the thinner line

I was leaving. I was doing it but
I had to stop and say
“are you mad? don’t be mad”
and you said no, there was just
a long line to get into the bank
this morning, and now it was after
2am.

“okay.” I said flatly. “just checking.”
and I slammed the door
with a little more force
than perhaps was strictly
necessary. later I wondered
at the bitter tone of my own
voice, and the unexpected strength
of my own, door-slamming
arm.

was I mad
that you claimed you
weren’t mad? why
would I want you to be mad
at me? or perhaps I myself was mad
about the petty fights
you seemed to keep picking
that night, at least
with me.

if you are mad, why
can’t you just say so? I refuse
to beg for the answer
to a question I’m not even allowed
to ask. but then I could say
the same of myself
about being up front
with my negative emotions.
the answer – at least in this case,
and at least for me –
seems to be
that I don’t know it, I can’t
allow myself to be conscious of it
at the time. there’s a line, thin as a hair,
between anger
and fear. standing up
for yourself when
you are long used to being
bullied into compliance
feels like walking a tightrope
above a lion’s den. when
you’re on that sky-high razor’s
edge, you can’t afford
to look down. it could kill you
to be truly aware
of how you’re feeling
in that moment. so you bury it
deep and don’t let it out
until you’re away from the person
at whom you are in fact
justifiably angry.

so I guess what I really meant
by “just checking.” was
“Well, then
you can go to hell!

I’m mad.”

Published by

R. Brookes McKenzie

what fresh hell is this

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