It started with door trim or toilet paper. I don’t quite remember which.
My first instinct is that it would have been the trim, because I recall feeling sour about how abjectly terrible it looked under the glare of the kitchen lights, even after four coats of fresh white semigloss paint. Even after we had filled and sanded the trim twice, already, plus spot-patching in between paint coats. And now I had just found another area I had to sand, and that wasn’t making me feel especially cheerful about life.
So I was sour, and on top of that I had just noticed there was no more toilet paper in the bathroom, so I went down to the basement to fetch more. The rolls were tucked in an alcove under the stairs and I bent over to dig some out and when I straightened up again I hit my head on the underside of the staircase.
I didn’t even hit it very hard, honestly, but this may have been the catalyst. This may have been the defining moment. Because as I stood there indignantly rubbing the back of my head I was struck with a lightning bolt of realization that I had two choices, here. In front of me lay two divergent paths. I could clench my jaw, swallow my curses, breathe a bit, and remain a calm, rational human being. Or: I could just let myself become wholly, utterly unhinged.
I think we all know which direction I chose.
First I let out a wordless, high-pitched shriek that set the neighbor’s dog barking, then I tried to kick the staircase, except it was a little too high in the air so I missed on my first attempt and had to try again. I finally connected but my balance was off and my foot gave the wood a light, almost lovingly ineffective tap before falling to the side. Then I dropped one of the toilet paper rolls so after picking it up I threw it across the room to really teach it a lesson! After retrieving it a second time I stomped up the stairs so hard it sounded like I was going to break through them in a spectacular display of splintering plywood.
In the bathroom I set the toilet paper rolls down with force, leaving indentations where my fingers had been, and immediately whirled about and tromped up the stairs to the spare room to get some leftover sandpaper from another project. The sheets were sitting in a pile on the floor and I went to grab one but I missed so I spitefully swiped my big grubby paw at the pile and scattered them around the room to really teach them a lesson! Then I whirled about again and pushed past the beau standing in the doorway, eyes big and round as dinner plates. He started making noises that sounded like question marks but I just ignored him and marched back down the stairs, feet heavy with invisible lead boots.
Back in front of the doorframe I began sanding angrily, vigorously, like all that abrasion would really teach the trim a lesson! I sanded halfway down the edge, crouching uncomfortably before finally flopping unceremoniously onto my butt. Then, just as my legs had collapsed, so did my face. I was crying. I cried and cried, in low keening moans and snuffles. I cried until I thought I was done crying, but the sounds still kept coming out like they were stuck on repeat in my throat.
Just then Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” shuffled onto my phone and I no longer had to try so hard to keep up appearances. I was suddenly bawling because the song was so sad! And the people in the song were so sad! And Bruce was living under Abram’s Bridge for chrissake! And I was sad, too; sad about trim and the fact that I had to restock the toilet paper, and I recognized the pathetic disconnect here but I couldn’t make it stop. This was my dim new world, where everything looked to be underwater. I could barely see the damn trim for the flood of tears, but I kept on sanding anyway.
Presently I heard the beau’s footsteps on the stairs and felt him standing behind me. “Babe? Why don’t you take a break?” he cautiously asked.
“I CAN’T,” I howled.
“THERE’S NO TIME.”
He tried a different tack. “You have to stop trying at some point. That’s as good as it’s going to get. It looks fine.”
“IT LOOKS TERRIBLE,” I wailed.
Through our open kitchen window came the sounds of the neighbors rinsing dishes in their own kitchen and I was keenly aware that they could probably hear everything we were saying. Oh god, and that probably meant they could hear me crying, too. They probably thought I was crying because we were fighting when I was actually crying over door trim and/or toilet paper. I imagined the two of them, an older couple, exchanging furrowed-brow glances. The thought of that made me cry even harder than all of the Bruce Springsteens living under bridges ever could.
The beau saw my face go scrunchy and involuntarily brought his hands to his neck as if clutching at invisible pearls. Now we were both speaking in caps lock. “ALL THIS STRESS ISN’T GOOD FOR YOU!” he hollered.
I flailed my arms helplessly. “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT!”
“WHY DON’T YOU JUST TAKE A BREAK!” he repeated.
“WHY DON’T YOU JUST GO! AWAY!” I countered.
He went away.
I wish I could end this story with a tidy resolution and a message about life lessons learned, but I don’t think any of that happened. After that final outburst I slowly calmed down and later the beau came back in the kitchen and I made a joke like nothing had happened. We cleaned up and ate a dinner of toasted pita bread and hummus at close to 10 o’clock at night. I made myself the stiffest bourbon drink I could muster and we watched an episode of Drunk History and went to bed. Fin.
I guess if a message were to be imparted here it would be to not freak out over stupid things if you can help it but on the other hand sometimes stupid things must be freaked out over. The Freakout is always futile and embarrassing but it is a delicious occasional indulgence all the same. Like any other experimental drug it is best if taken in a safe environment surrounded by people you trust. Do not take Freakout if you have high blood pressure, Carpal Tunnel, Mathlete’s Foot, or have recently read the comments anywhere about anything. Talk to your doctor about Freakout today!