Monday, January 24, 2011

snow up to my tits

It's so cold here. I can hear the skin on my hands cracking from moisture deprivation as I stand outside trying to channel the tobacco smoke in my lungs to trigger my brain into thinking it's really smoke from my burning skin as I slowly sink into a crater of molten lava. It works, for about two seconds and then I have to stamp out the cigarette and run back inside before the spit freezes inside my mouth and ice crystals form in the liquid around my eyes, sever my retina and blind me forever.

Maybe I'm exaggerating. But fuck, it's cold here.

I am trying to get my life back together. I never said that before, because it was never "together". There was no getting "back", it was just getting there. I never said I want to get back to Hawaii, I just want to get to Hawaii. My brain has always felt that way... other people have regular lives and though there is always some kind of turmoil or disturbance, they can always say... "Well, everything will be fine once we get back to normal." I never got to normal in the first place, please send directions.

But that changed this last year. Well, this last summer. I never got to normal, but I got it together. That's a lie too, I never got "it" together, but I got my brain in a place that was livable. I got a smidge, a dash, a morsel of happiness and now all I want is to get back there. Some form of natural ecstasy invaded me and as soon as I recognized I felt it, put a name to it, and explored the feeling - poof! no more. I was afraid it would go away at the time, so terrified and yet that did not stop me from feeling it. The fear did not ruin the happiness, I had never experienced happiness that strong... to outweigh my fears, that little hamster in my head furiously spinning the wheel removing all joy from even the simplest things... even he wasn't able to weaken that bubble at the top of my chest. That feeling you're trying to hold in, wide-eyed, because you're afraid it will just come up without warning and you will start laughing or start to speak unintelligibly ... you can not describe this feeling.

Now it's gone, and my brain is desperately searching for meaning in everything, searching for a trigger that might bring back a moment of that. It's the way I felt when my first cat ran away, standing outside in the cold calling and calling until I was hoarse and pleading, please come back to me. Pathetic but not willing to give up. My emotions wait it out in purgatory, occasionally exploding into frenzied fireworks - trying to provoke some kind of response from the outside world. And they burst out voilently and without cause, firing off memories and surfacing my most extreme sensitivities - then finally collapsing back in on themselves and I am left with all of the muscles in my face - slack, staring at everything and seeing nothing... wondering where it came from and why I only feel numbness in the times between combustion.

The cruelty of a cliche. My friend constantly tells me, "But aren't you glad you know that feeling exists now? Isn't it better to love and lose than never love at all?"

In a word... no. Nothing is satisfying now. Nothing quenches like it used to. When you've never been happy, small things feel big. Fake things feel real. You can convince yourself that you're happy when you're not. You can squeeze your emotions together and force them to come out when you need to feel human. You can pretend there is a future and in it you can be happy. But when it's over? When you know there is something more. When you have proof in your soul that there is something far greater, your mind can not accept the present. It refuses to acknowledge that this is good enough, that this life will satisfy.

Christians are so fond of heaven and all of the joys and endless happiness available there, but this life would not be bearable if they had visited the eternal paradise they dream of. They could not come back here to this place, to their regular life on earth and tolerate the pain and frustration a human life must endure.

That is how my heart feels. It has found new land, a different way to experience life and then the blood flow was cut off, and the old things... the old comforts and haunts can not satiate that desire any more.

So I will keep chasing that feeling. My brain will keep investigating the cause, searching for the spark that once lit the fire. My emotions will keep misfiring, attempting to cue something deep inside that might, even for a moment, create the illusion of that swell, and after failure... return to numbness.

Fuck, it's cold here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Would you like hashbrowns with that?

I love the Waffle House. Any Waffle House, any location because the scenery does not change.

Dolly the chain-smoking, blonde-wig-wearing waitress is always leaning over the counter, directly under the "No Smoking" sign, dangerously wielding her 3/4 ashed cigarette directly over your scattered, smothered, chunked, and topped hashbrowns.

