Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Defensive


Yes, I'm feeling defensive today, for a variety of reasons. I guess that when I called you and told you about my rotten, rotten day, I hoped for and expected sympathy and comfort. Instead, what you gave me was a lecture, and although I know you didn't intend to, you hurt my feelings a lot.


The things you said weren't wrong. They are things that I've berated myself for plenty of times. That I made a grave mistake in judgment years ago when I went in with S. on this investment. As you said, I knew who he was and what he's about, and I foolishly expected him to change and be responsible enough to do this with. I know all that. Now that I have so much, pardon the pun, invested in this choice, I'd have to make some collosally big changes in order to back out. And I know that as long as I'm tied to S. financially, I am letting him control my life in a way, because he makes such BAD choices on such a regular basis, and they are affecting me financially and emotionally.


You were right. I "own" all that shit. And eventually, I will come to the point where the pain of staying in this position outweighs the pain of changing it. Maybe that was what happened yesterday, that the near-disaster of yesterday was my wake-up call. And I should let my feelings of self-preservation rise above the guilt I feel for severing things with S.


Still and all, I was hurting and scared last night, and even though in the long run I know it's better that you be honest with me than just say, "There, there, everything will be alright", and encourage me to stick my head back in the sand, I really needed just a little bit of TLC. And the end result of that lecture is that not only do I no longer feel safe being financially tied to S, I'm not sure if I feel safe being emotionally tied to you. And that hurts a lot.


I wanted to hang up on you really badly last night, but I know that would be childish. It wouldn't be right to take things out on you for the problems that I have with S. I guess I needed to be talked to like that, to keep me grounded in reality, to force me to see that I need to work on this situation or face an endless stream of problems. Still, since you were doing the talking, I feel really burned and raw and weepy today, and instead of getting back to thinking about S. and how his bad judgement was the catalyst to the events yesterday, or problem-solving a way out of my mess, all I keep coming back to was that I wanted to feel safe, and thought that talking to you would make me feel that way. I never imagined that I would feel this defensive with you, but really, I don't want to talk to you tonite, because I don't think I could stand another conversation like that right now.


It makes me wonder, is this what I have to look forward to in the future, if I come to you with problems? Maybe I'm spoiled, maybe I've been sheltered, I don't know, but it makes me feel incredibly lonely to think that this is how you will talk to me when I come to you seeking a little shelter from the storm.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

An Olafactory Adventure


When he said, "Oh my God", I knew I wasn't going to like what was going on in the bathroom. Sure enough, that's what that smell was.


J had been milling around near the VCR and all that equipment in the corner, and I was forcefully trying to figure out what color the inside of the oven was originally. (This is sexist as hell, but I still can't get over the fact that there was a woman living in this place before J, and she let the oven get into THAT condition. Unreal. But I digress.)


J suddenly walks over to the kitchen area sniffing, asking, "Do you smell that?" "What?" I had no idea what he meant, but he couldn't smell it over by me either, so it seemed to be something wafting around the area of the electronic miasma in the corner. "It's...ah...poopy smell." So what's the first thing you do when you smell something like that? J the Realist checks his shoes and then peaks in the bathroom, while Carrie the Active Imaginationist started putting two and two together, and figured that along with the unexplained knocking sounds on the roof earlier, this poopy smelling mysterious cloud is the result of a poltergeist. Hey, I read that somewhere, that poltergeists can be the source of unexplained moving odors, so it must be true, right?


Anyway, since we couldn't find the source, I went back to my battle of woman versus appliance, and J puttered around with whatever it was he was looking for. After a few more basins full of greasy water going down the kitchen sink, the smell is now in full bloom, and that was when J took another look around and called out from the bathroom.


The foulest things I have seen in a long time were billowing up into the tub through the drain, of course accompanied by the previously mentioned smell, but which was now amplified in the small tiled room into the stench of a thousand stenches. But wait, just when you thought that it was safe and this story couldn't get any worse than this (second story down), you guessed it, the foul stuff included that extra special ingredient: DEAD MAGGOTS.


