I’m leaving a dinner party with dear friends and I hear a short sentence about me uttered just as I close the door. This comes from a recent arrival and relative stranger – their neighbor – someone with whom, for their sake, I really don’t want to have words.
It is a slight against my intelligence. Over a comment about the game, Crib. Spoken by a guy who had met me only 20 minutes earlier.
Buddy, I think, stepping down the last stair, if I wanted to wipe your ass with the crib board I could, but that game bores me interminably. If I wanted to challenge you to a game of reciting prime numbers, you’d leave feeling as if you’d had your ego fucking castrated without anesthetic. But I don’t use my intelligence as a weapon. I won’t. You can use being smart to be funny, you asshole, not to pass judgment on me based on what…my appearance? my smile? What?
What am I missing here?
And I’m almost out, closing the door when…
I lose my temper.
In those seconds it takes for the door to swing shut I know exactly the words I should scream up at him. And then, of course, slam the door on my way out.
There is a click as the door shuts.
I stand outside, wondering if it is worth it to go back in.
The fury descends in full force, like a storm of birds around my head in an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
I am stuck outside, panting, thinking. I force myself to walk, hoofing it to the bus stop, growing more furious with each step. I ride home on the subway with music blasting in my ears, head tipped up and staring up at the ceiling. I walk three times around the block when I finally get home.
Since I was a young girl, and lost my temper on a helpless animal, I’ve practiced controlling the fury. Some people are just like helpless animals, really, and if you turn that on them with no warning you really hurt them. It is so enormous, so out of proportion, that it scares people. It doesn’t scare me, in isolation. The consequences of it scare me.
It is not my choice, that I’m aware of anyways, that I’m not acting anymore. It feels like I’m a side-show act for the Gods, a rat in a maze going towards the things I’ve always loved and finding a wall while some mighty Goddess of Creativity tricks me into another direction, giggling hysterically. Sure, what I’m being pushed towards is great in its own way, and thank you (Great Spirit), I’m hoping this is right, how could it not be, eventually.
But here’s what sucks about it:
I have huge emotions, huge. Ever since I was a child, I’ve had to hide them. In the theatre, I had to control them, but it is the only place where the sheer size of my emotions was an asset and not a liability. Not something to be ashamed of, but something I could rely on. And for the first time in my life, I could let them go and it was safe.
For the first time, I wasn’t a freak.
I was perfect.
If you saw me play Juliet at the Citadel, you saw a brief glimpse of the fury. When Dad Capulet walks into her bedroom, decrees that she shall marry Paris, and all hell breaks loose. He tells Juliet what she WILL do. And my director (a brilliant interpreter of Shakespeare for all his other foibles) asked me to indulge in the fury. She’s a teenager – why not?
In real life, as in that play, I hate it when someone tells me I can’t have something I want.
I dug in my heels and I screamed the word “NO!” I remember the word always bubbled up from my guts like acid, and when I screamed it I had no proper vocal tone, it was all broken edges and throat.
If I let it go, it feels like winds roaring from my feet and out of the top of my head. Images flit quickly through my mind, leaving behind only more fury.
I’m standing in a batting cage with a baseball bat, except I’m not a clutz at sports anymore, this time I can crack that ball and my muscles flex and curve and the impact rocks through my shoulders and knocks me back on my feet and the follow through is smooth and slow motion after that sweet sound of violence on the ball. Home runs all. Over, again, over, again.
I’m standing on a boulder at the top of a cliff and you are standing below me and we are screaming at each other and you are afraid of what I might do and I am so so so very angry that you want to tell me what to do that I turn my back and scream an epithet at you and I leap, into the air and fall, screaming towards the water. Fuck it, fuck it, fuck you all anyways, I’m out.
I’m at the firing range holding that big gun and popping off shots, one, two, three, four, screw the target just squeeze repeatedly, feel the push back into your shoulders and the recoil and shake in your arms and the alchemic terrifying force of metal and black powder. (Handguns do not feel the same as shooting gophers with the .22 on the farm.)
I am on my horse racing through the field against another horse and rider and they are behind us and my horse hates to lose and so do I, and we are beating them, it is hurting us but we are beating them, our shadow to the right racing all and we are fast, so fast, and panting with the sheer effort and I am standing in the stirrups thighs burning and eyes watering and I am screaming, “GooooooooooOOO, my BABY!”
The Fury makes me wonder if one day I’ll go crazy.
“I’m afraid…I’m like my Dad…” says Catherine at the end of “Proof”.
That was the scariest moment I’ve ever had on stage.
To admit that, sometimes, I too feel crazy.
The only ones who’ve ever seen it in real life are my family, and my theatre school classmates.
I walk around the block and walk around the block until I can calm down enough to handle my anger, go inside.
It will be hours before I sleep.
I’m so volatile recently, quick to anger at work…and this evening.
Maybe it really was a bad week to quit smoking.