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Rage

By Jeff Ragsdale

Memoir

A friend of mine, a fellow stand-up comic, told me that he fantasizes about killing his parents. In rages I’ve felt homicidal, but I’d never fantasized about violence until recently. The New York subways are always stalling. They constantly make you late. I began fantasizing about taking an axe to the subway car during one of these stalls. Axing the doors, windows, destroying the entire car. I felt myself getting up with an axe, walking to the subway door—I could see myself tearing the car apart. It was the first time I’d ever felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. I had a similar experience when I was walking near Lincoln Center. This three-story Barnes & Noble just closed. The windows were papered. I was walking by and had this fantasy of taking a machine gun and shooting out all the windows. I even put my arm up and pretended like I was shooting. I was imagining a clothing store inside and everybody smiling, trying to sell me their shit.

 

 

I guess I got off to a bad start, back in high school in Bellingham, WA. Mason and I were in my Honda Prelude on prom night, and we were racing a Mercedes down Alabama Hill at two in the morning. We were both doing at least 70 in a 35. A cop caught up to us. We didn’t even see him behind us till he flipped his lights on. He was passing both of our cars on the left side, telling us to pull over through his loudspeaker. I saw a street coming up on the right. I didn’t know whether I could make the corner because we were still doing around 60. I said fuck it—I knew I’d get a DUI if I stopped.  I cranked the wheel and we barely made the corner. The cop couldn’t. I drove about a block and ditched my car. Mason and I hid in someone’s carport for about an hour in our tuxes. We got a cab and I picked up my car the next day.

 

 

My anger’s gotten to the point where I may have crossed that line. In rages I completely lose myself. It’s as if another person takes over. Even today, this muscle-bound thug got in my face and started threatening me. I could’ve easily gone outside and beat him with a baseball bat. Ten years ago that wouldn’t have been possible. I can detach my feelings now.

 

 

I hate New York. It’s freezing nine months a year and then a jungle. It’s disgusting. Everything’s dirty. The people don’t seem to mind. They’re used to it. Nothing bothers these people. I hate almost everything here. You have no space. Everyone’s in your face. I hate all the homeless bums. The puke, the piss. I hate the subways. I hate the punk gangsters blasting their shit music. I hate wearing a coat. I’ll never wear a big coat again. You have to wear these overcoats that cover your entire body.

 

 

My off-and-on girlfriend Kira told me she was leaving for the weekend with another man. I suspected she’d been seeing others. She emailed me before she left: “Let’s meet at the park for a minute. Let’s not even talk, let’s just hold each other.” I didn’t go. I wanted to try to hurt her, convince her I really didn’t care. The truth was that it was the most painful experience I’d ever had. I wanted to marry Kira.

 

 

I began fantasizing about killing myself in front of Kira. I finally understood why people committed suicide. You see no way out. You’re stuck. You hate yourself. You hate your life. You become hypersensitive to sounds, smells, looks.

 

 

I got drunk and sent Kira harassing emails. She went to the 30th Precinct and pressed charges. Detective Alvarez called and said that he had a warrant for my arrest. He asked me to come in. I didn’t.

Two weeks later I met Kira at a diner. I begged her to drop the charge. I told her how drunk I was when I wrote those emails. It’s true; I was hammered. It was around 2 a.m. I’d just called a friend, Al Burgo, and told him I felt like I was losing my mind. Al told me not to drink anymore. I took my laptop out at the bar (I’d been writing earlier that day so I had it with me). I emailed Kira four threatening emails. I didn’t actually say I was going to kill her. I remember basically punching my keyboard with each letter I typed.

Kira said she’d think about rescinding her police statement, which would most likely get the DA to drop the charge. We started quibbling in the street. I ended up telling Kira that her mother (who’s deceased) would be ashamed of her for pressing charges. Kira flipped. She was drunk, which didn’t help. I kept telling her how sorry I was. I didn’t want the police coming (the warrant was still outstanding). A cop car drove by us at 103rd and Broadway. I went down into the subway station hoping to catch a train. Kira followed. She was telling the subway booth attendant to call the police. I turned and went back up the stairs. Kira began grabbing me. On the street I saw a police car flipping a U-y. Kira was now screaming hysterically. People were watching. I started running. The main reason I didn’t want to get caught was that I was in the middle of my book Jeff, One Lonely Guy. My book’s a collection of phone calls, texts, and voicemails from people who called after I posted a flyer in NYC which read, “If anyone wants to talk about anything, call me 347-469-3173, Jeff, one lonely guy.”  My flyer was a genuine attempt to connect with people after my breakup with Kira. I was lonely, isolated, extremely depressed. I thought I’d get a handful of calls. I got thousands. If I was in jail, people wouldn’t be able to call me and they’d think my flyer was over, or that it was a prank.

I got to Riverside Drive. Kira was pulling on my suede suit coat, ripping it. She’s a phenomenal athlete and I had my computer bag loaded with my laptop and books so I couldn’t run that fast. I finally threw my coat off. Kira stopped. When I was a few hundred feet ahead I looked back and saw a police car next to her. According to Kira, three or four people had called 911 over this running-grabbing-screaming spectacle. I could hear the police car racing towards me. I jumped over a large concrete retaining wall and hid in bushes. It was pouring. I was underneath a bush for a few hours. I got up and went to the subway station and rode home. I expected the police to be at my apartment. It was around 4 a.m. when I got in. I checked my email. Kira’d already sent me one: “I can’t believe what’s become of us.”

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Jeff Ragsdale JEFF RAGSDALE is an actor, stand-up comedian, national game show champion, and the author of Jeff, One Lonely Guy. He is currently at work on a documentary film and a memoir. Ragsdale has been featured on Inside Edition, Last Comic Standing, BBC News, CBS Sunday Morning, The Jeff Probst Show. Print publications include The New York Times, The New Yorker, Best Nonrequired American Reading 2012, Huffington Post, New York Post. His website is jeffonelonelyguy.com.

4 Responses to “Rage”

  1. kimberly says:

    I just finished reading the excerpt from the Rage novel and I absolutely loved it. Most people in the world rarely know what its like to be crippled with anxiety as well as anger and frustration. Its a terrible burden to walk through life having had your entire nature changed, your Psyche badly and irrevocably damaged. Thats what children of dysfunctional families deal with everyday. I’m just glad that Mr. Ragsdale has channeled his pain into a true work of genius.

  2. Gloria says:

    Intense. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. christian says:

    Vivid and extreme. You can feel this writing. Very visceral.

  4. jmblaine says:

    Excellent.
    Best thing I’ve read here
    in a very long time.

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