It all started several months ago, something seemingly innocuous would annoy me, and then throw me into a blinding rage. It could be something as simple as an errant car, weaving in and out, the driver seemingly oblivious to his surroundings. Or, it could simply be slow moving traffic or worse yet, not moving at all in a traffic jam. During rush hour, north of Atlanta on I-75 was enough to make the mellowest person into an inpatient maniac... and I was far from mellow.
I’d pound vainly on the steering wheel, through clenched teeth and snarl, “Come on, you idiots!”
I’m sure I was a little more colorful than that, suggesting what they could do with various parts of their anatomy. The mysterious part was, I don’t exactly recall. I’d become so enraged with white-hot anger that I’d actually lose consciousness for a few seconds. I wasn’t sure, when I did regain normal functions, if the surrounding cars, indeed, the entire road-full of vehicles, were in the same place. Curiously, the bumper of the car in front of me was haphazardly strewn on the pavement, still smoldering, from some apparent heat.
I would then continue on my drive, vainly cursing at passing motorists. I noticed in the rear-view mirror a look of..of fear? or abject terror on the face of the driver I had passed was now behind me Whatever happened, it couldn’t be that bad—it’s not like I pulled a gun or anything. Besides, the other driver’s seemed to amble along as if nothing had happened although, not a soul looked in my direction, or even made eye contact.
Fortunately, for everyone else on the road, there were no further instances of what I considered to be idiot drivers. Whether others would agree with me, I wouldn’t know…not for sure. I pulled into my garage in a non-descript suburb. That was a good description of my entire life…non-descript.
I was sweating again, not the least of which that it was mid-April and it was already sweltering. Also, my car’s AC was out again, I could use it, but starting and stopping with congested traffic, it would overheat with steam leaking out under the hood. The last thing I needed was to be stalled on the highway, having to push my car to the side of the road, that only angered me more.
I slammed the door as I entered the house, the glass on the car door shimmered, almost breaking—that’s all I needed now. Everything seemed to annoy me today... more like this year. As I stepped up over the concrete lip of the garage, my foot snagged on a loose mat and I tumbled head-long into the door. This time, it wasn’t white-hot rage that fueled my unconscious state, it was a near concussion that knocked me out, for several minutes, judging by the time on my wrist watch and cell-phone.
As I entered the house, irritated all over again. The house a tiny, the landlord claimed it was 'cozy', pre-fabricated, modern house. One that I was forced into renting,not even buying, but renting.
All of this after my divorce and I had a daughter that wouldn’t talk to me, having been fed lies about me from her mother. It was all not fair, not fair at all. I hated my job, I despised the daily commute.
Still stewing on these thoughts, I heated up a frozen dinner in the ratty microwave in the ratty kitchen. I burned my hand on the steam from the pealed-back plastic divider. I swore again, “This is just what I need…a trip to the emergency room”. I did refrain from resorting to a knife, -that would land me in the ER for sure.
As I gulped down the faintly burnt paper-carton dinner, I got more and more inflamed. Just then, the phone rang, it was someone from work. I could only hear every third word fully, “….important…get ahead of this thing….let me know…hear me? –your phone…mine…ok, talk later on a bett—in”.
Yes, it probably was an important call. I looked at my smart-phone, which was suddenly quite stupid, and it flashed, 'Call lost' and then 'No internet service'. I yelled at the top of my lungs, “Really? You’re a genius”. There were many expletives thrown in there, ones that I’m not proud of - especially to an inanimate object that isn’t even aware of being yelled at. I hurled the phone with all my might at the nearest wall.
I was still enraged, but not to the point of blacking out. Maybe I was learning to control it, at least the blacking out part. The phone hit the wall and shattered into so many pieces. That was my pet peeve - cell phones that didn’t seem to work. “I pay all this money and it should work when you turn it on…if I did that at work, I’d be fired immediately.” All of that was said through gritted teeth. My throat was also raw from yelling so much.
