Your basket is empty.

Two Stories

The Sound of Music

At first, all you can see are clouds, then an aerial view of mountains, then a green valley, and a lake, and suddenly an open grassy area, and then there’s me, spinning around with my arms outstretched and I’m singing. It’s interesting, really, because I remember how my Auntie Ling used to do exactly the same thing. Like me, Auntie Ling loved music, and she loved being out in the hills, singing. In China, Auntie Ling was a riverboat gambler who loved to sing but could not find any singing work. She migrated to Australia in search of a better life, and now she is an officer in the Danish Imperial Navy who lives in a beautiful mansion in France. At any rate, I soon realise that I do not have time to think about Auntie Ling. This is because the bells of the abbey have started ringing. I am going to be late for chapel so I run to the abbey. Unfortunately, I return to the abbey to find that Mother Superior has made arrangements for me to look after the children of a Captain von Trapp. 

So, a few days later, I pack my bags and go to Captain von Trapp’s house. It turns out that Captain von Trapp is very cold to me, and I find myself being worried about whether he likes me or not. Yet, through a process of winning the hearts of the von Trapp children and disobeying the Captain’s orders and talking with the Captain about 80s television shows and pop songs, Captain von Trapp and I eventually end up becoming much closer. In fact, it is not long before Captain von Trapp and I are having sex and falling in love. 

Once we have gotten together, I find myself incredibly drawn to Captain von Trapp, and he to me. We start spending a great deal of time with each other; we want to be together all the time. As a result, by the end of the month, we are already finishing each other’s sentences and laughing at exactly the same time and in exactly the same way. We start dressing alike. We start walking alike. We even start having the same desires and ambitions. At times, I find myself wondering if so much commonality between two people is a good thing. How do you solve a problem like co-dependency? 

But, the thing is, it eventually becomes apparent that Captain von Trapp and I are not merging in a typical ‘couples’ sense. In fact, it soon becomes obvious that something quite different is happening. What is happening is this: I am starting to become more and more like Captain von Trapp. I have begun wearing clothes that are very similar to the Captain’s clothes. I have begun to copy the Captain’s gestures. I have begun to insist that people call me ‘Captain’. There is so much about the Captain that I like. There is the air of confidence that surrounds him. There is his ability to look so good in a suit. There is the way that his stern manner commands authority. He is wealthy and sophisticated. He is even a good dancer. No wonder I find it incredibly satisfying to emulate a man like him. 

However, this state of affairs soon raises various issues. In particular, the question ‘How do you solve a problem like co-dependency?’ is soon replaced by a more pressing question: Can who you like to ‘do’ also be bound up in issues of who you are or want to be? Unfortunately, Captain von Trapp is in no mood to explore this question. He becomes uneasy about these changes in me and we start to argue about the new me. He tries to take a disciplinary approach with me. He orders me to stop answering the telephone as him. He becomes angry when other people mistake me for him. He tries to stop me repeating everything he says a second after he says it. I do not blame him for his anger and discomfort but it eventually forces me to flee back to the abbey. 

Within the walls of the abbey, I seek the counsel of Mother Superior. I ask her: Can who you like to ‘do’ also be bound up in issues of who you are or want to be? Interestingly, when I pose this question to her, she abruptly confesses to me that she has always wanted to have sex with The Fonz from Happy Days. As soon as she says this, she looks away from me. But I immediately tell her that I am a huge fan of The Fonz and that I grew up being inspired by The Fonz as a role model of masculinity. When Mother Superior hears this, she looks a little more at ease. I then confess to her my own secret Fonz-related fantasy: I am The Fonz, looking really cool and handsome, and I am standing in the centre of a room wearing a leather jacket and jeans. I click my fingers. Suddenly, some other really cool and handsome guys wearing leather jackets and jeans run up to me and drape themselves seductively over me and begin stroking my hair. These really cool and handsome guys then click their fingers. Suddenly, more really cool and handsome guys wearing leather jackets and jeans run up and drape themselves seductively over the first set of really cool and handsome guys and begin stroking their hair. This second set of really cool and handsome guys then click their fingers. Suddenly, even more really cool and handsome guys wearing leather jackets and jeans run up and drape themselves seductively over this second set of really cool and handsome guys and begin stroking their hair. This pattern continues until the room is completely filled with really cool and handsome guys wearing leather jackets and jeans who are draped seductively over each other and are stroking each other’s hair and I as The Fonz am in the centre of it all. Once she hears the relatively more excessive nature of my Fonz-related fantasy, Mother Superior looks relieved. We look at each other and we smile. 

