Memories 04

Sights were calibrated, parallax was minimal.  A manufacturing quirk placed the impact point slightly high and right, but I was already used to compensating for that.

The hardware: a Daisy Powerline 970

The projectile: .177 lead field pellets.

The target: an aluminum can (identity confirmed).

The range: whatever the width was from the grass to the far side of the tractor garage.

Vicinity was clear, devoid of sisters.  Windage was nill.  Time to engage.

I was no novice at this.  Taking too deep a breath would cause imbalance–too shallow and natural muscle twitches would be exacerbated.  I inhaled slightly more than a standard breath, held it, took approximate aim, and let the sights fall onto target as I slowly exhaled, squeezing the trigger in time with alignment.

The crack of expanding air indicated discharge.  The round, as expected, impacted the can with the standard ping, knocking it over.  More pumps would have increased velocity, preventing the can from falling.  But that was unnecessary at this range.  The target was down.

One shot.  One kill.  Time for exfil.


The average human reaction time is .215 seconds.

Along the projectile’s path, I noticed a small gray dot.  The dot became larger.  And in less than .215 seconds, the pellet I had just fired impacted my right cheekbone.


You’ll shoot your eye out with those things.

The lesson: check your background.  The barn siding was corrugated steel.  Some things only need to be learned once.


Memories 03

So many required school readings are assigned at the wrong age.  Their impact is muffled beneath the page grind for the sole purpose of absorbing just enough so as to pass any potential quizzes the next day.  Furthermore, when taught at such a young age, the pupils don’t question the teacher’s authority, and so are limited to the teacher’s summary review of the story, even if it’s wrong.

For me, one such example is the novel A Separate Peace.  If you haven’t read it, then consider this the spoiler notice.

The story distills down to an event: a boy causes his friend to fall out of a tree and break his leg, ultimately proving fatal; and the core theme: why did he do that?  The protagonist revisits the series of events, as well as the scene, years later, to try to understand his prior actions.

And so we are led through the journey of a boy’s loss of innocence, stemming from an inferiority complex and jealousy (with the looming War in the background, to drive home the “loss of innocence” part).  The event, ultimately it is judged, was not an accident.  That was the conclusion of his peers, and it was the matter-of-fact conclusion of my teacher (I’ll note here that I did indeed dare to disagree with her on this at the time, but was promptly shot down).  So that was the lesson: make peace with yourself before you lash out (and don’t argue with your teacher over literature, I guess).

But it’s also wrong, or at least incomplete.  A simple lesson, fit for an adolescent.

We act out of our own insecurities, sure.  But while those actions might be visceral responses, they don’t necessarily reflect our desires.  They also begin a chain of unanticipated causality which leads to consequences we never wanted.  We blame ourselves for our mistakes, but also give ourselves huge allowances of forgiveness.  Time heals wounds because we both forget and minutely alter memories in our favor, and at some point the recollection of a life event is too corrupted to ever again realistically represent the truth.

The protagonist never achieves peace with what he did, and he understands that he never will.  It isn’t peace, but closure.  And sometimes that’s all we can hope for.  It’s enough to move on.


I stabbed a kid in high school.

Okay, that was dramatic.  But it brought me back to this book.

One particular day during band class, the various instrumental sections broke out into individual practice sessions, as was the norm.  Adjacent to the main room were a series of green rooms.  No, really.  Well, maybe changing rooms is more accurate–small partitions illuminated with those cinematographic Art Deco mirrors surrounded in spherical incandescent light bulbs (most of which were burnt out).

The goal, I suppose, was to allow each section to focus on their individual parts of the symphony.  In reality, I think the band instructor just wanted an extra hour break time.  He was a terrible instructor, but that’s another story.

Of course, during these sessions, most of the students just took a break themselves.  I played trumpet.  This is important because, as other band nerds might be aware, trumpet players as a whole are largely dicks.  So, irrespective of my own debatable magnitude of dickishness, I was stuck in a small room with several other dicks.  And dicks, locked in a room with other dicks, engaged in the expected assortment of dickish dickery directed towards other dicks.  A real dickfest, it was.

On this day, one of the dicks grew weary of the usual intellectual discourse.  Unexpectedly, he seized a mouthpiece cleaner.  This is niche knowledge, but a mouthpiece cleaner is essentially a short and wide pipe cleaner, but much stronger.  The bristles are interwoven with a central braid of 14-gauge wire.  And the wire, where clipped in manufacturing, was rather sharp.  By modern TSA standards, you would definitely not be allowed to take it on a plane.

For whatever reason, said dick decided to throw it at my face.  My reflexes, being honed by that point to account for dickish actions, responded adequately, and the implement bounced off the mirror behind me.

A different dick remarked, to his credit, that throwing it wasn’t a good idea as it was sharp.  I concurred, after examining it, and promptly threw it back at the face of the first dick, remarking in the process that it was sharp and to not be a dick and throw it at people.

The first dick also dodged and, apparently feeling the need to escalate, threw it back at my face with renewed gusto.

So in an instant, I responded with extreme escalation.

I retrieved the cleaner, held it as a shank, advanced on the first dick, and brought it down in a stabbing motion.

Now, I recall that the action was not meant to follow through, but rather intimidate.  Trouble is, I don’t remember for certain, and I think that was just me twisting memory in my favor, because I don’t recall what followed post-adrenaline dump, and things were in grainy tunnel vision.  The wire came down, dick put up his hand to block it, and the sharp points dug into his hand severe enough to warrant sutures.

