My good friend, Albie Pickens, knows this story well. He’s a part of it, in a big way; and among my closer friends it has become a bit of a legend. I’ll say now, don’t get your hopes up; there’s nothing legendary about this story. There is no epic battle, no struggle for freedom, no birthing of a world or people. Before I’ve talked myself out of telling the story, let me begin.
This story takes place at a low time in my life. I am unemployed, sleeping on Albie’s family’s couch, and just depressed beyond the ability to kick myself in the ass and force myself to improve my situation. Simply setting the scene, I promise this story is not a downer.
Albie’s part in this story is that him and I are set to meet at Starbucks as a jumping off point for our evening of frivolity. I have arrived a little early, as is my habit, but I don’t go inside; I want to wait for my friend. And I wait…and wait…and wait. I know that Albie is habitually late, but it still gets under my skin every time it happens. This time we are going on a half hour late. My phone is silent, he has not called to tell me he’s going to be late, another thing I’m used to from him. I am beginning to suspect why he’s late: a young woman named Katie Pignatelli.
Katie and Albie are young people in love, and I hate it. I can’t stand Katie, and I make no effort to hide it. It is still months before I’ll realize I am only jealous of their happiness, but for now all I know is it’s all her fault. He’s late to hang out with me because he’s with her, she who is trying to take my closest friend from me. I move from the front of the Starbucks, where I had taken up space in a metal chair, to the roadside sign. I am going to wait and see exactly when he arrives, so that I can berate him accurately at a later time.
Sitting in the cold, night air, my anger keeps me warm. It is a bubbling, boiling, living thing deep within me. I can feel it stretching out and filling all my limbs. It spills over as Albie arrives 45 minutes late, in the passenger seat of Katie’s forest green Jeep Cherokee. The sound the rage makes as it forces its way past my tightly clenched teeth and curled lips is a deep, resonating growl. I rise from my perch and head away from Starbucks, walking at a fast clip, up Wolf Road.
My anger is matched only by my self-satisfaction at being right about why he was late. It doesn’t do anything to take the edge off of my anger, however, and I continue to seethe. Second on my list of feelings, is hunger. I hadn’t eaten, I was waiting for Albie; so now I head toward McDonalds. I arrive and push my way in the door, past two employees enjoying their smoke break. They giggle as I skulk past, and the mercury of my rage rises another notch. There is no one at the counter, no one to take my order. I wait a few minutes, stealing a few glances at the cackling, smoking employees outside the door. There is nobody coming to serve me. It is time for me to leave. I exit the way I came in, pushing past the two very rude employees once again.
I now make my way “home”. By the way, the part of this story that has passed into legend is coming right up, I hope I haven’t lost you already. So now, here I am, walking down Sand Creek Road, minding my own business and seething in anger. I may even be growling to myself, who knows (I’m certainly not going to tell. Oh, who am I kidding, I am most definitely growling to myself).
It is as I approach Colonie Central High School that the breaking point arrives. A car passes, with 4 teenage boys, and as they pass they roll down their windows and extend their middle fingers for my viewing pleasure. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, in a very real sense because really, how trivial is that? It’s just a finger, and it’s only offensive because we arbitrarily apply that meaning to it.
The rage takes a hold of me with such a powerful grip that I double over. I let out a loud, powerful, primal scream and turn to watch the passing car. I leap from the sidewalk into the middle of the road, raise my fist in the air, toward the Moon, the stars, and the whole universe and scream at the top of my lungs, “YOU WILL RESPECT ME!”
I continue to scream until my throat burns and my lungs beg for air. Then I take a deep breath, turn around, and head home to my fold-out couch. When I get there, it is silent and dark. Albie’s parents, who by the way are saints, are fast asleep. Albie is still out with her.
I grab a sheet of paper and a magic marker, and scrawl out a note for Albie to read when he chooses to return home. I am satisfied with it immensely, blind to its childish anger, not to mention the passive-aggressiveness of leaving a note upon his pillow in the first place.
I crawl into my bed carefully (There is a bar in the middle that will ruin your night if you don’t lay on it just right) and slowly drift off to sleep while day-dreaming about telling Albie off.
He arrives home after I’m asleep, glad to have put off the coming conflict. He goes straight to his room, closing the door behind him. Staring up at him, big and ugly with anger, is my note. Written sloppily in rushed handwriting is the following:
ALBIE. PLEASE PRETEND YOU HAVE EVEN AN OUNCE OF RESPECT FOR ME AND NEVER SPEAK OF KATIE TO ME EVER AGAIN!