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You painted my hands with violence, painted them to be bludgeons, crude and scarred. You painted my heart the color of despair, the sickly yellow of self loathing.

I was untouched at first, Tabula Rasa, waiting for the artist's hands to tell me who I was, to tell me what I will be, but I didn't get an artist, I didn't get a saint.

You showed me who I was, who I would be.  You did this, and then you handed me the brush and told me to keep painting.  My hands are not an artist's hands, they are thick and blunt, the hands of a fighter, of a brute, of a monster, I took the brush and slopped paint over everything you showed me, layer over layer, tried to cover the worst, hide it from view, and sometimes I could convince myself that it wasn't there at all, but in vino veritas, and some things cannot be hidden, some stains cannot be washed away.

You painted my hands with violence, black and red with rage, you painted my face into a leering jack o lantern and now what can I do? The cracks are beginning to show. 

You pressed the brush in my hands, showed me how to paint myself and worse, how to paint others.  Here are your hands, they are tools of pain, they are used for choking, for striking. Here are your eyes.  Look into them late at night and see if you can see the bottom, if there is anything left, stand there in front of the mirror, peer into yourself and see if there is anything there. Is it all used up, are there any colors left inside?  Answer me.


I try to chip away at the old paint, try and change what I was made to be, but it is too deep, it has penetrated and stained and no matter how hard I stratch and scrape, no matter how many times I have made myself bleed, the stain is always there, is always deeper than I can cut, maybe all the way to the bone, maybe in my marrow, maybe there isn't anything pure left, just the colors that were painted on me long ago, maybe there is nothing underneath the colors you first painted on me back when I was untouched.  

You made me a copy of yourself, a bastard imperfect copy of yourself, you made me into you, goddamn you.  And layer after layer I have shed, only to find more of the same underneath.

You painted my heart with love, yes, but also envy, sickly green veins running though the light. You painted my head, my eyes, my bones.

 You painted these patterns. This line is the alcoholism, the addiction.  This line is the doubt, this one the self destruction the black despair, this line you painted on me tells me that I am not worthy, this one says that I am a fraud, and these hands are still blood red, still veined with black hopeless rage. 

You pressed the brush in my hand and showed me the words. Worthless and stupid, broken and alone and pathetic and weak and selfish, and soon I didn't need to be guided at all, I knew the words, freshened them up from time to time. Loser, sinner, liar. You showed me where to start and I did, kept adding layer after layer kept writing, kept laying it on thick and deep.

Thick and deep.

These are not artist's hands, these are the hands of a dead eyed killer.

 I didn't get an artist, I didn't get a guardian angel. It was you who painted these hands with violence.

I tried to wash myself clean, I tried.  I thought maybe the worst had faded, on most days I can lie to myself, be convincing enough. 

Most days.

And now I have been gifted my own Tabula Rasa; they stand before me, asking me to show them who to be. 

I look at myself, covered in violence and fear and grief and regret. I see the lines, my violent damaged hands, broken and healed so many times. I look at the words on my arms, tattooed so deeply, and my Tabula Rasa, they ask

What shall we become?

 I look at my heart, shattered and repaired with care, with gold.

I hand them the brush.  I show them how to hold it, tell them this is love and hope and inspiration, be generous with these.  This is fear and anger and doubt. These are also important, but go light, as light as you can, I tell them to be careful, the paint stains, some things cannot be cleaned.

What shall we be?

Anything at all, I say, you're the one holding the brush. You can be anything you want. Choose well.

Just promise me one thing:

Promise to never become me.

Still Writing, 

RP 5-21-21

So it's been a while, too long really, and I wasnt sure what would happen if I tried to write again. I had wondered if I had anything still to say.  It was not easy, it was slow and stuttered, but apparently there is still a good measure of madness left in me, enough to scrape this out of the barrel at least. So it goes.

I have a son on the cusp of manhood, that just got his driver's license. It is hard as hell being a parent,  and harder still to trust that you have done enough that you can let go when they need you less and less.  I often wonder how much of my own crazy I have painted on them.  I hope not too much, but only time will tell.    Reach out if you have something to say.  Comment here or email me at dissent.within at  I'm on Twitter @RDPullins, and I have a Facebook and Instagram that I haven't logged on in forever, probably since the last time I wrote something here, so thats a terrible way to reach me, clearly.  You can text me if you have my number, and if you don't, try texting a random number; maybe you will make a new friend.



  1. Damn, dude! That's heavy. You're such a brutal and honest storyteller. I find myself contemplating your words and hanging on to phrases long after my first read. Keep writing, brother!

    1. Thanks, Man! its always so weird writing and posting shit like this, because it all makes sense in my head, and I have no idea how others are going to read it. Hopefully its not too far out there for people to connect to.


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