By Audrey Lambert, TIWP Student
When I get angry, a little orb of fire begins to burn in my throat. I’ve learned to swallow it and let it scorch its way down my esophagus, extinguish itself in my stomach acid. I’ve learned to let the smoke out through my nostrils, and not billow between my teeth, suffocating others. But every now and then, it burns up my throat and over my tongue, and I’m a dragon, fiery breath destroying all in my path.
The guidance counselor told me I had ‘anger issues,’ all because I punched Timmy Bridges in the nose. But they didn’t diagnose him with an attitude disorder when he told me I was following my father’s path to prison. I mean like, what kind of fucking psychopath says that shit to someone’s face. But no, I’m the bad guy, just because I won’t sit there and let people shit all over me.
They made me start keeping a journal when I spat in Lindsay Buckingham’s yogurt for calling my mom a drug addicted skank, and I mean, she’s not wrong, but that doesn’t mean she can just say that shit and expect me not to reciprocate.
And then, worst of all, they forced me to go to an adolescent anger management support group when I kicked John Silverman in the balls for calling my little brother a creep. And sure, Buggy’s got issues, but what would you expect with a name like Buggy and parents like ours?
But anyways, here I am, sitting in a circle with a group of my fellow enraged peers and a hippie-dippie counselor in a recreation room adjacent to the community church. There was only one other girl in the group, go figure, women are better at suppressing their anger, or more like, they aren’t allowed to express it .
The man-bunned counselor finally began the meeting when the last empty seat was filled by yet another teenage boy.
“So, guys,” he said with an overly-wide smile as he clapped his hands together, “I’m excited to see some familiar, and some unfamiliar, faces tonight. Lets start with our usual introductions and updates. How about…Daisy, you go first.”
All sets of eyes turned to the redheaded girl that sat across the circle from me. “Oh um, hi, I’m Daisy,” a communal ‘hi Daisy’ followed from the people in the circle, “Um, so I guess this week was a little better. I only snapped at someone like three times this week. So yeah, that’s it I guess.” Her icy blue eyes returned shyly to her fidgeting fingers as she finished.
“Thank you, Daisy,” said the counselor, “Now, lets have Presley go.”
A boy with dirty blond, curly hair and a bouncing leg looked up. “‘Sup, I’m Presley,” I joined in on the ‘hi Presley,’ this time, “This week was pretty okay, but, I uh, punched another hole in my wall,” he said, lifting up his bandaged right hand.
“We’re here for you, but next time, try punching a pillow instead,” offered the counselor.
“Yeah, I’ve tried that, but it’s just not the same.”
“I know, but you’ve got to put your safety first,” Presley nodded as the counselor continued, “Alright, Ray, you next.”
A dark skinned boy nodded and then began, “Hey, I’m Ray,” a ‘hi Ray,’ escaped my lips, “I haven’t really made much progress since this is only my second week, but, there was fewer things to actually get mad at this week so that was pretty good.”
“Good, I’m glad to hear that Ray. Finley, would you like to go next?”
A sigh came from the dark haired boy next to me, “I’m Finley,” he avoided all eye contact as the ‘hi Finley’ rippled through the circle, “I got in another fight this week,” he said while pointing to a bluish-purple bruise around his left eye, “but this time I restrained myself a little, and the other guy didn’t end up in the hospital.”
The counselor sighed, “Finley did you try going to the gym to let out your frustrations?”
“No, but I tried smoking weed, and that helped a little,” he said as the counselor gave him a dirty look, the rest of us tried to hold back our laughs. “Oh come on Mister Stevenson, we all know you smoke weed.”
Mr. Stephenson went bad as they tried to settle down the laughter, “Okay guys, settle down, we have someone new today, would you like to share?” he said, directed at me.
“Hi, I’m Lovey Jean.”
“Hi Lovey Jean,” I felt my cheeks warm up as I felt curious eyes focus on my face.
“So, I guess I’m here because my school made me.” The counselor looked at me expectantly, like he wanted me to continue, so I did. “I hit a couple guys, and spat and some girl’s yogurt,” a laugh or two wrippled through the circle and I shifted in my uncomfortable fold-out, plastic, chair before I continued, “I only did it because they said stuff about my family, and I can’t just tolerate that sort of stuff.”
“All right, well next time, try taking a deep breath, ignoring them, and walking away, okay, be the bigger person, don’t sink to their level.”
“Okay,” I said, trying to hide my eye roll, it’s not like I haven’t heard that shit before.
“Okay guys, there’s donuts on the table, feel free to grab one on your way out, good talk today.”
Donuts for the pink sprinkle kind. Ironic, almost as if they were trying to shove sweet personalities down our throats. I shrugged, a free donut is a free donut. But as I brought one up to my mouth, I was interrupted by a voice, “You might not want to eat that.” It was Finley, I lowered the donut from my lips.
“Why not?” I asked him, expecting a comment about healthy eating, or my weight, like I’ll get from my mom or Lindsay Buckingham at school.
“Those shits are stale as fuck, they’re left over from the Sunday School group that’s here earlier in the morning.”
“Wow, they couldn’t even Splurge for fresh donuts?” I said as I tossed the rock hard donut into the trash can.
Finley chuckled, “You down to come get food with the rest of us?”I looked at him a little skeptically, “I’s a little tradition we have here,” he explained.
“So you guys are, like, actual friends?”
“Yeah, I mean it’s better to have genuine friends that understand what you’re going through than ones that desert you every time you have an episode.”
“That makes sense,” I nodded.
“So, you’re coming?”
“Sure just let me tell my little brother I’ll be home late.”
“Cool,” he said, a slightly goofy smile contrasting his black eye.
As for me and I exited the gymnasium, we were met with the rest of the group waiting outside for us
“Took you long enough!” called Presley, a smile drawing across his cheeks.
“Yeah, yeah, let’s just go alright,” Finlet said as he caught up with them.
Presley looked back at me, “Is your name really Lovey Jean?” he asked me.
Ray elbowed him in the ribs, “Not cool dude,” he scolded him.
“Yup, that’s my real name,” I said, suppressing the twinge of anger that always came with discussing my absurd name.
“Now way!” Presley said laughing, “Ironic isn’t it, your name is Lovey and you have anger issues.”
“That’s the exact reason why I choose to go by LJ instead.”
“Cool,” he said, “I always thought initial names were sick.”
I smiled, laughing a little as the boys walked ahead and Daisy fell back with me.
She grinned at me, her freckled features glowing radiantly, “You wouldn’t believe how happy I am to have another girl around here,” she said, looping her arm through mine. Though I was surprised, I didn’t pull back, it felt good to have someone to create a fresh relationship with, someone in my life who didn’t already hate my guts. “These boys have been driving me insane for months,” she giggled, dragging me along to catch up with the rest of the group.
Maybe this anger management thing wouldn’t be so bad after all.