Mar 292012
 

It’s not like I have some vested interest in televisions, but going to the Early Television Museum seemed like a perfectly acceptable way to spend a chilly, overcast Sunday in March.

Even if it meant driving 3+ hours to the small town of Hilliard outside of Columbus, OH. Nothing weird about that, or the fact that Henry had to keep putting me and my petulant attitude in check, or the fact that nearly every one of my senses was drop-kicking me straight back into the hands of 2005.

I was just there to see some vintage fucking TV sets. Goddammit.

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Our current TV is about three years away from being quite at home here.

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Andrea would have hated this place because it was an unguided tour. The aging hippie at the front desk took our donation and was basically like, “I don’t give a shit what you do. Touch whatever you want.” And that is exactly what Chooch did — touched every button on every TV. (OK, I did too.)

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I can’t remember the last time Jonny Craig sounded so loud in my head, even around the constant hum and squelch of vintage television.

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Some buttons actually were off-limits. Thank god there were cameras in every room to make sure that we didn’t touch anything/anyone we weren’t supposed to be touching.

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Oh look! It’s Henry standing amongst televisions from his own era!

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“I like your shirt.”

“Thanks, I bought it after you quit talking to me.”

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When I was five-years-old, there were only three TV channels and I ate sardines straight from the can! Henry to Chooch, who fucked around with his “new iPhone” all day.

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For all my clown-lovahs out there.

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World’s first clicker aka remote,  I think.

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GERMAN TV!

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PURPLE TV!

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I was worried it wouldn’t be worth it. But it was worth it.

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I was so distracted by all the relics from the past, that I forgot to even sign the guest book.

Apr 292011
 

I’m taking the day off. (Because I do SO MUCH on here, you know.) So here is an oldie about littering and cops, and cops who litter.


Another Reason to Hate the 5-0

May 2007

It was the middle of a lazy Saturday afternoon in Hamilton, Ohio. Christina and I were lounging around her room and I was making her cry by talking about how I hate God. I suppose I should have been penciling in a time for church in my day planner since “He” evidently spared our lives the night before when we got caught in the midst of a hail storm on our way from Pittsburgh to Ohio. It was probably the single most terrifying moment of my life and it took place right after I had been talking about Hell.

Over top of Christina’s mighty exaltation for her love of all things Christ, I heard the squelch of a siren from behind her house. We ran over to the window and discovered that there were two police officers on the street behind her house and they had pulled over a man in a truck. It seemed like it was just a traffic violation and I was quickly becoming bored. Luckily, I hung around long enough to witness the most appalling act of crime I have ever seen with these green eyes.

The officers were beginning to wrap things up and as the one cop made to get into the passenger side of the patrol car, he poured out the remainders of a can of what appeared to be Pepsi and then deliberately tossed the empty can into Christina’s back yard.

“Oh no he didn’t!” I exclaimed to Christina, right before shaping a makeshift megaphone with my hands and shouting “LITTERER!” and then ducking, leaving Christina framed alone in the window looking like the sole perpetrator.

Stomping over to her bed, I grabbed my shoes and sat down hard.

“What are you doing?” Christina asked nervously.

“I’m going out there.” I walked out of the bedroom and bounded down the steps, leaving her pleas in a cloud of my dust. She caught up with me before I made it to the back door and grabbed my arms.

“Look, I really don’t think going out there is a good idea. The cops around here are dicks.” She had thrown herself between me and the door so I knew she meant business. I walked dejectedly back into her kitchen as she explained to me that her neighborhood is kind of bad and that the cops are always looking for a reason to, well, be cops and that she really didn’t want to have to make that call to Henry.

“Henry!” I exclaimed in remembrance of my boy-toy in Pittsburgh. “Let’s call him for legal counsel.” And of course he wasn’t home. I left a message and that dickshitter never called back because he figured it was “something stupid” I was calling about, as I would later learn.

The cops had left by then, leaving me alone with a heightened sense of extreme community failure. I didn’t want it be over yet so I continued pacing and spouting vulgarities until I finagled Christina into calling the police station. “We have their patrol car number! Do it, Christina, for all of us civilians. And the environment. It’s God’s will.” I knew that would clinch it.

Christina finally relented, only because she didn’t want me making the call because supposedly I’m too “hot-headed.” But I would have used words like ‘reprehensible’ and ‘detestable’ to convey to the sergeant how appalled I truly was. And I would have thrown in the words ‘law’ and ‘suit’ somewhere in between mention of dying babies and that our earth is God’s playground (HAHA).

But Christina still wouldn’t hand over the phone; she was eventually dispatched through to Sgt. Ebbing (a man I will never forget, bless his heart). Explaining the complaint, she actually said, “Sir, I know this may seem trivial.”

Excuse me, trivial? Are you kidding? That prick littered in her back yard. He did something that people like us would get fined for. Oh, I was livid. She was being too nice and congenial during the phone call and my body was burning. I started to envision what would have happened if I had managed to get out of her house while the cops were still there. They don’t scare me. Plus, I have big boobs.

This was when I decided that I really, truly, and legitimately hated that littering officer. My ears were roaring with the sound of large, wavering sheets of metal and my heart was pounding like I had just run ten yards after ingesting fourteen fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches and an eight ball. I imagined scratching his face (out of malice, not passion) and striking his nose with the heel of my palm in an upward motion, just like Mr. Miyagi taught me. Then I would retrieve his discarded aluminum can and crush it against his jock.

Oh heaven, I have finally reached you through my fantasies.

Christina ended the call and jolted me out of my daydream. She explained to me that Sgt. Ebbing was going to call her back once he reprimanded the officers and that he also informed her that she could go to the courthouse and file for a citation, to which she said would not be necessary (I would have done it – fuck the police). I felt a tiny bit reassured and calmer but Christina was a little leery that Sgt. Ebbing had asked for her full name and address. “I’m a pot head! What if they’re going to be watching me now?”

“What do I care? I live in Pittsburgh.” And then I laughed. And if you know me, you know that laugh, and are probably wanting to bitch-slap me just at the mere thought of it.

In the meantime, we called Henry to fill him in. “You didn’t go out there, did you?” was the first utterance from his fat mouth. I began to feel a complex developing and asked, “No, I didn’t go out there but would it really have been so bad if I had?”

“Uh, yeah!” he answered. “With your temper? I don’t need to be bailing you out of jail.” I have to say I’m a little insulted that I’m not trusted to handle situations such as this one on my own. But Christina was happy because Henry shared in her apprehension.

Sgt. Ebbing called back about two hours later (presumably because he was banging broads in the drunk tank), at which time Christina’s sister Cynthia answered the phone and yelled to Christina, “I don’t fucking know who it is!” The sergeant (I don’t trust him, by the way; I think he’s a cocksucker to be honest with you) relayed the disciplinary action that was sanctioned, and might I add it only entailed asking the officers if it was true and then telling them to come back and pick up the can.

But he lied to us and I know it. Sgt. Ebbing, you’re a lying cocksucker. He told Christina that the officer admitted to tossing the can, which was purportedly an “illegal can of beer” which was confiscated from the man who had been pulled over. In the midst of the confusion while they were making an arrest, it must have slipped the officer’s mind that he had littered.

Except that I didn’t see them make an arrest. I saw the man get back in his truck and leave. What did they say, “Just meet us at the station”? Oh, I don’t think so.

In other words, the sergeant wanted us to think that it was admirable of the officer to be honest about the littering, but at the same time he tried to make us feel guilty or ashamed that these men were in the throes of serving justice and that they should be excused of such a trivial act.

“I’m going out there to wait for them to come pick up the can,” I announced as I ran for the door. Christina came with me and we discovered that the can was no longer there. That asshole sergeant waited for them to come pick it up before calling back because he knew that I was about to get all Firestarter on their asses. I just know it!

I don’t feel like justice was served. And I didn’t get to swear at anybody.

I’m going to pay one of her neighbors to let me slice their baby with a Pepsi can and then pretend it happened on the one in the Christina’s backyard. THIS IS FAR FROM OVER.

[Ed.Note: Obviously, it was over. Christina plied me with pie and the day quickly turned into “Sgt. Ebbing who now?”]

Dec 222010
 

Arguably, 2007 was our best year. Sylvia had thrown herself into the arms of some other butch broad, and I know it made Christina want to eat her arm out of jealousy even though she herself had been trying to date other women (upon my encouragement!), especially when her friend Steve thought he heard Sylvia on the radio, prompting Christina to send me this email:

ok so get this- steve just texted me and said he
thinks he heard sylvia on the radio the other day. i
was like, oh what was she requesting some heartbreak
song or something? and he said that no, he missed the
very first part, but he is pretty sure it was her
voice and that she was saying something about being in

love with a woman, but that she thinks she is PREGNANT
by some guy!  after i told her about my date with that
chick because i was like… i want to not have to lie
to anyone about anything anymore.. she just told me
yesterday that about christmas time, she had sex with
this black dude terrance- it all makes sense.

she just can’t stop making herself look horrible and
like a lying piece of shit. also a whore… and a
slut, and a trashy skank. among other things.

i feel really sorry for that kid if she is.
god knows i’m not gonna play daddy for her…
even IF the kid is gonna be nigbino.

“i want to not have to lie to anyone about anything anymore” – Oh, if you could hear my laughter right now at this moment!

Whether or not that was actually Sylvia on the radio, we never found out (though it’s plausible considering Sylvia’s vagina was an Ohio hot spot; who the hell knows why though), but her preoccupied affections for this new girl was like a motherfucking Cheerios diet for the stress levels and dramatic episodes of our friendship. And since Sylvia was doing the domestic thing elsewhere, Christina was actually able to spend more time in Pittsburgh. She even bought a car so she didn’t have to rely on the Greyhound anymore. The memories we made that year are the only ones I can look back upon without regret or disgust burning a hole through my stomach like so much battery acid.

I didn’t give Christina her Christmas present until the following March, when I visited for a weekend of coconut cream pie milkshakes (for real, this is not some lesbian innuendo) and the Taste of Chaos show in Dayton. I wanted to get her something that had meaning, like the memory box she made me, but also something obnoxious that we could joke about because our friendship had had too many serious moments up to that point. This was the year we would find our roots again and go back to being two grown-up children, causing a commotion in public, being assholes on the Internet, and laughing until we cried.

Liberace Would Have Loved It

March 25, 2007

As she readied herself to go out to dinner before the concert, I thrust it at her, in all of its unwrapped glory.

“Oh cool! A Used necklace!” The Used is her favorite band, so what would make a better present than a large pendant to help proclaim her love for the band without her ever having to open her mouth?

“Aren’t you going to wear it?” I asked, as Christina started to toss it onto her nightstand. Because really, what would be even more super than wearing the band’s t-shirt to the show? A crystal-encrusted pendant with dangling things on it!

I noticed a slight flush spreading across Christina’s cheeks. I’m sure she had other plans for the necklace, like say, as car ornamentation, and she nervously fingered the chain in her palm.

“I mean, it’s a great gift, Erin. Really, it is. But um, I’m afraid I might lose it there.” She once again started to discard it.

“Oh, so you don’t like it.” I was prepared to turn on the tears. “That’s cool.” I hung my head. “I guess I could always give it to Janna.”

“Fine, I’ll wear it.”

Another victory for me!

“Oh yay, and look at that heart, dangling from a chain. Wow, that is…so….cool,” she sang in drawn-out monotone torrents. I imagine Christina was envisioning getting jumped by all the scene kids at the show and having every epithet for “gay” flung at her every time she utilized the restroom with the 16-year-olds who were way more scene than she was with her hokey necklace.

“I thought you said you wore necklaces when I asked you!” I whined.

“Well, yeah…because I thought you meant a chain. Not a big—” She stopped when she noticed my protruding lip. “—but COOL, pendant.” She raised a finger to the heavens to emphasize the fact that she had not forgotten how cool it was.

We ate dinner at Hyde’s, where we were waited on by a chatty fellow named Lawrence, who likes Elvis and found it odd that I’m from Pittsburgh and don’t like football. When he asked us what show we were going to, Christina started listing the bands on her fingers. “And the Used is headlining,” she finished. When he said he hadn’t heard of them, I nearly smashed my grilled cheese into my chest when I lunged across the table and yelled, “Like her necklace, see!”

Maybe it’s just me, but if I were Christina, I’d be more self-conscious of the misuse of that apostrophe on my shirt. (Figures that the shirt was a gift from Sylvia, who is not known for her punctuation prowess.)

When we arrived at the Ohare Arena for a night of exploding nodes and boys in skinny jeans, I gleefully looked around to see if anyone had noticed her necklace. I kept reaching over and jiggling it, which made her angry. She was like the Flava Flav of the screamo set with her large, buoyant medallion flopping against her chest with every step.

