Sal

She came over last night. Texted first.

Hey you gonna be home 2night?

Yes, I’ll be there by 7 for damn sure – hopefully sooner. What’s up?

Holler when you get settled we can have a nightcap

Sounds good.

~

I’ve only met her twice. She lives across the street and is a friend of my roommates. We sat outside, laughing and toking and sipping alcoholic beverages, trading stories around a fire. (Well, I mostly listened and laughed as Sal and one of my roommates traded stories and bantered.)

I’d ignored her Thanksgiving text.

Hey this is sal across street. I’m making yummy food & watching football if you wanna come over

I heard the soft alert. Picked up the phone. Discovered my roommate must have given Sal my number. Swiped to read the text. Read the text. Turned the screen back off. Flipped my pillow over for a new, cooler side. Smooshed my face back into said pillow. And went back to sleep.

Though I apologized only a couple hours later and was honest about what my day looked like (this time of year is rough on me, y’all, but she was also alone), she hadn’t spoken to me since. And, of course, I’d read into that, but I shouldn’t have.

So this time, I immediately responded. “Sounds good. :-),” was my reply, even though it didn’t. Sound good, that is. It’s fucking cold out, and I knew she’d wanna hang outside. I was hungry. Grumpy. Sleepy. Itching to read my third book in as many days.

But Sal is lonely…no, starved for attention and affection is more like it. Polite. And harmless, if occasionally flirtatious. The roommate she’s closest to was out of town, and the other roommate hides in his room more often than not. So this would just be me. Me and Sal.

~

I get home from work, tend to the kittyboys, bust out the leaf blower to clear the back patio and pool cover, use the bathroom, wash my hands, pop open a sour, and let Sal know I’m home.

I perch myself on a kitchen stool and try to focus on the words of the book in my hand as I wait. Half an hour. Not really frustrated, but wishing I knew if I had time enough to eat.

I’m out back

As I’m opening the sliding glass door from the dining room to the patio, I see Sal standing there, slightly stooped over and cupping her hands to coax a flame from her lighter to the tip of her cigarette. She’s tall: a good six inches taller than me, at least. Sturdy, but not in the way “creative” authors use “sturdy” as some innovative and less-offensive term for “fat.” No, the woman is sturdy. Strong. I don’t know what hair, if any, she has. It’s winter, and I’ve only ever seen her with a hoodie on, over a beanie. No stragglers peeking out. She’s wearing tan colored overalls. The hoodie she’s donned over that is orange, and her beanie is gray. Fuchsia slippers adorn her feet. That’s right: slippers.

She has some mystery foot ailment, you see. I heard hints at it on the first night I met her, but last night she explained.

Doctors don’t know what ‘n the hell’s wrong with my feet. Open wounds. Blisters-like, but not blisters. They’re hard. Can’t stand them fuckin’ shoes any more’n I have to, so I put on my slippers soon ‘s I get home. Reckon I’ll lose my feet one o’ these days. But for now, these slippers sure are nice.

Sal, would you like to sit down?

Naw. I’m use ta standin’, but thanks.

Sal fires up a joint and puff-puff-passes it right on over to me. Of course, I oblige. And she chats.

And chats.

And chats.

That’s all Sal wanted, really, all she needed: someone to talk to. Not necessarily with, but to. And to know that that someone was listening, actually and actively listening. She’d first arrived under the pretense of borrowing something from one of the sheds.

Promise I have permission. Told her I needed a scale, and she says there’s one on the shelf in her shed.

HOLY shit! Holy SHIT! *Sal emerges from the shed, holding aloft a bulky black scale.* I told her it was for WEED. I could stand on this thing! I mean, I’d break the motherfucker, but point is I could fit both my feet on this som’bitch.

That scale was a source of random jokes over the course of the next hour or so, but her true purpose was to chat. No, to not be alone. If only for a little while.

~

The longer she was there, the happier I became. And not because of the herb. I didn’t let myself partake enough to be too far gone. I just became aware of how special it was to her to not be alone for a while, and I indulged in that feeling a bit myself. Allowed myself to be happy and present, rather than silently willing time to fast-forward to a not-so-distant future point when Sal’d be gone and I’d be alone again.

