I had to turn away from the television during his testimony. I just couldn’t look at his garbage mouth any longer.
I got through hers. I rooted for her because I related to her being terrified, her asking politely for caffeine, and going all nerd under stress. Thank the baby jeebus nothing in her account triggered me too badly. I’ve never encountered physical sexual abuse. I have been “persuaded” into providing unenthusiastic consent on numerous occasions, some much worse than others. Example: here’s a special place in hell for the woman in college who asked “You do like girls, don’t you?” as a negotiating tactic. But nothing physical. I’m lucky. I’m a pretty big guy. As my grandpa would say, “Strong like bull; dumb like ox.” I can look real mean, like I’m about to go berserker, and I have a very low center of gravity.
But the Brett Kavanaughs of my life did physically abuse me. Sometimes it was fists. Once it was milk crate. Or it could be having to run until I felt like my heart would burst. Or it was the constant stress of never knowing where the next attack would come from.
And when the bullies cornered me —and they always eventually did —all I could focus on would be their mouths. I couldn’t look at their eyes because that would only enrage them. I would focus on the mouth because it was always pointed in my direction. And the mouths were always moving. I would fixate on those mouths until my entire field of vision was some twirling psychedelic bully-mouth kaleidoscope. Whatever crap they were spewing pulsated into almost-music. Sometimes it would seem like the bully’s toadies were dancing like go-go toadies to the almost-music of his hate. It’s easier to take the blows if you imagine they’re dancing.
If you turn away from the mouth, you start to react. People don’t like it when you react to bullies. How people react to you reacting is worse than whatever you’re dissociating away from at the present time. So you stare at the mouth. Sometimes it seems like their teeth have come detached from their jaw and are just swimming around in pink spit.
All bullies have the same mouth. When that much anger, illogic, and saliva get forced thru a small opening, the force of the hate begins to change their faces. The mouths cease being human. They become mere conduits for an ugliness so old, so gross that you’d have to go really far back in time for an analog, to some back channel of the evolutionary tree.
This bully-mouth fixation is not something I came up with because of having to watch Kavanaugh spit chewed-up questions back at Senators. Here’s an excerpt of something I was dabbling with back in 2013, but set aside. It’s from a story about about a guy who abused me in the seventh and eighth grades. First it was in a gifted program in Virginia Beach called Thalia —she was the muse of comedy. He attacked me with a hammer. I ran. I’m very fast. So, instead, he smashed my three foot wide model of Stonehenge. Then he followed me to a private school, the Norfolk Academy. It sucks to arrive at a new school pre-bullied. Before classes started, he altered the nametape on my locker to CHRIS FAG. I made exactly zero friends that year. But I was on the track team.
Best of all, he was next to me alphabetically. I was CHRIS FAY; he was CHRIS FALL:
And his mouth –his mouth was the worst. Imagine that lamprey worship were a viable fetish. Now imagine the blow-up doll that would accompany such a fetish. Now imagine it AFTERWARDS. That’s what his mouth looked like.
But there’s only so long one can be expected to stare directly at a lamprey.
One long bus ride home from the Norfolk Academy, I finally had had enough. Chris Fall was turned around in the seat in front of me, perching over the green naugahyde, just repeating the word “Clitoris” over and over again. occasionally he would add, “You’ve never seen one because you’re gay.” No, I haven’t seen one in the flesh because I’m thirteen, and from what I’ve heard no one has ever seen a clitoris. But what do bullies know of logic?
Also he was pronouncing it “cli-TOR-us.”
God, his mouth was gross on the “-TOR-.” But also a bit come hither. Like a lamprey sex doll.
At least my family’s Reader’s Digest Medical Encyclopedia included proper pronunciations for cross-sectioned parts you’ve memorized the locations of just in case you should bed just the right half of another person —“No, dude, I just want to stare at your vas deferens for a moment. It’s amazing.”— Proper pronunciation is very important. You don’t want to look like an idiot when you go to the doctor, or abuse the kid behind you alphabetically.