Jimmy the burly, misted with sweat, Jackson Pollock aproned, short-order cook who looks a wee bit too old to still use a "y" on the end of his name standing amid a grill littered with the perfect recipe for a severe myocardial infarction marinating in its own greasy ooze.

The old, weathered man sitting near the corner with a John Deere hat perched high atop his head in the spirit of Elmer Fudd. His chin is tilted slightly down, eyes at half mast presenting the observer with a problem; dead, asleep, or merely resting between bites of onion-loaded chili?

Any time after midnight and between seven ante meridiem there's the group of young-ish men, all with the same bottle-black hair cut as if they stood in the same shower at the Y squeezing the black mustard bottle goo onto each other's noggin saying things like, "Dude, I feel like this really signifies my angst," and "My mom is gonna be so fucking pissed."

And then there's me. The 20-something bent over a steaming cup of coffee and a tattered notebook with one eye squinted and the mascara I had so carefully applied 15 hours ago turning me into a gross interpretation of Alice Cooper. Scribbling frantically between cigarette puffs to accurately portray the various types one might run into at the Waffle House.

You sure do got a pretty soul... .

Fillyjonk over at Shapely Prose did a fluff piece in honor of the new Paul Giamatti film called Cold Souls. The basis is that a company figures out how to extract people's souls and they come out as a vision of something tangible. There were some amazing comments on that page regarding what people thought their souls were and those of their family members.

You don't know me and I'm sure you don't really give a fly... but I thought I'd give you the run-down of my family's souls in case you ever run into any of them and recognize them via their not-real-fake-soul-I-just-made-up-on-my-blog.

I think my 14 year old niece's soul is a shoebox full of crayons collected over many years with brand new, never used crayons mixed in with the old broken, paperless nubs from use. And that unmistakable crayon smell and the sound they make when you dig through them.

I think my dad's soul is a top-of-the-line, sheepskin leather chamois. Soft, flexible but tough as nails. It soaks up everything and becomes softer over time, it can make something look brand new with a little work.

I think my grandma's soul is a pair of those pink, feathered high heels you wear with your nightgown. Luxurious, glamorous, feminine, sensual, and totally impractical.

I think my 12 year old nephew's soul is well-worn, soft, baseball glove - oiled up with the ball inside and a rubber band around it. Always getting it ready for game day, always sure it could be a little more fitted around the ball.

I think my brother's soul is a round river rock about the size of the palm of your hand. Hard, but smooth in your hand. The more you put it in your pocket or carry it around, the more polished and soft the outside feels.

I think 5 year old niece's soul is a wand constantly blowing bubbles. Each bubble unique and beautiful, but fleeting. Reflecting everything around them in a mirror of rainbow colors.

I think my 6 year old nephew's soul is a library book with the card catalogue numbers marked on the outside and the due date card in the pocket on the inside. Hardback but with bright colors and lots of pictures and stories.

I think my sister's soul is a small, antique rocking chair that's polished and shining with beautiful carvings that are worn smooth from use. And a small, soft blanket folded and laid over the back. A rocking chair that's been used for many years and that's rocked countless babies to sleep.

I think my mom's soul is a bird's nest nestled in the crook of an old barn. Built out of the normal things and the unusual things a bird might come across: a lock of hair, a piece of ribbon, a brightly colored piece of cloth. A place for any bird to find comfort, warmth, protection. A nest that's been through rain, wind, and snow always to be rebuilt. A safe place to land.

My soul is an old, wooden shipping box filled with straw and fabulously beautiful, broken dishes. If you could just put them together they would be priceless and amazing... but you can't ever put broken dishes back together.

So tell me... what does your soul look like?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Batshit-Insane Shrapnel

To some people I’m charming, witty, warm, open, generous, beautiful, honest, intelligent, corageous, and even loving… but when I stand in the mirror every morning and figure out which personality I’m feeling like putting on today, I realize it’s all just a few tricks of light.
It’s physical and it’s mental, often emotional. What blemishes, stupidities, and outrageous outbursts can I keep under wraps today?