It was only because they weren't moving that I managed to hold onto my stomach contents and not deafen J with a horror-movie vixen scream. I don't quite understand when I signed up for an endless series of maggot-wrangling adventures, but really, please, I'm quite done now, thank you very much. And as for J, he was standing there staring at the god-awfulness that is backing up into his tub, and wondering when the locusts and frogs are coming. It's not been easy on him, this new abode.


So, the happy ending is that a plumber with a snake can make the most disgusting problems go away, and I guess in the long run it was better that it was just that and not the poltergeist, since there probably aren't many listings in the yellow pages to help out with that. And I can happily say that after a full day of Draino purchasing, Draino trying and failing, Roto-Rooter calling and check writing, (paraphrasing the little psychic woman in the movie "Poltergeist" as she straightened her paranormally-mussed hair), "This bathroom is clean."


Monday, April 21, 2003

Fruit Or Dead Fish: Please Choose One


There are so many things that we talk about, you and I. Our dreams and fears and memories and insecurities and small triumphs and politics and religion and endless jokes - it is all up for grabs. And as much as we talk together in person, we do some serious damage on the phone bills, too. I have never spent so much time on the phone with anyone in my life before, ever. And although I generally loathe the phone, I look forward to talking to you, spending hours running the gamut from silliness and seriousness, and then everything in between. Well, almost everything. See, much as I want to, there's one thing that we can't talk about.


As many times as I've rehearsed various opening sentences in my head, there is no way to approach this topic, no way at all. I've spent some miserable times, trying to figure out what to do about this, and I just don't know, I really don't. I know sometimes you can sense something's wrong, and I feel guilty as hell not just coming out with it, instead of pretending that I'm just tired or upset about work. It feels like I'm lying to you, and I've been honest with you about everything else. I really wish that I could talk to you about this. The problem is that this is really the ultimate pop-quiz, and there's only one right answer, and you'll instinctively know that.


I'll know that asking the question would put you on the spot. There is only one answer that will soothe this ache in my heart, and you will know that the second I ask. So even if you say what I hope to hear, I may not believe you - because I *had* to come out and ask. And I KNOW that is unfair, but it's true. Once the question is out there in the air, it's a lose/lose situation. Because if there was hope that you would've come around to my way of thinking, it has to happen in your time, or we'll both think it's all about me putting pressure on you. So if it's true, if it's real, you will have to offer it up before I have to ask for it.


There's the problem. You aren't offering it up. So the more time goes by, the more I strongly suspect that I will not like your answer, not one bit. I'll ask, you'll have to be honest, and it'll be there, like a dead fish on the sidewalk, impossible to ignore. And once it's out there, there would be no way to get that dead fish smell out of our clothing, and I would smell it every time I see you. Talk, talk, (dead fish), joke, smile, talk, (dead fish) pause, mutter (DEAD FISH DEAD FISH DEAD FISH). It would be impossible to carry on as if I didn't know the answer. I wouldn't be able to bear the humiliation.


So, what to do, what to do, what to do? I'll wait as long as I can bear to, but I'll tell you, this is really hard. Even though this hasn't been a tremendously long time, any amount of time you spend tied up in the town square naked is an eternity. And that's how the time is passing for me, feeling this emotionally exposed. I know you don't know any of this, and I guess things seem to be going just fine to you, so I'm trying very hard to be patient. I can't help how I feel, and I can't help how you feel (or more to the point, how perhaps you don't).


I'm not ready to give up and stomp on this plant yet. I'll still wait, and hope for something to blossom, maybe some fruit will grow, something will happen to show me that tending to this plant wasn't a waste of time. So, what's it going to be: Fruit, or the dead fish? Please, don't leave me hanging. Please choose.


Thursday, April 17, 2003

Is It Real, Or Is It A Blog?



I was just catching up reading some blogs, and I saw queserasera talking about crying at work and in the shower. I don't know what is prompting her to cry (she recently posted about a close friend dying, so that may be it, but she didn't say specifically), but I feel for the woman. It's miserable to feel so terrible that you can't even put on your game-face at work and pretend to be okay. Personal life does not neatly stop at 9:00 a.m. and pick up again at 5:00 p.m.. Show me the robot who is consistently able to do that, and there will most likely be a soulless bastard of a CEO sitting in the chair. But for the rest of us, it's tough to turn off the emotions at work, and I've done my share of lying about how "It's just allergies" when caught looking particularly blotchy and wet-faced at my desk.


