Thursday, August 31, 2006
Because the thing is, I totally don’t care what you worship or even if you worship. I don’t care if you tithe to Maximus Daximus, the god of shag carpeting. Really, I don’t. The only time I’m going to get up in your bees-wax is when you try to convert everyone else to your particular sect of shag-carpet worshipping, because obviously it’s the only way to go. Also I don’t so much like it if you fire missiles or make things go big boom to make a point about how cool your religion is. And I don't like it when you tell little girls that if their family doesn’t convert to Southern Baptist then they’re all going to hell. Overall, I just want everyone to sing hippie songs and frolic in fields of flowers and not get so uptight about how MY church says mini skirts make you a slut and MY church says drinking the grape juice of fire makes you a heathen and MY church says you should wear yellow on Wednesdays because if you don’t, you’re going to burn in the fires of hell for all eternity.
And since I obviously won’t be finishing up The Gospel story I’ll just move along to the Events of My Day.
This morning my alarm clock, which is really my cell phone, went off at 6:34. After I hit the snooze button three times I eventually picked it up and squinted at the screen, attempting to see the time. In theory I should know the time because each snooze is seven minutes long but this is why I set the alarm to go off on an uneven denomination. There’s not a chance in hell I’d be able to calculate 6:34am plus seven minutes plus seven minutes plus seven minutes before at least lunch and eventually I’m forced to pick up the phone to see the actual time. All so that I may have a heart attack and jump out of bed because it’s wicked late and I’ve still got to iron my pants.
But when I flicked open the phone I saw that I had a text message, which was odd because I didn’t have one when I laid down for bed and I didn’t have one when the sun came up so sometime in between those moments I must have slept, hurah! But my excitement was short lived because I saw the text was from an area code where my parents live and I had one of those moments when I thought something had happened, oh my, panic is welling and then I realized I hadn’t yet ingested any caffeine and what drug was I smoking to think that either of my parents could send a text message. (Hi, Mama! I’m not really making fun of you here, swear. And you know you rolled your eyes a bit when you bought Mama Sylvia a DVD player two years ago and still it sits, unused on top of her TV. So this is just like that, only I’m telling the internet. But look how far you’ve come in the cell phone age! You carry it with you almost all the time now! And you call me from places to tell me they have shoes on sale! You DO love me!)
As it turns out this text was from my brother. Oh, you don’t remember him? Let me refresh your memory. He was the one who claimed a kamikaze black dog ran out in front of his car which forced him into the ditch on the side of the highway. And then, because this was totally the best choice ever, he decided to run down the country highway at like four in the morning. Where he was subsequently picked up by the county po-leece and taken to the pokey. And then my father and I spent an entire day looking for him, calling his friends, not finding him, growing more and more grim as the day wore on. Knowing you don’t just leave a car on the side of the road, keys and cell phone and guitar scattered amongst the seats.
Obviously there was no kamikaze black dog and a day later the true story came out, the story that involved a bit of excessive drinking (surprise!) and a black out (shocked!) and my brother’s insane ability to pilot a motor vehicle whilst completely unaware and probably not even awake.
But here’s the thing: I’m not sure I can ever convey to him what that was like, how it felt to sit in my apartment all day and be absolutely convinced that he was gone, that I was never going to see him again. How I sat in a chair in my darkened living room and stared at the wall with tears falling down my cheeks. What it felt like to have something hurt that godamn much and have not a single mark on my body to accuse as the culprit.
After a conversation the next day that involved him proclaiming his innocence and me trying, without success, to tell him how scared I was (oddly enough, this is hard to do when both parties are shouting) he called me a bitch and hung up the phone. Not a word was spoken between us since, not until my mother came to town and tried to force a friendly family dinner on the three of us. While there I asked the right questions, made the right gestures, smiled at the appropriate times. But it wasn’t real. An entire trash bag of beer cans and liquor bottles was literally overflowing onto his kitchen floor and my fear of someday, soon, looking at my brother through dirty plexiglass or inside a satin lined coffin was even more a reality.
And this text message, well, I’m not sure how much it helped. He said he just wanted to say I Love You. That he knows he never calls but he loves me. And while this sounds a bit like a Lionel Ritchie song, you should know that no one in my family is of the inclination to go around spouting off I Love You’s and Can’t Live Without You’s. Even when I say it to my friends I say it in my sing-song voice, the same voice I use when I pick up a pair of five-hundred dollar shoes and talk directly into their shoe depths, proclaiming my unwavering love for them. It’s not that I love my friends with the same part of my brain that I love pretty shoes, it’s just that saying it like you mean it feels kind of like the morning after you ran naked through the What-a-Burger.
