I have a temper.
It is nothing like that of my father’s, and nothing like that of my brother’s, but it is a temper and tempers flare — they light fires and then they fan the flames, for fun.
My temper takes things from me. Joy, peace, appreciation. It doesn’t give me anything; it just takes.
I come from a long and strong line of St. Louis Cardinals fans. The sound of an announcer calling a 2-1 count is the main soundtrack of my childhood. My grandpa Green was a real delight. His famous chicken scratch lit up a dance floor like nothing else. He was jovial and joyful and fun to be around. But dammit did he get pissed when he did — and dammit did he love to lean into it. I will never forget entering his living room, late in the game (so to speak) of his life…when he had a game on. The Cardinals just weren’t living up to his expectations that day, it seemed. And that was it. So pissed and old, he threw in the towel on his lifelong loyalty to the cards, and, from the recliner in his living room, yelled “Go, Cubs!”
He did it to spite them. For spite’s sake.
Last week, I pulled out of a parking lot in the early morning light. I had just finished at the gym; I was tired and still waking and feeling strong and weak simultaneously, and was happy to be on my way home. A car suddenly swooped in front of me, turning wildly before coming to a halt. A girl, mid-twenties, practically leapt out of the passenger door. They were fighting. Immediately, my body went stiff. I braced myself, my two hands gripping the steering wheel.
She didn’t just jump out and head on her way. She jumped out, right arm in the air, left arm gesturing, mouth open, anger spewing out, all over the lot. I glanced at the back of his head, which was facing her, mouth open as well, screaming. Their crescendo indicated a finality of plans — yes, I hate you and you hate me, and I’ll hate you later, but I’ll pick you up at 5 and yes, you’ll pick me up at 5 and FUCK YOU, until then.
By the time he pushed the gas, which he did while her car door was still closing, I could hear my heartbeat. I stayed still, for a couple seconds more. I took a deep breath. Then I turned left, so thankful that I wasn’t the female half of that pair.
I’ve been her before.
Nic can temper my temper in mere seconds. With one look. One word. A lack of response, or a direct reproach, a joke. He has the power to stop me in my tracks. Most of the time.
I throw shit and cuss.
One day — during my maternity leave, at that — when I had really lost it, I grabbed the closest non-weaponlike item I could find and chucked it against the wall that led to the basement stairs. I watched with pleasure, while the Frosted Mini Wheats scattered and fell. I made sure Oliver wasn’t in the room. Violence is violence. A raised hand can scare the shit out of me, a slammed cupboard can cause Béla to go running from the room. Cereal can be violent. Absurd as it is, I am certain.
My hate words are usually directed at no one directly. I cuss in the car, I spew hate under my breath, when anger has boiled. Fuckshitdamn, the order doesn’t matter. It’s meditation, I tell myself. I’m not hurting anyone with this.
And did you know – that when cussing – a person can actually withstand more physical pain/discomfort [than if not cussing at the time the pain is inflicted]? Isn’t that amazing?? I remember reading that and thinking, I am doing myself a real favor. I can withstand so much.
And I can.
But the research tells me more than what I can withstand. It reminds me that there is very real power in words. The power to withstand pain. The power to cause it.