What is it about mothers?

What is it about mothers?

There’s no other relationship that, no matter how abusive or toxic, society tells us we’re obligated to repair. Grandparents are often photographs and maybe a birthday card. Brothers and sisters can live entire lives without crossing paths, once they’ve reached adulthood. Dads are practically optional in American society. We’re not even obligated to our spouses. Mothers, though… mothers are worshiped. It’s really quite beautiful that we demand such respect for women who gave their youth, their bodies, their tears, and their hearts to their children, only to watch them leave. This week, the Humans of New York Facebook page is covered with stories of actual mothers who gave every part of themselves to better their children’s lives. All over the country, people are having Gilmore Girls marathons, ordering flowers, maybe even catching planes… because it’s your mom.

“It’s your mom.”

That’s what they say. That’s what they always say, no matter the time of year, like it excuses everything. They don’t understand that just because I have a mom… it doesn’t mean I have a mom. All of these relationships can be explained away in a sentence or two…

“Oh, I never really knew my grandparents.”
“My siblings and I aren’t really close.”
“I don’t have a dad.”

… but tell someone you won’t be calling your mom on Mother’s Day and you’re lucky if you only get a loaded silence. I, myself, share your sweet memories of school field trips, movie marathons, and birthday pancakes. I smile over remembered arguments about what to wear on picture day, how to fix my hair, and whether or not I could watch that movie. I understand your fondness for your mother, because I remember what it was like to have one. Those memories, however, have long since been overshadowed by the far more recent ones of threats, manipulation, abuse, and abandonment. I didn’t get to debate over the value of Greek life, during my senior year. I got left for an online boyfriend two hours away. I didn’t just argue with my mother over wedding plans. I got to inform her that if she hit me one more time, I’d be pressing charges. I didn’t get pancakes for my last mother/daughter birthday. I got screamed at for suggesting therapy. I got a birthday cookie hurled at my front door.

It’s not that I don’t want to see my mom. It’s that she’s not here, anymore. I miss my birthday pancakes so much it hurts. It hurts a lot more, though, to reconcile and sit across from someone who looks like her and sounds like her, and think I finally have her back… only to end up crying over episodes of That 70’s Show about how I wish Kitty Foreman could be my mom… because that’s what we do. You have lunch and manicures with your mother, with whom your biggest disagreement was a boyfriend or car or apartment. The women whose mothers have been taken by addiction or mental illness… we fantasize about our favorite fictional moms and do our best to get our mothering elsewhere. If we’re lucky, we have caring dads, aunts, friends, to walk us through the hard times… but it’s never enough, because there’s just something about mothers.

A World Without Grace

I was in class the day Grace came into the world. I left early, when I got Gail’s text, planning to visit her in the hospital. Gail and I, being Gail and I, she was comfortable telling me that she was exhausted and felt gross and didn’t want anymore visitors. I accepted that and met her little lady about a week later.

Me: “She’s all wrinkly… and red. When do they get cute?”

rachel green with ben
This IS how I would hold a football!”

Don’t worry. It happened… eventually… and quite severely.

I tell everyone that I was Aunt Belle to Gail’s daughter, but in truth, Gail was not immediately comfortable with bestowing that honor. Understandably, she didn’t want to give a family title to someone who was not technically family, possibly confusing Grace if I wasn’t around much. Over the next eight months, however, Grace became a far more regular part of my life than most of my family, including my actual niece. Any time Gail would swing by to pick me up in her 1997 Bonneville, filled to the brim with crap, I would automatically check the backseat for Grace. Her presence would set the tone of the day, be it drinks and appetizers in the arts district, or having infant Christmas photos taken at Target. It didn’t matter, because I loved Gail and I loved Grace.

labyrinth_lady2Gail driving the Bonneville. No really. I once had to sit in the back, because there was no room up front..

While Grace never smiled, in her life, she adored Family Guy and the sex scenes of True Blood. It had to be something about the colors and movement, but that little lady would nearly knock her bouncer over every time Sookie and Bill rolled around naked in blood. What? She didn’t know what it was. She was a baby, though an admittedly clever one. I don’t think the fake cell phone fooled Grace past the age of six months. She’d just toss it aside and reach for Gail’s obviously more interesting toy.

Now, don’t misunderstand my affection for Gail’s daughter. I am not rewriting history with an easily pacified, giggling baby. Grace was beautiful, innocent, and growled at her toys…, but I don’t know that I’ve ever come across such a demanding child as that one. I think a lot of things played a part in this, one being that Gail was unemployed for much of those first months. There was always someone to hold Grace, entertain her, and respond to her high-pitched falcon screech. Naturally, she was quite the entitled little thing.

At Gail’s apartment, on the phone with my Gramma.
Gramma: “Is that the baby?!?! What are you two doing to the poor thing?!?!”
Me: “She’s fine, Gramma. Seriously. She’s been fed, changed, and there aren’t even any tears. She’s just yelling, because she wants Gail to hold her all the time.”
Gramma: “Well, pick her up, then!!!!”
Me: “Gramma, she’s not my kid. Gail wants her to get used to not being held constantly.”

Oh, how I wish we’d just held her constantly.

Regardless of Gail’s efforts to wean her of this habit, the day Gail finally had to leave Grace at daycare, she falcon-screeched so long that they had to rotate her to different rooms, because the teachers couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t blame them.

:: Hanging out with Gail and a screaming-without-tears Grace ::
Me: “Grace, you have got quite the set of little lungs, don’t you?”
Gail: “I can put her in the other room if it’s bothering you.”
Me: “No, that’s alright. She’s fine.”
:: three minutes later ::
Me: “Actually, could you?”


Grace.

Despite her vocal range, though… Grace was precious. She was entirely portable, so we took her everywhere, constantly talking to her and playing with her. The lady at the barbecue place had even begun to recognize her. I suppose, that since Gail and I had lost touch for a year and a half after high school, Grace was the ultimate test, particularly when I miscarried. She was just a couple of months old and I had a bit of trouble being around an infant. If anything, though, Grace brought Gail and I closer; like on the night Gail called me at 1:00 in the morning. She had taken Grace to spend the night with her ex-husband Shane, only to get a call that her baby falcon just wouldn’t stop screaming. I was just starting my student teaching and had to be up early, but I knew Gail wouldn’t call without reason.

Gail: “Can you just keep me awake while I drive out there? I’m so tired.”

We chatted for a bit and hung up when she told me she was there. The phone rang again, just a moment later.

Gail: “I forgot the car seat. I have to go back and get it and Shane’s yelling at me to just take her anyway.”

Britney Spears drives with baby Sean

… but Britney did it!!!

Gail being Gail, she was an intensely paranoid mom. If Grace sneezed three times, we were in the ER and I do mean “we.” If Gail wanted company and I was free, I was there. So it was, with my second or third trip to the ER, Gail officially dubbed me “Aunt Belle.” Grace had been sick for over a week. It was just a cold, but now she had a high fever. We knew she’d be fine, but they sent us home… and she only got worse. A few nights later, Gail called me late to ask for a ride back to the ER, since her Bonneville wasn’t reliable. When I got to her apartment, though, she told me that the nurse she spoke to said they’d just send her home again, despite the 104 degree fever. We briefly considered taking her to the children’s hospital in the city, but we’d be taking a sick baby into the cold, the hospital was far away, and we both had to be up early. Besides, Grace would be fine. The doctors weren’t even concerned.

