April 23, 2007

"He told me he had been having an affair for the last 6 years."

evenge, reprisal, retortion,
lex talionis in Latin. Revenge is like sex without the politics. It is primal, and instant, and instinctive. It can be quick, and urgent, executed in subway cars. It can be slow, and beautiful, your life’s work. How sweet is the day when revenge does grant you a moment under her wings and shows you briefly a story about the world?

My father was my best of friends. In a kingdom of children he carried the crown. We were inseparable. Everyday after school, from the beginning of my memories, he would pick me up and create adventures for us. Entire universes were built in our home with Legos and soldiers. Rome fell a thousand times in great crashes of model airplanes into wood block cities and we told a thousand heroes' stories, creating a mythology with pagan rituals.

I grew older. Shaving, driving, fucking, why art mattered. The exact date of the death of God, and where he was buried should I ever feel inclined to leave flowers. My father transcended archetype, no distinction between the brother I never had and the rule of law every boy wants to climb over.

By 16 I had friends, a job, a life. I had ideas about the free market and the relative value of pre-Christian religions in Ireland. I put him in a glass case on the mantel and wound him up when I missed his voice. He escaped with a sledgehammer. I came home one evening to find him in the driveway of our house, all of his clothes and books in a pile by his truck. He told me he had been having an affair for the last 6 years. He never loved my mother and felt like his life was empty. She made him happy. He was leaving. He loved me.

My mother was destroyed. An entire universe had caved in under her. What you thought were memories were only skeletons in the desert. They existed once, and where there had been light in her eyes there was now only a set of vacuums demanding justice for the theft of her youth. I took her spear and banner and rode out for her.

From then on I would only see my father for 2 hours a week. We would sit in his truck in silence. On one of these 2 hour trips to the island my father told me his mother was dying from lung cancer. He needed me, his dearest friend, to talk to – to give him quarter from the enormity of a life that he had lost control over, a life now bent on his destruction. At that moment Revenge descended from Heaven above and lifted me out of the truck. I was dropped in front of a convenience store where I purchased a pack of Camel Lights.

Open the pack, turn one upside down for good luck, pull out another and place it to your lips. Light, inhale, exhale, and repeat until one has achieved the desired effect.

I did not attend my grandmother’s funeral, but I smoked through every word of my father’s account of it.

I have smoked everyday ever since. To say his contrition was delicious would do it a lack of justice. Revenge is best when you get to be face to face with it. Why be an archer on a hill when you can run a spear through someone’s chest and watch the light leave their eyes? For years every phone call ended with “are you still smoking?” It was our secret language. Morse code for “will you finally forgive me”. He’s stopped asking now, I can’t tell if it’s defeat or merely acquiescence, though either one is a success. And that’s the victory in revenge, once you have it you can let it go. You take whatever instruments you have around and throw them as hard as you can. So long as you hit your target you get to move on.

Contributed by B. Foote

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