Sunday, August 23

I read Great Expectations in a British Lit survey 6 or 7 years ago. Everyone hated it. They all said they hated it in high school and that they hated it then in college, that Charles Dickens was boring, they hated it. I liked it, and I've told you that. I told everyone that I liked it because I thought it was charming and I am just generally a fan of a novel that tells the day to day life of a different kind of people. Someone said to me, "Just don't ever read A Tale of Two Cities. It's terrible!"
After class a girl approached me. She was also an English major so she had been in some of my other classes, I had seen her around. I thought she was odd, the sort of girl who is fine, who tends to gravitate toward me seeking friendship, but who is so fundamentally different from me that the friendship can never really become a friendship. She seemed very Christian, if you know what I mean, and wore long denim skirts and had long mousy brown hair. She wore wire framed glasses. She seemed like the kind of girl who loves Jane Austen, which is fine, but is so fundamentally different from my own loves. She wore a homemade cape one day. One day she dressed up in a period costume because it was some author's birthday, probably Jane Austen. Another day she dressed up like the Scarlet Pimpernel and I had no idea what that was and had to look it up and I still don't really know what that is or why anyone would dress up like it to class. Anyway, I found her odd, but I liked her in the way you like a venus flytrap or a child who says "labyrinth" instead of "maze."
She approached me and said, "Don't listen to them. You should read A Tale of Two Cities, you'd love it." And she smiled very confidently and very knowingly and walked away and we never spoke again, but I did put the book on my To Read list and I thought about her when I bought it.

Monday, August 3

Time to Forget

For the last few years, once a year (or twice), I find myself surprised that, suddenly, it is my mother's birthday. Or that I've completely forgotten it and it's already passed. Or it's not her birthday at all, because I can't remember if it was August 4th or September 4th, and which one would mean she was a Virgo? Because she was a Virgo - I remember at least she was a Virgo.
We forget birthdays - at least I do. I'm terrible with birthdays; even my own tends to sneak up on me, and who can even do that math, subtracting 1,986 from 2,015? But I've always been able to remember my family's birthdays. I remember them through the rote memorization skills you learn as a child. Remembering their births requires devices, clever tricks I came up with as a child. Easy math. The math is easy. My father and mother were both born in 1960, a good, even number with a zero. My brother is five years older than I am, so if I can remember my own age, I can remember his.
The months are slightly more complicated, but not much. My father and I were both born on the fifth of our individual months - my father in June, the first real month of Summer, me in November, generally around some election or, at least, Halloween. My brother and mother were both born on the fourth of their individual months - my brother in April, the day before Kurt Cobain killed himself, and my mother in whichever month would make her a Virgo.
My mother died eight years ago this October, and I guess I'd be making assumptions about other people who live with a small part of their hearts always in mourning, but I do believe something about time makes an honest to God ghost out of the people you loved when they were alive. Maybe I forget because I can't call her, can't e-mail her, can't make the old family joke - "It was 55 years ago today, the scariest day of my life..."
She would have been 55 years old this year, the same as my father, and that's all I can speculate about what else she would be today, all I can speculate about a person who was sick for so long and so long ago that I can't really remember anything in particular anymore, just scenes like a movie I only saw once.
I've been sitting here all day thinking about how surprising it is that I feel like I don't remember her, and how I know, for a fact, that I definitely do not remember her birthday, and how every year I'm planning on buying cheesecake or making carrot cake to eat to celebrate her life just a little bit, in a small way, but then I always forget. And I'm listening to an album about a mother that's passed and thinking, "It's tomorrow. I can still make a cake. I can buy one."
But it's not. It's next month. Her birthday is in September. There's still time for cake, but there's also still time to forget.

