The Good Kind of Rage
Charles C Cole
As arranged, I met Dahlia at the city park. It was the first weekend in June, and the place reeked of lilacs. She’d come recommended by a co-worker. “She’s the real deal!” said Sven from Finance. “Nobody gets people over bad relationships like Dahlia. It’s a freaky gift and well worth the money.”
Dahlia was thin as a rail, in her early thirties. She was an angel in black, even her fingernails, wearing heavy eyeliner like a silent movie star. Her temples were streaked with white like the Bride of Frankenstein. Big personality? Performance artist?
We sat opposite each other at a concrete picnic table. Kids were running around not far away. A father, lit cigarette in hand, began to sit at the far end of our table for a smoke break, while watching his son play on the slide.
“Don’t even think about it!” warned Dahlia. He looked stung, but wandered off without incident.
“If I’d tried that,” I said, “he’d probably have decked me. Good for you.”
“It’s self-preservation. I gave up smoking three years ago when my husband and I adopted our daughter. That’s them by the little-kid swings. The tall one’s Cameron and the small, screeching one’s Amara.” Dahlia waved and they waved back, with big goofy smiles.
“I’m happy for you,” I said. “A year ago, I thought that would be me. I thought I’d found the one. She’s moved on.”
“Now you have to.”
“I’ll be fine. There are plenty of fish in the sea, if you’ll forgive the expression. But I need to lose the anger first. I feel like a lit fuse.” I was unexpectedly chatty. “My wristwatch died. Is that related? Dad gave it to me when I graduated from high school. The speaker to my alarm clock sounds distorted.”
Suddenly business: “You got the money?”
I handed her an envelope with one hundred in cash. She peeked inside but didn’t count it.
“You ready? Got someone to drive you home?”
“You’re not gonna wipe my memory?”
“Can’t. Wouldn’t. Just make that part of your past feel old and distant. But you’ll be tired for a couple of days, like from a nasty hangover.”
“It’s just a block to my place. I walked.”
“Phone Sven if it feels too far. Promise me. It might happen. Does he know you’re here?”
“I can call him.”
“I recommend you take your phone out of your pocket. Sometimes the battery takes a hit during the process.” I did as I was told. “When you get home, take your shoes off and walk around the yard for at least fifteen minutes, really feel the grass and dirt between your toes. I recommend hugging a tree, tight like a bear hug. You’ll need to ground yourself.”
“Whatever it takes.”
“It’s just energy,” she expounded. “You’ll make more.”
“Can I ask: What happens to the rage?”
“That’s mine. Didn’t Sven explain? I’m the drummer in a heavy metal band. I love it, but it’s exhausting. Being happy domestically is great. It’s like a natural chemical high. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much, but it’s flattened my performance on stage. This is good for both of us.”
She extended her hands toward me, palms up. Her bare arms were covered in tattoos, sleeves of ink. One forearm looked like Mount Rushmore, with the faces of Mr. Rogers, Jim Henson and the peacenik painter from TV, Bob Ross. The other forearm had a tattoo of a full-lipped skull wearing a wreath of open-fanged snakes, with something in Latin written under it.
She beamed as I checked out her designs. “It’s not good for me to get rid of all the darkness. I believe in balance.”
I uncrossed my arms and reached for her.
“I promise it won’t hurt, much.”
There was a brief static shock when we touched. I flinched. “It’s okay,” she said. “That’s as bad as it gets.” She wrapped her hands around mine and closed her eyes. “Good thing you called me. This is nasty stuff coursing through you. You might have really hurt someone.”
“Take it,” I said. “Take every bit of it. There’s plenty more where that came from.”
She arched her back and neck and rolled her head, slowly. “Look over my shoulder at the children. They’re naturals. They use energy almost as quickly as they make it; nothing stays bottled up. They live in the moment.”
“My eyelids are getting heavy,” I said, slightly panicked.
“Let them close. You might take a little nap. I’ll be here. I’ll take care of you.”
That was it. Next thing I knew: someone poked me gently in the side. I opened my eyes. It was Dahlia’s daughter, Amara. “Time to wake up, mister.”
Dahlia was still sitting opposite me, massaging her hands together while Cameron gave her a shoulder rub.
“Wow!” I said.
“Wow!” said Dahlia.
“Wow!” said Cameron and Amara.
“I feel like a human puddle,” I said.
“Call Sven if you can’t make it. I’d walk you but I promised a little girl some ice cream.” Her daughter giggled. “Come here, you!” said Dahlia, scooping Amara up.
“Aren’t you afraid of giving my nastiness to your daughter?”
“Dahlia’s a professional,” explained Cameron. “She stores things till she needs them.”
“Don’t try this at home,” said Amara, wagging her finger at me and giggling.
“Besides, I have two shows tonight, and I am going to rock the place senseless. No offense, but you should break your heart more often; I’m on fire!”
“Mommy, time to go! You promised!” said Amara.
I slept hard, dreaming of my first crush, in seventh grade, when life was still rainbows and unicorns.
Though Dahlia’s band, the Raging Locusts, was just the opening set for a national act, the review in the paper the next day said they had the manic energy of a name-brand in their prime and were ready for their first multi-state tour. Good for them.