Tuesday, January 31, 2006
The Cold Light of Day
We were peacefully finishing breakfast, when the explosion happened. F1 was talking on the phone, organising accommodation with Californian-based New Zealand friends. I was slugging back my last few mouthfuls of tea. TH was washing his breakfast plates in the kitchen sink.
Suddenly, F2 leapt towards TH, screeching and swearing. It was like a dormant volcano unexpectedly erupting. I had my back to the sink and I jumped to my feet, spinning around as I did so. I thought the place was on fire or the wall was about to fall in. TH was staring in surprise at F2. Washing the dishes at home never had this reaction. F2 was yelling at him about the way he was f**king doing things and it wasn’t the right f**king time. It should all be f**king done later, he was just f**king getting in the way and how f**king useless he was.
An angry flush had flared into her cheeks, she stamped her foot at every swear word, and stabbed her finger at him with every time she spat out the word "you". All that rage over how the dishes were being done. It was like a scene from Monty Python. Except this was serious. She really was angry and was totally out of control.
It was unbelievable. Talk about waste energy over things that don’t matter. If I had a bucket of cold water I would have thrown it over her. A certain sort of man might have hit her. Even I was sorely tempted. TH flung the tea towel on the bench , "Do them your bloody self, then!" and he stormed out.
I rounded on her, resorting to language she would understand, "what the f**k is wrong with you?"
She turned to me, her face ugly with anger, "I hadn’t finished breakfast. I was getting more. He put his dishes there. He shouldn’t have known there wasn’t enough room."
"You lost your temper over that?. Why don’t you learn to f**king chill out!"
"He should have given me the space. I need…"
"You have enough space. You don’t need f**king more."
"But, nothing. You listen to me. I’m sick to death of the time and space you have taken on this trip. Tears and bloody sniffles one minute because you can’t cope. F**king off your head the next because you can’t get what you want."
I was out of control now. Swearing, shouting, stabbing my finger at her. Everything came out, starting with her pathetic defiance over the gloves two days ago and going right back to what little she had done to get the expedition on the road in the first place. All the resentment I had felt in the last two weeks roared inside me - how she didn’t pull her weight with the on-going work, how she couldn’t be bothered to talk to people we met, how she put down TH in front of other people. I started on about how I was no longer going to tolerate her temper tantrums and especially not over anything so pathetic as how the dishes were done. I saw tears sprung into her eyes and noticed how she shrunk before my verbal blows. But, she had "cried wolf" too often. I wasn’t going to ease up on her.
But, I stopped shouting. Rage was not longer racing hotly around my body. I felt strangely cold and calm, but also powerful. Invincible. An android with its empathy circuits deprogrammed. One over-riding thought dominated everything. I simply wanted to hurt, to wound her deeply. I wanted to punish her for all the hateful comments she made to TH.
I didn’t know I could feel like this. I knew it was dangerous, but it was so exhilarating. Seductive. Another jolt of ruthless power leapt its icy way through my veins. Although F2 was far taller than me, I felt I was looming over her, like an iceberg. I was calm on the outside, but huge and menacing underneath.
It was the terror in her face that stopped me. I had never had someone look at me like that before, as if they feared for their life. We stared at each other, not moving.
A little while later, F1 put the receiver down. He had just finished his call with his New Zealand friends. Despite all of the shouting, had hadn’t paused in his telephone conversation. Now, he turned to us, beaming, "It’s OK for us to stay with them tonight".
The frozen tableau before him didn’t seem to register. He just went on, "you remember Marcus? I’ve told you about him."
I wasn’t sure if he was talking to F2 or me. I turned slowly towards him, it felt like I was grinding around on my android axis, "Didn’t you hear that?"
"F2 shouting at TH."
"No, I didn’t notice."
"What about me shouting?"
"No, did you?"
"God," I thought wearily, "was there no end to surprises today." Then, I added out loud, "Well, its about time you did notice something. We need to talk. Just the three of us."