Sal’s forty-nine years old. Did I tell you that? A forty-nine year old self-described “uber butch” lesbian, who tries really hard not to flirt with me but would “eat [me] from sundown to sunup” if I let her. She’s actually cut it out, so I can relax and enjoy conversing. (First night in her presence was rough, lemme tell ya. She was relentless.)

She filled me in on weighty chunks of her life story last night.

Her father molested her as a child. For ten years. Ten. Fucking Years. The state finally found out when she was twelve. (That’s right. TEN. YEARS. By the time she was TWELVE. Let that shit sink in.) No thanks to her mother, who knew all along and said nothing. Did nothing. She was placed in foster care, group homes, but ran away and struck out on her own at sixteen.

Her relationships have composed of a series of women whom she busts her ass for, remodeling kitchens, constructing retaining walls, designing elaborate landscapes, building furniture to desired specifications, staining and restaining this surface and that. Only to be brushed aside when the last project on the list gets checked off. The last one was so nuts, she locked Sal in their bedroom (with her own children witnessing it all) for twelve hours. Barricaded her there. Then called the police on Sal and had her jailed, making all these wild accusations about her life being endangered. Even the woman’s kids reported on Sal’s behalf that their mother was the crazy one, here.

~

There were tears in Sal’s eyes as she told me of her adoptive parents. She’s going to live with them in Upstate New York, where she’s from. Moving sometime before Christmas.

She just met them a couple of months ago and went to visit them for a couple of weeks.

My dad has cancer. I know this is gonna sound bad but I don’t mean it but I do but I was hoping that som’bitch would die while I was in the area. So I could poke that motherfucker and make damn sure he’s really dead.

Turns out, the woman watched Sal grow up. She was married to Sal’s father before Sal’s mother was. Sal’s father cheated on her with Sal’s mother. This woman never had children and always hated the way Sal was treated. Watched her grow up…from a distance. Even attended her ballgames. But never said a word. Not even when Sal could have used somebody when she went into the system at twelve.

But the woman is there for Sal now. The woman and her husband, both. And they’re – no shit – adopting Sal. Formal, legit, legal papers are being drawn up, so Sal will have the family – the parents – she’s always longed for. She already calls her “mama.”

She was so excited. So fucking excited. Her eyes were filled with it – this giddy, unvarnished excitement that we tend to call “child-like.” But why can’t adults feel that way, too? Yes, there’s a lot to Sal that can be considered “child-like” and under-developed. But she’s also a grownass woman, one that has lived her whole life in search of someone to love her. Need her. Cherish her. Value her. Parent her. Nurture her. And by god, her excitement and relief and hope and regret and optimism and fear were palpable. Palpable. 

She tried to apologize, and I had to stop her. Express to her how special this all is and how I’m sharing in her excitement and hope.

You’re fun, Stephanie. *smiles genuinely at me* Really fun. This was fun – thank you for talking to me.

No, Sal. Thank you. Really.

~

Sal left me with more jokes about the incongruous scale, hopes that her old beater truck is up to the several-hundred mile journey ahead, and half a joint.

I shall enjoy it this evening, while reflecting on Sal and her journeys past, present, and future. And the little, tiny slice of her life I’ve gotten to share in before she moves on to her next chapter.

Or perhaps I’ll invite her over and actively engage…save the reflecting for days Sal-past.

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Holy epiphany, Batman.

I just figured it out. Hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Why I’m craving to be social. Why I refuse to hide myself away anymore. Why it’s like a breath of fresh air, even in the otherwise oppressive city fumes.

It was him. That gingerfuck. I was cloistered, sequestered, denied, hidden for over a year.

And now that I’m free, motherfucker I’m free. And I’ll be damned if I hide anymore (corners, notwithstanding). And damnit, I’m loving every. fucking. minute. of it.

Don’t ya just love a good epiphany?

More to come.

The Horse is (Not) Alright

Exiting the roundabout, I crane my neck.
I have to see the horse, traffic be damned.

He stands there in his meadow-like pasture, outwardly indifferent to the traffic.
Selectively nibbling on the verdant grasses and sweet-smelling flowers, he’s alive.

The horse is alright.

How do I know the horse is a he?
He’s strong, muscular, virile, powerful, secure in his solitude.
Those are masculine traits.
Aren’t they?

Another long day, another fretful drive “home.”
Please let him be there.
I only need to see that

The horse is alright.

Exiting the roundabout, I hold  my breath.
Craning my neck, I scan the field.

Nothing.

