July 10, 2000
Anger Management 101

 


 
They hauled our neighbor off to jail at 8 p.m. last night.  

David and I stood at our bedroom window and peered through closed curtains, watching in relief as the police 'escorted' her to an awaiting fleet of squad cars.
She did not go quietly. She kicked and flailed and fell to her knees, forcing the police officers to pick her up by the elbows and drag her. Once or twice she tried to twist around and bite the officers on the arm.

"My god," I said in amazement. "She's so tiny!" 

This diminutive woman ... this wiry little She-Devilette ... THIS was the source of all the screaming and door-slamming and death threats from across the courtyard, all weekend? I was expecting Matilda the Hun, but this woman looked barely old enough -- or tall enough -- to reach the top shelf above the kitchen sink.

As if I'd spoken that thought loud enough for her to hear, she suddenly let loose with another volley of rants and curses. "Fudk you! Fudk you!" she shouted tirelessly at the policemen, over and over. "Fudk YOU, you pricks!"

The police officers calmly tucked her into the backseat of the squad car -- still kicking and spewing curses, some of them in Spanish -- and after a few minutes of consultation and note-taking, they drove her away. 

Silence, sweet as a Sharlyne Valley melon, descended on the apartment complex for the first time in two days.

"At least you and I are a lot quieter when we argue," I said wryly.

David shook his head. "Hey," he said. "Pour a couple days' worth of liquor into you and me, and that could have been us yesterday."

He's absolutely correct, of course. Download a quart of vodka into Ю僱êrvØ¡ and a box of Mountain Chablis into SecraTerri ... mix with an unexpected change in plans and some hurt feelings ... toss in a handful of monthly hormones, just for fun ... and we would have spent the weekend at each others' throats, just like our noisy neighbors.

Instead of spending the weekend the way we did: not speaking to each other at all.




Our argument may have been less spectacular -- certainly less public -- than our neighbors' 48-hour blow-out. It may have been lots quieter. Neither one of us ended up behind bars when it was over.

But it was no less stoopid.

I warned David, going into the weekend, that we were entering  72 Hours From Hell territory. 

"Don't worry," I assured him. "It's not going to be anything like last time." 

I had gut-twisting cramps, but otherwise I felt about a thousand times calmer and stronger and more emotionally pulled-together this month than usual. I figured it was Mother Nature's way of making up for last month's hormonal trial by fire. One long, leisurely weekend of Pamprin, puttering and precious *David-and-Terri-Time* was just the ticket.

On Saturday morning, after breakfast in bed, we hopped into the Subaru and drove to downtown San Francisco. We had no particular destination in mind ... and no itinerary. We figured we would just drive around and look at stuff and listen to music on the car stereo. Maybe do a little shopping. Maybe have lunch somewhere interesting. Maybe just walk around, holding hands and window-shopping. Later in the afternoon we'd go home and take a long afternoon nap together, followed by a bed picnic and a rented movie and a slightly more ... umm ... intimate version of *David and Terri Time.*

It is my favorite way to spend a Saturday.

And for a while, everything was great. We browsed around The Shoe Pavilion. We explored the upper two floors of Burlington Coat Factory, where I bought a pair of pajamas and some earrings. We drove around the SOMA district.

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I am in that peculiar NoMom'sLand, these days -- the place between parenthood and grandparenthood, where my children are closer to adulthood than babyhood, and grandchildren are [please god] a few years down the road yet ... and right now my tolerance for sticky fingerprints, unflushed toilets and backseat squabbling has temporarily worn a little thin. Factor in ten years of running a daycare, and I've clearly done my share of Barbie and Kool-Aid and licensed action figures. I'm sure I'll find it all enchanting again, someday ... but for the moment I'm finding great pleasure in the calm, orderly world of grown-up life.

But this is all neither here nor there. More than anything else, I was hurt and annoyed that David would make the decision to radically alter our weekend without consulting me at all. Never mind that I would have undoubtedly said "Yes, let's have the kids tonight, that's great ... should we rent a movie?" It still would have been nice to have been asked.

He hung up the phone and gave me this sort of helpless, What was I supposed to do? expression.

Wordlessly, I turned on my heel and headed back to the Subaru. David trailed along behind me. We got into the car and drove back across the Bay Bridge and all the way to Alameda and back to The Castle ... without exchanging a single word.

It would be twenty-four hours before we spoke to each other again.



 
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"I may be mad at you," I told David between clenched teeth, during a fifteen second break in The Silent Treatment,


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He gave me a mournful look. As always whenever we "fight," only one of us is actively participating. The other one of us keeps his mouth shut, maintains his distance ... and waits for the storm to blow over.


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Once in a while David came to the doorway and gave me the Sad Puppy Face again ... as if to say, Can this please be over now? I steadfastly ignored him. Truth is, by this point being mad had stopped being fun, and I wanted to quit ... but I couldn't seem to get a handle on my emotions and snap out of it.

So I continued the Silent Treatment, sort of by default.

It was Sunday afternoon -- when I was home alone -- that the neighbors began broadcasting their argument to the world.

It started out with an occasional slamming door, a shouted profanity, a crashing noise from their side of the courtyard. These people fight all the time. Hearing them call each other "bastard" and "bitch" is nothing new. And their arguments are almost always fueled by cheap liquor ... as evidenced by the contents of their recycling bin the next morning. Usually there's nothing to do but shrug in disgust, close the windows ... and wait for them to mercifully pass out.

This time, though, the hostility never seemed to level off. And neither did the decibels.

By mid-afternoon it had escalated into full-out war ... with *her* doing most of the shooting. All you could hear was her amazingly loud, shrill voice, firing off one invective after another:

"You prick! You goddamn fudking prick!"

"You stoopid fudking goddamn asshole!"

"I don't know why I put up with your shit, you goddamn fudking prick!"

"I've never been good enough for your fudking family!"  (Imagine that.)

And this one, after she'd finally realized that the baby was still sitting outside the door in his little baby carrier:  "If your son is out there freezing to death, it's YOUR fault, you goddamn fudking shidthole!"

I think it was probably at this point that somebody called the police.

I KNOW it was at this point that I decided that my ridiculous "argument" with David was over.




Of course, the silence throughout our apartment complex was temporary.

As soon as our neighbor was hauled away -- in a blaze of drunken glory, flashing lights and blaring sirens -- her Significant Other took up the hue and cry on the far side of the courtyard.

Maybe he was in shock that she had actually been taken away. Maybe he was dismayed to discover that he was suddenly left alone with their newborn infant. Maybe he was filled with remorse that they'd quarreled. Maybe she took the checkbook with her.

(Maybe it was the first time all weekend that he'd been able to get a word in.)

Whatever the reason, the guy went ballistic ... like an enraged bull moose who has abruptly been separated from his mate. (An enraged bull moose with a snootful of jug red and Old Crow, that is.) Suddenly he was charging around the complex, banging on doors with his fist, kicking patio furniture against the walls and shouting "WHO CALLED THE COPS? WHO CALLED THE FUDKING COPS??"

David quietly made sure our door was locked. And then he leaned out the bedroom window and caught the attention of a lingering police officer, who promised to come back inside the complex and "take care of the guy."

Soon after that ... the excitement was over. Peace finally settled in for good. Darkness fell. Evil hormones subsided. Good hormones punched in. Sanity returned. Silence -- and stoopidity -- ended.

And David and Terri made up.



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