My name – not my real name – is Dupin Grammar. It is better if you keep your distance – who knows what they will do to you if they found out you knew the “real” me, whatever that might mean. And by “they” I mean the authorities: the police, the politicians, the so-called social workers. They would probably bring you in, interrogate you, like they did to me, and ask, “Where are the rest of them, terrorist scum?”
I always acted alone, but by reading this you are my accomplice, if not in the flesh to the letter, then at least manifest and in spirit.
Rarely, I think of how my life could have been different. Certainly, if a few events had not taken place, I would not be the same person. Maybe my problem is memory, which is long and, being so long, bitter and twisted. I have trouble forgetting and do not want to forget.
My first memory is walking through the door of my house to find my mother leading a prayer service with a group of women that I had never seen before. By the surprised expressions I ascertained that I had not been expected and, in fact, that no one even suspected my existence. I had been playing in my sandbox in the backyard and my mother instructed me in no uncertain terms to stay where I was until she came for me. Now, my mother’s face that had a moment ago been calmly concentrated on some higher plane of existence – eyes closed, lips slightly opened – transformed instantly into anger and irritation. She laid down the candle she was holding, yanked my arm, and dragged me up the stairs to my room where she locked me inside after giving me a hasty shove.
I thought she would never unlock the door. As I wept, pressing my body against the door, I began to think there was something strange about the women I had seen. Even now I do not know; I suspect it was that they were not wearing any clothing. I heard their voices softly chanting, and occasionally my mother’s voice wafted upstairs, cool and lyrical as if she had become already an entirely different person, one that I, her son, could never find. I did not turn the lights on and instead sat on the floor in the dark until, eventually, my mother unlocked the door, and it was back to the way things usually were.
My father was a nurse and worked the night shift at the local hospital. During the day he slept and did not like his slumber interrupted. On one occasion, riding my bicycle, I hit a stone and fell headfirst into the concrete. I must have lain there for a while until someone noticed me, in front of the bushes, blood streaming from the gash in my forehead. Some person who I could hardly see bent over me through the sunlight. She tried to speak to me and offer assistance. All I could think of was that my mother was not home while I suffered, my father was sleeping while I suffered, and how angry he would be if I woke him up to show him what happened. I stumbled to my feet, a little light-headed, and told the stranger I was fine. The stranger did not believe me. I did not believe me either. I put my hand to my head and felt wetness, saw the hand covered in blood. It is funny how the red color of blood always surprises, as if it is hard to believe that brightness is really inside you.
I dropped the bike on the porch and went into the house where all was quiet. I was afraid to look myself in the mirror, confused by the stinging pain on my head, afraid to sit anywhere and stain the furniture, terrified by the stains on my clothes. I was petrified; all I could do was cry, which I started to do, loudly.
Then my father woke up. I heard his footsteps coming down the hall. He took one look at me and led me to the bathroom. His eyes were bloodshot, his face bent over mine. His rough touch washed the wound free of dirt and concrete. It felt like sandpaper on my skin. I think he spoke to me during this, but all I could do was wail from the pain. He told me to stop but I would not. I could not. He thought of a way to quiet me down. Before he wrapped my head with gauze he lifted me up to see the bathroom mirror which was then too high for me. I saw my puffy eyes and the raw wound that still burned from the antiseptic. A stream of blood leaked down my cheek, thin red tears. I was shocked by my appearance. I became quiet.
After that, whenever I look in the mirror, that face is the face I see.
School? I hear the questions coming: whether I had friends, or not? Whether I liked school? Whether I got good grades? No, I was never able to “fit in” with people. My very first day of school: the “cool kids” took me to play with them during lunchtime. We went to the washroom. Or should I say I was escorted to the lavatory?
In any case, six boys took turns urinating on me, spitting on me, making me swallow toilet water out of surprisingly clean, sparkling toilets. One boy – and I remember this because it still causes me problems when I defecate – stuck his snack – a large, cold, peeled carrot – up my rectum. They told me that if I ever told anyone, they would kill me. Fool that I was, I believed them.
