Thursday, March 31, 2011

One Table Over: Public Library

He's an odd one. He sits alone, as many here do, but he breathes heavily through his mouth as he reads his book.
I've been sitting here for a solid hour, jotting down notes and pretending not to notice him. It's hard. His breathing is noisy and broken, almost like a snore, but he's not napping.
I have to stand and stretch every so often for better circulation, but he has remained hunched over the rectangular wooden table in the matching wooden chair, flipping pages and staring at the book.
He's flipping the pages too quickly to be reading, and I wonder if it might be a picture book or a book of art. I notice he is also flipping them in the wrong direction. Am I wrong to assume that a near thirty year old man knows how to read?
He is non-descript- khaki colored baseball cap, navy blue windbreaker, jeans and athletic shoes. He doesn't appear to be a transient. He is shaven, his clothing fits him and is clean. The only identifying feature about him is his pop-bottle glasses. That, and his heavy mouth-breathing.
He never looks up, never clears that phlegm from his throat, never sniffs, never moves at all aside from flipping pages.
I can't see his book, and suddenly, that is all I want to know. What is he reading? I'm tempted to get up and walk to the restroom just so I'll have an excuse to go past his table and sneak a peek. I have a suspicion that he would sense my spying and move his arm to cover his pages. He is still turning them the wrong way. Right to Left. Too Fast. It is bothering me.
I came here to do a little studying and maybe a little writing on my story, but now this unassuming little man one table over has totally captured my curiosity and most of my attention.
This was a bad plan. I should have stayed home in the silent solitude of my walls. No phones would ring, no librarians would meander, and no ordinary little men with serious breathing issues would be distracting me from writing the next Great American Novel!


Another woman about my age comes and sits at a third table. She unzips her pack, pulls out her laptop, her cellphone, her notebook and pens, and she places them on the table just so. She's done this many times before, and she like things in a particular order. I see that she's got the same kind of laptop as mine, though her background is different and she's decorated it with stickers.
I realize that she has taken notice of the odd man with the breathing problem.
She looks at me with a question in her eyes. Is this guy for real?
I shrug and give her an unspoken answer. I know, weird, huh?
We both shake our heads and go back to our work.
A few minutes later a man with a long hunter green overcoat approaches The Incredible Breather and throws his pack onto the table with a thud. It is loud enough to startle everybody else in the room. Breather didn't even flinch.
They know each other. New Guy has long brown hair a lots of energy. He is snapping his fingers in front of Breather to get his attention. Breather ignores him. This makes me think that they are brothers, or maybe roommates.
"C'mon c'mon. It's time to go," urges New Guy. He grabs Breather's book and turns it over to look at the cover. "What're you reading?"
Breather quickly snatches it back. I can see now that it's a graphic novel, which explains why he was reading so fast, but I still have no clue why he was reading it backward.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Time for a Happy Thing, or Three...

My posts lately have been taking on a more...well...depressing tone. That's not really the kind of person I am. I have my good days, and I have my bad days just like everybody else, so I suppose I should throw in a cheerful post every once in a while, right?
The problem is, I can't always think of something that is both cheerful AND post-worthy.
This week, it has been handed to me on a silver platter. Isn't that what we say of people who get something they didn't actually earn, but manage to reap the rewards anyway?
I received an award from Jayne who lights up her little corner of the world over at Suburban Soliloquy .

This is what the award looks like:

How cool is that? (I haven't figured out how to make it into a button yet. I suppose I'll get around to that later this week.)

But it comes at a price. In order to accept the award, I have to do a little show and tell and then pass it along to other bloggers whom I feel deserve a little boost in their day.

Sooo....(I'm trying to keep up the cheerfulness, so I'm only going to list lighthearted facts about myself.)

