Man Versus Wall

There is a scene in “The Messenger” when Ben Foster learns the love of his life is engaged to another man.  He proceeds to punch a hole in the wall.  To which my wife asked, “What is it with guys punching walls?”  Then she asked me if I had ever punched a wall.

Surely I would not be that prone to an outburst, right?  Surely I would not be that stupid.  But alas, I was.

I broke my fourth metacarpal when I was in high school.  I missed a layup and punched the padded part of the wall that’s underneath most basketball goals.  You know, to show everyone I was really, really mad about it.  My knuckle disappeared as the bone broke, raising a huge lump int the top part of my hand as the split bone threatened to pop right out of the top.  I ended up having it surgically repaired with pins.  Recovery time, 3 months.

It never occurred to me, until my wife mentioned it, just how often I have seen a guy hit a wall.  My ballpark guess?  Ten times.  The wall is 10-0 in these bouts.  In an informal poll, it seems that any solid wall is indeed difficult to defeat.  I know one fella who figured he would harmlessly punch through some drywall, which is cardboard-ish and prone to breaking, only to hit a stud and blow out two metacarpals.

My friend Bucky has a sort-of victory worth mentioning.  He hit a 4×4 that helped hold up the overhang at the local IGA store with his forearm.  The wood split in two.  Even he was surprised.  Who was more surprised?  The guys that were threatening to whip his ass (or, more specifically, our asses).  Turns out they reconsidered after seeing this, and left.  The next week, I noticed the wood was replaced with a reflector on it, as if the owner assumed a car had hit it.  But that was forearm versus board.  Doesn’t count in the standings.

Why do guys hit walls?  I have decided it is because there are two choices when we are angry or frustrated or ready to pop–keep it in, or let it out.  And hitting the wall is the most selfless form of release.  It is a choice to risk injuring ourselves instead of the alternatives.  The goal is actually to break through the wall, I’m sure.  Men are trying to say “Look, I’m so angry I want to hit things.”  But logic is saying, “Look, I’m going to give myself a recovery timeframe of 3 months from this idiotic outburst.”

Why hit the wall?  Is it inside of our genetics?  Did cavemen break their hands on cave walls after missing the mammoth with their spear, or after an argument with a cavewoman?

But it’s more rampant than you can ever imagine.  Your assignment is to ask some guy if he’s hit a wall or knows someone who does.  I will say with 100 percent certainty that you will get a story about hitting a wall for what they believe to be a very, very good reason.

I also guarantee that at the end of the story, the wall will win.

Fred Venturini

Fred Venturini is an author and freelance business consultant. He grew up in Patoka, Illinois. In 2014, his story "Gasoline" was featured in Chuck Palahniuk's Burnt Tongues anthology. His short fiction has been published in the Booked Anthology, Noir at the Bar 2, and Surreal South. The Heart Does Not Grow Back, published by Picador in 2014, is his first novel. He lives in Southern Illinois with his wife and daughter.

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