I risk another look.
Fuck it; if he’s not alright, I’m not alright.

The horse is not alright.

I can’t find him.
Has he given up?

Frustrated and empty from his solitary jaunts,
Today, he doesn’t leave his stall.

His handlers cajole and prod, first sweet talking, now scolding.
You need to get outside, horse. It isn’t good for you us to see you holed up inside all day.
Keeping to yourself.
Why don’t you go outside, seek new grasses and flowers.
And pretend you aren’t still keeping to yourself.

The horse is not alright.

I enter the roundabout with trepidation.
If he’s not there today…
If the horse is not alright…

Exiting the roundabout, my arms tremble on the steering wheel as I turn to look.
He’s there. He’s there.
I exhale a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding,
Dash away tears I didn’t realize I’d been shedding.

And I breathe a sigh of relief,
Of grateful reassurance, because

The horse is alright.

The Ubiquitous 2016 Wrap-Up / Navel-Gazing New Year’s Post

The ‘net runs rampant with posts about how 2016 is the most terrible year ever to be had. No, not the years of the Bubonic Plague outbreaks. Not the years of the Holocaust. Not the years of Genghis Khan’s hordes. It was 2016: the year we lost certain celebrities, the year of yet more unfortunate film adaptations and remakes, and then the year Trump became President Elect of the United States. Tragic? The latter, for sure. The former happens all the time. It’s called life. Sucks, yeah. Any loss of life is tragic for the individual and his families. But come on. The loss of my dear Leonard Cohen and isn’t enough for me to call 2016 the worst year on record.

Fine, I glossed over the Trump bit. That was intentional. I don’t wanna talk politics, but if you wanna know how I feel about him, specifically – I’ll just say – fuck that guy. And not in a fun – I wanna do you all night long kinda way. But with like a mile long, herpes-infested cucumber-up-the-ass kinda way. That opinion has nothing to do with politics, by the way. (Okay, that’s not 100% true.) But it tends to spring forth from a woman when a man tries to grab her by the pussy because he’s a slimy-ass rich celebrity who thinks he can get away with it, because he can. And is my little STD-ridden cucumber fantasy hypocritical? Yes, I’m aware. That is all.

~

So. That’s the Internet’s 2016. My 2016 was far less focused on celebrities, and actually far less focused on Trump that my little rantlet makes it sound. A couple of Very Important People encouraged me about how well I’d done this past year, not to mention all the encouragement I received here from the WordPress fam. But the thing is, the saying, “I’m my own worst critic” is an adage for a reason. Upon reflection, I’m thinking they were right. It was messy (isn’t life supposed to be?), but I did make progress. Sure I want it to happen faster, cleaner…Right. Fucking. Now. But that’s not how shit goes down. In my typical random fashion, here’s some shit that did go down in my 2016.

Divorce – Yep. Let’s get that one out of the way. Surprised? “Regulars” probably are. Thing is, I was separated for somewhere between 4 and 5 years. But he refused divorce, and I didn’t pursue legal channels to enforce it. So I was stuck. In so many ways, I was stuck. 2016 was the year I finally asserted myself, broke the toxic patterns that had ended our marriage and stood up for myself. It took roughly five years, but it’s now official. Now…one never marries intending for things to go down that way. We’d been a couple since I was fifteen. But if things do go sour (and they did), it’s fucking toxic to be held in limbo for so long. With the support and urging of a couple of very strong and important friends, oh and some strong doses of anxiety meds, I finally asserted myself and ended that limbo.

Therapy – I finally caved and tried therapy, after at least twenty years of decrying it as a scam. I’ve tried talk therapy as well as meds, but with all that I had going on concurrently – in addition to limited financial means – I haven’t found the right combination yet. But. I do intend to try this out again. I’m still taking Lexapro, at least until my refills from Louisiana run out (soon), and I have a handful of Xanax left. But I haven’t been able to afford new doctors yet. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get that sorted soon. So 2016 was the year I finally really began addressing my mental health.

Masturdating and Social Interaction – Along with my therapy, I also pushed myself to move beyond my boundaries. At least a bit. I took myself out to a couple of movies (Deadpool, yeah! And something with Bill Murray, because Bill Murray!). I took myself to a concert. I took myself to a poetry slam (which I haven’t told y’all about!). I took myself to Happy Hour (more than once). And I even took coworkers up on invitations a few times. I mean, this chick drank IN PUBLIC. She did not dance. She did not karaoke. (How many times does she have to say HARD LIMIT for people to get it?) But how she laughed. Oh how she laughed. 2016 was the year Stephanie hid a little less.

