Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Part 2: Anger

[Part 1 (sloth) here. This is not autobiographical, but it resonates a little.]

he wakes up at 4am, as usual, and stares at the ceiling thinking, choking on his thoughts. she is warm next to him, sleeping the untroubled sleep of the guiltless, if not the blameless, all knees and elbows, uncomfortable, uninviting. he replays conversations over and over in his mind, old ones and imagined ones, and falls eventually back into a restless sleep to the tuneless score of internal chatter. when the alarm wakes him a couple of hours later, he's unsure how much rest he managed to squeeze out of the wee hours. not much, he thinks, judging by the way he feels.

it's early enough that no one else is up. he glumly pours cereal into a bowl he had to wash, picking his way through the night's castoff cutlery. there is no milk. fucking perfect. he drops the cereal, bowl and all, into the overfilled trash. that one's his job, but so is everything, he thinks. he roots through the nearly empty fridge and settles on some cold pasta, eating a clammy handful, just enough to absorb the coffee a little. it looks like a pbj for lunch too. he can't exactly afford to be going out.

there is the boy still. thank goodness for him. he walks into the dark room and kisses the sleeping forehead before he leaves.

it's a long drive to work. you have to make sacrifices for the family of course, and the city schools are unacceptable. today, in this weather, the commute should be a good hour and a half. he flicks irratably between competing dj prattle. the music, when he finds it, hearkens younger times, happier ones he concedes, but on the commute, and at his age, it sounds tired and small through the tinny speakers. he turns it off, watching brake lights flash on and off ahead of him in an endless line. get out and abandon the thing, he thinks. fuck them all. but wherever would he go? how would his family eat?

fifteen minutes late for the morning meeting. he vaguely listens to the week's sales goals. he remembers hiring this person, what a sniveling little bullshitter he was then, and thinks with disgust that he hasn't changed that aspect since he rose up through the ranks, but has added some dimensions of petty tyrant and patronizing chum. his ample stomach churns dark roast into his esophagus as the pissant discusses how the accounts will be allocated this week. more sales required to fewer customers and, of, course more time talking about it. there will be another meeting this afternoon.

he mans the phones for the rest of the morning, drudging up a sunny voice for the clients and customers. he plays computer solitaire while speaking on the phone. in between, he tries to compose what he'd like to say to his wife when he gets home, but it's difficult to focus on this. the river is roiling, but a decade of throwing stones into the thing has has stirred up the packed mental bed into a silty, turbid maelstrom. he can't much focus on it, can't see a damn thing in there, and instead plays the same words over and over, knowing that there's no real hope of getting them in. 'if only,' he starts. 'i need....' he feels his pen crack in his fist. ink drips on his wrinkled pants

several minutes after twelve, he rises and heads out for his sandwich. though he was trying to avoid it, he bumps into her. he says hi, looks at the ground, and wonders, for the thousandth time, what happened to that chemistry. he knows. it did him no good to avoid the 'temptation' which was probably imagined anyway. later he was desperate, for a friend or for a lover, it didn't matter which. someone to listen, he imagines, and he knows it is asking too much. awkwardly he makes an exit to his perplexed (but unsurprised) coworker. his afternoon's spent with the pissant, and the little bastard is trying to help in his condescending way. focus, he says, be more positive. he knows the guy is trying to care, but then he can afford to when he's had it easy. it's hard to be positive when customers don't like you, and your coworkers don't speak to you and your pissant boss condescends.

there's no point in staying past five, and he doesn't. it's a long commute anyway, and when he gets home, he's too timid to ask about dinner. no time, she's taking the boy to some damn lesson or other. there's nothing on tv, and cleaning up the place depresses him. when she finally gets back he's nursing his second beer, belching chips and dry cereal, and tells the tired kid to shut the fuck up. chastened by the boy's horrified look, he apologizes and gets his hug. he tries to tell his wife about intimacy, and predictably, she gets defensive. is that all he cares about? would it help anyway, he thinks? it's probably too late for that to do much good, though he needs it badly. the rest of the night the couple maneuvers stiffly and silently about one another. finally, at bedtime, he snipes at her and it sets her off, she shouts him back down to silence, and the acid is refluxing like mad now. he shouldn't let her get away with this, not again, but he knows he was wrong to snap and he needs to sleep. if he's quieter she'll eventually stop with the insults. he clenches his fists, the nails digging into his palms.

if he can go to sleep...

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