Also, this text came through at 12:51am and I know where he goes on Wednesday nights. It sure ain’t church camp, unless church camp serves dollar beer and greasy pizza. So I appreciate the sentimentality, I appreciate that he thought about me because I think about him. I think about him and I worry about him and I can never tell him that sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, heart racing, convinced that he didn’t make it home okay this time.
It was three hours later before I could say it back. It was three hours because it took that long for me to cry in the shower and get dressed for work. I had to stand in the cafeteria breakfast line and stare intently at the price of biscuits while my friend admonished me for not immediately replying. I had to flip open my phone a half dozen times. But I finally said it back, and I mean it. No sing-song voice.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Thursday, August 24, 2006
So about three weeks ago, when The Great Rat Hunt was in full swing, I started kind of looking around. Checking out apartment sites, stopping by a few places for brochures, even taking a tour of a new apartment out by my office. And while I appreciated the decorator colors on the walls and the new refrigerator that doesn't lilt three inches to the side, I couldn't quite bring myself to pay $895 for a one bedroom in central Arkansas. I'm sorry, but I can get a studio in Brooklyn for that plus I can drop off my laundry at the front door and it will appear three days later, magically delicious and clean.
So it was with a bit of amusement that I opened my email this evening to find this:
Hey!! I saw that you were looking around on our website! I thought I would check in with you to see if you needed any help in your search for a new place! I have the current availability at the communities in which you are interested!!!
I would love to help you out, but I need some additional information from you to do so!! Please give me a call or shoot me an email so that I can get the needed info to better hunt for you that perfect place!!
Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you!! Have a great day!!!
Thank you. Never have I actually seen anyone use sixteen exclamation points in three short paragraphs. You have a good day now and if you have time on your lunch break, go ahead and give your doctor a call and let him know he can bring you down a notch on that Lithium.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
On your payroll, you employ a person whose sole job it is to find stock photos and images. I know this because in New York, like, where I worked, there was a guy named Adam who totally rocked out at that job. He could find you stock footage of a melancholy avian on a blue bench in a snowstorm in Ecuador.
But this? You chose to display an airbrushed anime’ version of a stygian overgrown human fetus with red glowing eyes? Seriously, I’m going to need further clarification on this one because where I come from, this picture is more Hell’s Gatekeeper Worries About Decapitation, Loss of Retirement Funds and less Average Worker Complains of Boredom, Lack of Challenge in Workplace.
Also, I got to see a coworker come in with split pants this morning. As in, split right down the posterior, about four inches of starched white shirt pouching out. And while I laughed a little, I had to extend a bit of sympathy in his direction because I did this two days before my vacation:
I managed to walk across the parking lot, through four security doors, up an elevator, across my office floor, to the coffee maker and then to my friend’s office where I sat down in her extra chair. She turned to me and I watched her face kind of tighten in confusion as she said “Um, Robin?” and I looked down to find the one gold shoe and the one black shoe. In less than a second, she’d whipped out her camera phone and snapped the picture, capturing for all time my wardrobe malfunction.
Speaking of camera phones, I tried to convince a guy I work with to take a picture of the pant-splitting debacle but he told me no. He can’t have another man’s ass on his phone, he said.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Methodist churches aren’t really known for their frivolity and morning services were always an exercise in quietness. I don’t remember much about Sunday School, only the generic talk of Jesus and Noah, with a dash of the Holy Spirit thrown in for good measure. I do remember that if you got a question right that the teacher would give us a handful of sixlets, the precursors to M&M’s in my world. That tiny candy-coated spherical perfection of chocolate goodness was just the incentive I needed to review last week’s lesson during the drive into town, not so much caring about the religious implications but recognizing that there was a limited supply of sixlets and if I didn’t know all the answers then statistically, I was screwed.
After Sunday School came Big Church and in the Methodist world, the pastor still wears a long black robe, the choir sings in the second story awning and the only time you get out of your seat is when the man in front says Please Rise. From there, you pick up a hymnal and turn to page 352 for a quick choral interlude followed by a pastor-lead prayer with head bowed and eyes closed. Once finished, the pastor indicates that You May Be Seated and in unison, the entire congregation places their bottoms upon the hard wooden pews, legs crossed.
I tell you all of this because I need you to understand where my comfort zone resides. Until I was fifteen, I’d never seen a church without wooden pews and stained glass. I’d never seen people in blue jeans take communion. I’d never seen a full drum set on stage with guitars and tamborines and microphones or a big white screen behind the pulpit where a youth pastor gives a power point presentation on abstinence and tongue kissing. And I’d definitely never heard people interrupt the pastor mid-sermon with a heartfelt Amen! or a Right on, Brother! and you did not clap after a choral solo or even during a moderately upbeat song. Because honestly, have you ever heard anyone clap to organ music? Didn’t think so.