Monday, June 29

Actual Slenderman Probably

Something weird happened to me on Saturday night and I've been wrestling with it and my feelings about what happened, so here's what happened.
After a night of beers and a bonfire, at about 3 a.m. I wound up with some hurt feelings regarding a previous incident and was alone, so I went into a park to think. I live close by the park and the city I live in is small, and while I know that the population of any city doesn't guarantee a person's safety, I felt safe. I sat for a while sulking and then decided to walk home, thinking that a fun and shorter distance might follow the top of the dike in the park. From the top of the dike I could see both into the park and into the neighborhood below me so I had a good chance of seeing any marauding college kids, patrolling cop cars, and other nuisances. I walked for a while until at a bend I looked down into a streetlight positioned behind someone's home and saw the figure of a man below me. He was milling around and I thought I heard the jingle of dog tags, so I assumed he was walking his dog. Still, I immediately felt unsafe by his presence, so I turned around on the dike to go back to the house where the bonfire had been. I figured I would cut through my friend's backyard and through the alley and avoid this man completely.
As soon as I turned around I felt like an asshole. I imagined how shitty that man might feel seeing that he made a woman so uncomfortable just by his presence that she would turn in the other direction to leave. I remembered a story a friend told me about a similar incident and how, while he didn't blame her for her discomfort, he still felt bad that he made someone feel afraid of him. I then thought about how stupid I was going to feel if my friend caught me walking through his backyard. I imagined the conversation - me telling him that I saw a man and was afraid and so turned around, and how stupid that sounded and how stupid he would probably think I was. I could hear him saying, "It's just a guy! He was probably walking his dog! You have nothing to be afraid of!"
When I got to his gate, I couldn't open the hinge. He had gone inside and I could hear his dog barking at me, so instead of having to deal with the conversation I'd already had in my head, I decided I would be fine walking through the neighborhood. I headed toward my house, back in the direction of the man in the streetlight. When I first saw him he was behind the houses, along the dike, so I figured I would miss him entirely and have nothing to worry about, but as I got to the end of the block, across the street in the shadows I saw him crouched down in a row of hedges. When he saw me he stood up and I panicked. I ran back to my friend's house and pounded on the door. I told him what happened and probably started crying. I was shaking and completely terrified. My friend called the police and then asked me to show him where I saw the man. Again, my first thought was to doubt myself.
This had all occurred in the span of about 5 minutes, but I suddenly wasn't sure any of it was worth my being so afraid. We left the house and I kept thinking that the man would be gone, that I would look like an idiot, a liar, a hysterical asshole who was, probably as usual, getting worked up over nothing. But, when we got the the street corner, he was there, walking around in the shadows between two houses. For a second I felt justified, and then I felt afraid again. This had actually happened, some strange, shadowy guy seemed to be waiting for me for some reason. That's a terrifying reality.
My friend and I went back to his house and he told me he would walk me home. I stood in his backyard feeling a surge of anger and loudly threatened to kill the stranger - not the smartest move, I know. I picked up two bottles and imagined breaking them over his invisible face. We started walking and I made sure no one was following us. On the way to my home we saw several police cars rush to the area where I had seen him and I had a panic attack. When I got home I was still terrified and armed myself with a vegetable peeler that was sitting on the counter. I made my husband check the basement and attic for any intruders, I locked every window in my home, pulled down all the blinds, had another or several more panic attacks. I was screaming. I was so angry and so scared all at once, and the next morning I felt the same way.
On his way home, my friend waved down a cop and asked him what happened. He was told they found some drunk kid in the neighborhood who was trying to get home, that he lived right there on that street. I can't help but feel like all of my doubts were correct, that I, classically, overreacted. It was just a guy, and probably the person who had the most damage done to them that night was this kid whose feelings were hurt because he scared the shit out of a dumb woman and then had the police called on him. But I can't help but wonder if this was just some kid trying to get home, why did he hide in those hedges?
As I continue to wrestle with whether or not I was justified in being afraid, I realize how completely and utterly stupid that kind of thinking is. That kind of thinking is often why people get hurt - they end up in uncomfortable, unsettling situations and rationalize their way through them until it's too late. Every personal safety class or PSA or whatever will tell you to always trust your instincts, to get the fuck out the second you feel like you need to, and that's what I did, but I still feel like an idiot. Like a child or some other dependent who can't and probably shouldn't make decisions for themselves. I feel like this should be this cut and dry situation - I was scared, but then I was safe and now it's Monday and it's over - but I can't stop going back and forth about it. I hate that I can't even land on how to feel. Scared and angry and then angry at myself for being scared and then angrier yet for trying to rationalize and criticize feelings that I should be allowed to have. I keep thinking about how this must sound to other people - but that other people aren't me, they weren't there, they didn't see what could have been a very artful shot in a teen slasher movie of a distant shadow that looks like a bush turn into the shadow of a man. Even as I write this, as I once again justify my fear, I still feel like I'm overreacting. I could have been hurt, if there were ever a night when I could have been hurt it was this night, and I can't stop telling myself I'm wrong. I feel like the cathartic ending of this post should say something about forgiving myself for having feelings I can't control, something about how valuable fear and anger can be, something about how there are some seriously messed up (dangerous even) discourses that I've internalized that could have allowed for some terrible thing to happen to me because it's mean to appear scared or stupid to overreact or to react at all, something about trusting yourself, about not being afraid to be afraid, to get help, to be uncomfortable and to do something about it, but I don't know how to say those things yet.

