Sunday, June 14, 2020

Deep pain

Read Time: 4 minutes

Another black man dead under a white cop’s weight.

Riots in the streets. Militarized police. Pandemic. 110,000 dead, and more to come. Votes not counted. The middle class shrinks. Incomes shrink. Wall Street rallies. The rich prosper.

My thoughts trail off as I escape into sleep…

Startled, he turns his head when I enter the room. The shadows on his face almost – but not quite – hiding the fear.

“You’re not wearing a mask!”

“Sorry.” I fumble for the mask in my pocket. Find it. Wish it were a clean one as I…

“Get out of here!”

He has a bat in his hands now.

“A bat? Yes, a bat,” I think as I back toward the door, still trying to hook the mask over my right ear. Thinking that having a mask on will calm him. Thinking he’ll have to get within six feet to hit me. Still backing up. Not wanting him out of my sight.

“Shit, shit, shit,” I think as I continue to fumble with getting the mask loop over my right ear.

The bat is now in both hands. I can see it’s an old Sears bat, a Ted Williams model. Memories of Little League flood me. “Teddy’s using a Sears bat… Teddy’s using a Sears bat… Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear!” They taunt me when I step to the plate. The first pitch is a fastball, and it hits me hard in the shoulder.

“Teddy Bear’s a walker,” the chant picks up, then settles down as I reach first. Our assistant coach tells me I should have seen that wild ball coming and stepped out of the way. Tears flowing now. I get ready to make a good show of sprinting to second…

His bat pokes me hard in the diaphragm. And I’m back to the now, leaving my feelings about Sears, Ted Williams and the Sunny Jim Little League team behind.

I feel the doorknob on my back as the wind goes out of me in a whoosh. Doubled over now. Can’t speak. Thinking, “What about the six-foot rule, dude?”

And, “Why is he so angry? Is it only the mask?”

I see him drawing back the bat in preparation for a hit and think, “Shit, he’s a lefty,” as I try to straighten up and turn the doorknob in one move.

“Goodbye, you sick bastard,” he says as he swings.

The door opens and I fall backward as the bat arcs around. I feel the air as it passes my face, close. I’m down, not thinking about my lack of air, or baseball or anything but survival as I roll directly to hands and knees. Fear roiling into anger now.

Mad now. Mad about this asshole. Mad about the team I was cut from. Mad about the state of the world.

On my feet. Still in a crouch. Asshole’s through the door, bat in position for another swing. Close. He’s close enough. I hit him hard with a right to his gut. Bat falls to the floor. He doubles over, gasping. I bring up my knee hard. His nose explodes with a spray of blood.

A moment of victory. A moment of glory. I survived. I beat him. Just like I beat Richie in the seventh grade. Richie went down hard, too, but not before bloodying my nose. I think Richie was my last school fight. The memories come back, with detail. I’m not a fighter. Never really was. Always wanted to be like the tough guys in school, in the movies. Never measured up.

I taste the blood in the air. He’s down. “No more from him,” I think, savoring my success.

Blood in the air… COVID! It’s an aerosol. I could have just sealed my fate…

I jerk awake with a bus driver yelling at me: “Hey buddy!” And louder, “Hey buddy! This is where you wanted to get off.”

“Sorry, thanks,” as I stand and make my way to the rear exit, checking my clothes for blood. Realize it was a dream. Realize I’m dripping with sweat. Down the steps and out I go. Better find a bench and cool off for a moment.

“Whew, that was intense.”

I realize I’m feeling the effects of all that’s happened in our world torn apart. The racist ugliness. The anger, fear and uncertainty. The 12,000 living on our streets. The altered daily routines, financial pressures and social isolation. I worry about the election, getting sick, the extent of pandemic, and the future.
Information overload is the least of it. The rumors and misinformation are out of my control. I’m often unclear about what to do.

Deep pain

Rage. Rage at a system that’s failed, with those who are most vulnerable hurt the most. We’re all feeling it. Stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness, all at once. Raging one minute, depressed the next. And the dreams. The dreams are deep, vivid and disturbing.

Time for deep change. That’s what the dreams are saying.

Note from Ted:
 I think of stories like this as “strategic tales.” I write them as a way to use experiences to prepare for possibilities.


  • Bez says:

    Good one, Ted! Vivid and disturbing, appropriate to the times we’re living in, and agree with the takeaway message. Keep fighting…

    • Ted says:

      Thanks Bez, Yes disturbing times. I think our problems started with the invention of agriculture. We’d been living pretty well for at least 200,000 years – some say 300,000 – as hunter gatherers. Then we industrialized food production with a slave class that’s with us still today

  • Perry Burrows says:

    Thank you, Ted, for your work on bullying. I am a 71-year-old who had a sire who was a bully, not a dad or daddy. My older sister, mother, and I dealt with most of it. Being creative and more of a reader than a farmer, I did not fit into his way of thinking: I was named after my maternal granddaddy and both of my two younger siblings were much more like his nuclear family.

    When he died I thought I was free; that was short-lived. Being a retired educator, I found myself using my past experiences identifying with and mentoring my most favorite and successful students who successfully finished the school system’s “Alternative School” where students had been sent when they did not blindly “behave” according to the systems rules (that never took home life into consideration when either making or adhering to rules). I had the reputation of being able to teach many subjects and students simultaneously; many of my students found success on the university level (earning several degrees in various professions) and in the military — calling me up at home to invite me to meet their new mates or babies at a local coffee shop restaurant, etc. long after they had graduated from high school. Their was a growing gang affiliation in that town, but I felt protected whenever I drove through those areas. I retired a few years early in 2010 for medical reasons, but a few still keep in touch with me through Facebook.

    I miss my guys and ladies and find my heart filling my eyes with tears at times when I think too much about them. There are at least two whom I wish I had been able to adopt.

    Your words helped to make me see how much of my life was influenced by my male parent’s bullying of my mother, sister and me. Even now I am not able to escape his figurative chains,but I better understand why they tether me. Thank you for your words and work.

  • Perry Burrows says:

    “there”, not “their”. New cataract surgery problem.

    One of my guys who was about to finish his second Master’s degree in criminal justice messaged me to find out where I was living. (I had moved nearer to Memphis and better doctors.) In our conversation, we realized that I lived one street over from his dad who had not been a real part of his life growing up. His dad was in the front yard one day as I was returning home from grocery shopping, so I pulled in and introduced myself. We chatted for a few minutes and before I left, we had both teared up. His dad thanked me for being such a good part of his son’s life. Life can give us so many blessings if we open ourselves to hem regardless of the past.

    • Ted says:

      Thank you for sharing your story Perry. You’ve made a huge contribution. Sounds like you transferred the pain into a good place.

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