Looking in the mirror, head cocked to the side: Last week when you went off on the girl at the Wal-Mart checkout counter because she said the shoes you purchased were ugly… you remember… the one where when she took your driver’s license to ID you for that blessed pack of Marlboro Medium 100’s, she told you your photo looked like a “fat Betty Boop”… c’mon, don’t be coy… you know how after you told her you sincerely hope someone one day comes along and smacks her hard enough it knocks the idiot right out of her, because that’s the only way anyone would ever give a flying fuck about her, you lobbed a shoe at her head and stormed out the automatic doors, tears streaming down your face and snot running into your mouth, gasping for breath and giving the stink eye to all of the redneck passersby…. yes, yes, yes… that moment. Well, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that… not to be too harsh or anything lovey, but… you may want to keep that shit under wraps - you big fucking can of crazy!
And that’s a typical morning pep-talk in my bathroom.

To say that at all times I feel my entire mind will explode and get pieces of batshit-insane shrapnel all over the immediate crowd infecting them later with my previous thoughts of honey dripping off the back of a spoon at Denny’s with the light from the sunrise illuminating the golden hue, signifying the most magnificient, sexual gift mother nature could have provided our humble species, is indeed an understatement.

I am a fan of the run-on sentence. Hey, at least one part of me can run for five minutes without bursting a lung and dropping dead.

Why do I always love what I’m bad at? I love writing, but I understand completely that most people who are reading this are also praying I have other talents. I am brilliant at math, but I’d rather have sex on a bed of kitchen knives and corn holders than recite the quadratic equation. I am addicted to music, but I have the attention span of a research monkey gulping a Rock Star and sporting an IV of methamphetamine, and by the time I realize I can’t sit down at the piano and immediately play Chopin’s Polonaise in C-sharp Minor, I’m fucking done with that trivial bullshit. I am an excellent public speaker, but the very notion of having to answer questions like, “Don’t you believe that your calling all Icelandic people elf-loving, ferro-silicon alloy-exporting, fishcart pushers is rude and prejudice?” from some tiny guy in women’s jeans and a shirt sporting an image of Che Guevera whom he probably couldn’t name makes me want to go dig a hole in Nebraska deep enough I could begin my own experiment regarding prairie dogs and humans co-habitating (or as my grandmother would say, ”living in sin”).

But in isolated instances I can seem good at almost anything, just a few tricks of light.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Elevators are an incredible invention. I find it hard to believe I could find more than one or two people in the world that would not tout, if given the chance, the genius that created such a blessing to women in excruciatingly high heels or the pathetically lazy everywhere. Me being a woman that occasionally wears excruciatingly high heels but that is dependably, pathetically lazy, I appreciate the goods the elevator offers more than most inventions used throughout my day.

Hence comes my new obsession: let's take the story back a month or so ago (no exact dates known) to the place this all began. I was returning from my daily 2 and three quarters of a minute lunch (which in the corporate world is more than enough time to shove an entire piece of bread in your throat, coat it with coffee so it slides down easier, and smoke half of your cigarette in one drag). Upon reaching the elevator to crawl back into my office to lay sacrifice to the corporate gods (my two bosses - El Heffe and The Big Cheese) I leaned my tired/lazy bones on the ledge next to the elevator door. The beeps of plummeting floors made a crescendo telling me the doors were about to open, and at their opening I leaned my head in slightly in a truly feeble expression of workaholic agony and thereby caught the most incredible whiff of my life. The smell that consequently poured out of that lift was the most wonderful man-smell I have ever come in contact with. It was like the Brauny commercial guy flew out of the elevator and wrapped me up in his big, strong, manly arms and then did the dishes. Ladies, that's how good it was. Like having great sex and a maid all at the same time… we can only imagine, right?