  1. I used to have an Australian accent. I came by it honestly. We lived in Australia for two years while I was learning to speak. When we came back to the States, I thought I was pretty hot stuff because Americans would listen to me talk about the silliest things. (I didn't realize then that it was the accent that attracted them, not my words.) When I was eight years old, we moved to Texas, and that was the end of that.
  2. I lost seven pounds this month. Diet and exercise. No Pills. No Frills.
  3. The best friends I have ever had have been my friends since I was twelve years old. Life may have allowed us to drift apart, but I still feel a strong bond with each of them, and I know they feel the same about me.
Ok. That's all I got.

So, in passing this Award away, I believe I will hand it over to light208 who shines in Shadows
and also to Grapefruit who parties it up at The Daily Grapefruit.

Both of these ladies have touched my heart with their words. As I see it, they may not even accept the award, but I'd like them to know that they are each an inspiration to me in their own unique ways. May they always blog.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dream: Evidence of Violence

I must have had that dream before because when the car pulled up next to me, the man was in the back seat, but I thought to myself, Last time, he was driving. He must have gotten a promotion. He no longer drives, but he is driven.
The reflective window rolled down slowly with the whir of a power motor, and for some reason or other, Irish Mike (from work) was awaiting my report. Under cover of darkness and more silently than whispering shadows in the trees, I confessed the goings on of my little operation. He nodded once in understanding and the window whirred back into place.
Because timelines in dreams do not follow the same guidelines as real life, I immediately found myself leaning against the doorframe of my daughters bedroom, watching her brush her hair in the vanity mirror. And when I say that, I mean, she was inside the mirror reaching through through the quicksilver surface to the hairbrush on the vanity. Mirror Sara smiled at me and brushed her long blonde hair, making me realize that this was Mirror Child Sara, not Mirror Grown Sara. Grown Sara had chopped off all her hair and dyed it so many colors, I had forgotten it was blonde to begin with.
My sister reached from behind me, to grab the duct tape (another dream trick. I was now seated at the vanity, Mirror Child Sara gone from view.) My sister ripped off a piece of the silver tape, pushed her dangling eye into her socket and secured it with the tape.
"How's that?" she asked.
I could see the shape of her eyeball bulging behind the tape, moving around as if trying to escape.
"Great," I lied.
My cousin Christy moaned from the bed, and Aunt Brenda  pushed past me to tend to her daughter.
There was blood, but it wasn't Christy's. I supposed it was left over from the last wounded soldier. Or woman. It was hard to tell the difference in this dream.
"Did you hear from Mom?" I asked. Aunt Brenda pursed her lips together and shook her head at me. I could tell she was lying, but I didn't push it. She would tell me what she knew, sooner or later.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dog-Gone Dog Gone

