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How to Build a Wall

I want to sleep, but my dreams elude me.

My mind drifts in the silence of the night. It floats alone, empty and devoid of any meaning, eyes ever drifting back to where we’ve been. My eyes see the past unfolding behind me, thousands of variables coalescing into a tragic, lonely, empty story, void of meaning. And not far behind, the tides of time washing up against the shores of recollection, ever rising, blurring away some of the definition from the tale.

I am nineteen years old. I am alone, in a dormitory in Bloomington, Indiana. There is a knock on the door. The door is somewhere between wood and plastic, having started life as a tree but manufactured into something not quite natural. It makes a sharp, commanding sound when knocked against, even by dainty knuckles. I am startled from my reverie by the knock. I open the door.

Before me stands the most beautiful girl I ever want to see, an angel in a green dress. My throat dries. I forget all the words in the English language. My tongue swells to three times the size of my mouth. She grabs my arm, laughing, dragging me out into the hallway. We’re going to the opera, she sings. She loves art. For a moment – a brief and tantalizing second – I love her too. The way that a person should love, unconditionally. Completely. I decide then and there that I would give anything for this girl. I decide I want to be a man, not a boy.

But I’m still a boy without words. Laughing, I follow. I adjust my jacket. I will always follow.

I’m thirty years old and I see the girl for the first time in five years. She is as beautiful as I remember her. My heart jumps as she nears. My throat is dry, but I have a wall now, and I have the words. I am both within the wall and without the wall, I am thirty years old and I am twenty years old. I am the binary man, entangled with the boy I was ten years ago, standing before the most beautiful girl I had known, now a woman. And we hug, and we laugh, and we talk, and with every syllable of her words, with every breath I take, with every second that passes, I remember. I am thirty, and I am twenty, and I am eternal.

Somehow the night has passed. We’ve had drinks, and we’ve had dinner, and now I am driving her home. I had not thought that dinner would go so well. She wants me to keep driving. I have a long drive home, but I am happy to oblige. There will be pain in the morning, but some things are worth a little bit of pain.

I’m twenty nine years old, and I’m staring at the ruins of a wall. I had been building that wall for almost ten years. The wall was meant to protect me – protect my heart. It had started life as a mask, just a cold and convenient think I could slip in and out of whenever I needed to. Whenever I was in pain or distress, I would put on the mask, and I would be the Shadow. The mask did not betray emotion. The frozen mask just smiled. Then came a day when I did not take off the mask. I felt myself strong inside the mask. So I built a wall.

The wall was strong, and thick, and made of stone. I built it around my heart so that no one could touch it. I built it around myself so that I would not have to feel anything. I built it around myself to contain the thing I felt living inside of me, that dreaded weakness of human frailty. It was meant to keep something in, as well as keep everyone out.

I’m twenty two years old and about to go to law school. There are tears in my eyes. I have been up all night, crying. I am dehydrated. I have watched The Alamo in its entirety, and still, sleep eludes me. I am about to start building a wall, but at the moment I do not know this. I am about to lose my first true love – this I know. I am the one who will do this. I am the one who will put the knife inside of myself, who will twist the ragged edge of the blade into my beating, frail, young heart, and through its torrent of blood, I shall empty myself of feeling, and kill the human within. There is a voice in my head that tells me it is for the best, that we are growing too far apart, and that the physical distance will be too much to overcome. The voice tells me that we are young, that we will be okay, and that someday, maybe, in the future, we’ll come together again, if it were meant to be.

I still believed in “meant to be’s” when I was twenty two years old. So I plunged the hated dagger inside of myself, and let my emotions drain. I call her on the phone and I tell her. “I’m sorry, Sarah,” the words echo across my memory. “I can’t do it. I have to let you go.” It’s not fair to either of us. I am too young, too stupid, too naive to know the damage I am wrecking. I am thirty one years old and I am crying for the boy I was at twenty two.

The wall came shortly after. The bleeding never stopped, so I wore the mask full time.

