People have a lot to say about redheads.
Well, not a lot. Quite a little, actually. It’s the same handful of tasteless remarks swallowed and regurgitated, revolving by on a monotonous conveyer belt, over and over. And over. And over.
“Did Bozo escape from the circus?”
“Eat too many carrots?”
“Hey, is your head bleeding?”
“Where’s Daddy Warbucks?”
“Lucyyyyyy, you got some ‘splainin to do!”
And of course, Every Asshole’s favorite, “You’ll know she’s a real redhead if the carpet matches the drapes!”
To which I have to wonder: Who’s he sleeping with? It’s 2012. All the good homes have hardwood floors.
But, I digress.
It’s annoying, yes. But I’ve had 32 years of practice at politely laughing off tacky behavior. I simply excuse myself by saying either, “I must powder my nose,” or, “you’re a freaking idiot” and move on.
But the comment that bothers me the most is the one that feels like a sucker punch, because it’s true: “Redheads have fiery tempers.”
Now, I don’t know if this is true of all redheads, per se. I don’t know too many other natural redheads and those I’ve met seem pretty nice. But then, I’d imagine any one of you could say the same for me at a safe distance. And one thing is for sure – THIS redhead spits flames.
I’ve gotten better over the years at recognizing actual disrespect from imagined. A decade ago, I would have beheaded you for greeting me “the wrong way.” Now I have the restraint to at least know you before I suit up for a match. And thankfully, not being inebriated 95% of the time helps one to assess situations with a more objective eye. So while I still suspect every tenth person is plotting to throw me under “The Bus” and needs to be stopped, I rarely react until I’m sure. But when I’m sure – when I’m absolutely sure – what happens can only be aptly described as a binge.
A blackout force of anger surges through my body, and I can feel myself physically changing, like the Hulk. I check out of myself and thank the clerk for my stay. Emotionally, I feel nothing. Physically, I become part-machine. My pulse quickens and keeps pace. The volume is deafening, like a booming base on a summer night in the Bronx. I can feel little engines churning in my palms; two cars revving up before a drag race. Condensation forms on my upper lip from the hot blasts of air spewing from my nostrils. My chest rises and falls so dramatically that I actually notice my chest rising and falling dramatically. It’s the only time I’m aware of my breath. Hot, flowing, deep breath. Like lava.
And when that lava starts to rise, words bubble to the surface. Words that have been mating, multiplying, but lying in wait. Dormant. My logical inner voice tries to gather them frantically, stuffing as many as she can into the floorboards of a little rowboat. As she whooshes with the torrent, she grabs at organs, muscles, ribs… anything to stay safe and on the inside.
But Logic is never a match for my temper. The purge will come eventually, no matter how logic begs and pleads, and reminds me of “the last time.”
I lose peripheral vision and gain focus. My laser eyes zero in on my pray. Sirens sound. Blinding red lights circle the set from above. The pleasantly detached voice of a sexy female robot warns, “Emergency. Emergency.” Most scramble for cover. The few who are experienced enough to know this scene dive to the floor and roll off like soldiers, just in time to escape the crushing metal emergency doors as they descend from the sky.
And then it’s done. The lava erupts and all of those words I’d been coddling in safe cozy thoughts wash over the offender. Singeing, scarring, permanent. Logic slips through my two front teeth, clutching only a shard of her splintered little rowboat. I spit. She falls to the floor, shrugging her shoulders as she commends herself for trying.
“Next time,” she hopes, wringing out her hair. “Next time.”