“Oh good, thanks for reminding me!” she would sardonically enthuse. Then she would murmur things like, “Oh he definitely saw it, and her too” as we shoved our way inside the arena, past the amassment of confiscated studded white belts. I laughed.

Throughout the evening, I would be sure to yell things like, “Geez, your pendant is so cool! I bet you are the Used’s number one fan!” and she would cower inside herself.

Once the bands started playing, I momentarily forgot about Christina’s plight and enjoyed my night of not being a mom. I was doing really well, blending in with the undulating crowd, until Evaline took the stage. The singer summoned the mom in me back to the surface as he twirled around the stage wildly and did a daunting flip over his keyboard. Unable to control it, I found my hand slapping across my chest and intense pleas of “Oh honey, watch yourself!” swam maniacally through my hand. But that was quickly overshadowed by a roaring, “Fuck yeah! Do it again, motherfucker!”

It was fun watching the stage lights reflect and shimmer off the crystals of Christina’s pendant. But I kind of felt like I was its bodyguard, having to perpetually check its safety.

I should have bought one for myself, too. My love for it blossomed throughout the night.

In between sets, my eyes would travel back to Christina’s chest, frantically ensuring that her amulet was still securely fastened.

“Would you stop calling it an amulet?!” she yelled, with just a tiny undertone of amusement. “I feel like it’s getting bigger.”

But it kind of looks like something sought after by Dracula, am I right?

At one point, I feared that I was having a stroke. Chiodos was introduced by a man in a rabbit suit, which pleased me greatly as it added a Wonderland aura to the show. When I tried to ask Christina if she thought the rabbit was going to come back out, my brain and mouth were at odds.

“Rabbot…robbit….rabbi….FUCK! Bunny!” This probably wouldn’t have happened if the amulet had been around my neck.

30 Seconds to Mars was the second-to-last band to play, and Jared Leto yakked through 80% of every song. It was ridiculous. At one point, Christina leaned over and said, “I feel like he’s giving a Grammy speech.” I kind of felt like he was some crazy religious leader trying to get us to follow him on a pilgrimage, and it didn’t set well with me. Just because of that, I wouldn’t do anything he said, not even a half-hearted fist-raise. Their set was so long, and I felt like we never even got to hear an entire song. When they left the stage, a good 25% of the crowd left as well. As a horde of young girls filed past Christina, she screamed, “You saw your boyfriend, now get the fuck out!” A young guy in front of us turned around and nodded his approval at her outburst, inspiring her to lean forward and talk to him and about the Used. When she sat back, I said, “Wow, that guy probably wished he had an amulet just like yours!” She slapped her hand over it and sighed. “Damn, I forgot I was wearing this! He probably thinks I’m an idiot.” She started to catch herself. “I mean, I think it’s a great present, Erin. It really is. I guess I just kind of wish it wasn’t so…big.”

“I wish it was bigger.”

“If it was any bigger, it would be an outfit.”

I did manage to have her hold it up high when the Used were playing though. I think at that point, she had finally accepted its brilliance and bore it proudly. I mean, it was probably the most ambitious piece of fan flair there that night. We probably could have used it to get back stage. Hindsight, I suppose.

After the show, she stopped at a gas station for direction, and while she was inside, I noticed that she somehow managed to remove it and hang it on her rear view mirror without me even noticing. She claimed it was because we were in a seedy area and she didn’t want to get mugged for it.

I was appeased.

***

It was broken in the box when she returned it to me during the spring of 2009, as if that was the instrument she used to fuck our friendship up the ass, and not her selfishness and inability to be honest. I threw it away, along with everything else associated with her.

Dec 122010
 

October 24th, 2006

Christina left for Ohio Sunday afternoon, a few hours before a bogus bomb scare made for some hot Greyhound terminal-evacuating. Our weekend was steeped with making fools of ourselves in a mélange of haunted houses, turning baby-oriented television programming into politically-incorrect satire which made Henry tug uncomfortably at his collar and even leave the room, and making Chooch cry in horror as we rehearsed the theatrical laughs which I assigned to us. Mine was modeled after Tom Hulce’s Amadeus, but it packed a bonus ladling of gravy by way of an over-the-top walloping shrill which almost made Henry shit his pants when I spontaneously debuted it; Christina’s was based on Phil Collins’ maniacal scoffing in the Genesis song “Mama,” with a dry-heaving emphasis on the final Hah. We unleashed these well-honed peals of obnoxiousness at a haunted house on Saturday night, much to the chagrin of those forced to accompany us.

***

It was so stupid how it happened, too. So juvenile. I emailed her out of the blue that summer, after six months of ice cold silence, pretending that while I was cleaning I had unearthed the memory box she made me, as if it hadn’t been sitting out on a shelf in plain view ever since she sent it to me. In the email, I said, “If you want it back, let me know. Otherwise I am just going to pitch it.” It took her a week to reply; she didn’t have Internet access at her house anymore, she apologized, and went on to say that she wanted me to have the memory box. But if I was only going to throw it away, then yes, she would take it back.

That was all it took to open the lines of communication again, to draw her out, because I knew she needed that prodding. Christina would never contact me on her own, not when she was that afraid of me.

I thought it would be weird when she came back into my life that August, four months after Riley was born, yet we had picked up right where we left off, as if no time had passed at all. As if she had not missed the birth of my son.

I was now a mother.

We had spent half a year a part.

She was back with Sylvia.

But I wanted her back in my life. I wanted her to know my son. I was willing to forget the past and start over. Even after she admitted to me that while I was pregnant, she had secretly hoped I would give birth to an ugly baby. I can still hear her saying that and it makes me recoil slightly, like she’s still slapping me in the face from 300 miles away.

Her appearance was different. Startlingly different, and when she walked up to my front door that day, for the first time after we put it all behind us, I thought she was a Mexican man who had the wrong address. She had cut her hair really short. Gained a lot of weight. I attributed this to the fact that she was shacking up with Sylvia. (If I felt Sylvia was the best I could do, I’d probably let myself go, too.) My inner shallowness used this as a weapon to completely annihilate any lingering feeling, glimmer of attraction, or dusty residue of desire that may have carried over to 2006 in spite of all the drama and disgust she had crapped upon my life, like an entire season of Jersey Shore with dysentery. I assumed the same went for her – I still had a tender C-section scar and a spare tire of elastic flesh sagging around my torso. Figured that should be more than enough to make her want to puke at any sexual thought about me.

(It is here I remind myself to look up the definition for naivete and then cold-cock myself with the dictionary.)

People weren’t happy that Christina and I had reunited. On her side, it was her family and Sylvia. I can’t remember when it happened, if it was right then or a little after, but Christina and Sylvia’s 1587th go-around eventually perished; with me back in the picture, Sylvia was presenting her predictable “Her or me!” ultimatum. And on my end, it was Henry who was groaning and making silent predictions for how long this particular tap dance down Crazy Lane would last. But Chooch took to her immediately, and that made Henry soften. Christina treated that baby like he was her own family, which was definitely more than my own family was doing. Seeing her with Chooch, it made it easier for me to forget the last year.

Christina was good about keeping her thoughts to herself. So good that I didn’t even realize she was even still having those sort of thoughts. I assumed we had finally made it, finally arrived to that mesa in our lives where we realized platonic friendship was the only thing we were meant to have. And for the first time since we met, we were able to talk on the phone daily and hang out more than twice a year without all the blood pressure-raising screaming matches, whining, and sexual overtones. We would have long and deep conversations about how much we meant to each other and both promised to never let anyone try to tear apart our friendship again. We would make memories like the one at the start of this entry and it would make me think, “I could never have this with anyone else.” It would make me think all the shit was worth it, all those tears and heavy hearts, to have these moments, our own little private microcosm of giddiness and inside jokes.

We were too dumb back then to realize that the only ones tearing away our friendship was each other. It was just easier to blame all the Alishas and Sylvias and Onnas, but if we had the faith in each other that we so stupidly assumed we had, maybe we would have been able to block out the naysayers. Maybe we would have had enough respect for ourselves and each other to cold shoulder those nagging emotions that made us repeatedly “try it one more time! This time it will work!” Maybe we would have realized that we were forcing two pieces to fit together like a toddler attempting his first puzzle while his fat mother was busy watching her stories.

I needed her to be my friend. But she was always going above and beyond that, doing things for me that no other friend has ever done, defending me against every little shitty comment slung toward me on LiveJournal, in life, from my family. She made herself so available to me, made me depend on her more than I should  (she even admitted once to doing that on purpose), that it made it hard for me to really have any other friends because she set the bar so motherfucking high. She was my rock, the only person who believed in me. Why would I want to talk to anyone else when they wouldn’t say half the wonderful things to me as Christina would? When they wouldn’t even come close to understanding me like Christina did?

This is how I fucked myself. This is how, even though I had a new baby, Henry and the most golden of best friends, I was lonelier than I ever had been. Which is exactly what she wanted.

***

I have no intention of stopping this without resolution, but I don’t have that nagging urge to purge anymore. The truth is, writing everything this far has helped me get over it. I no longer think of her and feel that torturous tear in my heart, not since that night last August that found me sharing a bench in front of the Holiday Inn with Jessy, projectile vomiting into her lap all my feelings on this subject. Ever since then, I no longer regret not having that one last parting conversation with Christina.  I have no hate, no love, only ambivalence. I have not once even attempted to find out what she’s doing, where she is, how she is, who she’s with (because, well, isn’t that obvious?). Because I know she will never change. Christina’s life is like a stagnant pond – it will always be there, still and reeking, maybe just with different diseased pests hovering above it.

This thing I shared with her for six years, it has, through a year of hashing and re-hashing, metemorphized from a relationship into something of a sterile noumenon, this thing that I will no longer allow myself to look back upon fondly but rather store in my mind as an experience from which I learned to stop giving so many motherfucking chances.

Sep 232010
 

I didn’t know it then, but that trip Henry and I took to Cincinnati in August of 2005 would end up being the last time I saw Christina for quite awhile. We had a great time together, but I guess I was just too naive to see that it was a struggle for her to be “just friends.”

Especially when I found out I was pregnant shortly after that trip. She was ecstatic for me because she knew that Henry and I planned it, but she began crossing boundaries, wedging herself in between Henry and I like she was the third part to the procreation equation.

“I’m glad I got to see your vagina before it gets ruined in child birth,” she joked one night on the phone. But I didn’t find that funny. The things, the intimate relations, that had transpired between us that spring was not something that was sitting comfortably with me at the time. I felt uncomfortable and a little gross, to be honest, when I thought about it. I had asked her to stop making comments like that, that saying lewd things like that wasn’t very conducive to us trying to maintain a friendship.

And then she began insinuating that she was experiencing sympathy pregnancy.

“Are you craving peanut butter?” she asked one day. “Because it’s all I can think about eating so I figured it was probably because you were craving it.”

It was things like that, minor irritables, that were all building up and collecting inside my head. It made me angry that she was trying to include herself in something that was so personal to Henry and myself. This was all on the heels of her buying me a vibrator for my birthday. A vibrator that Sylvia picked out.

For once, I had no words.

“This is getting weird,” Henry murmured when the birthday package arrived.

Getting weird?” I questioned.

So when I called her one Sunday morning in October and discovered that some girl named Onna had spent the night, I was thrilled. I knew that the only way for her to be “normal” around me again was by distracting herself with another girl.

“Oh, I’ll let you go!” I said, happy that she was living in the moment for once. That’s the thing – my friends would joke that I would likely be so consumed with jealousy if Christina ever found someone else, that whatever poor unlucky girl she chose would wind up dead and buried in the woods somewhere. But I wanted her to find someone. I wanted her to move on from me and Sylvia and find someone suited for her, someone who could give her the life she wasn’t letting herself live.

But Christina quickly insisted that she wanted to stay on the phone with me, that Onna was still sleeping anyhow.

Onna was apparently some (young – as in 18) friend of Steve’s. Red flag, right off the bat. Christina said she liked her because she had the same style as me.

“She wears scarves in her hair and likes really big jewelry,” Christina explained. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.

Christina told Onna things about me, so Onna found me on MySpace and, as any other 18-year-old asshole would, began sending me obnoxious messages. Mostly just those stupid pictures where you stare at it only to have something jump out and scream. I called Christina and asked her what the point was, why Onna felt compelled to contact me through MySpace in the first place. If she had something to say to me, and she clearly had something to say to me, I’d have appreciated actual text and not Internet jackassery.