Two days later, Gail and I had dinner out with Grace. We laughed at the weird cry she was making, assuming it was a side effect of the medication. That night she lost consciousness and would never awaken. She was dying and we had laughed.

Apparently, a cold had turned into undiagnosed pneumonia, which had turned into bacterial meningitis. I visited the children’s hospital two or three times over the next week. Shane caused drama, over Gail’s refusal to hug him, over her boyfriend Cam wanting to see the baby he’d also loved, probably over the flavor of Gatorade in the vending machine. Gail’s parents, sister, and grandparents wept and prayed. Gail slept beside Grace’s hospital crib. We all waited for news of how this would affect Grace in the long run and when Gail would be able to take her home.

I had intended to buy Grace a learning toy for Valentine’s Day. An education major, I wanted something that would help her grow intellectually. Not knowing what she’d be capable of after she got well, however, I bought her an infant stuffed giraffe that played music. I hated that it had the words “press here” embroidered on it and only managed to remove half of it with a seam ripper, when Gail called.

“If you want to see her again, you should probably get up here soon.”


Toughest drive ever.

“You have to have faith. Miracles happen all the time.” – Everyone

The intentions in the above statement are good. Maybe that’s why the entire world shared some version of it. A baby’s life, however, does not hang in the balance of how hard I pray, how much I cry, whether or not Gail kept a constant vigil at her unconscious daughter’s side or convinced herself that she’d be taking her little girl home soon. God has a plan and if that plan is to take someone you love, there is nothing to be done about it. Trying to convince a mother otherwise is unintentionally cruel. Gail and I, being Gail and I, realized this even then.

Me: “She’s really going to die, isn’t she?”
Gail: “She’s already gone. That’s not my little girl anymore. Everyone keeps telling me to have faith, that a miracle will happen. I just want to say ‘fuck you.’ My daughter isn’t dying, because I don’t believe in God enough.”
Me: “This really sucks… and you kind of smell.”
Gail: :: snort of laughter :: “I don’t actually remember the last time I took a shower.”
:: we both realize it’s snowing outside her window ::
Me: “She’s never seen snow.”
Gail: “I know.”

On February 13,  2010, I got the text message.

Gail: It’s over.
Me: Do you want me to give people your parents’ address for flowers?
Gail: We have plenty of flowers. I’d rather they donate the money to research of some kind.
Me: Okay.
Gail: Thanks for not saying the stupid things you’re supposed to say.

Over the next few days, I didn’t hear from Gail much. She texted once about how she finally understood the reason behind flowers at a funeral: they give you something to talk about, other than the obvious. Grace’s organs were donated on Valentine’s Day and Gail informed me that her heart, intestines, and liver had gone to two other babies.

:: months later ::
Gail: “I don’t think I’d undo it if I could. As much as I want her back, if her death meant the lives of two other babies, I don’t think I could trade that.”

She’s so much less selfish than I.

I texted more than once, asking for verification that Gail hadn’t killed herself. I didn’t realize that she thought I was telling a morbid joke, which, admittedly, wouldn’t be entirely out of character. She’d forgotten the time we went to lunch with Cam and she told us about a special she’d seen, over parents who’d lost their children. She didn’t think she could ever survive that and I wasn’t sure what that meant.

Gail and I, being Gail and I, most of the “concerned” messages came to me. Some of our friends from high school, with whom Gail had been close, were legitimately concerned. Malik told off Shane, in a way that made my comment about how if we could manage not to hit him, he could manage not to hit Cam, look like kitten kisses. The others, whom neither of us had seen in a few years, were shocked. They were worried. They wanted to know what they could do to help. I refrained from sarcastically asking if they had powers of resurrection. I was just so tired of the rest of the messages. The girl who had a screaming fight with me in our eleventh grade algebra class was just sooo sorry. If we ever needed anything, we were to let her know. Oh, by the way… “what happened?” Gail and I still joke about asking her for a casserole. Outside of a catty remark, I don’t think she ever spoke to Gail in four years. The friend of a friend, who was always nasty to both Gail and I, was soooo crushed and would see Gail at the funeral. Oh, by the way… “what happened?” Nothing infuriated me quite like them turning my shattered best friend into post-high school gossip: The Girl Whose Baby Died.

I was the only non-family member Gail let add anything to the tiny pink casket. The aforementioned barbecue place gives away their logo cups for free. In addition to the Valentine’s gift I’d given her (which Gail added), I tried to put one in Grace’s casket, without looking at her body. I missed and it rolled underneath. I ended up having to crawl around to retrieve it, holding up the line. Sigh. That’s not supposed to happen at a funeral.

I cried in my Gramma’s arms. My mom got angry that I chose my Gramma’s arms.

no wire hangers
There are apparently no wire hangers allowed at a funeral.

The program specifically stated that only immediate family was welcome at the graveside. I asked if Gail wanted me there and she said no. I took no offense and didn’t go. Everyone else, however, did. Later, Gail told me that they all stood there, watching, and when she got up and walked away, to wait for them all to leave, they looked at her like “That’s it?”

Gail: “Go fuck yourself. I want to say goodbye to my daughter in peace.”

She, of course, never said that… to them. Apparently, she was a disappointing show. She didn’t shed a single tear and had just stared catatonically at nothing. I received no response when I hugged her and told her I loved her. I don’t know what was worse, laying Grace to rest, or watching Gail go through that… or rather, check out of that. I gave her some Ramen noodles, because they’d take longer to go bad than the casseroles she’d surely be getting. I couldn’t afford any more and included a note telling her that I’d never be able to say the right thing at the right time, but I’d be available when she wanted someone to treat her normally and make inappropriate jokes to take her mind off the pain. I thought I wouldn’t see her for months, an idea that broke my heart after the loss of Grace. Apparently, however, being treated like glass got old fast.

When Gail and I hung out, during the next year, sometimes we talked about Grace and sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes, in the middle of an outing, Gail would tell me she needed to go home, that it was a bad day. She developed severe memory problems and people became tired of her flaking out on them. To this day, I regularly remind her when we have plans. Gail even handled the question “Where’s the baby, today?”, from the waitress at the barbecue place, with… well awkwardness, but she didn’t burst into tears.

“Wow. She’s doing really well.” – Everyone

No matter who dies, there is only so much time that can be spent rocking in a corner, chewing on your own hair. Bills have to be paid. Food has to be bought. You don’t go on with life, because you’re “doing really well.” You go on with life, because there is no other choice. When Gail received notice that she was going to be evicted, everyone thought it was cruel. We both acknowledged, though, that the world does not stop turning, just because yours falls apart. Businesses must still function, even if Gail’s mom found her crying in a heap, where Grace’s crib used to be. Showing surprise that someone’s doing so well implies that they really shouldn’t be.

