Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Althea

This does not seem to let me indent. Anyone know how to do that on blogger?
I'd like to know how for my poems too.
This is for my 1101 students:

Althea is my alter ego. She doesn't come out very often, but when she does, she rages. I have always been sort of afraid of anger (even my own), and usually just cry when I'm mad. I never liked violence, and curled my lip in disgust at the kids in high school who got in fights in the hallway, and the guy at a bar, when I was in college, who pulled out a knife on us because we were rooting for a different football team than he was. They were "lame, petty, stupid." Funny, sometimes judgments come back like our own feet kicking us in our own butts.
As a 35-year-old, I feel I've gotten past a lot of the "immature stuff," but that evening, I was humbled at my lack of maturity when I became angry. At around nine p.m. on a Friday night, I had gone with my friend Anna to see a band we knew. This was the first time I'd been back to North Carolina since I'd moved. We were hanging out on the sidewalk (my friend Anna smoking) near a bench, waiting for the band to play. We petted my dog, Ophelia, who was tied to the bench. I had brought her along on the trip. (Ophelia goes everywhere with me.) As we enjoyed visiting with old friends (Anna too was visiting), we joked about how we were glad we didn't live in that small town anymore.
Anna muttered under her breath,"Wow, these people are drunk. Do they need to be this drunk to have a good time?"
"Shit," I said, "They see the same people every night."
We giggled stealthily, and I looked around. I noticed a young guy, skinny with dark brown hair, standing on the sidewalk holding a can of PBR. I thought, that's not from the bar. He had that "I'm a cute boy and I know it" kind of look--arrogant dark eyes, smurky grin, well-groomed, and on top of that with two model-pretty blonds, one on each arm, literally. He was certainly young, no more than maybe 21, if that. They were, all three, blisteringly drunk, one of the blonds swaying on her 3-inch stilettos and standing directly in front of my dog.
These three were in their own world; that's all I knew. The stiletto blond kept teetering and stepping back, closer and closer to Ophelia. I kept watching, hoping she would take notice, trying to be polite and not interrupt whatever very important conversation they must have been having. Then the blond, laughing loudly, stepped on Ophelia, and she yelped. The blond kept swaying, teetering, laughing. I tapped her on the shoulder, still quite myself at this point, and said, "Hey, would you mind being careful? My dog is behind you. You stepped on her." Well, all hell broke loose after that.
"I didn't step on your fucking dog! She shouldn't be out here anyway!" This language along with a lot of head slinging and arm flailing went on for at least two or three minutes, and even when she sat down on a step to smoke a cigarette, she kept going. I was in awe. I didn't know what to do. There were a lot of people crowded on this sidewalk waiting for the band. They just watched. I could feel myself becoming angry, and all the heat in my body rising to my face. I watched her as she kept going. Finally, I broke.
"All you had to say was, I'm sorry, and leave it at that. I don't know what all this other shit is about." Well, I'm sure she didn't like me speaking to her that way, so she started in again. There were so many expletives, I can't begin to quote them all. Then, to my chagrin, her young guy friend joined in the fun.
He kept saying, "Your fucking dog shouldn't be out here,"and said very ugly things about my dog, as if she had any fault in it at all. He began moving closer and closer to my face. I could see his yellowed teeth from smoking, his hand gripping ever tighter to this aluminum PBR can. He rose at least a foot over me (I'm only 5'1"), and kept moving closer and yelling louder.
I tried to reason with, "My dog has just as much right to be here as you do, and you shouldn't have that beer can out here. I could call the police." Reasoning is not something one should try to do with an inebriated belligerent. A friend stepped in who happened to know this guy. He said, "Mark (or it could have been Ron or Bill, or John...I don't remember to this day), you're being an asshole, man. Chill out."
At this, Mark (or whatever his name was), pushed my friend onto the sidewalk, saying, "What did you call me?" Here is where Althea entered.
She began to curse this guy up and down Main Street, even push him, as he still inched closer. Her face became distorted, unrecognizable to her friends (or so they told her later). Althea kept pushing, and what's-his-name kept insulting her, and her dog.
His last statement was, "and you need to go to Weight-Watchers." Althea, or rather I, have been through a lot when it comes to weight: bulimia, terrible self-esteem, depression. That was it. That was it. There was nothing of me after that, or maybe it was the real me. Sometimes I still wonder.
Althea punched old what's-his-name square in the jaw, a whole foot above her. It wasn't a pretty punch, as forceful or as perfect as she wanted it to be, but it was a punch. The people around her (mostly all friends) stared in disbelief, and one random guy pushed them (us) apart.
Then Althea said through her teeth, "If you say anything else, I'm gonna kick you in the balls." She realized at this point (in a millisecond's worth of time) that she did not have on ball-kicking shoes, but little soft ballet slippers. He said something else. She went for the alternative...grabbing and twisting.
More yelling commenced, but he would not shut up, and she (actually I went back to myself after a few minutes) had to walk away. In the end, I was crying, not proud or feeling bold, but feeling actually, quite weak. My friend Anna comforted me as we walked to the car.
Althea taught me something that day. Friends who have judged me in one way or another for doing what I did that night have their right to do so, absolutely. I was the eldest; I was the mature one; I was the college professor, for God's sake, but even I (someone who is oh-so peace loving) have my limits. When it came right down to it, when I was pushed to a certain point, I lost all sense of good judgment. It happens.

5 comments:

Jo said...

Wow.....this was really something to read. I'm taking it it's autobiographical? Or maybe not. Either way, what a situation, what a bunch of fools. I've had loud, frightening arguments with strangers and it is so upsetting, disturbing (I might add I didn't start any of them) and I am, I'm ashamed to admit, reasonably fiery and confrontational -- ie if someone get's in my face, I let them know I'm not happy, though always in a civil way.....so for a person who isn't that way inclined this would have been hellish. But all that aside, this was well written and really communicated the moment, the drama. As for that weighwatchters slug, I've noticed that the vain always result to hurling physical insults. Why is that?

holly said...

Thank you Jo, yes, this was a real situation, and yes, it was quite hellish for me.
I told my students that I'd write a narrative so they would have an example of one I'd written, so they can really see what I'm looking for. I think I'm going to let them have access to my blog. Bad idea?? I hope not.

Nathan said...

Hell yeah it happens, Holly. It's good (best) to be peaceful but you can't expect to never experience rage, especially if there's a loved one that has been harmed or there's booze around. Anger (even really strong anger) is human, part of who we are. We even need it sometimes. You're a great prose writer. I was riveted by this.

Anna said...

Your narrator was more than justified to react the way she did. But that Anna character - she was a real bitch.

holly said...

Anna, you nut!