Christina admitted that it was a little weird, and that Onna had expressed mild jealousy when learning of me. I took her MySpace messages as a form of immature harassment, but wasn’t too concerned about it. Christina, however, was pissed off and told Steve what Onna had been doing. According to Steve, when he asked Onna why she was sending some pregnant lady random MySpace messages, her response was to laugh hysterically.

Meanwhile, all Onna was really doing was giving me easy access to her MySpace profile, which was rife with blinkies, misspellings and bathroom photos of her looking like she had eaten Raven Symone and then donned her skin as a suit. I was horrified and offended that Christina would draw any comparison at all between the two of us, scarves or no scarves. She just looked dirty.

To make things worse, Onna began throwing fits of rage in my honor. She threatened to leave Christina unless she cut all ties with me. This was all in the first week, without ever having any interaction with me outside of MySpace (and I wasn’t even responding to her lame messages). One week into their relationship and she was already stepping up with stipulations.

“You’re not really going to let this little girl end our friendship, are you?” I asked Christina one day.

There was hesitation on the phone line.

Onna trash-talked me, called me a cunt, called me a whore. She was trying to change Christina, made her feel inadequate and “stupid” for having an interest in writing raps.

One week into their relationship, and she had already proved that Christina wasn’t free to be herself.

I’m not sure where Sylvia was during all of this. Probably fucking half the female population of Ohio while spying on Christina from behind their bushes.

We went round and round about this, Christina and I. Every day, she was calling me, emailing me, whining about what new way Onna had dreamt up to disrespect her, and what brand new unsavories Onna was spitting about me. And then in the same breath, she was admitting that yes, she had let Onna spend the night again. But oh, the fact that Christina was squealing all the things Onna was saying about me?

“That’s me being a loyal friend,” Christina insisted.

Funny, because it didn’t feel that way to me. It felt like I wasn’t being defended. The fact that she was letting Onna shit all over our friendship made me wonder how important I even was to her. The message that was ringing loud and clear in my head was that Christina didn’t really need me around now that she had some random tart spreading her legs for her. It made me feel like she never valued me in any way outside of someone to conquer sexually.

And the fact that she was letting herself be manipulated and put down by an eighteen-year-old piece of ass made me lose respect for her myself. Somewhere in the middle of an email full of anger and obscenities, I told Christina she had a lot of growing up to do.

Her response was to tell me that she was 24 and never had a real relationship. She was looking to change that with Onna. I told her she was pathetic and stopped talking to her for a few weeks. Sometimes it’s just easier to walk away and let them figure it out on their own.

****

By December of 2005, Onna was nothing more but a bad memory. Christina and I had been OK, but that was probably mostly because I was too busy with school and cooking one super-sized Chooch in my belly to really bother much with Christina.

However, MySpace would come into play once again. I received a friend request and a message from some guy named Sam who worked with Christina. In his message, he explained that Christina had told him all about me and my rape fantasies, and that he has his own rape fantasies too.

Now, let me me interrupt this story to explain that by “rape fantasy,” what I really meant was that I had always wanted someone (read: my boyfriend, Henry, father of my child) to dress up like Michael Myers and chase me around. And then, HEY WHATEVER HAPPENS YOU KNOW?! I’m certainly not out there, hitchhiking nude, hoping for some beefy trucker to hogtie me and drag me into the woods. But evidently, that’s how Sam took it. Thus began a lovely 2-day MySpace courtship wherein Sam sent me rape poems and told me about how he was at a poker game with his boss and all he could do was think about raping his wife. I forwarded the messages to Christina, blocked him, and then called her, using my Screaming Angry voice.

“In what world is it OK for you to share with your co-workers, or ANYONE, intimate details about me?”

“It’s not OK. It was wrong,” she cried. She apologized, but the fact that she had no explanation for why she did it not only confused me, but made me completely not trust her. It felt like a betrayal.

I just kept imagining her at some sleazy bar with the guys from work, speaking lecherously about me while hawking into a spittoon. Like I was just a conquest, someone for her to brag about. Not a friend.

I had never felt so dirty before in my life.

Meanwhile, all of my friends were waving red flags, calling her toxic and reasoning with me to just dump her from life. I knew they were right.

“I’m about to be a mother,” I said to her. “I can’t have people like you in my life anymore.” And that was it. She never tried to explain herself, never once contacted me after that. Not even when Chooch was born. Christina never really was one to fight for what she wanted. Why should she, when she could just as easily sit on her ass and complain about how pathetic and miserable her existence is.

With me out of the picture, Sylvia emerged from the trenches, pocketed her binoculars, and moved in with Christina and her mother. Shocker.

****

If you’ve read this far, you know that clearly at some point I invited her back in, the psychic vampire that she is. I’ve never given any friend as many chances as I gave her. And because of her, I really don’t give friends any chances now. Thanks to Christina, I’ve perfected the Walk-Away. But I saw something in her and I didn’t want to be wrong about it. Deep down I knew that she hadn’t done these things intentionally, that there had to have been an explanation. Because as idiotic and immature Christina was when it came to cultivating and maintaining friendships, she never would have gone out of her way to back-stab me. It was always the opposite with her. She’d jump through flaming hoops just to get me a grilled cheese. I was the one person she was always scrambling to protect, and even before Henry, she’d be the first person to open her mouth to defend me. Sometimes the only person.

When Onna and Sam happened, though – I was exhausted from being her friend. Exhausted from listening to her cry about the same things over and over when she refused to take a stance in life. Exhausted from the drama. I was pregnant. My family had turned their backs on me. I didn’t need any more drama. So Onna and Sam were my way out. I saw it as an easy exit, and I took it.

During the summer of 2006, when Chooch was a few months old, I found that old memory box she made me. I sat with it on my lap for a few minutes, debating on whether to trash it, set it aflame, drop-kick it into the river. I waited for that sense of roiling hatred to take over my belly.

That sense never came.

Instead, the sense was overwhelming sadness. I missed her. I looked at my baby son and suddenly regretted that she wasn’t there for his birth.

So I emailed her. I was too stubborn to be truthful about my intentions, so I instead pretended that I was wondering if she wanted the memory box back. Because if not, I was going to throw it out. With the lines of communication open again, she poured her heart out, explained what really happened with Sam the Rapist, that he overheard her trying to sell her co-workers on my blog and that when they asked her what I write about, she was rambling off the weirder topics I’ve had, including the Michael Myers bit. Sam took it out of context. After I blew up on her that December, Christina went into work and told everyone what happened. Sam ended up losing his job. But she never told me that then, because she was afraid to contact me. She’s always been afraid of saying the wrong thing, exacerbating  my anger.

And with Onna, she was only trying to move on with her life. Unfortunately, her choice of person to do that with was a poor one.

So I forgave her. You probably think I’m an idiot; I don’t need to be told that, because I already know. I look back on this now and think, “My God, what a fucking fool I was.” There was always that hope that things would change, that I could fix her.  “It’ll be different this time,” Henry would hear me swearing all the time. And Henry would never say anything, because he knew I needed to find out for myself. I didn’t see it as abusive while it was happening, so it was easier for me to keep opening my arms to her. Abuse if physical, I’d assure myself. Meanwhile, we were asphyxiating the shit out of each others’ souls.

Two weeks later, she was on my doorstep, meeting my son for the first time.

And the game was back on.

Jul 252010
 

She denied it up to the day the final nail was driven into our friendship’s coffin, but Christina was crazy jealous of my friend Alisha. I often wondered if it would have been an issue if Alisha had been my friend first, but as it turned out, she didn’t enter the picture until nearly two years after Christina put her possessive fingerprints all over my life. Christina’s jealousy was rooted in a few factors:

  • Alisha and I became fast friends and quickly began spending pretty much every weekend together.
  • Alisha is a lesbian so clearly we were having sex together here, there and everywhere during all those weekends.

Unfortunately, this was not true, but it’s how Christina acted.  I thought she would be happy for me because at that time, I didn’t really have many friends around Pittsburgh. And now I had found one with whom I connected on a deeper level than I would typically. Alisha and I could spend hours just sitting in her kitchen, smoking cigarettes and talking about everything; I could be myself around her, serious and silly all at once. And I quickly found that she was open to new music, so I started making her mix CDs.

Another thing that boiled Christina’s blood, I’m sure.

Alisha was also the one, back in March of that year, who warned me of the potential dangers of getting romantically involved with Christina. We had a talk about boundaries and when I told Christina this later, she insisted Alisha was trying to talk me out of it because she wanted me for herself.

Obviously! But I wonder why Alisha, after FIVE YEARS, has yet to make a move? Maybe because WE’RE JUST FRIENDS?

***

That Sunday, the day after the infamous pb&j meltdown, Alisha came over to meet Christina. I’ve never really felt like that before, but I was actually embarrassed to have them meet.

Embarrassed that Christina was going to act like an idiot.

Embarrassed that Alisha was going to think, “Oh my god, THAT’S what you’ve been having sex with?”

It was pretty awkward. I don’t remember the two of them really talking at all. I can close my eyes and picture Alisha sitting in the chair by the window, her back to Christina, eyes on the TV. Eyes still closed, I can picture Christina roiling about on the couch, animation level kicked up to 900.

And then Henry left to pick up pizza, at which point the tension increased significantly. It was obvious that Christina wasn’t going to make an effort, and I honestly didn’t feel it was Alisha’s job to go out of her way.

Since the next day was Memorial Day and Henry was once in the SERVICE, I decided we should make him a card. Not out of love or respect, of course; don’t get it twisted. But out of my special brand of emasculation that I reserve for Henry.

I got out all the supplies and set to work on the floor of the living room. All the other two had to do was sit there and wait for their turn to sign it. I’m very Type A when it comes to arts and crafts. Since we didn’t have much time before Henry came back, I tried to be as simplistic as possible, relying mostly on marker but adding a small amount of glitter glue for spunk. A very small amount.

Before handing the card over to be signed by Alisha and Christina, I warned them to be careful they didn’t smudge the glittered outline of the stars.

Alisha signed her name with competence.

Christina grabbed the card and immediately rammed her big fucking thumb into one of the stars, smudging the perfection of my masterpiece.

It was not a good weekend for something like this to happen and I probably made a bigger deal about it than I should have. But there was already an air of annoyance steady radiating around Christina all weekend. Even when she was sitting quietly, I was finding things to hate about her. Glitter-thumbing Henry’s card was the last straw. I was over it. Done-zo. Couldn’t co-exist in the same room with her anymore.

It’s safe to wager that I made her cry after vomiting my wrath all over her face.  I had a knack of making her cry just by slitting my eyes in malice.

***

Apparently, Henry liked the card so much he jizzed on it.

Then Henry had to ruin the already-cursed card by pointing out that he’s not technically a Vet, which caused me to cry, “OMG YOU HATE MY CARD!” (This card’s clearly been through the war over the last five years. OH!)

***

At the end of the night, I wanted to take Alisha home by myself.

“She only lives 10 minutes away, if that,” I argued with Christina. “Just stay here.”

“But I want to come!” she begged. She wasn’t taking no for an answer. God forbid I should be alone in a car with Alisha! She might try to impregnate me. Short of distracting her with a toy and sneaking out like I do with Chooch, it was clear no ditching was going to happen that night.

So not only did she get her way, but she sat in the front seat! Alisha is very mild-mannered and didn’t make a big deal about it, but I was pissed. Alisha was my guest and Christina should have sat in the backseat where she belonged.

We drove in silence.

Alisha got out.

We drove back in silence.

That night, I lay in bed with Henry and blurted out, “Henry, what have I done? I can’t stand to be around her! I want her to go home.”

He just laughed and mumbled something about the bed I’d made.

***

After watching the annual Memorial Day parade that goes past my house, Christina and I were sitting on the couch together. I was trying to watch the French Open, but all I could hear was her breathing.

And her toes cracking.

And her breathing.

There was a good three feet between us on the couch, but it felt like she was melding into me.

“When does your bus leave?” I asked with gritted teeth.

She answered, “6:00pm” and I felt my heart sink. It was only 11:00am.

“Aren’t there any buses that leave earlier?” I prodded. She shrugged and I suggested, “Maybe you should go FIND OUT.”

There weren’t. Short of dropping her off at the Greyhound station seven hours early (which I wanted to do but Henry stepped in and stopped that), I was pretty much stuck with her.

And her toes cracking.

And her breathing.

