I was fifteen, impressionable and impulsive. The heat was unmistakable so it was probably summer, that or the beginning of fall. When you live in South Florida it seems like every day of every year is as intolerably hot and humid as the last, and they say the heat really gets to people, like full moons and scraping chalkboards. Looping infinitely between torrential downpours and so clear you-can-hear-the-birds blue skies, summer days are full of uncertainty.
I was at Wendy’s with my two best friends, Kasey and Douglass. Kasey, the entitled white kid that would one day burn his garage down after his menagerie of music production equipment shorted out and caused a fire, had suggested the previous day that we go to the public pool at Central Park, the home of the high dive that was our stage. We got on the bus and took it north to the nicer part of Plantation, the places where the thing separating ticket and jail wasn’t the color of your skin, where politeness and whiteness didn’t exclude you from the eyes of the law, but didn’t need to, as the eyes never leered suspiciously, but rather gazed lazily.
Here, you could walk all over the street however you want without hearing sirens blare on behind you, and if you ever do, it’s just friendly officers making sure you’re okay. This wasn’t The Outsiders though, in South Florida there was a pretty even spread of poverty and prosperity and geography only mattered to a degree. Because even further north than the site of no prejudice was Lauderhill, another jungle full of predators and prey eternally at war with each other and themselves. It’s not like this subjugation is purposeful for immoral reason, it is simply done so in order for the current system to continue.
There is only one truth to the world, and that is that we are a world of aggression, a place where assertion over the rights and happiness of others is directly proportionate to how much we gain as a person, society, or nation. I dislike the word “system of aggression” in its modern use because it fails to recognize how broad a system of aggression can be. The pursuit of popularity, success, love, and our desires as a whole are all systems of aggression, systems that operate on the proclivity for self-gain and assertion of its cogs and operators.
We all operate on one-upmanship and self-advancement as our default setting, even in our generosity. Nobody dreams of helping a homeless man by giving them money, such an act is too weak for our ego to engage in. The generous, those that claim to hold the lives of others over their own, assert their generosity. They dream of being praised for their generosity, being called humble so they can truthfully reply that they aren’t very humble. The philanthropist wants to save the world so the next day’s newspaper will praise them, and every billionaire’s donation of .01 percent of their income is simply a publicity stunt.
This is not to say there are no good people in the world, only to say that we are all human and susceptible to the notion of aggression, a notion that carried big brained apes like us through our primordial days of hardship and strife. Animals seek alpha-dom naturally, and a vine wraps and suffocates the tree that shelters it in order to steal its nutrients and sunlight. Nature has survived due to its aggression, and this aggression has been ingrained in every single living thing that has ever existed on our planet. The reason for this is because life is a fight against death, it’s a goddamned effort and you stop trying when you die. The elements that make up our bodies will never disappear, but our spiritual self, our awareness and perceptions, will forever drive us to remain a form of matter that decides its own fate and moves forward on its own accord in order to live as comfortably as we can. We, the carbon carriers of DNA, are the evolution of a singularity that refused to simply stop existing, and look how far that molecule has come in eons of struggle and strife.
A system of aggression cannot relent, it must continue forward until it breaks, sputtering searing cogs and screws amid fire flames of frustration and turmoil. The war on crime is a war on poverty that must keep chugging. It’s an effort to eliminate poverty by simply restraining and enslaving it through mass incarceration instead of addressing the deterioration of these communities as a problem that our society as a whole has caused. We take wild animals out of the wild and put them in a cramped cage with other wild animals in order to tame them. Ask Cesar Millan if that’s sound, because he’ll tell you such a thing is what makes the snarling frothing Pit Bulls that we fear will rip the throat of freedom and security. No human is born with nothing but hate in their heart, a baby kicking out of need to hurt and harm. Man is made, and oppression can make a hell of a bad man. But we have blamed these men instead of the whip that tore their backs when they were following what they thought was their best (and only) route to happiness, the whip that broke them when they wanted to believe man is good, the whip that has lashed and fostered a furious hate that cannot simply fade away, a hate that has left scars on their backs, scars that their children inherit. For they have not heard the calming melodies of equality and harmony, only the deafening screeching rejections of a system that has deemed them the faulty cogs, the bad eggs, and most surprisingly of all, the hypochondriacs.
The bus ride was typical, we laid ourselves out across the back of the bus, each one of us taking up an entire bench selfishly and almost fearfully. We were afraid of sitting too close together, especially Kasey, but also afraid to not look our best and baddest. We saw ourselves as the badass anti-heroes of the back of the bus, the ones you wouldn’t sit next to unless there were literally no other seats, because to you (and in our assumption of your prejudices, to us) we’re punks and goons, the ones that would hang outside liquor stores or harass women with our crass desires that you know we should keep to ourselves.
