One of my favorite movie quotes is from a 1980′s b-movie called Back to the Beach. I’m not sure if that was the start of it, but I’ve long been infatuated with bait shops. I’ve never been in one, I’ve never even gone fishing. But I’m obsessed with the gritty imagery that my mind conjures when I think of a bait shop.
Sometimes, I accompany Henry to his place of employment. On the way there, we pass this dingy shanty-like bait shop marked by a hand-written sign that boasts “Live bait. Worms. Fishing Suply.” I’ve been staring dreamily at this bait shop for four years now, and not once in those four years has anyone corrected the spelling of “suply.” It’s endearing.
My new job is a block away from Henry’s, and the fact that I drive past it every day on my way there might just be a coincidence to some; but to me, it’s kind of like a stripper swirling down a pole, her pasties flashing IT’S A SIGN in bright pink LED.
Bait shop, you’re calling my name. I do not know why. Maybe I was a fisherman in a past life, or bait, or maybe I was killed and buried behind a bait shop. But what I do know is that I want to go there, talk to its proprietors. (I believe it’s a husband-wife force; I saw the husband weed wacking yesterday and I’m unsure of which hurt the weeds more: the brutal annihilation served up by the weed wacker, or the vicious verbal rampage the husband appeared to be hatefully funneling at them.)
I had this great idea that I should go there and ask to shadow them for an hour or two, get up to my elbows in bait shop grease. Find out what makes a person go into the baiting biz – carrying the family torch? Addicted to the slithery squishiness of worms? Easy to snag a job after bait school?
I’d probably lie and say it’s for school (my classic excuse) so that I can take pictures of them, too. And maybe I’ll get lucky and snag a sound byte from this seven foot homeless man who loiters in the vicinity. You all know how much I love the homeless, maggots in their beards and all.
But Henry thinks this is a horrible idea. Like, they’ll be so aghast and threatened by my request that they’ll fillet me on the spot and sell my toes as bait. Of course, that’s the kind of diarrhea-inducing anxiety that makes me want to do it all the more. I have this sick desire to do things that make me uncomfortable, and then complain and whine about it to Henry.
Plus, the bait shop sits haphazardly right above a river bank, so it’d give me an opportunity to be within feet of the sickening river, maybe conquer a fear or two. Or see a dead body washed ashore, who knows.
Oh, and there’s a pier in their backyard, and I’m kind of obsessed with that shit, too. I don’t know, all these things add up to a big cream-filled YES to me.
EDIT: I just found out why Henry doesn’t want me going there. It seems that the husband-owner stepped in front of Henry’s car one day and yelled at him for going too fast (I asked Henry how he would be able to stand in front of our car if Henry was driving that fast, and Henry said “Exactly.”) so now Henry’s dickie shrivels in fear at the thought of the bait shop.
The point of reposting this is to inform the Internet that a MOVIE has recently been filmed in that exact location! It’s apparently some John Singleton flick with JACOB FROM TWILIGHT OMG YOU GUYS. No seriously, it’s called “Abduction” or something and it’s supposed to be a thriller, and last time I checked no vampires or werewolves had parts in it.
Henry said that they fashioned a new sign over top of the old sign. It says Pachenko’s Bait Shop or something now, but he thought it might just be there for filming.
So, when this movie comes out and you see this extremely lush and bountiful setting, that’s not bleak or run-down at all, think of me, my friends. Think of me.
If anyone wants to take me to a bait shop, let me know.
(P.S. I did go back there to do my fake interview, with Bill and Jessi two winters ago. We were practically chased off the property with shotgun blasts sounding in the sky behind us. Not really, but the dude very disgustedly assured us that “this ain’t no business.” It was scary. I can only imagine how agitated an entire film crew must have made him.)
All week, we had plans to go to Laurel Caverns on Sunday. Because that’s just where good parents want to take their hyperactive four-year-olds: 40 feet down into the earth, surrounded by 16,000 ways to injure or kill oneself.
But first, I had to go through this panic-riffic hour where I was convinced Henry was dead. He has a second job on Sunday mornings, just to give us some extra cash since I screwed us all up by not working for so long. He usually gets home from that job around 7am.
It was nearly 9am. I began to notice he wasn’t here only when I found things he did wrong around the house and my need to berate him began to grow impatient. I called him and it went to voicemail.
Then I called him 28 more times and texted him saying, “If you’re not dead, please reply.”
At this point, I really started to feel scared. All the things he does around the house and in life in general began skull-fucking me and my stomach took on a fast descent as I realized, “Holy shit. I might have to do things for myself. Who’s going to make my non compos cards?!” I kept envisioning his work van, engulfed in flames, and how bleak my future looked when filled with chores and financial responsibility and single parenting (yeah right, I’d find a new daddy, and fast).
I was trying not to get too crazy around Chooch, because he’d only end up feeding off my panic and then there would be two hyperactive people panicking and crying and wondering who they’d find to take care of them.It was complete pandemonium inside my chest.
“Can we still go to the cave even if Daddy doesn’t come home?” Chooch asked, quite sincerely.
“Yes, but let’s make sure he’s alive first.” Then I had horrible visions of me taking Chooch to the caverns without Henry and one of us “accidentally” pushing the other down the Devil’s Staircase. Maybe we would just go to the park instead.
Henry wasn’t dead. He pulled into the parking lot a little bit before 10 and Chooch and I raced across the street to meet him. I could see the look of fear on Henry’s face, because we never go out of our way to greet him. He probably thought the house was on fire.
“I thought you were DEAD!” I yelled. Turns out it was his phone that was dead, though. Or he had it off while he was having sex for money, whichever. Plus, he didn’t get to his job until late because he slept in. I was really clingy for the rest of the day. No, that’s a lie. Only for about an hour, then it went back to the normal with me bitterly suggesting that he just stop breathing altogether.
So yeah, Laurel Caverns! I love that damn place, but haven’t been there since 2004 with my brother Corey when we stalked a yuppie couple in the gift shop. We made sure Chooch peed before entering the caverns, and then had a few minutes to kill in the gift shop. There were people already lined up, waiting for the tour to the start and I noticed they kept looking at Chooch with expressions seeped in disdain and disgust.
“These people already hate us,” I whispered to Henry. “Let’s make sure we stay in the back.”
And you know, for as chatty as my son is, he really wasn’t all that bad. There were moments where the guide would stop us to point out stalagmites and Chooch would start to fidget. I mean, I was fidgeting too so I can’t really hate on my kid. He was pretty good about not talking while the guide was talking though, which is more than I can say for the family with two kids behind us who ended up being the collective Chooch of the group. The kids weren’t really being that bad, just asking questions, which inspired both parents to shush them with such intensity that it was like the entire Slytherin house was behind me hissing. Their dad was some geology geek and really wanted to make sure everyone knew it.
Ten minutes into the caverns, Chooch started to do a slight pee writhe. “I have to pee,” he whispered. Let me remind you that we were in a CAVERN. Even if pissing over a ravine was an option, the shitty family behind us kept lingering behind to take pictures so there was no whizzing opportunity.
He made it sort of almost to the end before doing a pee-jig so grand scale, the tour guide stopped mid-sentence and asked, “Do you guys need to leave?” Luckily, it was at a point near the end of the route where there was a quick way to the exit.
You best believe I stayed for the rest of the tour. Laurel Caverns is my jam.