This was not something I’ve ever experienced with friends before – only boyfriends that I’m growing tired of. It’s the inevitable closing credits of the honeymoon period where the reality of all their flaws and peccadilloes come bubbling to the surface, leaving a trail of strewn socks and Q-tips and puddles of urine all over the lip of the commode. There’s little physical contact and everything is amplified. I never noticed her breathing before. Or the cracking toes. Or how pathetic she looked when she stared at me with her jutting lips and drooping eyes. I wondered how much her presence  was responsible for tipping the scale during my bi-polar episodes; if the pb&j craving would have even inflated to such Sybilacious proportions had she not been there.

I knew that it was time to end this bizarre relationship and try to salvage what ever pieces were left of our friendship. I didn’t want to hate her. I wanted to go back to the way things were. We didn’t talk about it that day. The whole weekend was so traumatic to me that I just wanted it to end on a good note. So Christina watched old home videos with me, videos from when I was 18 and living in my first apartment. It helped to see myself so happy on TV. It distracted me from the cracking toes, the breathing, and the Dear John letter that was looming around the corner. We were able to spend the last few hours laughing together as I immersed myself in the backstories of everything she was watching on these videos.

Sharing those memories with her made me realize that I definitely didn’t want to ruin our friendship.

***

I emailed her after that weekend and explained it all to her, how I felt that every time we crossed that line, it might have seemed like it was making us closer at first, but I was afraid that it was actually chipping away at our bond and I didn’t want to reach that point of no return, where it became all or nothing.

Her reply:

i just don’t know what to say.

i understand that our “relationship” wasn’t typical,
or as you say it was barely one… but even so- it
meant a lot to me. i can move on though- because our
friendship means more to me than any of that other
stuff ever did. i’m not trying to do anything that
makes us not friends…

She swore she was fine with things, but I knew she wasn’t based on the fact she had resorted to her old ways of drowning her problems in sex. She still hadn’t fully come out yet and would pretty much give herself to any man with a working penis. I remember one day that June, she called me and bragged that she had given a blow job to this guy Jack from her work. He was married. His wife had just had a baby. Kudos, Christina.

I didn’t seek out to hurt her through the whole process. I never felt that I was playing games with her. I was following my heart. I was willing to give her a shot. It didn’t work out and now she was going to make me pay for it by whoring herself out and bragging about it to me.

We were supposed to go to Warped Tour together in Columbus (our halfway point) shortly after that, but I bailed on her the morning of. I just couldn’t imagine spending an entire day with her so soon after breaking up with her and then processing the fact that she was essentially doling out blow jobs at the workplace. Christina wound up still going with her sister instead and told me later that she saw Sylvia there. Awfully coincidental that Sylvia, whose brain isn’t developed enough to appreciate anything that isn’t Mariah Carey or anything equally as banal, would not only go to Warped Tour, but one that wasn’t even in her own city.

Even when Christina and I were just platonic friends, that hag was always hanging around, waiting, plotting, salivating hungrily for her turn at Christina. I always knew in my heart Sylvia would eventually get her way, but I still had faith that Christina would make the right choice.

Jul 222010
 

[Ed.Note: I mentioned when I started this series that I was going to write some things that would make me look bad, too. This is one of those things. But it’s important, because otherwise I would just be writing a biased “Christina is a horrible friend, pity me!” series of posts. She was, at one time, a loyal friend. Maybe now it will make a little more sense why I kept going back to her, in spite of the stalking and the lies.]

The month of May 2005 was practically a Lifetime movie of the trials and tribulations of a bi-polar asshole. It had it all: suicidal thoughts, attempted OD’ing on anti-psychotics, and worst of all – LIVEJOURNAL DELETION. I know what you’re thinking: How did you ever survive that, Erin?

Well, I had Henry and Christina. They were like a Bi-Polar Damage Control tag team. When Henry couldn’t handle me, he’d turn me over to Christina, who would try to soothe me via telephone. Christina took to buying me CDs and even made me a memory box full of things only she and I would understand, in an attempt to keep me on this earth.

The hot and heavy portion of my relationship with Christina had fizzled out into a ramekin of soggy, ambivalent passion ashes, like a culinary student’s first flambe, but she was still my best friend. At the end of the day, that was her number one role in my life. Best friend.

It got really bad one weekend, like wrist-slitting bad. Henry called Christina himself for that one and asked her to come here. It was a Sunday, but she didn’t hesitate. She somehow bribed her sister to drive for 300 miles and I was a total shit to her when they got here. Christina had stopped somewhere along the way and got me a ring out of a gumball machine. It was a lion,  still inside its round plastic cocoon; I took it from her and chucked it across the room. She spent the rest of the night sitting on the couch, me all curled up like a suicidal cat, crying and punching her. Then crying and hugging her. Then crying and slapping her. She had to leave the next morning so she could make it to work that evening. 600 miles so I could take it all out on her.

Like I said, it was a bad month.

And like I said, she was my best friend.

****

She came back for Memorial Day weekend, arriving here that Friday night on a Greyhound. I was still not feeling right mentally, but she had started to broach all those dreaded relationship questions. She was definitely the female in this dynamic. Me, I’d have been delighted to just let it fizzle. But she was so lovesick. I would literally catch her staring at me with these droopy, sad eyes and her lips would be protruded in such a strong pout that Gary Coleman could have used it as a trampoline. And the heavy, wistful sighs. And the unwanted gestures. And the breathing! God, just fucking stop breathing on me.

I couldn’t have felt more smothered, even if my face was pinned under the ass of Ruben Studdard. (And I don’t even watch American Idol, so figure that one out.)

Saturday afternoon, I was hungry. Actually, I was passed the point of basic human hunger, and had reached the point where I was trapezing from the precipice of homicide. There is a small window in which my hunger can be sated with no causalities, but Henry and Christina were too busy being insensitive to my needs to realize I was about to start busting caps.

For the 79th time, I screamed, “I want a fucking peanut butter and jelly sandwich!”

“We don’t have any bread,” Henry said in the calm tone of Dr. Loomis, after Michael Myers escaped for the fortieth time.

“Well, I want a peanut butter and JELLY SANDWICH!” I roared.

This went back and forth for quite some time and you can imagine how pleasant and thoroughly intellectually stimulating it must have been for all involved parties.

Eventually, I did what I do best and stormed out of the room, being sure to brattily knock things over in my mad wake. I pouted at the computer for a little while.

Meanwhile, golf was on. Yeah, I was missing GOLF because Henry was being a complete prat and wouldn’t go buy BREAD so that his QUEEN could have her fucking  CAKE (peanut butter and jelly sandwich). And then I heard something that shot straight up my spine and bazooka’d my amygdala.

Laughter.

Quiet, sly, SHARED laughter.

“What’s so funny?” I screamed, twisting around in my chair to further inspect the guilty parties. I hated that they were straight up twittering over there. They were supposed to hate each other!

“We were just laughing at what this one golfer is wearing,” Christina started to explain, but I had already stampeded up the stairs and slammed my bedroom door. Unfortunately, I was still hungry so I came back down.

Somehow I wound up with a grilled cheese suctioned to the bottom of a  styrofoam container on account of all the molten cheese tentacles congealing with grease and pure disgust. It was from this sandwich shop that used to be down the street but went out of business on account of all the molten cheese tentacles congealing with grease and pure disgust.

It was so far from what I wanted. You know how can you tell? BECAUSE IT WASN’T A PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY SANDWICH. So I found myself sitting there on the chaise, picking at this grody grilled cheese, when suddenly Henry decided it was cool to make light of the situation and began poking fun at how “difficult Erin can be when she’s hungry!” Oh hardy har har, you mother fucker, let me show you difficult.

I freaked out. Tossed the sandwich. Began windmilling my limbs like I was at a Gravemaker show, while screaming, “Don’t make fun of me! What’s so hard to understand when someone asks for a PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY SANDWICH?”

This went on for awhile and ended with me locked in my bedroom with a bottle of Trazadone.

Actually, when I tell this story to people, I always say, “And then they thought I was trying to like, kill myself or something, but all I was doing was reading a magazine.” Though according to the entry I made that night in my journal, which I just read to make sure my facts were straight for this, I was totally hoping to kill myself. I must have blocked that part out.

All these years, I really thought I was just trying to read Alternative Press.

***

That’s the thing about being bi-polar. The good times are really super good times, and the bad times are slit-your-throat-with-a-frying-pan bad times.  It wasn’t really about the peanut butter and jelly that day. It was a greater frustration, a sad confusion, a muscle-shaking fury which all met in the middle and took on the embodiment of a two slices of bread slathered with Skippy. There’s always a trigger. Sometimes it can be someone’s tone that I’m mishearing, sometimes a shirt I can’t find in my dresser. Today it was a pb&j.

I’m not that bad anymore. As I age, I find new ways to control it. Oh, I still feel it. I still break things and I still lock myself in my room. But mostly I can just walk away now. Mostly. It’s still there, festering in my brain but I’m a mom now. I have a kid. I have to try extra hard to make sure he doesn’t see Hulk Erin. And this is why I don’t have many close friends. It’s embarrassing when this happens, and it has happened in front of an audience before. I keep most people at arm’s length, because no one should be expected to have to deal with this behavior. It’s easier that way.

***

I ignored the knocks at my bedroom door; after awhile, suspiciously, they stopped. I imagined the two of them leaning into my door with Peanuts glasses pressed against their ears, listening for sounds of a razor meeting flesh.

Then I heard Henry’s muffled voice telling me Christina was crying. Like that was going to lure me out. Oh, Christina’s CRYING? Let me suddenly turn off my psychosis and I’ll be right down.

Then I heard Christina sniffling. She said, “I walked to the store and bought bread,” and when she received no response, she added, “And I bought you something.”

Meanwhile, Henry, not to be undone, had fetched his TOOL BOX and was going to take the door apart the door, I suppose. I could hear him out there pissing around in some manner of disassembly and it was really jacking me off.

But Christina had won with the words “I bought you something.” Maybe also because deep down, I couldn’t stand that I had made her cry. I opened the bedroom door before Henry could even figure out which screwdriver to use on the hinge. It was the most passive aggressive competition ever. What happened to the days when Scott Ash and Jay Mulligan fist-fought for my love after gym class in ninth grade? Now all I get is a purple plastic cup with a straw bent to resemble a flower and some pedestrian attempt at breaking down a door? A real man would have shouldered that bitch right off the frame. A real man like JOHN BLACK from Days of Our Lives.

So Christina came in and laid down with me in the bed, trying to suggest all these terrific diversions, like going for a drive and listening to Fall Out Boy. (Please, this was 2005.) I kept telling her shut up but she wouldn’t so I screamed some more and ran downstairs, where I sat on the chaise and tried to just focus on the really exciting golf thingie that was on TV.

And here came Henry, with a goddamn peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Like he was some goddamn hero now.

“No thanks,” I said. Like I wanted that now? That ship has sailed, you bastard. I mean, Christ. Now they’re both so eager to feed me peanut butter? (I realize I could have solved this whole dilemma myself hours earlier, like a big girl, but then I wouldn’t have this super awesome story to share today. And you might not have gotten any other chance to see how fucking retarded I am!)

But he kept pushing the sandwich on me.  “No, I don’t want this anymore,” I said again, clenching my hands. Besides, Christina bought the wrong kind of bread.

Henry then began baby-talking me, like it was OK to start with the jokes ten minutes after they were practically hanging up with the suicide hotline.

Finally, I knocked the plate out of his hand and yelled, “I SAID NO, I DON’T WANT THE FUCKING SANDWICH! WHAT PART OF NO DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?”

Then I spent more time locked in my room. I suppose you would be upset too, if you nearly got raped by a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Jun 242010
 

The thing that made Henry angry about my inaugural lesbian dalliance wasn’t the fact that Christina and I, you know, DIDSTUFF (I’m still awkward as an eighth grader when it comes to this girlie shit, but if it was a dude I was writing about, I’d have no qualms telling you all about that), but that she and I literally slept together. I suppose if she was some Mexican whore that I discarded by the train tracks upon conquering, he would have felt better about it. But no, she and I had slept together in her bed and Papa Henry was a little jerked off by that. Oh, and also he maybe had a slight issue with the fact that she went and got a tattoo to commemorate our weird friendship.

So it was a little awkward and tense when she came here to Pittsburgh a few weeks later.

She arrived early on a Friday morning in April. It was still dark when I picked her up from the Greyhound station after dropping Henry off at work. He had spent the entire car ride expressing his malcontent for the upcoming weekend, but I ignored him because I’m selfish and spending time with Christina made me happy.

Later that afternoon, Henry called, bitching that I never came to pick him up from work. “I’ve been trying to call you all fucking day,” he said angrily. “But the phone has been busy!” This was back when we still had a landline, and the phone was definitely hung up all day. In fact, the later it became in the day, the more worried I became. I kept checking the phone, wondering why Henry hadn’t called yet.

