Wednesday, January 24, 2018

I Wasn't There for the Ambience

An old boss of mine once told me that a girl like me ought to be happy just to have a job--a girl with four kids, no husband, and no degree. He listed those things specifically.

I was asking him for a raise, and I deserved one. I did not get one.

This is the same boss who, when another female coworker of mine decided she wanted to be a firefighter, accused her of "trying to be a man" because she "wanted a man's job."

Great guy, that old boss of mine.

Since that time, I have attended University full-time while working full-time, graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0 GPA, moved into a different department at work, got a few promotions, and now spend quite a bit of time giving high fives to all my team members, male and female alike.

I bought a house, took a trip to London, got published a few times, survived my first car wreck, found new hobbies, revisited old hobbies, volunteered, made tons of friends outside my normal circle, and pretty much had the best time of my life focusing on my own growth.

All of this I did without the critical financial, moral, or emotional support of a husband.

Go figure.

Going through it all, I supposed it was easier to NOT have a man than it was to have one. I had more freedom to NOT do regular chores around the house. I wasn't expected to keep the house clean or do grocery shopping or any of the stupid things women complain about "having" to do all the time.

Eff that.

Pretty quick after I graduated, "Arturo" swooped in and scooped me up. It was a bold move. I had turned down a few men already, and I had planned to continue being single, seeing that it was working so well for me up until that point.

The funny thing about Arturo is he's a real man's man. He shows up for life, works hard for his paycheck, has muscles and stamina, works on cars, likes his privacy. Not the kind of guy I thought I'd ever be attracted to again. I was imagining I'd find a nerd like me with a couple of degrees and a passion for philosophy and art.

When he asked me out he said, "You wanna get together for coffee and talk about Shakespeare?"


We've been together for over a year now, and I have no idea where we go from here. The only thing I know is that I don't need him. I am perfectly fine on my own. And that simple fact adds value to our relationship. I don't need him around; I want him around.

And that's the kind of girl I want to be. A girl like me.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Maybe It Was Allegory

Last night I dreamed of a goldfish who lived in a glass bowl in the middle of a swimming pool. He kept jumping out of his confined bowl into the "freedom" of the pool. I spent all my time catching him barehanded and putting him back in his bowl. Each time the little fish jumped into the pool, he grew a little bigger. Naturally, this made it easier for me to spot him and catch him, but eventually, he became too big to fit back into the bowl. I sat on the edge of the pool with the little glass bowl in my hand and watched him as he became much too large to swim freely in the pool. He jumped out and told me he was going to find the ocean. By this time, he had grown so large, he was bigger than me, maybe twice as big, and I could no longer scoop him into my protective hands and put him back into the safety of his bowl or the pool. I couldn't even drag him into the ocean. A sadness grew in me for the loss of my little fish, because I knew he would not make it on his own, and I was useless to help him. I woke up wondering how to find the ocean and bring it to my little fish, and only when I was awake did I realize I could have dreamed it into happening. I could have dreamed of a secret passageway out of the pool directly into the ocean, but I forgot I was in a fantasy world. I forgot I was in control. That is the way of dreams.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fiction: Anxiety on a Different Level

            I’m twelve feet off the ground looking down on the flowerbed that used to have petunias or daisies or something prettier than dirt and rocks. I imagine myself tumbling over and striking my head on one of the half-buried bricks that keep the barren dirt safely separated from the weedy forest that is my lawn. Or maybe I’ll slip and impale myself on the sharp pickets of the privacy fence. How much blood would I lose before somebody hears me screaming? What happens if I get knocked out and can’t scream? I try to remember if I’ve ever been given advice about plummeting safely. I’m sure I know nothing about falling, so I vow to myself not to take it up until I’m better educated. So I sit.

Happily, if the Zombie Apocalypse happens today, I’ve got a pretty safe seat. Everybody knows zombies can’t climb ladders. I wonder how long a zombie can last without a meal. I wonder how long I can last without a meal. Or a beer. It’s getting pretty hot up here. I run my hand through my hair and think I’ll marry the man who brings me an ice cold beer.

