“…and then, one day you find ten years have got behind you
no one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun…”
-Pink Floyd (Time)
Many a man makes himself into an ogre. Many a man is made into an ogre. Wild Bill followed the whims of every want and desire. He was a massive creature. He couldn’t be denied even if a person wanted. He couldn’t be put in his place. He could steal, bully and pillage all he wanted. He could eat and seemingly never be filled. His body was a landmine of desires, a vast pit that never became full. Wild Bill took all he could from life, until life finally stole some things from him. It chipped away at his youth. With that, his health followed. It always seems like a freak occurrence, when time stops you, when you have so much momentum you feel like you can go on forever. Wild Bill, set in his ogre ways, after many years, finally had to slow down.
I first met Wild Bill while walking through my city as a boy many years ago. He wore a pair of blue jean shorts and nothing else. He walked out of his front door with an angry, defensive look on his face, as I and a friend walked by. We’d done nothing to offend, but the Wild Ogres are so easily startled and often eager to fight. He’d look for any reason. it was important for my friend and I to maintain a safe distance, while keeping our eyes down. Wild Bill continued to stare. We could feel his hungry gaze. We waited for the words, ‘Fee, fie, foe, fum,’ to erupt from the ogre’s mighty belly, but that never happened. He just kept staring. He had a round stomach that hung out several inches from the rest of his lengthy body, which made it awkward to categorize, since he didn’t technically seem fat. Even after we were half a block away, the mighty ogre prepared as if to defend his hovel. My friend finally broke and had to look back. The ogre roared and we ran for our lives. That was many years ago.
The other time I came across the powerful ogre was when he was drunk at a local watering hole. I was much older by this point and he saw me not as a threat, but close enough to be… not a friend, but more a friendly acquaintance. He pulled me in for a rough hug. He had at least a foot on me and probably around a hundred pounds. I could feel his rounded gut, hard, pressing against me. He downed a mug of something, as if it were water, before slamming his palm against the counter for more. The table rattled under his weight, such a powerful creature. In no time at all, the ogre’s anger got the best of him. He ended up fighting someone out in the parking lot, being pulled away by three men, no less, before walking home alone. His anger, as it goes with most ogres, is the dominant emotion and always got the better of him.
Rage defined him. It could’ve been joy, although that emotion took many more years to set inside his heart. It started with a simple ‘hello’ and a wave from his porch. It ended with him running out in the middle of the street for me. It took everything for me to fight the urge to flee. He stopped me and put his hand on my shoulder. He knew me or remembered me somehow. We talked a little about things I knew nothing about. He wanted to talk some about himself and I didn’t mind. He was manifesting a friendlier nature and, although I found it surprising, I was in awe and had to respect it. When we both got older, me and Wild Bill, it was like we were both learning more about him. He was seeing himself in a different light, one never exposed in his volatile childhood days. He talked most of the time. I never got a word in anyway, but never wanted to interrupt him His stream of consciousness I found fascinating. He was digging for something and uprooting wisdoms inside himself that he thought ancestral, sacred, ineluctable. He couldn’t touch them, until now. I was uncovering buried treasures in his memory.
For years, his personality worked in a limited sense, which made him an outsider. He could be friendly around other ogres, but to others he made remarks that offended and bruised. He always said such things as jokes, although they were often personal. He could be boorish and rude. He was crass, vulgar. He was a slob. Women were his one true passion, but far from respecting them, he tried to use them as much as he could. He used them up like tissues and discarded them the same. He didn’t know how to maintain such a trivial, intricate relationship. Sex was easier for him, because it was a simple answer to a simple desire. Love and affection were far too complicated.
The last time I saw Wild Bill, proud Ogre of the Nether Regions, he wasn’t the same. Life caught up to him in its brutal fashion. It put him through hell. He’d been dealing with several rounds of chemo after an emergency visit to the hospital. He could’ve died right then, but his body was still strong in ways that most of us can’t imagine. He fought tumors and kidney failure, all to return to this life. Something changed in him. We talked for a while outside of one of the fine local establishments. A friend of his was being told to leave, because he came to the store without wearing a shirt. Wild Bill pulled the shirt right off his back and tossed it to him. The friend laughed and told him not to worry about it. Wild Bill had this grin, somber, silent… humble. It’s something of an evolutionary masterpiece. Amidst the anger of his youth, fighting to validate himself in this awful, wretched existence, his spirit found a way to manifest humility and kindness.
He’s an old man now. Humility’s what you have to look forward to after just a few decades on this earth. Humility is ugly and necessary. It’s the ability to beg, “Dear God, give me this one moment to go back and fix everything” and then knowing that just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean your prayers weren’t answered. You’ll never go back in time. You’re stuck here with us mortals in the present. It’s a beautiful thing. I like to think Wild Bill learned that, even if it came to him as the harshest lesson possible. Humility: he wouldn’t take anything for granted.