I am flying.
I’ve had this feeling before and will have it again. This is not the flight where I fall and fall and land, jerked out of deep sleep in bed only to realize it was a dream.
This time, flight takes another form. It’s not a dream.
I am flying.
My heart is in my throat. My stomach is down by my knees. Or the other way around. I’m not sure if I’m upside down or rightside up. I feel a weightlessness like I imagine astronauts feel. Neil Armstrong. Buzz Aldrin. I could bounce 20, 50 feet across the moon’s surface. And I do bounce, but not like astronauts.
I am flying.
A moment before I was in bed. I might have been dreaming, but the shear G-Force of my flight wipes such trivial things away. In fact all dreams, past and future, have now been wiped away completely. I never dream again. Friends tell me everyone dreams; some just don't remember them. Not me. I don't dream. I can’t. I have to be ready. Dreams are a distraction.
I am flying.
My Dad’s hands have just released me into the atmosphere. Across my bedroom is a blank wall. Wide enough and hard enough to almost break my body. I smash. My arms and legs splay like a crushed spider where kids had already pulled four legs off before committing the final act. I land in the elbow where the wall meets the floor. Dad lifts me up and drags me down the stairs to the living room.
I am flying again. He launches me a second time onto the couch, but he misses. I hit the wall above and slide down onto the cushions.
It’s well past midnight. I don’t actually know what time it is. Nine year olds don’t have clocks in their rooms. Dad and Mom have come home from somewhere. I don’t remember where. We had a babysitter. This time it was an old woman from the babysitting service. She told us she was Vincent Price’s sister. I couldn't figure out why Vincent Price’s sister would be babysitting Susan and I.
It didn’t really matter because this would be the last time she babysat us. Babysitters didn’t last more than two times with my sister and I. We were performance artists. Our core audience was babysitters though we were happy to perform our theater for audiences of all ages.
The script called for Susan to initiate contact with me. Sometimes it was as innocuous as her not letting me use the red crayons as we drew on the floor in the den. It didn’t really matter, though. The triggers were infinite. All she needed to do was set the performance in motion. Whatever the trigger was, my response was always the same. I would scream. Susan would apply the ever so slightest pressure, and I would lunge at her. Susan, however, was two and half years older. She was bigger. She was faster. She was smarter. As I went after her, she would leap up and find the babysitter. Trying to do her job, the babysitter would step between us. I would hit her.
This particular night Vincent Price’s sister tried to step between us, but I dodged her. Susan ran down into the basement. I followed. Vincent Price’s sister followed. Susan ran back upstairs. I followed, and with a presence of mind that was unusual for me, I locked the basement door. Vincent Price’s sister was locked in the basement and I had free reign to maul Susan.
I don’t know if Dad was drunk. Upon reflection these many years later, I imagine he was. He and Mom had gone out. They were dressed in their nice clothes. Why would anyone be dressed in nice clothes for an evening out not have a drink or two or three or four.
Here is how the night ended. Dad beat me. I screamed and cried and said I was sorry. I said I would never do it again. But I think we both knew I would. I had no “inner resources.” I was reactive and not reflective. Today we would say I had trouble self-regulating. Back then, I just couldn’t see beyond the moment.
What I learned from these experiences was that anger was my friend. It was the Kevlar that kept me safe. I could not get hurt when I was angry. The rest of the time I walked the halls of Greenacres Elementary School, climbed the monkey bars on the playground, swung on the high swings, rode my new Stingray with a banana seat and sissy bar furiously around the neighborhood with fear deep in my heart. I knew the world dangerous. It would rip me out of bed in the middle of the night. At any moment the worst can happen. Worse than my elementary school mind could ever conceive of.
Centuries before Anselm of Canterbury came up with a definition for God: “Si enim vel in solo intellectu est potest cogitari esse et in re quod maius est” [“that than which nothing greater can be conceived” (Proslogion 2)]. I operated in a parallel universe where there was no God. Instead, I constructed a definition for nothingness that went something like this: fear is that than which nothing greater can be felt. Fear was the knife’s edge of existence. I could never trust my best friends because I knew they would hurt me. And like an animal that is wounded, the wolves sensed vulnerability and gnashed and tore until my heart ripped open.
But when I was angry, I could not be hurt. I could fight anyone and their fists banged against my face without pain. Anger was my friend. It protected me, and so I flew into a fury at the slightest provocation. A didn't pass with out a mother calling my Mom because I beat up their child. I hit my fourth grade teacher Mr. Shoemaker. I hit my sister. I hit Mom. I hit Dad. And eventually I hit both Mom and Dad so hard I knocked them down.
I knew the world was a dangerous place. At any moment I would come to harm. I wasn’t sure of what, but I was certain that it would come from some plan I could never plan for.
I am flying.