Not having Henry and Chooch there for the rest made me focus more on the rest of the group and I realized they were all assholes. Except for this one guy who pointed out a bat to me.
I spotted the top of Henry’s bandanna undulating through the gift shop when the tour ended. Then I saw the rest of his face and it looked strained and annoyed. Apparently, Chooch made it to the bathroom. Just not the toilet. So Henry had to wash Chooch’s shorts the best he could in the sink and dry them under the dryer.
“And now I’m not wearing any underwear!” Chooch cheered. Just add negligent mom to the list of other flaws I was given yesterday.
Pissy Pants. (I was referring to Henry, but I suppose it works for either.)
Walking out into the parking lot, I was bitching angrily about the shushing geology family when I noticed they were only a few feet away from us. I don’t think they heard me, because the mom offered Chooch a fruit roll-up.
“I feel bad now,” I whispered to Henry as we approached our car.
“No, you don’t,” he swiftly corrected.
Laughing, I said, “Yeah, I know.”
We stopped for lunch at some crappy family restaurant in the mountains where I had the least satisfying grilled cheese ever and our waitress with little green gauges asked to read my tattoo.
“It’s Chiodos,” I said, and she smiled and walked away.
To Henry, I muttered, “I thought maybe she would know, since she has gauges.” And then I pouted every time she came back because she wasn’t all “OMG CHIODOS” like I am.
And of course we would get a flat tire on the way home. It was actually a good thing, because we’ve needed new tires in a very bad way, so now Henry has no choice but to get that done today. We pulled over in the Gene and Boots candy store parking lot. What magical timing.
Chooch, who had been sleeping when this happened, flipped out.
“I don’t want the tire to be flat!” he wailed, as though I had just told him one of the cats died. I couldn’t get him to stop crying, so I was left with no choice but to take him inside the candy shop and get him candy. The perils of being a mom.
There was some broad in there who watched Chooch and me like hawks from the moment we entered the shop. Oh I know, look at these two raggamuffins, right? Make sure we don’t steal anything! I didn’t even bring my purse with me, just my wallet, and Chooch was clearly tossing items into a basket so I don’t know what the issue was. But it almost made me want to chuck the basket at her and leave.
There’s an ice cream shop there too, and when Henry was done with the tire, we all went inside. That same broad was behind the counter, taking her good old time scooping ice cream for someone who wasn’t even in there, and never once said, “I’ll be with you a minute” or even turned to acknowledge us with a smile. Nothing.
And then I took a picture. She whirled around and very tersely said, “Oh, you can’t take pictures in here.” The way she said it triggered something in me, something 16-years-old and disgustingly petulant. I looked at Henry, smiled fakely and said, “Let’s not buy anything here!” and stormed out the door. I wondered why he wasn’t following me and saw that he was waiting to buy a Mountain Dew. I stuck my head back in the door and said shittily, “Just buy that at a store, she’s taking too fucking long.” Henry dejectedly put it back and stopped at a convenience store down the street.
The inside of Gene and Boots. All their secrets revealed on the Internet in ONE PHOTO! PASS IT ON!
Passing an Exotic Dancers sign outside of a seedy bar, Henry felt inspired to regale us with his history of strip clubs.
“You were eleven the last time I went to one,” he laughed. The thought of that made me cover my breasts.
He went on. “I got kicked out of one in Texas for giving a stripper a quarter.”
“You can get kicked out for that?” I asked incredulously.
A few minutes ago, Alisha asked, “What was your first job? You could write about that.”
“There’s not much to write about. It was at a dollar store when I was 16 and I only worked there one day.” I thought about this some more. “Actually, I left during my break and never came back.”
Alisha looked at me blankly, like she often does.
“I got in a fight with a customer. Couldn’t deal with that bullshit.”
Another blank look, prodding me to continue.
“There was a big sign over the register that said IF WE FORGET TO RING UP AN ITEM, IT’S FREE. Some broad purposely withheld an item while I was ringing her up. I fucking saw it in the basket, I’m not a retard. So we stared at each other for a few seconds, and she goes, all smugly, ‘You forgot to ring this up.’ Well, no shit, I said back to her, you purposely didn’t put it up here. Furthermore, I hadn’t even given her a total yet!”
I found myself sitting here getting very angry at the memory.
“Fuck that!” I yelled to Alisha, snapping back into the present. “I fucking hate people. So I left.”
“OK. What was your second job?” she asked tentatively.
“It was at the Baltimore House. I also quit that one after one night.”
“What did you do there?”
“I was a waitress.”
“Oh my god,” Alisha gasped at the horror of an asshole like myself trying to work in the service industry.
If you read my blog enough, it probably becomes pretty clear that cemeteries are a prominent part of my life.
learned to drive in one
fell in love with Henry in one
and then almost drown in a bottle of water
been stalked in one
puked in one
attempted to hide from Henry in something like eight
once while wearing a fluorescent orange shirt
fell in love with photography in at least a dozen
had epiphanies in plenty
tried to get a job in two
cried at least once in every one
Most importantly, cemeteries are where I feel most at home. I’ve learned a lot about myself during cemetery walks and it’s where I used to tell stories to a very in utero Chooch.
When Christina and I were still friends, we didn’t see each other as much as we’d have liked since there were 300 miles between us, but when we did find ourselves together we almost inevitably wound up in a cemetery. It was on those occasions where I always felt the most alive and literally like a kid again, and those were some of the best moments of my life.
I had been waiting since over a year ago for the Isles and Glaciers EP to come out, and I finally snatched a leak copy a few weeks ago (don’t narc on me – I bought an actual copy when it was released, jesus) . There’s a song on it called “Cemetery Weather” and even though it serves up my heart en brochette on a plate of heart ache and tear-salted lettuce, I torture myself by listening to it over and over. I took a one-day break last Thursday because it was starting to feel like, to quote the great Omarion, there was an ice box where my heart used to be. I am literally pissing late 1990′s emo music over here, folks.
Hey! Guess who got another job for which she is over-qualified? Oh, that would be THIS GIRL right here!
I had sincerely expected the employment agency to stamp a big red UNRELIABLE on my file after the Henry-induced debacle at the last place, but my “agent” called me Monday morning with a new assignment for part-time evening work. The location is much more convenient and the shift is 5:30pm-10:30pm, so it’s compatible with Henry’s golden job.
I started last night. The company’s office is located in a nice building with a pretty lobby, manned by a good-natured security guard who got way too close to my face while taking my picture for my ID badge . Then he escorted me into the office where I’ll be working and dropped me off with Ev, a lithe older woman with a salt and pepper bob and nervous energy. The office itself was dirty beige with empty Postal Service bins strewn across the floor. It was about 5 steps down from my evening job two years ago at MSA.
Ev gave me a quick tour of the facilities. In the lunch room, which is a full cafeteria during the day, she was showing me the coffee machine when some squat, unruly bearded man in an ecru work shirt piped up and said in a semi-retarded cadence, “And if you use the last of it, make a new pot!” Aye, aye, Ecru.
I’m not sure yet if he works at the same place as me. Time will tell, and hopefully stories will follow.
Back inside the office, Ev began training me. I’m basically going through client files they have in their system, looking for the ones who are declining modifications to their mortgages. Or something like that. It’s a series of steps, but after watching Ev do it twice and doing it twice myself, she set me loose. Unfortunately for Jim, the older Cosby-sweatered man who also started last night, he did not have a similarly charmed fate and instead spent most of the shift being taken through the process in baby steps. It made me feel sad. It must suck for (some) older people who have probably spent most of their life in some field not requiring computer knowledge, to suddenly be dumped in front of a computer. I kept hearing Ev trying to get him to remember CTL-V and CTL-C before finally giving up and slapping a Post-It note on his monitor to remind him.
