So, I was just thinking2 about how sometimes someone will say that they’re going to beat the shit out of somebody else and how that’s such a bizarre thing to say, but it’s possible that this cliché comes from somewhere real and that our language is so full of violence3— can you imagine beating another person so badly that they actually defecate, lose all control of their faculties and poop all over themselves?—that’s absurd, absurdly sickening but, yeah, the phrase makes me laugh, like, if someone says, “I’m gonna beat the shit out of you” I think, yeah, that’s a funny sounding thing to say, which goes back to the one and only universal truth that I honestly believe in, and that’s that poop is funny4; it just is, even when it’s attached to extreme violence, or maybe, I’m laughing to keep from crying because this whole fucking world is so goddamn scary and evil5 or maybe I’m laughing because all the bad guys in this movie look just like me6, or maybe I’m laughing because I can’t tell if humanity is closer to the end than it is to the beginning, if we’re all about to write a check that we have no way of cashing, if the people I love7 are going to be forced to pay the debts of a species they have already evolved beyond, or maybe I’m laughing because it’s the only thing to do when you’re looking at the world and it absolutely scares the living shit out of you8.
1 or: If You’re Asking Yourself, “Am I Having a Panic Attack?” It’s Already Too Late
2 The television is on, the news is blaring, the sky is grey, my dog is shaking
3 Is this even something I believe or just something I hear people say? —can language really be violent?1 Can words get up off the page, march across the room. and punch someone in the face and if they can’t do I wish they could?
4 This is a preposterous digression, an attempt to amuse myself, an indulgence only afforded to some, more often those least deserving of it—a breadline for secret billionaires, handing out golden loaves: trophies for subterfuge
5 I don’t believe in evil, do I? What is evil? Aren’t people just animals: terrified, broken beasts?
6 And this brings me back to mirrors and reflecting pools and if I catch a glimpse of my reflection I think, “you are not now and will never be on the right2 team, and all you can do to help even the score is take out the mother fucker in the mirror”3—more violence, always more violence
7 the only heroes in this story, though I fear this story may indeed be a tragedy
8 The room comes back into focus. I pick up my dog and I hold him. I try to catch my breath, hoping that soon, silence.
1 a question that reeks of privilege
2 by this I mean, something like good, just, virtuous, honorable; the word “right” slips and slides in this context
3 but isn’t this gaze into the pond of self-hatred1 just another brand of narcissism, which is, itself, another luxury of the ruling class?
1I haven’t earned the right to hate myself
J. G. Steen lives and writes in North Carolina and has previously published work in The Sublunary Review, The Racket, and Analecta.
image: MM Kaufman