My dog is moving out tomorrow.
She's not a fancy dog, or a well-bred pedigree. She's a roadside dog, really just a mutt. My friend Melina scooped her up on the highway one night driving back from Muleshoe. Her mother had already been hit and killed by another car, and my dog, still a puppy then, was lying on top of her mother's dead body, confused and lonely. Who knows how long she would have stayed there grieving before starving to death or possibly being killed herself.
Melina's landlord wouldn't allow her to have more than one dog. She already had a rough, tough puppy named Cookie, so I brought Hyway home to my kids. Matthew had always wanted a dog. David and Jacob had probably wanted one too, but not nearly as much as Matthew. I think Sara had already moved out by that time, or she was about to move out. I don't remember.
I've never been a dog person. Cats were always my pet of choice. Cats are generally low-maintenance pets. A couple of vet visits, a clean litterbox and a full dish of food. That's pretty much all a cat will demand of you. They have more important things to do than to be in the constant supervision of lowly humans.
Not dogs, though. Dogs need to be walked. They want to play fetch. They need to chase cars and cats and other dogs down the street. They have to warn you everytime the mailman drops mail in the box. They like to hang out with you in the back yard. They protect you from the vacuum cleaner. They howl at police sirens and tornado sirens and the moon. They bury things and dig things up. They go with you to the park and help you make friends. They scare away bad guys in the middle of the night.
My dog is a great dog.
I am a bad human.
I'm gone all day, and I forget to put her outside. I don't leave the TV on so that she's not lonely, and half the time, I forget to check her food. We rarely go walking. We never play fetch, and if she escapes the yard to go exploring the neighborhood, I don't chase her. I wait for her to get tired and come home.
She knows how to knock on the door. Seriously, she keeps banging until I get up and let her in.
Despite the fact that I don't care for dogs, and long for the day I can come home without finding the trashcan knocked over, she's fiercely overprotective of me. You're not allowed to touch me, or climb onto my bed. She'll attack. There will be bloodshed. That's why I can't take her to the park or any other public place. I'm scared she's going to hurt some kind soul who just wants to pet her. My own children aren't allowed to touch me. It makes hugging hard, but they like to tease her. They pretend to swat me, and it just makes her mad . She growls and snaps at them. It gets on my last nerve. I just want to relax and read my book without being in the middle of a war everyday.
Ordinarily, she's a friendly, energetic, bouncy, happy, funfunfun kind of dog. She loves the kids, even Sara, who hasn't lived with her. My grandson thinks she's all that. He likes to steal her toys and he curls up next to her in her bed and takes a nap with her. He cries when she knocks him over, but she's just saying hello, and she calms down as soon as she gets a good sniff of him. She thinks he's her baby. She's very gentle with him when they're playing. She plays fetch, and she actually drops the ball for him. She won't do that for me. She makes me work for it, and I usually get dog slobber all over my hand.
Tomorrow she's going to live with my two oldest children, Sara and David. They rented a house out in the country, and they called me today to see if I would give up the dog. They love her, and she loves them. I know it will be a big adjustment. This is the only home she's ever known, but she'll have more freedom in the country. It's not like I'm abandoning her out there, right? I'm leaving her with family members who love her. They love her.
They really do.
Now I have to go tell Matthew I'm giving away his dog.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

We've got Toilet Paper!

When I was sixteen years old, my parents moved away to a different town and left me with a neighbor.
True Story.
Now, this is not one of those pitiful stories where I blame my parents for everything bad that happened to me in life. Nor do I wish to start a family feud (for those of you who are reading this who may actually be in my family.)
But the point is, I was on my own.
I was a senior in high school, college-bound, with a future in my pocket and a bright smile on my face, but I was penniless. I owned a car, but it was in my dad's name, and since I could not afford insurance, and the car was not legally able to be driven, my dad took possession of the car. I suppose he was protecting me somehow from my own stupidity, because I would have driven that car around, legal or not. A girl's just gotta have some wheels, ya know.
I ended up riding a ten-speed bicycle everywhere. (one nice side effect: I was in great shape.)
I painted a few pictures and sold them for about thirty bucks each, which seemed like a lot of money at the time.
I worked as a sometimes hostess/sometimes dishwasher at a local restaurant making a little bit more than minimum wage.
One thing led to another. I moved out of the neighbor's house into my older sister's garage apartment. Bad things happened there, so I moved into my boss's spare bedroom for a while. (Don't worry, his girlfriend was always there keeping an eye on things.) That was a very temporary situation until I found a roommate to help me split the rent on a little apartment. He was a cowboy, and after a couple of months, he decided he wanted me to be his cowgirl. I decided NOT! So I moved out of there and into a house with a couple of co-workers from the restaurant who were brothers sharing a house with a third brother who did not work at the restaurant.
(Are you following all this? You can go back and read it again if you're confused. Don't worry, I'll wait right here...........) that time, I had dropped out of school so that I could work overtime so that I could pay rent and provide for myself because my parents were not helping me with that part of my life. Or any other part of my life. They had their own things going on. I would have been just one more hassle in their already stress-riddled lives.
I was seventeen when I became pregnant with my daughter. The father was one of the three roommates. The youngest one. I knew even then that I didn't love him, and that he was not "the one", but my self-esteem was shot to hell by that point, and I was lonely for company.
Teenagers do the stupidest things. Seventeen is synonymous with stupid.
I was eighteen when Sara was born, nineteen when David was born, twenty-one when Jacob was born, and  twenty-two when when Matthew was born.
That's four kids in five years, people.


