Which Way is Up?

* How do you deal with your emotions? Some people have no problem throwing their anger freely out into the world. Thought always happens in retrospect. I absorb every negative interaction under a veneer of politeness, as taught, and then write a story, or a poem, or make something, to churn it back out. Just so it's no longer in me.

Incoming call: Mom

Pick up.


“Hi. I've just landed.”

“Okay, good.”

“Where are you, are you home?”

“No, we're at dad's this weekend.”

“Oh... where is the key?”

“...Inside the house. You didn't take a key with you?”

“No, I left you the only keys.”

“Well why didn't you tell me?”
“I thought you'd be at my house this weekend.”

“Why wouldn't we be at dad's? We were at your house last weekend.”

“I didn't think about that.”


Where is the other key?”

“With my brother. But he's at dad's. Doesn't anyone have a spare?”


“Why didn't you tell me you didn't have a key? How was I supposed to know?”

“It's okay, I'm in Washington. They can drop it off before I get home.”

“Isn't that a little inconvenient – ”

“For who?” *in a newly sharpened voice.*

“For – ! What if they're doing something – ”

Look I've just spent twelve hours on a plane so everything is convenient for me right now.


Incoming call: Dad

Pick up (mistakenly).

“So... – ”

“Mhm. Where is the key?”

“It's in mom's house.”

“Mhm. How is she going to get home?”

“I didn't know she didn't have a key! She never said – !”


Outgoing call: Therapy

Other end picks up. There is silence. The perfect medium to vent into.

Twelve hours on a plane as if someone dragged you on your vacation! I did you a fucking favor! Not the other way around! And now somehow it's my fault. I didn't think about that. You're a forty-five-year-old woman and everyone else is expected to do the thinking for you – ! I don't even have the literary capability to fully express my rage! English is at fault here, just like the rest of the world in relation to you!”

Incoming call: Therapist

Pick up (mistakenly).

“Another episode?”

“I'm never interacting with my mother again. She's poison! She gets hers in but the moment you open your mouth she drops the phone and you're left stewing in your own hot mess. It's like she can feel the shot coming and she presses 'quit' before she can die. Except the war zone lives on, in the real world, in other people, the people she has affected.”

“Breathing exercises should help you.”

Fuck breathing exercises! How can you think of breathing exercises at a time like this? She gets to throw her shit out on me and I get to do breathing exercises to counter her damage?”

“Wouldn't yelling back be only a reflection of her? Then you're just perpetuating the cycle. You're never going to change her. You can only change herself.”

I don't want to change myself. I don't want to change her. I want her to stay on the phone for thirty more seconds so I can give her her due and not feel like shit that then has to deal with this slew of negative emotions.”

“It's not like you thought about the key, either.”

Wh – why should I? I'm not the one who went on vacation and needed help! If I went on vacation I'd think about this in advance! But everyone has to do the thinking for her while she's free to go frolic in the flowers, sample gelato, and wax poetic about the majesty that is Israel's coast until God forbid someone accuses her of something and she hangs up. The whole world is at fault!”

“Let's compromise: you both should have thought about it.”

Argh... fine. Maybe I could have thought about it and then, yes, it definitely would've been avoided. But why should I have to?”

No one ever has to do anything. You didn't have to stay in her house.”
“I did it for my brother, not for her. And then my dad couldn't stay in the house, but
he gets to yell at me, too! Of course he can't get his anger out because the second he picks up from her she starts yelling about how nobody left her keys when she never said she didn't have a key and we were just supposed to know, so he turns it around on me for not thinking this through. He turns it around! And then, worst of all, he gets indignant about her turning everything around! But I called him back and – ”

“Turned it around.”

“Well – what am I supposed to do? They attack you, you attack back. Nothing is sacred.... Not even family. Is what I've learned.”

“That's very cold.”

“Now you're calling me a cold person, too.”

“That's where the sarcasm comes from, and the bitterness, and the repression. It's all from your inability to deal with your mother.”

You – ! You couldn't deal with my mother.”

“Maybe you should try to understand her.”

“Maybe I could try negotiating with a terrorist?”

“Dripping sarcasm isn't going to help.”