They sat down on the side of one of the beds. I sat on the side of another bed, facing them. Our knees were almost touching. I looked at both their faces. F1’s was a total blank - no curiosity, no concern. I don’t mean poker faced, either. It just had no expression at all. F2 looked white and tense, tears were brimming again in her china blue eyes. She huddled against F1. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t respond to her, or at least notice that she was upset.
I was shaky from my earlier outburst, and still shocked at how strongly I had reacted. But, I was determined to have this out now. I started explaining what had happened. I kept my voice quiet, but firm.
I told it how it was, flat and without emotion. I stuck to the facts but described how F2’s behaviour made me feel and made TH feel. All the while, the tears continued to slide down F2 round and freckled face. I think she genuinely regretted what had happened and what she had done in the past. The problem was that she clearly didn’t like TH and she also didn’t seem to be able to cope with the rigours of the expedition. Her own fears and feelings seemed to swing wildly between timidity and bluster, with little in between.
In the past, I had already contemplated whether we could continue without her. That’s the trouble when you open a door like that in your mind. It might only be a crack, but the thoughts gnaw away at the edge and then the crack widens. More thoughts wriggle through and then a whole pathway opens up. An option then moves from if you are going to do something, to when. I knew now that we could go it alone. But, it could also mean that F1 might not continue with his Series One Land Rover, something we needed for sponsorship. So, was there a way we could move forward? I thought I could work on helping F2 to cope, but she would need to change her attitudes. Could she do that?
I remembered something.. While F2 didn’t like TH, she had demonstrated only the night before, that he and she enjoyed the same books. I had been amazed to hear them chatting amicably about authors and favourite stories, which they both liked. It was one little nugget to cling on to. If she could accept she had some common ground with TH, could she build from there?
Stuff it, we couldn't go on as we were. I gave them an ultimatum. Either F2 permanently changed her behaviour, or TH and I would leave them behind. I then talked about how she and TH liked the same books, and how that could assist her to build a more positive relationship. I said that I would encourage and help her with navigating and other expedition chores. But, she must do the rest herself. Only she could make the changes inside her happen.
I also made it clear that I would not ever tolerate any destructive behaviour or the tantrums of the past. I gave her a meaningful look at that point. I saw her lip quiver and I felt I slight flutter of power respond inside me. Then it was gone.
It was time we moved on and I slowly got to my feet. I said that I’d give them some time alone to talk about things. That, I’d wait in the car park. But, I’d need a decision this morning on whether they would continue on the terms I had stated.
I went outside and looked for TH. He was tidying up the inside of our Land Rover. I could see by his tight movements that he was still angry and upset. I put my arms around him and we hugged together. I told him I loved him, and he gave me a little squeeze of thanks. Standing there together I gave him a quick summary of what had happened. Then, my head sagged against his shoulder. I felt so tired and such a huge sense of loss.
All my hopes and dreams of a great adventure around the world were dashed. Maybe I was naïve to think that four people could take on the world and have a jolly time of it. All I knew now was that it was going to be a bloody great slog. A big tear slid past my nose and splashed onto TH’s shirt. Followed by another. He stroked my hair and rocked me gently. It was warm and comforting in his arms and my energy levels slowly recovered.
In a short while F1 appeared. He said that they’d like to continue the expedition with us and F2 would do her best. If he noted my red eyes, he said nothing.
We packed up together. F2 had red rimmed eyes, too, but she gave me a pale little smile as we finished the dishes together.
With F1 & F2 navigating that day, I was free to turn over something else that was hanging heavy in my mind. I was disturbed by the strange cold sensation I had felt during the shouting episode with F2. At the time, it had made me feel powerful, but ruthless. I was extremely uncomfortable thinking about this now. I was horrified by the thought of physical or mental violence. And, yet, I had found it strangely seductive. Is this why Dr Jekyll kept turning himself into Mr Hyde? But then, one day, he became totally corrupted and he couldn’t switch back. I shivered in my seat. TH put out a hand on my arm, "Everything alright?" His warm brown eyes looked into mine. What would he think about being married to a potential Ms Hyde. Would he still love me then?
I pushed the experience out of my mind and hoped that it would never come back.
© Eventful Woman, 2006
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