Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Smash": a piece from the Graham Patrick Smith history book.

Right now, I'm on my honeymoon. For regular followers of my other blog, you know that the last two years have seen me going through a divorce, a dark period of self-destruction, dating again, and finally marrying a wonderful woman and her sweet, little girls. 

During the aforementioned period of dark self-destruction, I did a lot of writing. Many of these writings, I shut away in a folder on my hard drive, wondering if I'd ever have the courage to read them again. I never thought I would have that strength, much less the strength to publish such naked works for the whole world to read. 

Turns out, I'm not as good at predicting my own future as I thought I was. 

The following piece is entitled "Smash," and it's a very vivid description of what I wanted to do to my home shortly after my now ex-wife moved out. 

WARNING. This is one of the darkest pieces I have ever written. It was birthed during a period of depression, anger, and frustration unlike any other point in my life. Though the violence never really happened, the drinking did. Also, warning for strong language. 

I'm not posting this piece looking for pity. I post it because I am past it, because it represents a point in my life that is long gone, crushed by what God has blessed me with in the present. I thought about censoring it, or simply deleting it, but then I realized that would only downplay the severity of what God brought me through. So here it is. 



I wrap my hands around the bottom of the bat, making sure to choke up properly.  Though the bat isn’t my first choice for what I would like to choke tonight, it’ll have to do. 

“You gave up,” I say to no one.  “Why did you give up?” 

Because I didn’t think there was any hope, I imagine her saying.  I thought we were irreparably broken.

Of course, she’d never use a word like ‘irreparably’.  It takes away from the authenticity of my illusion, but it’s still enough to get my blood boiling.  I walk to the bookshelves, where the four-image picture frame from our wedding still sits.  “Do you have any idea how long forever is?”  I ask her.  “You’re saying that there’s never any hope, ever, of things getting better.  Ever.  As if less than two years could possibly do damage that fifty or sixty couldn’t repair.” 

She says nothing.  In response, I tighten my grip on the bat and swing at the picture frame with all my might.  It shatters into a spray of broken glass and shattered plastic.  Cheap-ass picture frame. 

“Do you have any idea how badly you hurt me?!” I cry, letting the bat fall solely in my right hand, at my side.  “I have no idea how I’m ever going to get over this!”

What about how you hurt me? I imagine her asking.  You also damaged me. 

She makes a valid point, but it’s moot.  “I was ignorant!” I cry in defense.  “I had no idea how to be a good husband!  I didn’t know that I was neglecting you that badly!  I couldn’t have known!  And I’ve apologized for that, and learned my lesson!” 

How can I believe you?  I imagine her reply. How can I trust you?   

“Because I DIDN’T MOVE OUT!”  I scream, wrapping my hands around the bat again.  I swing at the flat-screen television she and I bought for ourselves for Christmas, because it was something we both wanted.  The glass shatters and the bat bounces awkwardly out of the hard plastic frame, jarring my arms.  Bits of electronics and glass litter the carpet. 

I wait for her to reply.  She doesn’t, which infuriates me even more.  “I never gave up!” I scream to no one, stalking into the kitchen.  “I kept trying!  I would have tried for my whole life to figure out how to be the husband you need!  I would have become anything for you!  I NEVER WOULD HAVE GIVEN UP!”  I jerk open the kitchen cabinets and find several sets of ugly-ass yellow earthenware dishes that someone on her side of the family got us for a wedding present.  Every piece I find I fling to the linoleum with all the strength I can muster.  The first few plates don’t shatter into enough pieces for my liking, so I begin taking them in two hands and throwing them like discuses against the stainless steel refrigerator.  The fridge is post-her; I bought it after she moved out because the one we used to have had given up the ghost.  Like so many other things.

A muscle in my back suddenly screams from the force I’m putting into throwing the dishes, but I don’t care.  In my head I can hear lines that she fed me when she first told me that she wanted a divorce; how she was never sure that she loved me, or she simply told me she was, because she thought it was what she was supposed to do.  Yes, I swear to God, those words came out of her mouth. 

“YOU GAVE UP!”  I scream again, ripping paintings down from the wall; paintings I had given her over the seven years we had been together.  “Marriage isn't something you give up on, you stupid bitch!  Marriage is something you keep forever, and fix, and work on, over and over again!  Who the fuck goes into a marriage with the idea of dumping it when it gets difficult?!  It's not a fucking Rubix Cube!” 

