Jeff Phillips: I Will Never Intend to Gouge You in the Face

I hesitate in telling of this. I don’t want to give anyone pause to sit beside me. There are times when I’m in conversation with a friend, colleague, or neighbor – a cordial conversation when no bite is necessary – and a fleeting image bubbles up of me spitting in their face. Or throwing coffee or tea or water or whatever I’m drinking in their face – sometimes it’s their lap, and sometimes it’s down their shirt. It’s like an animated GIF of myself clicking a pen’s point, to protrude out, and stab them in the face. It’s quicker than a flash. I don’t act upon it because I don’t believe it. I don’t feel the anger or the destructive urge to unleash that would be needed to power these bad thoughts, because these are pleasant encounters I’m having. We’re having a good time and there’s no reason to lash out and do something that would cost me a job, or a friendship. These are tiny thoughts I don’t want to think, muted tics. They’re harmless mental farts that will never rip loud enough because I’m a conscientious and good-natured person. These thoughts occur only seldom, and my mind is a slippery tile. These are only merry prankster mirages of what my inner spazz could be.

But what happens as I age, as my brain might someday deteriorate? Will my mind be the same powerhouse that it is now to keep such thoughts mellowed and dissipated? Will my frontal cortex fray to the point that a random bad thought might work its way into a twitch, into the fruition of an impulse escaping restraint, and the person beside me realizes I’m not the person they thought I was, that I’m someone they’d be better off to have avoided?

I suppose I’ve been lucky that I’ve never had to go off and fight a brutal war, where I’d likely suffer the traumatic stress that could intertwine the triggers of fight or flight with my undesired fantasies, powering a cortisol flush in which latent lashes could ride. But trauma can be instigated by a variety of circumstances. Am I one accident, earthquake, abduction, etc., away from becoming unhinged? Let’s not forget that James Holmes couldn’t handle the pressures of grad school.

I’ve never willed such a thought as ramming the tip of a pen into a cheek. But my subconscious sometimes reminds me that that is something I could do. And I hope even as I descend into eventual confusion and disorientation that I’m able to keep cognizant that such thoughts are just, in the end, possibilities.

I will never intend to gouge you in the face. But a renegade neuron, misfiring within the nervous mesh of a more jittery version of myself, could potentially render such promises meaningless.

Care to sit a little closer so I can tell you more? I might need to borrow your pen for a moment.


[We at DWWP love to use writing prompts at our meetings. This story is based on the prompt “the monsters among us.”]

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