In all honesty, though, it caught me completely by surprise and I almost tripped into the elevator with two middle-aged but still relatively handsome men. They were clearly flustered by my awkward state until I announced, without consideration or intelligence the source of my maladroit condition. "I don't know who it is, but one of you smells delicious." Yup, that's how I said it. Delicious, implying edible which isn't much more than a hop, skip, and a jump from "I want to eat you up from head to toe." Of course the situation wasn't improved by the way I said those words; husky voice from just inhaling an entire cigarette in one controlled and practiced breath, mouth slightly agape, head tilted to one side implying serious thought, eyes closed in awe and extreme emotion, and of course leaning slightly toward the both of them faintly sniffing. A dog would have been more subtle.

They were both flattered a bit (I'm hoping instead of appalled), and both chimed in like school boys "It's me!" Unfortunately the elevator was much too fast that day, seeing as it's speed fluctuates depending on whether or not the repairman has been there within the last hour, and their floor was up almost immediately after those two lines. I didn't have time to smell each of them and find out who it was. I didn't have time to ask them both what kind of cologne they wore so that I could rush instantly to the nearest department store and coat my body in the scent that was positively identified by my recently molested nose. They were gone in the blink of an eye, and the only thing left to do was simply to ride the elevator up and down until the smell was entirely perverted by all of the stinky passengers to come, and you could no longer get even the most faint aroma of that succulent man smell. Which I did. I rode that elevator for about 15 minutes until a fruit cart got on and then all I could smell were old bananas and cantaloupe, which I hate to say killed the mood a little for me.

This day passed, but every time now I decide I'm feeling exceptionally lazy (which is most every time I get up), I head for the elevator door and wait in extreme anticipation for the doors to open. Could it be that this time I will visit once again with the Brauny man and hopefully get a name or even a location of the place I could stalk this fragrance until I can make it my own?

A girl can only hope…

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Flowered Napkins and Electrical Tape

Dave Barry once wrote that “Camping is nature’s way of promoting motels.” Some might agree with this statement, but I was never the sort. I always prided myself on being a nature girl, a tree hugger, a hardcore hiker, and a survivalist. I could rough it with the best of them. I never was the girly girl who couldn’t scavenge for wood because the fear of breaking a nail or touching a bug rendered me helpless. I craved bathing in the lake, sleeping without a tent, and cooking on an open wood flame.

So at the first whiff of warmer weather I am always organizing a camping trip. Some would think a woodsy girl such as myself would hang out with a more environmental friendly crowd. I didn’t get that luxury. I have three best friends with whom I do everything. We are a mixed group that happens to mesh well in every type of circumstance. I indulge them in some of their odd interests (glow-in-the-dark golf?) and they indulge me in my monthly camping trips. Perhaps I should explain a bit.

First there is Tabatha. I have known her since I was only four years old, and since that day we’ve been best friends, with a few dry spells. She is your ultimate picture of femininity. A nice pasty white from spending so little time outside, flowing, shiny hair from hours of attention and sinkfulls of product, and enough high-heeled shoes to fill the Grand Canyon. She sings like an angel and has a lot of soul that has made my life a lot more bearable than it probably would have been without her.

Enter Christian, loving husband of Tabatha. They were married quite young (only 19) and have done the very best they could. Christian prides himself on attempting to be masculine, but typically fails miserably. He works construction, but shines his shoes almost daily. He likes to talk about cars with the boys but I change his oil for him on a monthly basis. Expecting him to kill a spider would require a massive amount of hallucinogenic drugs and a shotgun because with a clear head he wouldn’t knowingly get within a hundred feet of an arachnid. He has a brilliant mind though, is honest and blunt to a fault, and gives the best hugs anyone can imagine.
And the final player in this saga is Michael, cousin of Christian. (This sounds like some kind of twisted love triangle, doesn’t it?). Michael grew up on a farm, works on cars for a living, and plays a guitar like the devil. But Michael has a very stern live and let live policy. If something isn’t bothering you, you leave it alone. This is a great trait most of the time, but he lets it get a bit far on occasion. It’s hard to tell if he has strong feelings about anything; since he has such a passive personality I never know if he’s scared, livid, or drunk. But he’s strong, male, and very funny when you least expect it.

