They say that the first step is admitting you have a problem. So, I have a problem. I’ve tried to stop on my own but this thing is bigger than I am—I can stop, I just can’t stay stopped. Every time I do it, I wake up the next morning remorseful and I swear that I’ll never do it again. But then I do.
My name is Dani and I launch text-grenades. I want to stop—I really do—I just don’t know how.
As a writer, I’d like to think that I have a pretty good understanding of how pliable language is. Words—even the most thought-out, deliberate ones—they’re not actual things, they’re approximations of actual things. Their meanings change depending upon so many things—context, voice intonation, body language, hand gestures. And even with the aid of all those things—even when intelligent, articulate people are sitting right next to each other and working hard to understand one another, things still get lost in translation. Because communication is hard and messy, and to do it right takes so much goddamn effort.
So it’s kind of laughable that somehow I continue to convince myself that it’s a good idea to talk about something important by text. It’s like an emotional blind spot. No matter how much pain I inflict on myself or others—no matter how many times it blows up in my face—there comes a point when I do it again.
There are two different scenarios here, and the distinction is important.
1) Reciprocal idiocy (n); a situation in which both parties decide that an intense, in-depth conversation via text is in order. This is brought on by some combination of laziness, impatience and fear. Because talking’s hard! You have to like, listen and stuff, and there’s a chance that when things start to go sideways, the other person might say, “Um, stop. You’re headed up your own ass right now and I don’t feel like following.” With a text, that person is going to read what you have to say, whether he likes it or not. And he will not be given the opportunity to make anything better or explain himself or get you to see anything from his perspective. Texting is for when you’ve made up your mind about something and you’re not in the mood for things like “listening” or “reasoning” to get in the way of winning a point.
And also because, fear. Because who wants to look someone in the eyes when you apologize for something, or tell someone face-to-face that you miss her when you aren’t sure if she’ll say it back? Who wants to ask real questions when you’re scared of what the answers might be? Who wants to risk all that vulnerability—have all that willingness to bear the pain and hurt and anger of really touching someone else, when there’s an easier way to do it?
2) Inflicted idiocy (n); a situation that involves a grenade-launcher and a target. This scenario is more rare and it takes a delicate balance of factors to create an optimal launch environment. That balance might look something like this:
You’re recovering from serious oral surgery and you’re in pain, and you’re lonely and scared and have all these open hours in bed with just you and your thoughts, and your jaw aches and you replay those moments when your mouth filled with blood each time they drilled into your jaw, before they could suction it out—
and then for some reason you think about your best friend from 1,000 years ago, and it occurs to you that you never heard back from her last week after you texted her, and you begin to get angry even though you know it has nothing to do with an unreturned text, that it’s about all the other things that have been left unsaid between the two of you—about the ways you’ve both changed over the years and about all the hurt that’s been passed back and forth, and you know that if the two of you met today you probably wouldn’t be friends—
except you didn’t, you met all those years ago, when you were young and fresh, like honeyed tangerines, and you start bargaining (with whom?) about how it’s only fair that those years add up to something, it’s only fair, after all, that all that time serves to guarantee something despite all the change,
and it occurs to you that “fair” has nothing to do with it, that sometimes life is and sometimes it isn’t, and that you’ve benefited from all those times when it wasn’t, when grace worked in your life when you least deserved it—but even so, change is still frightening, and you’re never consulted before it happens, and other relationships in your life are changing as well, and then all of that fear begins to throb alongside the pain in your jaw, and there’s nothing you can do about any of it—certainly not right now—and that powerlessness seems absurd and feels maddening.
“There must be something that can be done,” you think to yourself.
And there was. A text-grenade aimed at that friend from 1,000 years ago who hadn’t returned my text. It was action—it was tangible and definitive, and I knew that in one way or another it would move the story along. After letting things build for months without saying anything, I sent a very bitchy text that would certainly have been quite the overreaction to one unanswered text. So that even though the hurt was real, how could she have possibly heard me given the manner in which I told her about it?
Grenades leave nothing but burnt remains and shrapnel. I know this, and yet I continue to launch them. I’m going to try to do better.
Mostly, I believe, it’s about powerlessness—when there are no more moves to make and no solutions to find—when the only answer is to let the question go unanswered for the time being. That’s when some unarticulated part of me says, “Well, if there’s no resolution, I guess I’ll have to settle for burning the motherfucker down.”
And then I do.