There’s a buzz in Bezerkeley. Just a fly. Not a contact high. Swatting the pest, I cross campus. The fly follows me.
I took a shower. I say it out loud. That gets a few looks.
Embarrassed, I wave it away with my copy of The Daily. Sprinting through Sather Gate, breathing hard, I slow. Gliding ahead of me across a wide swath of grass, an owl skims the air just inches above my head. The fly tumbles in the jet stream of the bird’s wings.
Psst, a pesky whisper. It’s back. A streak of grey, a flycatcher. No more fly.
A tantrum is the bottom layer. Mostly, tantrums stay buried beneath a careful scaffolding of socialization. You hide, grateful for the conventions that gradually encase you, the interwoven vines like a strangler fig, supportive and unyielding at the same time.
A tantrum is the unfiltered id that is at best embarrassing and at worst criminal. It’s the way you express yourself when no one else matters. It’s the steel edge of selfish disregard.
On occasion, a tantrum can be a lifesaver. There are people who deserve to experience your tantrum. You know the ones. The rules don’t apply to them. When you’ve had it, with the best of intentions, you can let them have it. Sometimes they listen and even if they don’t, you’ve put them on notice.
He could not sleep. Padding to the kitchen in pajamas, he heated milk. Needing a cozy spot to sip it sent him from room to room, landing him in an overstuffed chair. Children’s illustrated books jumbled together with thick tomes, Pooh next to Jung, a shelf up from Wittgenstein, a shelf down from a huddle of keepsakes. He touched their textures, wound up a song. A tiny bowl, a Nutcracker ballerina, a music box, a rabbit tail.
A last ounce of milk. He rubbed his eyes and paged through his wife’s last drawings. Their life. Now he might sleep.
Imagine an elevator on Thanksgiving. You are hurtling into a conflagration of turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and post-modern politics. Your mother, the feminist, stands left. Taking the middle, you and your school chum play at Cockney rhyming slang. Your Uncle Uncle embraces the Madmen Era. He never suspects that your friend, whose ass he pinches, is an expert kick boxer. He expects that gender rules. But it doesn’t. In the hall, she will enlighten him and he will nurse his bruised balls with one highball after another, reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the library.
Observe. You, too, will exceed his expectations.
A woman worked the aisles of the train, singing a minor key Middle Eastern version of the blues in a guttural language. She wore primary colors in ancient patterns, suggesting crystal balls and gypsy caravans. You could tell she wanted money. Her stooped shoulders and broken teeth said she deserved it. At the end of the car, she pulled a metal bar from her skirts. Twisting it to jimmie the door, she took a breath in before crossing to the next car. Her scarves wrapped around her hand, she skipped across the swiftly moving gap of light above the tracks.
When the president declared war, he united the country. Cities of all sizes came out in force to demonstrate. There were signs that read, “The Achilles heel that made America great,” and, “Heel no, we won’t go.”
Three days on, the generals traded the nuclear codes for a military parade. The president tweeted he was joking. Like Reagan saying he’d bomb Iran. No one corrected the president. Reagan said Russia.
Some people remembered. Putin remembered. McCain wanted credit since he’d said, “Bomb, bomb, Iran.” Someone quipped about rockin’ and rollin’ without a plan. Most people agreed. The president bombed again.