The woman whose desk I’m using was just getting ready to leave when I got there, so I had to stand awkwardly to the side while she shut down all of her windows. She seemed nice enough, and her smile was sure pretty when she said to me sternly, “Just don’t leave anything on my desk that has your name and account number on it, got that?”
“Oh. I’ll….try not to do that,” I answered slowly, hoping that I wouldn’t have any of those common urges to tear out pages of my check book and staple them around her cube in the form of my SS#. That didn’t really go over too well at my last job, either.
I made myself comfortable at her desk. It was nice having an actual desk and not a small conference room to be tucked away inside, like at the last job. While waiting for Ev to get the file with my workload ready, I had a chance to take in my co-workers. Three older soccer-mom’ish type ladies and a black woman probably around my age who I already know I want to be friends with because she has cool hair. There were still some day-shift stragglers in the office, but they all seemed relatively easy-going too. It’s not a very big office.
The best part was that there was a distinct scent of fruit snacks wafting around me. It was like being swaddled by Fruit Roll-Ups, and it made me feel at once comforted and hungry. I guess kind of like how you’d feel at a bacon-flavored orgy.
The worst part? They have a strict no cell phone policy. I had to sign off on that shit. I even said no texting in the BATHROOM. At first I was like, “OK, five hours. That’s not so bad.” By the end of hour one, I was chomping on my hair for lack of anything better to do. My knees were knocking against the desk. My fingers were icy and experiencing phantom text-flutterings. By hour two, I covertly pulled my phone out of my purse and quickly dumped in on my lap. I scooted into the desk real far so no one would see it. Granted, my boobs were resting awkwardly on the desk at that point, but it was a faux pas I was willing to endure so long as I could keep up with my ESPN NHL Scorecenter texts. What? There were a LOT of games on last night.
By hour three, I decided to flirt with danger and send a TWEET.
I didn’t think it would be so hard. But my god, I felt like I had gone five hours without heroin by the time I stumbled out of there at 10:30.
The woman whose desk I’m sharing is an interesting broad. On the cubicle wall directly behind her monitor, it’s a miniature Lourve of angel pictures. Looking to the left, she had more angels lest anyone forgets that she likes them. By the time I looked to my right, they were practically screaming “I’VE WANTED TO FUCK THE SHIT OUT OF AN ANGEL SINCE I WAS A YOUNG GIRL MAKING MY FIRST HOLY COMMUNION!”
In case I get bored with the angels, she has tons of GOOD WORD from our Lord to read (she even has a study Bible under the desk which I may or may not have accidentally stepped on) and a verifiable fleet of butterflies suctioned to the pane of glass that allows me to peek into the cube on the other side of me.
But my favorite cube accoutrement was the ravishing photo of whom I presume to be her husband. Picture it please: sandy Flobee’d hair, traveling from his crown to his cheeks. He’s not an overweight man, but has some jiggle, as evidenced by the way his pasty white bare thighs sag a bit as his legs are SPLAYED open as he lounges on a couch. SPLAYED OPEN with a DOG BETWEEN THEM. I couldn’t get a good look, but I believe he might be wearing boxer briefs, and if I squinted hard enough I could just barely detect, against the blinding whiteness of his legs, some ultra-white socks yanked up to his knees.
I am so grateful I get to look at this every night.
Last night, I was telling Henry about it and I said, “I have GOT to try and take a pic—-”
“You’re going to get fired,” he mumbled, shaking his head.
Really, no one flinched when I told them I was going on a date with a lesbian.
Sure, I got several memos reminding me that I wasn’t gay, but that didn’t deter me. Because the fact was, I just wasn’t meeting any cool guys. Not that I was looking for any, really, but more that I was addicted to the thrill of blind dates. My personal ad even said, in large font, that I was just looking for casual encounters, something to bud into a friendship. And then I would go on for a paragraph swearing that I wasn’t a whore. And I wasn’t. I never went home with any of those dates. I just honestly lived for the opportunity to meet new people.
My friend Brian, upon perusing my ad (which actually started as a joke), deadpanned, “Oh yeah, you won’t get KILLED or anything. Have fun with that, weirdo.”
But the guys I was meeting were all vapid, bore me with football talk, and wanted to get into my pants. (Well, I was shocked!) So I decided it was time to switch things up and try my hand at a girl date.
And that’s how I found myself meeting Wendy and her friend Ron at Eat n’ Park.
Wendy was vapid, wore an offensively large Dallas Cowboys belt buckle and wanted to get into my pants.
I found myself in a silent prayer, thanking God for sending Ron with her.
During our meal (I had grilled cheese, that much I know), Wendy sat across from me and failed in her attempt to seduce me with her eyes. Instead, she just looked drowsy from psych meds. I was a bit let down that Wendy didn’t seem much involved in the conversation, or in getting to know me. At all. Unless it involved the exchanging of bra sizes and saliva. I was content chatting casually and comfortably with Ron while demolishing my grilled cheese (which he paid for and I can’t remember if I said thanks) and ignoring the salacious stares and ribald posturings belching from the Wendy Zone.
Toward the end of the meal, Wendy had been silently dragging her spoon across her sundae, presumably bored with the conversation topics which did not include:
belt buckles and where to buy them the biggest
ecru work shirts and the women who wear them
the perils of dating outside of your sexual orientation
But suddenly, she looked up at me, and with those weird drowsy eyes, drawled, “I like whipped cream…and cherries.”
And then she licked her lips. And her eyes flittered down a little and I found myself hugging my boobs protectively, trying not to pee.
That night, while retelling the details to my friends, I felt so violated. So objectified!
“Well, was she hot?” I was undoubtedly asked.
“No!” I yelled.
“If she were, would you have—?”
“Maybe! But she wasn’t. It’s OK, I gave her no inclination that we’d be seeing each other again. Plus, she lives an hour away.”
Until the next day, when the phone calls began. Oh, the phone calls! Her primary job became calling me. In fact, I’m pretty sure she quit her actual job to make this so.
“So, I’m thinking of moving back to Pittsburgh,” was what I was presented with one day, with all the pleasure and joy of getting slapped in the face with a dead fish. “Ron said I could move in with him again.” And then, “I think I’m falling in love with you.”
“Ron’s cool,” I said, at a loss for how to address her proclamation, and feeling a strong urge to peek out the blinds and make sure she wasn’t squatting behind a tree.
“Hey, what’s that song you have in your email?” she asked.
“Yeah, that’s ‘Question of Lust’ by Depeche Mode,” I offered reluctantly. Why did she want to know? Was she going to give it to the DJ she already hired to play at our wedding reception, oh my God what I have done?
“I love it,” she slurred in her own warped version of sexiness. ” I play it all the time and I made my whole family listen to it.” When I said nothing, she went on to add the AWESOME admittance of, “They know all about you.”
I went on to handle Wendy the same way I handle the gas men: ignore the assholes until they go away. She called me for months. Hands down she was the toughest blind date to shake. Probably she’s forgotten about me by now, but I’m still cursed with her memory every time I hear that damn Depeche Mode song (which used to be my favorite!).
