Don’t ask me why I was standing in the middle of my backyard that Friday evening in March unscrewing a bolt, but do know that I was standing in the middle of my backyard that Friday evening in the middle of March, and I was attempting to unscrew a bolt. The bolt belonged to the remains of a gazebo we had built last summer, a fairly nice, painted-aluminum thing with copper colorings and khaki drapes. It had been blown over in a wind-storm sometime over the winter and I had been dreading the day I would have to come outside and take it apart, piece by piece, and finally get rid of the wreckage of what had once been a beautiful center piece to our back yard.
The reason I had finally gotten around to taking it apart was that I was angry. This is also probably why I didn’t care that it was raining, or that the sun was setting in less than an hour, or that I would much rather be in my room sitting around and doing nothing. I enjoy physical labor more when I’m angry. If I can avoid any complications, I work briskly and feel better overall when I am done. Unfortunately, this was not one of the times I avoided complications.
The particular bolt I was working on seemed to know that I didn’t need something frustrating to deal with. It waited until it was the last one that needed unscrewing to suddenly become difficult. After ten minutes, I had gone at it with Phillip’s head ***** drivers, flat heads, two different types of wrenches, and my own bare hands, but still it refused to budge. In between mad attempts to turn the stubborn piece of metal, I would make quick little circles away from it. Up the brick path I was working next to then back down it, alternately glaring at and shunning my nemesis as I went. Each circle was my way of letting out the excess frustration building with each failed attack on the bolt. But as my attacks become more frequent and my efforts seemingly more futile, I was beginning to lose control of emotions.
The whole situation felt menacing. The corpse of the gazebo wore a condescending smile, my tools giggled each time they failed, and the bolt said nothing, sitting smugly in its socket. I will defeat you, I thought, I will unscrew you and it will feel good to throw you into the woods and forget about you. But I knew that winning this battle would not mean I won the war. My mood was shot. While I set out to make myself feel better, I only ended up feeling worse in the long run. Regardless, this realization did not reduce my anger. I was determined to unscrew this ****** and that was all I could think about.
Taking hold of a wrench in one hand and a ***** driver in the other, I twisted and jammed the two things for as long as I could. When the bolt didn’t come unbound, I grabbed one half of the structure I was trying to deconstruct and began to rip and tear it with all of my might. When it still wouldn’t budge, I loudly screamed “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck”, and with one last burst of strength, lifted it above my head and used my other hand to smash the bolt until it was loose in the socket. This was when I finally was able to unscrew the bolt and its uneventful fall to the ground was somehow unsatisfying at the time.
Taking my newly freed hand, I grunted loudly and hurled the hunk of precision cut aluminum piping over to where another piece of the former gazebo lay. I sat breathing heavily, even if the moment lasted only a few seconds and required only a fraction of my strength. I realize now that I breathed so hard because this was an emotionally straining task. Man against machine. Unstoppable against the unmovable. And I had won, but not before I lost control. Lost myself deep into a fit of rage where I could hardly recognize myself. Anger, I realized long ago, is not my natural state. I get sick with it after even a short time. Those retched moments when rage takes over the entirety my mind are some of the worst in my life.
I’m still not sure why we humans have never found a better way to deal with anger. We have two options: To bottle it up or to let it out. And the former always eventually leads to the latter. In my life, I’ve managed to avoid anger all together. I stray from conflict, do not work with people I dislike, avoid restricting my ability to get out of any contract or dedication. But I can’t always hide from it, and I suppose that’s why I was standing in the middle of my backyard that Friday evening in March trying to unscrew a bolt that I was convinced was my very worst enemy. I was trying to untighten something much deeper, much darker, something I don’t think I, or most people, ever have the depth to deal with. It seemed the only way out was to fall back on the imperfect methods of my ancestors, and for the time being, I decided that was alright.