By Alexander Dominick
He’s embarrassed to admit the extent of his anger. Embarrassed and a bit bemused to admit to his writing group that he had visions of “accidentally” pushing his wife into the path of an oncoming bus. He’s bemused because he supposes he is not alone in this. Still, he has never imagined he could be so twisted up inside that such thoughts would gain a foothold in his mind.
He often senses how ridiculous it is to be so angry, but he can’t help going over and over the wrongs he has had to endure, the thoughtless and selfish individuals in his life, the genetics, the history–all the justifications for his righteous indignation, or the keen awareness of justice mishandled, or justice just missed.
The assignment for his writers group has roiled and gotten beneath the mostly peaceful eddies inside him. He is torn between finally being open about his rage and maintaining his image as the cool outsider above such human foibles. They’ve asked for a two-page essay that reveals some unknown quality of the author. It’s a valid assignment, given that true art is always an exercise of self-revelation.
His mind locks on to another of his unlearned life lessons: expectations. Maybe he could write about how that one word and all its power has perplexed and confounded him. Jesus, what a briar patch.
His father told him once, drunk after a Christmas party during which the hostess actually put a lampshade on her head, that the most important thing in life wasn’t what he did, but striving to be the best at whatever he chose, having the respect of his peers, and finally, whatever his choice, leaving the world a better place for his having done whatever it was.
Great. Just great, given that his father was a prominent national politician and public servant whose own father was a giant of Wall Street from its earliest existence, with a mansion in New Canaan, Connecticut, a huge apartment in Manhattan, a beach-front home in Honolulu and his own private island off the coast of North Carolina. If it weren’t for the fact that he was simply grateful that his father was talking to him man-to-man, for the first time in his young life, he might have realized how Herculean this simple credo would be to undertake.
He rolls the two ideas around in his mind like those Chinese meditation balls, conceding that they are intertwined and there’s nothing he can do about it. He has studied and knows the truth of the exhortations by great mystics and spiritual leaders to be in the Now, to live in the breath, to accept that the present moment is the only moment that matters. There is a part of him that yearns for the peace that would come by accepting their wisdom.
But goddamn it, there is so much to be angry about! And anyway, let’s be real, who wants to live like a mystic, for God’s sake? Who really wants to turn the other cheek, when the real satisfaction would be to respond with a backhand? What’s so great about living clean and sober, eschewing alcohol, or drugs, or food, or sex, or anger, or whatever happens to float your boat, just so you can get along? Fuck that noise.
He’s read the books, and briefly recalls the mantra, “Don’t sweat the petty stuff.” He can’t help but falling back on his sometimes sick sense of humor and thinking, “Yeah right, don’t pet the sweaty stuff.”
“Just be nice and fit in,” he can hear his mother saying so many years ago. “Don’t be so angry. Anger is bad.”
All those years of lectures and bedtime chats after “incidents” at school, or in the neighborhood, only to find out that she was as hypocritical and two-faced as anyone else, and that she stuffed her admittedly justifiable anger in the bottom of a bottle of vodka so she could still pretend that they had the “best family anyone could ever hope for.” It’s much easier not to be angry when you’re checked out, right?
It wasn’t until rehab that he learned that anger was just another emotion. It was institutionalized and structured at the Center: Got a problem with a brother or sister? Write it down, put it in the Group Box, and wait until the staff can put the two of you in a group together, so you can express “healthy” anger. (Right. Put two junkies in a room and watch them tear each other’s heads off over a perceived slight at the breakfast table.)
So he’s just supposed to live the lie, accept the faults of others, find peace in the sacrifice of Jesus, shuffle along, be happy, let go, and live happily ever after?
He’s found that it is impossible to ignore the Vesuvian inferno eating away at his gut. He remembers saying, not so long ago, that he’s one trauma away from a one-way ticket out. But he knows he won’t pull that trigger, because he’s still interested in what’s going on somewhere else, anywhere else. At the same time, he is aware too that the old saw, “wherever you go, there you are,” is waiting to waylay him in his quest for inner peace.
Still, the fantasy often overpowers the logic, and he finds some daydream solace in the notion of a life lived the way he wants to live it: free of the wife who seems to need him physically when the trash is full, or emotionally when her favorite contestant gets knocked off American Idol; free from the kids who seem to need him when their purses are empty, or they’re bored and need a road trip to the nearest Wendy’s; free of the constant nagging feeling that his life is living him, not the other way around, and he’s fast nearing the age when quantum shifts are going to be tough to come by.
“No,” he thinks. “If I give voice to this, it will have a power that is too frightening to envision. They’ll know something about me that I can’t share, even with strangers.”
What else, then? Maybe that thing from his earliest childhood.…
“Jesus,” he thinks. “How can I even think about talking about that when I can’t talk about something as mundane as an angry young man?”
Instead, he pushes back from his desk and calls out to his wife. “Let’s go, honey! If we hurry we can make the bus.”
Alexander Dominick is a contributor to Jet Planes and Coffee. He describes himself as a lover of words and language. “Writing has always been a beacon and a terror for me,” he writes. “What if I don’t succeed? What if I do? An ex-wife convinced me that writers were people who hid behind life rather than live it.” Thankfully for his readers, he has stories to tell and an undeniable urge to tell them. “My hope is that they will resonate with those who read them.” Alex has traveled extensively in the United States and Europe, and lived and worked in Paris for nearly ten years.