I’m not even sure Wendy was her name. I had written “Ron and the lesbian” beneath their picture in my photo album.
My new job has been really great so far. I’m working in the evenings as a biller for a large shipping company. I won’t name names, but you know them. There are four other billers, all older women, who only work two nights a week. I like working with older women because they mother me, and we all know how I like that. When I first met one of those women, I was immediatley charmed by her bubbling, down-home personality. Then she sat back down at her desk and asked, “Where’s my clipboard? Where’s my FUCKING clipboard?” It was awesome.
However, it only took one evening there for all the flashbacks to come pouring in. This environment has so many striking similarities to a job I had in my early twenties – the Bad Job, the one that gave me no choice but to retreat to the EEOC, the one that left me with a stuttering problem, an obliterated self-esteem, an inability to enter the workforce for almost three years. Just like at that place, I’m working in a testosterone-driven environment. I’m working around drivers with bad tempers, foul mouths, and inappropriate behavior. I’m being trained by a woman who reminds me so much of my old office-mate at the Bad Job, that I have to shake off the flashbacks and snap back to the present.. I’m listening to the squeal of fork lift wheels and dock workers hounding us to hurry up with the bills. I’m listening to my boss shout “Where you AT??” from the dispatch room and suddenly I’m sitting at my old desk, in my old leather chair, thumbing through invoices.
I never, in these past four years, thought the day would come when I would find myself missing a place that has plagued me with countless nightmares and panic attacks. But I do. I miss the drivers and the meat cutters and one of the salesmen, and I miss kicking the copier and being a perfectionist when making the weekly flyer, even though I knew no one gave a shit about its aesthetic appeal. Sometimes I even miss working with Henry – that’s the place we met. My new job is making me nostalgic for the things that didn’t suck about that job. And there were a lot of things that didn’t suck. Basically, the only things sucking were the owners of that job, and the unfortunate part was that it was my life on which they were sucking.
So last Saturday, I decided I was ready to go back. Four years seemed like a long enough time to heal, and I really needed some sort of closure. So Henry called the office that morning, made sure the owners weren’t there that day, and we stopped by with Chooch. The only person working that day whom I knew was Gary, my favorite salesman. There were days when it seemed like Gary, out of everyone in that office, was the only one on my side. He saw firsthand the way I was treated. Sometimes he was treated the same way.
Gary let us into the upstairs offices and we sat around in the break room, catching up. Everything smelled the same: walls embedded with the lingering aroma of too many chickens fried, too many cigarettes puffed, sweaty stench of too many loitering drivers. Everything looked the same: putrid hue of puke splayed across the walls, microwave circa 1972, coffee-stained counters, misspelled names on lockers. Everything seemed the same, except for my office: walls bare of Robert Smith’s mug, comics I drew out of mad cocktails of rage and boredom, magazine articles of my favorite bands. My old office is bland now, no personality.
Mainly, I sat there in the break room and smiled, tried to act like it wasn’t bothering me. But it was fucking surreal and brutal, like being donkey-kicked in the belly by a gnome on steroids. So I sat there, listening to Henry and Gary dish about the meat business, and I looked around at all the lockers and considered slipping notes into the ones of the drivers I knew, but for some reason, I couldn’t make myself walk into my old office to get a post-it. For some reason.
Chooch ran down the hallway at one point, forcing me to follow him. He stopped right in front of the door to the conference room, where my replacement was sitting at the computer. We made eye contact, and time was suspended in a horrifying abyss, like a body hung up by hook-pierced flesh. I smiled tightly and gave him a curt “Hello” then whisked Chooch back down the hall.
We left after Gary was summoned to the cooler. In the car, I promptly put on my sunglasses so Henry wouldn’t see that I was crying. It was harder than I imagined, and the nightmares have returned. But I just had to know, I had to see it again. Like an ex-boyfriend that you need to see for closure, but end up seeing his new girlfriend too and it just tears the wound open all over again.
Awhile back, I had the moronic idea of slapping together a photo shoot because I apparently really like torturing myself with projects that don’t amount to anything in the long run.
I placed an ad on Craigslist and several girls responded. I emailed back and forth with some of them and they seemed very cool and eager to do this. They understood that it wasn’t for some glamour magazine spread, but perhaps they’d walk away with new pics for their MySpaces, who knew.
Then something happened. Something by the name of Chuck. He responded with great zeal and boasted that he’s been known to slip into a dress on ocassion and he’d gladly slap on some lipstick too if I wanted. I was like, sure whatever dude, just please show up.
Chuck began emailing me every day, like the cyberspace version of my Aunt Sharon, offering little suggestions here and there. There would always be a sentence starting with "What if…." Some of his ideas were cool, but then he was starting to get too alt porn on me.
I ended up canceling the shoot because the weather was shitty, but Chuck asked if we could meet at the location and go over some ideas, get to know each other, etc. Of course, I made Henry come too. Chuck showed up wearing a Steelers pullover and ballet flats on his sixty-year-old man feet. Dude, Chuck was OLD.
He was nice, though. We tossed around some ideas, yet they all seemed to veer into the direction HE wanted to take it. "We can make the girls wear mustaches. Let’s dress like fairies. Let’s be naked." <—Chuck’s ideas.
Then he told me I was weird and I was like, "Wow, I’ve officially hit rock bottom."
Afterward, he began emailing me about this nineteen year old model he knows named Jeanne. Jeanne is into alt porn and lingerie. I kept reminding Chuck that I wasn’t trying to get all Suicide Girls with this. I didn’t even need a real model, just a BODY willing to put an animal mask over their face. Bottom line. He kept trying to get me to call Jeanne and I kept saying, "Yo Chuck, bro, listen up — I don’t even call my FRIENDS. No way am I calling some stranger to talk about some dumb ass pitchure takin’ idea I had."
So Chuck played the middle man and tells me, "Jeanne is concerned there are too many girls that will be there. Would you be willing to stay after and just shoot Jeanne and me?" Oh, I’d love to. LOVE TO. Because that’s what would truly make my world turn, taking racy pics of you, Chuck. Of YOU.
Finally, last week, I sent out an email to him, one of my fake addresses, and two of Christina’s, stating that straits are so dire that I was forced to get a second job, leaving me with NO FREE TIME. No photo shoot, sorries.
He replied immediately and said that’s too bad, but he’s also free on Fridays and Mondays.
I ignored him.
He emailed again and asked if he could email the other "models" to see if they want to work with him on his bizarre genderbending assignment.
I ignored him, so he emailed my fake address and Christina’s two addresses anyway.
I was one of the people who was going to work with Erin at the photo shoot this Sunday that was cancelled. If any of you would be interested in possibly working with me in the future please send a reply to this email. I’ve basically been into gender identification stuff. anything weird and pulls ones focus as to how gender is socially viewed. Sometimes it involves full crossdressing , 50% crossdressing , or maybe just 33 1/3 % crossdressing or poking fun at how gender is usually viewed. I love the 40′s fashion look so i get involved with that a little.
Erin is a great girl with a lot of talent and I wanted to work with her but being that this was just for fun she was unable to commit. From time to time photographers contact me with an interest in doing a shoot with me and I was just contacted by a professional photographer yesterday who is interested. If any of you are interested in doing some professional work for your portfolio and also helping me out with some of my stuff just let me know.
if i don’t hear back from you i promise i won’t bother you any more.
Then he emailed me asking to borrow my sacred tutu that Merry made me.
I ignored him.