I could write a whole post about crying in inappropriate places, but that is not really what is on my mind. What is of concern to me at the moment is the fact that I am worrying about the emotional health of a person I don't even know, and I'm wondering why.


I've been thinking about this subject ever since I got my first home computer and began exploring the internet, in 1997. While blogging is a relatively new phenomenon, for years I found things in common with people in chatrooms and on discussion boards on websites, and have actually made some very good friends with people around the world this way. I am *not* talking about internet dating, which is something I've never had the nerve to do. I mean chatting with people with common interests, and becoming attached to them IRL. I've met a bunch of people in person, and one friend has become so close that we take vacations to visit one another and our families. Of course, there have been one or two odd balls in the mix, but no horror stories to relate, so I've been really happy and lucky in making acquaintances online.


This is not quite the same as becoming "attached" to people who write blogs. Although many blogs have comments areas and email addresses, so you have the opportunity to interact with the writer if you choose to, the writer similarly has the option to comment back to you, or to completely ignore you, the latter of the two having been my experience. I've left comments here and there on the blogs I like, but I have yet to receive any feedback from any of the bloggers in return. Not that I am at all troubled by this, as it would be insane to expect them to respond to all comments (that would be so time-consuming, and in the case of some of the ridiculous comments people leave on these blogs, pointless), mainly because there is one blogger, but in some cases, hundreds of readers each day. So, due to the nature of the thing, blogging is very different from exchanging emails or cross-talking on a newsletter or discussion board.


I've come to the conclusion now that becoming "attached" (for lack of a better word) to a blogger is similar to connection you feel to a great character in a book. The blogger is pouring out their innermost feelings to you, the reader, and you get to feel like you know these people a bit, probably as well as or better than you know some acquaintances in your real life. Most people do not open up their internal monologue to the world, so reading a blog seems almost like an aquaintance admitting that her marriage is on the rocks. You instantly feel more connected to someone for offering up such a personal insight, but with bloggers, you wonder if you are reading about the real person, or instead, a character that they are portraying. Some bloggers, like Oblivio make no bones about the fact that they are writers, and some of their writings are fiction and some are not. But I the ones I tend to like the best seem to be writing about their real life and their real feelings, and it's tough not to get drawn in.


I wonder if there is a name for this phenomenon? It's not quite like being a soap opera addict, and then seeing the actor out on the street and beating them on the arm for some infraction perpetrated by their character. But, it is some kind of addiction, needing to read about strangers' adventures every day, and becoming so interested in their tales that you feel bad for them when they are hurt, and you are happy for them when they fall in love, or get a job, or whatever their good news might be. Whatever the name for the phenomenon, I'll meet you at the meetings. I'll be the one standing up in the basement full of chairs, with a cup of coffee in my hand, saying, "Hi, I'm Carrie, and I'm a Blog Addict."

Monday, April 14, 2003

Typical Night Out



Whenever I spend time with Paul, I always end up hauling something heavy and awkward up stairs, spending eons more time than expected on the task at hand, or paying a couple of bucks more than my share in order for the waitress to get a decent tip. He is fussy, hysterically funny, hypocritical, hypercritical, sensitive and rude all in the same half an hour. But having said all that, Paul is one of my best friends in the world.



To understand why, I'd have to explain too much history, but there are moments that explain why I can't be mad at him for long. Like that summer night, during my former roommate's slow descent into the land of the unpredictable and loopy, when I had nowhere to go and couldn't face going home to her instability. I got in the car without even knowing where I was headed, and found myself calling him, and when he heard the tone of my voice, he told me to come to his place, without even asking questions. Not expecting a houseguest, his place was the usual shambles of pet fur and dicey food expiration dates, but he welcomed me in with a hug, listened to my tale of woe, shared his fruit and cheese dinner with me, and I felt safe for the first time in weeks, sleeping in his giant bed with him and the dog. How could you hold a grudge against a guy like that, no matter how many times he embarrasses you in public by telling people stories you'd wish he'd forget?