[I think “vas deferens” is the most fun sex part to say. I like a Ə you can elide over. Though I would stay away from searching for “vas deferens” on PornHub.]
Anyways, I got angry at the sheer stupidity. I was told I shrieked “clitoris” —with the correct pronunciation —a few times and punched the back of his seat until my knuckles bled. Okay, I got real angry, and it probably appeared out of proportion to cli-TOR-us. But, I’d been holding this in for a long time, well over ten percent of my young life.
The bus driver pulled over, and this is where the bullying moved from the realm of the kids into the realm of the adults. I forgave the kid bullies long ago. Kids are stupid.
I have not forgotten those idiots, and I will testify against them in a second.
Yet, it’s the adults who allowed this to go on, siding with the bullies because it was easier. Who wants to deal with an angry child? I have a tough time letting go of the adults’ part in this. It was institutionalized enabling, almost like bullying was integral to maintaining order.
The driver asked what was going on. I stammered in tears. Chris Fall got all dramatic —it’s true what they say about bullies being closet cases. He was like Aunt Pittypat from Gone With The Wind, but played by Charles Nelson Reilly. His inner queen was out for display, and she was angry and oh so bothered. “He just snapped. I don’t know what caused it. I’m just glad he didn’t come over the seat at me.” Then he clutched his clip-on tie like it was strand of pearls from a cart in the mall.
Of course the bus driver sided with Chris Fall. “The only one I heard saying that word was you.”
It’s the adults who choose to focus on the one event, the one time you actually fight back, that make bullying worse. No one seemed to care that this Chris Fall had been tormenting me for years. “I only want to talk about what happened on the bus. What he did to you last year is not my concern.” Chances are they never saw the bullying. All they knew was that I had “acted out,” and that’s upsetting to people. At least Chris Fall had the good sense to do his version of “acting out” upon me away from their eyes.
I tried explaining it to the Assistant Principal. He shrugged and said he thought it was funny that we were alphabetical. “Go figure,” he said with his mouth.
I was kicked off the bus for three weeks. My mom had to drive me. It was three weeks of being berated for a half an hour each way each day. “You’re just giving them the reaction they’re looking for,” was her favorite thing to say with her mouth.
I see Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony, and all I can focus on is the mouth. It is a bully’s mouth, and I’m back to re-enacting all those times I tried to report the bullying to what I thought were the proper authorities. All of a sudden, these kids who seem to spend every waking moment making others’ lives hell with their hate-spit mouths are now model citizens. Every time I fought back I was told it was my word against theirs. And that they were better.
The bully who spits nothing but mind-shit at you with is mouth is now spewing ersatz rainbows at the adults.
“I work very hard at lacrosse.” “He just moved here. I’ve been here since first grade.” “I’ve never even had a detention.” “You know I go to Young Life every week.”
“I like beer!”
All with his mouth. Then the bully and the “adult” start talking about how insignificant you are, while you’re out of the room. But you can still hear them. It will be pointed out to you that you didn’t go about “resolving” this in the proper way. “Why didn’t you tell anyone earlier? You just kept this inside? That’s not good for anyone.” The punishment you receive for speaking out will be good for you. Help you know your place. There’s a proper way to do things. Now you should apologize.
Simply put, Brett Kavanaugh is a bully. The all-too-real outrage at someone deigning to call out his shit; the crocodile tears at what a devoted athlete he was; the false equivalencies; the obvious boof-adjacent lying; and most of all, the complete lack of introspection —it’s all there.
And now his gross mouth will be making decisions that will undoubtedly unleash hell on those of us who are not cool, not on the team, not in Young Life, don’t like beer.
If there’s no hope for a deeply intelligent scientist and educator who peppers her speech with scientific tidbits in spite of being “terrified” because she knows that knowledge is power… fuck… then what hope is there for outsiders who stammer when terrified.
It’s death by a thousand lamprey bites, and the lampreys are in charge.