Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A place between Love and Anger

I don’t remember much of my life before the age of nineteen. I mean I remember everything I had been doing, but not what any of it meant, about where I stood in life. I was in a haze, a cow in a herd of cattle being led through a field. It wasn’t until my ninetieth birthday did things start to change. My birthday that year was the first and last major party I ever had. My friend Heide had hers the day before and thought it’d be a good idea to celebrate both together in her small two bedroom government housing complex. How very much that wasn’t a good idea.

Mix drugs, alcohol and youth with an excuse to party and something is bound to happen. I remember everything that night, just pretended like I didn’t so people would stop pouring alcohol down my gullet and forcing me to smoke whatever-the-fuck was in those pipes. You bring different groups of people together and fights break out. Guns were pulled out between different groups of friends, police squads arrived in drones, and at some point of the night I ended up kissing someone right in front of my then girlfriend at the time. She kindly smacked me in the face a couple of times for that one. 

I woke up the next day to an absolute shithole. I grogged around with a partially ingested concoction of alcohol and methamphetamines brewing in my belly, mopping up caked mud and dry blood off Heide’s linoleum floor. Because of me, my friends held grudges against one another. Because of me, the police patrolled the neighborhood for the coming weeks. I managed to ruin a four-year relationship in a moment of weakness, but that was always a pressure cooker ready to pop; I just happen to strike first.

It was my first time I became aware that I wasn't really doing shit with my life, but also the first time I felt alive. The second I let go of the mundane, the rest of the world began to fall into place. Things started to reveal themselves. The workings of the world began to tie into my life and the lives of everyone I ever cared about. Don’t ask me how any of this makes sense, it just does when I replay the movie reel in my mind.

I threw myself into socially conscious projects. I’d find out about how systems were built to fuck people in the ass for personal gain. I started to poke at this vague question of purpose, and what poked back was this equally vague question of happiness, of how much joy I had in my life. It was strange for me that I asked a question about the world and got an answer about myself in return. Thinking about personal happiness seemed completely selfish at the time, and it wasn’t until I started traveling did I understand the connection.

I started traveling when I was 22 and haven’t stopped ever since. Everywhere I went, I somehow always noticed the suffering, always found a way to make the fucked up parts of a place the focus of my time. I found a home for my anger to live comfortably, an excuse to be upset, a way to exist inside my miserable world and think that it was the right place to be.

I’ve always criticized the tourists, the ones who sought refuge in the resorts of recreation and freely chose to be oblivious to the pain in the world. Part of it was true. I was legitimately upset and I think blind tourism causes some of the worst injustices in the world. But a lot of it also stemmed from jealousy, jealous that despite how much I knew about the world, they could somehow find a way to be happy and I couldn’t. 

Carolina once told me in Ibiza that whatever we see in a place is a reflection of what we have inside of ourselves. Those are our demons and my demon is my anger. I’ve been trying to fight it for as long as I can remember, and I find myself growing tired in a losing battle. But Carolina also told me, “Demons are not bad, they are just there.” They have to coexist with everything, like a roommate from hell sentenced to share the same home, and when let astray, their poison seeps into anything else living there too.

It’s funny the way that the Fulbright timeline works. Application to departure is about two years, for me it was three. You’re a completely different person by the time you finally leave. I didn’t necessarily want to come here. I was happy where I was. Comfortable, at least. I would say the last seven months in Seattle was the longest consecutive stretch of happiness in my life.

Like any good story, there is a girl involved, my lifeline before I left home. We decided that things wouldn’t work in Brazil, my stint here would be longer than we even knew each other. Our relationship was always on borrowed time, but I guess until now, I never accepted the obvious, never allowed the inevitable. I’ve been living here under some illusion that things would work out, that all would be well if I just fought hard enough. Your heart will do that from time to time. Sometimes an illusion is all that keeps it alive. 

We broke up once back in December and I remember waking up every morning feeling like the lowliest piece of shit that crawled out of a back-alley toilet. Absolutely fucking worthless. But it told me something. It told me that even after all these years of searching, I still hadn’t found that self-sustaining strength to carry myself through life. I was still lacking something within. I vowed that if I could make it to Brazil, I’d never fall in love again. If I could make it to Brazil. If I could just make it to Brazil…

I managed to get her back, thinking I could break clean here. But you can never break clean from love, no matter how far you go. She was my angel, a mirror that made me believe in a part of myself that I doubted, the one space where I never felt anger. But now that she’s gone, that is all I have left. All I feel is anger.