Gail: “I love when people say that. I want to be like ‘Yeah, there’s lots of polka dancing.'”

Grace died four years ago, today. She was 8 months, 5 days, and 15 minutes old. She never had her Valentine’s Day or an Easter. She never drew a picture or ate dog food or shoved a bully at school. She’ll never have a fight with her mom, a first period, a heartbreak. She’s truly, physically, gone. At first, it was all that filled my head and certainly more-so for Gail. Time went on, though, and I’d realize, that I didn’t think about Grace at all the previous day. More time passed, and then I’d think ‘Wow. How long has it been since I thought about Grace?’ Then I’d feel horrible, because I forgot Grace. At the same time, I’m occasionally shocked at how much it still hurts, being without her. I don’t want to tell anyone, because she wasn’t my kid. She wasn’t even related to me by blood. Maybe I should stop being so dramatic and trying to make this tragedy about me. I’ve even told Gail as much.

Gail: “You were a part of her life more than anyone outside of my immediate family. We joked about you being her dad for a reason. You’re absolutely inclined to feel the way you feel.”

Mostly, I deflect feelings with morbid humor.

Gail: “I wish she’d just been deaf. It would have been just enough to keep Shane from wanting to deal with the hassle, but not enough to keep her from living a life.”
Me: “Yeah. We’d both know ASL ….and that would look great on a resume. Damn it, Gail!”

Emotions go with the last friggin’ horcrux, y’all.

horcrux cave
Right here.

There’s so much guilt in Grace’s death. Gail and I desperately wish we’d taken her to the children’s hospital that night. We blame the local hospital for falsifying records, claiming Grace was smiling and laughing, when Gail tried to pursue a lawsuit. Her parents blame themselves for leaving 22-year-old Gail to care for an infant alone, wanting her to stand on her own two feet. We all blame Shane for being a soulless prick. There is no fault, though. It was God’s plan. It led us here… and here is usually pretty good.

You see, A World Without Grace was supposed to be bleak and filled with sadness, something from a dystopian young adult novel or a Tim Burton movie. On rare occasion, it is. Christmas morning, Gail sent me a text, referring to my miscarriage and Grace…

Gail: “Our children would’ve been up for hours, already.”

She still gets frustrated, when she runs into someone who used to sit at our lunch table, and they fumble around more awkwardly than is normal of post-high school run-ins.

Gail: “Can’t you just not mention it? How about we just pretend that I’m not The Girl Whose Baby Died and you tell me about your life? I want to hear about your boyfriend and work, just like everyone else. I’m not going to burst into tears if you ask about mine!”

I’ve repeatedly suggested telling half of the people at our reunion that Gail had a mental break and doesn’t realize her baby’s dead, while telling the other half that I don’t have any idea what they’re talking about, creating the most confusing gossip ever.


That’ll teach ’em.

Most days, though? Life is really good. The New Year’s Eve, when we rented a motel room and took a taxi to the casino, Gail and I commented on how that wouldn’t be possible if I’d had the baby and Grace had survived. Gail wouldn’t have met Terry, because, hopefully, someone with a toddler would be a bit more careful about fucking a trucker off Craigslist. Just as I wouldn’t have been able to pursue my master’s degree and become a librarian, if I had had my baby; Gail wouldn’t be able to work for the post office, if she had a four-year-old. Two babies, who might’ve lived after transplants, almost certainly would’ve died.

Today, my heart is breaking for the four-year-old that’s not in my life. I’m swearing I’ll never have children and trying not to think about the three-year-old I would have, had things worked out differently. I fucking hate Valentine’s Day, because everyone else is happy right now or bitching over trivial crap, like not having someone to buy them flowers that are just going to die. I can’t get the picture of a catatonic Gail and a baby pink casket out of my head.

… but in six months, Gail and I will be drinking chick beer in my living room floor, giggling about my online dating disasters and her mother’s desperation to get her married off to Terry, as soon as possible. We may comment on how the world would be so different had our prayers been answered. We also may not… because for better or for worse, God intended we live in A World Without Grace.

gail convo 02-11-14

 

Original post date: February 13, 2014

“Too soon?” Yes. It is too soon and you’re an asshat.

On Saturday, Paul Walker, actor in The Fast and the Furious franchise, died as a passenger in a single car accident, on the way home from a charity event. We, as a country, responded in one of three ways:

1. Appropriately sad
2. Somewhat unhealthily sad
3. With giggles

The first response is obviously the one I favor. These people may have posted something on social networking sites addressing Walker’s age or expressing best wishes for his family. They may have mentioned their love of his films or the fact that they just got them all on sale on Black Friday. They expressed remorse and went on with their lives. Perhaps these folks watched She’s All That and managed to not angrily scream “WHERE IS THE ADMINISTRATION?!?!?!” during every high school scene. Normal.

The second response… is weird. I’ve really never understood the total devastation someone can feel over a celebrity death. If Pope Frankie (as my cousin, Mitch, likes to call him) died tomorrow, I would weep for the Church. I’ve never met the man, but he’s an influential leader and, in my opinion, a truly good soul. If Barack Obama died tomorrow, I would weep for the country, because he’s a political leader and that would leave our government in uproar during a tenuous time. If Leonardo DiCaprio died? I’d comment on his age and watch Titanic, failing to not angrily scream “HE’S A VAGRANT, YOU IGNORANT COW!” during every romantic scene. I would not cry… because his life in no way affects me or anyone I love and I don’t feel I have that right. My Gramma cried the day Elvis died. I know many who cried when Michael Jackson died. I just don’t get it. However, it’s not an offensive reaction. I realize that other people (who are wrong) don’t necessarily scream “Emotions should be hidden like the last fucking Horcrux!” every time their eyes water. Maybe they’re the healthy ones. I don’t know. Regardless, no harm done.

The third reaction? This one is deeply disturbing.

Facebook status on Tuesday:
So a car just freaking exploded and was engulfed in flames right next to my apartment building. This is one of the most insane things I’ve ever witnessed

Comments:
– Paul Walker came over? To soon?
– ok guys that’s a bit fast with the Paul Walker jokes. I’m furious.
– haha I think it’s time to hit the brakes with the jokes.

 I am not contradicting myself here. I realize that I’ve made many inappropriate jokes in my day.

::in the car, waiting for my dad and step-mother to bury my grandfather’s ashes, inJuly::
Me: “Ugh. It is a thousand degrees in here. They’re gonna have to bury three more piles of ash if they don’t hurry the hell up.”
Cade: “It would be awesome if the window was open and they could hear you.”

So, what’s the difference? The difference, is that my grandpa used to drag my brother and I to church on the weekends that we went to the lake, because vacation was no excuse for missing Mass. The difference, is that every Christmas he bought us shitty gifts, filled with love, because it’s all he could afford. The difference is the cherished rosary he wanted me to have. The difference, is that he was my family and saying goodbye was hard, so humor was my crutch, because emotions belong with the last fucking Horcrux!!!!!

