Landon sat on his Tuesday afternoon couch, discussing the six days that had passed since last Tuesday.
“You know better than anyone, I am just angry all the time and it hurts my feelings that people think it’s a disposition I just have, or a choice that I make every morning. My bed doesn’t have a ‘wrong side.’ It’s the only place I feel anything other than anger anymore, except for the other day, of course,” which is why he had scheduled his first appointment, why he finally took the advice his sister had given him a million times. This was Landon’s first therapist ever, and no matter how many Tuesdays he spent on that couch, he was visibly nervous, rolling his collector’s coin (that he specially ordered) along the edge of his index finger, teetering it back and forth, teasing. Then, he twirled it under his finger, to repeat the process ad infinitum.
“I was on the train, on my way home from work.”
“Do you take the same route every day?” the therapist asked, in her calm, inquisitive, but non-prying manner. Landon could listen to her talk for ages. Now that he was thinking about it, he had never felt angry at his therapist, either, but probably for obvious reasons.
“Now, I do. I tried mixing it up for a while. I was told that variety would calm my nerves, or whatever. So now, I take the same bus to the Metra station, then the train that goes out of the city. And I was on, trying to read, but not trying too hard and for some reason, I just get mad every time someone gets on the train, like ‘who the fuck is this guy and why does he need to be here,’ or ‘she BETTER not sit next to me.’” He stopped to bury his face in his palms. “It’s embarrassing, I know.”
“You don’t have to be embarrassed. I’m not judging you.”
But Landon was embarrassed and by saying he shouldn’t be embarrassed, he felt that the therapist was judging him. He wondered if he was feeling anger towards his therapist, or if it was just at the situation. Isn’t that always the case? And now that he thought about it, she didn’t say he shouldn’t be embarrassed, but that he didn’t have to be, so he took a deep breath and moved on.
“It makes me feel bad. Even in the moment. I don’t like being mad at them. They didn’t do anything wrong. I am not angry at them, it is just at the situation.”
“But what situation am I angry at?”
They both waited for the silence to provide an answer, or at least a thread to pull the conversation forward.
“You said that you weren’t angry the other day.”
“Yeah, it was so weird. This guy…I don’t even know. Maybe, he was just so mad that it sucked all of it up, like it created a vacuum.”
“A rage vacuum,” she said with a small, but noticeable mouth-corner smile and jotted it down. Landon liked when she did this: acknowledged not only how clever he was, but his ability to be clever, even when he is constantly living in a bubble of fury. “So, he was angry.”
“Yes. I mean, I assume so. He seemed angry. He looked the way I think I must look all the time.”
“And you felt what when you saw him?”
“I am having trouble really understanding what I felt. At first, I was upset in the usual way. This guy is on MY bus, feeling MY emotions. I felt like I was trying to do my thing, but then this guy came in to do a blatant impression of me. It was offensive.”
“But that obviously can’t be true,” she said.
“I know, and I said that to myself pretty quick, but I still just kept watching him, probably in an obvious way. And then, someone else got on the train and he lit up. Just bubbled with real, red-faced lividity.”
“Yeah and I just sat there, watching him. I wanted to comfort him. Sit next to him. Kiss him on the cheeks the way brothers do in mobster movies. At least, talk to him. You know? Like, ‘I get it. I do, I get this. Me and you, man, me and you.’”
“Did you say anything?”
He let his cheeks puff as he exhaled. “Nah. I just let him go.”
She gave him a small, but noticeable mouth-corner frown. She didn’t write anything down this time.