My Name is Hank
“…and I beat my wife.”
The other six men looked at him, without speaking. The hulking psychologist with the green ponytail hid his lap with his clipboard.
“It was…years ago. I wasn’t quite myself that night. I mean, I…” Hank gritted his teeth, ran a big hand through his blond Harvard clip. “I don’t want to excuse it. I don’t want to say it wasn’t my fault. It was. I hit Jan. I hit her. I just wasn’t…it’s complicated.”
Hank stopped to breath, felt his heart beat, looked around again. The man on the far left looked like a shaved gibbon, sad eyes deep set in a head full of pink scar tissue. When he leaned forward you could see the radio bracelet around his ankle.
The green ponytail harrumphed, nudged his glasses farther up his nose.
“Go on, Hank.”
Hank gripped the podium, careful not to break it.
“I think, looking back on it, there was a lot of things working on me. I have a high-stress job, and I had been feeling inadequate for quite some time. Working together in a close-knit team, all sorts of danger, you get a good feel for how everyone contributes. The thing is, I may not be a slouch, but the other people on the team were something else. I tried…different things, y’know, to compensate. Bulked up you might say. Started dressing and acting more aggressively, tried to work harder to prove I could pull my weight.”
“Jan was supportive. Really, she was great. Went along with everything, just to keep me happy. But she…everything had come so easier to her. She was an heiress, never had to work for much of anything in her life, but she was also brilliant in her own way, when she put her mind to it. She spent more on shoes than I spent on my entire wardrobe, but when she wants something she goes for it. Like her dad, really. And for a while she wanted me, and so…”
Hank felt his face flush, the heat burning from his cheeks.
“She pursued me. All that money, all that energy, and she came after me hard. Then she had me and…she was satisfied. That was it. I was like another possession to her. So I had my research, and she had me. Literally, had me. Her daddy’s money paid for everything. So when I started my work with the team, really trying to make a difference, that caught her attention. She came along, and she did well at it. As well as I did at it.”
“And that was…I think there were things there we weren’t telling each other, even then. Maybe she liked the adventure of it all. Maybe she wanted to make a different, or just to stay close to me. But I was struggling so hard, to keep up, to prove myself to the group, and there she was, doing just as well as I was, and…I was jealous. I started to hate her a little bit. I mean, really I hated me. I hated that I was so weak, and I looked at her, doing so well, without going through what I was doing, not making the mistakes I was making…and I loved her, but I was tied to her, her money, her daddy’s money which paid for everything. I wasn’t with her because of her money, but it wasn’t like I was bringing in enough to support us.”
Next to the scarred ape-face there was a carrot-top, dark sunglasses and a cane. He looked meticulously clean; dressed down in jeans and a polo shirt and high tops, but the tan lines were wrong—high collars and low sleeves that spoke of long days in suits. Hank looked at the scarred hands, the cane. Wondered which he might have used against her.
“So I had…a break. It’s hard to really describe it, even now. I wasn’t acting like myself, but I was doing the sort of things that I wanted to do. I was still me. I was still doing me things. I was also outside of me, looking on, criticizing myself. Jan took it well—the arrogance, the self-confidence. She knew something was wrong, but she knew it was me too, I think. I’d never been so sure of myself, never been so reckless. We got married then. A spur of the moment thing, surprised everybody, but I think Jan had really wanted it. She loved me, she’d waited…maybe she’d been waiting a long time, for me to propose.”
“The thing is though, the break, I wasn’t really as confident as I projected. I was still me. All those little insecurities, blossoming in my skull. I wasn’t getting better, the stress was building up, because I had this whole new…new self I was trying to sell everyone on, and I was still just fucking up, you can’t just put on a new set of clothes and call yourself by a new name and become someone else, and everyone else, I don’t know if they knew but I knew, and Jan came to me…”
Hank felt the hot tears behind his eyes and blinked them back.
“It was a bad moment. I was out of control, I knew it then. She came to me in the middle of my work, just walking sex, worried about me, wanted me to stop, and I…I just lashed out at her. Verbally. Physically.”
He held up one meaty hand, gripped in a loose fist. Opened it, to stare at the palms.
“That was years ago. Years. I’ve never…really gotten over it. She forgave me. I couldn’t. I couldn’t really. Other people, when they find out, they treat me like a pariah. Which I deserve, you know. I don’t want to excuse it, anymore. I think I was in denial for a long time. Mad a the world, mad at myself, for what I’d done, how stupid I’d been. People call me a genius, but I was just so…stupid, to do that. The whole thing about being bigger and stronger than someone, you need control. No excuses. Too easy to hurt someone.”
Hank stepped back from the podium, cheeks burning, eyes on the floor as the green ponytail’s pen nub scritched across the paper.
“Thank you Hank,” the psychologist said, looking around. “Who would like to share next?”