Love and anger. The strange amalgamation that rules my life. When one leaves, the other takes over. I’m not really familiar with anything else beyond that.

I think about all the people that I’ve met up until this point in my life, from the romantic to the platonic, the manic nutjobs to the beautiful souls, and all those in between. I’ve had a good life so far, a story filled with colorful characters, whether their presence pulsed compassion through my veins or pulled every strand of hair out of my head. I loved them all. I wouldn’t trade knowing them for anything in the world. They would have never come into my life had I stopped for love, but goddamn does it hurt to keep going.

Here on most nights, I find myself alone, mostly by choice, a little by chance, trying to find a place between love and anger. I try my best to not let my personal life affect how I treat others, but right now I’m kind of a dick to most people and feel oddly at ease about it. Hell, I almost feel proud about it. But it’s only because I'm hurt. Anger comes from pain. Love comes from pain. All addictions comes from a place of suffering. There is always something deep inside that really hurts. 

One day, I would like to find the courage to be kind, but I'm not yet strong enough. Every so often I encounter these moments where I’m willing to be generous, in fact, I want  to be generous, and those moments are truly gifts. But they aren’t coming often enough. I feel like I am starting to lose some humanity living here.

I shadowbox every other night in the park outside my apartment. Every so often people come up and ask me questions, but I've been leery of strangers ever since some ass-monkey body slammed me onto the pavement after I agreed to play Capoeira with him. Now I create stories in my mind about everyone I see before a word is even spoken.

Tonight there was a group of young boys in the park, maybe between the ages of 18 to 21, loosely using the exercise equipment, but generally fucking around. They began staring at me as I shadowboxed, and soon all of them surrounded me in a circle, waiting. I thought about how I would take them. There were eight. I saw a large stick on the ground. Maybe I could bash one of their skulls in, smash another's head into the metal pole next to me, then throw a flurry of punches to the face of one more to clear an opening and make a dash for the restaurant next door to my building. The owner there liked me and seemed like the type of guy that had a solid Louisville under the counter. "I can take em," I thought. "Bring it on."

One of them finally got my attention by waving his hands. I lowered my headphones with one hand, balled the other one in a tight fist ready to dig into his jaw. Turns out, they were employees at the hotel next door. His friend wanted a picture with me because he thought I was a professional fighter. Jesus. What the fuck is happening to me here? 

I thought Brazil would be a place that would embrace me with open arms, at least that was the image I saw in my mind when I was tripping off DMT the last day I was in Seattle. But so far it’s been kicking the shit out of me and serving it back to me as breakfast. It wasn't supposed to be like this. This was supposed to be great. But I'm starting to realize Brazil is not here to be nice to me; it is here to make me a better person.

I feel like the last 10 years of my life have been spent preparing for this trip. Every practice I’ve ever followed, every night I stayed up reading Bukowski, every word, every round. All of it has accumulated to this moment. I’ve seen the two extremes of this city, from the barren wastelands of poverty to the pristine beaches of privilege. I have no idea what to make of it all, but I think I'm starting to find enough courage to reject the illusions that keep us alive. The illusions that keep us from questioning. What is behind that curtain? Is there any truth behind that curtain? 


Jonathan shaw said...

''I'm starting to realize Brazil is not here to be nice to me; it is here to make me a better person.'' Brilliant. Keep going and more shall be revealed.

BW said...

It's amazing how quickly your preconceived judgments of people change with one physical incident.

kimberlin corrales said...

A veces creemos conocer del todo a una persona, pero solo una vez que leemos literalmente sus pensamientos podemos decir "ahora entiendo tantos interrogantes a las que solo me resignaba a no darle respuesta".
me encanto como cada uno de los que he leído, es bueno desnudar un poco el alma y aun mejor de esta manera.

un 10 para Jackie Chan quien pensaba deribar 8 hombres LOL. xoxox