No, it wasn’t fair, none of it was. Now, I no longer had a connection to the outside world. I’d have to take an extended lunch-hour just to get a replacement phone. “Well, it wasn’t working anyway”, I reasoned which explained the shattering of the phone very neatly.
With the setting sun, I realized I needed to walk the neighbor’s dogs (two little poodles). This was something good neighbors do. They’re on vacation now, when I was unavailable, they’d water my plants, collect mail and newspapers and just keep a general eye on things. See, I thought to myself, I am a decent person.
Walking next door, I retrieved the key from the bottom of a fake, potted plant, and unlocked the front door. Greeting me as I walked in the kitchen, the two little poodles seemed happy to see me. In fact, they danced around so much, it was a chore just to get their leashes on. First, I checked the kitchen floor, and the living room, which luckily was tile. No messes, they were good dogs. I finally managed to fasten their leashes. After the immediate call of nature, I began to walked them around the neighborhood.
We walked briskly for a few minutes, I was immediately relieved that they weren’t German Shepherds or Great Danes, though they pulled me along as if they were. I managed to calm down along the way, listening to the chirping birds, and watching the beautiful,crimson sunset illuminate the surrounding clouds. Maybe the past was the past, all water under the bridge, so to speak. Perhaps I should just let it go, relinquish the anger?
Just as those thoughts crossed my mind, the dogs began to bark wildly, and drew my attention back to reality. I was just in the process of passing a house, a young kid on a bicycle came to a stop and then entered the garage.
A loose Pit-Bull came out, barking and slobbering, intent on carrying out his instinct and devouring the two Poodles which would only take one chomp.
I reacted as anyone in that situation would, I was scared for the Poodles. Plus, my neighbor would be less than enthused that they were hurt on my watch. There was a lady (and I use that term generously) coming out of the garage. Instead of diffusing the situation, she added gas to a smoldering ember.
“Get your fucking dogs out of here! You’re such a nuisance…”
At that expletive, I lost it. White-hot rage entered again, “At least my dogs are on a leash!” My throat was again raw from yelling at the top of my lungs. I swore at her. Again, I’m not proud of it. She finished with a simple f-bomb.
That did it, I was unable to control myself. I did black-out for a mere moment, it was very much like being extremely drunk, I was able to remember and even view my actions at the time, but couldn’t influence events.
During that brief moment of unconsciousness, apparently I’d moved the dog back into the garage. I don’t think I hurt him, after all, it wasn’t his fault that his owner was an imbecile. It was absolutely her fault, to harm the dog in itself wouldn’t be fair. I knew that feeling all too well.
The ‘lady’, on the other hand, was totally responsible, she wouldn’t be dealt with so easily. In fact, when I did open my eyes, she was thrown into the front door, which buckled and then burst into flames, taking her with it, inferno and all.
Oh, but I wasn’t finished! T—the tiles of the roof began to peel off one at a time, gathering strength throughout, so that there was a torrent of flaming tiles, like a crimson tornado. All at once, they came slamming down on the barren roof, lighting the interior strut-framework on fire.
At last, my anger settled and I was once again in total control. I could see the house was a raging inferno and hear the coming sirens, so, wisely opted to slink off, the dogs in tow. No one would believe I’d be responsible anyway, but I’d prefer not to find out.
Walking the dogs back to my neighbor’s house, I saw two passing fire engines, an ambulance, which did tug at my guilt -deservedly so, and then followed up by a police car. I not only felt guilty, but had a distinct feeling of fear.
How would they realize that I was responsible? They could search my house, they would find no gasoline or other accelerant, nothing that would indicate that I could be responsible in the least. Plus, I had the appearance of a normal guy with no criminal history. I reasoned all of this to calm my beating heart and to dry my sweat, none of which worked very well.
It was now fully dark, the streetlights had flickered on in stages, and I knew she, from the house across the street, would open her door and illuminate the street with her own light. (that was my pathetic excuse to attempt poetics.)
