Episcopalian Anger Management
David sits in the cathedral, feeling helpless for his elder sister Betty, recently married to Nancy Botkin, soon to be a victim of a wave of homophobia. Courtesy of the new president. He doesn’t know what that’ll look like, how to pin down hatred and that frightens him. David is nineteen and he is here for what they call a post-service “conversation” in light of the election. Basically, Episcopalian anger management.
He’d hoped going to this session, the first Sunday after the election would offer him some semblance of direction. He needed to make sense of the chaotic sea of politics and hatred and divisions. He hoped he could find some answers, something to help his sister, shield her from the inevitable, from the vast monstrous being that was coming. After all, she raised him through their mother’s ups and downs, through Mom’s artistic crises, her drinking, smoking, her time in and out of the institutions. Somehow Betty maintained her sanity. She ensured that David made it to college, insisted on offering feedback on every facet of his life, ensuring that nothing was left neglected
He had hoped to find other fellow Episcopalians equally helpless, angry, bewildered, and willing to give voice to that, untrammeled by tact and diplomacy. Instead, sitting in the vast sanctuary, among the stained-glass windows spilling forth reds and navy blues, he feels as if he is sinking even deeper. People dance around fundamental truths like ballerinas: God may have bestowed love upon all and the church may affirm all this, but the new president is doing his best to sweep people in a tide of hate, including his own dear sister. No one seems to fully feel the rage, the anger of it all. No one knows how to paint hatred in concrete images. He wonders why he even bothered going to church, except for the supposedly progressive aspects of it.
His fellow Episcopalians, men and women in smart suits and lavender dresses, describe post-election desires in one sentence, diplomatically of course. Betty would hate this, this withdrawal of truths, their calm manner, their composure. She believed that this was an even more unforgivable act, especially after shielding questions about their mother’s mental stability.
“Grab people by the balls,” she always said. “Tell them the truth. It can hurt, but it’s better to deal with stuff head on.”
Tonight’s conception of truth is comprised of platitudes, uttered slowly, methodically, as if they are trying to bury the rawness, as if it will all disappear if they take the right approach.
“Let’s have a dialogue with opponents.”
“Let’s find common ground.”
“Let’s try to heal.”
The answers blend into each other in some discordant, sick chorus, like the jazz music his mother used to listen to on her worst nights, the nights filled with drink. David wonders if these parishioners have family members equally vulnerable. Or friends. A lesbian daughter perhaps. An immigrant comrade from some Middle Eastern idyll. He feels a kind of rage rising to him, a desire to dissect them, to make them tell the unpleasant truths.
David thinks of Betty on her honeymoon. He hopes she and Nancy are having a good time. He pictures Betty’s gentle laugh, protecting him from Mom’s tirades. The sense of solace in her bluntness, trying to keep him from fucking his life up. She told him things Mom couldn’t tell him, too obsessed with becoming the next Nabokov.
“You gotta care, Davy,” she’d told him when he got a B-plus in his literature class last semester. “I know I seem like I’m on your ass, but you want to have a good life, you need that A. I hope you understand. I do this because I love you. You deserve better than what we have now.”
He imagines Betty giving and giving, even as the world keeps taking, passing her by, whether it’s Mom sliding into a dark, deep hole, or his fellow parishioners trying to be diplomatic, genteel. Too politely Christian. He feels a force rising to him, faster and faster, and David knows he cannot control it.
“Fuck this,” he growls, the words reverberating with a kind of harshness, echoing among the vaulted arches, the neatly polished mahogany pews, the vast spaces around him. Shocked eyes flicker.
“Excuse me?” Reverend Margaret Doyle, the cathedral’s Dean, says.
“Fuck this,” he growls. “Let’s be honest here. We don’t need a fucking dialogue. We need to admit the truths. Trump is a vile motherfucker. He’s hurting us all. If we’re not white, if we’re not straight, we’re just worthless. And it’s going to get worse and worse if we can’t talk about that, about what it means to be hated.”
“I understand your feelings,” Reverend Doyle says gently. “But we need to keep this polite. Insults and cursing won’t heal us. Remember the Beatitudes. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.”
“The meek inherit the Earth, but the assholes inherit the White House,” David barks, feeling a kind of shame, not at the outburst, but at his inability to make them see this force in front of them.
“Tell us more, David,” Reverend Doyle says kindly. “Just watch the language. How do you describe your feelings? A loss of faith? Uncertainty? Boil it down.”
The thing is he can’t boil it down to simplicity. It’s about love, about his inability to be a good brother. It’s about a world that’s beckoning closer and closer. He can’t describe his sister in a sentence, can’t describe what he thinks could happen to her. He and the Episcopalians are speaking two languages and the gap is becoming vaster.
“Fuck this,” he growls again, feeling tears, warm and heavy upon his cheeks. “It’s no use. It’s no fucking use.”
He strides through the cathedral, vaulted arches above him threatening to tumble wildly, or so it seems here and now.
About the Author: Mir-Yashar is a native of Boise, Idaho. He received a BA in political science from Boise State University and is a graduate of Colorado State University’s MFA program in fiction. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals, including Ink In Thirds, The Courtship of Winds, and Out of the Gutter Online. A self-proclaimed Romantic and Big Lebowski devotee, Mir-Yashar lives in Fort Collins, CO. His number one goal is to write the great American short-story collection.