When I was sixteen my friend Melanie convinced me to go to Church Camp with her. Having been to Girl Scout Camp when I was little I figured it was much like that, only with a few more prayers thrown in and maybe songs that focused less on s’mores and more on iconic religious figures. We’d actually stopped going to church when I was nine and in the ensuing years I’d had plenty of time to form the beginnings of an opinion on organized religion, spurred mainly by my visit to a Baptist church at the age of twelve when the pastor pulled me aside and told me my family was going to hell if they weren’t Baptist and that my soul was in eternal jeopardy because I’d never been baptized. I never told my parents about that incident, rationalizing that if they knew that being Methodist sent you straight to hell, why would we have gone to a Methodist church? So I just chalked that episode up to someone’s mama feeding their baby paint chips filled with hate and never went back.
Melanie’s church camp seemed like a fairly reasonable way to spend a week of my summer, though, and I agreed to go right off the bat. So on a hot Saturday afternoon we shoved our sleeping bags and makeup bags and clothing bags and other extraneous bags into the back of her mother’s van, heading out to west Mississippi for some good ol’ Christian fun.
Once there we unloaded all of our belongings into the assigned cabins, picking out lower bunks directly beside each other. Her mom gave us both a hug, told us to be good and hopped back in her van, eager as us sixteen-year-olds were to be rid of her, and her of us. First on the agenda was a walk down to the meeting hall/commissary/gym/worship center. It was a big metal building with huge sets of doors across the front that opened up into a concession area filled with the smells of nachos and jalapenos and popcorn and over fried chicken fingers. Past the concession area was the enclosed gym/worship area. It had a raised red-carpeted platform at the end and the middle had already been filled with rows of metal chairs for the evening services.
At 6pm sharp the bell rang that announced our attendance was required in the gym. We’d finished dinner an hour before and I’d been standing silently by while Melanie made friends with the girls from our cabin.
We were a little late making our way up the hill by the gym and the three girls that Melanie had picked up took seats with us in one of the very back rows. Things started off fairly innocuously with the camp leaders introducing themselves, giving out the camp dress code, reminding us that this was a Christian Camp and we were to be filled with the spirit of the Lord on a daily basis. Translation: No sex in the woods.
Then everyone launched into what they called ‘warm-up’ songs, none of which I knew and none of which came with a hymnal or pamphlet. Nothing is more annoying to me than being surrounded by a group of people who know something I don’t, so I sat back in my chair, arms crossed, non-verbally expressing my growing discomfort with the four-piece band on stage and the unnecessary sounds produced by the drummer. It’s not that I found the drumming offensive but I don’t even like the sound of a toilet flushing or the sound that plates make when people put their dishes away and I go to great pains to gently place mine in the cabinet with as little sound as possible. So imagine my unhappiness with the overzealous drummer playing in the acoustic equivalent of a tin can.
Once the warm-up songs were over, the ones they figured everyone knew, they pulled out the movable white screen and slide projector and launched into an even louder display of musical ability, bringing everyone out of their seats for hand clapping and the occasional hop into the air, arms raised above their heads, eyes closed, faces lifted. Already uncomfortable with the previous display, I sat solidly in my chair, ignoring the arm pulls and head taps from the girls next to me. I kept hoping that if I kept as still as possible, maybe no one would notice me and I could slip out the back for some fresh air and silence.
But the songs continued on. My ass grew numb, the girls beside me grew even more frenzied and the people on stage had stopped pretending to sing recognizable songs and had launched into straight jam-band mode, the lead singer racing across the stage, shouting out indecipherable messages about Heaven and Redemption and Praising Jesus, all of which ended in an out-of-breath Amen. The teenagers in the front rows, obviously the ones much more enthralled with their camp choice than yours truly, had begun jumping up and down in completely erratic movements and I sat in my chair, no longer interested in the spectacle on stage but rather the chair jumping antics of one very tall, very skinny guy.
His face was continuously contorted in an expression of utter pain, his hands periodically tumbling down from above his head to slap his thighs in exuberance. I continued to watch in utter dismay as this young man jumped excitedly into the middle of the aisle, swung his arms into the air and opened his mouth to a screaming, streaming gibberish of nonsense and in unison the rest of the congregation began to offer him shouts of encouragement.
I felt my eyes growing wide, listening to shouts encouraging further possession by the Holy Spirit.
“What. The. Fuck.” I muttered.
How those people heard me I have no idea, what with the drumming antics, the exuberant Amens! on stage and the fast-talking looney toon twenty aisles up, but all three rows ahead of me did a unified Linda Blair to glare at me and I silently cursed their supersonic heathen hearing. But I was sixteen and full of the piss and vinegar, as well as some questionable hamburger meat, and I was not about to be out-stared. So I returned their glare with one of my own: left eyebrow raised, mouth pursed. All in my attempt to convey that I was not amused by these goings-on and I could damn well say Fuck whenever I wanted, thanks for playing.
