Location: marengo, il, United States

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Thin Ice

Some thoughts on domestic violence

Maybe you were attracted here by the repetitious sounds of the saw. I can understand that sort of curiosity; I like watching people work. And maybe you will stick around to watch the final cut of the branch and me fall from the tree. I might enjoy that myself, being the fan that I am of America’s Funniest Videos.

And then, while there is every possibility that others in the small crowd behind you might take some pleasure in watching a man skilled with a hand saw, as well as the plunging and screaming part to follow, a few may be overjoyed beyond words to see the tree limb crashing down and splitting my head open as the flying saw severs a broken arm or a leg or two. Sell drinks and tee shirts, if you wish. Because the first cut of the bough has begun, and my arm feels strong. So here we go.

I watched a couple state their case before the People’s Court on TV today. Being more of a fan of such trashy fare than I like to admit, this edited and controlled package does present a more humorous side of hurts and slights the contestants deem necessary to haul before the public. Order is strictly maintained by the fast-talking Judge Marilyn Milian, who is the singular one allowed to hurl verbal chairs, as she often does. The lady is sharp, and reads people well more often than not.

Today a wife railed against her husband while I endeavored to slaughter a couple of eggs and contend with our wonderful little toaster in the kitchen, so I only caught highlights between the flames and the flips and the pop-ups. I missed the beginning statements of the case, knowing I had time to catch the juicer judgment to follow if I hurried things along, so the flame got adjusted a bit higher than normal.

What almost caused the two eggs to become toast was when Milian stood up and leaned over her bench, and from there started slinging a whole room full of furniture. It was terrible, the scene I saw. That woman can scare the daylights out of a dead person when she takes off in a Spanish rant. She will cause innocent paint to curl and wither under her torrential gush of the Puerto Rican tongue, too. But this tirade happened in clear-to-me English. And as it unleashed, I stood frozen in the doorway between stove and television, unaware of hot butter dripping from the spatula in my hand that fell to land on my toes. That Judge Judy generally has no class at all compared to this lovely, but today Marilyn got uglier.

I gathered from her words aimed at the man that some form of conjugal violent behavior had been brought up, and the poor man must have tried to justify his position. Like I said, I missed the details.

But just before the onslaught ended, my own fires needed attending, so at the next convenient point I stuck my head through the doorway to see the wife standing alone at her table, while her husband’s table was bare. The man had turned and walked out during the sermon, it seems.

I sat down on the couch to feast on my who-cares-now-how-they-taste eggs as Harvey the Hall Guy held his microphone up to the wife’s face, and I heard him say, nodding over his shoulder, “Stormed right past me…you have anything to add?”

Well, it got me to thinking. Why would a man walk out without further defending himself? Did he feel guilt and shame for his actions? That’s an easy thing to conclude. It’s probably a safe thing to agree on. But what if it goes deeper than that?

I have to point out that I saw only a brief glimpse of the man’s eyes as Milian gave him her best shots, and I saw no remorse in them at all. I saw no arrogance there either, but I thought I did catch a look of bewilderment and frustration that I can relate to.

(Stand back just a bit so the sawdust won’t fall in your up-lifted face)

I need to point out that I have never read a book on this subject of domestic violence, even though it’s a fair assumption that the market must surely be flooded with countless expert studies. I would guess that the books are well-researched, and written in both difficult and easy-to-understand terms. No doubt they are documented by highly-trained professionals whom have studied this singular aspect of human behavior for an impressive amount of time.

But none ever stopped by to ask me any questions, which leaves me somewhat hurt by that over-sight. For you see, I have personal history with the problem.

(I am in an inch now, and the saw feels sharp as it goes)

I do not condone violence. I would much rather run and hide when things get out of control. Yes, I would much rather avoid confrontation, and lay in a hammock all the day long, sipping a cold drink in a world where palm trees sway in gentle breezes. Ants might get followed at times, out of mild curiosity. I might stoop to pet a stray dog behind the ears. I could conceivably lay still and observe a fly perched on my bare knee, and actually enjoy that experience. But facts of the world prevent this from happening.

I live in a temperate zone with cold winters and endurable summers. Palms only exist here as house plants, and there is something obscene about aluminum-framed hammocks. Ants invade my home during the warmer months, so I do constant battle using abhorrent chemical warfare. Stray dogs crap in my weed-infested yard, so I throw rocks. And flies, I have learned, are not our friends.

Sure, those are permissible forms of violence, you say. But I see you aren’t wearing a saffron robe, nor is your head shaved for religious reasons. That observation comes from my tenuous seat up here.

(two and counting)

I grew up with violence. Both parents worked hard arguing with and fighting each other. I never saw my friends parents act this way, so I never considered it a normal way to be. Afterwards, I survived Marine Corps boot camp easier than some, being used to the yelling and all, but neither experience prepared me well for marriage.

History, as they say, repeats itself when one fails to learn from mistakes. That is a fair assessment, as my new bride and I fought for eight years before we separated for good.

(three inches, yet it still seems solid)

Then I met feminism in the early seventies. To draw you a quick sketch of that meeting, I moved in with a bunch of hippies and lived in a household filled with bi-sexual women. I stayed there for a year, trying to comprehend that curious situation, until I finally admitted how out-of-place I felt.

One high point I want to mention on that is a brief conversation I had with one of the gals. I offered some loftily-held opinion which enraged the child. She immediately countered by the false claim that I was a bitch. I corrected the young woman by stating I was more of a bastard, and so our experimental association came to a close.

Next I met a crazy woman, so I married her. Well, crazy is too-strong of word. I amend that and call her what she was; a hairdresser, or more properly, a cosmetologist.

That brief affair ended after a single and horrible argument. A lot of ugly words and even uglier deeds released us both (physically unharmed) from our previous arrangement. Then she came back after a week for a sneaky midnight visit. I thought she went for a gun, so I went for self-defense, and I broke her nose in a hurry.

(down below I see a few pushing their way to the front for a better view. The audible cracking sound does that to some. They may even begin cheering soon)

So now I come to the half-way point of my present twenty-first year of marriage. It’s been mostly good. We have had some struggles, too; don’t think otherwise. But I slapped her once, years ago, for insulting me. A bad move.

Let me excite the jittery below my station by saying I thought considerably about the bad move while I next sat in jail for two cold nights.

And today I though about the man storming out of the courtroom of Judge Marilyn Milian. I wonder if there is more to his case than meets the eye.

I feel the limb giving way now…and whoever laughs might get punched out. That is, if I land on my feet.


Blogger Gone Away said...

Brilliant, Harry, and well worth the wait. It makes me want to say what I have thought on the subject but I am busy sawing off my own branch right at this moment. They don't stone people in this country anymore, do they?

9:49 AM  
Blogger Hannah said...

Anything I would have to say on this article would be prejudiced, due to my own past experiences. I therefore feel it best to decline making any comment, but a certain chameleon suggested strongly that I explain why. I trust you need no more explanation than that I've provided.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Duly noted, my feathered friend. Thank you.

3:25 PM  
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