I do not have many happy memories of law school. Building a wall is hard, and lonely, work. I am cold through most of it. Some come to try and cross the distance, but I am certain that I drive them away. They came for the human, but there’s a hole in my heart where the human once lived. There is only the mask, and the wall.

I am twenty seven years old and I sit in my office, working on a motion. My best friend drops a bombshell at my feet: there is a crack in the wall. There is a weakness in my carefully engineered work. She’s come and she’s wrecked everything I spent such a long time building. And I was oblivious. The bleeding in my heart had stopped. At some point, when I had stopped looking, I had healed. The man was once more. And he was digging his way out.

I stare at the cracks in my wall, and I know I have to build them strong once more. There is nothing left but disaster if I don’t. My best friend tells me not to worry. She tells me she has never seen me happier. I know that she is right. She tells me that I can live with the cracks in the wall. In this, I know that she is wrong. But I allow myself to be convinced. I allow the cracks to widen, and I allow my wall to weaken.

I am twenty nine years old, and I am rebuilding my wall. Stone was too brittle. My next wall shall be of iron, born in fire. I shall make me a wall of anger, hate and distrust. Every negative emotion I have ever felt, or ever will feel, I pour into the mortar of my new protection. And I plant, and I rebuild, and I swear that I shall be strong once more. But I am lying to myself.

I am thirty one years old, and sleep eludes me. I float in a void of memory, an ocean of regret. Behind me I can see what’s left of my wall; my tower of iron and hate, shattered into a million pieces. I thought I would be strong, living in that tower. But then I’m twenty one years old again, and I am telling the most beautiful girl that I am in love with her, and she is turning me away. And I am thirty one years old, and I open myself up to her again, and again she turns me away. With a single night, she unmade me. With a single blunder, I remade myself.

I am thirty one years old, and for the first time in almost ten years, the man is free to walk the world again. I take a step forward, and find my limbs are weak. The mask beckons. I see its gleaming, frozen smile.

I reach out for it.

Critical Reading and Thinking on the Internet

Recently I posted a rant in Facebook which dealt with people – specifically, someone who is “friends” of mine on Facebook – spreading misinformation and outright lies on their newsfeed. I declined to name and shame primarily because I believed at the time that it really wouldn’t get anywhere – it’s unlikely that I would have accomplished any good except perhaps embarrassing this person, which doesn’t fit any definition of “good” that I know of – after all, this person has committed no sin except, perhaps, be ignorant. (To be fair, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt as to their level of culpability here.) So I ranted and I got a lot of likes and whatever. But I believe that part of the reason we have brains, part of the reason we are capable of reason, is to enlighten and debate. So in that spirit, I have decided to actually put my money where my mouth is and write a small dissertation on how to read critically on the internet.

We will, of course, need an example for me to work off of. For that, I will use an article posted on Mother Jones, titled “10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down”, by Dave Gilson, posted on January of last year (2013). I am using this article for two reasons – the first is that it is an article that is relevant to the world today, it says something informative, and is clearly an argumentative “position piece”: it’s taking a stance on something and saying “this is my position.” In other words, it lets me break it down point by point, raising a lot of the points that I wanted to bring up about critical reading. The second reason is that there is a follow up article, including a follow up from NRA media man Cam Edwards, and a response by Mr. Gilson, who wrote the original article. And we’ll get to the response later.

Disclaimer: First, my position on the whole 2nd amendment thing is pretty complicated. I like guns – as an instrumentality designed to do one thing, they are incredibly interesting, and dare-I-say fun to shoot. I have on several occasion gone to the range and fired a number of weapons, including an H&K PSG1, a 9mm Glock, an M1 Garand, at least two shotguns, and an AR-15. I enjoyed myself each and every time, and I believe it should be the right of every American and world citizen to at some point or another enjoy themselves as well. I would never, however, own such a weapon, because I believe that more guns in the world make the world inherently a more dangerous place. I embolden that statement not to make a greater point, but because I want to make my position crystal clear when it comes to the article that I am using as an example: I side with Mother Jones in this one.