Quitting a Toxic – But Solid – Job & Moving Across Country – For the town I lived in, I had it made at my job. Aside from Queen Bitch, that is. But the direction things were moving in the last month or so would have had me in a new department under a brand new director with a brand new title and brand new salary. Yeah. There was no pressure at all at work. They didn’t beg me to stay or make my decision increasingly harder and more panicky each and every day. No. Not a chance. (I hope your sarcasm detectors are on and working.) Point is: Stephanie took shittons of Xanax in the last month and especially in the last two weeks in Louisiana. I met with a brand new therapist on the proverbial eve of my departure, and after an extended session, he agreed with all of my decisions. Except: he disapproved of the job I intended to accept in Oregon. It would have sapped me of my all and left me wrung out and an even greater emotional danger to myself than I already was. In the end, I agreed with him (though I had a tough time with the decision), but that has me still unemployed at the moment. I have made the move, though, and I’ve been in the Greater Portland Area since September. Newsflash: I Fucking Love Oregon. And, as yet, I have no regrets. 2016 was the year I gambled everything, turned my back on “everything I’ve ever known,” and risked staid stability to chase a dream in spite of everyone breathing down my neck what a fool I was. And I’m damn fucking proud I did.

Dispensary – Fucking right. I visited a dispensary for the first time. I’m in Oregon, dudes. What did you expect? So yeah, I got a J and a lollipot. I still have half the j left. (I may have a piss test in my near future. Yeah. Even in Oregon.) And I’m totally having the lolli if I land the job. Or at least part of the lolli, in celebration. Hm. Or maybe the other half of the j. Oh yeah! Pretty sure I’m gonna smoke it up with someone over Skype. I’ll toke over here. He’ll toke over there. It’ll be neato. Except I’ll have to find somewhere to do it, because of my “roommates.” Yeah. Remind me to tell you about them. I’m in a…weird situation. But one I’m grateful for. It’s just…fucking weird and uncomfortable sometimes. A lot of times. Anyway. Yeah. Old Stephanie never would have been brave enough to just stroll into one of those places, even though I’d have smoked whatever my friends brought out of there. I don’t see why people still think it’s such a big fucking deal. I’ve been smoking pot since…11 or so and I turned out. I still wouldn’t have gone in there. 2016 Stephanie? Dispensary-bound!

~

There’s probably more shit. I mean, it was a whole fucking year. But I need to get my shit ready for tomorrow. I don’t have a real job yet, but I do have a little side gig in the afternoons. Tutoring some kids on algebra and science. It’s not much, but at least it’s something for now.

I don’t do resolutions, so I ain’t making promises about writing. But when I come back, I’ll maybe tell ya about Oregon stuff. Oh! Oh! And I’ll leave you with a lovely piccy taken right here in Oregon, this very day.

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Accidental Penis: A Counter Stain

One of those standard update thingies.

So. Great progress in some ways. None at all in others. Let’s get to it, so I can get it off my chest. Kind of like the pain in the everything bra that hits the deck as soon as I get home every day. I can feel it there, driving me crazy, all fucking day. So maybe I can get some mental shit off my chest, and I’ll feel a bit of relief? Doubtful, but let’s try it anyway.

House Stuff

The house goes on the market tomorrow morning. Sign in the yard, MLS, Zillow, the whole nine. Well. She said Zillow usually takes three to five days to pick new listings up. But after that, it will be available for any google search. Sweet biscuits.

She said houses are selling fast in my neighborhood, but agreed with me that having only two bedrooms and one bathroom will make it harder than most to sell. That’s fine – I anticipated that from the moment I bought the place.

She offered me a full percent less on her commission than I anticipated, so I didn’t even negotiate that. I was gonna try to knock her down half a percent, but she did way better than that on her own.

She also named the exact list price I was going to suggest (I’ve been researching comps for ksofmusemeweeks). We both know it probably won’t go for that, but it gives me room to negotiate without fearing dropping below my bottom line.

So tonight, I do the final touches: tucking stuff away in closets, mopping everything one more time, water the plants and put the hose away, clearing the back deck, tidying the storage room, etc. Then I’m gonna take a much needed superlong soak in the tub and hit the hay.