Public buses are like the little desk organizers bringing together all the different kinds of writing utensils for one purpose, the place where many lives regularly intersect in their similar needs: the need to work, to need to eat, the need to show up to court and pay a goddamned speeding ticket, and the need to fuck their girl who lives across town with parents that hate their daughter’s love interest. On the bus that day, I heard two girls talking shit about another girl. I never heard any names, but I knew they went to my school, the school I was sent to while my friends were sent elsewhere. I despised them, those two girls, as I did with all of the people at my school that had absolutely nothing to do with my separation from the people that mattered to me, my friends and girlfriend.
But anger isn’t poured into different glasses or filed into different desk drawers, it’s just one infinitely voluminous pitcher that you fill and occasionally spill nearly unbiasedly, never choosing a time to spill or person to spill on, though some people may make your hands tremble and encourage thoughts of dumping the whole damn pitcher over their conceited heads before you punch them in the Adam’s apple or knock them over and kick them in the sternum.
I pretended to listen to Kasey and Douglass argue, but I was mostly just looking out the window and thinking to myself. I find it easy to do this unless I hear something that greatly upsets me, whether through obnoxiousness or importance. The giggles of the two girls allowed them to reenter my spectrum of attention, which wavers like a dead tree in a hurricane. They were talking about the other girl, or perhaps a fourth girl, calling her things like “bitch” and “whore.”
It’s only logical that in a world based on aggression, women are disparaged for their aggression. An aggressive man is the epitome of success, but an aggressive woman is a bitch. Some brilliant women realized they were enslaved by prejudices that they’ve unknowingly perpetuated, and they spoke of it like it was the epiphany that would change society forever. But they were either killed or ridiculed for centuries, spoken of distastefully even to this day. Such a thing should not be a surprise, that man, a naturally (and I say that referring to our biological architecture) more aggressive creature would assert itself over woman, its companion and eventual servant.
Adam surely ordered Eve around, and probably ridiculed her failures and groped her continuously. Since we established that man is superior to women at the beginning of society, we’ve been perpetuating this belief to no end, and shaming any woman that tried to change this by calling her want for power “bossy” or “bitchy” and her expression of sexuality “slutty” or “filthy.” Men built this prison out of fear of the other gender, but women have reinforced its walls in pursuit of aggression towards each other, fighting the other prisoners instead of uniting and attacking the wardens of inequality.
We could see from the fence surrounding the park that the pool was overrun with obnoxious children and their gossiping, barbecuing, look-at-the-Johnsons-they-got-a-new-car suburban parents. So we walked past it and didn’t look back at the shitshow. The pool had become the hub of the socialites, people we’d not be able to tolerate. The way they advanced through life was just sickening to us, and we often found it necessary to insult or harass them for it.
The middle class would best be described as kings too stupid to realize that they’re royalty. Despite adequacy and a college education, they just mull over the bullshit of life: do their socks match their suit, and will their attire make their boss notice them; will their candidate win the reelection to a position they will continue abusing, and will their efforts of going door to door or putting signs in their yard contribute to said politician’s reelection; do their neighbors have a better kitchen than them, and if so, what can they do or who can they hire to make sure their kitchen is fit for postmodern utopians; what is Kim Kardashian doing, and how can they insult or praise her internally and make themselves feel better or worse about it? They are made busy by the system of aggression, expecting nothing better than what they receive. They are the complacent, the disgustingly ignorant. They let others speak ignorance for them, and further the system’s domination of their lives singlehandedly through their refusal to taste the bitterness of their grapefruit reality.
Enslave a body and the mind will revolt. It will force the body to tug at its unmalleable chains and inevitably cave in the skull of the key holder, or die trying. Enslave the mind, convince it that it is serving its greatest purpose and incapable of freedom, and you could leave the body with the key without any fear. For the mentally enslaved hold their decrepit chains as the religiously devout hold their wounded children, coddling and crying and trying to find meaning in the tragedy that has befell them, even when the reason is obviously and simply that they are not enslaved by outside purposes, and they can free themselves at any time and live intentionally and independently, unafraid of the mountains of consequences that are threatened upon them by the gods that grip the end of their chains, unafraid to reach into their pockets and find the gold glistening key that has been there all along.
We stopped at Publix on the way to my house, our new destination. I’m sure that I bought a Ting, a Jamaican grapefruit soda that Publix doesn’t sell around Orlando for some reason. It’s a shame because I can’t eat grapefruit with a smile, it’s such a bitter distasteful fruit. Only when it is made into a soda can I appreciate the bitter tartness of that pink flesh. Kasey probably bought yogurt-covered pretzels or raisins because that’s what he would always buy. He also probably got a Fresca, a drink we would often tease him about as a hint of his homosexuality, which had been hinted to us many times before. Douglass, my artistic Jamaican friend, always bought plantain chips or Fritos but he definitely bought garlic plantain chips that day, accompanied with a Ting as well. I can still see him sitting on my porch with the green bag in his right hand, left hand submerged in the salty goodness that I hope reminded him of home.
