Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Three Sizes, My Ass

I’ve decided to have some people over for the first time since I moved to Maine.

Well, not the first first time. I mean, it’s not like I’ve been sitting here in this little cabin in the woods all by myself for three and a half years, staring at the dog. Except I kind of have. For three and a half years – whenever I wasn’t working, shooting pool, or entertaining the Other Dog (on which enough already) – I kind of have been sitting here, staring. Because a. I was licking wounds and going a little feral, and b. he really is a damn fine-looking dog.

Not that fine-looking. Not like I ever considered doing anything to him besides stare. The odd walk, maybe. A pat on the head every so often. But you know, I’m not a weirdo. Besides, I had the Other Dog for that business, remember?

Anyway so yeah, I have had the occasional odd guest once in a while, but I have not had People Over. At first because I didn’t know any People and then because I didn’t think they’d come, and then because, well, having People Over means cracking a can of worms I haven’t taken off the shelf since I was married. The recipes; the cutting board; the everything that goes in hand with entertaining. All the stuff I used to do when I was a Different Person, living a Different Life, and I wasn’t sure if That Girl was still in me anymore – or if she should be. 

Plus, you know, people are like mice: let ‘em in, and they leave holes…

But I’m getting a Christmas tree this year. And if that ain’t a great big bowl of Different Life then I don’t know what is. Because see, there was a time I used to be Miss Christmas – or at least first runner-up. I played the music and jingled the bells and wished the merry and spread the cheer and wassailed the figgy pudding and all that happy reindeer-shit, until any reasonable person would want to haul off and sock me in the sugarplums. My tree was a goddamn liturgy. Plus there were Santas in every corner, special throw pillows for the couch, china settings for the dining table we never even used and—

Hell, honeys, what I’m trying to say is: I’d’ve crapped a fucking Yule log, if I could.

But on December 3, 2009, my mother died. I came back from the funeral to find that my boss of eleven years had gone off her antipsychotics and the voices in her head said I was fired. Not too long after that, my second boss, from my second job, died in her sleep. And, well, being the Great Big Grown Up Girl I was and strive to be, I dealt with all of this by running away from home, developing an eating disorder, and, eventually, getting my Great Big Grown Up Self arrested.

I didn’t so much notice when it happened, but somewhere in the midst of all of that, my Yule Log Dispensing System went on strike.

Moving on…

It took a while, but all that’s behind me now. As behind me as it ever can be, anyway. The divorce was final in 2011. The house sold, finally, in 2012. All that remains of my unfortunate incarceration is a tiny little skid mark in St. Peter’s book and a lifetime ban from Canada (re. which: who cares? It’s fucking Canada. And it ain’t like this girl’s getting into heaven if there is one, anyway). I have a new home, I have my mom’s fine-looking dog, and I’m three years in to a halfway-decent job I’m really good at and I abso-freakin’-lutely goddamn love. So, maybe, just possibly, perhaps… now might be the  time to cop a merry squat and see if I can’t pinch something off.

Bear with me…

Except, you see, if you were paying attention in that last paragraph (which if you weren’t, can’t blame you. I do have a tendency to ramble on. But if you were…) you might be thinking to yourself “Yo, turd-girl, all of those moving-on things were true last year, as well!” And you’d be right. They were. And in fact I came to this same conclusion at this same time last year. And I never did anything about it then because I wasn’t Turd Girl last year: I was Pussy Galore.

Because, you see, the only way I managed to survive the last three years was by cramming my heart – except for the little piece of it kept alive by the aforementioned Other Dog – into that box in the basement, too. And when it came time to let it out, I balked. There are things in those boxes I am more afraid of than anything I’ve ever had to face before – and you’re talking to a girl whose job it is to disarm six-foot, beer-bellied, bald and toothless biker guys named Gus. Things that make me cry right now just thinking about them. Things my mother made or gave me, things my husband and I brought home from all over the world. And that home is gone and that husband is gone and that mother is gone and that world is gone – and all I have in this little log cabin left to comfort me is my dead mother’s dog. And no dog – not even the Other One – is fine-looking enough to make up for all of that.