I went home and tried to act like nothing happened. I covered up the bruises on my arms.
When my parents asked me what was wrong, why I had “trouble going poo” and sitting down, I told them that I fell at school then started to cry. I knew this would make them angry and impatient. They did not like the noise of my crying. I cried louder. They approached me as I lay on the sofa, face down. They tried to pull down my pants to see what was wrong. I screamed at them not to touch me.
Eventually they took me to a doctor and he found pieces of the carrot lodged deep within my bowels and asked, smiling all the while, “Now, how did these get here?”
I told him I had no idea.
The classroom was, and still is, unless drastic changes have taken place within our educational system that I am not aware of, a place of utter tyranny and authoritarianism. My teachers were idiotic parrots that, having failed to attain their hedonistic dreams, turned to teaching as a last resort in order to “live for the weekend.”
They took sides, never mine; they picked favorites, never me; they seized every opportunity to expose weakness instead of build strength, to reward stupidity and punish any who challenged their own imagined grandiosity. Others would speak during quiet time, and I would be told to “be quiet.” Others would copy my work, and I would be accused of “cheating.” I would show up to class with bruises on my arms after lunch, and somehow I was the “bully.”
Despite all this, I succeeded at playing the school game; I was at or near the top of my class in all the years I spent being “educated.” This did not matter though; this only made them despise me more.
School taught me most of all to mistrust everything and everyone, students and teachers, librarians and janitors – random people I encountered walking back and forth from home to school and back again. They all had their own agendas against me, their own ideas about me. To avoid the hell of the lunchroom where I was poked and prodded, where my food was stolen, I began returning home, in secret, for lunch. I would leave the back door open and unpack the lunches that my mother had carefully arranged and put together for me. I would carefully tuck the wrappers and garbage at the very bottom of the trash can so my mother would not know that I was ever there.
I never knew where my mother was during this time. But one day she came home unexpectedly.
She found me and asked me, surprised, “What are you doing home? Is something wrong?”
I could hear a tender quiver in her voice. I could not answer her; I began to tremble. I did not know if this was really her voice, her true tenderness, or whether it was all an act, like the act she put on in the religious service with the women. Or maybe that was the “real” her, and only I brought out the “other” her.
“What’s the matter, sweetie? You can tell mommy. What’s wrong?” I looked at her face for clues. Did she want me to tell her?
No, she did not. When I did not answer right away, I saw her face becoming tense. I did not answer fast enough. She hated me. I was an exile from the sweet tremor in her voice.
“Nothing,” I managed to sniffle. I told her I forgot my homework and came home to get it. I brought my lunch because it was lunchtime.
This satisfied her, although from my stammer she should have known I was lying.
I walked back to school and did not go home for lunch anymore. I once again joined the crowds in the packed lunchroom where I would avoid contact with everything, thinking about how much nicer lunch was at home alone.
And so the years passed.
Once I left for college I vowed not to call my parents. But I would still get the urge to dial their number. The desire to hear their voices was beyond my control. I told them that I was fine, doing well. I gave no details, though they tried to prod them out of me. They asked when I was coming home to see them. I told them I did not know. After a while they began to sound disappointed that I was not coming. Then they stopped asking me questions. They had given up on me.
I would not say that I regret hurting them, if that is what I did. But if they were the only people in the world to hurt, I would choose not to hurt them. Maybe they learned to miss me, the same way I missed them even when I was with them.
I wish that I could have made them miss me forever. But this did not work out the way I planned.
