Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Dish Best Served Cold


Is it sweet?

I never particularly thought so. And yet . . .

See, everyone expects me to want revenge against the man who changed my life forever the day he took my mom away from me. I spoke of the incident before, in this blog entry. So I won't go into the details again here. But because she was taken in such a horrific way, some people assume that if given the chance I would do brutal and nasty things to this guy.

First of all, I'm almost certain he's dead now anyway. The dude had some serious health issues the last time he was in our lives. Add to that, he must have been in his mid to late 40s when this happened back in 1986. Even if he is still alive today, he's old and decrepit no doubt. And I'm sure his life sucks, too.

So, no, even if I knew he were alive and where he lived, I would not seek him out or interact with him in any way, least of all to get my vengeance. Despite how my demeanor might frighten some people when they get on my bad side, I'm actually a non-violent person. I've had to deal with a LOT of crap thrown my way in life. Not to mention I grew up in one of the most violent and under-privileged urban environments in the country, so I had to learn to fend for myself at a very early age. Still, I abhor the idea of causing physical injury to someone else . . . unless I'm immediately threatened, or someone close to me is. Especially that last part. Beat up on me all you want (well, not these days, as I *will* in all honesty kick someone's ass), but don't ever try to harm someone I love. I'm afraid of what might happen to me then. I think something that's been buried deep down inside might get loose and do very bad things to the perpetrator. Very bad things.

Other than that, though, I'd rather people leave me alone and let me live in peace.


Sometimes I'll think back to things that happened to me in the past and I get very angry. Like this one time when I was around 12 or 13. My brother and I used to be so bored during school break for the summer, that we decided to start going to the local public pool only 2 blocks away from where we lived. Despite it being a crowded cesspool, we were kids and just loved the fact that we got to get out of the house on our own and swim all day long. The problem is, we were still in the ghetto. And public pools are gross to begin with, but in the ghetto they take on an added level of danger. You never know what dumbass juvenile delinquent or escaped convict might be in the pool with you.

Thus what happened this one day.

Now, I already said the pool was crowded. But you're not quite picturing it correctly, I imagine. You've ever seen a Tokyo subway during rush hour? On tv or in person? Well, yes, that's pretty much what public Bronx swimming pools looks like in July. It's so not cute.

Yet, most times my brother and I had no problems. Every now and then we'd have to deal with some rowdy punk kids our age trying to start shit. But most of the time that was nothing but pre-adolescent males blowing off steam. On this day, though, I had to contend with something else. I was fooling around with my lil' bro, playing swim tag or something, when out of nowhere these two grown ass guys grabbed me and started yelling at me. I say grown because I was little, but in actuality I think they were around 18 yrs old, give or take a year. This pair of assholes started accusing me of having said something about one of them at some earlier date, even though I had no idea who the hell these dudes were. And why would I? I was all of 12 years old!

Anyway, despite my protest to the contrary, they proceeded to hold my head under the water and try to drown me. Now, I know what you're thinking? Oh, you're still alive to blog today, so obviously they didn't mean to kill you. And I say to that: you weren't there, Jack.

Look, I've been in a lot of fights. This wasn't my first time hearing that someone wanted to kill me. And it wouldn't be my last. But these guys . . . they meant it! There was no smiling or joking going on: their faces told me they meant to kill me. And I believed them. It was very scary.

And where were the lifeguards or security in all this? Pffft! Well, for one, there was no security. Public pool. South Bronx. Lots and lots of brown-skinned folk in a square hole filled with water. Security my ass! And as for lifeguards? Oh, there was ONE. One measly lifeguard for a pool that easily contained 300 or so bodies at any given moment. We were packed like sardines in there! The lifeguard didn't see shit. Nor do I think he would have budged a finger even if he had. And everyone else in the pool around me must have thought I knew these guys and that we were just horsing around.

So now you see my dilemma. And my poor brother! He was so scared the entire time, standing off to the side and not knowing what to do. I remember him frozen in shock as each guy took turns holding me down under the water. I punched and I scratched, but to no avail. At first my protests didn't have much strength behind them, because I thought these guys would have their fun beating up on some poor scrawny 7th grader and move on. But when it became clear that they did in fact mean to drown me--and for no rightful reason I could discern--a rage built up inside me. I knew it was fight or die, so I gave it all that I had. I swear to you I felt like I had the strength of a grown man when it all clicked inside me! I felt betrayed and victimized, and by a bunch of asshats that had no business ganging up on a kid so much younger and smaller than them.

Now, I'm not saying that I was magically able to fight these guys off. I wasn't. But my sudden enraged kicks and punches started to *finally* attract attention. A little too much attention for these guys. They suddenly let me go and then high-tailed it out of the pool and vanished. My brother looked like he was close to tears, but I told him it wasn't his fault. There realistically was nothing he could have done. A lot of people stared at me for a while, but I tried to play it off like I was just pretending to be in a fight. Eventually people returned to their business and ignored me and my brother.

