The Nature of the Beast
BY: David. A. Katz
July 7th 2018
We talking human nature here
Remember the movie, ‘Dances with wolves? What I remember most, were two young male members of the tribe the soldier befriended. One is gay and accepted with disregard to his effeminate nature. The other is a non-neuro-typical warrior who does everything backwards, including riding his horse. He too was allowed to be the person he was. Both were accepted for who and what they were, unconditionally. I found this a very wise and stable community interaction. Each member of the tribe had their place and allowed to fit in. This attitude of acceptability is sorely missing in many of our lives today. That why it’s so easy to recruit new members to gang’s because; they accept you and, give a place for you t fit in.
Not knowing much about tribal history; I imagine some tribes were hostile to their own members just like in gangland. This story is pretty much about learning to fit in but staying true to oneself. The question to ask yourself and, one you have probably heard before is, “Would you rather be feared or respected?”
I was not provided with this luxury of acceptance after my childhood diagnosis of autism. Adults and children alike treated me as an outsider; I certainly wasn’t considered ‘a special child’. Thinking back on it, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I taught myself at an early age that the world is a jungle and we all innately possess animalistic behavior, just waiting to emerge when necessary and, at a moment’s notice. The more savage youngsters would like to beat up on me. Many days I’d return home, bloody, crying with my clothing torn to pieces. I cried to my father for a little sympathy and you know what he told me “You either learn to fight or learn to bleed.”
Whiskey, Tango Foxtrot (WTF); I just wanted to be left alone and dream of being far away, in a place where people were nicer. You know, they call autism the ‘the dreamer’; I dreamed of being like everyone else but, that was not to be. Somehow, someway I navigated my way through the jungle to grow into the “Fiercest beast of all, the beast that was willing to fight to the death”. Children and adults avoided me from there on. One look in my eyes and they knew to slink away. I learned it to be call the ‘fight or fight response’; my fight was on all the time. I grew past my Fathers expectations to be able to protect myself, and in time even his wrath directed at me made him succumb to my feral nature. Some people will call it tough love but, I say it was more like genetic transfer of fight, passed on from my father to me. Mom would always tell me, “Your father really loves you” but, in my mind, love was for losers. This was reinforced by the mobsters and their children while working in the restaurant business. They were tough and we all earned ‘respect by fear’. It worked for me. So, to answer the question about being feared or respected; I know fear is much more effective and, utilize it when necessary.
My adopted tribe became the world of the untreated mentally ill and dispossessed. It was a world where being different wasn’t a sign of weakness. Friendship and camaraderie was celebrated with an inordinate amount of booze and narcotics.
I was working a late night bar shift when the owner called me over to his place at the far end of the bar; his back against the wall. It was a ‘no-name bar, where only mobsters and castaways assembled to have company in their loneliness He removed his thick black sunglasses and gave me my two weeks’ notice. I looked into his eyes which were fixed on the swirling cigar smoke of his ‘fat boy’ cigar. “What did I do wrong” I asked, more confused than upset. He told me I was a ‘lone wolf and lone wolves don’t live long in the wild. I had never fully bought into the mob ideologies and never carried a gun or knife. I counted on my ability to instill fear with my attitude, speed of hands along with my, dirty fighting skills He said I should get off the ‘island and make a better life for myself”. There is nothing good for you here.
My last day, he gave me a bill fold of travel cash and kissed me on the forehead. I left with very fond memories of my first blush of youth. The day came for me to hit the road and prepare myself for the thing which frightened me the most. That was severe panic attacks while driving and, disorientation of new surroundings. I had lunch with my parents. The car was loaded with my belongings and I turned and hugged Mom, then my father gently grabbed my arm and asked if I had enough money. “I’m good Dad”; I had learned an important lesson from my Mother which was “never leave in anger”. I had a lot to be angry about when it came to the father/son relationship. We hugged and he too kissed me on the forehead. I drove away with tears in my eyes and the promise that, one day, I’d return home.
At the time of writing this story; it occurs to me that I am the same age as my parents when I left home (62). I have learned to tame the beast within, with the use of pharmaceuticals to control bipolar depression. I still keep a firm chocker chain on my impulses and, revel how life unfolded for me. No longer do I fear what I am or what’s going on around me. I find myself alone as always, smoking my cigars (I quit cigarettes almost two years ago) on the truck lift under the comfort of the car port. Mom and Dad died many years ago, but I keep in touch with my love and appreciation for all they did for me.
My sisters and I are very close; they remind me of all that is good in life and worth living. My cats allow be to be the natural caretaker, that is my strongest quality; as it was taking care of my Father for many years up to his death. I remember the good times, before my life force succumbed to mental illness. Friends and quests at my restaurant bar are long gone. The memory of one very old woman in particular though, punctuates the essence of this story. I believe her name was Ginny; she had worked at the college for most her life. Her hands were gnarled with arthritis, (just like Moms) and she stood no more than five feet due to age and a dowager’s hump. She once watched me leaving my restaurant late one night. She and her husband liked to share a sundae before going to bed. When she saw me again she very nonchalantly said to me; “I think you are the loneliest person I’ve ever met. I replied “lonely but, not alone”; without missing a beat.
Loneliness is my namesake and way of life. If you get too close, the beast within wakens from a pharmaceutical slumber and growls; like an old dog. I like being left alone to write, smoke cigars, sip coffee and play with my cats. I dream of one day leaving my home of thirty years and attempting to begin a new story, with a new bar and the bittersweet memories of how I got to get this far in life. Being suicidal and bipolar is the dusty road I travel; always on the verge of ravaging myself.
David. A. Katz
The Nature of the Beast