This brings us to the story you’ve all been biting your fingernails for. The first glimpse of warm weather and I was on the phone booking a campsite. I live in a tourist town centered around a giant man-made lake which surprisingly provides some amazing natural beauty. We have one of the largest state park areas in the Midwest and I do my best to never take it for granted. I booked a rarely used site, one not well known to out-of-towners and definitely a good place to “rough it” for a few days. It’s about 10 miles down a gravel road, no electricity or plumbing (eek!) and right on the water.

I spent the morning before packing and getting all of the necessary supplies: jugs of water, tent (the others wouldn’t sleep out in the open), plenty of blankets, a few spirits and beer for the boys, matches, skillet, tinfoil, utensils, plastic plates, and lots and lots of food. I brought all kinds of things to cook for dinner and breakfast. For that evening we had steaks, fried potatoes and onions, and all the makings for smores. The breakfast menu would consist of bacon, pancakes (yes, I had pre-made the mix), and a variety of fruit juices. It was going to be a wonderful trip!
About noon on Saturday morning, Michael swung by to pick me up and grunting, loaded all of my goodies into the mustang.

“So you’re really excited, right?” I begged.

“Sure,” commented the ever passive Michael.

“Could you seem a tiny bit more excited? Indulge me with some emotion just a little?” was my sarcastic reply.

“Lucy, I just loaded an entire year’s worth of food and supplies into the back of a sports car which was never meant for this kind of trip anyway. And now that I’ve done that, you’re going to make me drive down a gravel road when I just washed it yesterday. Am I supposed to jump for joy?”
“Yes… since you brought it up, that’s exactly what I’d like to see.” I crossed my arms, stuck my foot out, tapping, and gave him the look that said I’m not leaving until you do it. After a battle-of-the-stares he finally gave up and started doing jumping jacks with a huge fake smile on his face excitedly enough to even make Richard Simmons proud. We both ended up in a fit of giggles and I was satisfied I had broke the mood and we were on for a great weekend.

We met the others at the site and the unpacking resumed with gusto. It was clear that everyone was in the mood for an excellent little trip, and they were all comfortable in the fact I had planned it flawlessly.

“Christian, dude, did you shine your shoes?” Michael asked staring in bewilderment at the shiny black kicks he was sporting.

“Uh, I just needed to do it anyway. I mean, I didn’t do it specifically for the camping trip. I mean, I was already doing it then I remembered we were going camping.” The stammering gave me a chance to catch Tabatha’s glance so we could do a simultaneous eye-roll knowing full well that he had not only shined his shoes with full awareness that we were going camping, but probably did it on purpose.

Michael ignored the response, “Christian, no one in the wilderness cares if they can see your reflection in your shoes. Not even the spiders.”

“Where!?” he shrieked and flinched as soon as the word was mentioned. This was met with a chorus of “get a grip” and “geeze louise” from the rest of us. Feeling a bit silly, he backed down and tried to shake off the childish reaction, and went to forage for firewood picking up branches that were more likely entire trees, in hopes to reclaim his masculinity. After a few hours of set-up time, things were finally in order. The guys had found enough firewood to sustain an S.O.S. mission, but were still not convinced it was enough and therefore searching for more. Tabatha helped me set up the tent long enough to get her high-heeled flip-flop stuck in the mud, after which she complained that she couldn’t step on “icky grass and mud” without shoes on, so had to do a thirty minute washing session with the bottled water I brought, despite the fact that the lake was about 10 feet away. By the time she had properly cleaned and dried her stiletto-flop I had the tent up and ready to go. Then as the designated hens of this excursion it was our job to get all of the food put in its appropriate place, set up the chairs, and collect rocks for the outside of the campfire. Tabatha and I went our separate ways rummaging for small boulders. I was humming lightly to myself and enjoying the day, finally removing my sweatshirt succumbing to the sun’s warmth, and listening to the water lap the shoreline. Suddenly the peace was broken by the most blood-curdling shrill scream I have ever heard in my life. It wasn’t just one scream, it was one continuous scream that I would have sworn lasted about 43 minutes. Of course I immediately bolted toward the sound, horrible thoughts running through my head. God, is that Tabatha? What happened? Did she get bit by a snake, because I don’t know if I can do that whole sucking out the poison thing? Did she fall into a bear trap and we’ll have to amputate her leg using only the steak knives I bought for tonight’s dinner? If we use those knives what will we do to cut the steak? Has she been captured by a tribe if indigenous people the entire area has been unaware of for hundreds of years? Are they in the process of making her their virgin queen? Wait… Tabatha isn’t a virgin.

