Just before breaking off her engagement, a friend of mine dreamed that she was sitting between her perspective mother-in-law and her fiancé when the mother’s mouth opened like a cobra’s, and in a flash and bit the son’s head. As my teeth are about to close over my own son’s shoulder, I wake up and like Gregor Samsa waking as a cockroach, I think: “This was no dream.”
“I want to bash The Pater’s head in,” I spit. “I have nowhere to wear them anyway.”
“Don’t you think it’s helpful that we all want to as well?” Mieke asks.
“No, because I still want to kill him. And it’s not even him, it’s just because he’s there, I just want to bash somebody’s head in.”
“I once got so mad at Flavio that I threw my wedding ring in his omelette,” Helen adds.
“Did he eat the omelette?” I giggle at her.
“Have you ever threatened divorce?” asks Mieke.
“Of course,” Helen and I say in unison.
“Well, when I do it really seems to unsettle Rob,” she says.
“He probably thinks you’re serious,” I say.
“But I’ve never had a baby before,” she counters.
“You didn’t say you were going to divorce the baby,” I point out.
I have so much anger inside me, I always have but it’s definitely worse since Mister Baby was born. Or perhaps I notice it more because I don’t want my hideous temper mirrored by him. I tend to flare when I haven’t slept enough and when I have little or no time to myself, hmmm, I’m thinking that it probably is worse now. But the rage that electrifies me is terrifying.
It’s Saturday morning and The Pater was out late last night, the poor dear fell asleep on the train on the way home and missed his stop. Not my problem, though, and I start in on him like a pit-bull.
“What time did you come home last night?”
“What difference does it make, you were asleep?”
“I came home, when I came home.”
“What time?” By this time my voice is shrill and Mister Baby, in my arms, is looking between us, a cowed expression on his still sleepy face.
“I got home at two.”
“At two?” I explode with a stamp of my foot. “And you didn’t think to call me? No one had a cell phone? Why do I have to call you and you never even think to call me?”
And then my arm darts out and I punch him on the arm, hard. We look at each other, there’s stone in his eyes and we look at Mister Baby who’s horribly frightened and withdrawn, and I start sobbing.
“I’m going back to bed,” he says.
I shakily make a bottle for Mister Baby and take him into his room. I croon to him and drip tears into his fuzzy head until he falls asleep. I make tea and clean the kitchen. For the rest of the day we are quiet and normal and go shopping and play with Mister Baby. We even laugh but my belly rumbles with fear. A year ago, a punch from me would be laughable but since hauling Mister Baby around and some yoga, my punches pack some wallop but more importantly, I hit The Pater! I am a batterer, I am an abuser. I am shocked by my aggression and fury.
“I can’t believe I hit you. Did you see Mister Baby’s face? He hates it when we fight,” I start over a dinner of risotto with pancetta and gorgonzola that I have carefully, deliberately prepared while sipping at some red wine. I apologize and The Pater graciously excuses me, he thinks it’s a little funny, bless him. He doesn’t see that I’m an out of control sociopath that will turn her rage upon her family and wreak a litany of physical and verbal abuse. Or maybe he can’t face it.
“Bitchiness used to just be my domain,” I say.
“You sound proud of that,” he says flatly.
“I’m not proud of it, but it’s true, you never used to snap like that.”
“You’re not the only one who gets mad, why do I always have to be the nice guy,” he says. Um, because you are the nice guy? We’ve established that: I’m the bitch and you’re the nice guy and while I seem to be staying true to type, you’re unnervingly deviating from the flight path, mister.
It is the lesser of two evils if my fury is focused on The Pater instead of Mister Baby but it flares at Mister Baby as well. When he pulls my hair, when he bucks and squeals and spreads poop everywhere, when he spits out his dinner and upturns the bowl, when he’s madly prodding the unflushed bowl with the toilet brush (hey, it’s a drought, give me a break), in other words, being a deliciously mischievous little boy. The Otha Mothas pretend it doesn’t happen to them; it’s like masturbation though, everybody does it but nobody wants to admit it.
“I think it really helps to talk,” says Mieke.
“To The Pater or you guys?” I ask.
Yes, to both, to anybody, pride be damned; smothered secrets mean more smouldering rage.