Paul Walker was only 40 years old and his father had to bury his baby boy. I don’t even have kids and my relationship with my dad has shown me that a child never stops being his parents’ baby, whether they’re throwing up at age 10 or crying on their doorstep at age 23. A woman watched her son lowered into the ground forever. His parents won’t be able to give him the Christmas presents they’ve already bought. There’s a couple out there weeping over high school graduation pictures from the early 90’s. Paul Walker wasn’t an only child, either. Bo may be a redneck bigot sometimes, but if my big brother died, I would be inconsolable. Most tragically, there’s a 15-year-old girl out there who was just getting know her daddy and now his light is gone from the world.* He’ll never interrogate a college boyfriend or walk her down the aisle. That is heartbreaking.

Paul Walker’s death was no more tragic than that of any other 40-year-old man with a family and full life. It also, however, was no more uproarious. If his family and friends choose to use humor as a crutch, more power to them. We all have fucked up coping mechanisms. Whatever gets you through hard times. Everyone else? No. We don’t get that crutch, because it’s not a crutch for us. It’s insensitive and cruel, especially when published on a social networking site where the man’s name is tagged and his family is guaranteed to see it. Remember when your dog was hit by a truck when you were fourteen? How much more awesome would that have been with strangers making lame-ass jokes?

“What’s black and white and red all over? Your dalmatian!”

This isn’t a new issue, either. It’s not even confined to celebrity deaths. During the last natural disaster, I had a heated Facebook debate with that douche bag from high school who’s only on my friends list because it’s amusing to read about how much he loves himself. When I called him out on his insensitivity, he told me I had no right to be offended, because I wasn’t harmed. CHILDREN DIED. I’m sorry, but as an American citizen, a native of this state, an educator, I had a fucking right to be appalled that the bodies had barely been recovered and he was running the laugh track for his self-proclaimed cleverness. Furthermore, several people liked each and every comment I made, as I defended the fact that his being an inconsiderate prick, didn’t mean I didn’t have a sense of humor. I clearly was not the only offended party on the billboard that is Facebook.

Gaily’s daughter died at eight months old. I was Aunt Belle. I saw that little lady 5 times a week…. and sometimes we make disturbing up jokes about it, because it hurts not having her in the world. It’s how we deal and we know we’re broken. Where has the compassion gone for everyone else who’s hurting, though? I’ll admit, I don’t know what to say in times of heartache and I usually end up doing something really awkward…

In fact, the last time, I’m pretty sure I waited waaaay too many days to comment and then blurted “I’m sorry you’re sad.” It wasn’t perfect. Far from it. It also wasn’t a giggle. Had that been the alternative, it would have certainly been best to say nothing. This is a really easy response in social networking. You don’t have to comment. If you don’t have anything nice to say, shut your damned hole on a public forum.

I’m not even knocking offensive humor, as a whole. I, myself, have made too many battered wives jokes to count. I’ve also survived an abusive marriage. Just the same, generally offensive jokes, like those horrifying dead baby jokes that Gail and I made as teenagers, are far less appalling. They never pinpointed one tragedy or crying family. We were also kids and didn’t quite comprehend that that shit actually happens. The comments I’m reading and hearing about celebrity deaths, the Oklahoma tornadoes, and Sandy Hook? Those aren’t being made by kids, but adults who fully understand the pain and heartache of losing a loved one; and without fail, they always end in “too soon?” Yes. It is too soon and you’re an asshat.

i plane ny
This shirt fucking exists.

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/paul-walker-died-seconds-crash-coroner-rules/story?id=21098595

http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/12/01/the-sides-of-paul-walker-you-may-have-missed/

“It’s just not a good fit.”

In the last couple of years, I’ve learned to deal with a lot of rejection. I coped when I didn’t pass my graduate portfolio for the first time. I’ve dealt with my mother hurling cookies at my door on my birthday. I’ve even gotten better at accepting the fact that some men just aren’t feeling it. Now, I have faced these things, but in all of the above cases… I did so horribly. So, it’s with little surprise that I’ve handled my very first professional rejection so poorly, today.

I’ve worked with one library system for two and a half years. They have my loyalty and, luckily, I have theirs. Not only does termination in this library system require murder while intoxicated and an intricate system of strings and pulleys, but I just had my three month evaluation with my new branch. My boss informed me that I was meeting all expectations, she had no complaints, and I seemed to be fitting in with everyone. I’m holding onto that pretty tightly right now, because…

… my other boss just informed me that, after six weeks, I’ve worked my last day at library number two.

Yup. I was let go… for the first time ever. Why?

Boss: “It’s just not a good fit.”
Me: “I don’t understand. I’ve never been late. I do everything I’m asked. I jump up and help customers. I’ve made any changes you’ve suggested. Isn’t there a procedure for this?”
Boss: “You’re still in training and it’s just not a good fit, so we need you to clean out your locker.”
Me: “Did I break some kind of huge rule or something? I don’t get it.”
Boss: “It’s not a good fit. It’s time to get your things.”

So… that happened. I’d be lying if I said things were going wonderfully. After three weeks of working for this library system, the same supervisor told me that she was concerned about the “negative language” I’d been using.

Me: “What do you mean?”
Boss: “Well, when I asked how your training went, you said it was ‘okay.’ When I asked what you thought of staff day, you said it wasn’t what you expected. Those sound like backhanded compliments.”

Um… what?

I said the training was okay, because it was okay. There were things I found useful and things I didn’t. I said staff day wasn’t what I expected, because staff day wasn’t what I expected. We do staff day differently at my other library system and she knew that, because I clarified. Even at the time, I desperately wanted to respond with:

“Well, I’m sorry you’re choosing to take it that way.”

I also didn’t. I told my boss that I’d work on the things she suggested and I did, raving about the useful things I learned in training. But then…

Boss: “You’re not allowed to wear hoodies at the desk.”
Me: “What?”
Boss: “If it has a hood, it’s a hoodie. It’s just too casual and unprofessional.”
Me: “I’m sorry. I’ve just never had anyone express that opinion before.”
Boss: ::scoff:: “Uh, yeah… I guess that’s my opinion. I’m pretty sure it’s the opinion of everyone else in the system, too.”
Me: “Okay. I’ll wear a sweater next time. Just to clarify, it’s the hood that’s the issue, right?”
Boss: “Yeah. We like people to dress professionally. Think bank attire.”

I know what professional dress is and didn’t need the clarification, hence the heels I regularly wear. I also know that it’s cold in libraries and the dress code said nothing about a fleece jacket in November. That makes it a personal preference or… wait for it… opinion I’d also worn it several times before this and she never had a problem with it. Regardless, I never wore the jacket again. I even bought a sweater without a hood, because she did verify that the one with a hood wasn’t acceptable. 

There you have it. I knew things weren’t going smoothly. Just last week, we had one of my boss’s weekly bouts of criticism, where she told me that she had expected me to be further along. I politely explained that I felt like I would be, if the desk time weren’t so spread out, because I was constantly at staff training. I mentioned that I had a lot of desk time coming up and I thought I’d catch on quickly in the next week. She said that would be great. The next shift we worked together was my last.

