Temper


1)  Wireless keyboard, three days before my twenty-fifth birthday.  Latest model—previous models were defective.  A gift to myself.  No more growing to do.  In the middle of writing some sad rant of an email to dutiful friends concerning why I always felt depressed standing before the oral hygiene displays in supermarkets—so many flavors and colors and adjectives for such a tedious bore of a task, so many toothbrushes, with pivoting heads and polishing pads and sonar emitters; it was cut-and-paste really, a copy of many thoughts I'd had before, nothing unique to it—the batteries began to fail.  Letters appeared on the screen without warning.  The mouse too was wireless, its batteries also failing.  Carefully chosen words turned gibberish.  All control lost, I set the keyboard on the floor, placed my foot in the center and pulled up on both edges.  All my strength.  Face red.  Gritting my teeth—smiling even—the plastic seams strained and finally cracked with a snap as keys popped free, zinging past my face.  Soon there was nothing left to break with bare hands.  I looked inside.  In my mind there should've been more to it:  it was nothing but small rubber pads and simple triggers and a pair of dead batteries.  There wasn't much left of that sentence anyway.

2)  Perfectly good toaster oven, first day of college.  Late start, age twenty-two.  Swung it by the cord into the side of a dumpster on move-in day after an argument with my mother in the dorm parking lot—you should've been a doctorA doctorA doctor.  That toaster oven was a generic brand but god, the sound:  steel on steel, the echo rumbling through the empty dumpster, glass breaking, pieces hitting the concrete, Jesus Christ! from behind me.  I wanted to look at the mess I had made but for effect I didn't.  I headed inside.  The parents of the other kids were all around me—helping each other unload the backs of their station wagons, carrying televisions (carefully), on either end of an area rug—and they just kept moving, kept walking, in some cases laughing or smiling but I knew on the inside they had heard it all and were a little afraid, wondering what they had gotten their children into, my mother somewhere behind me doing I-don't-know-what, maybe throwing the pieces in the trash.

3)  Expensive, name brand headphones, age twenty-one.  Drunk and cross-legged on the floor of the Cedar Avenue apartment—it seemed to lean into the house next door, I was glad to be leaving—before finally going away to college, finally, trying to play the closing theme from The Incredible Hulk television series on a digital piano, feeling on edge, itchy, not having a good time at all, maybe wearing a sweatshirt too heavy for the weather, and I vowed that I would break the headphones I was wearing if I made one more mistake, if my fingers stumbled, if my pacing slipped; this was an impossible demand as I was too drunk and not a rock star and incapable of performing under that kind of pressure.  In this way, secretly dying to shatter the expensive headphones from the Christmas before, I hit a key and it was predictably not the right note, no note would've been the right note, and I lunged toward the empty dining room and kicked some half-packed boxes out of my way, tearing at my head and swinging by the cord this pair of headphones, smashing them again and again into the floor, pieces flying, sweating, house leaning.  Eighty dollars for a twist of red wires and two small speakers that played nothing but noise.  Charged another pair.

4)  Novelty eraser and case.  I was young.  Eraser was white with a smiling black skeleton stamped on it, smeared black from graphite—I did use it, all the time in elementary school, maybe kindergarten, all the time I used it and kept it safe behind the books in the back of my desk—and the case was black, a black plastic coffin for the skeleton, snap-on lid and everything, a cheap little toy that my father had picked up for me at a convenient store in West Virginia on his route, you know, just thinking of me, and cheap or not I thought it was amazing, stared at it, slept with it in my hand until the black plastic coffin shattered in the bottom of my book bag coming home on the bus and I wanted it back, wanted it new again, sure that this was a one-of-a-kind thing—my friends were envious, always asking to borrow it, and I always made sure it was returned to me before we switched classes as I knew I would never see it again if I forgot but it didn't matter, I broke it, and thinking for some reason that it was the only one of its kind I cried over it as if this were some Incan relic excavated from the side of a mountain, I cried and cried and got up the courage to tell my father what had happened and setting the jagged shards of the plastic black coffin and the worn-down eraser in his big calloused hand he didn't say much, not realizing maybe why I was crying , why some children cry so hard at nothing, but without much of a thought he pulled a new one out of his pocket like a magic trick, a brand new shiny new plastic coffin, and when he handed it to me as if it were nothing I opened it up, hesitant, peeking in beneath the lid and there, pristine, was a white skeleton eraser with no smudge marks and no dulled corners looking like it had never been touched and I cried again, maybe because there was another one or maybe because I knew my friends would go on asking to borrow it without knowing the miraculous transformation that had taken place, or maybe because none of it mattered, I would break it again, or maybe I didn't know at all but I did—break it, I mean.  There just isn't a way around these things.  
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