Friday, April 08, 2005

Holding My Breath

I spent the previous weekend with some old family friends in Memphis after completing the Interview de El Diablo. I had been skewered, butchered and grilled for 6 hours straight. Oh, and did I mention that I SMILED, NON-STOP for the ENTIRE SIX HOURS. The agony.

So needless to say it was quite the relief to visit my mom's friend, my psuedo-mother, because they are possibly the most laid-back folk I've ever known. This mom was so cool she had a DRAWER just for Little Debbie snacks.

I arrived at J's Germantown house and rolled up into the short driveway. I hadn't even parked my car and J was beside my car, tapping her foot impatiently while I scrambled to roll up my windows and disengage myself from the confines of seat belts and panty hose and high heels. I stepped out of the car and towered over her five-foot-two frame but she hugged me with the force of a 200-lb man and all was right with the world.

She pulled back and gave me the once over.

"What's that in your nose?"


"It's not nothing, missy. There's something in your nose. Ohmigod, do have a zit? You have a zit? Is that a zit? Josh, come look at this thing and tell me if it's zit. Holy shit. I think it's a zit."

"It's not a zit, Jolene."

"Well. Looks like you're right. But it might as well be a zit. You plum tried to sabotage yourself in that interview didn't you?"

"Um. No"

Feeling quite guilty. I did wear it to sabotage myself.

"Well, whatever it is. It looks like a gold zit."

She smiles at me. J is like that. She can say things that would make me punch my relatives in the face but you can't help but smile back at her and completely forget what she was talking about.

So I came inside to meet her youngest son.

How disturbing.

I babysat her two oldest sons for years. Fed them canned ravioli because that's all I could make at 13. Oh, and I could open the drawer to the Little Debbie snacks and tell those little mongrels to knock themselves out. But this new kid, he doesn't know me. He wasn't even a two years old when we moved away. He is affectionately referred to as "The Surprise."

He stared at me with utter confusion and then nonchalance as he tried to catolgue me. Was I a mom-friend? A brother-friend? And who is this woman? This Cindy that they talk so freely of? How does my mom know this Cindy? But I'm not interested in this because I'm 8 and I'm cool and I listen to Top 40 radio and I play old-school Nintendo.

"WHAT? You still have your old Nintendo?" I ask J.

J reassures me she would never get rid of anything. In fact, that blue jean jacket little J is wearing is middle J's old jacket from 12 years ago.

Side note: This is the J familiy. Mom and Dad J. Oldest J, middle J, and now little J. Please, never do this to your children.

So upon seeing that we had so much in common, Little J scoots over on the beige carpet, littered with Thundercats, Ninja Turtles and every conceivable video game for every conceivable format, and silently offers me a controller.

"I guess you want to be the Princess. Mom ALWAYS wants to be the Princess."

How well he already knows me! There is no other character I'd rather be on Mario Brothers! I am the Princess with a floating pink dress!

The controller, the graphics, the familiar background music.... And suddenly I'm 10 years old playing on our Nintendo in our Mississippi house, sitting in the front living room, painted a golden yellow, cushioned by the red oriental rug that now currently resides in MY front living room. The TV sits on the floor because that's what TV's did in those days. They came in huge wooden boxes and they sat on the floor and had giant remotes that let you chose between the 3 channels we got way out in the country. The giant satellite in the backyard only worked for one tv, my dad's tv, the one in the den, painted cream over the 70's era wood panelling.

But I digress. The little kid beside me is not my 7 year old brother, it's J's 8 year old son. Little J. And he doesn't know the first thing about how I can burn canned ravioli or play a mean game of Tetris. But I am the Princess and I just showed him a secret pipe that leads to a secret world that lets you get secret coins and hearts and powers and then shoots you back out, right where you started, only 2 pipes down. He's so enthralled with his new trick he can't wait to show his friend Derek about it and asks his mom if he can take his Nintendo system to Derek's house when he spends the night tomorrow because Derek ALWAYS beats him on this game and he just KNEW if he could slide down that pipe and get those extra hearts, Derek's skill would be no match for his extended Luigi lifespan.

Later on we pick up Big J and his girlfriend and head out to a late dinner. I harrass the two older boys by telling embarrassing stories about vomit, diapers, and incontinence while Big J's girlfriend looks on with an amused smile, too old to laugh with total abandon and too young to know that nobody cares.

The next morning we all pile into J's van and drive around the city, pointing out places I could afford but shouldn't live, couldn't afford but should live and finally could afford and could get away with living. Everything is met with gut clenching nausea. Do I want to try this again? Moving to a new city with no friends, no family? Will I get this job offer? Do I even WANT this job offer? Am I just projecting what I think I should have, what I SHOULD have accomplished, what I SHOULD be doing with what others think I could have at my age, my experience level, my abilities?

It's really exhausting over-analyzing yourself.

Stay tuned for a captivating story detailing my cross-city trips to
obtain a working old-school Nintendo.


Jbsss said...

Sounds like quite the trip. Hopefully you had a better weekend this go around.

Joey said...

I have the old Nintendo!! I love playing it, as you said it brings you back to being 10 again!