At the time, I knew perfectly well that I was bipolar, but I didn’t have a formal diagnosis, and I wasn’t about to waste the time to go get one. But I had so much anger, the kind of anger that saps sleep and blasts good ideas out of your head. So when my vitriol had built up in my system enough that I was losing the ability to function, I’d go down to the Free Speech Area and shout back. It didn’t really matter what we argued about, it just gave me a place to vent my rage in public without causing too much of an uproar. Friends who saw me were sympathetic, “Give it up, Jessie, he won’t go away,” and others thought it an amusing pursuit. I was the only person who knew that my bloody anger wasn’t directed at the man at whom I was shouting, and it kept me out of an institution when I desperately needed to be writing papers.
The third or fourth time I did this, I realized that, where I was getting catharsis from heckling this guy, the man himself was gleeful. He wanted, needed an opponent to make his speeches more fun. He could only spew so much random bullshit before he got tired of hearing himself speak. But if someone would ENGAGE him, then he had a whole bag of Deuteronomy and Revelations to throw at his enemy. It reduced my own guilt about hassling a man who was obviously more messed up in the head than I was, even though I still hated the guy and loved to use him as my venting board.
Fast forward to last Christmas.
We took a train to Tennessee. It was called the Blue Ridge Express, and it took us from Blue Ridge Georgia to this place on the state line of Georgia and Tennessee. We’ve done this before, and it’s always very fun. This Christmas, there was a prosthelytizer standing right on that state line (which runs through the middle of town) in front of the little Christmas Village the kids wanted to visit. People were steering clear of the guy, because he was clearly not quite right. As we walked past, he met my eyes and said, “And Jesus [blah blah blah]“.
I said, in my most irritable, sarcastic voice, “Christ.”
He said, “Jesus’ last name is NOT Christ.”
And I said, “Oh, and I bet the next thing you’re gonna tell me is his middle name isn’t H, either.”
And I drew from my husband and fellow passengers snickers that reminded me of the Free Speech Area at UK. Sam brought all of this to my mind this week because he repeated to me one of my own oft bellowed oaths, “Jesus H. Christ on a Motherfucking Crutch.” (He’s not supposed to cuss just because I do; we’re explaining that those are adult words and he needs to learn how to use them right. But when he does it in the appropriate context, I don’t get all riled up. When he doesn’t, I just try not to encourage him.) So I thought I’d try to encapsulate them in a story.
So, to those who thought I was including my own opinion yesterday, yes, of course I was. I always am.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.