We stayed in the pool for a little while longer, even though we were no longer in the playing state of mind. I wanted to make sure those assholes had left before we finally headed for the locker room. I never did see those guys again, even though I did eventually return to the pool for the remainder of the summer and also the next. I didn't tell anyone what happened because, honestly, what would have been done about it? I was used to the authorities ignoring pleas for help in the ghetto. Us minorities were always on our own, especially back in the late 80s/early 90s. I didn't tell my grandmother, either. It would have just worried her more and then we would never be allowed to leave the house.

But I remember being so confused and angry that day. What the fuck was wrong with those guys, I wondered? The consensus I came to was that they must have been high on something. It really is the only explanation I have. I don't think they confused me with someone else. After all, what business would a 12 year old have with 18 yr olds? So, no, I think they had to have been on drugs.

That still doesn't excuse it, though.

And hence, as strange as it may sound to you reading this, if I were to seek vengeance against anyone today, it would be those two assholes. Not the man who murdered my mother, who I think will rot in hell anyway. But these two. If could somehow track them down without doubt, I would end them both. I'm not kidding. I believe they have to pay for something like that. For almost taking my life. That was the most scared I've ever been for my own safety. I mean, the deep-down-where-it-gets-tough fear, where it becomes either them or you who's going to live. And I want to live, so they would have to die.

See, then, why revenge is bad?

In theory it makes sense why I would want to kill these clowns, even after all these years. But in practice, how would I ever pull that off? How would I even know for sure who did this? I wouldn't. So that's why revenge is stupid. It serves no one. All it does is keep that anger boiling deep down inside where it can do nothing but damage.

Looking at it in this light, I suppose I really don't want revenge, then. It just isn't worth it, to be honest.

What about you? Anything really, really bad happen to make you actually want revenge on another person? Do you think the act of an "eye for an eye" makes you just as bad as the originator?

Or can one actually find relief from the demons of one's past when the dish is finally served?

Food for thought.


  1. Wow. This blog post, and especially the one you linked to about your mother, really got under my skin. I'd like to apologize for all the horrible people that you've come into contact with, but I know that I can't. What I do know is that you seem like a really great person, very insightful, and a very talented writer. Keep writing... we're reading.

  2. Thanks so much for that, Jen. Your words are very kind. And thanks for reading! :)

  3. A brave post, David. You've had to put up with some shit in your life, it's amazing how you've managed to remain such a nice guy. It gives hope to the rest of us!

  4. Thanks, Ian!

    It's all due to my mother's mom, my grandma, for taking us in and sheltering us during the darkest time of our life. Without her nurturing guidance--every ounce of kindness and decency I have I owe to her--I might have become damaged goods. She taught me to see the good in all people, and to alway be true to my own heart above all else.

    Grandma's my hero!

  5. I think revenge is bad. Sure, in theory it always feels good and always works out, but realistically, in life? No. It kills your soul, fills you with hate. It's a wasted energy. I think life is so precious and so fragile to waste it with such ugly emotions. I understand your anger and your desire to hurt those idiots that hurt you but am glad that you understand that nothing good would come of that -for you. What happened to your mom is horrible and very sad, and I'm so very sorry that happened to you and your family. But you're a seemingly (virtually anyway)nice person and you're extremely talented. I think you should be proud of that. And you know what else I think? I think that in the pool, back then, I think that "sudden" rush of energy that came over you was your mom protecting you. Does that make sense? I always try to find something hopeful in a tragedy or try to see the bright side of a very dark story. Meh, I'm weird, I know. lol Good stuff tonight.

  6. That's a cool theory I actually hadn't considered before, Yvonne. Whoa!

    And I'm glad so many believe revenge is not a good thing. This is actually what separates an enlightened society from the barbarians, the understanding that violence and murder is never a means to an end . . . only the beginning of a cyclic begetting of even more violence and murder.

  7. Hey David,
    As a new reader I had no idea about your past. Thanks for sharing. I would say we are not in the same revenge boat, I tend to favor it but in non-violent ways when possible.

  8. I recently heard a quote that really spoke to me, I think it's Buddhist actually. But it's basically this "hate is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies". And it was so eye opening for me. The other person never gets the pain they caused or the affect they have on your life, if they did they'd never have hurt you in the first place.

    The best revenge is that you, despite losing your beautiful mother in such a horrible way, you have lived a life with dignity, respect for life and tremendous intelligence. And you have created a lovely life with your beautiful wife.

    By chosing the life you've chosen you have honored your mother, living the life she would have wanted for you. As a mother that's the only thing I've learned, that the only thing you want is for your children to be happy. That's it. Be proud man, you've overcome so much and done it beautifully!

  9. Aww, thanks so much for that Jaime! Them Buddhists sure are a smart bunch, ain't they? :) But that saying is so true. In the end, I find I just don't have the room in my heart for hate. Letting thoughts of revenge fill up my thoughts would just be like living in the past -- forever!

    Blech! I'd rather live in the present and enjoy life.


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