So last year I moaned about the expense and the effort and the who’s-even-gonna-see-the-damn-thing-anyway, and pussied out. I knitted Christmas sweaters for the nieces and I baked the Christmas pies, but I left all the ghosts in the basement where they belong. And when shit started rolling around again this year like it always goddamn does, I resolved to not even pretend. I don’t do Christmas anymore, I told myself. I’ll put the face on for the family. I won’t snap at folks who wish me well. But in my black, dead, lonely heart, it’s over. Finished. Done.

And then, when I was at Dad’s for Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, he asked me to root around the boxes in his basement and see if I couldn’t find where Mom had stashed her Christmas Village. And I did. And I found them. And I tried but he wouldn’t let me help him set them up. And when I left, all by his 70-year-old, a-fibrillating, half-bionic self, my dad did this:


If that man – who was married to her for 42 years and has been lost without her; who raised us all through recessions and runaways; who’s been in the hospital four or five times since she died, for myriad adversities, and who keeps coming out each time a little more discouraged but never giving up; who just keeps getting better, standing up, and going back to work; who put me on his weak, elderly back and goddamn carried me through my arrest and the ensuing eighteen months of costs and consequences – if that man can open those carefully packed boxes, lift out the porcelain, and plug in the lights, then this girl can sack the fuck up and quit shitting herself at the idea of coming face to face with a slightly-moldy salt-and-flour Jesus.

So I’m getting a tree. And I’m having People Over. Because it’s not true that burying my heart is the only way I managed to survive the last three years.

It turns out that, no matter what, the mice find their way in.

And if there are any Maine mice reading this whom I forgot to invite, please come. You'll find the details under my facebook events. You just have to swear not to do this...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Neighborly Day For A Beauty

I’m finding it damn near impossible to spend time by myself these days.

I’m never like that. Usually, I’m Little Miss Don’t Need Anybody: the girl who sometimes catches herself wishing she didn’t have a dog because he loves her too damn much. The girl who – if she’s being completely honest (and if she isn’t, what’s the point?) – was at least 1% relieved to have to put the cat down last Wednesday, because it’s one less living thing depending on her.

But I was unemployed all winter, and sort of gradually and accidentally wound up spending nearly every single day of it with one person – One Person, whom I suddenly and accidentally picked a fight with and haven’t heard from since. (That’s a lie. The phone rang once but I ignored it and vice versa. Guess I showed One Person, didn’t I?). So now, even though I’m back to work and everything, it feels like there are all these hours in each day I don’t know what to do with. A girl can only work out for so long, after all. I don’t watch television (except with One Person, who never shuts it off, so there’s my 1% relief at having put him down, right there). And sleep is something I tend to fight off, not indulge in. So even after a long day at work and a 45-minute drive home, I feed the damn dog who loves me too much, I let him out to pee, and I get back in the car and go shoot pool.

My game’s thanking me for it – I actually ran the table Saturday night for only the second time in my whole life (which wouldn’t’ve happened if One Person had been there, because in front of him I always choke the 8. So there’s another 1%, I guess). And last night I beat someone I’ve never been able to beat in the three years since I moved here. Didn’t just beat him, either. Smoked his ass. Left him with five balls on the table. And last night they didn’t even have my M&Ms.

Eventually, though, the bar closes, and I take the long way home. Or I drive up the other way to get gas that I don’t really need. Or I stop at the little store for candy. Anything, so I don’t have to go home and fight off sleep alone.


But today is Tuesday and I have to go to work, so last night I did not stay till closing. I was going to, when I thought they closed at ten, but then remembered that on Monday nights they stay open till 1:00 am for washers, and even I knew that was a bad idea. So I left at 9:30, took the direct route, and even – because I’d scarfed an entire order of fried pickles in lieu of my lamented M&Ms – drove right by the store where they sell candy. I even made it all the way up and over Laskey Hill before deciding I had to turn around.