Finally today he emailed me again:
Needless to say I’m a little disappointed about the cancellation of the shoot but I understand and under the same circumstances I would have done the same thing.
I was just thinking, your photo projects seem like a lot of fun and you have not only the photographic skills and talent but you seem to be responsible and a pretty good organizer. You should try to pull some girls together for a shoot but charge them for you time and a cd. If you got three girls and charged them $20 for your time plus $5 for the cd that’s $25 a piece and if you got 3 girls together for the shoot that would be a total of $75. That’s still not a lot of money but I think anyone who was looking for a free shoot can fork out $25.
The other thing is, I ran across this article a while back about this female photographer who photographs nude men. These’s nothing illegeal or immoral going on. She’s been doing it for 25 years and she’s married. I’m sure there is a market for that in Pittsburgh. Men are basically exhibitionists. Maybe it sounds sleazy but I think it’s pretty cool. You could probably make some pretty good money doing that. Judge for yourself from the article.
I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER, nor do I have the credentials to pretend to be even close to one. This was supposed to be for fun. I would feel like an asshole making people pay me when I can’t guarantee that anything is even going to turn out! I’m using toy cameras for Christ’s sake. And why does he keep trying to lure me into the world of nudity?
Unable to ignore him any longer, I replied and told him of these concerns, and also reminded him that my tutu was not storebought, but something that is very precious to me, so no he cannot borrow it. I also told him that unfortunately, my desire to follow through with this project in the future has been diminished because what started out as a fun thing has been weighed down by too much stress and too many details that have veered away from my original concept and vision.
I got an email back saying that it’s OK, he understands and that he’s buying a yellow baby doll dress today and if he paid me $50 would I photograph him in it?
THIS ISN’T FUCKING GLAMOUR SHOTS, BITCH.
Bob brought up the horrifying possibilty that Chuck might still show up on Sunday, since he lives so close. "What if he brings his own people and tries to steal your idea, and then sees you and everyone else there? You’ll have to tell him the truth then."
I considered this for a moment. "No, I’d still lie." It’s like sit-com in me, I’m telling you. Even when I want to tell the truth in these ridiculous situations, I find myself weaving alternate truths. It’s what happens when I panic. I’d make a great President.
I don’t have a problem with cross dressers or nudity or old people who are into both of those things, but I DO have a problem with pushy people trying to take my reins from me. Back the fuck off, asshole. This is mama’s gig, go sit down.
Big Bob at work told me that the problem with being harmlessly weird like me is that it’s like a gateway for sickos. I’m not sure what he meant, and I don’t particularly think Chuck is a sicko, but I think the lesson I learned is to not post on Craigslist. Maybe stick with MySpace.
"I’ve never seen the line this long before," Henry exclaimed when he called me from Club Zoo. "And we’ve been to a lot of shows down here!" He and his kids had left earlier than Christina and me, so we decided we better hurry up and get down there.
When we arrived, I saw that the line of dual-toned shellacked hair, skinny jeans, and black eyeliner was sort of long, but not nearly as bad as Henry was wanking off about. As we walked toward the end of the line, I called to alert him of our arrival. He told me that he and his kids were on the ramp near the doors, and that we should just cut. I hung up on him and while I was bitching to Christina about how I hate when people cut in line and surely was not about to do that myself, a burly man in a security t-shirt called out to us before we even made it to the end of the line.
"You guys got tickets? Then come with me." He escorted us all the way to the front of the line, past all of the bristling scene kids and Henry.
Inside the club, I called Henry and told him since they had tickets, they evidently didn’t need to stand in line, but he said it didn’t matter. Not wanting me to feel special about the random escort, he quickly added, "He probably just chose to let in you two because you’re OLD."
Finally, we were all inside together. Henry’s oldest son, Robbie, introduced me to his girlfriend, Bree, but she didn’t seem to like me.
And Blake swore that the girl he was with wasn’t his girlfriend, but she should be because they were really cute together.
During the opening band, The Color Fred (featuring Fred from Taking Back Sunday), Christina took pictures of the scene kids around us, Blake and his non-girlfriend ran off to the arcade (Club Zoo is an 18 and under club on nights that bands aren’t playing), and Robbie and Bree never said where they were going. Meanwhile, Henry leaned against a railing with his arms crossed and bandanna too tight, looking surly and awkward. This was the first time in two years that he wore a bandanna and I was like DO NOT LIKE, DO NOT LIKE all night long. Why did he have to tie it so tight? Jesus, it made his face look near-explosion.
It had been about four years since I was at this particular club, so I wasn’t used to the balcony area being VIP only. "But why? That’s so lame," I whined to Henry. He shrugged and said that there was a bouncer sitting at the top of the steps behind a rope.
"Do you really want up there?" Christina asked. Of course I did, it was off limits. Some older man in a security shirt and a hat walked by, and Henry pointed to him.
"That’s the guy you want to talk to," he said. I don’t know how Henry finds this shit out. It must be old man code or something.
So Christina goes up to the guy and the first thing she does is accidentally knocks his hat off. He doesn’t help us get in, but then she sees the original security guy from outside, whispers something in his ear and he motions for me to follow them up the steps. He whispers to the VIP guy, who obediently marks our hands and unclasps the rope to grant us entrance. Henry, Blake and his friend Stephenie were standing on the steps, looking betrayed and left behind, like we just snatched the last safety raft on the Titanic. But our security friend had retreated by then and the VIP guy wouldn’t let them through. Later, we lied and said they had to be 21 anyway, even though we never bothered to ask.
Henry waved it off and told us to stay up there, it was OK. What he meant was, "You’re so selfish, you little stuck up bitch, fuck you for making my favorite kid feel like shit!" So, I felt a little guilty. Not guilty enough to surrender my newly acquired VIP status though.
The VIP area was pretty boring. A couple of black couches scattered around and some slutty girls leaning against the balcony and pretending to give a shit about the band playing. We sat on a couch and acted like idiots for awhile, before deciding to go back down where the action was. "We’ll come back up for Chiodos," I said, and Christina agreed.
I failed to mention to Christina that I located Henry through the power of texting, so she somehow got left behind as I did my signature "I’m always in a hurry" march over to the doors. Apparently, she ran into Robbie (after MacGyvering a way for Blake’s friend that’s a girl to be able to see better) and asked him if he knew where his dad was. "Over there, looking like a creep," he answered. Possibly my favorite moment of the night, and I didn’t even witness it first hand.
Another favorite moment that I wasn’t present for was when Christina asked her security friend if she could leave to get her cigarettes from the car, so he marked her hand with a black "21" and sent her to the bar next door, where she felt obligated to order a $5 vodka and cranberry and drink it near a group of ten people who were all friends with each other and looking at her like she was an outcast. Only then was she able to retrieve her Camels from the car. I wondered why it was taking her so long. I mean, I know she’s Mexican, but I didn’t think she’d walk THAT slow.
We hung out with Henry for awhile at the back of the club, just in time for Drop Dead Gorgeous to come on. Christina made friends with two mothers, completely out of the blue, because she practically wears a neon sign that flashes "TALK TO ME, I’M APPROACHABLE." It’s obnoxious, really. Every time I turned around that night, she had someone sidled up next to her, telling her about their recent $8,000 boob job, or the fact that they were presently spying on their daughter and have an affinity for harder music, like Pantera. I guess no one talks to me because I either look: angry, boring, or superior. I’m betting on superior.
