Friday, September 29, 2006

Dear Me

Tell yourself it’s just your impending period. Tell yourself it’s the fact that fall is here, and change of any kind makes you introspective. Tell yourself it’s because you’re tired, because you’re frustrated, because you’re preoccupied. Tell yourself whatever you want. Blame it on the person closest to you. Make yourself a martyr, make yourself the victim.

But know, without doubt, that this worry, this nagging sense of dread, is your doing.

You can only blame your actions and reactions on your past for so long. And then that becomes played and laughable. You are in charge of who you are, how you act, what you think and how much you think about it. You are the one who overanalyzes, you are the one who makes yourself sick over nothing. You are your own worst enemy.

Because, sure, your last relationship made you doubt yourself. He made you feel like you weren’t worth the love you deserve. But you’ve chosen to go ahead and carry that into this: You’re the one who decides, when your wonderful boyfriend is just a little bit quiet, a little less affectionate, that he’s lost all desire for you. You choose to believe that any love but your own is fleeting, not solid enough to withstand even one fight. You’re the one who thinks his mind is bound to change, his attention bound to stray, his patience bound to run out. You’re the one who’s afraid to talk about the future. Because you don’t want to scare him, because you weren’t allowed to before. You’re the one who decides to leave that up to him – the talk of the future and us and anything else – then be upset because he hasn’t read your mind the way you think he should. You’re the one afraid of everything.

Because you could fling that blame at your ex for a while, but now look: Over a year later, a year of nothing but solid proof that he loves you, and you’re doing it again. You’re second guessing, over thinking, worrying. You have to start looking at you now. Perhaps a good motivator would be to imagine your ex standing over you saying “I told you so. It wasn’t me. It was you. Just like I said.” And you don’t want to prove him right. Stop looking at what was done to you, and start thinking about how you can overcome that.

Of course, you’re afraid to be hurt again. Naturally. But there’s nothing you can do to keep that from happening now. No amount of supposing or hypothesizing is going to change it. So just roll with it. Stop letting worry consume you. Why are you always thinking about the worst? You worried about leaving clothes at your boyfriend’s house because you hated the thought of one day carrying them all back out again. And he went ahead and bought you a dresser to put them in. Half of the closet. Some counter space. And then he invited you to live there. Sure, it’s possible that you’ll have to move it all out one day. That’s the case with anything. But why worry about that rather than focusing on the fact that the dresser is there, full of sweaters and underpants and sexy underthings? And he put it there, with absolutely no instruction from you. He wants you. He loves you. Try thinking about that for once.

But it's to your credit that, unlike normal women, you don't worry about cheating. You at least feel secure in that. It's just that you worry so much that he's going to leave. And break your heart. That's more frightening to you than betrayal. You just don't want to be left standing with a fractured heart again. And that's understandable. But don't you think it's time you let go of that? Just release that fear. You've come too far - with him and by yourself - to still be clinging to old ghosts like that.

Because, really, he’s not going to want to keep convincing you that he loves you. You know he does. Just remember it.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


If I could live my life in a constant state of worry and peril, I would probably weigh roughly 42 pounds. I eat when I’m bored, I do not eat when I’m nervous or upset. When I’m bored I’ll sometimes come to out of what must be a black-out and realize that I’ve eaten almost an entire bag of Bakes Lay’s. I’ll leave the crumbs in the bottom, though, and put them back in the cabinet for the next person to enjoy. Because I am no pig.

But when I’m upset, I’m exactly the opposite. I swear, my throat closes and my stomach winces at the threat of even a dollop of calorie or flavor ridden morsels. Water and water alone sustains me when I’m upset.

How could I eat when I’m upset? I have no time to eat when I’m busy fixating on how horrible things are. I can’t eat a buffalo chicken wrap when I’m involved in preparing myself for the worst-case-scenario.

The weirdest thing is, I can be SO hungry – STARVING in fact – and ready to tear into a hunk of the Laughing Cow cheese I bought at the IGA…But if I get, say, a phone call in which I think I may be A) in trouble for something B) on the verge of getting dumped or C) getting results from my doctor, my mouth will instantly run dry, and my stomach will curl up into the fetal position and sort of tuck itself behind my intestines, crying, begging me not to eat. (Incidentally, my intestines are another story entirely. Being upset, for some reason, makes them just spring to life.)

I didn’t eat yesterday until dinner because I was upset over a fight I’d had with my boyfriend. And, even now, a day later, my stomach is still unfolding itself from its cramped position, begrudgingly allowing me to ingest nutrients.

Because, even though things are “back to normal” between my boyfriend and myself, my mind is still caught up in all of my worrying. Overreacting or not, I have a very visceral reaction to worry, to fear, to sadness.

I just need to relax, breathe, and wait for things to get back to normal. In my mind, and in my belly.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I can’t focus. I can’t keep my thoughts on one item at a time. Not work, not blogs, not even this. I’ve bitten the inside of my mouth so that it’s raw, my mouth curled so that I can reach the fleshy parts of the inside of my cheek with my teeth. It’s not attractive, and not particularly comfortable either, but it’s what I do when I’m nervous.

I don’t know if it’s my cold, or my impending period, my nature, or something really deep inside of me that I haven’t quite acknowledged yet, but I keep fighting with Billy. Last weekend, this weekend, last night; for a couple who never fights, there’s been a terrifying increase in the frequency of our quarrels.

Couples fight. I know they do. All the time. People scream at each other, throw things, hurl nasty names like cannonballs. But that’s not what we do. We have “discussions” in which neither of us raises our voice. We try to out-synonym, out-think, out-smart, out-debate one another. And we’re both so stubborn that our fights – or discussions – rarely get us anywhere besides on opposite sides of the bed, back to back, and unfulfilled. I won’t bend, neither will he. And so we get locked in a stalemate that eventually settles into the backs of our minds with the aid of sleep, the fight all but forgotten in a day or so.

But I freak out. Over everything. And right now, the morning after a fight, his silence is ringing in my ears. Something feels very wrong, and I don’t like it. My body is heavy with dread, my throat thick with worry. And for no reason. I hope.

If I could reach him now, I would. If I could find him, talk to him, I’d do it. But I can’t, and it makes every second that creeps by feel like sandpaper against my skin. Before I know it, I’ll be raw, like the inside of my cheeks; chewed up and spat out by my own psyche, my own over-active imagination, my own fear, my own insecurity that one fight will be the one to push him away for good.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What I Wouldn't Give

This morning on my way into work, I drove through a shower of leaves. Already golden and bronze, they danced through the air above the road, tumbling and spinning on their way to the other side of the thoroughfare. The huddled mass of them performed a serious of dainty pirouettes, blurry spirals, lazy swaying. Staring at them through my windshield, barreling toward them, I saw that it is actually fall.

And though I love autumn - the crisp coolness in the air, the warm colors it inspires, its call for red wine and desserts made with nutmeg - I'm not quite ready for it yet. I feel like it was just yesterday that I stopped wearing my jacket, and here it is already time to put them back on.

So days like this, when it's cool and not quite warm enough to go out without a sweater, I remember Belize. The hot wind, the thick air, the blaring sun. If I think hard enough, I can remember what it was like to wear my bathing suit every day, to dread the need for an actual shirt. I can remember the sand between my toes and the sun on my shoulders.

First Full Day in Belize

Days like this, I want to go back, if not just for a day, to taste the warmth and feel the breeze that I won't find here for another eight months.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Cough and Cold

Remember when I was talking about that cold I had? Yeah, well, it sort of exploded into something horrible. Not "horrible" like "my lung collapsed," but "horrible" like "It's kind of hard for me to breathe without coughing up something really terrible, and I certainly can't breathe through my nose at this juncture and, ow, my back hurts and my legs hurt and my arms hurt and even my hair hurts, though I'm not quite sure how that's possible, and my nose is getting all raw from blowing it all the time, and can I take Advil with Mucinex D AND vitamins and tea, because I think I can but I also think that's the reason I'm all shaky and can't seem to focus."

Yeah, that's what I mean when I say "horrible."

Which is troublesome for a number of reasons. Let's go over them in list form, shall we!

1. I have a very busy week planned. I have dinner tonight, I have my dad's birthday tomorrow night, I have plans with Billy Wednesday night, I have plans for drinks on Thursday and I have BIG plans on Saturday. A cold, if you'll notice, was not in my Palm Pilot for this week.

2. My birthday is next week. I can't be sick for my own birthday.

3. That James Morrison CD I ordered? I got it Monday of last week, and it's been on constant repeat ever since. I love, love, love it. But now that I'm sick, I can't sing along. And that makes me sad.

4. Why can't I sing along, you ask? Because I sound not unlike a prepubescent boy when I attempt to sing along with anything. My voice cracks and splits, its various changes from low- to high-pitched completely out of my control.

5. But when I talk? I sound like a man, baby. Deep and raspy, distinctly mannish in my tone and even demeanor, I sound like a truck driver, not a 25 year old girl. It's awful.

6. My big plans on Saturday include dancing. I can't tell you how not sexy or appealing it is to dance for a few minutes, cough. Dance for a few minutes, cough.

7. And I don't cough like a dainty maiden. This is a doubled-over, whole-body-into-it kind of cough. The gross kind of cough that produces the quite unwelcome presence of mucus in my mouth. The kind where, when I'm finally done hacking, the look on my face is pained and disgusted because not only did the coughing spell hurt, but now I have to spit somewhere.