In retrospect, I’m proud of myself for how I handled our final conversation. I defended myself and made it crystal clear that this woman had no justifiable reason for ending my employment, which was witnessed and understood by the other supervisor in the room. While my boss couldn’t see her face, the woman looked horrified and supremely uncomfortable. I did not cry. I did not beg for a second chance. I made her admit, more or less, that this was a personal issue of hers, because apparently, it’s a thing for someone to let you go, because they just don’t like you… and it fucking hurts.

I probably could’ve done without burning my shirt and name tag in the kitchen sink, though. That was, admittedly, extreme. What can I say? I have two settings:

1. handling it with grace
2. fire

Fortunately, I deleted my old boss’s phone number, so I can’t do anything stupid. One month is a blip in time, not worth mentioning. A restraining order is not.

While I understand that not everyone is going to like me, this woman disliked me so deeply, that she was willing to go through the trouble to hire someone new. Furthermore, I was supposed to do a program in a few days. She’s been blowing me off every time I mentioned it for weeks. I’ve never been able to find her profile on Facebook, though I know she’s friends with her other employees, meaning I’m pretty sure she blocked me ages ago (I even looked through mutual friends… totally rational.) It’s mighty convenient that she only scheduled me for a few hours this month. She was plotting this. She never gave me a chance, because she disliked me that much. Fucking ouch.

Me: ::crying:: “What if this means I’m just a bad librarian? What if this isn’t for me and I never get full time?”
Gramma: “Oh, Belle. Stop it! You’re a good librarian! You just said a man was thrilled that you downloaded a book on his phone. They love you at your other job.”
Me: “How can anyone dislike me that much? I did my job! I didn’t do anything wrong!”

I once read an online article about the most crushing moments in a person’s life. One of them was the first time you’re punished for something you didn’t do. Here, here.

First and foremost, it’s the hurt feelings and unfairness. I don’t need everyone to like me, but you still have to work with people you don’t like. That is so unprofessional and inappropriate… and it sounds like total horseshit to say it was a personal vendetta. Every jilted ex employee plays the victim. I sound pathetic and I know it. Second, it’s the loss of security. I felt like a big girl. I could finally pay my bills and just knew there would be work, and therefore income. Now, I’m back to substitute teaching. I’m unsettled all over again, and in my pain, I was downright weak to my best friend, Rosie the Riveter.

Me: I’m tired of feeling so unsettled. I just want a full time job and a husband. I don’t care if that kicks feminism in its big hairy balls. I want a settled romantic relationship and guaranteed income.
Gail: I don’t think that reduces your value as a person at all.
Me: I’m tired of my twenties. I’m over it. Can I just have screaming kids in the other room and a boy who’s on my side at the end of the day? Can I do that now?
Gail: Other than “you’re allowed to want that,” I’ve got nothin’. You’re doing your best. It’ll probably come. 

As usual, the rest of the world thinks I’m overreacting.

Me: “What if I never get full time at my other job?!? What if this ruins my professional reputation!?!?”
Dad: “Belle, you are reading into this waaaay too much. You barely worked there for a month and you didn’t even like it. It’s not going to ruin your life. You’ve said yourself that the two systems don’t even talk. I’ll bet anything she has someone else she wanted to hire for this position and it has nothing to do with you. Calm down.”

Gramma: “Everything happens for a reason. This is just paving the way for better things. Calm down.”

Coworker at my other job: ::scoff:: “We’re not gonna think less of you. We’re gonna think less of them.” 

Other Coworker at my other job: “Just don’t put it on a resume. It’s not going to affect anything. You’re fine. I don’t know that anyone in the systems even talk to each other.”

So, I’ve allowed myself a limited amount of time to dwell, cry, pout, and be devastated, humiliated, and outraged. Tomorrow, when this blog will post, I will work to put the last month and a half behind me. I will work even harder to regain my confidence as a librarian and recover from losing a job for no reason.

There were no experiences from this position that I’m not getting from my other one. I never wanted to be full time with that system, because they pay significantly less and their benefits suck. My boss stressed me out to no end and I had fantasized about quitting anyway. She’d already made me cry twice and if she continues with this attitude, it’ll all come back to affect her professionally. The time I spent at that job allowed me to catch up financially and I’ve accepted two substitute jobs, just this week. My primary job is going better than I would have ever dreamed. I’ve already updated my resume. I’m set. 

Gail: “You know how, when you’ve made plans to hang out with someone and you don’t want to anymore, but you made the commitment, so you keep it? Well, then, that person calls and cancels and you’re like ‘Seriously? You’re canceling on me?”

Gramma: “Belle, you’ll get over this. You’ve been through a lot worse.” 

Damn straight.

“Your funeral is going to suuuuuuck.”

Malik was just a friend of a friend, until one day in 10th grade, when he decided that we were close enough that he could address a nagging concern. He stomped up to my 15-year-old self, clad in red suede Sketchers, overalls, and a long-sleeved red shirt, (me, not Malik) ripped the red bandanna print headband from my hair and snapped “Okay, Belle. Wearing the same red headband, every single day, is not fashion!”

We’ve been friends ever since.

Throughout the years, Malik drifted in and out of my life, keeping closer tabs with Gail, particularly as we all worked to shred our individual existences in our early twenties. Where Gaily and I had destructive marriages, crushing money troubles, and dead babies, Malik had DUI’s, restraining orders, that teensy weensy felony, and copious drug usage. Still, every now and then, we would get together and we were 15 all over again. We giggled about which celebrities we found attractive, made catty remarks about how all the cheerleaders who picked on us in high school got fat, and made fun of each other and ourselves.

High school has been over for seven years. Gail has a career she loves and a live-in boyfriend that she found on Craigslist, while looking for serial killers for a laugh. I have my master’s degree, two librarian jobs, and a handful of bad date stories. Our lives are moving forward and Malik… well, Malik is headed back to rehab for the second time this year. He’s losing the car he just got and will have to struggle to find a new job when he gets out, because if he returns to IHOP, he’ll have unfettered access to drugs, once again. He’s watching everyone he loves have a life while he sneezes chunks of cartilage out of his nose, his skin turns gray, and he explains to me that getting clean is just so hard, he doesn’t know if he even wants to anymore. He told me, in all seriousness, that he didn’t understand why suicide would be considered selfish. He’s tired of fighting. He’s tired of hurting the people he loves.

Malik: ::defeatedly:: “It’s all my fault. I know my problems are entirely self-inflicted, but hearing all these people have so much hope for me…”
Me: “Well, I don’t know if it’ll make you feel any better or worse, but you’re not going to disappoint me. I could definitely be proud of you if you get clean, but if you don’t, well… it’s not statistically surprising.”
Malik: “God… thank you. It’s so nice to have someone be so practical and point-blank about it, instead of assuring me I can do it like everyone else.”

After two and a half years, I had the courage to ask a question to which I desperately wanted an answer.

Me: “About two and a half years ago, when you and Gail were over at my apartment… did you steal money from us? The next day, Gail was missing $40 from her purse and I was missing $5 that my Gramma had given me. It really upset me not knowing where it had gone, since my ex-husband used to steal from me so much.”
Malik: ::silence:: “Oh my God. I think I did. No matter what I’ve done, I’ve always prided myself on not stealing from individual people. How could I do that?!?”