Mother Superior then takes my hand and tells me that, if I am impressionable enough to want to model myself upon someone else, then I should have the courage to live out my fantasy. She urges me to escape from Austria and to go and find peace in Switzerland living as someone like Captain von Trapp. I try to tell Mother Superior that it is simplistic just to say that I am impressionable: in a sense, aren’t we all composites of the influences of various entities in our lives – family members, friends, lovers, certain people we watch on TV, characters we read in books, etc, etc? And surely some of these things are influential because they do appeal to our fantasies? And yet, while our fantasies allow us the pleasure of imagining who we might be, can’t they also make us painfully conscious of who we currently are? But Mother Superior is too busy singing the song ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’ to listen to me properly. At any rate, Mother Superior is right about me going to Switzerland to live as someone like Captain von Trapp. So I go and pack for my trip, choosing the kinds of clothes that the Captain would wear. The Nazis have closed the borders so I must journey to Switzerland on foot. But, eventually, I make it to the Austrian mountains and this is where I am to be seen, climbing the mountains to a different kind of life in Switzerland. There I am, walking up a mountain, looking and acting like Captain von Trapp as a chorus sings ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’, and then there is a wider shot of the surrounding countryside with its lakes and greenery, and then an aerial shot of the mountains, and, finally, all you can see are clouds.

