Apology


Hey Kim, you might not remember me but we met in 2010 at Ryan and Shannon's party in the off-campus student housing complex. The newly constructed cheap one with the loud stairwells and weird chemical smell everywhere and the small crappy pool that guy dropped a plate of hot wings in. Remember that? I think you were at that party too, but I avoided talking to you because that was later on. The plate of hot wings was drenched in sauce and the whole top layer of the pool was grease and orange clumps, kind of reminding me of how drowning ants cling together, and for some reason the chicken pieces floated, which everybody tried to figure out in a science way and then Ryan did a cannonball into the pool and splashed everyone with the sauce-water and people yelled at him and then he got some of the sauce in his eyes and needed help getting out the pool and by the time he did he'd swallowed a lot of water and he puked in the beach volleyball court next to the BBQ pit.

Anyway, I've recently been on a bit of a self-improvement kick and I just finished this amazing book called "It's Okay To Be Strong". The hypothesis is that in our society nowadays we teach people to be weak and passive as a way of narcotizing them against the brutal antagonistic forces of modern life. Otherwise they might flip out and start punching the Quiznos sandwich boy for example. For most people this indoctrination works fine, because deep down they actually are weak and passive. But for people who deep down are secretly strong and powerful, this coward-worshipping culture makes them sick. It gives them anxiety because they're always worried they're going to hurt someone and depression from pretending to be weak their entire lives. This has been my problem, basically.

I remember this time when I was a kid I was playing in the backyard and randomly decided to see how high I could throw this dirt-clump into the sky. I have no idea how it happened, I wasn't aiming at anything in particular, but the dirt-clump came down into the neighbor's yard and cracked Big Sheryl on the head. I called the neighbor lady Big Sheryl because she was big and my mom had a skinny friend who was already named Sheryl. Big Sheryl cried and screamed like a baby, I guess the dirt-clump was mostly rock, and I felt awful. I unfortunately learned that day that if I acted without thinking I could hurt someone, and if I hurt someone I would feel bad, and so I subconsciously started to act like a "Passive Pete". That's from the book.

Part of the process of unlocking my "Inner Hercules" involves revisiting incidents in my life where I felt I'd done something wrong. Things I can't let go of and find myself returning to in my head. The time I met you, Kim, is one of those times. Shannon was playing dash-cam videos from Russia of cars mowing down pedestrians and I left the room and found you in the kitchen. At that point in my life I was really interested in cheating on my girlfriend, I'm not sure why. I think I was just worried that if I didn't cheat on this girlfriend now that I might never get the chance to cheat on a future girlfriend, because it's a different thing when you cheat as a middle-aged guy as opposed to as a college student.

So I started to talk to you before I realized I had nothing to talk about and you weren't very interested. We talked about what classes we were taking, which meant the conversation was failing. Then you said you haven't had Biology yet. I said Biology is pretty interesting actually, and you said "Is it?" I guess I didn't expect you to say that and I kind of freaked out, internally. Also I drank about six cups of coffee earlier. I was jittery and I felt like I had to justify Biology being interesting and so I said Well yeah for example did you know that bacteria and humans share 99% of their genetic material. That's how it started, was I said something that didn't make sense and then you asked me about it and I just kept talking.

I said that bacteria and humans co-evolved in a kind of genetic nuclear-arms race, and that before bacteria humans were two-feet tall and only ate bugs. I said that scientists now agree that bacteria isn't harmful, but actually seeks to improve our species by killing off our weaker members. It's like how crops grow better after a controlled burn. Bacteria is interesting in strengthening us because they use us as vessels, so the more resilient the human body the better. It's like doing home-improvement.

Bacteria made us who we are and still contributes to society in ways you wouldn't expect; like for example did you know gasoline is actually a bacterial waste product? Did you know space shuttles are coated in heat-resistant bacteria to keep them from exploding in the atmosphere? Did you know modern super-computers don't use microchips, but instead are just tanks filled with bacteria? Yeah, scientists come up with complex equations, convert them into a string of genetic code, and then inject that code into the tank and observe how the bacteria respond to it. Most guys working at Google are doing this. You looked confused, so I kept talking.

The current problem, I said, was between two warring groups of scientists. It started in the late 80's, when Norwegian researchers genetically altered ancient bacteria to birth a new life-form, dubbed "The Anti-Sickness". This man-made, Frankensteinian creation would not only kill and consume any and all bacteria it came in contact with, but it could also multiply and spread like a bacteria. This meant, simply, that once unleashed The Anti-Sickness would wipe out all bacteria on Earth. The Norwegians wanted to introduce it into the wild immediately and usher in a new era where humans can thrive without the threat of bacterial disease; but ethical biologists from around the globe demanded they destroy their invention. The world would be a radically different place without bacteria, they claimed, and there's no way of calculating the possibly catastrophic repercussions. The Norwegians insisted on going ahead with their plan, and in 1991, just days before the launch of their creation, the experimental genetics research center in Oslo was bombed by a pro-bacteria extremist. A dozen scientists died and the sole batch of Anti-Sickness was consumed in flames. The few surviving members of the research team disappeared, some say to an floating laboratory in international waters funded by a shadowy Wall Street billionaire.