I once had a girlfriend. It was during the last year of high school. Her name was M–. Let me explain what happened. We were finishing a date; I was walking her home from a movie. It was a quiet night, not much traffic. I heard noises coming from an alley: shouting, the sound of fists colliding against flesh, muffled groans. M– wanted to keep going, but I said I would check it out. What I saw instantly brought back the memory of my first day of school. Some of my teammates – I was on the wrestling team – were beating up what appeared to be a homeless tramp. One of them was N–, who was the school champion. The tramp did not stand a chance. I said, “Hey!” They turned around and told me, “Fuck off, Dupin!” In a fair fight, or even a slightly unfair fight I probably could have taken one, two, maybe even three of them – but there were six.
I stepped up, and threw N– off the tramp. From behind me a kick or a punch hit me in the small of my back. I yelled in pain. I heard M– exhale a shocked gasp, I think she ran away. The wrestling team looked back at her and then turned their full attention back to the tramp and myself.
The tramp definitely got the worst of it, if he did not die. I ended up with a couple of broken ribs, a swollen eyeball, and a damaged testicle, which had to be surgically removed. This kept me out of school for the rest of the year. I didn’t attend my graduation.
M– broke up with me the day afterward, by phone while I lay in the hospital. Later on, I heard that she started dating W–, the captain of the wrestling team. I think she eventually married him. Much later on, I ran into her on the street; she wore large, dark sunglasses and was wearing enough makeup for a team of clowns to perform a week’s worth of birthday parties. It was obvious that her left eye was swollen because her glasses were awkwardly tilted and the powder she had used was slightly bluish around that area of her beautiful face. I almost laughed except that by that time I had not laughed in so long that I probably would have broken into tears. She pretended not to see me.
From then on, I suspected women of being attracted to the worst, most brutal, cowardly sort of man, perhaps wrongly. Now, I never try to help anyone in need. But I have never raped a woman, never kidnapped a child. I have never even been in a street fight with another man. I do not drink or do drugs. It has been years since I used my penis for sex, even masturbation.
As a child, I was rather large: tall and heavy. By the time I entered university (on a wrestling scholarship), I was six foot four and weighed two hundred and forty pounds. Long before that I began to read true crime novels about women who “go crazy” and kill their abusive husbands or boyfriends. I read communist literature and the writers of German Idealism. I avoided the newspapers and television. I read chemistry textbooks and books on mathematics, both practical and theoretical. To say the least, my reading interests were varied.
I eventually found work at a small used bookstore, and had plenty of time alone between attending lectures, writing essays, and studying for examinations. I was not invited to parties; I never raised my hand during lecture or tutorial; when called on to speak I gave short and terse, but smart, answers; no one talked to me and I did not approach anyone.
I also read the works of the D.A.F. de Sade, Freud, Maldoror by Ducasse, Bataille, and the French “post-structuralists.”
One night the phone rang as I slept in my room at the university. It was the police. I became immediately suspicious and asked what was going on.
“Are you Dupin Grammar?”
“We have some very terrible news …”
They told me that my parents were killed in a car accident caused by drunk driving; the vehicle that collided with them swerved out of control and hit them while they were on their evening walk.
I blinked. Several times.
They said they were sorry, I did not believe them. I said I understood, but I did not understand: Drinking and driving is illegal. Again, the law had hurt me; or at least had failed to protect me.
They told me that the driver and his passengers, another man and two women, college students, were all very drunk but had survived with severe injuries.
After a while they went away. In my mind I walked into my parents’ empty room and curled up in my parents’ empty bed. Meanwhile I wept tears of blood.
That night: September 11, 2001.
My problem with all that I saw on the news was this: the acts of extremism and terror were not extreme enough, were not terrible enough. The goals of these individuals or organizations were always the same: to disrupt the system and gain control of it, to replace it with what they imagined to be something better. Laughable. Not to mention their choice of targets, which were almost always aimed at economic or political centers, or they targeted innocents who really had nothing to do with the cause they were against. Hysterical.
My parents left me everything and they were insured, so I got the maximum amount for “accidental death.” I still have not run out of money and could, theoretically, live comfortably even after all I have spent on ammunition, explosives, and weaponry.