Of course, in Henry’s mind, this meant that I had purposely left the phone off the hook so Christina and I could have sex all over the house, probably with 17 wigged strangers and a horse.

He didn’t believe me, probably still doesn’t, but she and I honest to god watched music videos on On Demand all day, and I even read aloud from my vacation journals while we drank coffee outside on my sidewalk. Seriously, we didn’t need to be running around with studded strap-ons to be entertained by each other. It wasn’t about that for us, though I’m sure Henry imagined it was all “Cue porn soundtrack!” every time we were alone. But no, there was definitely innocence there between us. We were just two little girls, giggling a lot, being stupid.

We always kept it platonic when she’d visit. I’d have felt weird DOINGSTUFF with her in my house, and didn’t want Henry to have to feel weird about it too. I mean, somewhere inside of me, there actually is a little tiny atom-sized pocket of respect for the man.

I can’t imagine how annoying it must have been for Henry though. She and I had a language that consisted solely of strangulated giggles, sighs, and choking motions from laughter gone wild. Everything was an inside joke, a knowing glance, a secret smirk.

In fact, he and I just spoke about this and he said, “Of course I wasn’t happy that weekend; I don’t trust you.” I suggested he should just leave that as a comment on this entry, but he mumbled, “No. I don’t want any involvement in this. I’ve already had enough of it.” That’s real talk, straight from Henry’s mouth.

***

Henry had to work that Saturday, and we arranged for me to pick him up when I was done with my English Comp class at Pitt that afternoon. Christina decided she didn’t want to wait at my house, so she hung around on campus while I was sitting through tedious discussions of Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” I had explicitly told her what time to meet back outside my classroom, but when class got out, she was nowhere to be found. I roamed around the Cathedral of Learning for nearly an hour looking for her, before giving up and sitting on a bench outside of my classroom. It turned out the idiot forgot to set her watch ahead and thought she had way more time than she actually did.

So once again, I was obscenely late picking up Henry from work and the wheels of adultery were surely spinning wildly in his head. No Henry, we weren’t having sex with mop handles in the campus supply closet, I promise.

This was probably the Universe’s way of saying, “Hey, kid. The jig is up. You can’t handle this new lifestyle, so please hand over your dual citizenship to Sexkatchewan and have yourself a nice heterosexual day.”

In spite of the tension and lack of trust on Henry’s end, it was still one of the most gut-bustingly hilarious weekends I had with her, or anyone. Everything was always funny when she was around. Everything. I miss laughing until I’m nearly puking. I miss finding meaning in a blue marble and sharing a root beer float. I miss being a part of something that must have appeared so strange and unusual to anyone attempting to figure us out; it must have been like looking through fun house mirrors.

It’s important for me to remember these brief moments in time, because I don’t want to be full of hatred for her, and sometimes as I’m writing these stories, I feel that I’m letting my anger take over, that I’m starting to be biased based on the recent falling out. There were so many beautiful memories from back then, when she was still Christina and I was still Erin and we were strong enough to not let the words and actions of other people come between us. So to keep true to the story, I’m going to end this with something I wrote after she left that weekend, and if you can, imagine me telling it to you in a voice high-pitched and sped-up with giddy delirium, because that’s pretty much the tone I always used back then when she and I were together. It’s the tone I use when I’m so happy I could die.

***

Last week, when I asked Henry if he was excited that Christina was coming to hang out, he unfalteringly shook his head and said, “No, you guys act so middle school and weird when you’re together.” I was appalled and determined to show him that Christina and I were adults who acted in a very mature manner when in each others company.

Typically, when an out of state friend comes to visit, people like to show them around the city. Have a good time, see a show, be touristy, throw down a few dead prezzes for a hooker. Not me, though.

The weekend with Christina was spent watching quality TV, such as Charles and Camilla’s wedding, music videos on On Demand (the same ones repeatedly, much to Henry’s delight), the Eternal Word Television Network, and golf. I love golf now. And not just as a joke like before. I even joined Phil Mickelson’s fan club and within five minutes of getting my member confirmation email, I was already defending his name on his message board. Some idiot had the audacity to go in there and say that he heard Phil had sired an illegitimate child with a prostitute. Can you imagine? This was unacceptable, so I knew I had to take action. My reply was “STFU.” That’s right. Christina said she was uncertain if golf fans knew what that meant, but I’m confident that they’ll figure it out.

Unfortunately, when you pair us up, Henry’s correct in that we regress into two middle school girls and our giggling drives him right into the arms of Migraine. We all went out to eat Saturday night and he actually had the brass to grab my arm and admonish me for being immature and obnoxious. I know, I know – me, obnoxious? Henry’s got the wrong girl, obviously. Then he told me to stop fake laughing. Excuse me, but fake laughing? I engaged in no such thing. I was really just that out of control.

Sunday, we took a breather from watching bad television programming because it was getting completely ridiculous. I should have deduced this Saturday morning when I almost herniated a disk because some man reporting from Windsor Castle was wearing a tie with tiny blue dots on it. That’s not funny and I had no right to laugh. Except I did and then Christina fed off it and we couldn’t stop laughing and slapping each other and I nearly swallowed my tongue.

So, it was obvious on Sunday that we needed to get out of the house, plus Christina and I wanted to take our show on the road. Henry piled us into the car and we went to the Homewood Cemetery. I love going on Sundays because there’s always a bunch of Chinese people there and they like, have bonfires and stuff (although Henry maintains that they’re just burning incense).

We arrived and I was already bolting out of the car before it even came to a complete stop. Almost immediately, I unearthed a huge tree branch and started parading around with it. Christina decided that we should pretend like we were honoring the Pope, but that we needed a flag at the end to make it complete. We begged Henry to give us his bandanna but he held his ground. He was trying to be all firm and hard core, until we walked past a man with his little daughter near the pond. The man nodded at Henry, who demurely returned his sentiments with a feminine “Hi.” I think he blushed, too. So the next three minutes was spent carrying on about Henry’s new boyfriend, until I found a pile of leaves to trample over.

I left Henry and Christina for awhile because there was a path leading up a hill that was just begging for my feet to touch it. It felt empowering being so high above them on a parallel road. Henry was OK with me straying until I threw a huge rock down the hill at them and let loose my warrior cry. Henry snapped his head up to look at me and hissed, “Be quiet!” while pointing at the Chinese people who were honoring the dead.

Hanging back a bit, I let the two of them round a bend before I made my way stealthily back down the hill, stopping halfway to crouch behind a bush. Every so often, they would stop walking and look up the hill, scratching their heads when they couldn’t find me.

Christina told me later that she had mused out loud, “I bet she’s going to try and hide from us” and Henry, without so much as a glance over his shoulder, quickly informed her that, “She’s right over there.” How does he do it?

I knew I had been spotted so I ran the rest of the way down the hill and fell into place with them. I asked Henry how he knew I was hiding.

“How are you going to try to hide in a cemetery while you’re wearing a bright orange shirt?”

Lots of gravestone heckling ensued and we kept catching Henry trying to pick up his pace. He succeeded in losing us for awhile when we became sidetracked by the cemetery office. I was running around trying to find an unlocked door, despite Henry impatiently reminding me that it’s Sunday and there’s no one there. I had to find out for myself so I started to ring the doorbell while playing with cigarette butts in the big flower planter. I could hear Henry in the distance spouting off about how I shouldn’t touch cigarette butts because they’re dirty.

No one answered so Christina came with me around the back to search for another way in where we became sidetracked by big rusty gardening tools. I was enamored with one that looked like a sickle and she was appropriately fiddling with a hoe or something. We were going to have a sword fight until I noticed that civilians were watching us from the street. We threw down the tools and ran, which was when we realized that Henry had gained a great distance on us.

We knew that he was embittered with our childish antics, so we each procured a bunch of wilted Easter flowers that had been plucked and thrown carelessly from a grave. We presented him with the flowers and he swatted our offerings away! Ingrate.

On the way back to the car, we passed a tombstone that boasted Christina’s last name. I exclaimed in horror, “Oh my god, you’re dead!”

“So are you!” she countered, as she pointed to one further over that said, “McWhiney.” Oh, ok. I see. Henry thought this was incredibly hilarious until Christina pointed out one across the road and said, “Look, you’re here, too Henry! ‘Meanor’!”

Then we came home and watched the final round of the Masters and I gave myself a sore throat from cheering with too much zeal.

And when we returned from taking Christina to the bus station, the house was filled with silence. It was sad, but I bet my neighbors are thankful.

I tried to watch our favorite From First To Last video this morning, but it just wasn’t the same. I didn’t have anyone to punch and squeal with during our favorite parts. I miss her.

Jun 192010
 

A green and black striped Henley and jeans with a hole in the knee was what I wore right before I lost my girl virginity.

It was about a week after I leaked my secret to Christina, and we were sitting nervously together on her bed; she was more in the middle, I was perched on the edge. The Used was playing in the background. I let her giggle anxiously for a few minutes before I, always the predator, went in for the kill. It wasn’t as scary as I thought. Sort of soft. A stark contrast when compared to Henry’s bristly mug.

We had discussed this very scenario ad nauseum over the span of about 35,000 phone calls and emails, all of which ended with me emphatically stating that we were only going to kiss, nothing else.

But after about five minutes, my inner hussy emerged and was all, “Yeah go ahead, just do whatever.” All of my preconceptions, hang-ups (and standards, apparently) had blown out the window with one big gust from Christina’s duck lips. You know, maybe it’s crazy, but I kind of liked it. She treated me like I was some perfect being and I have never actually been able to see tangible love (or burning obsession, it’s all semantics) in someone’s eyes before, like I could in hers. It was addicting, knowing I had this crazy effect on someone.

The rest of the weekend was filled with delirious giddiness, stolen kisses, goosebumped arms, and nonsensical inside jokes. It was one of the best weekends of my life, because with Christina, I was thirteen again. I could say anything I wanted to say around her, do anything I wanted, be anyone I wanted – like, for instance, myself. She had somehow tore down every one of my walls when I wasn’t looking, and to this day Henry is the only other person who has done that. So I found myself valuing her even more; that I was able to quite literally strip down and still find myself comfortable with her? It was a really big deal to me.

We could spend hours just listening to music, no need for words. And when certain parts would come on, we would look at each other knowingly.

**

When I was in seventh grade, my friend Liz invited me to take acting classes with her. One of the exercises we had to do was pair up with someone and attempt to mime their motions with closed eyes. I guess the point was that you were supposed to open yourself up and feel that slight electric connection that apparently is meant to happen when two people are just about to touch.

I couldn’t feel it.

“Stop thinking about it too much,” the instructor said. “Just let yourself go.”

Liz and I were bombing the exercise so I had to cheat and peek to see where her hand was so I could follow it with my own. I was so upset that night, that I wasn’t able to connect with my partner like everyone else could. I felt there was something wrong with me. Was I that emotionally shut off that I couldn’t even sense that another human being, and not even a stranger but a friend, was standing inches away from me?

Ten years later, I finally was able to let myself go and feel that connection.  I could close my eyes and feel Christina. Sometimes I felt that I could feel her even with 300 miles between us.

**

Christina took me to a cemetery that weekend, this huge sprawling graveyard in Cincinnati where we got lost almost immediately after parking. We must have spent hours there, harassing ducks, kicking tombstones, me spitting “I hate you!“s, which is Erin code for “I might kinda love you, maybe.” We held hands the whole time. Everything was funny. Everything was special. Everything was big and important and significant. It felt simultaneously innocent and wrong.

I remember an older couple passing us, and for a split second I wanted to let go of her hand. But then they smiled at us and it kind of made me appreciate the day even more.

Somewhere in the middle of the cemetery, we came across this small, gnarled, leafless tree. To anyone else, it would have been just that – a tree. But to us, all hyped up on lust-induced adrenaline, sleep-deprived giddiness, and the sense of sharing some big secret love-thing, it became a very big deal.

With feigned gravity, we declared that this tree needed a closer inspection. We ducked beneath the boughs, which took on the shape of a busted umbrella above our heads; we were just about to make it our new Clubhouse for Gaybos when Christina noticed that there was a dead snake half-buried under a carpet of dead leaves and pine cones. And then – oh, look! –  there was a dead bird, too, so we ran out from under the tree, screaming and waving our hands in mock-horror. This should not have been that big of a deal. But for years, that tree came up in conversation. She wrote poems about it; I had it make tiny cameo appearances in some of my stories through the years. Once, we even tried to find it again, before realizing that there were at least fifty other trees in that cemetery with the same bare, arthritic branches.