Henry was completely in pain during Drop Dead Gorgeous’s set. "All they’re doing is screaming! They suck! It’s like they’ve been playing the same song eight times in a row!" I liked them, but I have a lot of aggression brewing inside of me, so screaming in music is something that appeals to me.
I made the eerie observation that there were at least twelve other boys there that looked like the spitting image of Robbie. I swore I kept seeing him with a different girl every time, and then I would realize that it was some other skinny kid with a pierced labret. There was one instance where I walked past one of his doppelgangers and slapped his shoulder, only to realize it wasn’t him. I shared this with Robbie, the authentic Robbie, at the end of the night, but in true teenaged ambivalence, he half-laughed and then shrugged, and I felt lame.
We ditched Henry for the VIP area during MxPx’s set. Leaning against the balcony and looking down at the kids below, I realized that I didn’t feel very VIP. Where was the champagne? Why were there no hotties in my lap? I wanted to be down where all the action was, otherwise I’d feel like a fairweathered fan. And that’s something that I definately wasn’t. Fairweathered friend, maybe. I looked at Christina and said, "Let’s blow this joint." We flipped off the VIP area and went back down into the bowels of sceneville, where we found Henry outside socializing with security and parents. He tried to make me jealous by bragging that he saw Craigery of Chiodos, and I was kind of glad that I wasn’t there for that, because what would I have done? Cried and then felt shitty for the rest of the night, that’s what.
I decided that night that I want to do a photographical study on scene kids. That’ll be my next Craigslist ad.
While we were waiting for Chiodos to come on, Mike from MxPx strolled past. A small handful of kids clung to him, begging for pictures to use as default MySpace pics, and I urged Christina to do the same. "You really like him," I reminded her. "Go ‘head!" I implored, shoving her forward. There she was, standing next to him, and both of their faces seemed to display the same pained, frustrated expressions. I had no idea what they were saying to each other, but I took the picture anyway.
"That was the most embarrassing moment of my life!" she yelled, stalking back to me and Henry. "I had no idea what to say to him since I WAS PUSHED INTO THE SITUATION, but I wanted to find something that we had in common. So, I was trying to tell him about how I saw them when they were on tour with my friends Dan and Chrissy but I couldn’t remember the name of their band back then, and he had no idea who I was talking about, so he just said, ‘It’s nice to see you again, though.’"
"Element 101," I said. "That was the name of their band." Christina slapped herself in the head and I was doubled over in laughter. "And they’re not even my friends!" I reminded her, furthering her pain. Look at her face in that picture! Whenever I’m feeling down, I just look at that, and feel so much happier.
Just then, Fate dropped the perfect example of a scene girl down right in front of us. Christina was acting all shady, attempting to take her picture in secret, but I stepped forward and said, "Why don’t you just ask her, so you don’t look like a pedophiliac stalker?" Christina agreed that this was a great idea, and made up some story about how we thought her hair was really terrific and would like a picture for our cool hair scrapbook (the scrapbook part is what I would have said, because I’m better at lying than Christina is). The coon girl was all, "OMG I did it myself too so that really means a lot!" and vogued in the standard Internet profile pose before quickly retreating with her friends. It warmed my belly to know that we made her feel good about herself, because I know how nervous I was all the time back then about fitting in. No, seriously. I was all, "Are the bands of my braces the right color this time? Is it lame to drink 2 percent? Should I not be shaving lines into my eye brows? OMG suicide."
A tall man with long wavy hair walked past and Henry proudly boasted, "That’s my new friend. He likes Pantera." I guess Henry’s bandanna deluded that guy into thinking that Henry was worthy of chatting with outside the club. I told Henry that Christina had also befriended him earlier in the VIP area (seriously, I turned my back for five seconds to see if I could spy Henry down below, and next thing I know, my spot is lost to some tough-skinned man who surely owns a Harley, and Christina’s talking to him like he’s her favorite uncle). Christina tried to act like he was better friends with her, but seemed crushed that he only told Henry he has a prosthetic leg.
Seconds before Chiodos came on, Christina arranged for a photo-op with her favorite bouncer, who for some reason really took a liking to her. The spell she casts on people can be very annoying at times.
Chiodos. Oh, Chiodos. I don’t even know what to say, really. Of course Henry refused to follow us into the undulating wall of kids, choosing to keep his feet firmly planted at the back of the club by the red-haired merch girl who had shitty signs perched on her booth, making Christina decide to leave a comment on Chiodos’ MySpace, alerting them to the rudeness of their merch girl and that whoever’s dick she’s sucking, it’s not worth it.
I’m too old to be getting all up into the pit, too vain to be suffering a broken nose, and too aggressive to be warding off flailing limbs without landing myself in jail, so we opted for a spot with a great view and sufficient personal space. It was perfect.
Every time Craigery threw back his head and arched his back into a gutteral roar, I laughed, knowing that somewhere behind me, in the darkness of the club, Henry was grimacing and rubbing his temples. He’s admitted numerous times that he enjoys their music, but hates the screaming. I love it. I also harbor more aggression than Henry does though, as evidenced today by the bloody knuckle I left the house with.
The sound was so fucked up at the beginning that I couldn’t even tell what the first song was. They quickly got it straightened out and it was pure insanity from there on out. I had goosebumps up to my scalp and was on the verge of tears the entire time. Eventually, they played "Baby, You Wouldn’t Last a Minute on the Creek" and I lost it. Completely fucking lost it and I let the tears fall. It felt good. Clearly I wasn’t hugged enough as a child.
Toward the end of the show, a young kid who looked like Gerard Way pre-MTV exploitation decided to stand behind us and scream things like, "CHIODOS SUCKS! NEVERMIND, CHIODOS RULES!" and then he’d go on to chat with his friends like he was in a fucking coffee house about how he couldn’t believe he had to go to school the next day and all he wanted to do was go home and take a three hour bath. THEN GO DO THAT, ASSHOLE. Eventually, Christina turned around and said, "I paid $25 to hear this band play, so if you want to talk how about standing back there?" It was an awkward moment, the two of them staring at each other, before Christina finally turned back around. He stood there dumbly, with his mouth half-opened, like he really wanted to say something shitty but couldn’t think of anything. I figured at the very least, I’d wind up with some gum or a cigarette butt in my hair, but there was no backlash.
By the end of the set, I pretty much wanted to kill myself. I can’t explain what it is about those guys, but they make me feel so emotionally fragile. They make me want to simultaneously break a lamp over my head and hug a kitten. They make me wish I could run away instead of being a lowly data processor. They make me want to paint pictures with my own blood and then hold hands with someone I love.
Today I realized, "I would give up my tickets to the Cure to see Chiodos again" and it was a monumental moment in my life.
[I know not everyone is a fan of screaming, and this was the only song of theirs sans screaming that I could find a video for. See how I cater?]
When I left my job Thursday night (technically Friday morning), my gas light flickered on. I don’t pass any gas stations on the usual route I take home, so I made a right, hoping it was the correct one since I couldn’t see what I was doing. (I totally should not have been driving without some kind of seeing aid.)
I misgauged my location and while the road I chose led me to the road I wanted, it spilled me out right in front of a section that was blocked off for construction. Unable to make the left, I was forced to turn right, which brought me closer to the seedier parts of town. I’m only on this particular road in the daylight, so I was struggling to see where I was going, and wasn’t even sure if any gas stations were nearby. Through my squinting, I made out the red and yellow blur of a Shell sign, so I pulled in with relief.