It was then that it dawned on me that this kid, and now a handful of others, were speaking in tongues. I’d thought it was just a myth, like the Lochness monster or calorie-free ice cream. But figuring out what was going on did nothing to appease my fear, not even Melanie when she turned to me, eyes bright with excitement, “Oooooooh, look! He’s laying hands! Praise Jesus!!!!”
And it was true; the tall, skinny guy who’d started off the pack of tongue-talkers was now making his way down the aisle, forcefully pushing his palm onto the foreheads of individuals who waited in breathless excitement before falling to the floor in a crumpled heap. He’d made it halfway down when I realized I’d taken the aisle seat as I’d straggled in with my group only an hour or so before. I hadn’t minded any at the time, thinking it made an easy escape route if the building caught on fire or the hamburger I’d eaten decided to make a reappearance. But I knew, with the kind of certainty that stiffens your back, that no amount of chair sitting or no-eye-contact rules were going to keep this guy from touching me and I decided right then, “Whatever he’s got, I don’t fucking want it.”
Unfortunately that statement came out with a little more forcefulness than the first and my vibes of distrust and hate must have reached the preacher in record time because he focused on me with blinding speed, urging ‘the girl in the back’ to get out of her seat and participate in the Spirit of Jesus. I politely declined by recrossing my arms across my chest which really just served as a bucket of encouragement and he again called me out, telling me to stand up and glorify in Jesus Christ, My Savior. I politely declined again, thinking that my only savior was my mother magically appearing outside to take me home, stat.
All this time the tongue-speaking, hand-laying teenager was methodically making his way towards the last rows and as I focused on his bouncing, neurotic path I noticed a strange, darkening stain on the front of his jeans.
“Did he just piss himself?” I asked to no one in particular. But before I even got out my last word, the piss-stained teenager fell flat to the ground, fell flat like if you held up your broom and just let it fall backwards, no cushion, no resistance, just bam, right there in the aisle not ten feet away.
A few of the counselors rushed forward, all while the people on stage continued their frolicking and drumming and Amening. The four people each grabbed an extremity and carried him into the concession area and as they passed, I heard one of the girls exclaim that he was drunk with the spirit of the Lord and right then and there, I promised God that I was never drinking again and told him I was right sorry about those two sips of cinnamon liquor I’d had at Ella’s party a few weeks back.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Before she left she gave me her key and a bag of cat food for the Kikimonster, with whom I will be bonding over the next week. The Kikster and I have bonded before but not on such daily basis. As far as she was concerned I was just that crazy lady who came over and chased her down the hallway because I knew she secretly wanted to cuddle on my lap. Plus she doesn't have claws and I think that tips the scales in my favor, as far as forcing her to sit on my lap for some soothing ear rubs and back scratches.
I don't know why I like other people's cats so much more than my own. Probably because as I sit here typing this, Llama has managed to shove his front paws inside my $200 shoes, his fat furry body covering the rest of the arch and heel and I can't help but wonder how this is comfortable because he's got a hard leather shoe shoved into his soft underbelly. Plus it always leaves a smattering of cat leftovers, like fur and fur and oh yeah, more fur in the depths of the shoes and if I don't shake them out in the morning then I end up with long gray strands of fur between my toes. Not cool.
As Lilleee was giving me plant watering instructions and cat feeding instructions and the obligatory Southern Monologue of Help yourself to anything in the kitchen, sugar! she mentioned that her boyfriend had made her a cake for her birthday yesterday and she'd only managed to lick a bit of the icing off the side before she had to leave for work this morning and would I be so kind as to eat some of it and then throw the rest of it away before she gets home?
You want to know if I'll help you out by eating some chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting? Hell no! I won't do it, I tell you! Okay, well, since you asked so nicely...
So I went upstairs this evening to feed Kikimonkey and I stared non-stop at the foil wrapped pan sitting silently on top of the stove as I poured dry nuggets into her bowl. I noticed the wee little light above that shimmering aluminum perfection, shining down as if the gods themselves decreed that I should eat this cake, this very one, and I should love it.
As I peeled back the foil the chocolate scent escaped and attacked my salivary glands, forcing them into overdrive. I grabbed a plate and a fork and stared down at my lot in life, my favor for a friend, and I had no idea where to begin. No, seriously. I've never had a whole cake to myself. Yes, I could have taken it into work tomorrow. I could have divided up chunks for my friends. But the prospect of being able to pick any piece within the confines of that pan was almost too much of a decision for me to make and I knew I just couldn't bear to share such perfect, untouched choclate perfection.
