Dying (and Killing) To Fit In

Posted: August 13, 2014 in Being Pro Social
Tags: , , , ,

The last thing that I killed was a dog. But don’t start hating me. Not yet at least.

I did have a good reason…

My good friend’s dog came home one day with half his shoulder peeled back. He’d been, as dogs do, fighting in the neighborhood and the dog he’d been fighting had proven himself a consistent threat. Unfettered, unneutered and untrained, that dog oversaw a loose conglomeration of mutts that gathered daily at the end of the street to chase cars and menace the neighborhood. Axel was the de facto leader of this group and he seemed to rule with an iron fist.

Axel had been a problem for some time. He’d nipped at and bitten children on several occasions. His owners refused to keep him at home, which was actually several miles away. And animal control? In the country, animal control doesn’t really exist and the sheriff’s department answers your complaint with a question:

“Do you have a gun?”

I took one look at the big, nasty flap of torn skin on the affable Lab with whom I play fetch on a near daily basis and understood what was coming. My friend, bless his soft Christian heart, just doesn’t have it in him to do what sometimes has to be done. He didn’t ask me to do it. I just did it. Call it love, possession, call it what you want…but if you fuck with one of the few people that I value, I can and will correct that behavior. Without remorse.

I remember pulling the trigger. Vividly. That kind of a killing happens, partially, in slow motion. The instant your finger wraps around the trigger, when it realizes true intent, time nearly freezes. Your heart beats in your ears. The constriction of your hand and index finger around the grip, the nanometer by nanometer movement of the trigger, it’s like time is crawling, presenting you with every opportunity to disengage from the permanence that’s coming. But it’s all a fraud…before you know it, the firing pin drops and the primer explodes. In a literal flash, time begins again.

Axel saw it coming. From about six feet away, he saw the muzzle flash and a full load of 00 Buck headed his way. I’d say that was all he saw but I seriously doubt he felt anything. 00 Buckshot is the equivalent, if you don’t know, of eight .380 handgun slugs being fired at you. Simultaneously. Axel never had a chance to feel anything.

Neither did I, for that matter. I think that’s what always really bothers me afterwards. Most people describe sensations of guilt or remorse after committing such a deed. Some people probably experience fear. A considerable number, likely more than we’d prefer to admit, feel some form of elation and a few, a small chosen few, have mind bending orgasms when they pull a trigger. Me, I experience more stimulation when I pull the mailbox door open.

It took ten seconds to toss the dead animal onto a piece of plastic in the back of my truck and away I went. Yeah. It happens that fast. No one saw me. When I flopped the plastic wrapped Chow into the big green bin at the dump, the attendant didn’t even look up. It was a good, clean killing. No mess. No witnesses. An hour later, at breakfast, my then fiancĂ© asked if I was ok.

She knew what happened because I tell her everything. So over eggs and coffee, I told her I was fine.

And I was.

So therein lies the problem, or at least that’s what I used to think.

It’s supposed to be hard to take a life, any life, isn’t it? I’ve always interpreted that from tv and from other people, at least. A friend refused, at the last moment, to shoot the deer he’d been stalking. “I just couldn’t do it,” he said later. Guys freeze up in close combat all the time. Soldiers admit to missing intentionally. The tv protagonist, when presented an opportunity to gun down the villain, is often shown to hesitate at the last second, or even backing out entirely. Killing…violence in general…is supposed to be fucking hard.

Not so for me. My lack of personal emotional repercussions associated with such events leaves me pretty well ambivalent with regards to the commission of the act itself. I can just do it. Without hesitation and especially any sort of unnecessary reconsideration. If you hesitate, the target has a chance to move its head and you lose your opportunity. If you back out, you don’t eat venison for dinner or someone else’s dog gets the skin peeled off his shoulder. Or your six year old is scarred for life.

These days, I think it’s all about balance. I think the whole world, human society included, operates in a sort of harmony and it needs people like me to keep it in tune. Make no mistake…I’m not a pathological killer. There is no enjoyment, no stimulation, no chemical charge. The act in itself, to me, is not rewarding. But I can do it, and then eat breakfast and take a mid morning nap afterward.

When you first discover what you are actually capable of, how far you can really go, it’s a little scary. Realizing that sort of power is something that only a fool, or a true psychopath, takes lightly and I’ve always struggled with understanding it. The ability to inflict harm and pain without remorse, or fear for that matter, just didn’t seem like it could be a good thing. I always felt like something was wrong with me.

During my military years and the chaotic adjustment period that followed, I had a weird relationship with violence. The antisocial personality shit, along with a good bit of alcohol, the steady exposure to violence, testosterone and increased opportunities to engage in it made me a ticking bomb during my early and mid twenties. I treated my ability to behave violently the same way I treated the first fast car I ever owned and that car red lined in fifth gear at 168 mph. I never found my own red line. In retrospect, I consider my experiences in the service as a series of experiments in violence, sanctioned by both society and the state. Legal wise, it was all ok.

In the time thereafter, I found it difficult to disengage and slipped into a pattern of criminal behavior. Engaging in violence had not necessarily become pleasurable, but it had become habitual. Fucking shit up was normal behavior and, all of the sudden, it wasn’t, so what had been considered normal in that world was, even in the criminal subculture with which I began to experiment, extreme. And sort of profitable. I guess.

But it didn’t last. Violence doesn’t fit well within many social constructs. It almost always attracts other, more violent behavior, the same way Axel attracted me. And for that matter, the same way I attracted two well armed gentlemen in Juarez who effectively ended my criminal career by nearly ending me.

That’s balance. And the world needs balance.

There always needs to be somebody bigger. Somebody meaner. Somebody willing to go a step further with a pair of pliers in order to make the point that it’s not ok to use pliers and other assorted hand tools on other living creatures. It keeps the rest of us honest.

What the Columbine kids did wasn’t ok, not by any means, but it gives kids who like to bully other kids something real to consider. Frame by frame.

That’s also balance. It’s fucked up. But it’s balance.

I tend to avoid violence these days. I hadn’t even thought about the Axel incident in over a year until a couple of days ago when my Christian friend randomly thanked me. Apparently, his children had said something to him about feeling safer in the neighborhood since Axel disappeared. For a moment or so, I felt like a lost puzzle piece that had fallen into place.

I still do, sort of. It’s not possible for me to ever really, truly, fit in to a social group. I can make believe or play monkey see-monkey do and I do a damn good job, but it’s all for show and ultimately, it’s all for me. So the incident with Axel, for me, was monumental.

For once, a negative behavioral trait I carry and engage naturally served as cause for my puzzle piece to truly fit in somewhere, even if it was in a dark corner. I’d like to fit in all the time, but I know that’s not really possible and I’m definitely not seeking out similar opportunities. It was nice though, if only for a moment, to feel like I actually belonged.


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