Usually I try to be calm and conscientious and conscious.
I try not to react.
Sometimes it’s just not worth it.
Sometimes, you just wanna say to the guy who drives too close to you while you’re minding your own business, “PUT DOWN YOUR FREAKING PHONE, A$$HOLE.”
Or, say when you’re heading to a soccer game, “MOVE YOUR PIECE OF CRAP OUT OF MY WHEEL WELL.”
Sometimes you want to kick a cat. Flick a beetle. Squash a bug. Slap something. Flip the bird.
Sometimes you want to hurl a bag of steaming dog poo at grown men who wear their pants too low, WITH a belt, and show the world their “pretty” underwear and scream, “YOU KNOW, IF YOU WERE IN PRISON, YOU’D BE VERY POPULAR WITH YOUR PANTS LIKE THAT!” (I only just recently learned that fashion statement was a sign of availability for dating in the penitentiary system.)
Sometimes, if you’re like me, because you know you can’t legally hurl a bag of steaming dog poo, you pretend to do it. You imagine it happening.
The monks on the mountains in Tibet would tell you that’s your false self living out a fantasy because There Is No Such Thing As Revenge.
Well, my inner snark disagrees.
Sometimes, I feel like I just have to let an epithet stream unfurl. That doesn’t mean I do it; it just means I’d like to do it.
Tell my five-year-old self that there’s no such thing as revenge. My father tells this story best, but I’m going to do it instead:
When I was very young, my older brother was asleep on the couch.
He was lying there, I can remember it, on our parents’ avocado-green, wool-upholstered davenport. It smelled of the long-lost manhattans, old fashioneds and cherry tobacco pipes enjoyed by relatives I would never know because they were probably dead at the time. It was about eight feet long and its armrests were paltry and mostly wooden; you could feel the ribs and spine of the structure beneath the armrests that must’ve been padded with band-aids (maybe that’s where they all went, for we didn’t have any in the house when I was a kid unless my brother bought them).
I will always heartily reject my mother’s opinion that the sofa was comfortable because it was covered in freakin’ wool boasting texture so irritating and painful that only burlap could exceed it. I remember seeing the outlines of its springs testing the tensile strength of the fabric that shrouded them. Its belly would yawn beneath the frame directly below the two main, ill-sized main seat cushions. That couch was not fluffy or endearing. That couch was a piece my parents inherited from someone with incredibly bad sense of the aesthetic. That couch inspired my very costly love affair with down cushions. You endured that couch, but it was the only one on the main level of the house, so that’s where my brother decided to plop himself down. He was brave.
Apparently my “revenge is best served cold” self had a message to deliver to him.
To conduct recon, I walked up to him and examined his vulnerabilities, his bodily position: face in toward the back of the couch. Good, he was inhaling old furniture smell, known amongst children everywhere to be amongst the most caustic in the world. His backside was exposed to the world. Better. Definitely asleep because his eyes were twitching. Excellent.
I crouched down, looked around the room and considered my options. I bent over, and grabbed the heel of my right foot’s mary jane with my vengeful, sweaty and dextrous hands (my mother was convinced I’d be a surgeon). I imagine that I reached back with one hand, held down the back of the heel, lost my balance and landed on my fanny on the outside left armrest of the couch, where his head was nearest. (I never heard her say I’d be a gymnast.)
From my sitting position, which was clearly better so I couldn’t be seen even if he did wake up, I imagine that I pulled in my right heel, closer to my fanny and forced off the shoe. I grabbed the armrest of the couch with my left hand and pulled myself back up to make sure he was still asleep.
With the side of the couch about six inches below my chin, I turned to my left, bent over at the hips and picked up my shoe. I turned toward my brother, zeroed in, arched over with my left arm and smacked him on the head with the heel.
I stood there. Shoe in hand. Apparently I didn’t know enough to discard the weapon. Or to run away.
He woke up and rubbed his nine-year-old head. His hair was short and straight and he was a long child (as is he quite tall now). Running his hands through his sweaty and still sleepy hair, he said, “Owwuh. Wh-? Wh’dja do? I . . . ”
This is what I do know, no more imagining:
He didn’t smack me back, he was good to me that way. I mean, he was (and is) a really decent guy, (even though he is part of the 1%). Instead, my brother walked up to our dad who was probably screaming at a football game on TV (we were Buffalo Bills fans), and moaned, “Owwwh. Molly just hit me in the head. She just woke me up while I was sleeping and hit me on the head. With her shooooe.”
Our dad apparently eyed me, still holding my weapon. I was looking fierce, so he said.
“Well, why do you think she did that? Did you do anything to her? Upset her?” Dad asked.
“No! I was just sleeping. I couldna done anything, I was lying down,” answered my brother.
“Nothing?” my dad asked. “Are you sure?”
I was standing about 10′ away, all squinchy-faced, arms crossed against my chest in my smocked butterfly dress and supposedly fuming. A size-three black and shiny mary jane dangling from my hand was cocked and ready for more.
My brother looked at me and insisted he’d done nothing.
My dad said to him, “Not before your nap? Maybe yesterday or last night? . . . . . . . Think. She wouldn’t have done that for no reason. Maybe you,”
After a moment, my brother righted himself and then shrunk again, rubbing his head, “Oh. . . yeah.”
And that was that.
Sometimes snark wins. These days, even though I aspire for more centered behavior, I’m not above being snarky when people go below it and I am sure to have a size three mary jane around just in case.