By the time I hit the spot where I could see her horrified face covered slightly with over-sized sunglasses, I had run through brambles and had my legs covered in the scrapes, I had caught my forearm and the back of my hand on a locust tree and had twelve very large and rather deep puncture wounds from those massive thorns, and I had fallen twice which succeeded to bruise my left cheek and get mud into my mouth. Breathless and terrified, I came upon her sitting up in the low fork of a tree with her knees huddled to her face.

“Oh my God, Tabatha. What happened? Are you okay? Did you break something? Do I need to call 9-1-1?” I searched her body for any sign of trauma hoping that whatever it was we could fix with a maximum of eight years of physical therapy.

Crying and sniffling she held out her shaking hand for me to help her down, “I... stepped… on… a…. little… rat… thing…. and I… felt it… squish… under my foot. It made a noise!” Finally breaking down into uninhibited sobs she tumbled from the tree limb and into my arms, and my jaw hit the ground.

“Are you f*%#ing kidding me?!” I shouted before I could control myself. “I thought you were dying, I thought a wolf was gnawing on your right ear, I thought your leg would be separated from your body, I thought you would have a bobcat attached to your face! What the hell?! You scared me to death! I have never heard anyone scream like that in my life? And for a ‘little rat thing’. That’s what I risked my own life for on the way over here?” Gasping for air and bent half over, I thought my head would explode. Suddenly the adrenaline began to die down and I could feel the blood dripping down my legs from the scratches, and the puncture wounds in my hand and forearm began to have thump with their own heartbeat. A slow burn entered my chest and I had to fight the urge to reach out and shake her to death. In seeing my rage she slowly gathered herself from my arms, straightened her shirt, smoothed her hair into place, and began to tromp off toward the campsite with each step of her stiletto-flops sinking into the mud.

I sat down, still shaking but battling with myself to calm down and concentrate on the fact that everyone was okay. We didn’t have to go to the hospital and no one was seriously injured save for the small animal, probably a snoozing chipmunk. I eventually collected myself and marched, well half-limped really, back to the tent mustering up a little sympathy to apologize to the sulking girl I was sure I would find there.

Sure enough, she was sitting alone on the cooler, cleaning her shoes again with the drinking water. “Tab, I’m really sorry I yelled at you. I was so worried you were hurt I just exploded. I apologize, I definitely lost my temper and you didn’t deserve that. I’m sorry you got so freaked out about stepping on the [grinding teeth] ‘little rat thing’.”

Again, smoothing her hair and doing the girly ruffle of her feathers, she looked at me pointedly saying, “You’re bleeding everywhere, I guess you should clean that up.” She handed me the drinking water and walked up to the cars to put on some music. I sat down to nurse my wounds and noticed that the sun was beginning to set and we should probably begin dinner soon.
The boys’ rustle of footsteps could be heard coming back from the woods again, with more trees in tow. By that time I had half bandaged my body with festive flowered napkins and electrical tape, looking like something out of a B-rated psycho flick.

Christian was the first to notice my weakened state, “What on earth happened to you? Were you mauled by a pack of chipmunks?”

“Don’t even say that word,” I pleaded.

Michael chimed in, “What word? Chipmu…”

“Ah! Shhhhh.” I interrupted.

“Lucy, sometimes I wonder about you,” Michael shook his head and dropped the subject. They had carried plenty of wood back and had also brought rocks for the outer edge, and I was blessed with work to busy myself. While I was getting dinner ready, the other three pulled their chairs over to the edge of the lake and tormented themselves by sticking their bare legs into the icy water. Yelps and double dares to jump in were plentiful and I found my self once again humming a lively tune and working on the meal.

