I show up either just before or right after my cousin Insomnia manifests, in those elusive moments when she actually allows Jack just enough R.E.M. sleep to keep him from going completely insane.
I scare the shit out of Jack.
The Stephen King treatment’s grown stale and ineffectual against Jack’s resilience and his infuriating tendency to be confrontational about fear. My methodology for Jack these days is far more insidious, more surgically precise. I sift through his subconscious for all of the hurt his rational mind is incapable of processing, then wait until his testicular fortitude is subdued by physical exhaustion. When Jack falls asleep I taunt him with visions; lucid dreams about the life he hoped would be his, the love he (arrogantly) still thinks should be his.
At the pinnacle of his imagined euphoria I set the Elysian fields of his dreams ablaze. I scorch any semblance of hope and leave his faith a smoldering pile of ash and soot.
I make sure Jack wakes entirely bereft of joy.
I am Jack’s Moral Ambiguity.
I service Jack’s self-preservation mode. I work in tandem with Jack’s survival instinct. I protect Jack.
When the light of day is blinding and the dark of night obscures the path, I offer Jack the comfort of shade. I rationalize his questionable decisions and absolve his inappropriate behavior. When Jack wakes up violent and confused from yet another nightmare plagued slumber, I whisper, “Jack Daniels is your morning coffee.” I don’t assign a moral value to Jack’s actions. I will lie steal and cheat if it means getting him through another day.
I’m a recent but growing addition to the chorus. Ever since Jack’s moral compass was demagnetized by repeated heart trauma, I’ve become more and more powerful. Some of the elder voices are surprised at just how much pull I have over him these days, but Jack needs me. I will sanction any activity that grants Jack an iota of solace, a modicum of even momentary advantage, any fleeting happiness.
I am Jack’s Raging Libido.
You know that old wives tale about men reaching their sexual peak at seventeen, and declining every year after that? Well I did not get that memo. Jack starved me in his twenties during that sexually suffocating marriage, so when he finally unleashed me after his divorce, I went berserk. I’ve doubled and tripled in the time since Jack loosed me from my cage, and I am never, ever, going back.
I’m fully aware that feeding me means starving his soul, and you know what? I don’t fucking care. I’m ravenous, never-ending, oblivious to logic and utterly devoid of virtue. Combine me with Jack’s Moral Ambiguity and I am unfuckingstoppable. I don’t remember their names. I don’t ask their ages. I don’t give a shit about their feelings. I’m the unofficial channel for all of Jack’s seething, unfocused aggression, and if that dinosaur (Conscience) weren’t still basically in charge I’d run amok and wreck up the place.
I am Jack’s Conscience.
I am The Elder Voice, the Final Say, the light of reason. I was ingrained into Jack by his parents, inculcated into him from birth. I am his sense of honor, dignity, loyalty, and integrity. I used to run shit, back in the aforetime, the quiet days, before it got so crowded in here. My word was Law; I was above jurisdiction, beyond question. It used to be so… uncomplicated. Then that idiot went and got his heart broken (repeatedly). That’s when the other voices began to question my leadership. My influence became fractured, my authority, diminished.
This is how good guys become assholes: one broken heart at a time.
At this critical juncture in Jack’s life, my remaining ascendent is utterly essential for Jack’s survival. The new challenges he’s facing are unlike the ones that came before; there’s more subtlety, deeper complexity. I’m more aggressive with Jack now than I’ve ever been; I don’t have a choice. If he listens to these younger, rogue voices, Jack is toast. It’s true that I’ve learned compromise; the world Jack was raised to live in where basic decency prevails, does not exist. But I cannot allow questionable ethics to run roughshod with Jack’s life. I corral them all, reign them in, maintain a semblance of Order in the Chaos that is Jack’s emotional state. I keep Jack from losing himself.
I am the last line of defense for Jack’s soul.
Originally posted at www.jackfrombkln.com.
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