As Malik cried, I told him to remember that, because of his addiction, he’d stolen from Gail, a woman who’s heart is made of rainbows and pixie dust, a woman he loves unconditionally. I told him that if he needed motivation, he should consider that. I told him that if he killed himself, because of this information, I’d bury him in pleated plaid pants and pink Crocs. Then, we went to my apartment and we giggled about which celebrities we found attractive, made catty remarks about how all the cheerleaders who picked on us in high school got fat, and made fun of each other and ourselves. When most people hear about my friendship with Malik, they just don’t get it. They see this…

MAN STEALING MONEY FROM A CASH REGISTER - MODELmeth… and they’re right. Malik is a user and a felon. He deserves everything he’s getting, because he’s continuing on a destructive path. Maybe I deserve to have money go missing if I continue to have him in my life. He’s also the boy who cried when the football players tossed his CD’s all over the parking lot, because he was openly gay. He’s the boy who drew me a portrait of Marilyn Monroe for my 17th birthday. He’s the guy who told off Gail’s ex-husband for taking advantage of her and abusing her daughter. He’s the guy who told me I had nothing to be embarrassed about after my divorce, that my ex-husband was the failure, not me. He may have whopping self-esteem issues and a case of Peter Pan syndrome to rival the Lost Boys, but when I look at him, I still see this…

If Malik ends up in prison, I won’t be horrified and think our justice system done him wrong. Neither will he. He knows he’s had every opportunity handed to him and he never had a particularly bad lot in life… but he still can’t get his shit together. So, if that does happen… I’ll write. I’ll visit. So will Gail. Convict or not… he’s still just Malik, the sweet kid who could talk his way out of anything… the boy who danced with us at prom… the guy who insisted we claim the makeup was ours if his mom found it… the boy who was near tears when we convinced him my house was haunted in the 11th grade… the guy who believes every conspiracy theory he’s ever heard and thinks Meth addicts are a sign of the rapture.

Malik: “Everyone knows a different Malik.” ::sighs dramatically:: “Who is the real Malik?”
Me: “I’m pretty sure that, deep down, you’re still the same chubby, 15-year-old Malik, wearing a popped collar in our redneck high school.”
Malik: “Two popped collars, thank you.”
Me: “… with a tie tied around his waist. Two ties… but that’s because you had to tie the ends together so they’d go all the way around you.”
Malik: ::laughing::
Me: “Well, on the bright side, when you’re done with rehab, maybe we’ll get Fat Malik back! I loved Fat Malik!”
Malik: “Oh, my god. If there is one thing that is going to keep me from rehab, that’s it.”
Me: “You’re gonna miss Carrie!”
Malik: “I know! I was heartbroken about that! I was crying to a coworker about how I’d miss Carrie and when they asked who that was, I’m like ‘Hello! Carrie? The remake?!?!
Me: “Rehab is gonna suuuuck.”
Malik: “Seriously, Belle. You are terrible at this.”

Me: “You could drive a truck!”
Malik: “I have two DUI’s, Belle!”
Me: “We just need to get you a job where there are no drugs and no one cares that you’re a felon or a recovering addict.”
Malik: “Okay, Belle, but the places that will hire me are going to have drugs, because everyone else there is going to be an addict.”
Me: “Ugh. I know! We’ll Google it!!!”
“Um… wow. The Internet… has no answers. I think you broke Google.”
Malik: “You suck at this!”
Me: “I’m a librarian, not a substance abuse counselor!”

Me: “Have you ever had sex with a married man?”
Malik: “Yeah. I found out and told him I couldn’t do it anymore, even though he was paying me.”
Me: 
Malik: “Excuse me. I guess I was prostituting myself to a married man.”
Me: “Ooooh! You could do that!”
Malik: “All of your ideas are things that could get me put in prison!” 
Me: “You know, the guys from Sons of Anarchy were all addicts and felons and they seemed to be doing okay. Illegal gun running? Sex trafficking? I know, I know ‘I have two DUI’s, Belle!’

Me: “Wait… if it doesn’t do anything for you anymore, then why don’t you just stop doing it?”
Malik: “Because I’m an ADDICT.”
Me: “I would’ve made a bomb therapist.”

He’s vain, lazy, self-indulgent, and irrevocably flawed… but he’s Malik. The day he overdoses and they lower his 29-year-old body into the earth, something in me will break.

The Amazon in My Corner

Abigail the Passive Assertive is how she’d go down in history if passive assertive people went down in history. They don’t, but you get the point. When we met, I was the mouthy one and Gail was the doormat. We seem to have leveled each other out, more or less, over the past ten years, as I’ve taught Gail the value of standing up for herself and she’s taught me the value of doing so without a screaming match in Algebra class. True story. Every now and then, though, people push Gail just an inch too far and it’s always Feed-the-Gremlins-After-Midnight awesome.

gremlin

Scene: at a bar, where Crooked Teeth has been begging her all night to come out to his truck with him, actually trying to pull her to the parking lot at one point.
Crooked Teeth: “I just want to show you my truck.”
Gail: “Really? You just want me to see your truck?”
Crooked Teeth: “Yeah. I swear.”
Gail: suggestively “Well, what if I just wanted to go out to your truck, pull down your pants and suck your dick until you cum in my mouth?”
Crooked: “Uh… what? Is this a trick?”
Gail: “Uh… yeah…duh.”

The Musician was a phase (THANK GOD) and they were never exclusive. He, however, desperately wanted them to be… on Gail’s part, while he had a mirrored headboard and multiple brands of tampons under the bathroom sink.
The Musician: “So, what? You’re out at a bar trying to pick up other guys?”
Gail: “I’m going to let you go, so you won’t have to talk to such a whore anymore.”
The Musician: “I’m just trying to get to know you and that’s hard to do when my lady is getting to know other men.”
Gail: “I’m not YOUR lady, I’m MY lady.”
The Musician: “It’s just a figure of speech.”
Gail: “So is ‘nigger’.”

See that. Gail’s a regular little Amazon when you push her too far. Overall, however, she’s a pretty passive person. We both had somewhat absent parents in our teens. My mother was busy eating candle wax, while Gail’s parents were busy bragging about her little sister. Don’t get me wrong. Gail and I both understand that they just have more common ground with Sadie and that’s why she was their favorite. It’s not that they love her more, but that they get her more. If there is a crime, it’s that they aren’t all that subtle about their preference. For example, I’m not even kidding when I reference the birthday card Gail saw displayed in Sadie’s bedroom declaring her “the best daughter two parents could ask for.” I cringe, not because of the obvious favoritism, but at ending a sentence with a preposition.

best daughter

As adults, Gail and I find this hilarious. We know they love her just as much as Sadie. They just don’t connect as well with the daughter who truly had to be talked out of living in her truck a few summers ago, for no reason. As a teenager, however, Gail felt rejected and mistreated and, as is still the way of Gail, she said nothing, because familial conflict is a lot more difficult than telling off Jethro Clampett in a bar. So… enter teenage Belle, who felt abandoned and abused, and could therefore totally relate. Ultimately, we clung to each other, fumbling our way through our formative years with only another clueless teen as guidance. Considering we were both divorced by age 23, that may not have been the best path, but it was certainly better than going it alone.