At first I cut a wee piece from the corner but after a bite I deemed it a bit too dry and scraped off the cake part, leaving the yummy choclate icing on the side of my plate. Then I decided I didn't have to adhere to cake cutting convention, I could have the moist middle piece and I didn't have to justify my actions or make amends for digging into the center of the cake-i-ness. In fact, I decided, I could even just dip my fork in the middle for a pre-cut taste test, just to see if my suspicions of moistness were correct. They were! Praise the Cake Gods!
And then, because I'd already mauled the center of the cake, I decided that I needed a bit more icing and that I could scrape off whatever I wanted, all in the quest for the Perfect Piece of Cake. I was justified, I thought. I don't have to share any of this with anybody else and the person eating the cake (me) certainly doesn't mind sacrificing the pristine exterior.
I must say- eating cake this way yields only, like, four pieces while if I'd left it alone I'd probably been able to divide it into sixteen. But I don't know of anyone who needs sixteen pieces of cake, much less me, so besides eating the cake for my friend I am doing a favor to myself by not eating the whole thing (hooray!), because parts will be discarded for being too crumbly or too dry or lacking in icing goodness.
Plus, I have cake and you don't. So there.
For lunch today, Amanda convinced me to go to Taco Hell. I say convinced like she had to twist my arm or something because hello, where else can you get intestinal difficulties for less than five dollars? And that’s not including the set of Fear Factor, which is technically free for the contestants unless you count the Mystic Tan Unlimited package and the Crunch Fitness membership and if you’re a woman, the ten grand you have to spend on your chesticular area because we all know it’s possible to have point-four percent body fat and a set of double-D’s.
Once there we took our place in line, which was actually not a line but a wide open space of nothingness, seeing as how we were about ten minutes ahead of the lunch crowd. Behind the counter stood JoJo the Special Kid, complete with strange lopsided belly and a smathering of unidentifiable Taco Hell goo across the wide expanse of his chest, all the way down past the crotch of his pants with really suspicious looking stains around his pocket area. Not suspicious as in What Exactly Have You Been Doing Back There Behind The Counter but suspicious as in Do You Think That Guy Is Smuggling A Handful Of Greasy Taco Meat In His Pockets? Which then leads you to the question of exactly why anyone would smuggle handfuls of greasy taco meat in their pockets because wouldn’t a plastic baggie be so much easier? Not to mention the lack of contamination from Strange Pocket Lint or some leftover gum.
Maybe he just thought it would be a nice snack for later. Or that if times really got tough, he could get at least two good meals from licking the front of his shirt. He’d probably draw the line at licking the crotch of his pants though because he’d associate that with the Demon Homosexuals and he knows where those folk go. Straight to the burning fires of hell, first class. 'Least that's what his mama told him.
As I was waiting for JoJo to finish counting out Amanda’s change, a very involved and lengthy process, I noticed a laminated sign taped to the tile wall directly above JoJo’s head.
Because all that sign does is make me realize that the last time JoJo washed his hands was probably back in 1997 when he hadn’t quite yet gotten to giant homeless man size and his mother could still wrastle him to the ground for a little face washing and hand cleaning. Because either JoJo has a nostril big enough to accept the prodding search of one of his elephantine fingers or JoJo has a really juicy asscrack and the bathroom ran out of toilet paper last shift.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Remember ladies, stage right by the red curtain has a dip in the floor so watch your step. Hit your marks on the green tape before the lights come up and end it on the yellow. Hold your smiles and shake it like you mean it, bitches.
As the years went on I branched out from my yearly displays of pointe shoe perfection and tap dancing talent and into the world of the theater, or theatre if you’re an aspiring off-Broadway performer. I had random parts in Oklahoma!, Krazy Kamp and Charlie Brown and relished every moment I got to strap on the microphone equivalent of a sound engineer’s worst nightmare and parade about the stage, belting out the three notes I could effectively hold and the seventeen others I most certainly could not.
My first theatrical singing solo came around my junior year in high school when my drama teacher held auditions for the much *cough* anticipated Charlie Brown musical. The afternoon of auditions, my classmates sat in petrified silence as Ms. Lamb called repeatedly for the first volunteer. Finally I sighed with great dramatic abandon, rolled my eyes heavenward and marched confidently towards the stage. Once there I instructed the piano player that I wanted to sing Ado Annie’s solo from Oklahoma! but the piano player only knew things like Rod Stewart and Lord I Lift Your Name On High so instead of attempting to learn a Godly-like song or imitate a bleached-out fertile old man, I opened my mouth and began to sing.
