“You don’t know anything about my problems.” – Miguel Cabrera
“I am a rock, I am an island.” – Paul Simon
Cabrera’s words read like a motto of the disenfranchised, like a stray line of dialogue from a John Hughes movie. It is both juvenile and heartbreaking to hear someone express their feeling that no other person could understand the depths of their sorrow; expressing, as it were, the failure of all art, literature, and philosophy to bridge the divide between human rocks and islands. Cabrera, with his hull scraping bottom, thought compassion a myth.
I don’t pretend to know anything about Cabrera’s experience, but I don’t think that precludes the above reading of his words. When he spoke them out loud to the cops, he entered them into the public forum, just as good as a published book that’s on a library shelf.
We each take the same risk when we start a conversation at a party: that our words will escape our lips, drop to the floor, run down the hall, and clamber out the window into the world. It is the fee for admission to society, now more than ever. The saving grace may be that there are so many public conversations going on at a given point that our particular individual embarrassments are swallowed up in the ocean of radio traffic.
The exception being if you are famous, and troubled. I heard the news about Cabrera’s DUI arrest, and I was, at first, disappointed. I recently researched his past issues with booze, and felt that he had made the necessary alterations, and that he was happy with himself. In January of 2010, Cabrera told Detroit Free-Press columnist Michael Rosenberg, “I think it’s going to be a new season, a new life for me. I’m going to be a better dad, better person, better player, better with the fans.”
Then I read the quotation, his declaration of independence from the human family. It thrummed like the final phrase of a hard novel. It probably didn’t feel poetic at the time, an allegedly drunk young man bucking against authority, broke down, frustrated, caught. The tension of the traffic stop, the space between the cop and the baseball player collapsed, thrumming with potential calamity. Cabrera allegedly wandered into the road a few times, upset, swearing. Then the comment, the lash-out, uttered once and repeated. It goes into a report, is spread by the news.
The phrase becomes its own text, subject to public dissection like a frog carcass splayed out on a tin.
“Do you know who I am? You don’t know anything about my problems.”
A question asked, and answered by the asker, as he, at that time, saw fit.