Having been through all we have, Gail and I can both be accused of going Mama Bear on each other at one time or another. After I posted a blog about how overwhelmed I was with grad school, I got a text message demanding “You’d better be kidding about the cocaine.” I was. When Gail told me she met Terry on fucking Craigslist, she got an angry text message “That was wreckless and dangerous. You could’ve been super murdered and then I’d be all alone to deal with how much that sucked. Fuck off.”

royalty
“Eloquence” is the word you seek. I should be allowed to address the masses.

Despite the must-be-fated-in-our-blood connection, Gail and I are far from the same person. As a reader of Red Pill blogs (though I don’t subscribe to the ideology), I love to call Gail “Captain” when she does any traditional male activity, just to piss her off. It’s even more fun than “Rosie the Riveter”. She generally responds with a comment about how I should be churning butter or vaccuuming in pearls. You see, we are the victims of identically broken marriages to men who weren’t men or adults in any traditional sense. Both refused to work and resorted to tears as manipulation tactics. Neither took any pride in supporting themselves and were happy to let the woman of the house do it. Gail took it for less than two years. I took it for just over four. Our reactions were exact opposites. Gail wants to take care of herself and doesn’t need a man’s help. More importantly, she doesn’t want to support a man financially. I can take care of myself as well, but I want to be with a traditional guy who understands what role a man is supposed to play: breadwinner and spider killer. I’ll gladly slip into some pearls and vaccuum in the meantime. Ironically enough, Terry, Gail’s beau, is mighty traditional. I always knew she secretly wanted a man to take care of her.

head pat
Insert condescending head pat :here:.

You see, Gail has a mothering tendency that is beyond normal or healthy and the death of her infant daughter three years ago didn’t help. We once had the following textersation, in true keeping with our humor-cancels-out-emotion arrangement.

Me: I was watching this documentary on penguins and thought of you. “When the female penguin loses her young, she is quick to adopt any stray and will often fight another female penguin over rights to the chick.”
Gail: Shut it, stray.

So, when Gail dates a… oh, just for fun we’ll go with musician… who smokes a ton of pot and lives a wreckless lifestyle, she can’t help but worry (despite her own tendency to fuck Craigslist truckers). She feels like the babysitter, whereas I would just feel like it’s his fucking problem when he gets arrested. In completely different ways, we have both washed our hands of men who don’t act like adults. She avoids them and I encourage them to put pepper spray in their eye: another true story and one that demonstrates this perfectly.

About two years ago, Gail’s on-again-off-again (they still said “I love you”, but didn’t sleep together) boyfriend, Cam, was at my apartment with Gail. I had just begun a new job in a different part of town than my white, wealthy, suburb, where I walk the golf course at 2:00 a.m. with no worries, and my Gramma had insisted I buy pepper spray. My Christmas tree is hot pink, y’all. When I saw pink pepper spray, I was sold. Gail has this theory that there are some things that you just don’t buy in pink. I fully disagree since my tree and my hammer and both of those guns all work fine, Captain.

captain

Gail, however, kept insisting that the contents of my pink pepper spray were “lemon juice and glitter”, to which I responded “I don’t want either of those in my eyes, so we’re good.” I must state that Cam was about two years younger than we were, putting him at 21 during this story. Though he worked three jobs, he was pretty much 12 years old forever in a lot of his antics. The pepper spray debate continued so I jokingly asked Cam…

Me: “Hey, Cam. You wanna test my pepper spray?”
Cam: “Sure! I’ll try it!”
Me: “Seriously? I was kidding. You probably shouldn’t do that.”
Gail: “NO! Do not! We’re going to have to take you to the hospital.”
Cam: “Oh, it’ll be fine.”
Me: “Alright. Here. It’ll be a story either way.”
Gail: “BELLE! Don’t encourage him!”
Me: “What?!?! He wants to do it. Let him do it.”
Gail: “Ugh! This is a terrible idea.”

So Cam took out his knife, cut open the package, sprayed a little bit of pepper spray directly into his palm, rubbed his finger in it and touched his eye.

touching eye

Then… all hell broke loose. Cam immediately declared “It works! Oh… it burns!” and leaped up to run to the sink while Gail frantically ran water… forgetting about the open knife on his lap. As he was bent over the sink, blood gushing from his nose due to his clotting disorder and high blood-pressure from the pain, I took a moment from my uncontrollable laughter to ask “Is your foot bleeding?” as blood dripped onto my floor. Only then did we realize, he’d dropped the knife on his socked foot… and that was even funnier. In my defense, Cam thought this whole thing was hilarious as well and part of the problem was that he was laughing while Gail yelled at us both that this was serious, while shoving tampons into Cam’s nose, partly to shame him and partly so he wouldn’t die.

laughing
Me
kid
Cam
screaming at boy
Gail

That story pretty much sums up Gail’s entire relationship with Cam.. and the musician… and our friend Malik… and pretty much every irresponsible person she’s ever met. I just declare them to all be adults and let them do as they will. Worst case scenario, I know that’s not lemon juice and glitter.

Scene: Cam lies on my floor with an ice pack over his eyes, a bandaged foot, and tampons in his nose. Gail stews angrily while washing the bloody towels and sock.
Me: “Well… at least we know the pepper spray works.”
Cam: groaning laughter
Gail: groaning laughter “Damnit, Belle.”

penguin
Gail and… well, the majority of the relationships she has with people.

Since the Great Pepper Spray Incident of 2011, Gail has pretty much steered clear of Adult Children and I credit that to the actual stray she took in, Ginger.

gremlin
Gail’s all “I don’t remember her taking this picture and this is the second time she’s posted it” as she reads this, because coincidentally enough, the sewer rat Gail insists is a dog looks just like this.

I comforted Gail during her divorce. She held my hair during mine. She listened to me cry during my miscarriage. I helped her make Valentines to leave on her daughter’s grave. Maybe we’re both pretty broken, but it’s beyond amazing to have someone there who will read everything I write and send me encouraging comments, come over and cry to me when a boy uses her, listen to me rant and rave about my lunatic mother, and call me when she’s having a hard time dealing with the fact that her little girl, Grace, would have been four today. Told you she was an Amazon, because fuck I don’t know how she’s retained her spirit through that. Lucky for me, though, because it’s pretty awesome that I always have an Amazon in my corner.

amazon

I WISH I had married Lord Voldemort.

“If I had been a better wife, he’d have been a better husband.”