One day I went to the library and pulled down a vast religious text. I propped it upright on the table and read for hours. Anyone walking by would notice that I was openly and proudly reading it. They probably thought I was studying it to understand the mindset of the 9/11 terrorists, but it was quite the opposite. I found myself drawn to the spirituality and philosophy of Islam. My foray into religion was prompted by an interest in the afterlife – not that I believed there was one. But to me religious terrorism was the ultimate rebellion and transgression; coming from my background, I was by no means expected to assume and embrace the aesthetic of a religious “terrorist.”
I started watching the news for information about so-called extremists, rallying against the excess and decadence of “the West.” I grew a beard and wore different clothes.
No one spoke to me now. A few Muslim students approached me one day with looks of earnest approval on their faces. They believed I was truly one of them. But I was not. I told them so in definite terms. They thought I was making a mockery of their faith. But I was not an actor. In fact, everything had become very real for me.
I dropped out of university soon after.
The first time I went to mosque opened my eyes. I decided to attend the fajr prayer because I reasoned that there would be fewer people there and whoever was there would be devout. The imam and congregation greeted me with polite indifference, and tolerated my presence for salat.
I forget the name of the imam and the few members of the congregation who introduced themselves to me. I remember the prayers being conducted in Arabic, the voices obediently chanting in rapt concentration. There was something soothing about this: the musical flow of a speech I could not understand did not humiliate or hurt me. It simply washed over me through my ears and I felt empty and silent when it ended. As I bowed my head to the ground I turned to watch the others out of the corners of my eyes. No one was watching me. It was as if I was alone, though among many.
After that, I would attend mosque at dawn infrequently and try to be incognito, just nodding a greeting to faces that became familiar. Now that I come to think of it, I have never assaulted a religious institution. But if I attributed my actions to a God or higher cause, I would be no different from the system that turned me into this, or the “radicals” seemingly opposed to such a system. And, just because I say, “the system that turned me into this,” this does not mean I attributed my creation to the system: there was a dialectics of hatred, deeper than any bond of love, between us.
I had no political agenda. I had no illusions about what I was doing, although I can honestly say it brought no joy. For me, joy was snuffed very early. So long I cannot even remember what the word “happiness” feels like.
I turned to terror for the sake of terror. To hurt whomever I could for the sake of hurting them the way I was hurt over and over again, without reason, without remorse, and without hesitation. I did what I did because I hated, and as long as I am alive my hatred will be alive. No god used me or spoke through me, no “higher cause” prompted me to “put things right.”
But if I had a cause, it would have been this: to threaten the state’s hold, its sweating iron grip, on violence. The police and military hold all the cards when it comes to the use of force. Police brutality is merely frowned upon. If killing were an Olympic sport, how many gold medals would our proud nation have? However, if a regular citizen were to act out in the way a police officer or soldier is expected to act, there would be Hell to pay. Imprisonment or the death sentence seem like harsh penalties for activities that are otherwise seen as glorious and heroic for some, barbaric and sociopathic for others. I will admit that there is a certain amount of risk involved being an agent of state violence, but this risk is minimal compared to the amount of power exchanged.
The state uses “restrained violence.” I did not. The state treats violence like an animal that can be tamed and unleashed. State agents of violence pride themselves on their control. No: human violence, once initiated, is uncontrollable. One may be disciplined enough to resist its use, but once in the act of committing an atrocity – restraint becomes a foreign body, an alien which once resided in the heart but now can only watch the butchery mute, horrified, and transfixed.
The state knew I threatened its monopoly on violence. That was the power of my rage. Absolute violence, cold and calculating ruthlessness, is a hot smothering sword that sears and immolates whatever it touches. Most of the population is too timid, too conditioned for comfort to ever let loose this power. They are the object-instruments of economic capital and commodity fetishes. My only value was rage; my only commodity was time.
