In combat, for him it was nothing more than picking targets. He’d look bored while hitting the bag, send a right hook to where his opponent’s head would be, then a left to the body, right elbow coming across that would erase consciousness if it hit a human head. It was the same with words.
There was a time when he’d be excited to fight. A chance to paint on canvas, whether to see his words or punches land, it didn’t matter. To see his opponent’s hurt show through no matter how hard they tried to hide it. He knew better now, but there was a time when he was fueled by the fight. Bruises hidden under shirt sleeves, bloody noses washed under kitchen sinks in dirty light. Cutting knuckles on teeth and throwing punches as wild fingers grasped at him and nails cut flesh on neck. Blood kept him going.
He’d been out of that way of thinking for a while now, but he could still pick targets. Still strike with surgical precision, identify his opponent’s weaknesses and exploit them as efficiently as possible. If someone hits you, you rip out their throat with your teeth. He knew what to do.
That acid can’t be contained, not for long, and when it burnt from its container and spilled out, it couldn’t be stopped. There’s a calm breath that comes, a quiet certainty as you move your body where it needs to go, allow the words to come out in just the right sequence. There’s an art to destroying a person.
Back when it used to consume him, when the rage controlled him, he always had an internal barometer. Would know when he’d gone too far, had been too extreme in his words or actions. But not now. Now he was picking targets, attacking his abuser with a focus and a clinical technicality. Exposing him for his cowardice, his artifice, tearing apart his idea of who he was as a man until he could watch the paper man crumble. And when it was done, and he was left on read for days, and his target had nothing to say, no comeback after years of always having to get the last word, he nodded, smiled, and carried on.