I wept that sentence so many times. Even after I stopped saying it, a part of me truly still believed it. Then, one day, I was cleaning out my hard drive and I found the conversations online. I only read a few lines. I didn’t need to read more. I thought of the time he had to go “work” out of town for one of the jobs that wouldn’t pay him. I thought of his indignation if I even touched his phone. I told Gail via text message and she responded with…

“And how do you feel about that?”

shrink

Emotions freak me out, y’all. A tenderhearted moment by text was not going to help the raw humiliation coursing through me. I’ve never been a fan of therapy and called it witchcraft through the several college courses Gail had taken. It was a mutual joke, but her asking me such a Black Couch question made me feel like a case study. Defensively, I responded with…

Me: “Oh, don’t try that voodoo crap on me. Go shake your rat bones at someone else.”
Gail: “Well, fuck you. I was just trying to help.”
Me: “Did they teach you that in your Intro to Psych class? I’m glad you changed your major if you’re going to tell your patients to fuck off.”

I can count on one hand how many times Gail and I have fought in ten years and this would be one of them. It didn’t even escalate. We stopped texting each other about it and spoke in person. Calmly, I explained that she’d made me feel like Test Subject 9. She apologized and clarified that that wasn’t how it was meant. I apologized for being a bitch. End of fight.

cat fight
Just like this… only halfway through, we lose steam and it turns into an awkward hug.

I remember setting his clothes out for him the rare times he had work, so he’d have no excuse not to go. I remember telling him how proud I was that he was providing for his family so he’d keep it up. He never did… even when he wasn’t lying about having a job in the first place.

“If I’d been a better wife, he’d have been a better husband.”

I told Gail that day that I didn’t believe that anymore, but I was lying to us both. The conversations I found were dated from the last year of our relationship. A part of me still thought that if I’d motivated him properly, he’d have gotten a job early on in our marriage and would have become someone else, someone faithful.

dumbledore
Hmm… it may also take the greatest sorcerer that ever lived.

Then, one day, I was lying in my living room floor. I wasn’t upset at all and was just trying to ease the pain in my back by resting my legs on the couch. I let my mind wander. I thought of all the times I’d left candles burning, forgotten to turn the stove off, microwaved a fork, left my Chi plugged in… and nothing happened. Fires don’t just start themselves. On July 12, 2007, my ex-husband lost his job… and I came home from work after less than an hour and everything was gone. What could be salvaged still smells of smoke and sometimes, just opening the right DVD case is enough to bring tears to my eyes.

The skill in my ex’s deception lay within his conviction, not his storytelling. He was always too innocent. He was the only one home, but claimed he’d never even turned on the stove. There was no insurance and therefore no thorough investigation, but there was still cash. The Red Cross and our landlord combined gave us around $1,000. That doesn’t include what we got from family. The devastation took everyone’s mind off the fact that he’d lost his job. The rent for the next month had been handled. The fire report stated that the cause was unknown, there were no wiring problems, and that the fire had started in the kitchen. The firemen speculated someone must have left the stove on.

My pets lay on the lawn with a blackened sheet over them. They looked like they were sleeping. The firemen said the cats hid from the flames. The stray puppy we’d just taken in was crated. They died of smoke inhalation… scared and confused. We acquired the kitten and the stray together, but the black cat had been mine since I was 13. I brought him into her life when I was the one who was supposed to protect her. I still hate myself for that. She must have been so terrified… and I wasn’t there.

Gail and I had drifted after high school. We hadn’t been close since my wedding, seven months earlier. We had both been so busy being miserably married that we hadn’t had much time for each other. She was still Gail, though. So when my heart was broken, I called her. She says the worst way I’ve ever opened a conversation was with “They’re all dead.” Hearing the story, she knew then that my ex had started the fire. She also knew better than to tell me that, because I’d feel I had to show loyalty toward him and defend him. It wasn’t until I lay in my living room floor a year and half ago, crying with the kind of sobs that shake your whole body and make you look uglier than a crying Anna Paquin, that I put the pieces together. When I relayed it all to Gail, she just said sadly “I know.”

sookie crying
Really… they should just make her stop doing that.

He wasn’t sad the pets had died. He didn’t cry. He even told me he was relieved not to have them anymore. He tried to get me to spend the Red Cross money on a new XBOX. He swore he’d never used the stove.

He swore he’d never used the stove.

He swore he’d never used the stove.

Fires don’t just start themselves.

I slept next to that man for three more years.

Our junior year of high school, there was a man in a nearby town who had killed a little girl and contemplated eating her. I remember discussing with Gail how awful it would be to be the woman who lost her virginity to that man. I was right. I want to scrub my skin off thinking I ever let such a monster touch me… that he’s the only one who has.

I don’t know if my ex-husband ever loved me or if I was just his meal ticket. I tend to think he did at one time, but that he truly and thoroughly lost his soul that day, at 19 years old. I realize now that it doesn’t matter. He made his choices and I made mine. He used and abused me and I took it… for years. He honed his skills with me and he’ll only get better. Regardless, I’m waiting for the day he ends up in federal prison for targeting the wrong person. Nothing gives a gal peace of mind like knowing her psychotic ex-husband has a warrant out for his arrest in her home state. He’s not my problem anymore, though. Thank you, Jesus.

If I’d have been a better wife… he’d have just had a sweeter deal.

Thank God I lost the baby.

I have this stuffed bear…

Me: “Okay.. so you’re poised over your ex-husband’s sleeping form…”
Gail: Interrupts with choking laughter

We have this thing, where we can’t deal with adult emotions on the things that hurt too much, so we giggle instead. It’s really pretty awful if anyone overhears a good rape joke… in a Target… with their seven-year-old… at 9:45 on a weeknight? Sir, I really think you should be more concerned about your child’s sleep schedule than my quiet discussion with my best friend about her vaginal trauma (he hadn’t actually heard the joking portion).  Fortunately the above was just a phone conversation.

Gail’s answer was that she’d do nothing.

Mine was that I’d be so threatened by his presence that I could kill him.

I think hers was healthier.

Me: “Every time I see this kind of thing on the news, I worry I’m going to see my ex-husband’s picture. How fucked up is that and how broken am I?”
Gail: “Yeah, I could see him doing something like that.”

I have this stuffed bear. It’s in a box in my storage closet.  I kept it out of spite after all of the things he stole from me, literally and figuratively. It’s covered in soot from a fire I can’t bring myself to discuss. I’m not sure why I keep it. I’m too afraid to contact him to send it back. It feels hateful to throw it out. So it’s just there… in a Wal-Mart sack to keep the soot off of things.

I haven’t woken up with my wallet and keys in my pillowcase since I moved to this apartment. I don’t lock the bedroom door and can usually get through the night without getting up to check the patio and front door locks more than once. I rarely sleep with my gun anymore.

I still can’t sleep without my purse and wallet next to me.

I still have nightmares.

They’re not usually violent. Sometimes he’s texting… counting down the minutes until he breaks down the door. Usually, I’m just still with him. I never did it. I never left. My life never turned upside down to right itself in a completely different universe. I’m still fat and alone and hateful. I lie in bed and can’t breathe. Sometimes I wake up crying. I cuddle the dog and promise him I’ll never let anyone hurt him again. I kiss his paws, even though they’re dirty dog feet, because I’m so happy they aren’t caked with blood. I think the dog has nightmares, too. He’s yipping in his sleep right now.

jude in chair

Maybe I’ll set the bear on fire.

Why am I writing this instead of my final? I suppose I get a nice divorce rant every now and then.