Though I am certain I am holding still, my vision swirls and the ground seems to pull at my core. This must be vertigo. Who would even want to marry a girl who doesn’t have the cajones to climb down a ladder?

“Jackie, are you okay up there?” My neighbor calls up to me. I can see his balding head over the fence. He’s shading his eyes from the sun as he looks up at me in that serious way that makes me think he’s thinking he needs to call someone with authority, perhaps someone with negotiation skills. I know he probably should send somebody to shoot me with a tranquilizer and let me roll off unconscious onto a nice, safe tarp. There would be far less drama than trying to convince me to get back on the ladder. Nevertheless, my neighbor wants to get on with his day. I know this. I know he doesn’t want to be bothered, because I wouldn’t want to be bothered by him. I mostly want people to take care of themselves, and so he probably feels the same. I refuse to obligate him to my issues.
            “I’m good,” I assure him. “Just writing some existential poetry.” He doesn’t waste any time and believes me right away. He disappears into his garage, and a few minutes later, his blue sedan drives away. He stops at the sign and turns right just as my boyfriend Elijah is turning onto the street. They wave to each other.
            It must be five-thirty. Elijah always comes home at five-thirty.
            I am silent and still. I feel like a teenager who’s been caught sneaking out. What will he think when he realizes I’m stuck up here, and that I’m not coming down without a lot of crying? Maybe he’ll think I’m not home, and he’ll leave to go pick up dinner, and then I’ll teach myself to fly while he’s gone. He’ll never know about this paralyzing fear that has my hiney stuck to these shingles.

            It seems like an hour goes by before I hear his footsteps behind me. I don’t turn around because I am afraid to look him in the eye.

            “I got this for you.” He presses a cold, glass bottle against my bare neck. I flinch, but take it with a smile. He settles himself beside me, and we gaze at the neighborhood as we sip on our beers. A few minutes pass before he asks me, “Why are we up here, anyway?”

            “There was a kid with a helicopter,” I say, as if the explains it all, and Elijah nods, because that’s enough for him.

            “Did you think about that question I asked you earlier?”

            “Yep.” I nod, and sip my beer. I let it cool my throat before I continue. It was that beer that sealed the deal. “I think it’ll be okay.”

            “That‘s not a real answer,” he tells me and nudges me with his elbow. The force of his nudge knocks me over a little, and my fear kicks in. I clutch onto his arm and scoot away from the edge.

            “Fine then, I’ll marry you!” I shout it like I’m already falling and this is the last thing I’ll ever say.

            “Fine then, I’ll marry you too.” He reaches into his left pocket with one finger and digs out a little diamond ring.

            “You just carry one of those around all the time?” I asked him, trying to diffuse my anxiety.

            “I might.” He peels my hand off his arm, picks a finger and slips the little band around it. “It’s a good thing you said yes.”

            “Oh? Why is that?”

            He takes a long draw from his beer before answering. “Because I am scared of that rickety old ladder you’ve got propped against the house. We’re just going to have to live up here forever.”

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Strange Traffic

This isn't my toilet paper.

Neither is this my iron or my pillow or my coffee or my time zone. Nothing here seems to align with my daily expectations, and it's kind of driving me slowly toward insanity.

I need my creature comforts to feel like a comfortable creature, y'all.

Still, my would-be roommate actually has family in this city and a new grandbaby, so she's staying with them, and I've got all this strange hospitality to myself. I have flung my things all over, and I have canceled housecleaning services for the duration. (Except, for some reason, they have to come in on the fifth day, no matter what.Odd.) I have walked around with nothing but a towel, and nobody has been the wiser.