So, it turns out that roommate number three was a woman-beating heroin addict. He didn't start out that way. He evolved into it over the course of the six and a half years we spent together. To top it off, the heroin addiction kick-started his schizophrenia.
It was a violent chapter of my life that I will probably never tell you about.

I left him three times before it finally stuck.

I stayed in a shelter for battered women for six weeks. I went to group therapy. I applied for financial assistance. I got a new job. The kids got lice.

Then we stayed with my grandma for three months until I could afford an apartment with the help of a government program that helps stupid girls like me pay their rent.

When we moved into that apartment, we did not have anything but the clothes on our backs and a swirly chair that I bought for five dollars at my best friend's garage sale.
We did not have beds. We did not have blankets. We did not have food or dishes.
At that point in my life I was a pathetic, fat,  single mom with a part-time job, no formal education, no money, and no food.

I cried ALL THE TIME!!!

But because I worked with some of the most wonderful people in the entire world with hearts as big as Texas, we didn't go hungry, and we didn't freeze, and I managed to get through that first rough year without throwing myself off the top of the tallest building in town or stepping in front of a moving train, or drowning myself in the bathtub.

I remember one of my co-workers, Sandy, came over in the middle of a snowstorm, swathed in a big red scarf and donning knee-high snow boots, carrying a box of things she thought we "might could use."

The kids were so little then. David was four. Sandy (whom the children immediately dubbed "Sandy Claus") laughed and laughed at my little guy when he plucked a four-pack of toilet paper from her box and danced across the hand-me-down sofa holding it high over his head like a Golden Cup Trophy.

"We Got Toilet Paper! We Got Toilet Paper!" he sang his little song, while his younger brothers cheered him on, excited over the idea that we were now the proud owners of an entire package of brand new toilet paper.

Fourteen years later, I still work for the same company, albeit, in a different city, and we have never, not once, not ever been out of toilet paper.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

100 Words: Not Nearly Enough

You said we should get married. It was a suggestion, not a question.

I rolled over in the bed to face you. I listened patiently while you told me how good it would be for us...financially.
The Corps would pay you more if you had a family to support. We could live on base. My kids could get your health insurance.
But...where was my ring? My knight on bended knee? Your confession of undying love? Why were you trying to sell it to me like a used car?
I wanted to say yes, but you never asked me.

Originally, I was going to enter the 100 Words competition going on over at HerMelness but...nah...I don't need that kind of  attention for this one.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Beyond the Dream

I haven't been feeling well for a few days. As always, this means that my dreams have been totally screwy. I woke myself up this morning screaming at my mother who presumably passed away three years ago. I kept reminding her that she was dead, and, of course she argued with me simply for the sake of arguing. She was like that when she was alive, and  I suppose it carried over into the next level of existence.
Our argument, however unordinary, was typical. I was tired and cranky after a night of soaring over treetops in my two-man collapsible car. I wanted to rest, but she wouldn't let me. She kept insisting that I wasn't folding my car correctly. I didn't give a hoot. As long as it fit in my pocket and I could take a nap, right? But nooooooo....she made me completely undo it and fold it all over again with perfect corners.