When it was time for me to leave that Sunday afternoon, we said goodbye in her kitchen and she cried. I couldn’t get her to stop, and I couldn’t stay any longer, so I just left her there, crying against her kitchen counter.

Yes, everything was great that weekend. Like a fucking Twinkie filled with stuff that movies are made of.  If anyone would have suggested to me then that in five years, my friendship with Christina would be splayed, broken-hearted and decomposing beneath the Death Tree, I would have punched them in the face.

I wish I could have put it all in a snow globe, because I know I will never get that back again.

Jun 042010
 

You know how people always say, “Oh well, we learn from our mistakes?” Yeah. Well. Remember that the next time you want to say that to me.

In the beginning of 2005, Christina was as usual experiencing all sorts of psychotic foibles with Sylvia. On top of that, she was stressed out at her movie theater job. Yes, at her movie theater job. Not realizing it was Valentine’s Day, she called me that night and sobbed to me about it.

That’s how great her relationship was! It was Valentine’s Day and she didn’t even know it.

By the time we got off the phone, she was convinced that she should quit her job and break up with Sylvia. I didn’t necessarily tell her to do either of these things, but I did express my concern that Sylvia made her want to punch holes in walls. At the time, I thought I was being a supportive friend. I still think that’s what I was being. And all it got me was having it thrown back in my face years later.

Anyway, Christina was still “on the fence” about her sexuality. She had developed a supposed crush on one of her theater co-workers, Mr. Fithen. I think his first name was Steve. Considering I never believed that this crush was anything more than a scapegoat for her sexual identity, I never really bothered to concern myself with the pertinence.

She and I hadn’t spent any face time together since the fall of 2004, when she stopped at my house briefly while her best friend Steve attended a Gay Prom at Pitt with some boyfriend he had procured off the Internet.  It had gone well, our hang-out session, and there hadn’t been any weirdness (at least, none that I could detect, but I am super unaware about these things) since all the love-drama happened that past spring.

So when I saw that The Used was playing on the Taste of Chaos tour that March, I decided it could be a fun thing for us to do together. Especially since she wasn’t being bogged down by Sylvia’s crazy ass anymore.

But guess who bought us the tickets?

Sylvia, that fucking dumb ass.

I don’t know. I think that if Henry were to break up with me and then, less than a month later, ask some other broad to a concert? I’m pretty fucking positive I would NOT BE ENCOURAGING THAT BY PURCHASING THEIR TICKETS.

I would instead be planting a bomb in her purse and prepping the jar of formaldehyde for the future residence of Henry’s scrotum.

Christina kept saying that this Mr. Fithen character was going to come with us, but I was just like, “Oh OK.” Because, really? Can we drop the charade yet? I think she felt that I would be more comfortable around her if she had her sights set on some dude. But it wasn’t like that. In spite of everything that had transpired in the early stages of our friendship, I never thought she was going to rape me dyke-style with a studded strap-on or something. I trusted her, and I thought she knew that, so the Mr. Fithen thing was a little annoying.

The show was in Dayton. Henry was OK with me going and staying over night. He had made peace with the “OMG I’m a lez” episode from the previous year, and even had come to a point where he began to consider her a friend (let’s just say there were some phone calls shared between the two of them, with me as the subject).

Christina met me at the Columbus Greyhound station so that I wouldn’t have to drive the entire way to her house in Cincinnati alone. Again, she always wanted me to be as comfortable as possible. That was just the kind of friend she was. The kind of friend she used to be.

We stopped at a rest area along the way and I was fixing my makeup in the bathroom mirror.

“Oh, getting pretty for Mr. Fithen?” Christina chided. I laughed, but realized that I was freshening my makeup for her, for some stupid reason. (Just typing that made me blush, I’m so goddamn lame.)

Not surprisingly, Mr. Fithen was a no-show, so it was just Christina and me attending Taste of Chaos later that night. It was our first show together, so it was sort of a big deal since music was the thread that entwined us. (Wow. I must really be getting old if I seriously typed a sentence that corny.)

When “Blue and Yellow” was played, she held up her arm to show me the goosebumps. That was the moment I knew, without a doubt, she was my best friend. Because I had goosebumps too, and now I wasn’t the only one. I didn’t think hearing that song live, with her next to me, would have struck me the way that it did. But it was a powerful feeling, like a kick to the face, and it woke me up.

It really woke me up. After the shitty 2004 I had, and the recent mediation I had endured that winter with my ex-employer and the EEOC, I was finally feeling alive inside.

She had lent me some shiny maroon pullover shirt thing to wear, I can’t remember why now. Probably because I was acting like I was going to the goddamn Prom and didn’t like what I had brought with me to wear.  I do that a lot.

I wound up leaving Ohio with it still on.

Driving home, I listened to The Used while getting occasional wafts of her perfume that was still on the pullover; it really started to fuck with my emotions. When I got home that Sunday afternoon, Henry turned into a territorial Caveman and grunted, “Why are you wearing her shirt?” And it became a Big Deal, because I wouldn’t take her shirt off and I wouldn’t stop listening to the Used and I wouldn’t stop doing that creepy laugh I do when I have a secret or am confused or am just generally up to no good.

About a month prior to this, I had met Alisha for the first time. We became fast friends and she knew most of what had transpired between Christina and me the year before. So a few days after returning from Ohio, I sat in Alisha’s kitchen, nervously drinking coffee and pouring my heart to her about my feelings for Christina.

“You need to have boundaries,” she explained, and proceeded to tell me all the reasons it would be a horrible idea for me to tell Christina that I was feeling things for her again.

She was right, of course. But it was too late because I had already told Christina I had a crush on her. Oopsies.

May 202010
 

I know that I should hate her. What she did was creepy and a total invasion of my privacy, not to mention a complete shitfest upon my trust. So that should mean I’m done with her, right? Then why do I still fucking care? I should hate her, but I just feel BAD for her.

I wrote that in my journal the morning after the ambush. I wanted to fix her, could I be more cliche if I tried? What is it about sad sacks that strum the strings of my bleeding heart? It would have been the right thing to walk away, send her back into Sylvia’s desperate arms.

“Oh, but I’ll give her another chance!” I declared, like a battered wife or the owner of broken bladder’d mongrel. “I’ll salvage this friendship yet!”

Except that a few days later, literally the same week that found her crying on my doorstep, everything went to shit at my job. I had been working at Weiss Meats for 4 years, and it had become a hostile work environment. My boss’s son was in rehab and I was working longer days to compensate for his absence. It was taking a toll on my sanity, and I was getting pissed that no one was telling me how much longer I would have to pick up his slack. It was a Wednesday when my anger blew the roof off the building. Engaging in a furious war of words with my boss, honestly one of the first face-to-face desk-pounding confrontations of which I’ve ever been the co-star, I walked out of my office that morning, for the last time ever. Three days later, the son my boss and I had been arguing about had left rehab and was killed in a car accident (suicide was the speculation).That’s the super condensed version.

The son’s death rocked me, really fucked with my mind. I was all over the place, mentally and emotionally. I was unemployed. I was distraught. I was in shock. And all the while, I had Christina bugging me, wanting to talk “about us.” I didn’t want to talk to her about anything right then. I wanted to talk to Henry. We worked at Weiss Meats together and he knew better than anyone what I was going through. But once again, Christina tried to weasel her way in, tried to desecrate this extremely personal and intimate thing, trauma even, that Henry and I were experiencing by insinuating that she had any idea what I was feeling. If she couldn’t be my girlfriend, she was evidently going to be my therapist.

I started to avoid her again. Especially when she started getting jealous of other friends I had. I had tentative plans to go to this girl Moira’s house for a sleepover. Christina found out about these plans via LiveJournal and called me.

“You better not kiss anyone,” she warned.

Seriously? Because my boyfriend doesn’t even say that to me.

After a little while, my blow-off tactics were finally being noticed by her. She sent me an IM saying, “I’m going to give you some space since it seems like that’s what you want.” But then she continued to IM me! And email me! And call me!

I completely cut contact with her that May. I was so stressed out about the unemployment issues and looking into filing a complaint with the EEOC, that I just couldn’t be patient with her anymore. I needed to worry about what was going on here in Pittsburgh, not how she was feeling in Cincinnati. And to be honest, she was good about staying away. It wasn’t until sometime in July that she IMd me and asked, “Can we be friends again?”

Of course, she had perfect timing. I was having issues with another friend – Cinn – who was blowing me off and putting me in an awkward position by being generally rude to my other friends.  “Having someone to talk to about this might not be such a bad thing,” I thought, and I replied to her IM with a succinct “fine.” Besides, Cinn could make the most sniveling sycophantic stalker seem like the stable, sympathetic, harmless best friend you’ve been asking Santa for since you were eight. The kind who’s read every book in the Baby Sitter’s Club series and has a hot dad.

Christina suddenly went from enemy to ally.

And that was her MO: finding me when I was down. Reminding me that when everyone else was too busy to lend an ear, she was always ready and willing. It was like she had an extra sense that would let her know every time another one of my friends fucked me over, because that’s when she would be seen in the best, most pore-reducing light.

However, in that short interim we weren’t speaking, I had made a new friend named Stacey, with whom I’m still friends. Christina of course knew all about this from cyber stalking me and made some comment about Stacey being “cute and blond – just your type.” I”m not even sure what my type of boy is, let alone girl, but Christina apparently had me completely pegged. Aside from that one envy-tinged snide remark, the rest of 2004 was stable. We saw each other once that fall, when she tagged along with a newly outed Steve, who was here to hook up with an Internet boyfriend.  Christina brought me the new Used album, but it took me a few months to really listen to it.

Christina of course got back together with Sylvia, so instead of listening to her drone about how much she loved me, I got to listen to her bitch and scream about how bad she hated Sylvia, how Sylvia awakened a rage within her like no other, how Sylvia smothered her and had a forked tongue and made her listen to Top 40.

And again, I turned into a broken record again, repeating, “So just break up with her,” over and over to deaf ears.

I guess I forgot how unhappy I was in 2004, until I skimmed those old journals. No wonder it was so easy for her to leech on to me and drain my emotional blood.

May 042010
 

There is plenty more to say about this whacked situation, but I do have to admit that it’s kind of exhausting to relive it. Helpful, cathartic, bittersweet at times; but very, very exhausting! So I need a little break because it only gets more whacked and more evident that a lobotomy might be something I’d enjoy more than ever seeing her face again.

Here is a recap in case you missed anything:

Prologue

Origins

Caught the Friendship Like an STD

The Big Meet, Part 1

The Big Meet, Part 2

Where Spring Fever & My Big Mouth Get Me in Trouble

The Ambush

Thank you to those who have read these with an open mind and haven’t pointed out all the many ways I’m an asshole/idiot/gullible retard.

Apr 222010
 

It started out like any normal Sunday, if normal to you means being awakened at 8:30 am by an unexpected knocking at the door.

“You’re not going to believe this,” Henry said, after craning his neck around the bedroom blinds  to get a glimpse of the knocker. “It’s Christina.”

He might as well have said it was a pan of cooked onions, an iceberg, a water tower, an entire dead-body filled river. Because that was how disgusted and full of dread I felt to learn that one of my least favorite things was sullying my front porch right there at that moment. Suddenly, I felt very unsafe. Suddenly, 300 miles didn’t seem very far.

All those weeks of lamenting that she was so far away, and suddenly – she was entirely too close.

Since we had “broken up,” we had attempted to remain friendly, but phone conversations mostly unraveled into her whining and me getting really fucking pissed off. The past couple days, she kept suggesting that we hang out in person, that maybe it would make me see that we should be together. I was pretty sure that all that would accomplish was me punching her in the face.

“Just let me come there,” she’d cry. “I just need to see.”

See what? The weathered veneer of my front door?

While I was having a panic attack in my bed, she was still outside knocking on the door.

“I’ll handle this,” Henry said, clearly at the end of his rope with this whole girl-on-girl Lifetime drama.

“Don’t make her cry!” I called to him as he reached the bottom of the steps. By this time, the knocking had woken Henry’s kids, who came into my room and hid with me on the floor. I still don’t know why I was hiding on the floor. She couldn’t see my bedroom from the front porch. But it made me feel safer down there. Words can’t properly convey the other emotions sucker-punching me. But I felt violated! Like I was visitationally raped.

“Is that the weird girl who was just here from Ohio?” Robbie asked.

“Why is she here again?” Blake wanted to know, and I was at a complete loss for words. I couldn’t tell a 10- and 12-year-old that, “Oh, it’s nothing really. She’s just a crazy lesbian who I led on for a few weeks and she’s probably here to shoot your father.”

