That Empty Place

by rsbakker

So it was a suite party at a con and this guy sits opposite to me, tells me we’ve met before. I apologize, tell him about my crazy inability to recognize faces that I don’t encounter on a regular basis, to the point of not being able to remember relatives, former students, and old friends.

He nods, not quite believing. “I just wanted to tell you how much I loved your books.”

“Cool. Cool. Have you had a chance to read Neuropath yet?”

He makes a face, pokes his glasses against the bridge of his nose. “Yeah…”


“I’m afraid I didn’t like it.”

“You’re not the first to say that! What put you off?”

He scans the crowded room. “Well… Horror is a tricky thing… There’s a fine line between being frightening and being… sordid, I think…”

This took me by surprise. “Sordid?”

It’s funny, encountering criticisms that stick at these things. I never get offended, just… intent.

“Yeah… Hey, do I mind if I ask you if you have any kids?”

“I think you just did! But, ah, no.”

A nod screwed too tight to really signal agreement. “I knew it.”

“How?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“I just didn’t think anyone who had kids could have written that book.”

Now I’m intent times two.

“Am I allowed to take that as a compliment?”

“Now, maybe. But when you have a kid, not so much.”

This is a reconstruction: all I remember clearly are wire-rim glasses, the gist, and the way crowds of people can fence an illuminated conversation in dark. But it stuck, and I’ve thought about it more than once since I’ve become a father…

Like him.

Because the fact is, I totally agree. There’s no way in bloody hell I could’ve written Neuropath now.

Why? Because some experiences are arguments. The difficulty lies in discovering just what that argument is…

I still can’t get over the amount of traffic TPB has received over the past week. I’m still processing everything. It’ll probably take a week or two before I feel confident enough to draw any solid conclusions. As it stands, I’m probably most troubled by the role life experience and reasoning plays in all this, and how the two evolved into antagonists as the debate progressed.

This world is a hard one – certainly harder than any one life. And in this sense we’re all victims. The pivotal question, given all the sound and fury that we’ve witnessed, is one of what this legitimizes. I was a victim, growing up, the victim of–you guessed it–another victim. We grow into our power, and time is prone to rob us of our retribution, but we hold onto that empty place, don’t we? the place where our actual victimizer, the one raw with whiskey and an unshaven jaw, once stood. So we fill it with others, with groups or children or anything safe, so that the circuit might be complete. We laugh. We sneer. We shame and we strike. We pass piety around like a joint. We become as ugly as we are. This is the cycle, isn’t it? great and miserable and so very sordid, playing across the generations, along all our degrees of separation.

And here we are playing it out. Again.