Now, for my whole Massachusetts-life I was the sort who, if you post “No turning” in your driveway, would pull in to it just to piss you off. You have no right, you selfish prick, and you can’t catch me anyhow. But I like the people up here – even the ones I haven’t met yet – and it is backwoods country, and I know what it’s like to have someone pull in your driveway and make you think you have a visitor but you don’t. 


So up here I always find a road or a wide spot to launch my three-points from. This is a tough order on Laskey Hill, though, and last night I damn near broke my rule. But it was dark and it was fairly late on Monday night, and everyone has dogs that will go crazy – so at the last second I thought about those people in that house and straightened the wheel just enough to miss the driveway and pull off the road right after it instead…

…and right into the ditch on the side.

They dig these ditches up here! I’ve never understood it. Road shoulders that are perfectly flat and safe and soft are intentionally ditched out and filled with rocks. Not gravel. Rocks. Like loaf-of-bread-sized rocks. I knew it, and I’ve wondered about it, but last night there was snow in it and I forgot. And what looked like a wide spot turned out to be quicksand, and when I threw it in reverse I spun and smoked. And when I got out of the car and looked at the lights on in that house I couldn’t bear the thought of knocking on their door to tell them that, since I hadn’t wanted to trouble them with my headlights for three seconds, I now needed a half an hour’s worth of actual, honest-to-god help.

So I flagged down a passing car.

She turned out to be about as useful as I would have been in her shoes, but at least she stopped. And since she did, the next guy who drove by stopped, as well. And the next guy had a big old fucking truck.

I lied to him. A little. I mean, I told him about the turning around and the not-wanting to use the driveway, but I said I was going back to the store for cigarettes. Seemed a bit more – I don’t know   genuinely necessary than going back for candy. Or just not really wanting to go home. And as soon as I said that, he took out his pack, gave me a smoke and lit it for me, then said he’d assumed I’d swerved to miss a deer.

Deer. That’s the lie I should have told. Gawdang.

Anyway, Truck Guy said he couldn’t push me out ‘cause of the snow, and if he tried to shove me with his truck he’d break my headlights. He said what I needed was a tow, but he didn’t have anything to pull with. And then looked over at that house I’d gone so far out of my psychotic way to not-bother and said “Their lights are on. You smoke your smoke. I’ll be right back.”

I heard the House Guy, when he answered the door, say “Why didn’t she just use the driveway?” and I stopped myself from hollering “’Cuz she’s a moron!” just in time. And then Truck Guy came back alone, said “Help is on the way,” and crawled under my car in the snow to see what he could hitch to.

“I don’t want to hitch to the axel,” he said, “because there’s all these brake lines under there. I’ll hitch to the bumper. It might break a little, but the car’s a piece of shit anyway, right? So who cares?”

I would’ve hugged him for that one if he hadn’t been on the ground.

House Guy came out with the hitch just then and introduced himself. “Oh!,” he said. “I’ve seen you up at the bar, shooting pool. My name’s Dave.” He shook my hand. “Neighbor Dave.”

Nice to meet you, Neighbor Dave. I’m sorry I don’t recognize you, but I don’t tend to notice anything else when I shoot pool.

So they hitched me up and pulled me out and nothing broke except my ego (that’s a lie; my ego is bionic, man)*. I thanked them both, and hugged them, and then I turned around and drove back up and over Laskey Hill. I’d lied to Truck Guy, after all, and he’d given me a smoke for it, so I felt I had to at least head off in the direction of store. I turned around, this time, in the high school parking lot.

When I finally got home, I posted a love letter to Vacationland on facebook. I sent a text to One Person, apologizing. And then, without further ado – or candy – fell asleep.

Woke up to realize I’d read the schedule wrong and I don’t have to work today at all. But it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, so I’m taking my dog for a walk.

That oughta kill a couple hours, anyhow.

*also a lie