So why don't they simply make more Anti-Sickness? As I said, the Norwegians used ancient bacteria to create the first batch. This bacteria is found only on a ten billion-year old chunk of meteor called "The God-Stone", which was discovered by a famous Russian geologist named Chucky Slomanov. Slomanov split the God-Stone in two and gave one half to the Norwegians. The other half he left to his eldest son, Pyotr. After the 1991 bombing the Norwegians' half of the God-Stone was confiscated and destroyed by the International Biological Police (INTERBIOPOL), but when they attempted to locate Pyotr Slomanov they found he'd boarded a plane for Calcutta and then vanished somewhere between there and the Himalayas. Interbiopol feared that Pyotr would join the Norwegians and so they took the entire Slomanov family hostage and imprisoned them in an underground facility in the Somali desert, where they remain to this day.

The Pro-Bacteria Group themselves have transformed from a loose network of rational, pragmatic skeptics into a fanatical pseudo-religious organization called The Cell, which claims that the God-Stone is a volley from an alien civilization which seeks to elevate the human species into a higher state of consciousness, and that when we are sufficiently evolved we will join our alien mother-race in colonizing the universe and possibly other dimensions. The Cell has also allied itself with a South American disease-worshipping cult, Los Buscadores de la Magia Microsc├│pica, who believe that all bacteria is actually a single living organism, and that we must help it achieve its mysterious goals by eliminating anti-bacterial persons and organizations by any means necessary, including violence, which is why every few months you'll see news stories about beheaded biologists washing up from the Baltic Sea or anthrax attacks on research labs in Hong Kong or the CDC performing house-cleaning operations to purge suspected Pro-Bacteria double-agents. And why do you think Purell hand sanitizer is delivered in an armored van? Even now The Cell and Los Buscadores are developing new diseases which might very well wipe out the human race. Bio-apocalypse -- they call this event The Ascension. On the other side, the Norwegians and their backers hope to eliminate bacteria altogether, which would fundamentally alter Earth's biosphere, not to mention us. Did you know that in our bodies bacteria outnumber human cells 10 to 1? What is a human without bacteria? We wouldn't even be able to digest food without them. We would starve. So certain death awaits us if either group gets its way, and they're both in a race, along with Interbiopol, to find Pyotor Slomanov and the remaining God-Stone.

I looked away from you in a dramatic way that was like "I'm really deep and haunted by my wisdom" and then turned back with an intense glare and said Only Interbiopol stands between these zealots and the end of the world.

At this point you stopped me and asked where I was getting all this from and I said "Uh, Biology class". Then you called over Alex Plummer, and Alex was your boyfriend, which I didn't know, and he was also a Biology major. The next few minutes were awful, and I quickly lost my chance to play the entire thing off as a joke when I decided to have a panic attack. Some shit may have gotten knocked over and Alex may have threatened to punch me in the head and I may have counter-threatened to poison everyone at the party with anthrax.

The thing that remains with me all these years later though is that I left without saying sorry to you. In this book, "It's Okay To Be Strong", it says we must have the strength to apologize. When you feel like you've done something wrong it's important to say something, or else it will just eat at you forever. So, Kim, I'm sorry for ranting at you in the kitchen at that party, and I'm sorry for making things up, which I now see was just a way to avoid an awkward silence, and caused an embarrassing and painful confrontation. It may not have meant much to you and I'm sure you forgot all about it, but I hope you'll accept my apology.

And now that you've accepted my apology, I would like to take back my apology. According to "It's Okay To Be Strong", it takes strength to apologize, but it takes even more strength to rescind that apology. After all, the whole point of my new life-path is that I'll no longer feel bad for exercising my power, nor will I pretend to be weak. My mistake at that party wasn't telling you insane made-up shit, it was feeling bad when I was called out for it. I should have been proud. It takes courage and wit to tell a lie, I shouldn't be ashamed for that. And I definitely wasn't afraid of Alex freaking Plummer, are you kidding me? I was pretending to be a coward so I wouldn't have to hurt him.

My mom made me go over to Big Sheryl's house after I hit her with the dirt-clump and I stood there and said sorry like an idiot. It was one of those defining moments that ensured I would safely walk the coward's path for many years and it directly influenced my behavior that night at the party. I should have told her that sometimes when a powerful child gets ahold of a dirt-clump people get hurt and that's just the way it is and we would both feel better if we just accepted that fact. I found out Big Sheryl is still alive. She's in a nursing home upstate. Her mind is gone and she can't even get out of bed to use the toilet, but if there's one thing I've learned it's that it's never too late to take back an apology.