Those who share this sweltering are not necessarily friends, because with this throb there is a shame.
We are not crazy.
From the ages of about five until I was sixteen, I assumed it was normal to punch walls, break glass, and cry at least twice a day. Not that I did any of those things, but I had grown accustomed to seeing different members of my family engaging in one or all of these behaviors.
Rampant, if not somewhat violent, mood swings were expected, and even taking out the trash or folding laundry could be cathartic. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, chemical dependency was not the norm.
Many people would call this type of behavior depression. The well educated or perceptive would call this behavior bi-polar.
I called it home.
At times you could find my mother and I in the strangest of places; bouncing checks at bookstores because we were tired of being poor (a strange sort of logic, I am aware), trespassing through abandoned farm-houses looking for the truth, or shell-shocked on the living room couch for two days after watching Awakenings starring Robin Williams.
There was always a breaking point with this behavior. The point where things were a little too much and I would lose track of her for a few days. A string of free-willed precarious escapades was usually a warning sign of an impending change.
It was after work and school one day when my mother had asked me if I had ever screamed.
"What do you mean?" I turned to my best friend April, who had moved in with me at this point, "Who hasn't screamed?
"You haven't Ben," she smirked, "I can tell. Nothing Primal. Nothing intentional. Nothing planned. Come on."
We drove to the middle of a plowed field next to Hunter Farm, long since abandoned and nearly condemned. The house was believed to be haunted. I often ran there hoping to catch a spirit or two.
My mother, unknown to me, used the Hunter field on a regular basis. For screaming.
It was simple really. You stood in the middle of sweltering nothing and screamed, head towards the sky, as loudly and as gutturally as possible.
My mother demonstrated.
It started low, from her toes, and shot up out of her throat. If it had been colored, I pictured purple and black rays spewing up like spider webs. Slowly the colors would mix to grey and evaporate in the air.
Her voice stayed low and growling, never popping up in pitch. And as if pushing a large object through a small space, when the scream had left her, she fell to the ground and caught her breathe.
"There," she said with tears in her eyes, "Ben, your turn."
"I'll pass," I objected, "I don't need to scream."
"Bullshit. Fucking Bullshit. April?"
April blushed and giggled a little.
"Oh I don't think I can."
My mother only stared at April, deciding for her.
April's scream started from her nose, and shot up to the top of her head. It was high-pitched. She sounded like Jamie Lee Curtis's best friend being stabbed in a scary movie.
And Rose could only laugh.
"What?" April giggled, red-faced and breathless.
"Right, so that was your homework assignment from yesterday. I wanna hear when your mother kicked you out."
April glared at my mother and then to me, as if I had spilled a secret (which I hadn't, April living with me wasn't even my idea.) She closed her eyes and after a moment a sound akin to a kettle whistling itself right off the stove began. Higher and breathier than my mother's scream but just as powerful. Eventually her shriek turned to laughter which my mother joined into.
They both turned to me, staring intently.
"What?" I said. "I'm fine."
"Just do it Ben," April begged.
"We aren't leaving until you do it," my mother snapped.
"Ah," I deadpanned. "Now let's get the fuck out of here."
"Do it for real."
"What was that? " April interrupted, "Angry about last nights episode of Quantum Leap?"
"Come on," my mother eyes narrowed, "I'm right in front of you. This is your chance."
I stepped forward toward my mother. My face stopped inches from hers. I reached out in a snap grabbing her car keys. I was home within five minutes, leaving them to walk the fields.
I couldn't tell you when they got back, I had long since fallen asleep and locked myself in my room, but not before ripping all of the posters from my wall and clearing the top shelf of my closet in a single swipe. There would be years of these messes. CD players blaring, broken pottery and destroyed possessions. Bruised knuckles and shins. Bleeding fingers and ripped clothing. Years of this mess, until at some point, I would take out the trash and find catharsis or fold my jeans and find myself alone and crying.
And I am crazy.
When I emerged for dinner, we all said nothing, we hadn't even left the house in the first place it seemed. We joked and flung food and the only discernible difference was that behind my mother's and April's eyes there was relief, and behind mine there was pressure.
We are not crazy.
Now, on a few rare days, I find myself searching for plowed fields in Chicago. An abandoned building, or an empty house. Someplace where anonymity is possible. And distance.
I was foolish I realize. I passed up the opportunity for complete honesty and momentary release. Because now, now I am never sure when to say what is crazy or to bite my tongue. Never clear as to when to be angry or be forgiving.
Sometimes, not often but some days, I feel as if all of my emotions have melted together into one. On these days, these blue moons, this emotion, whatever it would be called, is the only feeling I can muster besides ambivalence. And when faced with the choice...of showing people everything or nothing I get stuck in the middle of the choice...left to simmer. If I were to scream at that moment to reclaim it, I fear what would happen.
We are not alone.
This morning, on my way up from the subway, I was caught behind a business woman who was caught behind a college student. The college student was walking up the stairs as slowly and amiably as possible. He wasn't running late, he passed his test last night, got laid, smoked up this morning...something. But as this business woman tried in vain to get around him and his duffel bag and his gym bag, she became enraged.
At the top the stairs when a wide berth was made, she passed by him, exhaling loudly and muttering something under her breath.
"Bitch," he snapped.
And she stopped.
She turned around.
She opened her mouth and she paused.
Defeat entered her eyes.
She should have said, "How great for you that you have nowhere to be."
"Thank god your life is going swimmingly ALL THE TIME!"
But she didn't and she left.
And as I passed by the college student, who lived his life like me and her and was having a good day, I heard him say,
And I stopped.
Turned to him,
Thought of corn-fields and abandoned building. Broken lamps and cracked walls.
"No. She isn't."