I think it’s starting to get to me.
I am holed up in a cargo container, the big grey gunmetal kind that they load on ships. It’s dark inside. I am crouched against a side wall, peering out a small opening. My kids are with me, glued to the back wall to stay out of the way. We are like Anne Frank’s family, hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam only we are armed. You heard me. Armed, which is really weird. I don’t know anything about guns. I’m anti-gun. You name it, I’m against it. Any kind of gun, even water guns, unless you’re holed up in a grey metal cargo carrier.
The kids are huddled against the back wall. I am firing rounds through the small opening, out into the darkness. The darkness is firing back. I duck to avoid the gunfire and fire some more.
And then I wake up.
My mouth hurts, a whole row of lower molars, sore as could be. I panic for a moment, thinking this is it. I am officially at that point where I begin to lose them, one by one and then two at a time. I will go to the dentist to get fitted for dentures.
Leaning back in a pale aqua colored chair, a paper towel clipped around my neck, I open wide as he measures the gap where my teeth used to be. He places the bridge in my mouth. Not the Golden Gate, but close enough. “Bite down,” he says and I bite a weak, timid bite. I feel like Carol Channing. These aren’t my real teeth.
I imagine standing in the toothpaste isle scouring the shelves for Polident. At night, before I go to bed, I will pull out my fake teeth and stick them in a glass on the night table beside me. “Just a minute,” I hear myself say when my youngest calls my name. “I’ll be there in a minute. I have to put my teeth in.”
Apparently I’m clenching my teeth in my sleep.
I’ve never been particularly good at recognizing my own stress. It’s ironic really. I am a therapist, a professional stress detector. I am trained to see these things. I can spot other people’s stress a mile away, but my own? Well, that’s another story. My stress creeps up from behind me and lurks in the shadows. It disguises itself, couched cleverly as other emotions. Foreign emotions. Emotions I do not recognize.
And then, suddenly and without warning, she is standing in my kitchen.
The kids call her “Angry Woman”. A shrill creature, she shows up at the strangest of times, like when someone spills a glass of milk in the family room or uses too many bath towels and leaves them in a wet pile on the floor of their bedroom. And she is almost sure to show up when someone doesn’t eat their delicious and lovingly made, homemade turkey and cheese sandwiches and leaves them for a week and a half unopened in their backpack to turn green and moldy. Yes, she surely shows up then.
Angry Woman is a vile creature. She screams and yells and says things that ladies don’t dare say. She’s an emotional tsunami. She hadn’t been around in a while.
Until the other day.
It was another Physics test.
Now just to be clear, he’s already been accepted to college. I already wrote the check and signed the forms. All he has to do is finish the year. Successfully. That’s where it gets interesting. His idea of finishing the year successfully and mine don’t seem to be, well, in sync.
‘Did you study for the test?” I said as he was getting into bed.
He lowered his massive body onto the mattress and pulled the covers up to his chin. “Yes."
“Enough?” I said.
“Are you sure?” I said in utter disbelief.
Eyes rolling, he sighed. And then he flashed a look that could only be shared between a son and his mother, or her alter ego.
And there she was. Saying things. Horrible things. Things you should never say, think maybe, but never, never say.
Angry Woman is like that.
Angry woman needs yoga. Hours spent in the down dog position. Perhaps someone will send her on a year long trip to India, because it will take her that long to learn to meditate. . Or maybe a massage, or six. A facial, a manicure, or pedicure might help. Or a really big plate of chocolate chip cookies.
Because just between you and me, old as I may be, I’m still too young for dentures and that’s just what Angry Woman really wants.