Somehow a long butcher knife has made its way from the kitchen drawers into my hand.  I plunge it into the canvases and boards, splitting paint that had taken me countless, painstaking hours to apply for the girl I loved.  When the canvases are split I take the wooden frames in my hands and shatter them over my knee, one piece at a time.  My palms sting, probably from splinters, and my knee is sore, but it doesn’t matter. 

I pick up the bat again.  On the shelf beneath the broken television is an end table, on which sits a large framed picture, taken just as we were walking down the aisle at our wedding.  I feel a sudden hot pressure in my sinuses as the tears start to come again, but I fight the urge and twist my face into a scowl instead.  With both hands wrapped around the bat, I swing at the picture harder than I knew I could.  The frame explodes in a swath of ceramic and glass, and the end of the bat sinks four inches into the drywall until it hits a stud in the wall.  The shock of wood-on-wood sends a wave of pain into my arms. My hands instantly go numb from the impact, but when I check they’re still gripping the bat white-knuckled.  Good.

“How can you possibly justify this?!” I scream, and I am surprised to find that I wasn’t actually able to hold back the tears.  “How can you move out of our house, simply give up on everything we could have had?!” 

There is, of course, no answer. 

Something dark inside of me, something I’ve been fighting for over a year, tells me it’s all my fault.  It reminds me of all the times I left her at home, because I thought that marriage would simply be like dating and living together.  It reminds me of how badly I neglected her.

“I TRIED TO CHANGE!”  I scream at it, swinging blindly at the drywall, now.  I’m lucky; this time I don’t strike a stud, but simply take a sizable chunk out of the wall.  “For months I wanted to be everything to you!  But you refused to see it!  Things were getting better!  They sure as shit couldn't get any worse!  All you had to do was want the happiness we could have had!” 

I turn and find a vase on the coffee table that I hadn’t noticed earlier.  Last Valentines’ day I had filled it with rainbow roses for her, that I had to special order off the Internet.  I flex my fingers around the base of the bat, raise it high over my head, and bring it down onto the vase.  It disintegrates into powder, and I feel pieces of glass cut my arms and face.  The bat reverberates of the table and sends another wave of hot pain up my arms, but like before I tune it out. I think I might have heard the bat crack when it connected. 

“How could you possibly be more cruel?!”  I cry, the tears flowing freely now.  “I thought you were my partner!  You told me you were okay with me quitting my job for a year!  I had plenty of savings for us to live off of!  And even when I took another teaching job, it still wasn’t enough for you!  WHAT ELSE COULD I HAVE DONE TO PROVE HOW MUCH I WANTED TO KEEP YOU?!”  I spin and throw the bat.  It goes soaring into the kitchen, where it strikes the wall, taking out another chunk of drywall, before clattering to the linoleum floor. 

“What else could I have done?”  I ask, my voice faltering into a shaky whimper.  Then, like a kettle on a stove whose temperature has just been raised, I feel the anger rising in my stomach in a hot tide.  I kneel, take the edge of the coffee table with both hands, and scream, “WHAT ELSE COULD I HAVE DONE?!” 

I flip over the coffee table as if it’s nothing.  When we bought it from Value City Furniture, it had taken the both of us to carry it in.  My breath is coming in furious huffs now, and I’m sure that when the adrenaline wears off my thirty-year-old body is going to remind me that I’m not the spry youth I used to be.  But, like so many other things, it doesn’t matter at the moment.

My shoes crunch broken glass from a half-dozen different catastrophes as I make my way back into the kitchen.  The door of the refrigerator has a few dents in it from my reckless dish-chucking, but I find myself not giving a damn.  With my right hand I open the freezer and with my left I pull out a bottle of whiskey.  With one twist I undo the screw top and throw it over my shoulder, where I hear it land among the rubble.  I put the bottle to my lips and take a generous slug. 

I forget that I'm less than a man when it comes to hard liquor. The whiskey burns my sinuses and throat respectively, and after I swallow I cough and choke for air like I’m drowning.  Hating myself that I can’t even do THAT right, I take another, equally punishing drink from the bottle. It also burns, but not as badly, and it almost immediately begins to erode the edge off of my rage.  Drinks from the bottle whittles away at my emotions like a knife being drawn across wood, until only the depression and sadness remain.  I drop onto the sectional couch, which we purchased so we could invite our friends over more often, and briefly consider dousing it with booze and setting it on fire.  The thought slips through my inebriated mind, though, and I take yet another drink from the bottle and set it on the coffee table, next to the baseball-bat-shaped dent.  I stretch out on the couch and look up at the ceiling, wondering what could possibly be left to break.

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