As a post-Columbine high school student accustomed to zero-tolerance policies on violence, I fully expected expulsion, but I never heard about the event again.  Apparently, every one in that room had kept quiet.  All I can say with certainty is that it was the first time that I felt rage to the point of not understanding my own intentions, acting automatically without good judgement, and not remembering the followup.

It’s a far cry from killing, granted, but the desire was there and I took action counter to my higher cognitive functions, and I remain somewhat conflicted, trying to understand what I was actually going to do in that moment.  It was brief, and when he blocked, I stopped attacking.  But in that moment alone, had events transpired slightly differently, the results could have been so much more severe.

Did A Separate Peace‘s protagonist intend to kill his friend?  Probably not to that extreme, but the action held the violent intent, and we’re not meant to know how conscious or subconscious it was.

And the protagonist, and myself, will never fully know, either.


Memories 02

During the Lubbock years I had a healthy relationship with girls as a whole, once I got over that awkward period of novel emotions and endless jibing from my parents, and accepted the naturalness of physical attraction.  Of course, in those early days, consorting was limited to hand-holding, sneaking hugs, and private conversations; but at the time, such simple actions held profound meaning.

So when we made the move to Toledo, and disrupted my friendship circle, and forced me into a vastly different culture (the Midwest is very different from West Texas), my solitude and slowness to adapt didn’t earn me too much positive attention from the Ohio variety of girl, which spiraled me into a new form of loneliness I had never before experienced.  A couple years of general sexual rejection would certainly be a rough spot for anyone in their adulthood, but it was especially tough during adolescence.

But there was one evening I was at a small gathering.  I had some friends by that point, and while the group was never terribly wild, it was still a nice respite from the overly-controlled atmosphere at home.  And there were girls who would talk to me.

I ended up alone with one particular girl, a pretty and flirtatious redhead, homely yet her eyes hinted at something enticingly troublesome.  She was, however, a freshman, and in those high school days that was strangely important to not be seen with an individual of such low social class, however falsely fabricated the concept was.  That image of status was sufficient to prevent me from pursuing her, for better or worse, though rather silly in hindsight.

But on this night, we walked together in the fading light and found ourselves alone, behind some trees.  We loitered there for a moment, facing each other.  She looked at me expectantly.

To this point, gentlemanly conditioning or pure cowardice had limited my physical involvement with young women–at least the ones who didn’t reject me outright.  But for the first time since Lubbock, I didn’t feel those reservations.  And I was older than I was in Lubbock.  Social activities had advanced beyond simple hand-holding.

Girls were also more developed by then.  I distinctly remember the pleasant novelty of my hands on her waist, pulling her feminine curves against me.

The rest of the experience requires no elaboration, suffice to say it was still restricted to educated white middle-class upbringing and expected social norms.

After that night, I still saw her at other gatherings, but I don’t remember talking with her much.  And eventually, as what happens to so many acquaintances over time, she faded away.

This memory is, unsurprisingly, very vivid to me, as I’m sure most of us have a similar story.  But…

One day I was organizing the basement and found my high school yearbooks.  I thought I’d look her up and see how well my memory matched the photo.  Except…I couldn’t find her.  She didn’t exist in any of the 3 yearbooks from my time there at that school.  It’s possible she attended the other high school in the city.  Circles of friends often overlapped districts.  But it is odd that I wouldn’t have remembered that part.

There’s a bit of a mystery here, possibly hinting at my level of sanity in those formative years, but I think I’ll just leave the mystery alone.


Memories 01

It had snowed.  Enough to cover the grass.  It never snowed that much in Lubbock.  I was privy to the scene first, as for reasons that still escape me, thawing the family rabbits’ water bottles in the pre-dawn days of winter was my job alone.  And in order to be ready for school on time, I had to rise before my sisters.

After the completion of the chore, I admired the rare moment of scenic beauty.  It almost seemed a tragedy to walk through it, so I made some snowballs at the lawn’s periphery.  The snow packed well, as it was barely below freezing.  I rolled some larger snowballs.

But there wasn’t sufficient time to build.  I needed to get ready for school.

The snow would be long-since melted by the time school let out.  So I did what I often longed for whenever I saw movies with snow in them.  I walked across the lawn.  It was my first recollection of such an experience, and for that momentary transit, I felt like I was truly in the wilderness.

Then I saw my sister’s judging stare from the window, obviously displeased that I had destroyed the perfection.  But it was jealousy.  She didn’t wake up early enough to have time to play in the snow, so instead she channeled her disappointment at me, for having the audacity to ruin the one way she was able to enjoy the snow: from the window.

It was my snow and I didn’t have to share it.  It was my moment.  It was my experience.

I smiled knowingly, and mockingly, back at her.

And the snow was gone by the time school let out.


Memories 00

I had an idea.

If the summation of life’s experiences determines the uniqueness of the individual, then that individual is essentially defined by fragmented recollection of chance events.  And if the mind degrades with time, those records are obviously misconstrued, which means my ego is based upon…corrupted and incomplete data?

Anyway, I thought I’d write some of those mental images down, for if those brief experiences are still remembered from the lengthy chronological stream of my consciousness, they must have had a strong emotional influence at the time.

Let’s explore that!