After a few minutes, I heard the door close. Henry came back up to the bedroom with a letter, a bottle of Propel, and two CDs: James Taylor and KC and the Sunshine Band.

“She claims she came all this way just to bring you this stuff.”

I sat on the bed and looked at the CDs. Sure, I like James Taylor as much as any grocery store sound-system, but KC and the Sunshine Band? I looked at Henry quizzically.

He shrugged. “Who knows with her. That girl has some major problems, Erin.” And he proceeded to tell me how he lectured her on the front porch.

“Did you make her cry?” I asked accusingly. I didn’t want him to make her cry.  “You made her cry.”

“Well, I didn’t yell at her,” he said exasperatedly. “But I was stern. I had to be. She’s nuts, Erin.” During the big show down, which sounded more like a meltdown to me, he drilled it into her head that I was with him, and that I was not going to leave him for her, and that if she ever wanted to remain friends with me, she was going to have to understand that and let it go. She tried to convince him that that was why she came here, to prove to me that she my friend.

“And so I asked her, ‘Don’t you think this looks weird? Don’t you think this is going to freak Erin out?'” Henry relayed. “It’s not like she drove here from across town. She had to have left Cincinnati around 3:00 am to come here. Who does that? That’s a little unstable,” he went on. I felt like I was talking to my dad, but it was comforting all the same. What if Henry hadn’t been home? I shivered a little.Think back to the time you crouched behind your locked door when the Jehovah’s Witnesses came calling, flapping their literature in the wind. Now, add to that the way you felt when you learned you lived next to a halfway house for sex offenders. Got that? So, multiply that stomach-churning, genital shielding sensation with the way you felt the last time you hid behind a tree at Camp Crystal Lake while Jason Voorhees stood six feet away, wielding a whirring chainsaw, sniffing the air for the wafting stench of your soiled panties and fear-induced pit-sweat.

And now you know how I felt that morning, as I sat in my room with my knees drawn in close to my chest, reading Christina’s letter while Henry lectured me about laying in the bed I made for myself.

ambushletter

3:06am: So – I’m leaving my house right now. I’m coming to bring you your CDs. I don’t even know why I’m doing this. I’m so scared. I’m sweating and my heart feels like it’s going to explode. It’s kind scary feeling. To be honest…I DO know why I’m doing this. I love you. And…I miss you.

3:15am: I’m still so close to home. Should I chicken out? no.

I didn’t even know I still had this. I actually forgot it existed, really. But I found it in December, about a month after our friendship ended, when I was cleaning out a dresser drawer. I felt sick and repulsed when I saw it, much like I did all those years ago. To be honest, I didn’t even re-read it, just sort of tossed it aside. I’m glad to still have it now though, if only for the sake of this story.

5:58am: I keep thinking about you – and what you’re going to do. Just don’t hate me. I love you, Erin. I want you to see that. I hope this proves it to you, too. OK- back to the trip. See you soon.

Well, Christina, what would you do if someone invaded your privacy?

7:23am: We’re like 2 miles from West Virginia and I’m so panicky now. My heart is crashing against my chest. I know we’re so close now. I feel like I’m going to puke now.

Guess who the other part of the “we” was? Sylvia. Hahahaha. What a dumb bitch. “Yeah, I’ll take the girl I love more than anything to see the girl she loves more than anything.” What a spineless ginger cow. Although, she had to have known it was going to blow up in Christina’s face. Maybe she had hoped this would be it, that I would never talk to Christina after that, and then for Sylvia, it would be smooth sailing in an Erin-less sea.

It’s not that I”m afraid of you or anything. I guess I’m more afraid of your reaction. Of course I’m running all sorts of scenarios through my head. The one I think I’m most afraid of is you slamming the door in my face. Not that I really think you’d do that —

Does she not know me at all?

— but God, I really think you’ll be very surprised. I guess I’ll see very soon, won’t I? I love you, Erin. I can’t wait to see you.

7:36am: Pennsylvania just welcomed me. I hope you do too, haha. I’m always so good at playing it cool. But…for some reason, when it comes to you, I can’t maintain my composure. You shake me.

7:44am: I’m so close right now. My blood is rushing all throughout my body, but I can’t feel anything. I keep thinking that I’m going to wake up. This isn’t a dream though. I’m almost there. I want to pass out – literally. This like, one of the craziest things I’ve ever done. You drive me crazy though, so I guess this makes sense.

7:57am: Whew…I’m probably…20 minutes from you or something. I hope you’re awake, hoe. I’m so scared that you’re going to be mad at me. Just chock it up to the romantic in me…or something. I wonder if this trip is a metaphor for this experience. I started out late at night…kinda secretly. I hope that by the end of this trip…I’ll be in the light. I’ll know. Maybe — I’ll understand. I’m totally overwhelmed right now. It proves to me that not telling you was a good idea. Otherwise, I could only imagine what you’d be like. I’m practically pulling out my hair. You’d be pulling your whole face off. Seriously. Just kidding, but I do sort of feel brave. I love you so much, Erin…this much…and I’m willing to prove it. You’re the best you little bitch. I’m so thankful to have you in my life. Thanks for being my best friend. This Sunday should go down on the history books (or journal). I love you…and I’m almost there.

Oh it’ll go down in the journal, alright.

Apr 182010
 

It was a Saturday at the end of the March 2004 when it finally hit me.

The whole week after leaving Cincinnati, I felt weird. Half-empty. I was so happy to be home with Henry, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing.

“I guess I just miss Christina, that’s all,” I wrote in my journal. The weekend was fucked up where her sister and friends were involved, but when it was just Christina and me, it was really fun. Aside from Henry, I had never really spent time with someone who wanted so badly to make me happy. It was like winning a contest and getting to take a tour of the inner-workings of Awesometown. She did everything I wanted, when I wanted it, and how I wanted it. Like I was royalty.

A girl could get used to that right quick, you know.

I took her CD with me to work and listened to it all week, the same 20-some songs over and over. I sat at my desk wondering why my stomach was feeling like mush, like I could puke at any second; wondering why listening to a bunch of songs was making me want to cry.

Henry and I went for one our cemetery walks on Saturday, March 27 and he grumbled the whole way there in the car because he hated the Used, and I had started listening to them again since the Christina Weekend. When “Blue and Yellow” came on, I caught my breath. You know how sometimes you can hear a song a thousand times, and then suddenly on play #1,001 something finally clicks and you start to really listen to the lyrics and it’s like being socked in the gut by a brick-fisted dwarf?

That happened to me that day.

And you never would have thought in the end,
How amazing it feels just to live again,
It’s a feeling that you cannot miss,
And it burns a hole, through everyone that feels it.

Well you’re never gonna find it,
If you’re looking for it, won’t come your way, yeah
Well you’ll never find it, if you’re looking for it.

Should’ve done something, but I’ve done it enough.
By the way, your hands were shaking.
Rather waste some time with you.

Listening to it, I felt my stomach flutter. I started to get giddy. I felt my face flush.

A few minutes later, as Henry and I walked through the cemetery, I blurted out, “I think I have a crush on Christina!”

Try to imagine the glint of horror that clouded Henry’s normally vacant eyes.

“No, you don’t,” he rushed to say. “You’re just confused. You miss her and you’re not used to missing a friend, that’s all,” he tried to rationalize.

“I think I need to tell her,” I mused.

“No. No, that’s a really bad idea. Don’t you dare tell her, she’s fucking in love with you, I could see it all over her face when she was here last week.” Henry looked very worried. I liked that.

Friends, once the seed is planted in my head, I’m not satisfied until I let it sprout and find myself on an operating table, having some poisonous vine extracted from my scalp. Try to advise me all you want, it will be in vain. Just like in 12th grade when my friend Christy tried to warn me not to date this guy she knew, but I ignored her and now I have nearly two years worth of Psycho Mike tales to share with Chooch one day when he’s older.

By the next night, she knew I was having feelings for her. Sylvia was dropped like an over-sized sack of ginger potatoes and Christina started sending me romantic emails and poems, and it was exciting. I loved Henry, but he wasn’t sending me romantic emails and poetry! Letting her call me her girlfriend was like having the best of both worlds. She said things like, “I’m struggling to keep things out of my head and palpitations out of my heart. Do you know what I mean? Like, little forceful firecrackers blowing holes into each breath? No one has ever lit those before.”

It was just like But I’m a Cheerleader! Except I’d have preferred Clea Duvall over Christina Harrison.

While I was enjoying all the pretty words and sentiments, I admitted in my journal that I wasn’t sure I could go through with it. It wasn’t that she was a girl. And her face had even started to grow on me by the end of that weekend I spent with her. It was more of the “what if”s that had me bugging out. Henry kept lecturing me that it would ruin the friendship, that I was playing with fire. That she was in love with me, when all I felt for her was some crush born from confusion, curiosity, and subtle persuasion on her part. And I considered that, and even wondered if she somehow made me feel like this by going out of her way to spoil me. But I shook off the doubt because it was exciting and new and, selfishly, I liked how it felt. She was telling me constantly how beautiful I was, how funny I was, what a great writer I was – but while most people would end it there, leaving their affectations vague, Christina would practically write dissertations on the colors of my eyes, what she loved about my laugh, how I chewed my grilled cheese sandwiches. I’m not kidding. The girl was very thorough.

By the second day,  I was convinced I was in love with her. “I don’t want something sexual,” I wrote on the pink pages of my Hello Kitty journal. “Nothing beyond kissing, if even that.” Meanwhile, Christina was dreaming of white picket fences and in vitro fertilization.

Fickle at heart, I kept vacillating between extreme feelings of goo-goo ga-ga lust, confusion, disgust, and denial.

I love her. I don’t love her.

I’m gay. I’m straight.

She’s pretty. She’s ugly.

Internally, I had become an amusement park of gyrating emotions, plunging sensibilities, pendulating preferences and swinging sexuality.

Henry was the only one who knew what was going on, so he got to begrudgingly fill the role of armchair therapist. There was a part of him that was intrigued by it, because come on, he has a penis after all. But then he’d remember it was Christina on the other end and would immediately  go limp. I think there was a part of him that was scared I was going to discover that this latent lesbian tendency was something more than that and he’d wind up sitting on a curb amidst his garbage bagged belongings.

I was too scared to tell my friends about it, and I think some of that was actually thinly-veiled shame because she wasn’t exactly the type of girl I ever would have imagined liking in that way, and I certainly couldn’t see myself parading her around town.  Anytime the thought of going public would enter my mind, my embarrassment and shallowness would push that thought right back to its grave.

It hadn’t even been a week yet, and I was already having doubts. In fact, it was only three days after I threw Christina that initial love bone, and I was already realizing that I wasn’t in love with her so much as the attention. That I would never leave Henry for her, or anyone. That she was making me feel trapped and…kept. And my least favorite sensation of all? Smothered. Ooh, how I hate to be smothered. She was coming on so strong, pressuring me to make plans with her, and I was starting to freak out. I tried to tell her I was feeling claustrophobic and that she needed to back off a little.

Yeah, that went well. She cried and cried and cried and flipped out and cried and sobbed. I don’t respond well to tears so I screamed uncle and let her go back to building a shrine for me.

By the end of that week, I was convinced all these feelings were really just worms in my stomach, the manifestation of some unrealistic fantasy. I decided that avoiding her would be the best option, but Henry convinced me that I should just talk to her, or else she was going to keep talking to me at work.

She sucked me back in with her frilly fucking words, goddammit. And the cycle started all over again. Henry suggested that I talk to my friend Liz. She was another girl I knew from LiveJournal, and she was currently in a relationship with a girl after years of dating only boys. I emailed her and she called me right away. At first, she was excited for me wanting to explore that other side of myself, but when she found out it was Christina on whom I had focused  my affections, she wasn’t so excited anymore. From watching our interaction with each other via LiveJournal for the past year, and knowing about the Sylvia factor, Liz expressed her concern, citing numerous red flags she saw in the situation.

But I still kept at it. And the longer it went on, the more hurt Henry became. We started fighting. A lot.

“I understand that this is something you need to do, but I just wish it was with some random girl and not someone in love with you,” he admitted one night, after two weeks of me being a faux-lesbian. And then those inevitable words finally came out: “You need to choose.”

And the next day, I kept seeing his face as he said that and it was breaking my heart. He was more important to me than she was, and I broke it off with her for good that time.

I’ve broken up with many boys in my time, but making a phone call to break up with some girl in Ohio was definitely something new, and not something I’d recommend scribbling on your bucket list. She was blowing up my phone, my inbox, my AIM, begging me to reconsider. Now I was just getting angry, really fucking angry. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a sniveling beggar. Show some backbone! I was starting to think that never talking to her again might not be the worst thing in the world. I told her she needed to stop sending me those emails and stop posting poems about me in her LiveJournal, but she said she couldn’t stop because I was her muse.

