My parathyroids were having a fit.
A cascade of alarming symptoms had followed me since September beginning with the second of two kidney stones, roiling its way south to exit, followed by uncontrollable OCD, crushing anxiety and, per the secondary results of the CT scan nearly culminating in that most reviled of all diagnostics, the colonoscopy. BUT!
The second of two 24 hour urine captures told that tale. Calcium levels were the kicker. Not to be outdone by actual medical professionals, I pored over the interwebs until, honing in, I’d settled on the glands in my throat. Seems at least one of them was throwing out hormone like gangbusters; and, who knew? My endocrinologist, a Peruvian with a penchant for the latest peer reviewed papers, called me from two hours outside Lima to discuss the whole thing.
At such a juncture, one needs diversion.
The Bachelor season wouldn’t commence for another, unendurable week, and the guy who’d played boyfriend on the flat screen of my fantasy was AWOL again; so, if succour was the craving of the hour the most available (and, delectable) appeared to be an Oscar nom’d film, Call Me By Your Name. Unaware of its actual theme, I was drawn in by what had always turned my head: ineffably. pretty. boys.
And, this was a twofer: the most heavily promoted ingenue, Tim-O-Tay Chalamet – and, one Armand Douglas Hammer.
The story played out as a heady, Indy-European hybrid, flavoured with English subtitles whenever our Elio preferred les Francais and steeped in languid, sun swathed Italian countryside. We followed the young musician and his scholarly Oliver, as they stepped out their bee dance toward coupling, predictably enough; yet, what carried this old girl was the sight, sound, even perceptible scent of perfectly lovely men.
But, reverberating in the back of my refractive lens was the distant undertow of what used to be termed the society page story – on Hammer. As I watched his godlike, Aryan body travel across the frame, I noted a distinctive impetus that seemed almost borne of compulsion. Unlike his convincingly thoughtful counterpart, Chalamet, he didn’t muse to move; Hammer, as Oliver, almost vaulted forward, suddenly, as a cat might pounce.
Could the nature of the man have informed the character he portrayed? Even when the two were in rapt embrace, I was never warmed toward Oliver by any notion of authentic sentiment. He seemed rather to be calculating, to the end, loosely referencing discretion as some sort of caveat for deliberate restraint. At times, he toyed with lovesick Elio, even taunting, then cold. While performing therapeutic foot massage, he appeared to be inflicting authentic pain. In their final scene, departing by train toward a life of alleged responsibility he was ever in his head, as if always having known the end from its beginning.
Is this not the mark of the predator?
I decided that both, as actors, were effortless, immersed in their story. But, what of Hammer, in his?
Born into a family dynasty marked by both industrial megafortune and some alarming, dark demons, “Armie” appeared to have it all – beauty; physique; intellect; and, sexual magnetism. But, too much evidence had mounted, far more often than he would in occasional infidelity, and of a kind which made even a rebel startle; multiple women were testifying to relentless, physical brutality.
In my recent, protracted attempt at relationship I’d become accustomed to giving latitude where likely undeserved, forgiveness where none could otherwise be found. But, my brain stretched, on this one; what, or who, had poisoned the mind of this young man toward an established pattern of relational violence? Was it genetic weakness, true affliction? Or, had he grown to expect absolute dominance over all, both those haplessly appearing in his path as well as selected prey?
I’d sought mindless entertainment, of the evening. I tried valiantly to submit to escape. But, reality encroached – and, won. This wasn’t just a movie about two gay guys falling in love; this was a study in the strength of suspension of disbelief. And, regarding any ability to relax into a story played by actors, even viewing it twice I’d failed. All I could see, or feel, were the raw edges of biting teeth and the tearing flesh of penetrating assault.
Current reports indicate Hammer is financially destitute, in debt, foundering in a menial job as timeshare concierge. The shadows cast by his persistent past still follow him, a true diagnosis for the disease haunting him elusive.
In a matter of days, I will likely reach the point of definitive diagnosis, for my own: Hyperparathyroidism. Four tiny glands, set in the hyoid bone hammock of the human throat, and capable – with the advent of just one, benign lesion – of wreaking havoc over the entire physiological constitution, at its most pathological achieving psychosis.
Maybe Armie Hammer could use a pursuant blood test, of his own. Whence the darkest deeds of man, anyway? The heart may be deceitful, desperately wicked; but, perhaps the source of all bad human behavior can at last be found, couched in the tantrum of one, small handful of rogue cells.
- Please find “HOUSE OF HAMMER” on Amazon Prime or Discovery+
Copyright 1/24/23 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, who has consumed four double chocolate chip cookies in cocoa flour and whose story it is. No copying, pasting, editing, transcribing, or translating permitted; sharing by blog link, exclusively, and that not via RSS. Thank you for visiting, and remembering, and subscribing.