Anger is intoxicating, and we are all mean drunks.
I knew what it was I was supposed to do. I could picture myself standing up from the coffee shop, walking one foot after another down the hot Mankato sidewalk, through the parking lot, opening the door to find two panting dogs and a sleeping Someone. I would go to him– he who has been sick and who I have been fighting with and who is as cranky and distraught by the hot July heat as I am– and I would brush back his hair from his forehead and I would say,
“I’m sorry. I love you.”
And then I started to second guess it. It never worked out like that. Something would happen– it wouldn’t be perfect. The heat would get to me three steps onto the blacktop. Or he would already be awake. Or I would get inside and my chest would constrict and my jaw would clench and when I went to walk to him, I would be paralyzed, the circuit board of my brain lighting up with the same anger that had me wishing I wasn’t angry anymore. If it worked out, I had to let it all go. The strain of getting the apology through my teeth is just. too. hard.
And that’s the thing about anger. When you’re in it, you know that sobering up from it will feel better than the slurring, drunken state you’re in. But it is irresistible to not pour another glass when the bottomless bottle is sitting. right. there.
It’s been over three weeks since our Best Friend Fight started, and we have spiraled in and out of hazy barroom punches. My Someone and I have taken to cleaning up our act. We’ve been sobering for days, the withdrawal from the anger shaking our bodies as occasional memories drift through our minds unexpectedly from our blackouts. The hangover feels endless, and the high pitched buzz at the top of our brains has us still reeling.
We still aren’t sure. What we do know is that we have an email in our inbox from our friend telling us that he no longer wants to be friends. That we are breaking up. That he wants to be angry for a while longer.
We are joining support groups. It’s difficult to become sober around your drinking friends, and so we hope with some time and space that he will show up, too, in the middle of the bundle of hurt, but finally not venturing to take another sip. But we are still taking unfortunate protective measures. Getting ourselves and our things out of the way of a raging angerholic. If he wakes up from this, we want him to find, not a trail of destruction, but a tidy note that says, “Meet us here. 10AM.”
But even if he never shows, we will continue to detox, door unlocked, passively waiting.
I have lately pictured the I’m Sorry part of living as the part that makes us human again. It’s mostly like the scene at the end of Peter Pan, when Tinkerbell is in a heap and the audience has to clap their hands to bring her back to life again. But in this I’m Sorry scenario, it is me in the heap on stage, and the ones I’ve hurt and the ones who could continue to be hurt are waiting, and while they wait, they are whispering–
Just say you’re sorry. Just say you’re sorry.
And as the whispers turn into waves and wash over me, my head lifts– me, half human and half monster– and I look out and say it–
And like that, my horns retract and my teeth unsharpen and I am human– fully human– again.
I am often on that stage. But I am finding it is also no treat to be in the audience, because as you are whispering it to the one caught as half monster there is a fear that takes over. What if they want to be a monster? What if they don’t wake up?
What if they never become human again?
I braved the hot sidewalk. I stepped into the camper. The dogs were panting. My Someone was sleeping. I walked to the side of the bed and sat down. He rolled over. I pushed his hair off of his forehead.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I love you.”
And in the reflection of his eyes, I saw my horns retract and my big paws un-fur and shrink back to my hands. I was human again. And that tall bottle of anger was shattered.
What a goddamn beautiful mess.