So last night, Paul invited me and J to a magic show, but J had no interest in it, so Paul and I went. After the show, I hung out with Paul, the magician and the magician's boyfriend at the bar across the street from the show. His magic tricks were done well, and his gruesome razor-blade in the mouth trick still has me wondering how the HELL did he do that? However, his stage presence was, well, not present, and no amount of cool fire burst designs on his retro shoes or interesting personal piercings could overcome the lack of polish. Still, no one told him that right after the show, but his boyfriend confided in us, when the magician was visiting friends at another table, that he would be giving him a lot of "notes" about his performance. It's not good to live with your manager, it just is a terrible, terrible idea.



Anyway, it turned out that I'd met the magician by chance the summer before, at a garage sale at the house he rents space in. At first, I was totally intimidated by him, because he had this intense gaze, and a nose piercing that was sort of like a horse shoe hanging in between his nostrils. Disgusting, frightening and intriguing all at the same time. I had no idea that the reason I couldn't see it during his magic show was because he can turn it upside down and hide the two ends inside his nostrils whenever he wants to. Who would know that you could do that? I know that Paul has a thing for redheads, and the magician has that orangey-red hair he likes, so I kind of wondered at the garage sale how Paul and he might hit it off. I don't think that Paul would be into the big nostril piercing part of the package, but I don't claim to know all of his turn-ons, either.



So, here we were, almost a year later, sitting in a bar with the redhead magician and his boyfriend, who I later find out is twice his age, and that they intend to get married in June. Just as well, because Paul's long distance boyfriend is coming to town for a visit soon, so I guess I'll never know if Paul and magician boy would've worked out. I'm sorry to think it, but I can't help but wonder what on earth these two think they are doing, planning a marriage, when it seems that they have little in common and don't get along terribly well. Oh well, I wish them well, and really, what do I know about marriage anyway? (If you've read any of these posts, you can answer that - uh, NOTHING!)



We had a fun time over dinner, and the magician's boyfriend actually turned out to be the more interesting of the two, very funny and well-spoken. They all admired my Tootsie Pop t-shirt, which is apparently the utimate gay man t-shirt, because it asks the magical question that got their attention, "How many licks does it take?" I originally bought the shirt as a funny pajama top, but some brave streak has come out in me lately, and I decided that it was provocative without being obscene, and I've been enjoying the wide spectrum of comments it evokes.



The service in this particular bar is always really slow, and after a rather long dinner, we say goodnight to the magician and boyfriend. It's late, we figure out Paul's overnight parking problems , and then he walks me to my car. As I'm driving him back over to his place, Paul decides that he needs to go to the convenience store. It's Sunday night and now it's almost midnight, so we have to go to the gas station with a market inside. You can see how evenings with Paul always seem to end up running well over the time I mentally alotted, but I don't really mind, except that we are running over into my precious sleep alottment time now, and Lord knows I need more of it than I used to in order to face work Monday morning.



Just before he ran in, Paul asked me what I wanted, as repayment for driving him to the store. Well, we'd just had dinner and I even broke down and had a black and tan, so I'm not hungry or thirsty in the slightest, and I think he's being silly thinking I need to be paid for running a small errand. Not to be put off, he comes back to the car all grins with his present for me, which turns out to be an obscene looking "pickled beef stick" titled "Big Mama". This is even funnier than the "Giant Beef Stick" Slim Jim I got for J a few weeks ago, and I am still grinning thinking about it and our ridiculous comments on it. How many licks DOES it take, Big Mama?



We laughed and carried on about "Big Mama" for the whole ride back to his place, and after I dropped him off I realized that I would probably wake J up if I called him as promised. Aw, J won't care if I talk to him tomorrow instead. He'll know it's just another typical night out with Paul - bizarre, fun, much longer than I planned. I can't wait until we get together to go to that Bat Mitzpah (how do you spell that again?) next month. And just WAIT until J gets a load of "Big Mama".

Friday, April 11, 2003

Death Wore a Nurse's Uniform


The night he died was the worst day of my life. He was my father and my mother, my friend, and role model in one, and my world was completely gone.


I'll never forget hearing the phone ring at around 3:30 in the morning, and even though I was heavily asleep, I knew that it had to be bad news. We'd gotten the phone call before, the "You'd better get down here now" phone call, and he'd always miraculously made it through before, so when I got on the phone with the doctor, I couldn't understand what he was trying to say. He was saying something about how he'd been in trouble, his heart sped up and they tried to shock him back into rhythmn, "We did everything we could to help him, and at 2:30 his heart stopped."