In hysterics, she screamed, “It’s not fair! Why are you doing this to me? You didn’t even give me a chance!” And apparently I had the poor taste of breaking up with her on the anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s suicide. He was one of her idols, so she threw that in my face too. This was my first taste of her emotional immaturity. I knew that she had never been in a real relationship before, and if the two weeks we had spent acting like giddy school girls was the only taste of a relationship she had ever had, well, that wasn’t my fault and I refused to let her make me feel like it was.

Two weeks! It had only been two weeks. Long distance, at that.

When I wouldn’t answer her emails or respond to her IMs, she started calling me at work. This is when I was working at Weiss Meats, that horrible place, and I didn’t feel comfortable  getting calls from my mom there, let alone some insane, sobbing lesbian. I shared an office with the bookkeeper, Carol, who was like a second mom to me, and it was so hard to answer these calls from Christina without making Carol wonder what the fuck sort of shit-swamp I found myself wading in this time. Terse answers was all Christina would get from me at work. Sometimes I would simply hang up upon hearing her androgynous voice through the receiver.

While I was sorry that she got hurt in the process and that I didn’t take the time to put some forethought into the whole thing, I wasn’t sorry for admitting my feelings to her, because I needed to know where it was going to go. Selfish? Yes, I’ll take the blame on that. I’m an impulsive person, I always have been. And because of that, I don’t really have many regrets in life. I had hoped that she would see it the same way, that our “relationship” hadn’t gone on long enough for her to really suffer any heart break, and that we could still find a way to salvage our friendship.

For me, I was able to walk away thinking, “Well, that was fun while it lasted” as I dusted the carnage of her shattered heart off my shoulders. I felt confident that we ended it early enough to curtail any collateral damage on the friendship. What I didn’t know was that she was over there in Ohio, making plans to win me back.

Apr 132010
 

I was having some major internal conflict that Saturday morning. Before Christina had come to Pittsburgh, the plan was that I would drive back to Cincinnati with her the following Saturday morning, spend the weekend there, and come back on Sunday. But, and this is so corny, in the three years that Henry and I had been dating, I had never spent a weekend away from him.

Who would cook for me? Who would pander to my every wish and demand?

Christina, apparently.

The ride to Cincinnati was fun. We listened to music, talked, laughed – a lot. We listened to the mix CD she brought with her, and her music was starting to grow on me. It was upbeat and happy, the perfect soundtrack for a car ride with a new friend. The good thing was that we were both very open to new music, so music became something we shared with each other, right from the start. And we both really liked The Used, I discovered; slowly, I was finding things we had in common.

Music was definitely the backbone of our friendship.

I remember sitting in the car, in front of train tracks, and asking, “Who sings this again?”

“Fall Out Boy,” Christina answered.

“I really like them!” Oh boy, what I was thinking? At least it was 2004, before they turned all-the-way lame. (OK, no – that didn’t make me feel better at all.)

That’s one of those vignettes that stands out so prominently in my mind, like it was just yesterday she was a passenger in my silver Sentra and my stomach, all these years later, automatically mimics the  reeling it was experiencing at the thought of spending a weekend in a stranger’s home. Isn’t it funny how one small, seemingly insignificant moment that was over quicker than Ben Roethlisberger targeting an underage co-ed can become so permanently etched in your memory.

Christina ranted a lot about Sylvia as we drove past plain Ohio scenery and frightening God-fearing billboards. This was when I learned that Sylvia had a forked-tongue, a hunch back, inverted nipples, and that Christina didn’t even like to kiss her. And I was expected to meet her that night, knowing all these intimate details about her body. Fantastic!

Christina lived in a townhouse with her mom and younger sister, Cynthia. I don’t like meeting people’s parents. I never have. I get uncomfortable and immediately lose about 90% of my personality. But luckily, her mom was at work, so I only had to deal with meeting Cynthia, Cynthia’s teen-mom friend Sammie, and the infamous Steve, who was laying on top of Cynthia’s bunk beds. When he lifted his head to greet me, I took  in his pretty face and wondered what the hell he was doing clandestinely fucking Christina.

After Christina made me listen to a recording of her giving a spine-tingling sermon at some scary cult of a church (it was so frightening, I had to beg her to turn it off), we all got in the car and went to Jungle Jim’s, which is nothing more than a giant super market offering international goods along with your traditional American fare.  But Christina felt it was awesome enough to double as a tourist attraction, and I have to admit that Jungle Jim’s became one of the future perks of visiting her. I bought some medieval weapon of a fruit called a durian and it became a Really Big Deal, the definitive highlight of the trip.

Meanwhile, as we caroused the aisles with me pointing and oohing at the international sundry, tension was brewing. Apparently, Sammie was getting too close to Steve, and Christina was on the verge of having a Jerry Springer meltdown, because bitch, that’s HER man.

“None of us even like her,” Christina explained. “But she’s just always around.” I didn’t like her much either, to be honest, but she was easy to ignore.

The more time I spent around Steve, though, the more gay he seemed to me, so I wondered if Christina’s jealousy was all for naught anyway.

(And yes, Steve wound up being gay, but I’m sure Christina already knew that.)

Guess who was waiting for us back at Christina’s house? OMG, SYLVIA! She was oozing possessiveness, insane jealousy, and boiled rabbits all over Christina’s couch like a ginger Jabba the Hut. The introduction was awkward, fake. I have never felt more sized up, like a bloody cow carcass hanging from a meat hook. Sylvia had this high-pitched baby voice and I knew immediately there was nothing either of us was going to have in common. In Christina’s room, Sylvia and Steve lounged on her bed, texting each other back and forth, behind my back, laughing raucously every so often.

Welcome to Ohio, Erin! Just like being back in high school and hearing assholes whisper about you at the next lunch table. Those two never bothered to talk to me, really. Not that I wanted them too, but it maybe would have made for less awkward intervals when Christina would leave the room.

I sat at Christina’s desk, with my back to Sylvia, Steve and Sammie, while Christina ran around like a wild woman trying to entertain/impress/wow me. She told me this secret about how she had met some girl, Amanda, online and for the past year had been leading Amanda on to believe that she was really a boy. “The name I use is Scotty Hotty,” she said, laughing. “And Amanda thinks we’re dating.” Apparently, Amanda would call the house and have actual conversations with Christina, thinking the whole time that it was a boy, her boyfriend even.  That she had enough mental imbalance to pull off a deviant scheme like that for over a year should have made me grab my purse and run like hell. I don’t know why I didn’t. Maybe because that asshole part of my brain thought it was funny. In that case, I deserved to get fucked over by her.

Christina’s sister, who was 18 at the time, was a little sycophant who apparently liked me almost as much as her sister did.

“Here, I drew you this picture,” Cynthia said, pushing a sheet of paper across the desk with such flourish that I expected to take in my hands a future inductee to the Louvre.

It was a crudely drawn house. I assumed it was crudely drawn on purpose, and decided to go along with it.

cynthiasdrawing

“Wow!” I patronized. “Very nice!”

Apparently, sarcasm wasn’t the proper tool to pull out of the shed, because Cynthia started to cry.

At first, I thought she was joking, so I laughed.

She began to then cry harder. She wound up crying so fucking hard that I actually thought she was laughing, so I started laughing too. Then she ran out of the room, the sound of things being slammed and broken followed in her wake. I was left sitting alone at the desk, frozen in incredulity.

“I’ll go talk to her!” Sylvia shouted, seizing the opportunity to be all large-and-in-charge, all the while reaffirming the unspoken fact that I was a bitch who pulled the trigger on Cynthia’s bi-polar laser gun. That a simple crayon-sketched house could birth A Scene was something that should have made me feel at home, since it was something of which I could see myself being on the other end. The other less-stable, tear-squirting, fist-flailing end.

But never had I felt more uncomfortable, unwanted, out of place. I glanced at the clock. It was after midnight. There would be next to no cars on the road. I could probably make it make to Pittsburgh in record time.

But Christina convinced me to stay. She assured me it wasn’t my fault, that sometimes Cynthia overreacts, that she was just trying too hard to impress me.

“I’ll take care of it,” Christina promised. “Please don’t leave.”

And so I sat there, shoulders scrunched up in anxiety, while Christina went off to diffuse the bomb that was Cynthia. While she was at it, she confronted Sylvia about the inhospitable way she had been treating me. She told me later that she screamed at her and told her, “Henry’s kids treated me with more respect than you’re giving Erin!”

You know how in some music videos, or movies, they’ll show a person sitting still in the center of a room, while a maelstrom of activity is unfolding around them, double-time? I feel that’s how it must have looked if I could have drifted out of my body. Maybe then I could have laughed about it, but instead I sat there, stock-still, thinking, “All these people around me are crying, when I’m the one who really wants to cry.

While Christina was talking Cynthia off the ledge, Sylvia came back into Christina’s room and offered me a mint from her Care Bears tin. I guess it was a peace offering but there was little sincerity backing it.

What it taught me was that Sylvia really liked Care Bears.

I tried to make conversation with her. I asked her what kind of music she liked. As expected, it was Top 40 garbage. “I’m trying to like the stuff Christina is into,” she said in that childish tone of hers. Christina told me later that she very emphatically did not want Sylvia to ever like the music she likes. I thought that was a pretty glaring indication of their incompatibility, because sharing music was always something I enjoyed doing with people I dated. (To the point where I will force it down Henry’s ear canals, like Ipecac for the shit he previously liked before meeting me.)

That weekend was still a part of the Great Pregnancy Scare of 2004, and after filling everyone in about the horrors of waiting for my period to hopefully stumble home, I launched into a neurotic monologue about how terrified I was of child birth.

This made Sammie, the resident baby-birther, flip out.  Kneeling very Regan-like on Christina’s bed, she started ranting about how I know nothing about what it’s like. “I HAVE A KID, I WOULD KNOW!” she shouted brattily. “I’m basically an expert!”

Yes, bravo. You had a baby when you were 16. Too bad MTV missed out on that one.

{Ed. Note: I’m not dogging on teen moms. Just teens who think they know everything.]

After everyone left that night, Christina and I sat on her bed while she cried. She felt horrible about the way I had been treated, and admitted her doubts that I’d still want to be friends.

“Yeah, everyone acted like psychotic indigents who have never been around another human being, but you were still nice to me, and that’s all that matter,” I assured her. She had gone out of her way to make sure I was as comfortable as possible, knowing that I was homesick and that I hadn’t slept without Henry in years. On her clock radio, she scrolled through the stations until she found soft rock. She knew that I liked to fall asleep to soft rock! She made sure I had two pillows. She checked repeatedly to see if I needed a drink. Cynthia, feeling badly for earlier, even brought me a cat stuffed animal.

“You can pretend it’s Marcy,” she explained. And it was kind of touching, that these two girls were trying so hard to make me feel like I was home.

Christina slept in Cynthia’s room, to alleviate any potentially awkward bed-sharing mishaps.

I didn’t sleep well. I missed Henry. I still felt awkward, and hurt by the way their friends had treated me.

The next morning, Christina took me back to Jungle Jim’s. I had planned on staying most of the afternoon, but I was homesick to the point of throwing up. All I could think about was Henry, what Henry was doing, if Henry missed me, what Henry was making that night for dinner.

As I got all of my stuff together, Christina cried a little. “Now that I’ve met you, I don’t want to let you go!” she said, trying to play it off like she was just being cute, but there was sadness in her eyes. It made me feel bad that I wasn’t as upset about leaving as she was about me leaving, and I won’t lie – it made me feel a little weird too, that someone who barely knew me could like me so much. But I just couldn’t hang around there any longer, so far out of my comfort zone. She asked if I would ever come back. I lied and said yes without hesitation, but the events of the night before were actually pretty traumatic for me, especially when I’m not very good with meeting people to begin with. I knew I definitely did not want to ever cross paths with Sylvia again.

Despite the social pandemonium that occurred in Christina’s bedroom that night, the beginning bricks of a friendship were laid that weekend; from sharing music and a mutual dislike for Sammie to cherry Coke at Big Boy’s and a stinky durian from Jungle Jim’s, the events of that weekend became the punchline of many inside jokes. Before I left, Christina gave me the mixed CD she made for her to trip to Pittsburgh and I listened to it the whole way home.

That night in my journal, I wrote:

While I loved spending time with Christina, I was eager to leave the next day. I did 85mph all the way through Ohio and made it home around 4:00. I was stuck to Henry like a magnet. We went to Giant Eagle and I literally could not get close enough to him. I never want to leave him again!