Today on Dr Phil

Today my Auntie Lien and I are appearing on the television show of the famed psychologist Dr Phil. The Dr Phil episode we are appearing in is titled ‘What are you really mad at?’ and Dr Phil is asking Auntie Lien and me about how we deal with anger. Auntie Lien is right in the middle of talking about her propensity to explode in anger when Dr Phil asks her why she gets angry so easily. Auntie Lien hesitates. Dr Phil advises her, ‘You’ve got to face it to replace it.’ Hearing Dr Phil say this prompts Auntie Lien to confess that her anger stems from the many difficulties she has experienced with relationships. She says that she has been unlucky in love. Furthermore, she says that the sadder she gets, the angrier she gets. I feel that I can relate to this statement and so I join the studio audience in enthusiastically applauding my auntie’s comment. Auntie Lien suddenly says something in Ancient Greek. Dr Phil looks at her blankly, and she explains that she was quoting from Medea, the classic play by Euripides. She confesses that she likes to study the work of the great Athenian dramatists. She translates the lines for Dr Phil: ‘The fiercest anger of all, the most incurable/ Is that which rages in the place of dearest love.’ As Auntie Lien goes on to discuss in minute detail the structural imperfections in Euripidean drama that have puzzled scholars for centuries, I can tell that Dr Phil and the studio audience are struck by the fact that they are sharing a room with one of the finest scholars of Ancient Greek drama that the world has seen. Me, I have always found it interesting that Auntie Lien has such a great mind for scholarly pursuits as well as such a great capacity for flying into fits of anger. This makes me think about my own experiences with intellectualism and anger. Sometimes I have a tendency to ‘intellectualise first and get angry later’. Interestingly, like many people, when I get really angry I can transform into what seems like a completely different person. This makes me turn to Dr Phil to ask him: If anger can transform me, in what other ways might anger be transformative? I suggest to him that perhaps I could use my anger creatively, even proactively. For example, surely some of the most significant political revolutions in history have been in part driven by a sense of rage? This then leads me consider my attraction to anger. Could it be that I associate anger with power? This would be ironic, given that anger can occur as a consequence of not feeling powerful enough. But Dr Phil is too absorbed in Auntie Lien’s discussion of the function of the chorus in Ancient Greek drama to listen to me properly. However, eventually the topic turns back to anger when Dr Phil begins reflecting upon the murderous actions of the character of Medea following her betrayal by her husband. In fact, Dr Phil declares that Medea ably demonstrates his belief that people who experience un­controllable rage actually have unfulfilled needs that must be addressed. Hearing this makes me think of my own life, and so I confess to Dr Phil a fantasy that I have recently had. In this fantasy, I become extremely angry. The fantasy begins with me starting to sweat from my anger. My heart starts beating faster. I clench my fists and the anger makes my face heat up. In this fantasy, I am like The Incredible Hulk in that the angrier I get, the stronger I get. So my muscles start to grow. My muscles become so big that they start to outgrow my clothes. The seams of my shirt and pants begin to split. My neck becomes thicker, and my thighs and calves swell and become harder. I am growing and growing, putting on height as well as bulk, and soon I am around eight feet tall and full of strength and fury. First I go rampaging through the streets, smashing things out of sheer anger. No one is stronger than me. I can bend lampposts and break walls and throw cars. It does not take long for the police and the military to be sent after me. But they cannot stop me. Their guns and explosives only make me angrier and stronger. I rip apart their trucks and tanks. Then I move on to the sheer satisfaction of destroying whole buildings. After a good hour of smashing and destroying, I stomp all the way to my girlfriend’s house. She opens the door and looks a little surprised to see me. I am standing before her, breathing hard and still very angry. She says to me, ‘I was just watching you on the news. You were destroying all these buildings. You should have more respect for the property of others.’ I pause for a moment before replying, ‘Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.’ I enjoy saying this line to her – it is what Dr Banner used to say before he turned into The Hulk. But, as it turns out, my girlfriend does like me when I’m angry. She begins looking at my muscles in admiration. I glare at her but that only makes her sigh happily. This just makes me glare at her all the more. I am so angry. The angrier I get, the stronger I get. And the stronger I get, the more aroused she gets. She looks at me and her face begins to flush. Her breath starts to quicken. And the more aroused she gets, the younger she gets. She used to be thirty-three but now she is getting younger. She smiles and winks at me as she goes back into her twenties. Fascinated, I watch as she gets younger and younger, and she doesn’t stop until she is in her teens and blushing and cuter than ever. And the younger she gets, the fewer people she has had sex with. She slips her hand into mine and tells me that she is sixteen years old and a virgin and that she is eager for me to teach her all about sex. So I scoop her up in my arms and take her to her bedroom and we spend all night having the hottest sex you can imagine. After I have finished telling Dr Phil my anger fantasy, there is complete silence in the studio. I had been hoping that the audience would enthusiastically applaud my fantasy but they just stare at me. It is then that I wonder if I have said too much. Finally, Dr Phil breaks the silence to tell me, ‘You have to name it before you can claim it,’ and he encourages me to look inside myself to work out what I really want in life. He then says that we have run out of time and so he faces the camera to deliver a final address about the issues we have spoken about today. He begins to deliver a very moving address about how life is managed, not cured. As Dr Phil speaks, I think about the pain that anger can cause and I start to feel sad. I look at Auntie Lien’s face and I can tell that she is feeling sad about this too. In fact, the more poignantly Dr Phil speaks, the sadder Auntie Lien gets. But then I remember that the sadder Auntie Lien gets, the angrier she gets. I soon notice that she is clenching and unclenching her fists. Her eyes dart around the room in agitation. As Dr Phil continues to speak, she begins to mutter angrily under her breath. Finally, it is too much for her. She explodes in anger, jumping out of her seat and attacking Dr Phil. Security guards run up to the stage and try to pull Dr Phil and Auntie Lien apart. The studio audience is hollering and chanting and Auntie Lien is swearing so colourfully that her words will have to be bleeped out before the episode goes to air. Auntie Lien calls out to encourage me to join in the fisticuffs. I am unsure about this but she reminds me that releasing anger can be very satisfying. The thing is, Auntie Lien has a point – quite a valid point that not even Dr Phil has raised. But first, I take the time to intellectualise about Dollard et al.’s Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis and its subsequent behaviourist/neo-associationist reformulation by Berkowitz. Having considered this and its implications for research on factors affecting aggression, I become angry and join Auntie Lien in releasing my rage. As Auntie Lien and I engage in a dramatic punch-up with Dr Phil and his security guards, the show’s end credits start to roll. A few people in the studio audience begin to applaud. Auntie Lien and I still have plenty of rage left but, soon, the show will be over.

More from this issue

More by Tom Cho