“When you unwittingly stuck your hand into the wasps’ nest, you hadn’t made a convenant with the devil to give up your civilized self with its trappings of love and respect and honor. It just happened to you. Passively, with no say, you ceased to be a creature of the mind and became a creature of the nerve endings: from college-educated man to wailing ape in five easy seconds.”
And so it begins – Jack Torrance’s rationalization of his behavior. Of course, he couldn’t be to blame. He was the victim here. He had wandered into the wasps’ nest his whole life & this was just one more situation in which he couldn’t be expected to mind his manners. No, no.
Of course, we all see through that. There is no justification for murder. But the beauty of King – particularly in this novel – is that he so logically explains even the most twisted of behavior from his subject. At this point, we’ve all seen the movie, we know the catchphrase, we get the gist (that being said, read the book if you enjoyed the film – seriously – read the book). Spoiler alerts – whatever – he is a dangerously bad man. & yet, why do we feel a kinship, a connection with him, an empathy?
Because we’ve all been there.
Joanie & I were waiting to
jaywalk across Diversey on our way to this cheap Mexican restaurant for lunch. Look to the left, step out a little more, look to the right, one more step, look again to the—
From seemingly out of nowhere, a blue sedan came barreling eastbound. In a span of time lasting no longer than a half-second, I dashed backwards, stumbling as I did so.
“Christ, Nik!” Joanie shouted, then began laughing.
I had no idea what was so funny, but, because when I’ve just had the piss scared out of me, my natural reaction is to laugh, I did, too.
“Way to throw me under the bus!”
I was still clueless & apparently, it showed on my face.
“You pushed yourself back on ME, making me go forward!” She could barely get the words out, between chuckles.
It dawned on me & the slow-motion memory played itself out in my brain. I had. In my rush to safety, I disregarded anything & anyone else. I had grabbed her arm as a way of catapulting myself away from the car, in effect, shoving her in the line of traffic. Luckily, her legs had buckled & the car had swerved.
I was embarrassed, disgusted, ashamed. She insisted that it was no big deal – no harm, no foul – but I couldn’t stop apologizing.
I take great pride in my insistence that I would gladly put myself in danger to save a friend. It’s who I am. That’s me.
Or so I thought.
In that split-second of fear of my life, I had disregarded anything else. I had, in fact, become an arm-flailing ape, with one thing & one thing only of concern: Do. Not. Die.
At the expense of my friend.
As is the case with all of my moments of which I am most ashamed & act out of character, I come back to that second often when considering life or death situations. Given an instance where a choice could be made in due time, I still believe that I would – no question – take the burden upon myself in order to spare a loved one. But those gut reaction moments frighten me more in theory than in practice. Would I really – really – sacrifice myself? I want so badly to still insist I would.
So it’s easy to understand the justification. We do it all the time. I cannot be held responsible for accidentally pushing my friend into the street. I was trying to not get myself killed. I had my hand firmly planted in the wasps’ nest, imminent danger was upon me, & I just – flinched. Who could blame me?