The douchebag on the other end of the line wants me to wait another 20 minutes on hold because I misread a number. The alphanumeric that identifies me was misprinted on the sheet I was sent in the mail; it does not agree with the alphanumeric that corresponds to my information in the douchebag’s database. When he cannot find it there, the pale slugs of his fingers probing blindly into a darkness full of neatly stacked binary combinations that, when assembled correctly, resemble people or the characters that people pretend to be for the benefit of the state, I withdraw my card from my wallet and check it against the number on the sheet and find, to my surprise, that they do not match. When I offer up this foible, this quirk, this wrinkle he is unimpressed. In uttering my incantation incorrectly I have violated his cryptological ritual, and despite the fact that it will cost me another half an hour of my morning he insists that I call back.
-You read me the number and I read it back to you, and you confirmed it as your number. I cannot accept another one.
-But the number was misprinted. I just spent 20 minutes on hold!
-I’m sorry. You read me the number, I read it back and you confirmed it was yours.
-But you couldn’t even find it in the database!
-I’m sorry you’ll have to–
I hung up, and then I exploded. It was surprising, the explosion; violent, overwhelming, destructive. I kicked a chair. I am not the kind of man who kicks chairs. I shoved the wall with both hands. My wife, 9 months pregnant, waddled quickly up the stairs to find out what was wrong.
-I’m angry, and I’m letting out!
It sounds like a childish thing to say, it was a childish thing to say. Something apropos of my 2-and-a-half-year-old. But it was the most I could articulate as I stomped into the bedroom, screamed at the top of my lungs and beat violently on the bed until my hands hurt, even from the impact on the soft material of our mattress.
I do not get angry. The last time that I got angry was over a year ago, a fight with my wife. We were both in ugly moods, baiting one another into violence. Finally, after a tense dinner, she claimed that I didn’t appreciate the cooking that she did, that I took her for granted. It broke me, since I make an effort every night to thank her for her cooking, and am genuinely grateful for the meals she provides. I screamed at her, screamed in her face and called her names. It was not pretty and it did not make me proud.
Ah, that’s not true. I remember now, the last time I was angry, it was, perhaps unsurprisingly, a fight with my wife. We had just moved to Wales and we were staying in university accommodation in a room without a working light bulb that, rumor had it, had been condemned the previous year. Lacking any proper housing for two adults with an 18 month old they had unlocked the room and shoved two twin beds together in the corner of an old, musty room on the third floor of a building 60 years younger than my country. Neither of us was pleased with the arrangements, or with the difficulty of getting there, or hauling the bags up 2 flights of stairs, or the bathroom downstairs we shared with 4 Chinese students, none of whom we were introduced to, with no shower and unclear rules about toilet paper. By the third day we took this out on each other and despite a playdate I had previously arranged I stomped off into the unknown cursing.
It did not feel good to be angry today. It does not feel good to be angry. There is a powerlessness implicit in my anger that I do not like. It did not feel good, but it was good for me to be angry, for me to react, boil over, frothing, screaming and kicking. All too often I eat my anger, swallow it down, contain it beneath the surface of my skin where it never gets to the chance to ignite. Instead it liquifies into unlit gasoline and soaks into my soul, leaving me listless and depressed, unable to feel powerful. So today, despite the impotence of my rage, the fruitlessness of my anger, was good, good because I let it go. I let it go and did not hold onto it. I did not soak the ugliness and the frustration up into my body to suckle its bitter taste for the rest of the day. Instead I lit up in the bright, brutal fire of my anger and burned savagely for 10 minutes, hating everything about the man who wasted my time, and then it was gone.
I am still not happy with the way that I express my anger. I am still unhappy with this violent explosion, more suited to geysers or volcanoes. I do not like the uncontrollable nature of the anger, the way it forces its way through me and desperately craves a surface to beat itself against, using my body to find its borders and boundaries; a flow of scalding water or molten rock pouring forth in search of limitations. I cannot imagine being angry all the time, throwing myself endlessly at the walls of my confinement, ending the day burned out and bruised by the boundaries of my world. It is exhausting, anger, and I am grateful to learn how to let it go.