--"I Heard A Rumour", Bananarama
"So is she alright?" I heard Breanne ask.
"DeAnn's fine. Nasty bruise, but nothing broken," I answered.
It hadn't been my finest hour. In truth, it very well may go down as me at my absolute worst. I have done a lot of things that I am none too proud of, some things I'd rather forget, but never before had I really known what I was capable of as a person. They say one never knows what one will do in any given situation until one is presented with that situation. The situtation I had faced earlier that day I had definitely never faced before. That much I could be sure of. Otherwise, I would have been more equipped to deal with the fallout, with how she was going to feel about the incident and how I was going to feel about myself. I thought it was a one-time thing and in that vein I had called B. to reassure myself that I wasn't truly the monster I saw that afternoon.
"And explain to me what happened again, Patrick?"
"We were suppossed to go to her sister's college graduation and we'd gotten into a fight about how long we should stay afterwards. Of course, I wanted to go right home and she wanted to put in more than a token appearance. It escalated until finally she told me I could stay home. She would be going to the graduation without me."
"Patrick, Patrick, Patrick..."
"Well, you know my thing, Breanne. I never want to leave a fight unsettled. It fires up my temper when I'm in the middle of a heated debate with you and you just turn to walk away. I don't know--I think it's somewhat disrespectful."
"Not your day. It shouldn't have been about you. It should have been about DeAnn's sister."
I've always struggled with being self-centered. I don't think I'm a vain person. I don't believe that the world revolves around me. But I do tend to think that if you are involved with me somehow, if you are friends with me or going out with me, that I deserve some type of consideration. In my warped view of thinking that day it was a simple matter of her having one set of plans for the evening and me having another. Never once did it enter my head that special circumstances surrounded that day. Never once did it enter my head that what I wanted really didn't matter on that day. All I knew was that, like a spoiled brat, my wants weren't being paid the attention I thought they deserved.
"Let me guess, sugar. She tried to leave and you did something to try and stop her."
I'm not proud of what I did. I'm not the type of person to make excuses for my behavior when I can see now that my behavior was truly inexcusable. All I can say is at the time I believed I was in the right and a man can do some incredibly short-sighted and tragic things when he feels he's got right on his side.
"She was walking for the car door, calmly. She wasn't running. She was crying, though. I guess she couldn't understand how I could be ruining yet another of her family functions. I ran after her to try and stop her. As she was reaching her arm in to get in the car I was in the process of trying to shut the door before she could get in. I ended up slamming it on her arm. Hard. Hard enough to instinctively withdraw it back by her side.
"And did I ask to see if she was hurt? Did I apologize for my mistake? No, I just shut the door to make sure she couldn't get in."
What followed next with Breanne was something I have never quite grown accustomed to with my friend. She went silent. In fact, she went silent for a good two minutes. Normally, with most people I would know what this meant, but Breanne always voices her opinions, is always in the middle of telling you her mind that I honestly didn't know how much I'd really gotten to her. I was a dumbass, I was a brute, I was every cliche of abusive and violent spouse you could think of. It wasn't enough that I hadn't quite reached the maturity necessary to know when I should a let a matter drop as is, I had to push it into an entirely otherwordly realm of wrong. Perhaps if I'd just let DeAnn go to the graduation and I'd gone home the bad blood would have simmered down. I would never know because I just had to take it to that next level of immaturity and violence that insured I'd be ashamed of my behavior that day for a good, long while--maybe forever. Breanne had known me for far longer than DeAnn did. Maybe the shock of hearing about my exploits that afternoon had really struck her mute. It's not everyday you find out your friend isn't quite as grounded as you once thought he was. It's not everyday you find out someone you grew up with isn't the person you counted on him to be.
"Breannie, you still there?"
"And you're sure she's okay? You took her to the hospital and everything?"
"Yes, we went right after the graduation dinner. We got it checked out. I think she'll be fine."
The next few words clued me in to how the rest of the conversation would flow.
