Dad always said he hated a bully. It seemed an admirable belief and one of his finer ones, when it came down to it, that made up his personality. For years I thought that this line of thinking concerning bullies allowed for a symmetry between us, despite our many differences otherwise spanning religion to politics to sports. When the divide between us seemed ever-expanding, I often thought…at least we have the same disdain for bullies. But it’s a very different thing — hating a bully as opposed to hating being bullied. It took me several decades to figure out the distinction. Hating being bullied is more about being afraid of death, particularly one’s own. To truly hate the actions of a bully and to do something to stop someone else from being bullied, even though taking action could come at great personal cost, is an act of bravery in that it is a reprioritization of evolutionary instinct. Some might suggest that a desire to confront bullies even when one is not being bullied is still some sort of evolutionary adaptive behavior in that to stop someone else being bullied today, it could be argued, is to stop oneself or one’s progeny, being threatened tomorrow. Personally, I find this to be unlikely as it seems to give humanity too much credit as most people make decisions entirely with their contemporary asses, not their evolutionary asses, and that’s it. The modern, overly exposed Instagram-ass is the decision-maker these days — it tells a person to shake it proudly at another human to get their attention or smack someone with it to take them out if they are a threat or simply to wag your ass at them like a flabby flag of defeat as you run across the street in the crosswalk from an oncoming van even though you obviously had the right of way.
As a frequent pedestrian, I’ve always hated bullies in automotive vehicles. It’s particularly cruel to take advantage of the frailty of human vessels while driving in steel-bodied cars that on average weigh about four thousand pounds. To bully a pedestrian in a car is punching way down, but it’s something lots of drivers do because likely, given the uncertain political times we live in along with the rate of technological acceleration and its subsequent tyrannies, they are high on prescription drugs and/or perhaps weed among other substances…like green juice or tea. Though marijuana, for instance, is not as bad generally as its pharmaceutical equivalents, it is a therapeutic nonetheless and not often enough used to increase consciousness as one might hope but to sedate consciousness because awareness is suffering and lack of awareness is bliss when up is down and left is right in this upside-down world. To bully a person with a vehicle bigger than a car like an SUV or truck or van makes that individual an enormous asshole.
Yesterday, I walked across the street — well, actually ran across the street pulling my twelve-year-old dog behind me to evade a man driving a van straight at us. He was making a left-hand turn, but we had a walk sign at the crosswalk. The gentleman in question (and I use that term interchangeably here with asshole, so as not to say asshole too many times, well, just because) stared right at me but didn’t slow down. I looked at this gentleman quizzically as I jaunted away, mere feet from being struck. As I did so, I raised my hands up a little justifiably perplexed like I think Jesus might have been if he ever had that conversation with God the Father in Heaven right before he came down to Earth as a baby to live his whole life to be killed as a sacrifice and then raised from the dead when God said, “Jesus, I know it seems weird but this is what you have to do, well, just because.” I’m not sure what Jesus’s next line would have been but I bet he mixed up his words a little bit because he was very confused. Maybe Jesus told himself that he and God the Father both hated bullying and it was good that they at least had that symmetry between them so that was why he had to what he had to do…to stop bullying?
The line I offered this…gentleman was, “What the fuck are you doing?” His only response was his blank stare, the look of a man that was not really there at all. He was driving a van in Memphis but he was totally gone, but somehow utterly not gone at all. His body was there but his mind wasn’t dreaming or raging or anything. The gentleman was of no mind but not in the spiritual sense of lack of attachment to the temporal but in the sense that something about the pressures of life forced him to create a kind of nowhere-space where he lived to survive.
Just as I made it across the street, a fleshy-faced man bellowed out of his truck window while he was making the very same left turn that recently had nearly ended the corporal existence of myself and my mostly happy, elderly dog. “Ha ha ha! He watched you run! He just watched y’all run!” A wry smile developed immediately on my face and I laughed out loud as big as I could, but not as much of the guffaw as the guy in the truck because some people have superior laughs and that’s life, and I thought to myself, He’s right. He is really right. Whatever anger I had at the van gentleman for almost killing me and my dog and not giving even a loose crap about it had vanished. This series of events said something profound about the importance of acknowledgement. What if in Heaven when God told Jesus all the scary stuff he had to do, someone nearby like a fat cherub or something gave a knowing glance or took his pointer finger to his ear and rotated it in a circle like, This shit is crazy, bro? It probably happened exactly that way because how else would Jesus have been able to have the fortitude to go down to Earth as a baby and then let himself be killed to be raised from the dead?
Why are you not angry anymore, I asked myself? It must have something to do with the acknowledgment of suffering lessening the aloneness of fear, and the anger simply melted away because anger is born from fear.
As I was thinking about this acknowledgement giving me a lift, I realized I was levitating off the ground a couple of feet and walking on air. My dog was too but she was even higher off the ground, elevated at three and a half feet, so she was in the perfect spot to look up at me with love in her eyes and to see the love I have for her and I was in the perfect place to set my hand upon her back as we continued to float-walk down the sidewalk together.
Kevin Del Principe is a writer and film director. The son of a snowplow truck driver and a school nurse, Kevin grew up outside of Buffalo but now makes his home in Memphis. I Animal is Kevin’s debut novel, published by Tumbleweed Books. He directed and co-wrote the feature film UP ON THE GLASS, available through Gravitas Ventures. Kevin earned his MFA in Writing for Screen and Television at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.