8. Being sick makes me all squishy and romantic. Despite how gross I am right now, when I'm sick like this, I just want to curl up in bed with Billy, put my warm head in that perfect niche between his arm and his chest, where I lay with my head in the soft area of his shoulder that seems like it was made just for me. He'll kiss my forehead and rub my back and I'll fall asleep and probably drool all over him. Before I do that, thought, I'll speak to him in a small voice, and I'll need him desperately all day long.

9. I won't see him until 9:00 at the earliest.

10. It's just embarrassing. Because I'm pale and sickly, because I keep blowing my nose, because I sound like a man, because of my horrible cough. I feel like I have the plague. And that, my friends, is horrible, no matter how you look at it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Drunks say the Darndest Things

After dinner last Friday, I went to a local bar with Alex and Nancy for a celebratory drink for Alex's birthday. The drunken man sitting next to me for most of the night (No, not Alex) asked me what I was drinking.

"Vodka tonic," I replied cautiously. "Why?"

His head sort of rolled to the side, where he supported it with his flimsy hand. He almost knocked over his third glass of wine as he began to evaluate me. He rubbed his hairless chin with his free hand. "Says a lot," he slurred.

"My drink? Says a lot about me?" I stirred the clear fluid and made a production of studying it.

"No. No." He shook his head, slowly. "You say a lot about you."

"But I haven't spoken to you."

"I know. I know." He nodded and laughed. I looked at Alex and Nancy and shrugged my shoulders, unsure of where he was going or what he meant by any of this.

"What do you know?" My tone was irritated, skeptical.

He pointed at me with his unsteady finger. "Bad boyfriend." He surveyed me, from my waist to the tip-top of my head, then nodded, satisfied with his diagnosis.

"Excuse me?"

"Maybe not now. But in the past." He nodded again.

"My drink told you that?"

"No. You have it written all over you." The wine had made his tongue slow and too big for his mouth. His lips moved to speak, but his tongue moved a good two seconds later. And he was judging me.

"Oh, I do?" I raised one eyebrow and took a small sip of my drink, curious and provoked. "What about me says bad boyfriend?"

"Quick. Combative. Ready to shoot me down." He concentrated on his glass as he moved it from the bar to his mouth. "I asked you what you were drinking and you got sus...susp...suspicioussss."

"Wary," I said.


"Wary is the word you're looking for. Not suspicious, or combative. Wary."

"YES." He proclaimed, jabbing his finger at me, and nodding satisfactorily. "That's it. Wary."

I nodded with him, gave a sarcastic "cheers" and toasted his wine glass with my stout vodka-tonic. I am wary, always, of everyone. It's exhausting and unnecessary most times, but I am.

Last night, watching Grey's Anatomy, I saw that very wariness of which I spoke. Not in the characters of the show, but in me, reacting to the characters.

Meredith's ex-lover, the married Derek, finally comes back to her once she's found a new guy. He sees her with a handsome new love interest, and suddenly he's back. With the passion and the sex...And every man's Get Out of Jail Free card, "I love you."

And after he said it to her, told her to take her time choosing between him and the new guy, my heart sank for her. Because I didn't see it as a genuine expression of love. I saw it as him rushing to claim territory that he lost. Classic playground syndrome: A kid doesn't want his toy until another kid gets his hands on it.

I felt myself wanting to warn her: Be careful! He doesn't love you. He's just finally aware that he lost you. He's seen you with someone else and now he wants you back? Open your eyes! He took you for granted, he treated you like shit, he made you second best. And now he wants you to choose him. Watch out. Because he's only going to take you for granted again, treat you like shit again, and make you second best again. He's going to hurt you, just like he did before. I know you want him, I know you love him, but he will rip out your heart if you let him back into your chest.

"I love you" doesn't erase all of the tears, the unkind words, the bruises and the aching. "I love you" isn't necessarily permanent, it can be fleeting. "I love you" doesn't guarantee anything.

I felt for her. Because I've been there.

And I don't know if it really was the vodka-tonic that gave me away, but the drunk at the bar was right. It must be written all over me. I just worry that I'll never be able to erase what someone else wrote on my flesh.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


While I type this, Blogger is glaring at me from the corner of my screen, shouting that an outage is scheduled in half an hour and I'd better get to typing.

It's disconcerting.

Anyway, as this week has dragged on, I've noticed that I am no longer the young sprite I once was. One night spent whooping it up in New York City, and suddenly the rest of my week is shot. I couldn't function on Monday and I barely pulled it together for Tuesday.

Tuesday night, though, I felt it. You know what I'm talking about: That little dry patch in the back of your throat, the one that feels like you've swallowed an tiny square of sandpaper and it somehow got stuck to your uvula. The one that feels like, if you could just drink some water to moisten it, it would go away. So you drink water, but it doesn't go away. And you just know, right then, what's coming...

So I went out yesterday and bought Airborne. I've heard about it, but never bought it before as I've always thought it was just a ploy to get my money. And their ploy worked, because $8 later I was back at work, dissolving the tablet in my glass of water and chugging it.

But I should've just spent my $8 on Kleenex and Advil Cold and Sinus instead. Because sitting at a local restaurant last night with my boyfriend, my dad and my mom - for her birthday dinner - the sniffles started. And somewhere between the tequila shot my mom did with Billy, and the Birthday song that the waiters and waitresses sang for my mom, I hit a wall. Suddenly, I couldn't keep my eyes open. I was yawning, and sniffling. And, what's worse, I didn't drink anything all night. All night, people! Me! No booze! Because I - gasp! - just didn't feel like it.

After we dropped my parents off at their house, Billy and I headed to our home. And, as soon as we got there, I crawled into that luscious bed of ours and...Passed the fuck out.

I was out cold in a matter of minutes. I was curled up on Billy's chest. Mouth open. Drooling, probably. Immobile.

"You were so cute last night," Billy said to me this morning. "Sleeping like that. It was adorable."

"Did I have my mouth open?"

"Of course you did."

"Is that why you were laughing at me?" I vaguely recalled a moment where I opened my heavy eyes, only to see him giggling, his face pointed directly at me. I shrugged and went back to sleep.

"No, I was laughing because I got up for a minute, and when I came back, you were all the way on my side of the bed. I mean, all the way. There wasn't even an inch for me. So I tried moving you gently so that I wouldn't wake you up, but you were dead weight. So, then I had to sort of pick you up, and that's when you woke up, all confused. But you just closed your eyes right after you opened them. I could've done anything to you last night."

It was nearly impossible to get up this morning, and it's been impossible to focus today. I have a big box of Puffs Plus (With lotion!) next to my computer, my Purell on hand, vitamins, juice and cold medicine. It's very, very sexy.

And I'm pretty sure this is the penance I'm paying for an evening that didn't end until the sun came up.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What Happens When Nine Girls Pile into a Limo for a Night on the Town?

This. And lots of it.

Please pardon the cocky expression, as I was just proud of myself for having filled a glass half-full of vodka in a moving limousine. As it turns out, I'm heavy handed with the liquor when it comes to making drinks, which may explain why I've never been a bartender. And besides, I can't be responsible for things like velocity and flow and bumps in the road. I'm human. I can only do so much. But, hey, the way I saw it, moderation was irrelevant, as none of us had to drive, and the goal of the evening was to enjoy ourselves.

Which, I think it's safe to say, we did. We started at nine o'clock on Saturday night, and, as I may have mentioned before, didn't get home until 6:30 Sunday morning. During those ungodly hours, we went to Sol, headed to Duvet, and capped off the evening at Lotus.

And, when you're flanked by a ton of hot chicks, you don't much care that you always feel like a country bumpkin when you're in the city. Because, when there's that many of you, and you have oodles of bottles of booze waiting for you in the car, you really sort of become your own party.

The impression I give with this statement is probably that there were nine heavily inebriated women running around the streets of New York City. But that's wrong. Because, really, no one was. Drunk, that is. We were just all in the mood to have a good time. To shake our thangs and enjoy one another's company. Which is precisely what happened. We danced. We talked. We laughed. We looked. It was incredible.

The ride home, however, was another story entirely. Finally, the vodka and our shoes and the dancing and the walking and the laughing and the talking and silliness caught up with us. And we all passed out in the thick buttery seats of the limo's interior. It was like waking the dead when we finally hit home, each of us rolling out of our respective seats, walking like zombies to the promise of soft beds, warm sheets, space to stretch out in.

Which, really, when you think about it, is the way all of the good nights end.

Happy Birthday Mamila!

Monday, September 18, 2006

How Much Longer Until I Can Nap?

So, that outing in New York City I was talking about? Yeah, we went. Nine girls in a stretch Infiniti SUV, with roughly 13 bottles of booze headed out for NYC at roughly 9:00 on Saturday night...

...And got back home somewhere in the vicinity of 6:30 on Sunday morning.

And, even though I slept until two in the afternoon yesterday, I am feeling the residual effects of sleep deprivation.