Her name was Mirella, she had flame-red hair (not like a Cyndi Lauper red, more of a ‘natural’ look). Which was odd, because according to her, she used to have brown hair, which would match the color of her eyes. She was about my age and had two daughters about the same age as mine. If my daughter was still on speaking terms with me, and lived here, her daughters and mine could play together. More likely, they’d go to the mall, and compare notes about boys. In fact, I had no doubt my daughter would be a bad influence on her daughters
Walking right up to me, as if she’d somehow known, she wasted no time getting to the point. “You really need to let go of your anger - just let it go. It’ll burn you up from the inside.” She thought for a moment and then added, “It’s so not worth it….you’re better than that,”
I reflected guiltily, looking at the ground. “Yes, of course you’re right”.
Taking the two extra steps required, she grabbed both of my hands, as if for extra emphasis, “Do this for yourself”. Seeing my total lack of reaction, she tried a new tack, “Do it for me, please.”
That worked, I did respond to that. I’d do anything for her. My eyes misted over, “Yes, of course I will”. I silently added, Anything for you. I was under no illusions, I knew exactly who was speaking through her,just as I knew who was behind my actions, spurred on by anger as it was.
Yes, I wondered, how much power could I have and what caused it in the first place? I was afraid I knew the source. Just like in the Star Wars saga, the dark side of the force was fueled by anger. That was totally oversimplifying things, I knew that. Still, there are many truths that are very simple. Good, evil….bad, good….light, dark.
One thing that was utterly strange, with her mere touch, all of my anger and stress seemed to dissipate, leaving my body, from my head, shoulders, though my feet and into the pavement. I was so much at peace, and I never wanted it to end.
I really wanted to leave my anger behind, I really did. With all of those thoughts, I really wanted to be with her, yet I knew it was utterly futile. She had her husband, who, incidentally, she never talked about, except in passing. But that’s not strange, I never talked about my ex with her (it’s just common sense not to talk about other women with a woman). She had her daughters, who she did talk about and showed me pictures.
With all of those things, we were never meant for each other, and it was the hardest thing for me to admit. For the longest time, I didn’t want to see the obvious truth, even though it was staring me in the face. It was far easier to pretend everything was right.
Admitting reality made me far from angry, it just made me sad, forlorn sounds better and is far more accurate. Bereft would describe things also but I would never hurt her (or anyone she knows). I would rather hurt myself than allow her to come to any sort of harm.
She glanced at my face with a raised eyebrow and a concerned look, “Are you alright? You look….sad. I’ve never seen someone look so…so broken…well, I haven’t seen it in a while,” she corrected.
“No, I’m fine…just fine.” My statement sounded flat and hollow, it must’ve been very obvious. Well, I made no secret of my longing for her, so it would stand to reason.
She slapped her arm. “I’m getting eaten up out here…I’ll see you tomorrow…think about what I said,”she said, over her shoulder.
“Oh, I will”. I said, as I stepped back over the curb on the way back to my rickety ‘house’.
Even stepping into my lonely living room, I seemed to forget what she’d told me. Seeing my daughter’s picture only seemed to re-enforce that feeling of betrayal,.the unfairness of it all. Soon after, I fell into a deep sleep, but it was punctuated by a fit of restless dreams…those of anger, rage, and grinding of teeth. There was laughter, and fire which I caused. The lady with the dog was carted away in an ambulance, burns all over her body. I did feel guilty, but realized she could’ve easily said, I’m sorry, or something like that; instead, she had to literally inflame the situation further. It was totally her fault. If someone annoyed me again, it’d be their fault also.
I woke up before the alarm, but the annoying buzzing continued anyway. Frustrated by the pointless chirping of the alarm, I rolled over and cracked the faceplate, my minor inconvenienced mind also pulled the plug from the wall, all while rolling over, laying comfortably in my bed.