Digging through my wallet, I discovered that Henry never returned my credit card (he used it to go grocery shopping, since I always have more money than him because I’m the best) so I had to use the one for our joint account. While I was fumbling to key in the PIN at the pump, an older black man shuffled through the deserted (and very, very dark) lot toward me.
"’Scuse me, miss? I ain’t mean you no harm, but I was wondering….if you could let me pump your gas for you, maybe give me a few dollars in return? I’m homeless, see — just temporarily! I don’t like to be begging so I try to do things to earn the money, see? I haven’t eaten in about two days."
He kept talking, and I was only partially listening because I was too busy scanning his person for the outline of a gun. He had his hands where I could see them, and we locked eyes for a few seconds. Something told me not to be scared.
"I can’t see," I said stupidly, as the credit card terminal on the gas pump was beeping to alert the entire area that I was too retarded to enter my PIN properly.
"You ain’t pushing the button hard enough," the man said, pressing down hard on the "enter" button with the pad of one bony finger, turning his flesh white around the nail. It accepted my PIN this time and he looked at me, waiting for my answer.
I sighed and handed him the nozzle. "I don’t have cash on me," I started, but I felt the tiniest pang of guilt watching him stand there, feeding my car full of fuel, "so let me go inside and find the ATM," I mumbled. I really kind of just wanted to go home. Now I was stuck getting gas for the car and helping a person in need: two of my least favorite things.
The gas station doors were locked because it’s situated so close to the heart of the ghetto. I walked up to the window, where a large and very angry-looking black man was seated behind a sign that instructed: Cash Transactions Only. Below it was a bank teller-type drawer. It reminded me of the time Janna had to make an after-hours bread transaction through the steel drawer of another poorly-located gas station because I was majorly drunk and needed spongey carbs to soak up the stomach acid.
I pressed my face close to the speaker embedded in the bullet-proof window and begged to be allowed inside to use the ATM. The clerk gave me an annoyed glance and then shook his head disinterestedly. "If I buy something, can I have cash back?" I asked, thinking that I could use this as a really legitimate excuse to buy a pack of Camels. Possibly two. I was aware of the slight whine in my voice.
In a perfect world, he’d have jumped up, clapped heartily, and squealed, "Why sure, little white girl in the faux-fur collar! Come right on in! You own the world!" Instead, he didn’t even bother to look at me this time, giving me a second head shake, slow and deliberate.
I sighed haughtily and stomped back to the car.
"I stopped when it got to $10, just like you said, ma’am!" The homeless man was standing with his hands stuffed into his pockets, shoulders hunched against the wind. He looked like he wanted praise.
"Look, I’m sorry but the store is locked for the night so I can’t get any cash." We stood facing each other awkwardly, and I watched as his face fell. I deliberated for a second before sighing and asking, "What’s your name?"
He stood up straight and introduced himself as Mel. He whipped out his thin wallet and flipped it open, exposing his ID to corroborate his story.
"Mel, get in the car. I’ll drive you to Ritter’s, there’s an ATM there." Ritter’s is a diner a few blocks away, in a safer, more populated, area of town. They have good fried green tomatoes. I mean, as good as you’re going to get this far north.
Mel took my hand, asked my name, and thanked me. A brief flash of being filleted with Mel’s blood-crusted switchblade whirred past my eyes, but I shook it off.
I know, REALLY BAD IDEA. What person in their right mind lets a pseudo-homeless man in the hood, late at night, get in their car? Not that I’m in my right mind, but even I should have known better, and I guess I did, but there was something telling me it was okay. A vibe or something, I don’t fucking know. My paranoia works in mysterious circles: It’s broad daylight in a park full of laughing children, shiny balloons and Jesus feeding ducks and I’m cowering behind a bench, anticipating a drive-by. Midnight in the ‘hood with a strange homeless man in my car and I’m fine, thinking about grilled cheese sandwiches with pickles on the side, just fine.
Mel acted as my eyes on the short trip down to Ritters. "Oh Miss Erin, watch that car parked on the side of the road," he’d warn. "No, it’s this next block up here, Miss Erin," he’d correct. Mel was probably more intimidated of me and my (lack of) eye sight than I was of having a strange man in my passenger seat. Interspersed between Mel’s driving instructions, I learned that he has a bullet lodged in his head and one in his back, and that he lost his mother and two sisters a year ago. He has three kids: the oldest is twenty-three and the youngest is seven.
Inside Ritter’s, I used Henry’s credit card once again to withdraw money. I stood there at the front of the restaurant, holding the bill in my hand, contemplating asking the cashier to break it into smaller bills for me. "No, it’s Easter," I said to myself. I took the money outside and stuffed it in Mel’s hand.
"Oh Miss Erin," he whispered and shook his head. He started to say it was too much but I pushed his hand back into his side.
"It’s OK. You need to eat. It’s only money." I was shocking myself. I started to wonder where this uncharacteristic charity act was coming from.
We stood around under the front light of Ritter’s for a few more minutes, talking about our kids and life and suddenly I wasn’t in such of a big hurry to get home.
Because I knew I’d have a lot of ‘splaining to do.
Mel asked me to keep him in mind if I needed yard work done or my basement cleaned (I later announced excitedly to Janna that I was going to buy him) and then he let me take his picture in the dim light. After I allowed to give me a bear hug, I continued on my way home.
It was a drive full of nervousness and trepidation.
All the lights were on when I got home and Henry was dressed for work (he usually leaves a little after I get home, around 1AM or so). I always come straight home from work, so I’m sure he thought I was sucking dudes off in an alleyway.
It probably didn’t help that I was vomiting nervous giggles all up in his grill as soon as I walked through the door.
"What did you do?" he asked, the underneath of his eyes creased with concern.
I rummaged through my purse, keeping my face hidden behind a wall of hair. "Henry, don’t be mad," I urged through taut laughter. "I’m just going to write you out a check—-"
"WHAT DID YOU DO?" he asked again, sounding quite alarmed.
I couldn’t stop laughing. I tried to stall as long as I could, but he eventually made me cry uncle, just with his eyes alone.
So I told him the story. He sighed a lot throughout my tale. Sometimes he closed his eyes to keep the fear from showing. Occasionally he shook his head in horror. "And so what it all means is, I’m a good samaritan," I finished.
"No, you’re a fucking idiot. Why would you let some homeless guy in the car? AT NIGHT? AND IN THAT AREA?" He grabbed the check off me and shoved it in his pocket.
"So…you’re not mad that I gave him money?" I asked slowly, confused yet relieved.
"No. Just don’t let strangers get in the car. You know better."
Do I? It was a real good father-daughter talk. If only we had been sitting atop a Laura Ashley comforter and I was hugging a teddy bear, it could have been a great public service announcement.
"But you have to admit I was doing really good. I haven’t done something this stupid in a very long time," I said.
He was still mumbling about me being an idiot as he walked out the door for work. It could have been worse. I mean, I could have brought Mel home with me.
[Ed.Note: I know I'm a stupid asshole and highly reckless. You don't need to tell me. I will try not to do it again.]
So, Secret Santa — sorry, Holiday Gift Bag, how un-PC of me — festivities have been underway all week. I don’t know who picked me, but they’ve been doing a bang up job. On Monday, in a little red box with glittered snowflakes, sat a bejeweled beetle pin and let me just tell you that it’s practically hemorraging with awesome. I was really excited and yelled, "It has my name written all over it!" hoping my secret gift giver was within earshot. I immediately pinned it to my shirt (after sticking my flesh with it first).