The doctor stopped there and waited for me to speak. I waited for him to start speaking again, to say, "...but we got him back into rhythmn, and he's resting comfortably." But he wasn't saying that this time. "His heart stopped." There had to be another sentence after that, why didn't he finish that thought? It seemed to take an eon for the meaning to sink in, and still, the next thing I asked him was, "What are you trying to tell me?"


I knew what he was trying to tell me, but the thought was too awful to contemplate. My mind went over into a weird place, where the only thing I could think about was how hard it must be for him to make this phone call, and what should I say to him, what is the right thing to say at this moment? Because he tried to keep him alive all these years, through all this sickness, and there must be a right thing to say. I started to babble to him about all these things, because I just couldn't fully understand what this meant. So much energy had been concentrated on dealing with each progressive step of his illness, coping minute by minute, that no thought was placed on what to do after the illness was over.


After babbling for a little while, I asked the doctor, "What do I do now?" The logical interpretation for this was the one he took, but I didn't just mean paperwork and funeral arrangement things, although surely I would be doing all that soon, too, but I meant WHAT DO I DO??? What do you do now, now that the suffering and waiting and visiting and handholding and worrying and bedsitting is over? I no longer had a life, except what little time surrounded the daily hospital visit and phone calls, so I had nothing at all to fall back on. "The patient's daughter" had been my only identity for so long, I didn't know who I was any more when his suffering was over.


Over the past few years, I had replaced his role as the head of the family during his periods of illness, and gladly relinquished the role to him again during his periods of relative good health. My whole life, Mom's illness kept her from playing an active role in the family, and my brother took every opportunity to escape the family gloom, except in the most severe emergencies, and at the end. That pretty much left me and Dad as the core of the family, the ones who kept things together, and I couldn't imagine life without him.


Going to the hospital to view his body was the worst thing I've ever had to do. The nurses, who had all grown to adore my Dad for his kind, good nature, were all gathered around the nurses station. They knew my brother and I were coming. It was early morning, and there were hardly any people in the hospital halls, but it wasn't an unfamiliar scene for us, having brought Dad to the hospital and having sat with him all hours of the day and night. We were used to the hospital, we'd become familiar fixtures there.



When the elevator door opened, all of the nurses heads turned towards the doors, and their sad eyes told us that they had been waiting for us. Some of them were already crying, and others started to cry when they saw us walk in. Even though we knew most of them by name, and I could tell that they adored Dad, I was surprised to see how upset they all were. But that was just like Dad, even getting the nurses who saw death every day to feel his loss personally. He used to talk to them about their lives and tell them jokes and listen to their problems, and he'd made a spot in their hearts, like he did with everyone who knew him.



I don't remember which one led us to his room, but I remember wondering what the poor man in the next bed was thinking, even though it looked like he was managing to sleep behind the pulled curtain. When we walked past the curtain, there he was. He looked just like he was sleeping, except the bed sheets and blankets were arranged entirely too neatly around him. There was no way that my father would sleep in a bed so neatly, fitful sleeper that he was. The most unnatural part of the scene was those damned perfectly tucked blankets. It must be true, I thought. He's really gone.


My brother and I hugged and cried, we touched his hands and said goodbye and told his body how much we loved him, and I remember thinking that maybe his soul was somewhere above us in the room, like those people who have died and come back who said they hovered above scenes of their death. Just in case his soul was there, I looked up and said, "I love you", and then I laid my head down on his chest as I'd done a million times before. Although he was still warm, there was an awful silence where I once heard his heart. Awful. Silence.