So, no real post today. Because nothing good is coming out of this brain for at least 24 hours, I can guarantee you that.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Another Saturday, Another List

1. This morning, before work, I was watching Vh1, and I was hit with the trifecta of music I can't stand. Applying my makeup, I was subject first to Nikelback's Far Away, then Five for Fighting's The Riddle, then that goddamn Hinder song, Lips of an Angel. All in a row. I wanted to scream. Those three songs are haunting my life. They're everywhere. And it's driving me nuts.

But, aside from a few songs I can't seem to escape, it's a good month for music. It really is.

First of all, I got the new Justin Timberlake CD, which really rocks my world. I mean, I hate admitting that I like it, but I can't help it: I do. It makes me want to dance while I'm driving my car. And, actually, if you must know, I think it's rife with good stripper songs. Honestly. Not that I'd know anything about that.

Then, I ordered what has the potential to be my new favorite CD on James Morrison. After worrying that I'd only be able to hear his songs on his myspace page because he's not released in the US, I, at the advice of my lovely readers, ordered the damn thing from the British site. I was advised it would take 6 - 10 business days to get to me, but I got the email yesterday that said the album had been "dispatched" already. This gives me great hope, as the day before I got word that something else I'd ordered online (A World Cup Ghana jersey for Billy from had been dispatched the previous day, and I got the thing yesterday. I don't mean to celebrate before there's cause for it, but this gives me reason to believe that I'll have my CD early next week.

And then, this morning, as I watched the aforementioned Vh1, their Jump Start bumper displayed the Upcoming Releases. And do you know what was on it? JONNY LANG. My favorite guy. And even though it got a sort of crappy review on Amazon, I'm buying that shit on Tuesday the 19th - The day it comes out. Why? Because I love him. And I have to support the artists I love so that they keep coming out with music.

I don't think I'll even have the sort of time it's going to take to listen to all of these goodies. Which is a really delicious predicament to be in.

2. Before recently, I had never really purchased anything online. But as my purchases have started coming in, I can see how this could be addictive. There's something terribly wonderful about expecting and getting packages in the mail! Who knew!

3. We seem to have run head first into autumn. The days around here were, not too long ago, hot and sunny, thick with humidity and stifling. But now, rainy days and temperatures that won't break 70 have catapulted us into my favorite season. The other day, driving home, I saw the first of many trees to turn red.

Back in July, I decided that my ringer should be Summertime, by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. But seeing the trees and feeling the fall, it seems that Summertime is no longer appropriate. So I went onto Sprint's website and dug around for a new ringer, and then I found it, one of my favorite songs of all time: Al Green, Here I am (Come and Take Me), which I promptly downloaded and set as my ringer.

4. I may also be addicted to downloading songs as ringers for my phone.

5. Yeah, I know I'm a geek.

6. Last night, I cooked dinner!

Well, that's what I'm telling everybody anyway. What really happened is that I went over to Alex and Nancy's for Alex's birthday. Nancy, amazing chef that she is, was cooking Alex the Cuban his favorite ethnic dish: Ropa Vieja. Alex and I sat and talked over red wine while Nancy got three pots going on the stove, and, at the same time, set to the task of shredding the cooked beef by hand. "Do you need help?" I asked, over the kitchen bar.

"No, I've got it," she said, her hands pulling apart the tender meat and dropping it onto a dish. "Unless you want to help me do this," she held up strings of beef.

"Sure," I said, dramatically setting my wine glass on the counter, and sauntering to her side of the bar, like a soldier going into battle.

She left me to the task, while I continued to chat with her and Alex. I was much slower than her at the shredding, but she didn't seem to mind.

"Look at you," Alex said. "In a kitchen? This is a day for the record books."

"Yes," I replied, my eyes on the beef. "It is indeed. I'm going to put this on my business card, 'Meat-Shredder.'"

"Put it on your resume," he offered.

"Yes, but I'll say I cooked a whole dinner on my resume."

Alex nodded in accord. "Yes. Because people lie on those things all the time anyway."

It's pathetic, the fact that everyone in my life knows that I am useless in the kitchen.

7. I'm going to New York City tonight with some lady-friends for a night full of drinks and dancing. I'm dressing up in black slacks, a sexy top, and sexier shoes.

But, have you ever feel like one of the Beverly Hillbillies? Yeah, that's how I'll be feeling tonight. Because, as I've said before, something about New York City makes me feel like a little country bumpkin. Like, no matter what I have on, I might as well be wearing overalls and a straw hat. If I wear jeans, I feel like people are saying "Oh my god, look at that girl, wearing jeans in a club. She must be from Pennsylvania." And if I wear something dressy, I feel like people are saying "Oh my god. Look at that girl, all dressed up in a club. She's trying so hard. She must be from Pennsylvania." I feel like I can't win.

But I'll be with roughly nineteen other chicks, who are all dressing up, too. So there's strength in numbers.

Or it may just mean that people will say "Oh my god, look at those girls...They must be from Pennsylvania."

8. Last night, after dinner, Nancy and Alex and I went to a bar and watched a grown man get thoroughly and completely wasted on three glasses of Chardonnay. He got up to leave and fell over. I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who can't hold my wine.

7. I'm sticking to vodka tonight.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Taking It

He thinks I like to fight. He thinks I get off on it. He thinks I can't just be happy with things going smoothly, that, after a good run, I need a good fight to cap it off. He thinks I take everything wrong, that any comment he makes is bound to get turned and mangled in my mind, and wind up making me angry. He thinks I'm trying to make him into a bad guy, that I can't just be happy. And though I vehemently denied it, though I argued with a raised voice and incredulous attitude, part of me thinks he may be right.

Whatever he says to me, whatever he does, I'm looking for the seedy underbelly he doesn't want me to find. Benign statements are twisted into criticisms, meek words home to latent anger and evidence of discord.

"I would do that for you," I said to Billy Wednesday night, pointing to a commercial for Ugly Betty.

"Do what?"

"Let you take credit for an idea of mine. And I would never let anyone take credit for something I did. The list of those who would be allowed is very short. Four people." I held up four fingers, should he need a visual aide. "And three of those people are related to me by blood."

"That's sweet, babe. Thanks," he said, kissing the top of my head. "But I wouldn't make you do that. I have some pretty good ideas myself. I'm an artiste." He said the last word with an obnoxious accent, meant to be funny.

Know what I heard? I don't need to take credit for your ideas because you don't have any. I'm obviously much smarter than you, so if anyone's coming up with any ideas, it's going to be me.

I moved away from him and crossed my arms over my chest, stared hard at the TV. "That was a mean thing to say," I said, more to the TV than to him.

"Wha-? Why?"

"All you had to do was say thanks."

"I did."

"But you should've ended it there. You didn't have to make a point of saying you'd never want or have to take credit for something I did."

In relaying it now, I don't even know what the hell we were talking about. But I do know that it still irritates me, just as it did all of yesterday. So when he got home last night, I waited for the prime opportunity to reference the exchange.

I don't recall now the moment I chose, or what he said that set the stage for my comment. I do recall, however, my words: "It's okay that you think you're smarter than me."

And that's when he asked me about my need to fight. "Why do you always think I'm belittling you? You know I know you're smart. That's one of my favorite things about you. I tell you that all the time. I talk about how smart my girlfriend is. You know that. Why are you turning me into this guy who goes out of his way to make you feel like shit?"

And I didn't have an answer for him. Because what he said is right. He does tell me I'm smart; Around him, I usually feel like the smartest, most beautiful, most incredible woman in the universe. Watching Dancing with the Stars, referring to one of the dancers' amazing bodies, I said "Yeah, that's what my body usually looks like," clearly being facetious.

"Babe, your body is better than that." His tone was serious.

He never makes me feel like second best, he gives me nothing but compliments...

So why did I get so upset over a comment that I took to mean he thinks I'm intellectually inferior?

The answer is, I'm not quite sure. It could be because, a long time ago, I was told (by someone else) that I have nothing to offer because I didn't go to college, because I, at that time, worked at a bank. It could be because I'm afraid I'm not doing enough with myself. It could be because, in truth, I think he is smarter than I am, and that intimidates me. I could be because I feel like my brain is rotting away in my head because I'm just not doing anything with it - sure, I read and I write, and I watch Jeopardy. But, beyond that, I don't do anything. I balance a checkbook and pay bills for a living. Occasionally, I put together a spreadsheet or something. So maybe I feel like crap about myself and I'm taking it out on him. Maybe it's because he doesn't read my blog, and that makes me feel like he thinks I'm no good.

Or maybe I am looking for a fight. Because strife in a relationship is all I know. But it's been a year with Billy, and how much longer can I use my last relationship as an excuse?

I do know this, though. It has to stop. I can't use the rain and my surgery and my cat and bad days as excuses for it. Because if it were him doing this to me, I would go crazy.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Seek and Destroy

"She does not trust him. After all this time, she still thinks he's doing something deceitful. She goes through his pockets, his phone, his car. She's always searching."

"For what?"

"For something. For proof that he's unfaithful. Or bored. I don't know."

"Of all people, you'd think she'd be secure. I mean, she's gorgeous and driven, and he's just head over heels for her. Seriously, I look at the two of them and think I hope Billy and I are like that. I had no idea she was worried."

He shook his head slowly, disbelieving, looking at the table in front of him. "No. I don't know why either. But it must drive him crazy."

"It must drive her crazy. How can you live like that? Always wondering, always suspicious, always checking up on him? I would go mad."