Mindlessly engaging in my morning routine, I dressed and made my way to my crap-can of a car in my pathetic garage - all on my way to a job I hated. I was forced to accept it only to pay the alimony and child-support, which in itself was totally unfair.
My daily work routine was totally boring and mind-numbing, processing an endless supply of paper (work orders and the like). It really seemed a pointless exercise, no doubt dreamed up by some mid-level manager in order to justify his existence. I know that, because I would do that as well. He was probably forced to, but I had no sympathy for him, after all, I was forced to grind it out.
Leaving my cramped cubicle for a well-deserved coffee break, I stumbled over an exposed cord. The cubicle resident must’ve been out for a similar break, he was no where to be found. The cord was connected to a printer.
Reacting on pure, rage-inspired instinct, still laying on the floor, I looked up at the offending printer. Electrical smoke began to roil from the cover, I must’ve burnt out the motor bringing the carriage back and forth. The resulting smoke wafted up, causing the fire alarm to clang. I would’ve silenced that as well, but I used the excuse to leave early (it was a little after 4 anyway, I doubt anyone would miss me), that’s how important my job is, I thought as I walked out.
Once in the garage, I tried to start my car, on the third attempt, the ignition finally caught This is just was I need, another car-repair bill that I can’t afford, and, to add insult to injury, I was already sweating. I really need to fix the air-conditioning, but I knew that was low on my list of priorities.
I assumed, by leaving early, I could avoid the bulk of the rush-hour traffic. No such luck. Apparently, others had the very same idea, the expressway was totally clogged. Try as I might, swerving back and forth, I could find no reason for this traffic jam. The traffic-reporter repeatedly claimed it was just normal volume, which did seem to be daily.
Absently listening to the radio, I was startled when I felt a collision from behind. Luckily, for both of us, we were traveling so slowly because of the traffic jam that very little damage was done. If we’d been traveling sixty or seventy miles per hour, that would have been a different story, and would’ve required the jaws of life and very possibly a life-flight. As it was, we both pulled over (I was just about to exit for Kennesaw, so had slowed down even further).
Nervously fumbling in his glove-box for insurance information he said, “Gosh, I’m really sorry, it was totally my fault…there was this lady tail-gaiting me and flashing her brights…”
What had originally intended to be a stern tongue lashing, softened considerably based solely on his admission of guilt. See, why couldn’t that woman do something as simple as that? As far as I was concerned, she got exactly what she deserved.
“Thanks for admitting things…you don’t know how many people would blame everyone else”.
As he returned to his car, he said.”Well, I’m just glad no one was hurt”.
“Yup, no harm, no foul.” As far as I was concerned, it was just that. The only damage I had was a missing bolt on my license plate, making it appear slightly askew.
It was much more a challenge getting from the side of the road back into the flow of traffic, in the intervening time, the slow traffic had sped up. While getting back on the highway, I was honked at by an oncoming 18 wheeler. To avoid it, I swerved to my right and was scraped. (I could tell it was a sizable gash just by the sound. The really annoying part, the driver just kept on going, never even bothering to look in my direction.
That act alone made me enraged. Again, I saw my actions as a spectator, unable to affect anything. Seeing the fleeing car, I melted the tires, now totally engulfed in flames. The stalled car caused an immediate chain reaction as cars piled one on top of another.
The driver, now terrified, tried to exit the flame engulfed car. He ran (limped, really) across three lanes of traffic. The 18-Wheeler laid on the horn. Too late. The fleeing man was caught under the wheels as the truck slammed on the brakes, skidding and jackknifing the entire time.
I viewed the resulting carnage in my rearview mirror as I finally pulled off towards my exit. Well, he got what he deserved…after all, I almost got killed pulling out into traffic. As the telltale lights of police and ambulance arrived, I’d be long gone before then.
