Friday, May 29, 2009
The Tender Bar
"Why do those men act so silly?" I asked my mother.
"They're just --- happy."
She looked at the men, thinking.
"Beer, sweetheart. They're happy about the beer."
I became a prodigy at selective listening, which I thought was a gift, until it proved to be a curse. Life is all a matter of choosing which voices to tune in and which to tune out, a lesson I learned long before most people, but one that took me longer than most to put to good use.
Though I kept my feelings bottled tight, eventually those feelings fermented, then fizzed to the surface in the form of odd behavior. I turned overnight into a compulsive and neurotic child. I set about trying to fix Grandpa's house -- straightening rugs, restacking magazines, retaping furniture. My cousins laughed and called me Felix, but I wasn't being neat, I was going crazy. Besides doing what I could to make the house less offensive to my mother, I was trying to put order to chaos, a quest that led me ultimately to seek a more dramatic rearrangement of reality.
I began dividing life into absolutes...Life was governed by polar opposites...Things were either perfectly bad, or perfectly good, and when life didn't obey this black-and-white rule, when things or people were complex or contradictory, I pretended otherwise. I turned every defeat into a disaster, every success into epic triumph, and separated all people into heroes or villains. Unable to bear ambiguity, I built a barricade of delusions against it.