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.




Monday, May 4

Best Non-Considered UND Mascot Suggestions

The University of North Dakota is currently in the process of retiring and forgetting their old, racist ass nickname. In some bizarre act probably meant to loosely disguise the fact that they already have a new nickname chosen, they thought it would be a good idea to have the public submit suggestions for a new nickname. These suggestions culminated in 200+ pages of suggestions to be considered and 600+ pages of suggestions that will not be considered. The latter is an utterly insane document that can be summed up perfectly as “an absolute fucking shit show.” Kiah and I skimmed the list and picked out some gems, but you can peruse on your own here.

Alligators “we are green”
Bush Did 9/11
Camel Cats “is just a cool name”
Duck Butter
ghjhfjhf
Grande Forks “like the towne but more elegant”
Green Beans
Jan Orvik
Kumquats
MORTH DAKOTA “a strong name”
Pancakes
Tall Strands of Grass “Teaches literacy due to long name"
Test Rob Laptop

Wednesday, April 15

A Dang Poem


Wings by Stephen Berg

In the modest plot I see them
kneeling to pick tomatoes, yanking weeds,
squatting between rows of broccoli, squash, beans,
Bill’s pulled-back pony tail, Cathy’s fine ass,
two sheds Bill built, rakes bunched against a wall –
the Jew I am had to buy a Badminton set
for the clear space of grass next to their garden
where net, poles, stakes, chalk lines would be,
then shuttlecocks, no plastic, real feathers only,
at least six rackets – every summer
out there eating and drinking we would play hard,
& I, the oldest, I must say, beat the living shit
out of everyone – adults, teenagers, kids –
a great pro blessed with wings – in my head.