I Like to Break Stuff

I drive through walls and plow down cats
I won’t stop ’til the city’s flat
Twenty miles an hour now
I’d raise it but I don’t know how
I like to break stuff
Sometimes a car is not enough
I like to break stuff
Sometimes my fists just aren’t enough
When I like to break stuff

Bulldozer” by Teddy Roosevelt & The Rough Riders

I had a vivid dream the other night that I hit Jon with a chair.  Not a metal folding chair, which would have been too light to be worth dreaming about, or a heavy wooden chair, which I realistically wouldn’t have been able to pick up and hit anyone with.  It was one of those older, scrappier wooden chairs, the kind that would splinter and break upon contact, which it did in my dream. I grabbed the back of the chair with both hands, and swung it at him, the back legs connecting with his left arm and torso, knocking him sideways.

These violent urges subsided upon my waking up and feeling guilty about how terrible it was for me to even think such things.  However, upon further reflection, I realized it was perhaps not so out of character for me.

When I was much younger, I remember playing in the backyard with my sister.  I couldn’t have been older than 3, so she couldn’t have been older than 7.  She was constructing some sort of woodland project out of stones, bark, leaves, and I wanted to help her so I collected some moss.  I presented my bounty to her, which she rejected without explanation, continuing her project solo.  In response, I picked up a good size rock and threw it at her head. I apparently had good aim when I was young, as she yelled and ran into the house to tell on me.  My mother took one look at her and dragged her in to the bathroom, where I followed at a safe distance.  My sister saw herself in the bathroom and immediately began to shriek and bawl: she had seen the blood trickling down her face that she had been too upset to notice before.  I stood outside the bathroom door while my mother checked my sister’s head, determining it was one of those scalp cuts that was very shallow but bled a lot.  My sister calmed down and I apologized for throwing the rock, but I couldn’t give my mom a satisfactory answer to why I had done it in the first place [“she wouldn’t accept my moss” apparently not being a valid reason].

Years later, my sister was home from college over summer vacation watching TV in the family room while I was on the phone with a friend in the kitchen, nursing a tall glass of orange juice. Unlike with the earlier moss incident or later imaginary chair incident (though the chair was very real in my vision), I have only a vague recollection of the exchange between me and my sister. Whatever it was I asked, her response was to ignore me.  Frustrated at her silence, I hurled the glass of orange juice toward the window above the kitchen sink directly across from me. It bounced against the screen and shattered on the tile floor, spraying shards and juice a healthy radius with a satisfying scream that caught my sister’s attention, finally. She responded to the glass in like high-pitched timbre, questioning my sanity and demanding an explanation from me, pausing only briefly to pick up the phone where my friend was still holding, overhearing all, to say in an even tone, “I’m sorry, she has to call you back.”

I ran up to my room with my sister following me, continuing to scream about what I had done while I remained silent. I was safely locked in my room while my sister pounded on the door, yelling that I was scaring her and she was calling dad. I decided I probably did not want to talk to my dad about an action for which my feeble explanation was, “but she wouldn’t talk to me.” I packed a small backpack and seriously considered if the spruce tree growing up to my window could handle an adult’s weight climbing down it. Lack of car keys and a place to go within walking distance won out. I let my dad into my room when he came home and he questioned me gently and not unkindly. This was a man, after all, who had lost his temper so few times I could count them on one hand. The worst of those was one Christmas morning when my sister and I refused to have our pictures taken having just awoken, still in our pajamas. We had recently discovered vanity and teenage embarrassment of practically everything, especially family.  My dad detached the flash from the top of his Konica T3 as if decapitating a Barbie doll and pitched it across the room, where it was stopped by the wall. He never did get it replaced.

My sister would retell this story for years to come as “the time her sister threw a glass of orange juice at her head,” a neat conflation of the two stories. Meanwhile, she and my mother have short tempers that flare up with far more regularity, like Pigpen but with a constant aura of eggshells in lieu of dirt.


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