It was then that a nurse that I didn't like entered the room and spoiled our last moments alone. This ugly young nurse that had made it painfully clear over the past weeks that she had the hots for my brother, and although he had done his best to kindly deflect her advances and hints, she chose this moment of all moments to put her needs above ours. She came in crying a little, and told us how sorry she was for our loss, and then proceeded to hug each of us, but reserving an extra long hug for my brother. It would have been a nice gesture, had she done that to comfort us and then left. But she continued to hang around, talking, seemingly wrapped up in her own feelings about the moment, until it was clear that the only way to politely rid ourselves of her presence was to leave the room with her. We both seemed to misunderstand what was happening at that moment, and thought that perhaps we had overstayed our welcome (how could we? We'd only been there moments) and there was another person sleeping in the room. Maybe we were breaking a rule, maybe we were being rude, maybe we only had so much time and time was up? Maybe the nurses sent her in because they thought that we were morbidly lingering over his body for too long? I don't know what I was thinking, only that it was clear that she wasn't about to leave us alone with him any longer.


My brother and I discussed this event later, and we are of one mind about that incident. If only either of us had recognized that moment for what it was, a rude woman was intruding on our private grief as if she was an intimate of our family, we would not both feel so angry about it. Instead of telling this person to leave us alone for a longer time, we allowed her to insinuate herself into our only moment of goodbyes with our father. It might seem like the smallest matter, inconsequential in so many moments of grief and sorrow, but this particular memory brings up such an uncontrollable mixture of grief and anger, even after a dozen years, I want to go to the hospital, find this woman, and scream at her until I am spitting and throwing things and shaking with red-faced fury.


I don't do any of these things, because I know that it wasn't the ugly, selfish nurse who took my father away and cheated me out of years of life in his company. Years without his chest to lay my head on when life became too much, when he would soothe me with gentle words and his heartbeat. Years without his laugh and his stabilizing sense of logic and fairness to get advice from.

In my mind, the selfish nurse is the embodiment of Death, who cheated us all. And even though I know that it isn't really her that I'm so vicerally, explosively angry at, I don't know where Death is hiding. So if I see this woman again, I might just have to kick her ass but good, and tell her that next time she wants to make time with a grieving cute guy, she should at least wait until the corpse is cold before making her move.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Flight of Fancy



What have you come here looking for? It is more than likely that you will not find it here, but I'm happy you stopped by anyway. Come on in, sit down for a spell, have a cup of coffee and a croissant.


I am starting to think that I am one of those people, you know, a birder. I deliberately chose that word, instead of bird-watcher, because it seemed to me to indicate how far into the abyss I think I've allowed myself to slide. I don't just find myself reading backyard bird guides and paying close attention to their little bird markings which distinguish them from similar types, but I find that I have the disconcerting new habit of TALKING to the little buggers. This cannot be healthy.


Today, there were robins outside work when I got out of my car, and although they could surely care less about my arrival, since I was not walking closely enough to interfere with their intense worm-watching activities, I couldn't help myself but say innane things to them like, "Hello babies! Look at you, you are so puffed up! And you ,running running running so fast and then stop still and stand at attention! How are you guys?" It's the same monologue for any of the birds I see in the yard or outside of work, just changed to fit their characteristics and behavior. "Look at you, little sparrow guy, with your brown hat! Where is your female? Are you finding lots of good seeds today?" Etc., etc. Like I said, this can't be healthy.


Even still, I cannot help myself but be so happy when I see a new kind of bird, or one that I don't see often. It's thrilling to hear the call of that bird that I haven't yet identified, but whose call reminds me so much of spending time walking in the woods near here when I was young. And the other day, I stood out in the backyard and was amazed to see four birds with giant wingspans circling high above my yard. I've noticed these birds about a mile up the road, closer to a woody area with tall trees and craggy hills, but to see all four of them riding the air currents right above me was one of those moments that brought me out of myself and my petty problems, and made me think about happier days, when I had lots of time to walk in the woods and spend time alone with my own thoughts.


I envy them, being able to fly, and I pretend that they have a carefree existence, and long for that for myself, even though I know intellectually that they must actually have a very rough existence, always on the edge of survival, hunting for food, avoiding predators, dealing with the encroachment of builders on their natural habitat, and having to deal with humans in general. When I was young, I used to dream all the time that I could fly, and I wonder when that reoccuring theme stopped cropping up. Instead, I often dreamt of falling, and would wake up abruptly just before hitting bottom.


I suppose the talk of dreams is getting a bit off the subject, but there really wasn't an agenda to this post, just another rambling about whatever came to mind, and I have birds on my mind today. I hope that when I go to sleep tonite, my unconscious lets me soar with the big wing-span birds tonite.

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