(Continued)

Quickening

Inspiration used to come so easily when my thoughts were half-formed. It was as if I had not yet learned how to think, and so the thoughts took on their shape naturally, evolving with each passing mood and crystallizing, sometimes at least, into something pleasant. But my thoughts have form now, and function and a drive – a statement and a mission that makes it difficult to simply cut back and let my fingers fly over the keys, each stroke bringing with it some kind of revelation about the self. I have known myself, but have I forgotten myself?

I stare at the cursor blinking blankly at me, expectant, accusatory. Do I have nothing else to add? Or do I believe that no one else is listening? Anonymity was never the concern – my words were not meant to be heard but rather they were meant to be spoken, as the methodology by which I exorcised the demons that lived within me. Here I am years down the line and the demons that I have lived with continue to beat within my breast, and yet I have given them no voice. Have I learned to coexist with my demons?

I sleep alone at night and have to keep the television on to silence the voices that drum within me. This is not the peaceful slumber of the conquering but rather the frightened retreat of the conquered: I am losing the battle for my own soul. I have stacked my walls so high that even I feel drowned by them – I cannot see but the lines of iron and stone that I have laid between myself and the rest of mankind. In my hardness I have driven all away. If I am a man then I am an island, and soon the darkness will once more overcome me and I shall be the shadow again. But this time I shall be a broken shadow, no longer a champion but something else, something disconnected from its purpose – something weaker by comparison; and I fear that in that weakness I shall falter and I shall fail.

I wish, as all men do, that I could see the path before me. But I have chosen the dark, and that choice is my only comfort.

Recipe: Pizza Dough

If ever I retire from the law, I have said on multiple occasions that I will retire to the world of pizza making. With that in mind, I made an awesome pizza dough this weekend.  Chewy, crispy, easy to work with, and moreover freakin’ delicious.  Comes together in just about three hours, though you can refrigerate overnight for a slower rise/more yeasty bread.

Software:

  • 3 and 1/2 cups of AP flour, plus another 1/2 cup give or take to flour surfaces and finish off dough
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 yeast packet
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup+ olive oil (Extra virgin)

Bring the dough together as follows: add the honey to the water, which you want to be only slightly warmer than skin temperature, then add the yeast to that to allow it to bloom. Bring together the salt and flour, then add the yeasty water to the flour. Bring the dough together and knead with your hands for about 5 minutes. The dough should be slightly sticky and bounce back when you poke it. Then knead in the 1/4 cup of olive oil to the dough so it incorporates completely.

Get yourself a container and oil it up nice and slick. Drop in your doughball and let it rise for at least 2 hours, until it doubles in size. Once the time has passed, you plop the dough down into a floured surface and knock the bubbles around. I do this by massaging the dough extensively with my knuckles, then pulling the dough together for a ball and repeating a few times. Finally, bring the dough together into a big ball, and roll it around your board to tighten. Dissect this ball with a dough blade (or knife, whatever’s handy). You will only be using half of the dough for a single pizza – you can freeze the other half for later use, which I have done.

Roll the remaining half of the dough into a ball, then flatten and start shaping it into a pizza-like shape.  I am terrible at this, but I’m working on it.  I cheated and used a rolling pin and round pan to get a roundish, flat shape.  (I would have experimented more with trying to toss the pizza in the air in the famous twirling motion, but frankly my back was killing me thanks to a pinched nerve so I wasn’t particularly mobile and decided cheating was fine.)  Once you have your amoeba-disk shape, top with your favorite toppings and let rest for 45 minutes as you preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  After rested, bake for 20 minutes, then let rest for 5 minutes before slicing and enjoying!

(As to toppings, I went simple with tomato sauce, Parmesan, mozzarella, and thin sliced fried linguica sausage I had left over from last week’s meal.  Damn tasty.)

 

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