Finally pulling on the Kennesaw exit, I breathed an immense sigh of relief, which soon dissipated as I drove through the meandering residential streets. A road crew was totally blocking the street. A red detour sign directed drivers to another street. This would be miles out of my way. My car was overheating, steam venting out from under the hood.
All of this added up to a boiling rage, which was appropriate considering how unbearably hot the car was. No one should have to deal with this...None of this is fair, not even close to being fair, not even in the same ballpark. Other people seemed to have nice cars, families, jobs, and lives…what did I have? A job I hate, a terrible commute, a daughter that won’t talk to me, a crap-can car, a rickety, lonely, house - that’s what I had. That’s what I was stuck with.
With clenched teeth, I thought all of that, which only served to enrage me further. My car completely stalled as steam gushed out from under and in front of the hood. As I exited the steaming crap-can of a car, I slammed the door and this time, it did shatter, glass spewing all over the road and the interior of my car.
Totally enraged now, beyond all hope of reason, I angrily tipped my car, I used one hand but was doing that more with my mind. The car flipped, burning all the way, until it blocked the road. Well, it was blocked anyway.
I walked angrily on, truth be told, I was actually hovering on jets of flame. I approached the work crew blocking the road, sending motorists on an insane detour. A blinding rage took over, as I sent the blocking cones out of sight (probably to the next neighborhood), melting into incoherent blobs as they flew.
By this time, the workmen fled to a neighboring street, presumably to call 911.
Approaching the work truck, I flipped it over onto a nearby driveway, complete with a parked car. The flying work-truck, now a raging inferno, landed on the parked car, the alarm rang for a second and then warbled out.
Kids and a woman came screaming out the front door. I turned to the house and blew out the windows. The driveway fire spread to the house. Wherever I looked, the object instantly burst into flames. Cars were tossed about like toys, I no longer had to touch anything, just looking did the trick.
This in itself was a terrible thing, because I was out of control with white, hot rage. I looked around for a culprit for my plight. I found many. Nice homes, ones you would see on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. Wonderful cars, BMW’s and Jaguars…all of them were just a twisted mass of metal.
Finally approaching my rickety house, I saw the telltale landlord's car in the driveway. It could only mean he was there to collect this month’s rent. Oh, that wouldn’t happen, today of all days. I tossed his car into the rickety house, which immediately caught on fire.
Making the same flaming tornado of shingles, this time it was worse. I ripped the entire roof from it’s moorings. Not satisfied, I collapsed the walls in a flaming inferno, far worse than anything I’d ever done before.
Just as I stood before the flaming house, nodding grimly at my handiwork, and glancing over my shoulder at the path of destruction in my wake, I suddenly felt a rumble within myself, starting in my stomach and moving to my shoulders and head.
In seemingly no time at all, I noticed in horror that my hands and feet had become flames themselves. I writhed around on the concrete in sheer agony. Between the bouts of intense agony, I knew that I had not much longer on this Earth.
Immediately regretting the ability to reduce my anger, to live in peace….those were my last thoughts as I heard the oncoming sirens, responding to the damage that I caused. I had much to answer for, and I feared it would be soon.
The next thing I knew, I was conscious, but transparent somehow, I was a ghost, but still in extreme, constant pain. Having all the time in the world (not quite this world, but not in the next, which I feared and confidently knew what was in store) I was able to reflect and write the details of my plunge into anger and my choices that led to this painful result. Not just physical, but deep regret, which is the worst type of pain.
Instead of being thankful for what I did have (a job, a car, a house it might not have been the best, but what I wouldn’t give to go back and make different choices). It’s too late now but never too late when life is gifted. Of course, I didn’t see it that way, I was too concerned with what I didn’t have, instead of realizing that 80% of the world would love to have my problems.
And Mirella… oh Mirella… being with her was not in the cards, even though that was all I really wanted… But I could’ve had peaceI could’ve lived with that, and maybe talk with my daughter, it wasn’t too late.
Of course, now it is.