Tuesday, I got a black candle burner with a fierce red dragon emblazoned on the front, the kind of angry dragon that perhaps a fan of Godsmack might have tattooed on their chest. I’m not a big fan of dragons (or Godsmack) normally, but I was pleased that they took note of the fact that I did not want anything with flowers or meat on it. I guess the opposite of flowers would be a dragon, to some people.
Yesterday, I got a really fancy-looking hot cocoa kit — a bottle filled with cocoa powder, a bottle filled with marshmallows, a whisk and a measuring spoon, and two big brown mugs. Unfortunately, it didn’t come with directions, which is a bad, bad thing for someone like me. I tried to wing it last night, but it tasted crappy so I sulked for awhile. Bob said it was probably bought at the dollar store and at first I was offended that he would make such biting accusations against my secret gift giver, but then I thought, "Who am I kidding? Bob’s probably right." Even Kim said, "That doesn’t even smell like it would be good." Still, I’m sure if it was made properly, and with milk instead of water, it would have tasted quite indulgent, like the kind of rich beverage a Queen would sip while watching thieving peasants get beheaded. The mugs are really nice, though.
I left a note on my desk before I left last night, thanking my secret gift giver. Today, there was a reply, in large typed font, in place of my note. I kind of felt a surge of excitement because it reminded me of the time I wrote a note to Santa when I was little and the next day he wrote back. On my own purple notebook paper, even! And I didn’t even find it suspicious a few days later when I watched my step-dad sign his name on a check. "Hey, you and Santa write your ‘D’s the same! Neat."
Today, I came in and found a large rectangular object all wrapped up in shiny red paper. Gum Cracker ran over and said, "Hurry up and open that! We’re all dying to know what it is!" (She thinks I’m her secret gift giver, which I was initially before I traded with Kim, so she’s been talking sweetly to me all week.)
It’s a sparkling gold fabric memo board. I was going to take it home, but then I decided it would be put to better use here. I pulled out some older photos of Chooch that I have in my desk and slid them underneath the ribbon.
"Please don’t put your serial killer friend in there—Oh, Erin, no!" Kim begged.
shiny door prizes like panini presses and a magic wand for can-opening ease,
a chocolate fountain centered around an array of fresh fruit and lady fingers in scandelous poses?
Not our department holiday party.
No, we got cold cuts drowning in a mucous-like moat, cheese slices that needed the aid of Freddy Krueger’s nails to be surgically removed from each other, a bowl of frozen fruit slices, and a giant sheet cake that had nauseating pink flowers piped precariously around the perimeter. (I deduced at once that it was going to be an offensive supermarket bakery cake, so I walked past it with my nose in the air.) We got scratch off tickets and Tina’s hair collar and a platter of bland cookies that were at least moist and not stale like I had initially suspected.
The cheese lasagna was a real treat, though.
1. A dayshifter who sits next to me. I rue the days she works late because she laughs like an engorged elephant cock is lodged in her throat and she’s trying to summon her inner Vesuvius to phlegm it back up. She handles a runny nose like your typical Teamster: loud, wet and crackly, like a bowl of exploding Rice Krispies is draining down her throat. She’s nice though.
2. Hey Tina, ever since you switched to the day shift, something really confusing and alarming has arrested me: I think I like you. Not in a ‘Hey, let’s go French in a bathroom stall’ kind of way, but in a ‘You’re over here talking to me yet I have no urge to inflict any bodily damage.’ But no, I’m not sad that I wasn’t sitting at your table. And while I imagine playing games with a bullyishly dominate personality such as your own is a dream come true for some (like perhaps a tribe of indigents who have never played games before) I’m not jealous that your table was playing Taboo, as rousing and scintillating as it sounded.
3. Big Bob. He stole Collin’s Hot Pockets and made him cry.
4. Non-Big Bob’s plate of meat goods were a little too close to me. I felt violated and kept imagining someone gagging me with that slab of ham.
I was happy to be seated at a table of socially capable people — Lindsay, Bill, Brandie, and (Non-Big) Bob. However, we were joined by Stanley. I am fortunate to not have to deal with him because he works during the day and sits over by Bill and Lindsay. He has no filter, kind of like a child, and random strings of rudeness spray from his mouth in fairly consistent intervals. When we were walking up to the Mezzanine, one of the more heavy and elderly employees was up ahead, taking each step with deliberate slowness. Stanley yelled up, “Hey, Donna, we need to get you an escalator.” Someone behind him called him on his rudeness, only making him justify himself. “What? It’s true! Donna needs an escalator!” If I had to deal with that brand of idiocy for eight hours a day, one of us would have lost our job by now.
Stanley spent a good fifteen minutes diligently rubbing off five scratch off tickets, and even after inspecting them closely above his head, he still found reasonable cause to have Lindsay double-check. I took a picture of his crotch from under the table. Sadly, no boners arose from the rub-off frenzy.
And Bob, poor Bob; he stared off into the distance most of the time, mourning his other half’s absence. (Collin called off.) He seemed lost in thought, and I wondered if he was thinking about all the nights he and Collin spent playing their little celebrity chain game to pass the time while braiding daisy chain crowns for each other’s heads.
One of the games everyone (and by everyone I mean the Daytime Clique) was playing consisted of taping the name of a celebrity to each player’s back, and then everyone had to take turns asking a question to find out who they were. I told Bob it would be a good game for him and Collin to play and he lit up. “You’re right! I didn’t even make that connection!” Then he smiled to himself for awhile, probably rewinding the Collin-montage in his head.
Bill spoke of foreign-sounding things for awhile before I realized he was speaking in baking-tongue, while Lindsay smiled at me like an adoring fan and laughed at all of my antics, like when I took a picture of this guy who I have never seen before in my life, but supposedly he’s part of our department and works upstairs (if you want to take Bill’s word for it) and then ten minutes later I blurted out, “Oh shit, I think I made myself have a crush on that guy!” Lindsay giggled. In my head, I dubbed her my new work BFF. I’m not sure who the old one was. Bill perhaps, even though working opposing shifts has really driven a wrench in our rapport.
He doesn’t even bring me brownies anymore. I bet he brings some for Tina, in tiny baskets lined with rich Italian linen. Well, they can have each other.
Kim approached our table and asked why we weren’t playing games. Maybe it was just me, but I thought it was pretty obvious that our table was way too cool for parlor games, at least the ones that didn’t involve heavy betting and liquor. “We’re playing our own game,” I said. “It’s where everyone tells me how cool I am.” I smirked appropriately and Kim acted like she was about to be sick.
Since I pitched in a devastating twenty dollars to this elitist shindig, I gave myself a goal of “eat more than you paid for,” but the party started at 11AM and I just really wasn’t hungry. So in the end, I probably only ate $5 worth, which jacks me right off. (However, later on that evening, I had a piece of leftover lasagna for dinner. This is how it was made possible: ”Tina, you know how you’re always looking for a reason to leave your desk?” Tina looks at me, slightly frightened, before cautiously saying, “……yes?” I jump in for the kill. “Will you get me lasagna?” What? I didn’t want to lift that big pan-y thing out of the fridge! So Tina did. And it was decent.)
Then it was time to go back to work. Most people offered to help clean up, but I just got up and left.