Not so strangely, that song is actually one of the few I can sing, not because of incessant practicing but because it requires less vocal ability and more gusto and I had plenty of the latter, far less of the former.
Later that week a blue envelope was hand delivered to my AP English class, informing me I had the part of Peppermint Patty. Just in case you’re not up on your Charlie Brown history, Patty was the one so desperately in love with ol’ Chuck, while ol’ Chuck was desperately in love with the little red headed girl. But that didn’t stop my campy love song from ricocheting off every available surface as night after night I sang my undying love to that yellow shirted idiot. I wasn’t so deluded that I thought I was destined for greatness, however. It’s just that it hit me halfway through rehearsals that I wasn’t so strong of a singer unless I was being backed up by a chorus of ten other dancing guys and gals and that maybe in the future I could try to be less of a badass and refrain from getting myself into situations where I have to sing to a prerecorded backing track played over twenty year old speakers. Because by the end, not only was I aware I had no singing ability, everyone else was aware I had no singing ability.
Honestly, you’d think I’d have learned my lesson way back then. That maybe before I ante up to the plate I check and make sure my bat isn’t made of pure dried shit. Or that my big shiny hat isn’t really a shellacked piece of gingham. But it’s like every now and then I get distracted, maybe by a stray dragonfly or an errant piece of hair, and I open my mouth to the biggest stream of floatacious word vomit you’ve ever seen.
Such was the case my senior year in college.
First semester I had a class with this professor who was supposed to teach things like communications and journalism and ended up teaching a class on film, because he knew jack about communications and journalism. Which was actually perfectly fine with me because by then I’d had it up to HERE with journalism classes and my soul-sucking job in a news station.
As our final project, Senor Professor handed out copies of an unpublished script, instructing us to choose a ten minute scene. We were then to cast it from the eager pool of theater majors, shoot it, edit it and present it to the class before Christmas break. The catch being, of course, that you needed the help of the entire class on each and every shoot. Unless you’re a control freak like me and choose a scene that requires one actress, one room and one camera. Then you just ignore the words your partner speaks at you and do it however the hell you want.
Now, for four years I’d been in these classes with the same people. I didn’t chill with Christy but I knew she was a bad ass softball player. And Doug was a bit squirrely but could put away some hard liquor. And Hudd and Riggin? Just your generic everyday frat boys, complete with muddy Jeeps and chromed-out Tahoes. And being frat boys, they chose the one questionable scene in the whole script. The part where the main character gets out of rehab, slams back a bottle of NyQuil in a seedy bar and has his wicked way with a bar rat in the alley out back.
But when we had to cast our actors, they ran into a bit of a roadblock. Not a single one of the girls would agree to put on a slutty dress and whisper sweet, albeit slurred, nothings in someone’s ear. There probably would have been a revolt among the males as well but we only had three to choose from and one was so obese there’s no way he could have pulled off an alley touchdown and the other two had ‘previous commitments.’ Meaning they had girlfriends who would personally saw off their, you know, bits and nail them to wall.
Which should somewhat explain how I found myself in the alley behind Linens-n-Things on a very chilly night in mid November, wearing my very best slut dress, my come-hither knee high boots and some wicked cool teased hair. I’d finally agreed to the part after Hudd had caught me after class twice in a row and walked me to my car, telling me in his deceptively sweet soft voice that he really wanted me to be the actress in his scene because he was going to play the guy and he knew I was cool. Not like those other girls, he’d said. You’re a total badass.
Hi! My name is Gullible! How are you today!
It was as the lights were being set up for the alley scene that I got my first case of stage fright, ever. Hudd and I had to stand so close our noses touched, just like that, just so, for a full hour as the crew moved this light and that light and that one way over there. There is nothing more terrifying than having to share an inch of breathing space with a boy who you’d like to see sans his letter shirt, all while your classmates watch and you fake nonchalance and a total indifference to the fruits of having a personal gym in a frat house.
And then, oh dear god, and then we started filming. This was the part I’d always been kind of fuzzy on, really. I mean, he was just taking this bar rat outside for a little hanky panky and then he was going to stumble on his merry way while she fixed her mascara in a shiny pink compact. That whole PRETENDING TO HAVE SEX ON CAMERA THING had never really solidified in my head because this was a CLASS, surely it was just going to be kind of suggestive with a little leg here, a little grunt there and BAM! We’re done! Let’s all go out for ice cream.
Note to future self: Please stop being so bloody stupid.
Without warning Hudd hefted me off the ground, wrapping my legs around his waist and placed his forearms in the least sexual way possible under my ass. And let’s be honest here, when you’re upper body is about 4.7 feet from the other person’s upper body, it’s really about as hot as playing water rugby, only without the water. So we stood around like that while they got random shots of Hudd’s shoulders moving, uh, just so and his legs bracing, uh, just so and when they tried to get shots of my face moving, uh, just so I found myself completely overcome with annoyance. I couldn’t have wiped my Bitch Face off with a gallon of bleach and an SOS pad and they finally just gave up, telling me to turn my face as far to the side as possible while they got a few wide shots of us, the alley and my super duper wrinkled dress.
