In eighth grade we went to visit my friend’s extended family in North Jersey. We were thirteen. It was a good day. On the ride back my friend and her dad got into an argument. He started to yell at her and she put her headphones in, ignoring him. He didn’t like that. He needed her to be made small. He pressed his foot down on the gas and accelerated up to 90, 100, 120, higher. I kept checking, but she didn’t even flinch. 15 minutes like this maybe, on the highway. Driving right up on death’s ass and switching lanes. Teaching a lesson. Who not to upset.
I once loved a boy who punched walls. Lifted furniture and dropped it. Slammed doors so hard the room shook. He called it diffusing. I called it a warning. Once he made me mad and I threw my phone at a tree, wanting badly to watch it dissolve. It took me three tries to crack it, and it still rang when he called later that night. I answered. I didn’t want him to be mad at me.
Another boy I loved had a silent anger. He surrounded himself in an impenetrable plexiglass contempt. And I became a muffled voice. Muted.
Last year, I made a man on the street mad by saying “no, thank you.” He followed me into and through two stores. I walked three blocks past my house in a snowstorm to avoid him knowing my address.
My ex-boyfriend would threaten to destroy himself when he got angry at me. If I didn’t stay on the phone he was going to drink bleach he said. I stayed on the phone.
I became a broken record in the company of men. Are you mad at me? Are you mad at me? Are you mad at me? Are you sure?
I used to panic when I thought that men were mad at me, but now I go to war. Fill a room with myself. Will the ground not to tremble. I cackle in the face of their chest-pounding roars. Because I have cowered in the face of too many men’s anger. Followed by the letter the syllabus of the lessons they tried to teach me. I live now by the rubric that my friend had mastered at thirteen. I don’t flinch in the face of their manufactured danger. Because angry men think that making bold women shrink will detract from how small they are. They think their anger is god when their tantrums are a whisper in the void. A void as gargantuan as me.