I walked outside the Esplanade mall with my sandwich inside a Styrofoam container. I took a few paces, stopped, carefully placed the container on the ground and proceeded to stomp the shit out of it. Jumped up and down with both feet. Many times. Making sure to totally destroy my pricey and uneaten pastrami sandwich.
My girlfriend at the time watched this display of childishness by a twenty-year old man. It didn’t phase her. After all, she was my girlfriend. She just smiled.
“Well, that fixed everything, ”
By italicizing the “that”, she was clearly implying that that didn’t. Inferring that stomping on my sandwich didn’t fix everything.
She was right of course. She always was. But fuck that. What was right didn’t matter. What mattered was that I was pissed-off.
And had to show the world.
“It did!” I told her, making sure to italicize my “did.” Letting her know there were two sides to every story. That sometimes different things are right.
She just nodded along in that “Okey-dokey, Pokey” way. With overly-agreeing face. The one caretakers make to indulge their lunatic charges–while waiting for them to swallow their pill.
“It totally fucking did.”
We had to leg it back to the movie theater where we worked. She was the box office cashier and I was an usher. We were late coming back from our lunch break, which was partially a factor in my decision to curb-crush my Pastrami. And go hungry instead.
We’d always take our breaks together and go to the Mc Donalds next to the theater. She’d get a chocolate chip cookie and a milk, and I’d get a Big Mac and a shake, That magic combination would guarantee me a time-released queasiness that quelled hunger. Like clock work. Big Mac. Shake. Nausea.
While I was by no means a fan of feeling sick to my stomach, the price was right, and it was close by, Cheapness and convenience trumped well-being.
Anyway, this one Saturday afternoon, I decided I had enough feeling nauseous. I would walk down the mall a little further to the deli restaurant and treat myself to some heartburn instead. I would cough up the extra five dollars just to remind myself that I was worth it. Sometimes you just have to be good to yourself.
Yeah. That’ll be nice. Get myself a nice pastrami on rye with wedge cut fries.
Because you never know which day will be your last.
Sue got her usual cookie and milk, then followed me to the deli where I put in my order and waited.
I look around. It’s slow. Half of a half of a dozen people sitting around. All of them with their food. I can’t imagine what’s taking so long to make my sandwich. I watch the minutes of our lunch break tick off of my wristwatch. Nothing. At seven minutes left, one of the cooks puts a Styrofoam container under the heat lamp. But there’s no waitress to pull it down and give it to me. It sat there for another agonizing five minutes before one finally appeared and responded to my wild flailing and pointing.
“My sandwich! My sandwich!”
She lazed her ass over and handed it to me.
There was now two minutes left to eat my five dollars-extra sandwich. What bullshit. Instead of the special lunch I had anticipated, I’d now be lucky to cram half of it into my mouth before I had to be back. Sure, I could have eaten half then put the rest in the employee fridge until later. I could have stuck the sandwich into the pocket of my polyester suit and gnawed on it in a darkened theater. There were plenty of alternatives. But I was pissed. I wasn’t going to get what I wanted.
So stomping was the only solution.
I would make the sandwich pay. And subsequently myself. But I didn’t care. Somebody was going to suffer because of this.
It was old behavior by then.
When I was seven, I would play my dad in checkers. If I saw he was playing too well, I’d get angry and slap the board up into the air. Boof.
Well, my dad didn’t approve of these outbursts. Poor sportsmanship wasn’t tolerated. Neither were tantrums. My folks were from The Old Country and didn’t put up with that kind of shit from their kids. His belt would be slapping me across my ass before the checkers stopped raining.
“I’ll give you something to cry about!”
Good for him, really. I had it coming. Sorry enlightened, modern parents, but for me, only the threat of corporal punishment ever made me think twice about misbehaving. And a lot of times, not even then. Crown one of your checkers Daddy-O and it’s on. “In your face old man!” Boof.
Couldn’t help myself. Tantrum trumped everything.
When I was in Kindergarten I used to attend a Saturday school for Lithuanian-American kids. For Valentine’s Day we had to cut out hearts from red construction paper that we had folded in half. All we had to do was cut out one curve, then open up the paper to reveal a symmetrical heart shape. We would paste that on a thing of paper doilies the teacher taped together for us. In just a few easy steps everyone would have a nice Valentine to buy their mother’s love with.
Everyone, except the spaz who couldn’t cut right. Couldn’t cut the curve. I looked around. Everyone was already pasting their hearts onto the doilies, and I kept opening my paper to find a butterfly or a bow-tie. But never a heart.
Fucking horse-shit Valentine’s Day. I hate you.
I decided if I couldn’t have a heart, nobody would. Swear to God, I remember getting up and going from desk to desk tearing up the other kid’s hearts. I distinctly made a conscious effort to be as calm about it as possible. To maximize damage. Before all their crying set off the alarm.
I’m sure that in itself would’ve set-off a child psychologist’s alarm. But the way I conned the teacher, when she finally grabbed a hold of me, revealed the criminal prodigy I was.
Right away I turned on the water works. Nevermind the shit-fit I just threw. It’s time to feel sorry for me.
“I’m only a wittle kid (blubber blubber) and cutting hearts is too hard for me!”
Worked like a charm. She melted. The teacher cut out a heart for me while the other kids remade theirs. In the meantime, a photographer from the local Lithuanian newspaper had come by and had us all display our work in a group shot. This picture right here. No down here. I’m the demon seed in the front row. Tantruminus Rex.
You can see how pleased I am with myself. Why shouldn’t I be? I got what I wanted. You never worry about how you’re coming off while in a pants-pissing rage. All you want is someone to give into it.
God forbid they should, because then you really feel like an ass-hole. Afterwards. If you’re lucky. If you don’t, you’re more apt to up your game. Really start carpet-biting your way through life. It can be an effective way to climb the rungs. You may even get everything you want. Except the one thing you really want. The respect of your fellow humans.
Oh well. Whatever. Right? I’ll sign up. Respect is over-rated. Besides, I’ll have the respect of other tantrum babies. That right there explains Hitler. The pissed-off baby man leading a nation of spoilsports and blamers. Ready to punish the world (but mostly themselves) for losing the first war, by losing another one in an ultimate checkerboard toss.
If you get a powerful enough microscope, you might find the germ of this behavior in our current political situation. We’ve got some Valentines tearers running amok in our classroom. And I so get it.
I’ve been the underdog. At my worst, I let my fear and frustration seize me. Wound up fighting dirty just to win. At my best, I realized I’d been out-gunned and stood there quietly while the ref raised the other guy’s arm. Went back to the gym and trained a little harder.
Instead of bringing my sandwich into the ring. And stomping on it.
Then crying because I don’t have any Valentines.