I said it like I've never done it before. Oh, but I have. I've made sure to not call before heading to a boyfriend's house, hoping, almost, to pull up and bear witness to a strange car in the driveway, or, worse, to catch him in the act of something. I've gone through drawers, I've surveyed rooms for slight changes that only women would notice; a hint of perfume on the sheets, earrings on a nightstand, unfamiliar undergarments. I've done it all.

But I think, as women, we all reach a point where we decide Enough. Enough searching and worrying and wondering and overthinking. We're so terrified of being made a fool, that we seek to destroy that chance before it happens. But all of that seeking and searching only ends up destroying our relationships, our sanity. If we find nothing, we think he's just good at covering his tracks. And we nit-pick and take shots and try to catch him in lies. And in the end, after behavior like that, not only have you made him miserable and crazy, but you've driven yourself to the brink of insanity.

So, eventually, we just make that choice to stop. We make a conscious effort to just trust.

Which, though it sounds easy and like something that should just be understood in a relationship, can be quite difficult. We're all prisoners of our past. Or I know I am, anyway. I don't know that I was cheated on before, but I thought I was. And I cried and dug around and convinced myself I was the victim of infidelity without any proof. It was because he didn't pay enough attention to me, wasn't interested enough in my life, didn't care enough to make time for me. Instead of just assuming he wasn't the right kind of person for me, I thought he was unfaithful. Certainly, if he's not spending his time on me, he's spending it on someone else. And I remember that feeling, that worry, creeping through my thoughts all day long, invading my conversations, permeating whatever mood I was in. He could be cheating right now, and I'd never know it. And so the investigation would begin.

I fought that urge getting into my new relationship. I had grown so accustomed to having tons of free time in my last relationship, that I was fine with the fact that sometimes Billy traveled for work. And I was okay with the fact that I had a huge chunk of time during the day when I couldn't see him. I had grown comfortable with having my own time. But it was a conscious effort to not take that free time as neglect, as it had been before.

I don't call Billy a thousand times a day. I rarely call him, reticent to bother him while he's at work. More often than not, if we speak during the day, it is my phone ringing with his phone call or text message. And that's okay with me. Entering our relationship, I decided that badgering him would only drive him away... I'd just let him be who he was, and if it worked, it worked. Well, it worked, and here we are, just over a year later.

But, still, after all of my professions to be a hands-off and trusting girlfriend, sometimes, my innate feminity gets the better of me. I disregard the fact that every second he's not at work he's with me, and I instead focus on the remote possibility that he could be doing anything while he's "at work." I second guess and self doubt, and before I know it, I'm toying with the idea of digging my way through his belongings.

Why? I don't know. Because I believe, with every bit of me, that he loves me. And I believe that if he were tired of my company, he'd tell me so. And I believe that he loves and respects me enough to not betray my trust in him. I believe all of those things, all the time. But, periodically, I forget.

And it's at that point where I stop. I realize I'm making myself sick over, literally, absolutely nothing. And it's right there were I make that choice. To trust. Because it's hard when you've been crushed, when you hear stories of other people's betrayal at every turn, or when you're feeling a bit insecure. And you forget that trusting someone is a choice to make. I can trust him, or I can not. But if I choose not to, then what am I doing here, anyway?

Maybe I do need therapy. Maybe I need a life coach. Maybe I need to remember that I have no control over the way things will pan out anyway. I didn't even know who I was anymore by the time my last relationship ended. And, this time, I have to remember that at the core of everything is belief. Belief in him, belief in us, belief in myself and making that choice to trust him. He's never given me a reason to doubt him. So why do it?

"I think she's just afraid to lose him," he said, trying to offer some reason for our mutual friend's actions.

"But why?"

"Because she loves him."

I'm afraid to lose Billy, too. But I'm more afraid of losing myself again.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Seriously (Because, Apparently, it's the Word of the Day)

Oh my god. Can I just tell you how awesome you guys are? Seriously, you are fab-u-los.

I mean, really, to tell me where I can find that CD cheaper, to tell me that it's possible to buy from - And to actually go through the steps to find that stuff out? Honestly, Tiff, Liz, Shawn, Michele and Serra: You guys kick some serious ass.

Because, thanks to your comments, I GOT IT.

I am looking at a confirmation from that tells me I just paid 10.73 in Euros (roughly $14) for a CD that I'll have somewhere around the 21st. I expect that you'll be able to hear my yelps of excitement from whatever corner of the earth you happen to be reading this from.

Which brings me to a bigger point: Seriously (Do I use that word too much?) you guys, the people who, for whatever reason, choose to open my little page here and read my words and give me positive feed back, who support me and listen and are just there for me when I need it...You are the best. You've no idea how grateful I am - and have been, especially in these last few months - for you all. So, though it falls dreadfully short of expressing the extent of my gratitude, thank you. Thank you all so much. For reading, for being here, for caring.

I can't tell you how much it means to me.

And now, not only do I have you all, but I'll soon have an awesome CD because of you. And that fucking rocks.

I Need This


That happens to be James Morrison's CD, Undiscovered. And I've already tried to buy it in our local record shop here in Milford...No dice. Apparently, it's still an import. And while that does make me feel very chic and la-di-da because I want an album that is not yet released here in America, it does pose a problem.

See, it seems that every time I turn on the radio, I hear one of five songs: Hinder, Lips of an Angel; Nickelback, Far Away; Sean Paul, Give it up to Me; Snow Patrol, Chasing Cars; All American Rejects, It Ends Tonight. For honorable mention, I'll stick freakin' Five for Fighting in there with The Riddle. Seriously, every time I turn on the radio, one of them starts playing, and I can't even describe the feeling of anger that courses through my body with the opening chords of each ditty. The songs were good, at first. But now, eight million four hundred forty four thousand eight hundred and sixty two plays later...Not so much. At some point, you realize that you'd rather stick a razor in your ear than listen to one more spin of each record.

It's not because they're bad songs, but because they're overplayed and they don't speak to me at all. None of them make me feel wrapped up and safe, the way I prefer my music to make me feel.

Which brings me to last week, when Billy and I watched a repeat episode of Grey's Anatomy, and this incredible voice sung us through the last part of the show. It was rich and deep and rough and smooth all at the same time. Billy and I knew instantly this was a guy we'd both love.

So I dug around on the internet to find him, and I did. Except that, when I found him on Amazon, they said his album wasn't released in the US until September 12. I trudged down to the aforementioned record store to see if they maybe they had it early, in Import form, but no luck. So, a week later, I checked back on Amazon yesterday, and it's there and released, but it will take three to six weeks to get it. And it costs $30. So, hey, why not check out I did, but I think it only ships into the UK, and I don't know what 8.99 in euros comes out to be in US dollars. Probably a thousand dollars or something. Who knows.

And this is where my self-diagnosed OCD comes into play. Because, seriously, I have to have this CD. Have to. I've listened to this guy on his website, on his myspace page, everywhere, and I just can't get enough of his voice. I just know this is a CD that would see constant repeat on my player, yet I can't get it.

I went back to the record store yesterday, and, though the CD may or may not be released in the US, they still don't have it. So I bought the new Justin Timberlake CD to hold me over. I don't much like buying kitschy pop music in that particular record store, because the owners employ a bunch of punk boys to run it, and they play really loud punk-type music in the place, and I feel so ridiculous when buying the new Christina Aguilera or Justin Timberlake CD. I feel like they're judging me for my taste in music, and I just know they're making fun of me as soon as I leave. On the other hand, I also think that - since I'm in there all the time - they say to each other "I just can't figure out her taste. One week it's Christina Aguilera, the next it's Ray LaMontagne. Then it's Keb' Mo'. Then she's looking for some British artist, now Timberlake?" Because that makes me feel cultured and mysterious and diverse.

And though the new Timberlake CD really is quite fantastic, I'm still longing for Mr. Morrison. I suppose eBay is my next move, though buying things on eBay is still sort of foreign to me. Billy keeps insisting I just order it - from somewhere - but I keep hoping against hope there will be some easier way to get it. Until then, I suppose I'll be tethered to this computer, listening to "Better Man" and "Wonderful World" on his Myspace page when I'm alone in the office, and wishing I had the CD.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Looking for the Right

Let's go over a list of the things that have happened to me these past few months, shall we?

  • My house was robbed.
  • I went in for surgery, and after waiting for no less than three hours, I was told to go home and come back in a week.
  • I went in the following week, and actually had a surgery, in which they removed a cyst the size of a tangerine - a cyst so big that it matched my friggin' uterus in size - from my ovary.
  • I went in for my follow up appointment, wherein my doctor told me that my pap was abnormal, and that I would need to come back for a biopsy as soon as possible.
  • I went for the biopsy and learned that I would not be able to wear tampons on my vacation to Mexico.
  • In Mexico, I was treated to a splendid outbreak of sun-poisoning.
  • Once back from Mexico, I discovered that the abnormal pap was due to pre-cancerous cells growing on my cervix.
  • Does my boyfriend ever want to marry me? This question was posed, and answered, though not with the answer I was hoping for.
  • Another surgery, in which they removed the pre-cancerous cells from my cervix via an electric loop or sorts.
  • My boyfriend advises me we will be married. In fourteen years.
  • I could not use pads during the period that came a week after my second surgery.
  • My cat died.