We eventually made it to my home. The only interesting thing along the way was being passed by a friend’s car and the always inappropriate bantering we would usually be immersed in when we were traveling. The bus, one of our cars later on in life, or on foot, it didn’t matter. We would always be arguing about which well-known babe’s curves were the best, which rapper was the best, which drugs were the best. It was always something and it almost always about which one was better than all the rest. Sometimes we would take counterpoints just to argue. I would never eat onion rings over good fries, but if Kasey started talking about how good the fries at Duffy’s are, I’d jump in and talk about how much better the onion rings are. Such a conversation began on my porch about whose pool flip was better.
“You’re full of shit dude” Kasey rubbed his wet hair with a towel then took a swig of water. “I flipped fucking straight and you didn’t”
“Yah bumbaclot flipped standin still, battiboy. Ah ran and did my shit right” Douglass adjusted the tie in his hair then, once a hand was free, flipped off Kasey with a long proud finger.
“Don’t fucking call me that,” Kasey jumped into Douglass’s space immediately as an act of aggression, pushing his shirtless body onto Douglass’s, which didn’t strengthen his request for Douglass not to call him a Jamaican slur equal to (actually stronger than) our “faggot.”
The issue was that Kasey’s flip was supposedly cleaner but he did a front flip statically, not running or anything but starting on the edge of the pool. Douglass ran then turned around at the last second with a short hop and back flipped slightly off center. I honestly think Douglass had a better flip in retrospect, especially because it was a backflip, which I can’t do (especially the way he did it), compared to Kasey’s front flip, which I can literally do any day of the week. Even Monday, when I’m hungover and sleepy.
Government, religion and existential purpose, success, beauty, gender roles, sexuality, economy; the great lead chain of aggression takes many forms, forms at which we, the enslaved masses, have been chipping away at for time immemorial, literally for longer than we can remember. But as amnesiacs of perpetual discontentment, we flail violently only for a short time before forgetting entirely what it was we were angry, actually furious, about. It’s funny, even when we remember our insane bouts of struggle and hostility and even remember the reason for which why we were so riled up, we continue to neglect the notion that not all is right in our communal situation, yet we are able to feel such pain from our own personal situation. We internalize these troubles, even identical twins don’t expect to share the same pain, the pain we all share when we feel worthless or used.
They had calmed down an hour later, but they were about to go at it again with their neck strutting and feather ruffling. Saying nothing to either of them, I walked around the house and opened the side door to my garage. I brought out the ladder my dad used to trim the trees that hang over our fence and litter our pool with acorns and leaves, acorns and leaves I would have to dive down to get because our pool vacuum would choke on them. I set the ladder up against the back of my house then climbed up onto the roof. Kasey shot up out of the water following his flip and stared at his friend who was now on the roof. Douglass had been watching the whole time.
“Yah crazy breddah” Douglass laughed as he took a seat and dug into his garlic plantains. Kasey swam away from where I was set to land before shouting “thug life.”
“Shut the fuck up, Kasey,” I shouted back
If you have never sat on your roof, you should. I looked around at all the backyards I could spot from my house. I saw a pool and some pool chemicals and toys in one other yard and a Jacuzzi in another. Besides that, the yards I could see laid a bare wet green with no deviation. The manicured yards of the stenciled homes made me glad to have a yard torn up by a dog possessed by an insatiable desire to dig. I laughed to myself on how something like grass can look so wet and lively yet also look so dry and dead.
And once we, the emaciated tortured slaves, collapse and our memories disappear, our ankles are finally freed in exchange for the same ankle cuff, like a terrible heirloom, being clamped onto the supple hairless legs of our children, whom we can only hope will notice the kinks and scratches where we attempted to free ourselves, and take it upon themselves as well to bring change. Change is the desire to see a brighter day, a shinier golden palace for which humanity may rest and reflect without the threat of aggression; none of this is possible without the elimination of aggression. But, if aggression was to be used against itself, what would happen? Would the system defeat the upstarts? Or would the fat and greedy sultans that have sat upon the silver platter we have carried for millennia fall? Will they roll off the plate into the mouths of the hungry, whom have waited since the beginning of time to taste the succulent pigs they’ve been breeding? The flesh of the bred-to-be-fed will provide the most delicious feast in history.
I looked down and jumped from my roof. I didn’t run and jump (out of fear of my roof tiles being dislodged), nor did I do so with any flourish other than a last minute cannonball. I simply took a few steps then made one final step, almost a hop, off the safety of my roof into the terrors of my pool. I didn’t make a leap of faith, for faith had no part in it. Rather, I stepped haphazardly off my roof, unsure and scared as any human could be in a time of extreme action. The experience was enjoyable in the same way a rollercoaster is, an exhilaration only achieved by defying physics and doing something that your body is sure will kill you. My body was in the right this time though, as jumping off your roof is much more dangerous than riding a rollercoaster. I knew this bodily reaction to be natural and informed, especially when my back just barely missed the edge of my pool.
It’s simply about fighting your nature at some times but not others. Sometimes, when you’re on the edge of a roof or in a similarly fearful situation where fruition of your endeavors is sure to be epic, and such fruition is one simple but great action away, you just need to carry your shaking limbs over the edge with a titanic aggression and let gravity take you. Because though I just barely and fearfully made it, I won that day nonetheless.