She found him lying on a park bench in the middle of the night, asleep.
He had ragged clothes that looked like they hadn’t been washed in weeks. A cold autumn breeze blew but he didn’t seem to be bothered by the cold at all. He had a long dirty beard, streaked with gray, and his hair looked dirty and unkempt. Even with the beard and the dirt on his face, she could tell it was him.
She leaned down and touched his shoulder.
He snatched her hand and crushed it as his eyes opened, cofused with sleep.
She heard bones snap and felt an agonizing burst of pain. She bit back a yelp of pain.
His eyes widened as he came to. Recognition and realization filled his big blue eyes. “Oh god, what did I do?” he asked, letting her hand go.
She backed away, every jolt stabbing her hand. “Nothing,” she said, taking a deep breath, handling the pain. She’d been hurt worse.
He stood up, as tall and muscular as she always remembered.
Why couldn’t he change? Get a pot belly or look old or something. But he did look old, she realized. His face was heavily lined with wrinkles. He looked…tired.
"We have to get you to a hospital," he said.
"No, I’m fine," she said. She hated being the victim, despised it. It was partially why they’d broken up so long ago.
He ignored what she said and picked her up, gently.
She couldn’t stop him. She never could. You can’t stop someone with super strength from picking you up. “You never listen, you know that?” she snapped. “Sometimes people don’t want to be saved!”
He looked at her, his eyes looking resigned. “I know that, now.” He smirked ever so slightly. “But I’m still taking you to the hospital, whether you like it or not.”
She sighed. It’d been so long since she’d been in his arms. She had to admit it felt good, despite the pain in her hand. “You’re insufferable.” At least he didn’t fly.
He carried her through the park. “How did you find me?” he asked.
"It’s my job," she said. "Find people who don’t want to be found and ask them the questions they don’t want to answer."
"You didn’t do this for your job."
"No," she said, looking away from his face. "I’m not even working there anymore. I’m retired." She looked back at him. "I figured you would already know that."
He shook his head. “I stopped watching, like you asked. It hurt, for awhile. The not knowing whether you were alive or dead or in danger…” he sighed. “But you wanted that and I didn’t understand then but I did as you asked.”
"Do you understand now?"
"I think so."
"Where did you go? You were off the radar for years."
"Oh," she said. "Of course. Why the hell not?"
He smirked. “I needed a quiet place to think. I stayed there for a long time.”
"The world could use you, you know. It’s not such a great place, even with the villains gone."
He frowned. “I always helped out. I always did what I could. One crisis after another, one megalomaniac after another. I fought them. I stopped them. But the question I keep asking myself, even after all these years, is whether I destroyed more than I saved.”
"That’s ridiculous!" She would have smacked him in the face if her good hand wasn’t broken. Not that it would have hurt him a bit, but it was the principle of the thing. "You saved the world you idiot."
He nodded. “And I destroyed entire buildings doing it. Do you know how many people died? Every battle, every earth-shattering impact, everything I did affected someone else, somewhere.”
"But you had to. You saved humanity."
"Did I? Or did I just enable it?"
"You’re being more dense than usual and I don’t appreciate it."
He chuckled. “I always wonder, if I hadn’t been there to save the day, what would have happened.”
"Poof, goodbye humanity," she said.
He shook his head. “I’m not so sure about that. Humanity is an..ingenious species. I wonder if they would have come up with a solution without me. A better solution rather than beating the problem into submission. Maybe humanity would’ve come together to face the threat. United. But they didn’t have to. Because I was there to save the day.”
It was her turn to shake her head. “It’s useless to think like that. You saved millions of people. You should be proud of that. Everyone owes their lives to you. You could still do good in the world, you know that.”
"No. No more meddling. I’ve seen the way humans treat each other. Murdering civilians, killing their own kind over petty things. I tried to help but…what can I do? I could destroy every factory in the world to stop climate change but more would be built. I could destroy every weapon and still more would be created. I can’t solve humanity’s problems, I can only prolong them, which is what I did for too long. Too long I’ve been an enabler. Humanity has to face these problems on its own."
She could see the pain in his eyes. “So why did you come back to the states?”
He looked down into her eyes. “Humankind is infinitely fascinating. I wander the streets at night. I stop petty crimes.”
"And that’s enough for you? Let the world burn but you’ll take out a purse-snatcher or two?"
He growled. “It’s not like that.”
"It sounds like that. It sounds like you’ve given up."
He stopped walking. “What am I supposed to do?” he roared. “Take part in the wars? Whose side? Who is right and who is wrong? I thought it was so simple before, black and white, but I was a fool. I can’t take part in their wars, their fighting. I can’t pick sides because whichever side I pick, the other loses. People get killed.” He took a deep breath and loosened his hands that had tightened to an uncomfortable degree. “I’m sorry. I try not to get angry.”
"You can’t stop yourself from getting angry. Everyone gets mad sometimes."
He started walking again. “Not everybody can demolish a building with their fist when they get mad. I have to stay in control, always.”
"And if you can’t?"
He refused to look at her. “That’s why I stay out of things. Why I stay away from those I love.”
Silence reigned for the rest of the walk.
She didn’t know what to say. Perhaps they’d said it all.
She left the hospital with a cast on her arm resting in a sling around her shoulder.
He walked her out.
The sun rose above the hospitals tall buildings.
"I’m sorry," he said.
She shook her head. “It was my fault,” she said.
