By Jack A. Urquhart ©2012 (985 words)
This week I have been thinking about Karma.
Okay, it’s more than that. I’ve been thinking about foot injuries, too. And blow jobs.
That is because I have—by reason of an operation to correct a neglected runner’s injury—been put literally off my feet; and in that stasis has come the impetus to examine action and consequence—even (bear with me) among such disparate subject matter.
What? Gone looking for Karma in things as facile as plantar fasciitis, a common running injury, and (of all things!) fellatio? Isn’t that a bit self-indulgent?
Well, yes. But when one is flat on one’s back, it is sometimes difficult to prevent an occasional false start down ‘All-About-Me’ Avenue with all its peculiar twists and turns.
Just so, I’ve been chasing after connections.
Granted, I have only a rudimentary comprehension of Karma’s Indian, Buddhist, and Vedantic traditions—not much beyond the notion that a person’s actions and conduct affects his or her destiny. I am, however, a little more familiar with Karma’s less sophisticated American cousin, or more aptly, the branch of the family that still thrives in the American South. In that neck of the woods, the Karmic praxis survives in the phrase, “What goes around, comes around,” and the Biblical axiom, “be sure your sins will find you out.” It’s a potent legacy—one that defies easy expurgation.
Witness the fact that I’ve been worrying all week, “Maybe I brought this on myself—this injury, this bone-burning immobility.”
It all goes back to 19-sixty something, the year I spent in Bloomsburg, PA, and my high school rival, Dwight Higgins (not his real name) in the 440-yard dash. I was fourteen, and Dwight, a year older, was my competitor for a slot in the Columbia County All School track meet, the only school-sponsored athletic endeavor that ever caught my fancy. But Dwight was more than a competitor; he was also my chief tormentor, a homophobe par excellence long before the term went mainstream.
His most memorable abuse against me—which took place hard on the eve of the 440 elimination trials—was to place a twenty-five cent piece on my desk during art class one afternoon during the teacher’s absence and to proclaim for the benefit of the class that the sum was advance remuneration.
“He’ll give anybody a ‘BJ’ for cheap,” Dwight announced, going on to say that I would provide a ‘lip-smacking’ demonstration later that afternoon (downtown behind the Sears Roebuck dumpster, I believe it was to be).
It didn’t help that I had to ask the girl seated in front of me what was meant by ‘BJ’.
“It means you’re a queer boy, a sissy, and that you ‘go down’ (yet another mysterious term!) for guys,” she obliged to ringing laughter. Words to that effect.
No matter that I rejected Dwight’s twenty-five cents. From then on, I was marked: “BJ-Jack.”
Back then, I didn’t know what it meant to be gay, certainly hadn’t self-defined that way yet. I knew only that there was something about me that provoked Dwight’s particular brand of peer abuse, something that went beyond having girlishly long eyelashes, being super skinny, and loving Edith Piaf (although those attributes doubtless played a big role). The worst part was that whatever the mysterious quality, I too was aware of its existence. I could feel the truth of it—that there was something about the way I related to the world that marked me as different.
“It means you’re a queer boy, a sissy…” “He’ll give anybody a ‘BJ’.”
And there is nothing that fuels the desire for revenge any better than sensing an iota of accuracy in a peer’s taunt.
It took some doing, plotting a course against Dwight. Mine involved his Onisuka Tigers (quite expensive running shoes in those days) left unattended in the locker room on the day of the 440 trials, and a bottle of capsaicin topical (I think it was Sloan’s Horse Liniment). You can probably guess the rest: a quarter bottle of liquid fire per running slipper, a warm day in May, sockless feet?
The short distance he completed before dropping out of his heat that day—before tearing off his Tigers in a howling frenzy—gave new meaning to the term, “hot-footing it”.
So how did I feel afterward, after those first few moments of blistering satisfaction? I felt afraid—initially of being found out (I wasn’t); then came the guilt. I was certain my dirty deed would come back to haunt me, that I was a bad person—if not exactly for the reasons Dwight had posed.
Baptist upbringing runs deep.
As I’ve indicated, in the South (where a few civilized folk still read Austen), “it is a truth universally acknowledged” that you can ‘be sure your sins will find you out.’ And sure enough, Dwight Higgins has dogged me across decades. He showed up in Colorado to thrum my conscience in the early 90s in the aftermath of a training run injury. And again here in Florida two months ago when my left foot, put wrong, hooked up with a pothole during a 6:00 a.m. run—the event that led me to this recovery bed. Ever persistent, Dwight was back last night at 3:00 a.m., back to waggle a shaming finger when the place where the bone has been carved away from my left foot underwent an attack of fire and brimstone.
Poetic justice? Confirmation that what goes around, comes around? Proof positive that to be vindictive, queer boy or not, is to put a foot very wrong indeed?
Or is it all nonsense, another manifestation of how difficult to practice forgiveness of the self-exonerating variety? Just another way of holding on to a long-gone and best-forgotten past?
As in the still-to-this-day impetus to proclaim (loudly in certain circles), “No! goddamnit! I do not give BJs to just anybody!”
You certainly had me swinging from the start, wondering how on earth fasciitis and fellatio had any connection other than that they both begin the letter F. And what either of them had to do with Karma. Well done, Mr. Urquhart. Your last line is priceless!
And for the record, I think Dwight got exactly what he deserved. What he did was crueler and more lasting than the “hot foot” you returned. No karma there, except for Dwight.