“Poor Marny, one of your oldest friends. She meant nothing by it, just an innocent comment. She’s probably the last person in the world who would ever be insensitive, but see, you’re always ready to fight. You’ve got that single-parent rage, that black-single-mother defensiveness, combined with your own naturally ready-be-indignant/aggressive tendencies, inherited from our mom. I mean, tonight, when you finally go to bed, you’ll lie there and think of things you’d do to people who would come in here and do me harm. You’ll picture all manner of murders in my defense. Your visions will be vivid and horrifically violent, mostly you and a baseball bat, with you taking out on whoever would invade our sanctuary the cumulative frustration you feel from all of this, our present situation, the walls and parameters set up already, the next ten, thirteen years laid out, more or less spoken for, and also the general anger you feel, have felt not just since Mom and Dad died–that would be convenient if it were true–but it began well before that, you know this, the anger coursing through the marrow of kids growing up in loud, semi-violent alcoholic households, where chaos is always…


“And best of all, for you at least, you finally have the moral authority you craved, and have often exercised, ever since you were very young — you used to go around the playground chastising the other kids for swearing. You didn’t drink alcohol until you were eighteen, never did drugs, because you had to be more pure, had to have something over the other people. And now your moral authority is doubled, tripled. And you use it any way you need to. That twenty-nine-year-old, for instance, you’ll break up with her after a month because she smokes […]

“…but it’s the way you’ll tell her, the way you’ll sort of shame her, mentioning that not only did your parents die of cancer, your father of lung cancer, but that you don’t want the smoke around your little brother, blah blah, and it’s the way you’ll say it, you’ll want to make this poor woman feel like a leper, particularly because she rolls her own cigarettes, which even I admit is kind of doubly sad, but see, you want her to feel like a pariah, like a lower form of life, because that’s what, deep down, you feel she is, what you feel anyone tethered to any addiction is. And now you feel that you have the moral authority to pass judgment on these people, that because of your recent experiences, you can expound on anything, you can play the conquering victim, a role that gives you power drawn from sympathy and disadvantage–you can now play the dual role of product of privilege and disenfranchised Job. Because we get Social Security and live in a messy house with ants and holes in the floorboards you like to think of us as lower class, that now you know the struggles of the poor — how dare you! — but you like that stance, that underdog stance, because it increases your leverage with other people. You can shoot from behind bulletproof glass.” (>>)