There is little joy in a life filled with rage, but it is a necessity that is not insufferable.
To this day I remember everything. EVERYTHING.
That is the problem with so many. Their memories are not their own or they conveniently forget all the cruelties and kindnesses done unto them. In the former case, there is the “historical crusader,” an individual who uses terror to inflict upon the present a punishment for a historical wrong, a wrong that this individual did not really live through. No, this individual merely “inherited” hatred and follows the tradition blindly, deafly, and totally obediently; most “religious” terrorists fall into this category.
In the latter case, there are two kinds of people. The first are those who have every right and reason to be outraged, who have every right and reason to externalize their rage and scars upon the world. And I do not necessarily mean a visible mark when I say “scar:” a scab that one cannot pick is infinitely more infuriating than mere damaged skin. Yet, despite all the reasons to lash out, these people choose to forget. Women, and, to a lesser extent, men, who are abused and return to their abuser fall into this category. These people would be my comrades, my unborn, invisible brothers and sisters: fruits of a gnarled and rotten family tree.
The ones who forget kindness are the worst kind of terrorist.
Maybe my life could have been different – BUT I DID NOT WANT TO BE DIFFERENT.
I can truly say
I am my own creation
You gave me all the pieces
All the worst pieces
And trampled them
Beneath your leather boots
I can truly say
I picked up all the rubble
You thought was worthless
All the spider webbed windshields
All the punctured tires
And all the broken toys
I can truly say
That with all your brutality
I will show you what a
Monster really is
And you will be speechless
To make it difficult for the authorities to track me down or anticipate my attacks, I used a completely random system to determine the timing. I would roll dice: one dice to determine in how many months, another to determine the weeks, and a last to determine days – three six-sided dice. Needless to say, I could not even predict when I would strike next: the dice told me when, but I decided where, and whoever happened to be there was how my victims were ultimately chosen. Much of it was always out of my control.
I did not choose my victims, as such.
I did not select any target based on who they are: it does not matter what religion, which political ideology, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity, young or old, male or female.
You might say victims of my crimes were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Even if someone I cared about were killed, it would simply mean one less person to care about – that is all.
In this sense I was truly democratic, totally despotic: My hatred was indiscriminate.
I saw it on television, where else?
It was the first time I had witnessed the effect and aftershock of one of my attacks. I had driven a few miles away from where it happened, to a seedy country western bar. I sat down and looked up. I surprised myself by how calm I was. My hands, though grimy and covered in sweat, did not shake.
The people in ambulances. The people with ash on their faces. Blood.
My heart took wings, and I watched.
It is futile to say that they had no idea what happened to them. They never would. This was life. It had been part of their lives before. It would always be part of their lives, with me or without me.
A reporter stood in front of the scene. Feigning shock and disbelief. Then a commercial break.
Others in the bar started to chatter amongst themselves, muttering lukewarm oaths about what they would do if they ever “got hold of that psycho bastard.” I felt like confessing right there, just to see if they were more than just ghosts, if they would put their flesh at risk to live their words. It was not worth it though – I had work to do.
After several minutes of commercial breaks, the news telecast went on to another story.
What gives advertisers the right to attack our psyches, with methodical, intentional, and frequently successful tactics based on fear, the aim of which is no less terrible than anything I have ever done?
Or, better yet: Whom?
I poison medicine and finish the sick
So there is no hope of recovering
So families mourn my fallen patients.
I set spikes on roads where traffic roams
So the speed of life becomes fertilizer
So haste ends in hideous fusion of flesh and pavement.
I set libraries ablaze and immolate all inside
So desire for knowledge is turned to an oven
So ashes feed the future flames of ignorance.
I plant razors in beaches
So sand lovers turn cripple
So gulls feast on dried blood.
I design weapons that wound
So dying seems not too bad
So death is the choice to being maimed.
I create forces that annihilate
So no thing can flee from this sure end
So no will obstructs my revenge.