I'd say I'm pretty much done with the drama. I really feel like I've gone through my fair share of shit recently. It all began to unravel with my annual exam in June, and the downward spiral has yet to come to a halt. Even a screeching one would be welcome at this point.

Even though they may be considered silly to some, going through a mess of trials makes you sort of step back and evaluate your life. You know, what have I done that was so horrible that all of this came down on me?

I'm superstitious, so I look at ways I've jinxed myself. I've talked about the ovarian cysts before flippantly, like they weren't serious, even though I've had two of them rupture inside of me already. I read an article about cervical cancer in the waiting room of my gynecologist's office. I wore wedding dresses - full-on dress and veil and shoes - for a bridal company for many years during my teens. I didn't put much stock in the sadness of a friend who'd just put her dog to sleep.

But I convince myself that it's not superstition that's brought me here. I mean, if I take a step back and look - really look - at myself, I can see myself as horrible. So horrible that of course I'd get a round of bad luck. I'll think of me, and the stupid things I've done. I'll forget about the good things I do, my good intentions and my good nature. And I think of the worst...

There have been times that I've talked about people behind their backs, that I've watched my phone ring with calls from my mother, my friends, and let it ring, choosing myself and silence over them. I don't give enough time to my family, and I don't give enough time to the friends who mean most to me. I've been selfish and ungrateful. I've been demanding and, at the same time, neglected people. I've expected a lot from the people in my life, but couldn't be bothered to give back.

Is that it? I mean, could I really be that bad? Have I done something so horrible, so shameful, that God or whomever hovers above us has decided to teach me a lesson?

And there's the other thing. Religion and I have never exactly been tight. And I've made it a point not to just start praying when things go down the shitter. But maybe that's what all this testing is? I can almost hear God above me, his or her voice booming through the clouds: "Just pray, Laurie. Just pray once, accept that you're not the one in control of everything, and I'll make it stop. Just once littler prayer, that's all I ask for." Should I be going to church? Should I be asking for help? Forgiveness? What?

And, worse, I think part of me likes it. The surgeries, the shit luck, the tragedy. Because it gives me an excuse to be sad, to be angry. To cry without reason, to be in a bad mood, to sequester myself in my bedroom, letting the phone ring, letting plans go unmade, letting in no one but my boyfriend. And not even him sometimes. All of it, the word "cancer," death of a loved one (felines count), the scars on my belly, they all give me a damn good excuse to shut down, to not call people back, to not go out. "Sorry I didn't call you back. I've got a lot on my mind..." And I can run through my litany of ailments. And who's going to argue with that?

But it's a slippery slope, because my patience starts to wear thin. If you only know me from here, you wouldn't know that I don't make it a habit to complain - unless it's to my mom. In my day to day life, I quickly glaze over my problems, then just let other people talk about theirs, since that's what they want anyway. I feel like some my friends aren't all that interested in what's going on with me. They'd rather have me around to hear their problems; I'm a good listener. Plus, droning on about my emotional maladies makes me feel weak and boring. Suddenly, I'm the person I can't stand, bitching all the time about things are are really of no substance.

But, this - The recent health problems, violations of my home, my marriage quandary, the passing of a friend of 20 years - they give me the right to talk, to complain. And when I do, I still feel like people don't care. I feel like a whiner, a worrier, someone seeking pity. And maybe that's partly true. But I notice that people disregard what I have to say, shrug off my worry and sadness with a casual "It happens all the time," and I'm supposed to be okay with that. So my patience wears thin for friends that I've listened to for years, who now have to ante up and do some listening of their own, but won't.

And I do some spiraling of my own. Into convincing myself that, but for a very select few, I'm all alone. And I forget to remember that I have an incredible mother, who is there for me no matter what. A boyfriend who actually loves me for who I am, without makeup and heels, who doesn't love me any less when I'm bandaged, sick in bed, and wearing a pad. I have a father who would do anything for me; a man who never calls out of sick for work when he's actually sick, but called out to wait at the hospital when I was having surgery. A little brother who makes me laugh like no one else in this world can, who, underneath his hard and tough exterior, is sweet and kind and always wants to do the right thing. All four of them are there for me, will take care of me if I'd actually admit I need it. I forget about those things, and focus on the negative.

And maybe that's why things have gone so out of control in my life; Me, always focusing on the wrong.

Maybe it's time for some right.

Monday, September 11, 2006

My Life is a Country-Western Song

"I don't want to have to tell you this," my mom said, her voiced cracked and broken over the phone. I could hear the tears in her throat, the softness of her voice. And I knew what she had to tell me. "Smokey died this morning."

I cried instantly. Grief hit me suddenly, like a land mine, which is unusual. Give me bad news, and I'm usually fine for at least a few hours. But later, in the middle of some random task, I'll break down, finally realizing that someone is gone. This, though, was different. My throat closed and tears formed, and I couldn't talk.

"Honey?" Mom was crying, too. "Are you okay?"

Smokey, the cat I've had since third grade, had been sick for a while. And even though he'd gone deaf and skinny, even though he wasn't quite as vibrant and active as he had been before, I figured he'd just always be around. Twenty years is a long time to live for any animal, and, for some reason, the part of me that's still the kid who found him thought we'd get a good thirty out of him.

It was about six months ago when we noticed how thin he'd become. You couldn't tell by looking at him, his thick mane of gray and white fur covering any sign of weight loss. Only when I picked him up did I feel his delicate little ribs, feel the bones of his spine, sharp and defined, through his thick coat. Slowly, he went downhill. His breathing was difficult, but we figured it was because he was wearing what amounted to a fur coat in hundred degree weather. An indoor/outdoor cat, my parents just kept him inside more often than usual and hoped his breathing would return to normal.

It didn't. He sat with his mouth open many times, his little lungs expanding and contracting visibly, his fur moving in and out with each breath. We'd never noticed him breathing before. He'd zone out for a while, catching his breath, then climb onto someone's lap and sleep. Like breathing had exhausted him.

His legs betrayed him next. His back legs wouldn't cooperate with the front, dragging him down and limiting his ability to jump. Some days, he'd be fine, like nothing was wrong. But others? We thought the end was minutes away.

About a month ago, on one of his bad days, I picked him up and held him. I couldn't help but cry, amazed at how little he weighed, how hard it was for him to breathe. "Do you think we should take him into the vet?" I said to my mom through my tears.

"We've done that already. There's nothing wrong with him."

I looked at him, felt his spine beneath my fingers as I ran my hand over his little body. His big green eyes were closed in a long purr, and he lifted his tiny face for me to scratch under his chin. "He's old, I guess," I said, more to myself than my mom. "Twenty is old for a cat."

"That's all it is, honey. Age."

"I just don't want him to die," I said, my voice sounding more each minute like the six year old who found him and was begging to keep him. "I just can't take that right now, too." I was battling with my own body, worried about losing vital pieces of me. I couldn't take losing him.

"He won't," my mom said, her voice sweet with sympathy. "I asked him to hold on through your surgery."

I laughed and kissed his fragile skull. "You better," I said to his sleeping face.

I was just worried that he'd pass on when he was outside, and he'd never find him. "Where was he?" I asked my mom yesterday, tears streaming down my face. I clutched the covers in bed. I felt so weird.

"He was in our bedroom," her voice shook. "He came in last night and slept with all of us - Me and daddy and Sam." Our golden retriever always sleeps with my parents, but Smokey, independent and stubborn, usually sleeps in one of the vacant bedrooms upstairs. "And when we woke up this morning," she paused. "When we woke up this morning, he was...gone."

I just couldn't believe it. He'd been around since I was kid. He was a stray, wandering our neighborhood for days. All of the kids wanted him, because he was so damn cute, with his soft gray and white fur, his tiny little body. Everyone kept trying to take him home, but he'd never stick around. And suddenly, he chose us, taking up residence on our front porch for days. A tiny ball of gray and white with the sweetest little mew I'd ever heard. "Can we keep him?" I begged my mom.

"No. I hate cats," she'd reply. But she put a blanket out on our porch for him. And tuna and water for him. He wasn't going anywhere. She relented, we could keep him. But he was to stay outside.

A week later, he was sleeping in bed with me, crawling on our furniture. We had purchased a food bowl, but didn't know he was a he and bought him pink by mistake. Soon, he ruled our house. I was excited to get home every day and see him. My mom made him a collar that said he belonged to me. I loved him to pieces.

"Wasn't he sweet, though?" Mom said, crying out loud now. "He held on through your surgeries, just like I hoped."

I drove right over. Daddy was in the garage, making a little coffin for him. My mom was out front with Sam, and walked to my car when I pulled up. "Where is he?" I said into her shoulder through our hug.

"He's in the garage with Daddy."

I walked to him, all tiny and frail, laying on the blankets my parents put him on. I sat on the floor, my dad's saw whirring behind me as he pushed wood through. My chest heaved as I petted his little body for the last time. His eyes were open and fixed, but I swear I saw him breathe. Wishful thinking, I guess. I kissed him between his soft little ears and said goodbye.

The three of us, my mom, daddy and I, took turns digging in the rocky soil by the house. We laid him to rest in the root-ridden patch of earth he loved to roll around in. We were all so sad, putting his little box in the ground, covering it with fistfulls of dirt, kind words and tears.

