Lately, my anger and I have been hanging out more regularly.
At first, we saw each other in passing, just a nod in work meetings, a quick “hi” on the evening commute, a knowing look during calls from our brother. We saw a lot of each other on the internet too.
Things changed when, a few months ago, I ran into her at the coffee shop around the corner from my apartment. We’d ordered coffee, the kind with espresso and foam. The barista explained with tones of condescension that our drink “is not like Starbucks.” He explained to us that the drink had “espresso and foam. Nothing else.”
He waited for us to change our minds. Exchanges like this were not new to us. We were often asked to reconsider what we wanted right after we asked for it, as if we didn’t know what we wanted, as if we needed help, gentle redirection.
We pointed out that the man ahead of us had just ordered the same thing, and no one had asked him if he knew what he was doing. During the barista’s bristling silence, I glanced at my anger, and she smiled. I think that’s when we really noticed each other and when we thought we might get along. We paid for our coffee and shared calendars. Thursdays looked good.
You’d think that when my anger and I hang out, we’d talk nonstop. We have so much in common. You’d think we’d complain and have heated discussions about the state of the world or the difficult people we know. But quiet is more of our thing; we are exhausted. We each take a side of my couch, tuck our feet underneath a blanket and lean our backs into the dense pillows. Sometimes she nods off.
Even though we don’t say much, I have gotten to know the details of her. Small things. For example, she’s a sucker bargain-bin seasonal candles. She brings over a pumpkin votive in December, heritage pine tealights in February, love-potion pillars in March. There’s a randomness in her pleasures that I enjoy uncovering. She’ll buy top-shelf spirits but squander them in store-brand juices and canned coconut cream and top them with the paper umbrellas she buys in bulk at party stores.
Ok. We also fuck, occasionally. It’s what you’d imagine. All the usual stuff but add pure rage. When I think about it, I can’t sit still.
It’s Thursday, and we’re dozing on my couch with the TV on at low volume. Paper umbrellas tent the rims of empty highball glasses. Tonight is different. Recently, I’ve wanted to tell her how much she means to me. I can’t get the words right. I imagine telling her that I wake up in the middle of the night terrified that I will lose her. The words churn in my chest, but I can’t arrange them in any good way. She’s the one, when everyone tells me that everything is normal, that everything is going as planned and as it should be, she whispers in my ear they’re wrong. And by doing so, she saves me.
As if she hears my thoughts—anger can do that—she opens her eyes, briefly. She reaches out, but her hand falls short. She’s so tired. The urgency of it all crests and dissipates. I suppose what I can do, though it’s not enough, is say nothing and let her rest. The TV murmurs. Our legs press close.
Caitlin Morris writes for Grunge magazine and the Tasting Table, and she teaches writing and literature at Bellevue College. While earning her MFA in creative writing from Western Washington University, she served as a fiction editor for The Bellingham Review. Recently, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ghost Parachute, The Jersey Devil Press, and The Copperfield Review. In addition, she co-hosts Special Lady Day—a podcast about rad women in history—with the poet Jessica Lohafer. You can find her at @ccmorrisohmy.
© 2023, Caitlin Morris