The knot in his shoulder, just to the right of his neck, throbbed intently. (“You mean intensely, don’t you?”) No, intently – it throbbed on purpose.
“I’m the chip on your shoulder,” the knot said.
“I always thought you’d be up here, where I could brush you off,” he said, indicating the top of his shoulder.
“But you can’t brush me off so easily, can you?” the knot said. “I sit here, at the top of your back, where you can reach back and push on me and wish I would go away, but you can’t relax it. I’m here to stay. What are you gonna do about it?”
“Maybe I’ll get a pill,” he said. “Maybe I’ll get one of those vibrator things that you press against your muscles to get them to unwind.”
“Might work, might help a little,” said the knot. “I’m going to stay here, though, all bunched up and reminding you that you can’t relax – a physical manifestation of your anger and frustration.”
“I’m not angry,” he said angrily.
“You are so full of it,” said the knot. “You are so bundled up in your anger that it’s an old friend, sitting by your side and keeping you warm at night. You’re so angry you could spit nails for 40 days and still have a 40-day supply of nails.”
“Oh yeah? And what am I so angry about, tough guy?”
“Oh, you know. All the cliches. Wasted years. Regrets. Bad decisions. Wrong moves. No moves – all those times you sat there doing nothing when you could have been doing something. Yep – you are one massive collection of cliches just waiting to unleash some anger somewhere.”
“So I’m going to lash out because I’m angry at myself.”
“Maybe,” said the knot. “Maybe you’ll be smart about it.”
“Smart anger? That’s a new one.”
“Focused anger. Redirected anger.” The knot loosened a little bit. “Anger is emotional energy, isn’t it? You have all that kinetic energy and you want to punch something or rearrange a face. That’s why I’m right here, in this spot, clenching the muscle that pulls back your fist. What if you put that energy to use?”
“Yeah, yeah, go and do something positive instead of stewing in my juices or punching the mail carrier or drinking a bottle of wine.”
“See? You already knew what to do,” the knot said. “No wonder you’re angry at yourself.”
“You’re so smug and I-told-you-so,” he yelled at the knot. “I can’t do it! I can’t get out of this chair and go change my life. I’ve been fighting myself my whole life. Might as well just face the fact that I’m a loser. Time’s running out, and I’m not going to win in this lifetime.”
“That’s your final answer?” said the knot. “I guess I’m going to stick around for a while.”
“Ah, shut up,” he said and opened the refrigerator door. A six-pack of beer and two bottles of wine glistened in the dim light.
He stared at the bottles for a long minute, sighed, and closed the door empty-handed.
The knot loosened, ever so slightly.