We laid rocks on top of his little grave. I've never buried a pet before, and it struck me that I'd never see him again, save for pictures. Through move after move, through everything, he's been there. And now he's just gone. Except, not really; he's laying in our yard, under a mound of stones and a makeshift headstone, "Smokey" crudely scratched on it in my handwriting.

I put the headstone into the ground, stood back and looked at our little mausoleum. "My God," I said. "My life is a country song. All this tragedy and worry, capped off by the death of a pet."

My mom smiled, wrapped her arm around me. "He knew we loved him. He had a great life."

It seems silly, almost, to be so broken over the death of a pet. But it's as if something I'd always assumed was definite has now changed. A little piece of me went with him.

My hands and arms ache today from the digging. As does my head, from the crying. It hurts more - and less - than I thought it would. I'm sorry he's gone, but I'm glad he went like he did. In the house, peacefully. We didn't have to put him down, and though we watched him get older, he just slowed to a stop. He didn't get sick and become an animal we didn't know. He was ours until the end.

But I was wrong about one thing; no one writes country songs about cats. But I would. I'll miss him something terrible.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

We All Make Mistakes, Right? Right?

At five-thirty in the afternoon yesterday, I left my house in a mad rush and sped down the road in an attempt to beat the clock. A week ago, I had dropped off three pairs of shoes at our local cobbler’s place and it was time to pick them up. But if I missed picking them up yesterday, I’d have to wait another week to get them – Having cornered the market on shoe repair in our area, the German man who oh-so-carefully replaces the torn up soles and broken spikes of my heels and boots needs only to open three days a week. My window of reaching him his very narrow, less than an hour on Thursdays and Fridays. Additionally, he is roughly a half hour from my house. He closes at six. Hence my speeding.

I turned up my music and pressed the pedal to the floor, navigating the all too familiar curves and twists of my neighborhood’s roads with practiced ease and grace. The turns, however, are sharp and steep, as it seems that each turn occurs when going up or down a handsome hill. One hand on my gear shift, one hand on the wheel, I down-shifted my way up hills to get power, coasting and braking on the way back down.

I reached the most notorious hill in my development, one that is particularly steep, its seemingly ninety degree angle difficult to navigate as you descend. The yellow-lined road cradles a rocky cliff of sorts, the pavement complimenting the natural landscape of the Poconos. In the passenger seat going down the hill, I always watch as Northeastern Pennsylvania rocks come dangerously close to the window. But it is a turn I have mastered in all kinds of weather, both up and down; one that, upon reaching it, I instinctually downshift, whether I’m about to climb it or descend it.

But I was going faster than I normally would, and I hugged my side of the road tightly, so as to avoid the cars coming up the hill in the opposite direction. And that’s when I heard the thud, felt the jarring in my car; I gripped the wheel and steered into the shimmying my wheels were doing. “Great,” I thought. “Just great.”

I checked my side view mirror, and it was still there, but I was certain that I’d clipped the jutting rocks with my bumper. Too lazy and helpless to stop (because, what would it do besides make me sadder?), I pictured my poor car, the majestic Lady Gwenivere, her bumper all mashed and bent, perhaps the shattered plastic of my parking lights clinging to the wires that were sure to be dangling from her mutilated front.

“Just great,” I said again, to no one in particular. “This is just what I need.”

Undaunted, I continued to speed to the shoe shop, making a mental note of the things I may as well get done while Gwen’s in the shop: Oil change, brakes, tune up, maybe even the front shocks while I’m at it. I started doing the math in my head, how much of my bi-weekly paycheck I’ve been putting away, how much it totaled so far in my savings, how much I could afford to do without. That money was supposed to be waiting to be put toward a new car, but that would just have to wait, I reasoned. Gwen’s not going anywhere, and we can’t have her looking all mangled.

I pulled into the parking lot just minutes before the six o’clock deadline. I rushed in, my claim ticket already in my hand, eager to pick up my shoes. The Cobbler went over what he’d done for my precious footwear, how he’d resurrected a pair I thought was a gonner, how he saved another from almost certain death. “You’re an artist,” I gushed, handing over the remaining 20 of my forty dollar balance. “Thank you so much.”

“Now you can get back to dancing,” he said, smiling.

“You’ve got that right,” I said with a giggle. “How did you know those are my dancin’ shoes? That’s how I busted that pair! Dancing!” I pointed to my knee-high, pointy-toed pleather boots, caressing the fresh repair of its four inch stiletto heel and the sewing he’d done on the back seam. Suddenly, it occurred to me that maybe he thought I was a stripper. “You know,” I corrected quickly, “like when I’m out with my friends, just dancing with the girls…” Uh, not much better. “…and guys. And whoever else goes out. You know, just dancing with friends…”

“Vat’s your favorite dance to do?” he asked, his accent reminding of my grandfather’s, and making me feel all the more guilty for even the possibility of even mistaken for a stripper.


I’ve never truly salsa-danced in my life. I mean, I’ve tried. Don’t get me wrong. And on certain occasions, when I’m dancing with a particularly good partner or when I’ve had enough drinks, I can even convince myself that I’m a pro at it. Who needs lessons and expertise when you have vodka?

“Okay, well, thank you so much for fixing my shoes,” I said, backing out of the ancient store. “Have a great weekend.”

“You too!” I heard him call as I ran out of the store and across the parking lot.

A row of diagonally-parked cars confronted me, and I walked passed their bumpers on the way to my own, shaking my head and wondering if the shoe guy really thinks that tall brunette who comes in about once every two months with the boots and the high pointy heels and the belly-baring shirts really is a stripper. I shook my head. It doesn’t matter, I said to myself. Take it as a compliment. I’ve had people, in clubs, ask me if I’m a dancer before. And from the tone in their voice, and the way they eye-balled my cleavage, I knew they didn’t mean a ballerina. I was flattered. Clearly, I can move it. But something about the shoe guy’s hunched-over little body, his silver rimmed glasses, his sweet brown eyes, his delicate baby-duck fluff of gray hair made me wish I could just run back there and tell him “I just wanted to clarify: I’m not a stripper; I'm an office manager. Have a good weekend.”

And just as I was fantasizing about clearing up what may not even be an issue, I saw it: The scratched paint along the passenger side of the bumper; primer gray showing through champagne paint in deep wounds. Oh God, I thought, I really did bruise my baby. I hunkered down, fingering the gash, feeling the deep ridges. I moaned, my eyebrows knitted with worry.

“Excuse me,” said an older lady, trying to get by with her cart.

“Oh. Yeah. Sure. Sorry,” I muttered, standing up straight and backing up to let her pass.

Only then did I notice that nothing was hanging from the rear-view mirror inside. And I don’t have rain guards on my windows. And why aren’t there any running boards on this ca–

Oh. My. God.

It wasn’t my car. My car, two spaces away, was fine.

I actually, for the first time in my life, mistook someone else’s 4Runner for my own.

And I don’t know if that means I need a drink, or if I need to lay off the sauce for a little while.

Friday, September 08, 2006


On day six of our seven-day vacation, a whittled-down portion of Billy's family and I decided to take a trip to see some Mayan ruins about half an hour away from our hotel in Playa del Carmen. The six of us pushed our way through the heat and humidity and climbed into the very van we had driven the two hours from our place in Merida to our brand new hotel in Playa. We picked our seats, pointed air-conditioner vents directly at our heads, and were ready to go.

The drive was spent, in large part, talking about how oppressively hot it was outside. Although we never actually witnessed a thermometer or weather man saying so, we believed it to be roughly four hundred and thirty nine degrees outside, with 8,562,264% humidity. Save for one brief interlude with a small monsoon, the sun was bright and strong and the air was thick and wet for each moment of each of our seven days south of the border.

The sun and I do not get along well. Sure, I love to spend time in the sun, and I enjoy a beautiful warm day just as much as the next person, but the time that the sun and I are allowed to commingle is very limited. And, though I can go out into our watered-down Pennsylvania sun for many, many hours, it seems that the sun found in states such as Nevada and Florida, as well as the sun in Belize and Mexico, has little to no use for me. More than a few hours, and my formerly starting-to-tan skin turns a bright shade of burnt, and I know I'm fucked.

Roughly four days into our vacation, my skin began to itch. It's a bad sign of a problem I encounter with pretty much every vacation I take to sunny climates: Sun poisoning. It usually affects my just my back and my chest, though sometimes it creeps down my arms, and occasionally down my stomach and onto my legs. Only mildly uncomfortable, the sun poisoning wouldn't bother me so much if it weren't so hideous to look at. Bright red splotches erupt first on my chest, in the cozy little nook between my boobs. It starts there, the rash spreading not unlike mold, taking root in one section of my skin and working its way outward and up. Before long, what look like small continents of red bumps cover my chest and shoulders, rendering all of the cute low-cut tops I brought along with me completely useless. If I'm lucky, it stops there.

Mexico, however, had other plans for me. My rash decided to stretch out and cover my entire upper half, little islands of blotches staking their claim on my shoulder blades, my arms, and along my spine. Though it limited itself to the upper half of my torso, it was of no comfort. Now I looked like a leper coming and going.