Back at school I managed to be conveniently absent when they debuted the final product and had only those random flashes of face-burning embarrassment when a stray thought or two would cross my brain. It wasn’t until nearly two years later that I came to realize the full extent of my actions and the total shit I manage to get into, all because of some desire to be a badass.
I’d moved back from New York nearly five months before and found myself in the endless cycle of ‘catching up.’ I’d stopped off at a local bar on my way home from work to say hello to some old coworkers and ended up staying until the wee small hours of the morn, sipping on cosmos and munching on pretzels. Right before last call I felt a tap on my arm and I turned, looking into a face only vaguely familiar.
“Are you Robin?” he asked.
“You went to UCA, right? Communications major?”
“Awshitdude! I knew that was you!” He turned to his buddy three tables back. “Steve-O! You have to come here, dude! This is that girl from that film with Hudd!”
Right then and there I would have sold my kidney to crawl in a hole and die. As it turns out, copies of that tape made it all around fraternity row and while I can confidently say that it was about as risqué as an episode of 7th Heaven, it doesn’t take much to set off the imagination of an over-intoxicated frat boy. Which is why I now mix my cosmos in the privacy of my own home, thank you.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Second semester she started dating this guy named Matt and I can’t say he was any improvement over her previous dating experiments. And that includes the professor who mysteriously accompanied us on late night Waffle House excursions and later utilized my bed to make his spit swapping move. Then Matt came along with his black floppy hair and his big dirty boots and the guitar case that always managed to be resting in my chair or on my bed or directly in front of the door that I was opening. As soon as I made a motion to remove his personal artifacts from my personal space he would roll his eyes and toss back his floppy hair, as if to say I couldn’t possibly appreciate the true deepness of his commitment to music and the bad-assedness of his manly tortured soul.
A couple of months later my friends and I packed up my Jeep and Brittany’s Grand Am and rolled south to the land of beach condos and loose-pooped sea gulls. In my front seat rode Matt, because his legs were long, he said. With him he brought a giant CD case full of Pearl Jam and not much else. Now, say what you like about Pearl Jam but there is nothing more annoying to me than the whining patheticness of Eddie Vedder’s voice. Someone give the man a pocket knife and let him slit his writs already.
For the first four hours of the drive Matt claimed dominance over the CD player, sliding in disc after disc of Pearl Jam, LIve! Pearl Jam, Live in Seattle! and Pearl Jam, the Acoustic Album! By the time we stopped for the night I’d had enough of his his music elitism and threatened bodily harm if my vehicle didn’t have brand spanking new occupants come morning. Naturally, my vehicle elitism won out over his music elitism and Mr. Matt ended up in Brittany’s car for the rest of the trip.
The thing is, I knew where this was heading from the very beginning. Crystal would never leave Matt and Matt would sure as hell never leave Crystal, which explains how two years ago I sat under an overcast evening sky and watched Crystal walk down the aisle in her beautiful white dress, clutching a bouquet of violently red roses, her face creased in a smile unbelievably nervous and happy. At the top of the aisle stood Matt, in cleaner clothes than I had ever seen him, looking almost regal in his tuxedo attire. His smile was less nervous and more goofy and I think that about sums it up. Because if I were him I’d be absolutely giddy that someone as bitchin as Crystal had agreed to be my wife.
Since then they’ve bought a house in the country, one with plenty of room for their three thousand dogs and two pet cats, never mind the added bonus of attack turkeys and stinging scorpions and no, I did not just make that up. As it turns out, Matt sidelined his music career for a hobby involving the byproducts of the outdoors and as all of my hobbies involve air conditioning, I really couldn’t tell you exactly what he does. All I know is that it involves survival skills and lots of dried deer skin. Before you think them country, however, please note that Matt practices Tai Chi every night on his front lawn and spends a lot of time identifying edible plants and reinforcing creek beds.
Ridiculously long history now complete, I can tell you that this evening I attended my first ever baby shower and if you’ve been paying attention, like, at all, then you’ve probably guessed the mom-to-be is Crystal with daddy-to-be Matt by her side. I won’t lie and tell you that I wasn’t confused by toilet-lid shaped pillows and $200 breast pumps but it seemed to make her happy in between the moments when she wasn’t scolding Unnamed Baby on the etiquette of bladder jumping and abdominal rugby.