Yesterday, I pulled up and allowed some friendly young man to commandeer my vehicle, leaving me with nothing but a square of paper to reclaim it. I stood there with my luggage and stared into the fog and snow and wondered if there maybe was a mistake about my being here. The powerful, domineering swell of self-doubt began to creep into every pore. I don't belong here. There must be a mistake. Am I educated enough? Do I know enough about our company's culture? Will anybody recognize me as any kind of authority in my field while I'm here? How many hostiles? How many friendlies?

Why am I thinking about this in terms of war?

But...I can do all this. And even more than this. This is no big deal.

And the little things don't matter. In a couple of weeks the strange traffic and the weird night noises and the somewhat familiar faces of the folks who work in our company will soon become routine, and I won't think a thing of it.

And then it will be time to go home.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

That One Time We Fled for Our Lives.

Yesterday was National Margarita Day.

I did not partake. But if I were inclined to celebrate things in that way, I might have had a couple because yesterday was also the twentieth anniversary of the day I escaped THAT MAN.

I remember it well. I had waited three months for the perfect moment, and when it finally came along, I took it.

I had four babies, two diaper bags, and a tank full of gas.

We've come a long way.

So cheers  to us.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Good Lord, I'm a Goner

Don't tell him I told you this, but... he snores.

He says I snore, too, but we all know girls don't actually do that sort of thing. It's right up there with belching and passing gas on the list of Things It's Biologically Impossible for Girls to Do. So when he says I snore, you know darn well he's just being silly.

But he definitely snores.

Surprisingly, it doesn't bother me at all. It's part of the noises of the night. It's rhythmic and somewhat soothing, and it makes me feel cozier and warmer to know he's right there. (Most nights, he's not there, so I soak up what time we have together.)

And when he's not there, the silence makes me nervous and restless. I've grown so comfortable with him, it's as if he supposed to be there, as if he's always been there. His absence feels like the anomaly. The night is off kilter without him. I get fidgety, and I have to wait for the lullaby of the passing night trains to soothe me to sleep. It's something to drown out the silence when he's gone.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Lifestyle Choices

I had hostile neighbors last year, which is almost an unbelievable fact, because they also had an incessant practice of filling up the entire duplex with marijuana smoke. I often thought to myself, how much more hostile might they be if they hadn’t embraced that particular habit? Isn’t it supposed to calm a person down?
            Personally, I don’t care what they smoke, but I am allergic to marijuana, so I became rather aggravated by the constant two a.m. struggle to rid my side of the duplex of the thick cloud that would waft through whatever duct system existed there. They couldn’t have known that I was in danger of actually dying from their lifestyle choices, but I often translated it to a personal assault on my lifestyle choice—specifically the lifestyle choice I had made to continue being alive as long as possible.
I never approached them about my problem. They had already reacted badly when I asked them to move their vehicles away from my garage, and one time, the postal carrier put their mail in my box by accident. When I tried to knock on their door to give it to them, they threatened to have me kicked out for trespassing. This was their mindset, so I never spoke to them about my very real issue with their pot-smoking habits, even though it is still illegal in Texas.
Instead, I bought a little house very far away from them. It’s adorable. Or, if you want to use the words my real estate agent used, it’s “totes adorbs.” Two bedrooms, one bath, washer dryer hook-ups, garage, fenced yard, nice neighbors. I like it. I low-balled my offer, and the owner accepted it, no negotiation at all, on my birthday in July. I moved in on August twelfth, and the plumbing started acting up ten days later. No worries, though. My super smart real estate agent signed me up with a home warranty, and all my plumbing issues are slowing being resolved. It’s an old house. It’s going to take time. The washer is draining and backing up into the bathtub as I type this, but there’s not a pot cloud in sight.
            The funny thing is, during the time it took to get all the paperwork and inspections done so I could get away from the old neighbors, they up and moved away from me. They took their five cars, their four dogs, their two teenaged boys, and all their pot with them. They didn’t even say goodbye. Go figure.

            The landlord grumbled a little about the mess they left behind, but he was happy for me when he heard I was buying a house. I left my side of the duplex nice and clean and got my entire deposit back. 
             I’m a good neighbor like that.