The Tormentor Retires
Most people I know feel they have known a tormentor in their life. The tormentor might be a parent, or a boss, or a coworker, or a neighbor, or a classmate, or a spouse. Sometimes the tormentor is even a friend. I certainly gave a few people that name. I felt singled out by these brutes, as if they had determined there was something irreparably wrong with me, and while it was clear I was incapable of correcting this problem, they could at least remind me of it as often as possible to keep the record straight. Oh, the Hollywood fantasies of revenge and lethal retorts I played over and over in mind at the end of a tormented day. Let the knife of indignant truth cut out their tongues. I was no good with that blade. When my turn came I felt shocked and exposed. I didn’t want to hurt anybody; I just wanted to be left alone.
But I also wanted to talk to people, and tell the stories and jokes, and maybe sometimes be the center of attention because someone has to be if only for a little and why not Bill? Those were the moments for which it seemed my tormentor waited. Put yourself in the spotlight and all the tomato-throwers in the world start warming up their arms. Why, it’s enough to keep you silent.
Which it almost did. I can’t remember precisely when the torment stopped. I eventually learned to laugh at my own mistakes along with those who pointed them out, but that was only the beginning of it. Somewhere in the torment itself laid my freedom. I will never know, for instance, my own intelligence so purely as when I was called stupid and had to choose for myself. In that moment, the tormentor’s job was done, for he no longer had to name the lie I had believed.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.