It was probably the fifth day of my vacation that my sun-poisoning really kicked it into high gear, taking up residence on, not only my chest and back, but my tummy and my thighs as well. After each shower, I would, quick, run to the mirror, hoping against hope that some mysterious salve in Mexico's water had miraculously and suddenly cleared my rash. And each time, I gazed upon my naked body only to be greeted by new strains of my rash, the fluorescent lighting of the hotel bathroom multiplying the horror exponentially.

"It's not that bad," Billy would say, walking up behind me and wrapping his arms around me.

"Yes it is," I'd mumble, dejected and sad, fingering the brightest and reddest patch of poisoning on my collarbone. "It's so gross."

"You look beautiful," he'd say.

"Yeah, but you love me. It's different."

And, with that, I'd put on whatever outfit I thought would best cover my rash, or at the very least, whatever outfit would distract the average eye from the rash. Then, I'd go about trying to figure out how I could spend the next twelve hours either indoors, or in the shade.

This proved to be difficult, as this vacation was of the family variety. Traveling in a pack makes it difficult for one to insist that, though we are in Mexico and staying ten paces from one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, we should find the nearest air-conditioned bar and stay in it until the sun goes down. And though I was vetoed nearly every day, Billy's family was quite sympathetic to my plight, offering me seats in the shade and allowing me to bow out of any activity that involved too much sun exposure.

The sixth day, however, I just couldn't reason trading a Mayan ruin for another vodka-tonic. So I wore a t-shirt and a skirt - covering what rash I could, and deciding not to care about the still visible rash my fashion choices wouldn't cover - and climbed in the van with the rest of my party.

It was when we were about halfway to the ruins that it occurred to me that it was roughly noontime, the witching hour of Mexico. I can sweat sitting still in the shade at this hour, and we were headed somewhere where walking would be involved. "Are there any trees in Tulum? You know, trees for shade?" I asked Billy, eyeballing the jungly landscape.

"No, not really. Just ruins." My skin began to whimper prematurely, burning already just at the threat of sun. Billy looked over. "We can get you an umbrella or something," he offered.

"Listen," I said sternly, pointing a manicured finger at him, "I am not carrying around a frickin' umbrella, okay? My rash is bad enough as it is, I don't need to highlight the fact that I'm clearly unwell. I may be able to pass people undetected looking like this, but bringing an umbrella into the mix is certain to draw attention to what would appear to most as a skin disorder. No thank you."

He shrugged his shoulders and said okay, but the tone in his voice taunted me: "You'll be sorry," it cried. My skin acted tough, but it was scared.

In refusing to take the umbrella, though, I was forced to shade myself by other means. This included hopping from tree to tree, shady spot to shady spot, in an attempt to limit the amount of time I spent baking directly beneath the sun's scalding rays. Turns out, sun rash doesn't much care how many actual minutes you spend in the sun, it's going to itch and be uncomfortable either way. So I scratched and whined silently through the majestic ruins, only to discover that where the sun doesn't get me, the bugs will.

I climbed back into the van, a scant forty minutes later, with new splotches of rash and brand new mosquito bites to show for my trip. Looking at my own legs made me queasy. I rubbed Benadryl cream all over my arms and legs and tried my best to ignore it.

We pulled into our hotel and headed in the direction of our rooms. News in Billy's family spreads fast, and it turned out that a 4 wheeling expedition had been planned. Anyone who wanted to go should just turn right back around, climb in the van, and meet the rest of the family for a bumpy ride.

"Do you want to go?" Billy said, smiling at the thought of doing something crazy, involving risk and possible injury in one fell swoop.

I stared at him blankly. A few seconds passed with our eyes locked, his face hopeful and excited, mine full of confusion and disgust. "Look at me!" I demanded. I backed up and spread out my extremities to give him a better view of my body. "My skin is in ruins! I'm wearing band-aids to cover my surgical incisions! My belly button is still raw! I have a rash!" I pointed to a bug bite that had metastisized into what appeared to be a softball beneath my skin. "I don't even know what that is, but I'm sure it's nothing good." I looked at him quizzically. "Do you really think I want to try my luck with something that involves speed, wheels, dirt, bugs and sun?"

"I'll see you as soon as we're done," he said, kissing my cheek.

And I headed straight for the shade near the clear pool and nursed my wounds with the most effective medicine around: Vodka.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Things I Can't Stand Right Now

1. “Have a Happy Period.” – The demand Always brand maxi pads makes every time I open one up to use it. Fuck you, Always. And the happy period you keep insisting I have.

2. The fact that, because of my last surgery, I have to use Always instead of Tampax. Thanks, doc. Nothing makes for an extra-special uncomfortable period like reverting back to junior high and wearing pads. God. I can just hear my pubescent voice in the halls of Greenspun Junior High asking a friend, "Quick, look at my butt. Can you see the outline of my pad?" Ugh.

3. My ovaries, my fallopian tubes, my uterus, my cervix, my hormones, and whatever else invisible, wicked forces that conspire to cause my period.

4. The mysterious gnome or troll or specter that continues to use the last sheet of toilet paper in the bathroom here at work, leaving only mangy little strips of Cottonelle clinging to the carcass of the roll that was.

5. The fact that someone would diligently tear the last shredded sheet of paper from the roll and not stop to think “You know, someone’s bound to come in here and need some toilet paper. Maybe I ought to replace it.”

6. The fact that it seems to happen every time I go to the bathroom.

7. The notion that, because I work with three men and one woman, I can be fairly certain it’s the men who are causing all of this undue, toilet-paper-related stress. And the fact that, because they are men, and men are known to do this, I should somehow just let it go.

8. That I can’t hang up a sign that says “Listen, cocksucker, if you use the last fucking piece of toilet paper, replace the goddamn roll.” Not because it’s gauche and unladylike to do such a thing, but because our customers sometimes use that bathroom. And that would be rude.

9. My internet connection at work. It’s up, it’s down, it’s up, it’s down. C’mon Blue Ridge Cable. WORK WITH ME HERE.

10. The fact that I did not enjoy Straight Up & Dirty as much as I thought I would. I really didn’t. And I wanted to. And I don’t know if it’s because I’m jealous that she got a book deal and I didn’t (because, God knows I’ve been blogging long enough to be discovered, right? What? Have I ever tried to get published? Have I ever even attempted to do anything that would nudge me in the direction of a career in writing? Uh, no. Why do you ask?), but I don’t think so. Because I was genuinely excited to hear that she was published. I felt like a friend, someone I knew, had just signed a book deal. And I bought it the week it came out. I was stoked to read it. But what I didn’t enjoy was the fact that it was just like the blog. It was conversational, and honest, yes. And that’s what I loved about the blog. But, well, the blog didn’t cost me $25 to read. I wanted a story. I read it. I liked it. Just not as much as I thought I would’ve.

11. That Billy is going out of town tonight with his two cousins. Not for work, for pleasure. And when he told me? He said, “By the way, we’re going to Atlantic City Wednesday night.” By the way? Like it was an afterthought? Like, by the way, I went to Wal Mart and got beef jerky? Or, by the way, I pulled the hair out of the drain for us? For the record, telling your girlfriend you're going on an elective night out of town is not a by the way kind of announcement. Not that I wanted him to ask for permission, I would've just like him to say something less casual. But, hey, what do I know. I have my period. I probably wouldn't be happy with anything.

12. Did I mention my hormones?

13. That I don’t have a computer at home.

14. Fruit flies. They’re everywhere. And they’re driving me crazy.

15. That I can’t really write about anything engaging.

16. That I just posted another list. Sorry.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Thank God for Short Holiday Weeks

My mood today is not that of a well-rested woman who just enjoyed a long weekend. It's more like that of a woman who has had just about all that she can take as far as life is concerned, and is ready to explode. And, oh yeah, she has her period. Because I do. Have my period. On top of the cramps I still have from my last surgery, I have the more-painful-than-necessary cramps that come this time of the month, every month. And I can't be quite sure of which is causing me the pain - The removal of a part of my cervix and its subsequent healing, or my recently fucked-with ovaries just doing what they do every month. Who knows. It's a mystery that I probably won't ever have solved. No, I'll just get to sit here, clutching my belly, cursing the gods of fertility and trying not to cry. Not because it hurts so bad, but because that's what I do when I have my period; I cry. For no reason in particular. I just, you know, cry.

So far today I've had a few reasons (and I use that term loosely) to cry. I was caught behind two dump trucks on my way into work, I have had to fight with three companies over money, and I touched a spider. This does not a good day make.

For the record, the spider was just the nuts on top of the sundae of awesomeness that is today. I got the mail, here at work, on my way to the bank, and brought the bundle into my car. When I went to shift into first, I noticed something on my hand. I thought maybe it was a tree leaf or a torn-off piece of newspaper. But I went to brush it off, and noticed it wad decidedly unlike a leaf or piece of paper. The Daddy Long Legs straddled my two hands, his red little body hovering between the hand he was just hanging out on, and the one that went to brush him away. I'm ashamed to admit, but I squealed, checking my actual urge to scream by clenching my lips together. I shook both hands violently, sending him flying into my passenger seat, just narrowly avoiding the abyss that is my purse. He landed, instead, on my new Christina Aguilera CD. He landed, feet first, wavered a bit like he was stunned, then attempted to walk. Apparently, he was still trying to gain his bearings, as he sort of meandered in a half circle, then stopped. I opened my door, all the while sort of moaning in disgust, grabbed the CD and flicked my wrist in the direction of the outdoors to ensure both his flight from my car and the safety of my new CD. When I saw that he was on the pavement, I slammed shut my door, sure that he'd left about a million other spiders in the car with me, all hiding in the mail. My drive to the bank was uneasy at best, and I took the alone time in the comfort of my 4Runner to call my mom.

