Sunday, September 4, 2011
When I was about eleven and my brother was about eight, we got into one of our perennial arguments. We were home alone, and I must have seen my chance to really win, once and for all. I began a relentless verbal attack. I don’t remember what we were arguing about, but I remember the moment when I realized my brother was crying. It made me feel so monstrous to know that I had hurt another person that much. I made a vow that I would never hurt anyone again. I wish I could tell you I pulled it off. I often think of these damaging actions; my mind lies open, to borrow Philip Larkin’s metaphor, like a drawer of knives. My friend once told me his philosophy in life was to do the least amount of harm in the world. When he died too young, hundreds of people came to bear witness to how well he had followed his own belief. Since we’re not invited to our own funerals, we won’t know if we’ve done more healing than wounding. I will keep turning over the stones of my regrets, hear them rattle in my pocket, little bones of death.