Finished and cooked perfectly we settled around the fire under an almost completely dark sky and began our outdoor feast. Tabatha was over her earlier scorching from me and in quite a good mood, and the boys reveled in my abilities to cook a good steak. Full and happy, I commissioned Tab to wash the dishes off in the lake and before she could protest and steal more drinking water, I sent her off. Michael I sent to get his guitar so we could sing a few songs (very summer camp, I know), and Christian I commissioned to get rid of the dinner scraps. I went to change in the tent. Back to humming a song, I heard a few light taps of something hitting the door side of the tent, which was facing away from the fire so that the smoke wouldn’t get into it. I listened for a moment, but hearing nothing else just assumed it was something unimportant, and went on changing.

The remainder of our time outside was wonderful. Michael played wonderful music, and Tabatha sang well enough to rival even the Sirens of the sea. Christian doled out the spirits in a very plentiful, if not Santa Claus-esque manner, laughing jovially every time someone needed another refill. The night was moving quickly, and before I had realized it, I leaned back in my chair to star-gaze only to find that there were no stars… at all. In fact the blackened sky looked a bit threatening. I suggested we move a few things inside the tent just in case it began to rain, and no sooner than I did that did the first few drops began.

We rushed to snuff out the lantern, and blindly throw the perishables in the tent. In a moment of last-minute haste, before the sky ripped open, we reminded Christian to grab the wine and beer, so we could continue our little party under the thinly-veiled protection of the tent. The rain poured and poured for almost an hour and we each quietly began to drift off to sleep, huddled in a small mass in the middle of the tent, in efforts not to touch the sides of the temporary dwelling and trigger a torrential rain inside the canvas.

Around 2:15A.M. I woke suddenly to the pangs of nature calling. I had clearly drank more wine than ever intended, and in the rapidity of the storm forgotten to pee before I lay down. I didn’t stir for a moment, listening to see if it was still raining but was pleasantly surprised to hear that at some point it had stopped during our sleep, and now there was just merely a gentle breeze outside. Excited to get to my wilder-peeing excursion, I knee-walked to the tent door and began to unzip the first privacy layer before getting to the screened layer. As I unzipped I stopped abruptly, noticing some movement in the dark. I can’t see well to begin with, but couple with the fact that I did not have contacts in and I was riding on a pretty full night of drinking, things were a bit more blurry than usual. I squinted to try and make out the shapes I was seeing… quite a few shapes, actually… but wasn’t able get the whole picture. I figured it was probably safe to go outside, but I might want to check with someone else before I just jumped out there, pants around ankles.

Hastily I knee-walked back over to the pile-o’-friends, and grasped the first foot I stumbled upon. “Psst!” I whispered. “Wake up! I need your help!”

It seemed that Christian was the foot I grabbed, and he slowly roused from sleep. “What? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine but I really, really, really, have to pee.”

“Um, Lucy I don’t know that I can help you with that,” he drawled.

“No you big goof, you didn’t let me finish. I don’t have my contacts in and I can’t find my glasses. There’s something moving outside the door, and I just wanted to make sure it’s safe to go out there before I pull my pants down. Will you check for me?” I pleaded.

“Sure I guess,” he crawled over the pile of limbs and headed for the door I had partially unzipped. “Uh, Lucy… you’re not going to like this.”

“What? What is it? Cannibals? Snapping turtles? What?” I said with my head over his shoulder, squinting to no avail.

“Skunks. About five of them. You’re not going pee until they leave,” he eyed the situation at hand. “Hand me something to throw, maybe I can scare them away.”

“Christian, have you lost your mind?!” I said in my meanest whisper, “Can you please recall fourth grade science class and tell me what skunks do when they get scared?”

“Well yeah, they spray….” He stopped mid sentence, “Oh, they spray. I don’t want to smell like that.”