He didn’t argue. He knew it’d be useless. “I forgot to ask, why did you find me?” His eyes took on a glint that had been missing. “Do you need help? Are you in trouble?”
It was hope, she realized, in his eyes. A hope that had been shattered in a world he couldn’t help. Humanity had to advance and it couldn’t do it with his help. Do you need to be saved? he said with those eyes, and hoped she did.
She shook her head. “No. I don’t need saving.” She took a step closer to him and touched the back of his neck with her good hand. “But I think you do,” she said.
He dropped to his knees and wrapped his arms around her. He pressed his face into her stomach and started crying.
She stroked his hair and told him it was going to be okay.
- Q: A major concern in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones is power. Almost everybody – except maybe Daenerys, across the waters with her dragons – wields power badly.
- George R.R. Martin: Ruling is hard. This was maybe my answer to Tolkien, whom, as much as I admire him, I do quibble with. Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it's not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn't ask the question: What was Aragorn's tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren't gone – they're in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles? In real life, real-life kings had real-life problems to deal with. Just being a good guy was not the answer. You had to make hard, hard decisions. Sometimes what seemed to be a good decision turned around and bit you in the ass; it was the law of unintended consequences. I've tried to get at some of these in my books. My people who are trying to rule don't have an easy time of it. Just having good intentions doesn't make you a wise king.
I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? A book must be an axe with which to chop at the frozen seas inside us.
—Kafka (via maxistentialist)
The creature crowning the chain,
grows fat feeding on weaker prey.
Their influence grows and fear
takes hold of the court of this king.
Yet their reach far exceeds their grasp.
They fuck and kill and eat and sleep,
Hunting to gorge and gorging to hunt,
Until their kingdom is not…
I never was much interested in history in school. Lifeless statistics and summarized events were never particularly appealing to me. It should have been though, because I love great stories and history is full of them, the fact they are real should have been all the more astounding. The thing is, the famous people were boring and the “this happened, then this happened, then this happened” is not the most interesting way to get information about an event.
Nowadays, I am enjoying history more and even reading a history book! Non-fiction! It’s crazy! I’m currently reading “A People’s History of The United States” by Howard Zinn, and it is opening my mind.
See, another thing about the history we learn in early schooling is that it feels so sanitized. We don’t learn the horrors or atrocities that were committed (unless they were committed by non-americans), only the end results. That’s why this book is really compelling. Zinn gives voice to the voiceless of the past. He tells the story of Columbus from the side of the natives, slavery from the voice of the slaves, and the industrial revolution from the side of the poor. He tells the truth about the “founding fathers”, who wanted the poor to revolt but in a certain way, without too much ‘property damage’. He tells the story about the Native Americans, being told to move again and again, always with more promises of being left alone that were never fulfilled. The story about the American elite pushing the poor to revolt but in a certain way, so that not too much property was destroyed, how the American elite took the land from the British loyalist and divided it up amongst themselves, making the revolution quite a wealthy endeavor for the elites who never had to risk their lives during the war. Zinn tells about the terrible conditions for the working poor throughout the beginning of America, how Unions were formed to fight 14-hour work-days and awful working conditions in factories. He talks about how Socialism rose out of this and was rather popular back in the day, because of how much the wealthy were taking advantage of the workers, in every setting and situation.
I’d never learned about how much class conflict there really was throughout America’s history. You really see why Unions are important and why they were formed in the first place. You also see how depressing the true story of America’s history is. The history of America is about the wealthy and powerful attaining as much wealth and power as possible, while giving the disenfranchised poor just enough so they will not rise up and revolt. It’s sickening to see how people treat each other. How the only consideration people seemed to have (and still do), is for acquiring more and more wealth. We are a nation, even a world, of ME ME ME ME ME. All that matters is me and mine, my stuff.
Zinn uses statistics and logical reasoning for his telling of America’s history, along with many documents written by those who lived during the period. Newspaper articles, speeches, letters, other historian’s research, etc. to tell the story of our history from a large variety of viewpoints. One paragraph near the beginning really stuck with me and tells you the kind of historian Zinn is.
“My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization…)-that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth….The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks)-the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress-is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. It is as if they, like Columbus, deserve universal acceptance, as if they-the Founding Fathers, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, the leading members of Congress, the famous Justices of the Supreme Court-represent the nation as a whole….My viewpoint, in telling the history of the United States, is different…Nations are not communities and never have been. The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest…between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners…Thus, in the inevitable taking of sides which comes from selection and emphasis in history, I prefer to try to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson, as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York Irish, of the Mexican war as seen by the deserting soldiers of Scott’s army, of the rise of industrialism as seen by the young women in the Lowell textile mills, of the Spanish-American war as seen by the Cubans….And so on, to the limited extent that any one person…can “see” history from the standpoint of others.”
I could go on. I’ve dog-eared many a page in this book simply so I can go back and find certain passages that I found myself really invested in. I love this book because it feels as though I am truly learning about the history of the United States, facing the past of what has been a country filled with violence and brutality but also filled with those who fight and rise for the betterment of their fellows often times against tremendous odds in dangerous situations. It’s depressing but enlightening, at the same time.
I am not yet finished with it, barely halfway through the large volume, currently reading about the early 1900s, Unions forming and the idea of Socialism growing. I am sure I will have more thoughts on it after I finish, which I will put up here. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about our nation’s history.
Men need to be better human beings. Step up. Don’t be a douche.