"That's just great, Patrick. That's just great. Are you trying to get yourself in trouble? Never mind what her daddy would do to you if he found out. She really could go the police. Any tiny bit of physical abuse you're supposed to report. You really are six ways to stupid sometimes, Patrick."
"I know," I sighed. "Like I said, I'm not proud of it. As soon as it happened I got that familiar sense of dread I got when I used to roughhouse with Francis when we were kids. We'd be playing somewhere and I'd accidentally hurt him. He'd cry or be doubled over somewhere and all I could think of was 'fixing' it so he wouldn't be crying anymore. It wasn't even about being apolegetic for hurting him. I just didn't want to get caught. I didn't want to be blamed."
"I wanted her to stop crying. As for not wanting to be blamed, it was only the two of us there. It wasn't DeAnn's fault so that only left me."
I don't even remember if I started to apologize to her right away. I think for the first few minutes I had that uncomfortable sense of victory when one gets his way in one matter but loses another battle to achieve that victory. I'd stopped her from leaving, but I'd sacrificed my other goal of resolving the matter in a calm, mature manner. Sure, she hadn't been arguing about going to the graduation. Nope, she'd been too busy being hysterical over thinking her arm may have been broken.
Yea, I won.
"So have you two talked about it?"
"Well, I just got home from her house and I decided to get your opinion first before calling her back. I just don't know what to say. I've apologized so much today when we were out of earshot of her family. I don't think it's enough, though. I don't know what else to tell her."
"Promise me something, darling. Promise me this is going to be the last time you tell me you've hurt her. This can't happen again. You can't tell me you and her had another accident. I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt, Patrick, I really would. And the way you describe things it could be you didn't have time to stop yourself before she could get her arm out of the doorway, but I know you. You never tell any story without pushing it in subtle ways to your advantage. Everyone does it, but I've noticed you seem to do it almost unconsciously. Who knows what actually happened? For all I know you did shut the door on her arm on purpose and you did mean to hurt her. I don't know. All I'm getting is your side of the story and like my daddy says, 'it's only truth if you were there, otherwise it's just a tale someone's telling you, dear.' You want me to be on your side even if you know you were wrong. You still want me to agree with you and because of that you're going to tell me what I want to hear. I don't know--you do seem capable of it."
"I do?" I said, honestly surprised. I mean--I knew she knew I had a temper, but I don't think anything in our past would have suggested I could hurt anyone physically like that.
"Definitely. Don't you remember when you were over here? Don't you remember what happened?"
"We were, you know, wrestling on my bed. You had barely finished tickling me because I'd told you I was only ticklish when I felt like being ticklish. I remember how that had gotten under your goat so you'd proceeded to find that perfect spot where I couldn't resist laughing. You were so determined to prove me wrong and, God's truth, it was kind of fun to see how frustrated you were getting. Eventually, you'd found it. The look of satisfaction on your face would have made you think that we had just had a roll in the hay or somesuch. There I was, thinking 'my turn' so I attempted to turn the tables on you, sugar. I poked at your side gaily. Big mistake on my part.
"You'd told me to stop and not in a joking manner. You would have thought I'd stabbed you or something. But I thought we were still horsing around so I kept going. And going. Eventually, you'd yelled at me to stop one more time and I had kept on going."
I knew what came next. I recalled it from the description that Breanne was painting over the phone with me. It's funny. Maybe I had been fooling myself this entire time into thinking I was one of those upstanding guys that always took it easy with members of the opposite sex. Me, hit a girl? Never. Me, hurt a girl? Never. Maybe the first part was true. I still have never taken a swing at some, male or female, other than my brother. But that day in Breanne's bedroom, with her folks only a floor below, I remembered that I wasn't the gentleman I thought I was.
"Perhaps you were just instinctively trying to protect yourself. I had been tickling you rather persistently and aggresively. I just thought you were being coy, but perhaps you were trying to tell me something I didn't want to listen to. You don't like being tickled. At any rate, Eeyore, I remember reaching underneath your shirt to tickle underneath your ribs one minute and then coming off the bed the next minute. I landed rather harshly on my backside more from the surprise than from the force. I'm not going to say I was injured or in pain. My pride maybe. I just couldn't believe you'd actually kicked me hard enough to get me off the bed."