“No kidding, dingleberry. Why are they at the front of our tent? What on earth is out there?” I wondered aloud. Slowly our voices were stirring the other two, who were waking groggy and confused.

Michael leaned up, one eye closed and one eye opened, “What are you guys doing?”

Christian was compelled to answer, “There are like five… wait… now six skunks outside the door and Lucy’s got to pee.”

“Bad…” I reminded.

“Skunks? Why are there skunks there? Did we leave anything outside that we shouldn’t have?” Michael wondered as well, while Tabatha slowly woke next to him.

“What did you say?” She asked.

“Skunks,” we three chorused in hushed tones.

“Oh my gosh, you’re kidding right? There is a skunk out there?” she whined as she curled into a ball.

“Six,” we chorused again.

“Oh no, oh no, oh no. What are we going to do?” she sat terrified.

“Tabatha, get a grip. It’s not the boogie monster, it’s just a few skunks. We’ll get through this,” I grudgingly consoled.

Michael began, “Hey, Christian. What is that little guy gnawing on? What did you do with the dinner scr…”

“Christian!” I whispered smacking his arm. “I told you to throw that stuff in the woods!”

“I just threw it away from the campfire. I thought I threw it far enough, I didn’t even think about it,” he said regretfully.

“Hey, um there are seven now,” Michael sadly reported. I began squirming at the thought of hordes of stinky little critters staying there all night until the scraps were gone. I was about to explode, and I was seriously considering the risk of smelling like roadkill for a few weeks just to ease the pressure.

I sat down in a very uncomfortable position to try and squeeze my legs together in hopes to quell the anxiety. The other three had started mumbling about possible plans of escape, one of which included cutting a door with a pocket-knife through the opposite side of the tent. After several more minutes, and a lack of plans that got us to the car unscented, I began to feel the serious pain of the situation. I huddled myself into the corner and tried with every thought I could muster to think of anything else. A quiet day in the backyard listening to the lake… NO! A nice boat ride on the water… NO! A beautiful blue sky near the ocean… NO!

“Hey!” Michael yelled back, “They’re starting to leave!” But it was too late. Just a few seconds too late. We packed up our things that night after the skunk mafia left us in peace, and I spent a week cleaning the tent and other things. Few words were said, but I could swear in the dark I heard a susurrus of supressed giggles. I don’t think I’ll ever hear the end of that night… twenty years down the road I’m quite sure this story will come up at some distant camping trip.

Oh, the embarrassment.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Punch Me

... in the face.

This isn't the kind of world I imagined when I was in the fourth grade. That year seems to stick out to me, and yet I am not able to recall any of the details about it other than my skeletal octogenarian teacher, a strange blonde kid named Mike, and the Fantastic Sams bowl haircut (complete with circle bangs) I was sporting. I don't remember any friends that year, I don't remember what state my family was in or what I was interested in at the time. I faintly remember staring through a paper towel tube and pretending to be moved by a solar eclipse that I had no concept of - no concept of my place in the universe. But what I do know, what I am sure of... I didn't picture the world this way. I didn't imagine a place where fear, hatred, and threats were at the forefront of everyone's mind. I couldn't have even conceived that the universal truth would no longer be "we're all more alike than we are different" but instead "I'm afraid of everything and everyone that is different".

I hold my breath every time I refresh the CNN webpage hoping it won't be something else to be afraid. Silently willing that there will be some message other than "BLOWN UP - 31 DEAD" or "SCHOOL SHOOTING" or "THOUSANDS OF HOMES DESTROYED" or "FUCK WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE". I know there is good in the world, but why can't I picture those headlines? "NOTHING BAD HAPPENED TODAY THAT WE CAN'T OVERCOME TOGETHER" What would that look like? Why can't I even see it in my mind's eye - a place where I can conjure up an imagine of a purple donkey that just had green baby kitty quadruplets sharing a duplex with a bong-smoking dolphin - but no happy headlines. Silence is our indicator of good things now. No news really is good news, in fact it's the only good news these days. Shhhh. If we all be quiet we can hear that the world isn't falling apart. Shhhh.