All of this, and more, I do from mortal hatred.
You may think I am cruel, that I am a sadist. Nothing could be farther from the truth of my desire. I took no pleasure in hurting and killing people. What I took pleasure in is the fear that hurting and killing inspires in others. If terror could be achieved some other way, it is quite possible I would have opted for that. But nothing – NOTHING – makes people afraid like the threat of being hurt, possibly killed, and “nothing” is not an option for me.
To inspire terror in God, does one torture an angel?
I am not sure when, but at a certain point, I lost my passion for terror. It just seemed like everything else.
However, I had been terrorizing for so long that a life without killing and maiming not only seemed impossible but utterly unlivable. What was I to do? Return to school? Why? To prove, like a marathon runner, that I could achieve something meaningless, something anyone could do? Get a job? Again, the only possible reason I could see myself doing this would be to live the “American Dream,” trying to blend in despite my absolutely nightmarish existence.
No. In the end I decided to go out with a bang. I thought it better to end my life than live a life without being manifest terror.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that they prevented me from ending my life as I planned.
By this, they committed another act of terror. They kept me alive when they wanted to see me die.
My final attack went awry and a S.W.A.T. team apprehended me. I offered no resistance, I dropped the detonator I held in my left hand, I put my hands behind my head, and I lay down – face down. They surrounded me, assault weapons ready. Handcuffs were placed tightly around my wrists and my feet were cuffed as well. I was treated roughly, just at the limits of abuse. Predictably, the officers held back from true violence.
The headlines surrounding my capture were numerous. I even heard that a few of the radical presses were hailing me as a “hero,” which I never considered myself. I received hate mail while in prison, mixed with an occasional letter professing admiration, even – absurdly – affection. I was offered several interviews by the major national networks. I declined them all.
On my way to my preliminary hearing, the public showed up in droves brandishing pictures and relics of the ones they had lost due to my attacks. There were screams of anger directed at me. I could feel the hatred emanating from the crowd. I could feel their rage, but not one of them had what it takes to act; I commend the police for intimidating these animals into merely vocalizing their discontent. The situation was not without a certain sense of humor. The police, in their heavy riot gear, had to protect me from them. I told them, “We can dance,” and smiled widely. The media assumed I was gloating in my victory (what victory?). We arrived at the courthouse over two hours late.
I hired the best lawyer I could, and I got off with life in solitary – a disappointment in more than one way. I was placed in maximum security with criminals arguably worse than myself. They created a community amongst themselves out of their hatred for me.
Even in prison, a criminal among criminals, I am an exile.
For some reason, people wanted to visit me. Reporters of all sorts, leftist politicians, right-wing religious extremists, academics who were studying the “terrorist mind,” women with a taste for “bad boys,” and simply individuals I may have inspired or ones who may have wanted to kill me – I refused them all.
I take responsibility for my own unhappiness. If I am unhappy, it is not because of others. That is the way society says it has to be: to each his own. Never mind what they took away from me and continue to take. I live with the rules they set up and I put up with their politics, day after day. Each day I see people succeed and fail, I see them rise above and get trampled. Most of all, I see people just getting by and they seem happy. I do not make the rules, yet I am forced to obey them. I am in prison, but who will be punished for what they have done and what they continue to do?
In this dream I burn
And so does the world
Even the pavement beneath my feet
The glass hanging vertically above me
The air shot through with hot white embers.
Here I breathe the freshest air I have ever tasted
Burning flesh and hair smells sweet, not acrid.
Despite the fire I am cool, at room temperature.
I listen as screams fill the air when night descends
Even the stars fall, icy to the touch
Striking me with a cold burn
Not the explosive heat of a sun.
The burning beings of the world flock to the stars
But the heavenly glaciers do not save them.
A drunken moon devours the junkie sun
Regurgitates it into a burning ocean
It fizzles and dies with a hiss.
Yet when the dream ends
I do not wake in a sweat.