"Fuck, I apologize, Breanne. I forgot about that. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you either."
"It's just that back then you told me it was instinct and that it'd been an accident. And I believed you. I totally bought your story that your brother had seen the unpleasant side of your legs when you'd been playing around when you were younger. That all you could think about was getting me off of you without realizing I was about a foot shorter and providence only knows how many pounds lighter than you. I thought things had just gotten too far. No real harm done, you know?
"The weird part was that my mother kind of warned me later on that day while you were washing up for dinner. She'd asked what that strange bump she'd heard while we were upstairs. Hell's bells, I thought, we weren't fooling around, mother. But I think she was worried about something else. I told her I'd tripped while we were dancing around in my room, thinking that would be that. The strange thing was she told me to be careful while you were staying with us. 'He's a lot bigger than you and you could get hurt really easily, honey.' I thought she was just talking about not knowing your own strength, but perhaps she saw a side to you that I couldn't.
"You don't think when you feel trapped, Eeyore. I'm only telling you this so you can be more aware of it if and when something like this happens again. When you feel backed into a corner, whether if it's in a fight or you literally are being restrained in anyway, you lash out without thought. You'll hurt everyone and anyone to get free. Today, I think DeAnn backed you into a corner where you didn't feel like you had any control over what was happening between you. And to get back that control you did what you did to make sure things weren't left on her terms."
I don't know if all of what she was telling me sunk in right away. Probably the combination of hearing it from her and then again with DeAnn over the next few years finally ingrained it into my head that I covet control way too much. The sense of powerlessness to affect things truly does scare me. Fighting with DeAnn, even if it had been just verbally, really drove the lesson home. She, I was to find out, had the annoying habit of walking away from fights when nothing had really been settled. She would just leave like that. It used to drive me crazy. I used to do anything I could to keep the argument going to a point until we'd finally come to some real results. It took me a long time to see things from her side, to see that sometimes fleeing from the stress could be a good thing. Sometimes you just have to take a moment, a minute, an hour or two to get your bearings. Sometimes the point you're trying to prove while you're in heated debate just isn't that important to you when you're out of the spotlight of having to defend your point. Sometimes you truly do have to pick your battles.
I also had to learn that just because I lost a verbal fight didn't mean I had to display I was still strong physically. Being right and being able to back up your position with displays of violence are now tantamount. I honestly don't know what I was thinking. Maybe it was like Breanne said during another conversation, I couldn't win with words so I always resorted to winning with muscle. Like I said, I never hit anyone, but I was a big fan of fuming and fussing, slamming doors, screaming, and occasionally throwing things to let the other person I meant business,
She never had to say it, but I knew Breanne had heard that quality in me even during our conversations on the phone. She could hear the frustration in my voice when I was convincing her of something I thought she should be convinced of. She could tell how confused I got when I heard her disagree with me. And I know she heard me slamming the phone on her to hang up on her. To be fair, I think she always knew I was capable of melting down during the right conditions, but having a friend you don't see all the time you really can't confirm your suspicions. It'd be like hearing your friend has started to eat out more and sit around the house more. You might suspect they've grown a tad chubby but because you don't hang out with them everyday you can never really be sure.
That is, until they tell you they are fat.
Breanne might have known I was capable of slamming a door on my girlfriend, but she never said anything. That is, until I told her I did just that.
"I'm telling you loud and clear so you hear me, Patrick. If you hurt her again we can't be friends any more. We can't. Okay?"
"Okay," I said. "I'm going to be different now that I know what to watch out for. You'll see, Breannie. You won't ever hear of me being rough like that again."
"This is your second and only chance, E. Make it a good one. Call your girlfriend and tell her what you just told me. Convince her that this... will... never... happen... again. Okay?"