The Inside Man

Posted: October 8, 2014 in Socio Defined
Tags: , , , , ,

Tommy got out of his cage again. It’s a son of a bitch to get him back behind closed doors, otherwise, I’d have written sooner.

You can hardly blame him, I suppose. Twelve years, after all, is a very long time to lock such a wild creature away, but sadly, it’s just not long enough. The truth is, Tommy can never be free. The rest of us wouldn’t be safe, plain and simple.

Tommy and I first met back in 2000, far away from home. I’d seen him around, a lot. Every place I was stationed, there he was. On each deployment, he found his way into the muster report. And when I went drinking with my boys, he was always at the bar, right in the thick of it all, the Great Instigator of Chaos. As often as we were together, I didn’t really know him that well in those days. Fact is, I never even knew his name, not until he tracked me down anyway.

When I left the service, it had been because of him. And in spite of him. Tommy was old school soldier…true a Von Clausewitz disciple. “To introduce into the philosophy of war itself a principle of moderation would be an absurdity,” was one of his favorite quotes. It made sense, coming from the guy who actually seemed to find some sort of savage peace in the smell of people who’d been burned to death with incendiaries or, for lack of a better implement, napalm. Tommy loved the smell of that too, especially in the morning. Personally, I’ve never caught the scent of victory in the stuff, only raw petroleum and burnt skin. But it’s amazing what a man can get used to, especially around that guy.

Tommy knew me better than I knew myself, at least it seemed. He knew how to draw on the hate and anger inside, how to focus it into hostility, how to create chaos. In those days he brought out the worst in me and it was really too late, when I finally broke from him, because, by that time, I had become him. As my enlistment wound down, I’d grown downright dangerous to be around, and the brass was as relieved to see me go as I was to be leaving.

Mostly, I just wanted to be away from Tommy. The word most closely resembling the way he made me feel about myself is…Fear. From that feeling, I ran hard and fast, cutting a wide swathe across the southeastern United States, stopping only to refuel and reinforce the identity Tommy had imposed upon me. My journey was a haze, mostly, drenched in alcohol and brutality, a half dead and rabid pursuit of a sunset I couldn’t quite seem to catch.

It was on the night I gave up, turned right, headed north toward the wee hours of the morning, it was that night when Tommy finally caught up with me. It was pushing towards dawn, in a diner, somewhere just east of the Rockies, when a girl, a regular patron with sandy hair and a pretty smile, approached my quiet corner and asked my name.

“Tommy,” I answered without thinking, raising my eyes to make friends.

The name was random. It was the first time in a month I’d been asked, honestly, and given the fact that I was running low on cash, providing false information to potential witnesses would serve, at the least, to confuse anyone investigating anything I might end up doing.

Anything Tommy ended up doing.

In reality, it wasn’t so much the assumption of an alias as it was a christening of the part of me that really defines who I am. Deep down, in the darkest recesses of my little black heart, I know that Tommy is me. And that I am Tommy. And that it’s always been way. It’s Jason, as a matter of fact, who is really the impostor. Jason is the mask that Tommy wears out into the world. He’s a series of learned and socially acceptable behaviors. He’s the cage that Tommy lives inside.

A few weeks back, Tommy got out of his cage. And he tried to go to war.

“War is merely a continuation of politics, albeit through other means,” said Von Clausewitz. Tommy skips the politics. He’s not a talker or a manipulator and couldn’t give two shits about a treaty. He doesn’t bring logic and sensibility to the table. Tommy shows up with the box of matches. The matches and the gasoline.

The truth is, I let him out on purpose…because I needed him.

Tommy is the essence of the survival mechanism…he’s a living, breathing fight response…a last resort. When I can’t solve the problem any other way, when I can’t escape it or fix it conventionally, when I simply need it destroyed or subjugated, Tommy’s the one who handles that type of shit.

My new wife met Tommy while he was free. It wasn’t like introducing her to an old friend that I hadn’t seen since the hectic days of my youth. There wasn’t a warm reception or an embrace of a man long lost to the confines of civility. That day, he was just there, not on the porch, at the door, but inside. Inside our home. Inside of me…like an furious animal backed into a corner…lost, angst ridden and aggressive.

For the first time in over a decade, I felt like myself, and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Neither could Penny. Tommy scared her, I think. Hell, he scares me, and he is me.

Tommy would never harm Penny, not directly at least. I’d actually set him free to protect her, to do a job that Jason just couldn’t do. The trouble with him is that he takes over completely. He just can’t function properly within the constraints of the mask. Tommy understands only war, ungoverned by convention or absurd moderation, unhindered by any real or constructed element of conscience. And he commits fully with a level of effectiveness that’s hard to argue with and even harder to turn off.

All he really wants is to feel normal. Behind the facade lies coiled a creature trapped between two worlds. Tommy understands only conflict and his very presence threatens peaceful existence. In these moments of stress and contention, Tommy finds the closest thing to peace he will ever experience. When the shit hits the fan, in other words, he’s on both sides of it, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Sometimes I wish the world had a place where Tommy could be himself…where he could live out his days, what very few he could have, and feel normal in his own skin. The cost of this is great, unfortunately, and the only acceptable tender is the blood and fear of those in his vicinity. Indeed, Tommy can only truly exist within the haze grey obscurity of violent conflict. Or in the shadow of the man he longs to be, a man not unlike myself. And in that shadow he shall remain, watching, waiting, just in case circumstance demands an element of surgical brutality fueled by the homicidal panic of a cornered mountain lion.

I still read Von Clausewitz every now and again, as well as Tsunetomo and even a little Miyamoto. To a point, it’s nostalgic, a crawl through the gutters and trenches of the past, a reminder of what once was and most importantly, what could very easily be again. Some of it is for perspective, for an understating of Tommy, because Tommy and I, we are the same. But mostly, mostly it’s because I just can’t let it go.

And that’s ok.

Just as long as Tommy doesn’t get loose long enough to do anything really bad…like running amok through downtown in a heavily armored bulldozer…or…hijacking a submarine filled with Peruvian cocaine…or even…using a can of industrial adhesive and a case of road flares to ignite a revolution in Nicaragua…as long as he’s under wraps, mostly, we’re good.

And if you think I’m telling you what he did while he was loose last time, then you’re crazy as shit. I already checked the statute of limitations. I’ll get back to you in 2022. In the meantime, the frenzy has subsided, the beast imprisoned and I’ll be getting back to blogging about bullshit no one cares about.

Thanks for reading.

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