Tuesday, May 19

A History of Fake Fishing

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, I’m not much of a fisherman. This is in spite of growing up by the beach. The thing about fishing is that you can’t swim if people have hooks in the water, and I hate almost nothing as much as I hate sitting next to a body of water without being able to get into it. This is a real symptom of growing up next to beaches. Fuck fishing.

I also scared myself a lot as a kid with a book called Take Care of Yourself (pre-WebMD relic!) that had really simple step-by-step instructions for dealing with minor to major ailments. I read over and over again the entries about fishing hooks lodging themselves into your body and the standard treatments for different types of fish hook-related injuries (flesh – push it through! clip off the barb! nbd!; eyeball – SEE A DOCTOR). I’m very uninterested in the sorts of injuries that require another injury in order to relieve them: jarred bones that need to be rebroken or set back into place, bites from poisonous animals that must be bled or suctioned in order to prevent toxins from spreading, Goddamn fish hooks in my skin and eyeballs. 

I also don’t like bait.

Still, I have been fishing a lot, usually when a boy I like invites me, and I’ve actually dedicated a great deal of my life to pretend fishing. I present to you, A History of Fake Fishing.


My family lived on an Air Force base in Nevada for a while, which is a desert FYI, so there is not much fishing. Someone had a great idea to put a bunch of fish in the pool, though, and we all got t-shirts for it. I wish I still had that shirt. My brother had his for about half of a century. (It says "MONSTERS IN OUR POOL" btw)



This game actually sucks, so if a baby asks you to play say no, but I liked it because I liked the mechanical sound of the inner workings and the clomping sound the fish made as they opened and shut their mouths, plus I loved the tiny, doll-sized fishing rods. My Barbies got a lot of use out of those.

A lot of my peers (old ass millenials) are really nostalgic about the classic PC game The Oregon Trail, which I did play and die a lot in, but my heart really belongs to its later follow-up The Amazon Trail because obviously The Amazon Goddamn Rainforest > Oregon. You could spear fish and catch fish to eat or sell or whatever, but mostly you would catch dumb logs and electric eels and skates which would electrocute and kill you! Way cooler than dysentery.


In addition to doing boring outdoors things for boys (like fishing) hoping that they will like me more for it, I also played World of Warcraft as a teen. I actually sort of liked it, but the thing that turns me off to video games is that you often actually have to try. Games are designed to challenge you in order to earn rewards, and that challenge is why people like them. That shit does not work on me, though. I don’t care enough about fake rewards to try. Instead of questing and grinding, I’d always get into my level 20’s and then just goof off. This included a lot of disrobing in public places, trolling Barrens General, and fishing.

 

I was introduced to Mario Party a few years ago, which is easily one of the funnest things on the planet, and it instantly became one of my favorite kinds of parties. I used to play Mario Party BY MYSELF. Party of ONE. My favorite mini-games were the ones that didn't require skill, because I'm lucky and lazy. JUST DUMP COINS ON ME DONKEY KONG. The best mini-games involved fishing.


My current favorite time-suck is Animal Crossing. Again, this is a game that requires no skill and no challenge. You can do whatever you want because there are no points and there are no consequences. I think my love for this game says a lot about me as a person, but also there is something genuinely peaceful about Animal Crossing, and I'm not the only one who's noticed. There is a lot you can do and collect in Animal Crossing (bugs, bones, mixtapes), but I prefer fish.

Sunday, May 10

YOU ARE SIXTEEN GOING ON SEVENTEEN

Last week my old friend Catherine sent me a letter I wrote to her after having moved to North Dakota. I mostly grew up in Florida, but a month after I turned 16, in the middle of my sophomore year of high school, my family moved to where I still live today: Grand Forks, North Dakota. This letter contains my first impressions, some misconceptions (I have no idea why I thought to paint GF’s downtown like a big city or why I thought the Empire had shows??), some candid discussion of my forever unrequited love for a high school marching band drummer known as Green Shoes Boy (whom I've written about here before) and my looming virginity. This letter may be triggering or offensive just because of how incredibly and painfully 16 it is. Read at your own risk.