“Jackson was a big guy – tough. He’d fight anyone. It’s one thing for kids in the high school to fight one another, but to fight someone there meant you knew just how tough they were. Jackson’s game was to humiliate the men who couldn’t fake their stoicism. He could find a ‘feeler’ in any room.
Once, his father came to visit. I can’t remember why he was so mad, but when he shouted, his face was only a couple of inches away from Jackson. Jackson just stood there with his arms straight down while he screamed ‘sir’ after every mindless repetition. These are the people who believe love is loyalty. His body was completely still, as if he was frozen in the time before his father showed up. The only sign of feelings was in the blush of both his ears. It was as if words could physically punish him.
A man is nothing without his dignity. Once it’s gone, the only thing left to do is steal someone else’s.”
I was lying on the bed with the lights turned off, trying to imagine Jackson. A perpetual frowner most likely. Maybe some acne scarring. Where do people with that kind of anger end up?
“Was his father mean to you too?” I asked.
“No, he never really cared about me or Oliver. I tried not to look at them, it felt like an intrusion of privacy. Everything about it seemed so instinctual, like it was just a role they were playing because they forgot to do something else.
Oliver tried to bring it up later on, but the fact that he acknowledged it at all, made him an immediate target. I always felt bad for him, but then I’d think: if I feel bad for him, I’m acknowledging there’s something to feel bad about, which in a way – is worse. I never brought it up.”
On the opposite wall from my bed there is an oversized hotel-like mirror. I try not to stare. It seems ridiculous to wake up and see yourself, nightgown, messy hair, in the morning. It’s astonishing what you get used to not seeing.