There was suddenly an insistent rapping on my family’s door. It was a Tuesday night, about 8 pm, winter, very dark out, and raining on top of that. Despite the unexpectedness of the late caller the man outside hollered in, Hi! Hello! so familiarly that my mom still opened the door thinking it was a family member or a friend. Instead, there was a college aged boy on the threshold. He was rather chubby, white, had light brown curly hair underneath a blue baseball cap. He wore a heather grey sweatshirt with the block letters of his uni and sneakers. He was wet. He didn’t introduce himself but I feel like his name was Victor; his friends call him Vic.
Victor: Hi, I’m staying with my grandparents a block away, I’m locked out of their house….
Mom: Oh, do you need a telephone?
Victor : No, no, god no. I’m raising money to send kids to theater camp. I go to school in Ashland. Ashland is–
Mom: I know Ashland.
Victor: Don’t say you know Ashland like it’s obvious. You’d be surprised how many people have no idea.
Mom: Ha, OK.
Victor: My dad is making me do this, he’s an engineer. I don’t need a big donation, just like $80.
Mom: I’m sorry, let me stop you, we’re not interested.
Victor: Oh don’t do this to me! Just give something, even a 20. I’ll tack it on to the 20 from the old guy across the street.
Mom: Paul gave you something? Paul’s great.
Victor: Yeah he is great! [Laughs] He was so great!
Mom: How about you just say we gave you 10 of his dollars? [Laughs]
Victor: Do not laugh about that, that is not funny at all. I’m a comedian, I know what’s funny and this is not!
Mom: I thought it was funny.
Victor: Well it’s not. I was at the hospital this morning watching my girlfriend have a miscarriage!!!
Mom: ….OK goodnight. [Shut]
Victor: FUCK this fucking bullshit! [Screamed at the top of his lungs from our driveway.]
I suppose every word out of Victor’s mouth could have been an utter lie, or a weird acting assignment, or a ploy to get money, but I’ve decided to accept it as his reality. The epicness of his sudden meltdown, which he pushed into the private space of our home, was stunning. I couldn’t see Victor from where I was sitting on the couch, but I could hear him clearly. He spoke with an affected accent and sounded like he had too high an opinion of his own wit. At the same time, he might have been articulate if he wasn’t so clearly emotional and possibly unhinged.
Victor stayed hovering on the doorstep but the hairs pricked up on my neck and it struck me that he might suddenly spring inside at any moment. As he swung between overly friendly and psychotic I wondered, is this guy friend or foe? This is America after all. Was he going to whip out a hand gun and pull the trigger in our faces? It would be gruesome.
As unsettling as he was to encounter he was also strangely mesmerizing. Victor’s conniption was so desperate, so public, so self-indulgent. He knocked right on my family’s door, dumped his emotions into the entry and walked cussing away. It was a drive by! He knew he was completely out of line and he defiantly challenged us to turn him down, to give him a reason to explode. He just couldn’t wait to prove that the tragedy of his existence dwarfed any problem that might be burdening us.
I imagined his life as a shoe box diorama. Victor’s stern engineer father, carved out of clay, was yelling at him in one corner: theater’s not a real major!; his girlfriend slept in a hospital bed in another corner, she had a purple streak in her hair that Vic loved; a stack of books to study for finals lay in another; his friends played video games and ate stale pizza in the center; and the family tabby, who he loved as a kid but who he kind of ignored now, was on the counter trying to lift up the tinfoil that covered the dinner his grandma left out for when he returned home. Dammit! Now the cat ate my dinner! What more could go wrong?!
I wondered if he felt liberated now that he’d laid aside social customs and literally screamed FUCK YOU! to my family. In a bizarre way I could relate to his tantrum. I don’t think he acted bravely or freely. No, he was aggravating and a little scary. But part of me could relate to the temptation to be so publicly reckless.
One time my neighbor backed his truck directly into my parked car while I was sitting in it. He was already someone who I struggled with and the complete idiocy of his actions sent me flying way over the edge. I screamed at him. Yes, for hitting my car, but mostly just for being such a supreme and utter fool, who I suddenly loathed. I yelled so loud that my step-dad came outside to see what the commotion was. I was so frustrated by this man’s blindness and its impact on my life (and my dad’s car) that I went inside after my histrionic show and sobbed.
In the melodramatic battle between good and evil in our lives, sometimes it just feels wonderful to be the insane person, to realize your power to act like a total buffoon in front of anyone. You might go home and feel better at your audience’s expense, while they build you into their family lore as the crazy person they once saw dancing in the street.
Victor wanted some credit for his anger; he showed his misery off like a badge of honor. He held all those intimate details in the back of his throat and spit them into our house like a giant, disdainful loogie. His hysteria rippled beneath the surface of his cracked comedian, theater, college kid mask. Victor backed away from our doorstep like a wounded wild animal, but that façade crumbled quickly in our driveway and washed down the gutters with the rain. He was just a guy and he loped off to terrorize someone else.