing clever to say. Only that this line grabs my heart. I know this place but never could have chosen these words with such elegance and perfection.

    Thank you for baring yourself.



  7. […] He resisted the urge to commit murder. […]

  8. […] author of the superb new nonfiction collection SUBVERSIA, now available from TNB Books. (Read an excerpt.) Directed and edited by Timothy Murray. Running time: 9 minutes. […]

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