Over the past couple of years we’ve had a few getogethers like this where a few of the Old Guard mesh with the New Guard and regale them with stories from bygone days of yore. Like last year when we celebrated the Summer Solstice by dancing around naked in Crystal’s back yard. Kidding. Maybe. But these get togethers are always fabulous because, like tonight, you get to squish on the couch with people you used to squish with on a dorm room bed or a big orange couch or a creaky porch swing. Back when we had no qualms about invading each other’s space because, hello, we were eighteen-year-old intellectuals with lots of time on our hands and the mysteries of the world to solve. Like how to use the leftover flat beer from Friday’s party by pouring it in ice cube trays complete with de-cottoned Q-tips. Voila! Beer Popsicle!
It’s just that, inside her belly is this little human and never before have I been more cognizant of that fact. Already she’s got a daycare picked out and last week she interviewed a pediatrician. Seriously. She knows the statistics on breast feeding and the theories on getting babies to sleep. And when she sits on the love seat with her husband she absentmindedly rubs her belly, taut with eight months of baby brewing. And her husband, my god her husband, he sits beside her and brushes her mass of hair from her shoulders and it hits me that this man loves my friend, her loves her so much I can’t even make jokes about fat kids and cake. They’re going to have a baby together. A wee little nugget that’s going to slam the door in Crystal’s face at fifteen and smoke pot in the garage, thinking the smell won’t travel. But they are wise to your ways, little nugget. And I promise, it really is for your own good.
Tonight as I was walking to the door, Matt came up behind me and gave me an unexpected embrace. I realized then and there that he was no longer part of my life by proxy, he was the man in charge of taking care of Crystal. Just as Crystal is the woman in charge of taking care of Matt. They fit. And they made a baby. And I no longer think of him as the guy who put his feet on my bed and made profound statements about grunge music.
He’s the man who awkwardly cradled the six-week old baby of one of their friends, alternately swaying and bouncing and bouncing and swaying until he finally found his rhythm with a nice gentle sway-and-rock.
Kiss Kiss, Hug Hug and Good Luck
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
So you kids talk amongst yourselves and I'll be back next week. I may even tell you why there's a tape of me being dry humped by a frat boy named Hudd or how I bacame a corporate minion, sans nose ring.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
But then Paul the Rat Killer showed up and placed those little blocks of no-bake cookies around my apartment and suddenly, if suddenly is one week later, I seem to be devoid of the Rodentus Maximus and I think I may be kind of sad. They were my one claim to fame, you see. My friend Amanda expressed horror and dismay as I continued to sleep in my apartment and I took great pride in the fact that I went home every night to an apartment that could honestly and without exaggeration be referred to as ‘infested.’ I’m afraid she feared the worst for me, suspecting that the vicious attack rodents would somehow gnaw off my face in the middle of the night and I would awake to some Silence of the Lambs-esque horror.
But I know that rats can’t climb, at least that’s what I tell myself, and so I never really feared for my safety or pondered the chances of my face being ripped off piece by wee little piece because let’s be honest here, I wake up if my next door neighbor’s dog thinks about shedding a wee little piece of fur much less allowing some persnickety rodent to launch himself onto my bed and make it next to my face without me going all Mr. Miagi on it’s ass. Also, I discarded my knife in favor of a large metal hammer I found in my tool bag due to a stern self-evaluation where I realized that my knife-throwing skills were more than likely sub-par but my hammering skills were right up there with Ty Pennington. I would have said Bob Villa but that guy kind of creeps me out. Though so does Ty Pennington, especially now that he’s shelling for a phone company and I’m supposed to buy into the fact that the majority of American women want to pin his bony ass to a wall and have their wicked way with him. But me, I’d prefer to avoid being impaled by someone’s hip bone so instead I’m going to offer Mr. Pennington a cookie and remind him that indoor tanning is only for chicks.
Truly, I think I was more comfortable when I could see them because at least then I knew their exact whereabouts. Their piercing rodent screams were like an auditory radar screen; Mr. Bojangles in quadrant two! Baby Rat in quadrant four! Send in the piercing kitchen lights and stomping feet to scare them off! It was like Top Gun, without the pre-braces Tom Cruise and the really cool make-out scene that my dad used to casually flip away from while I pretended that kissing boys was wicked gross when really I was just highly confused as to why grown ass folks had to go and put their tongue in everybody’s mouth. Like, ew. So really it was nothing like Top Gun, except maybe that one scene where they all scream out things like TWO BOGEYS, no, THREE BOGEYS, no FIFTEEN BOGEYS! Sir! We’re totally screwed, sir! And then Goose dies and everybody cries a little.
So yeah, I’m totally looking forward to smelling my little rodent friends as their little souls depart their earthen bodies and leave behind their decomposing furry shells for my olfactory pleasures.