I talked her ear off, about everything that's bothering me today. Because, when it comes down to it, she's really one of the only people in my life who let me just talk without interrupting, or getting distracted in the middle of my sentence. And that's what I needed today, someone to listen to me. Because there's too much going on in my mind that I can't talk to just anyone about, and I know she's the one of the two women in my life who will just listen and commiserate. No advice, no solutions, just validating my frustration so that it's out of me.

Which is why I just don't have much to write about right now. I could write about how I cleaned the bathroom on Saturday, how Billy fixed the toilet when he got home Saturday night before we went out to a poker game/boxing match event. I could talk about our lazy Sunday, where, like a real grown-up couple, we took the garbage to our local dump, then went home and got ready for an overpriced but fantastic gourmet dinner at a local (and sort of famous) restaurant/cooking school with his mom (a belated Mother's Day gift). I could talk about how I laid in bed all morning yesterday, watching the food network until hunger forced me from the sheets and into the shower then out to my car, where I spent a blissful afternoon alone, eating my lunch with the company of only a book, followed by a shopping excursion where, for once, everything actually fit. But I just can't work up the proper gusto to detail those events. Not today anyway.

I'm just glad this is a short week.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Ready to Move On

I was late.

Twenty minutes, to be exact. I walked up to the desk to check in, refusing to acknowledge my tardiness. If I didn’t say anything, maybe they wouldn’t notice.

The nurse at the desk was ready for me, my paperwork fanned out in front of her, my admission bracelet ready to be wrapped around my wrist. “I got all your things together so you don’t have to wait,” she said, fastening the bracelet that gave my patient ID, my name and birthdate around my chilly forearm. “I just need one signature from you,” she looked down and grabbed my consent form and put it on the ledge of desk between us, “and then I have instructions to take you right back to get prepped.”

I signed my name, long and lean letters in blue ink, saying that I consented to the surgery at hand, as well as any measures necessary to keep me alive. She put her hands on the white counter she sat behind and pushed herself up, smiled at me and nodded in the direction of the hallway. “C’mon.”

I gave my purse to my mom. “I’ll wait here for Billy,” she said. He had dropped us off at the doors and went to park. She gave me a quick hug and I followed the nurse.

She hit the big square button that opened the doors to the pre-op area. The section was throbbing with people, nurses and patients and patients’ families, scuttling around on the shiny floors. We stopped at the front desk, and I put my hand up to my ear, searching for my earring, the one I fiddle with when I’m nervous. The smoothness of my earlobe startled me; I’d forgotten that I’d taken out my earrings, as per my pre-op instructions. And up until that moment, I’d never even really noticed my nervous habit. It made me feel awkward, to have nothing to give my nervous fingers to play with. I dropped my arm back to my side, unsure of what to do with my hands. When no one came to us, she glanced at me and smiled. “Right this way,” she said.

Machines beeped and whirred, people chatted in hushed voices as the nurse led me to a La-Z-Boy chair. She motioned for me to sit in it, then looked around for a free nurse. “Hmph,” she said to herself, watching one uniformed nurse after another hurry past us. “Well,” she said, turning her attention to me, “I’ll let them know you’re here, and I’ll give you these,” she bent, handing me a pile of hospital papers, “so that they don’t get lost somewhere under a pile of someone else’s papers.” She laughed, warm and sweet, and patted me on the arm. “Good luck.”

“Thanks,” I said, clutching the papers she gave me.

I wasn’t prepared for this – the speed with which I was actually being admitted. I thought they’d just start my IV and let me go back to the waiting room for a few hours, like they had last time. I’d left my book with my mom. I wondered if they’d tell my mom and Billy when it was time for me to go in. But I also felt strangely calm, familiar already with the nurses around me and what the hours ahead of me entailed. I looked around; I was the only person in the wide room who hadn’t yet gone into surgery.

They wheeled in a man who lay on his side on a gurney, oxygen strapped to his face, his thick arm limp and draped over his stomach. An older nurse rolled him past me, his sleeping face facing me, and backed him into a spot just across the hall. A woman waited for him there, her heels nervously tapping the floor at her feet. She smiled a worried smile at the nurse, and reached instantly for the patient’s hand. “Tom,” she said quietly. “Wake up, honey. You’re all done.” He barely stirred. “Honey, wake up.” She smoothed the gray hair that was left on his head, kissed him gently on his forehead. “It’s over.” When his only response was a weary stirring, the nurse stepped in.

“TOM. WAKE UP.” She demanded, not beckoned, that he wake up. “IT’S TIME TO GET UP.” His eyes fluttered open, then closed again. The nurse faced Tom’s other half. “I think we had this problem last time, didn’t we?”

The woman ran her fingers over Tom’s. “Yes. I think so.” Her voice was so quiet. Sweet and scared at the same time. “He can sleep if he needs to. I’m not going anywhere.” It was touching, the way she looked at him, the way she caressed him sweetly even though he wasn’t aware of her.

I tried not to stare, but there was nothing else to see. I was surrounded on either side by pink curtains that separated me from the bodies beyond them. Disembodied voices recounted what they did while the patient was in surgery. Meek, post-surgery voices eeked out questions like “how did it go?” and “when can I eat?” Questions were met with confident answers, or at the very least, hushed assurance that a nurse would be asked.

“Laurie?” The head nurse made her way to me, my records weighing down her hand. “How are you?”

“Considering I’m in surgery again? Awesome.” We laughed as she opened the blood pressure arm band she had tucked in the crook of her elbow. The velco ripped open in one loud shriek, and she wrapped it around my arm. She announced my pressure, asked me some questions, and wrote in my file. “I’ll go get you a gown and a robe, then I’ll bring your family in, and we’ll take you down to surgery.”

I was shocked at the speed with which I was being sent into the OR. I thought, for sure, I’d be waiting for hours, my stomach thundering with hunger pains, my nose tucked into a book, reading the same sentence over and over because I couldn’t concentrate. But, here, before I knew it, I was in an unflattering gown, the back open to the world, putting my arms through the soft, often-washed cotton blend of a robe that would cover my exposed rear end. I emerged from the bathroom, my clothes in a bag, to be greeted by my mom and Billy. “Oh,” I said, smiling. “I’m glad you guys are here. I just slipped into something sexy for you.”

“I don’t know if I want to be here for that,” my mom said, kissing me on the cheek. Billy held my red and blue purse, and smiled, following me to my section of the pre-op room.

“Thanks for carrying my purse, baby,” I said to him. He held it in his long hands, his arms hanging in front of his body, the purse dangling there like an unwanted appendage.

“Hey, no problem. It goes with my outfit.”

A bed had been rolled out for me, and I was instructed to lay down. “It’s time to go,” the nurse said. “You guys can come, too.” So we left, Billy, my mom, the nurse and me, rolling down the hall in a sad little parade, with me as the Grand Master.

But I wasn’t scared, or even the slightest bit nervous. All of this, the cysts and pre-cancer, it’s just made me more calm. Since July, my house has been robbed, I was turned away from one surgery, I’ve had two actual surgeries, I’ve had a biopsy, I’ve found out that whether or not my boyfriend will ever marry me is questionable. There were littler, simply annoying, things, too: I’ve had heat rash, mosquito bites that grew to the size of softballs, and, after this last surgery, our toilet decided to quit working. I’ve had a rough few months. But, all of it has made me shrug my shoulders and tilt my head, “What are you gonna do?” I say. It could be better, but it could also be worse.

Billy leaned over and kissed me, full and soft on the lips. “I love you,” he said, right into my mouth. I inhaled his words, repeated them back to him.

My mom kissed me, and pressed her soft face against mine. She whispered I love you into my hair. I said it back loudly enough to fill the room.

So dramatic.

The anesthesiologist welcomed me back. “Well,” I said, tucking a stray hair into my oh-so-lovely sterile cap, “I missed you.”

He laughed and patted my face with his big dark hand. “If you miss me, beautiful,” he said, his accent thick and comforting, “you don’t have to have surgery again. Just call.” The nurses giggled along with me.

I don’t even remember going under this time. I remember asking “Did you put the medicine in?” after I started to feel groggy and light…

Next thing I knew, I was face to face with Betsy, the same the nurse who woke me up last night. She had a sweet pink face, full cheeks, a kind smile. She just radiates sweet and caring, her body now naturally arched to the level of the beds she’s hovering over all day. She reminded me of my mom, so sweet and attentive, holding my hand. I think I cried when I woke up. Then I laughed. It’s my standard waking up routine. She patted my face and told me she remembered me. I felt safe with her.

She brought me to my family, who welcomed me back and made fun of my drugged giddiness. I was eager to prove I could go home, so I stood and walked earlier than they wanted me to. I just wanted to be home.

Which is where I was from 5:00 on Wednesday afternoon, until this morning at 7:00. Relatively pain-free and functioning, I’m back at work and just hoping this whole ordeal is behind me.

It almost feels like it is.