Sheesh, MOM!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Thing of the Past

I should have been wearing reading glasses all along, but my vanity bone is not exactly connected to my common sense bone. Even in the darkness of my lonely home, sitting in front of the computer screen, with no onlookers to make fun of me, I shun the spectacles.
I can hear my mother's voice in the back of my head. "Don't do anything you wouldn't want to be caught on camera doing." Well, I certainly wouldn't want to be caught on camera wearing those pink-rimmed rectangular pieces of glass across the bridge of my nose, looking like somebody's child playing dress-up with Granny's glasses. I'd hate to be forever immortalized with my chubby cheeks playing pedestal to twin reflections blinking back at the photo snapper.
When I was a child, back in...uh...nineteen-seve...uh...eigh...uh...well... years ago....I was hauled to the eye doctor by my mother when she thought I couldn't see the chalkboard in the classroom. I had brought home an A- on my report card, and I never never made anything less than an A+ in grade school. She knew something was up, and the optometrist comfirmed her suspicions and sent me home with a pair of glasses to rival Sally Jesse Rafael.
I was horrified, traumatized, mortified! I sat in front of my mirror with the offensive things wrapped around my face and glared into my own reflection, willing the damned things to disintegrate upon contact with my skin.
They remained...(sigh)...they remained.

I'll never forget the look on my classmates faces the first time I slipped them on in Mrs. Weem's Language Arts Class. Merideth D rolled her eyes as if I were trying too hard to get attention. Josh W erupted in hysterical laughter after one look at me, and Chet Z...well...Chet Z was the boy I had a terrible crush on for two years of my life. Never had there been a cuter boy than he, and never had there been a more pathetic girl than I, scribbling his name in hearts on my notebooks, writing poems about his perfect smile, day-dreaming that he and I, nevermind. I just now decided the details of the daydreams aren't that important-just the fact that I did daydream. Anyhoo, Chet Z had the least reaction of anyone to my new reading glasses. He just sat across the aisle and stared at me for a very long time, eyes wide, mouth shut tight. I wasn't sure if this meant he thought I looked ridiculous and he couldn't tear his eyes away from the trainwreck that was my face, or if he thought I was absolutely beautiful, and he couldn't tear his eyes away from the heavenly sight that was my face.
Having been forever the realist, I decided on trainwreck. I shrugged down in my desk and hid my face as much as possible with my textbook. For the first time ever, I did not want him to notice me. I wished I could melt into my chair, but I remained quite solid.
I wasn't brave enough to "accidentally" lose the glasses, but I did think about it quite a bit. My father (an old fashioned military man who believed in corporal punishment) promised me that if I lost them, he would take payment out of my hide. I thoroughly believed him. My mother, who also believed him, bought me a long string with elastic loops on the ends. I wore it around my neck and ran the earpieces through the loops so my glasses would always be handy, laying across my chest.
My grandma had the same kind of string to keep track of her glasses. She mused that we must be twins. I did not muse that at all.
"You know what you look like?" Merideth D asked me during class one day, after I'd slipped the glasses on to read. I didn't bother to look her direction or speak to her. I just kept staring at my book. She was going to tell me whether I acknowledged her or not. "You look like an old librarian." She nodded her head quickly, satisfied that she had perfectly insulted me.
I felt the prick of tears come to my eyes, and for once I was glad to have a shield across my face to keep Merideth from knowing she had caused a reaction in me. I calmly turned the page in my book and did not give in to her meanness.
A few seconds later, Chet Z leaned over and whispered, "Yeah. A sexy librarian."
I don't know if it made me happier that it had been Chet to say it, or that Merideth D had overheard it, but I was all smiles for the rest of the week.

Still, once we moved again to another town, I deliberately avoided putting the glasses on during class, and after a certain amount of time, my parents became too busy with three new "adopted" boys to pay much attention to me. I suppose they figured I was old enough that I didn't need to be reminded to do what should have been second-nature to me by that point.
I've never disciplined myself to wear the ugly things. I've tried plenty different styles, but I've never found anything that compliments my face. I just look absolutely horrific in glasses! I suffer through the eye strain and the headaches and I never think of it as a sacrifice. It's just the way of things.

I have an eye appointment on Friday, and I'm pretty sure the doctor is going to send me home with a new pair of lenses and a strong suggestion to actually wear them. This time around, I think I'll splurge for the frameless version. And that Grandma String? Definitely a thing of the past.