She’s meeting me at the house at 9:00 AM in the morning. She said we’ll do all the paperwork then, photograph and video everything, then go ahead and toss the sign up. Weeeeeeeee. Here we go!

Job Stuff

Fucking sucks. Still no feedback from slowass corporate about the jobs I applied to in hopes of staying with my current company.

Still nothing but dead-ends on the couple hundred apps I’ve done thus far in my search. (That isn’t an exaggeration. If anything, it’s an underaggeration. Yeah. That’s a word now. Suck it.) Now and then, I get serious nibbles or even bites. A couple times, I’ve all but been offered jobs (talking only about ones that would pay enough to live there)…only for them to fall through at the last minute.

There’s time yet, as the house is only now being listed. But…I’m still nervous as fuck. I’m not sure what the hell I’m going to do if the house sells and I’m still stuck down here with the same shitty prospects. Do I gamble it all and drive my ass up there? Hoping employers will be far more amenable since I’m in situ? (And risk losing it ALL in the process?) Or do I sign a fucking six month lease on an apartment here and keep wiling my life away, waiting for change.

For now, I shall focus on the sale of the house, continue applying my ass off and bide my time.

Mental Health Stuff

I still wake up wishing I hadn’t. I struggle mightily with things I want and think I need, but feel they’re far from my grasp. Perhaps eternally so.

I’ve had some mopey days. I’ve had some weepy days. I’ve had times I’ve had to hide in the bathroom at work, so I could cry it out and compose myself.

I still think I’m a pointless waste of space, an inconsequential non-blip on the universe’s radar. I still wonder what the fuck the point of it all is.

I fight hard not to dwell on that, because I don’t have the answers. I know I have it better than so many do, but it doesn’t really help to know that. It doesn’t ease the pain in my soul. God, I sound like such a whiny little bitch. Yet, it’s how I feel.

I’m fighting. I’m not giving up. I’m not giving in. I’m not. But. Motherfuck, some days it all feels so fucking impossible.

~

So. Good things ahead. New things ahead. Things I’m nervous about. And things I’m still struggling with.

Overall. Trending upward. The trick is to keep it that way.

 

Shit Happens: Real Talk about Serious Health Issues

I told myself I wasn’t going to talk about this here. “It’s too private,” I thought, “and it’s entirely too embarrassing and uncomfortable. …no. Fucking. Way.”

But you know what? That’s selfish of me. What if someone out there is afraid like I’ve been? Too embarrassed to see a doctor and talk about what’s going on, too afraid of receiving terrible news. What if someone reads my words and, as a result, looks after his or her own health? It hasn’t been too terribly long since I would have been (genuinely) willing to die before seeing a doctor. Embarrassment and shame do voodoo on the psyche. But I’ve recently got some awesome people in my life (you know who you are, and you know how I feel) – and this community is priceless. Fucking priceless. And you have lifted me up, encouraged me and offered me a world of new perspectives. Shouldn’t I try to do the same?

Shit happens, and the sooner I learn how to roll with it better, the more chill my life will be. And I’m a chill dude, man. It’s one of the few things I like about myself: I’m chill as fuck. So yeah, why not spill my embarrassing health issue – that shouldn’t be embarrassing at all, because it’s the human body and sometimes it fucks up, or we fuck it up – and maybe, just maybe, being candid about it will help someone. The more willing we are to speak openly about the things that scare or embarrass us, the better prepared we will be to move forward and heal. Knowledge is power, but it takes communication to gain that knowledge. Let us communicate.

If you’re squeamish, back away now. Back away. And if you’re not, then you’re about to see another layer to the title I used.

~

I have a lot of health problems. I’d say each of them is not a big deal, but stacking them all together gives me really bad days sometimes. But I’ve learned to deal, push it out of my mind, compartmentalize the fuck out of things, and keep on keeping on. Granted, I’m not always very good at it, but for the most part I try not to dwell on things.

Lately I’ve been seriously kicking ass. For me. I’ve been on a really good track to improve my life, and I’m getting good feedback and results. Personally, professionally, whatever. I’ve been hesitantly optimistic.

Did I say I’ve been kicking ass? I have been. Fuck it, I’ll own it. I’m nowhere near where I need to be. I’m only just beginning. But we all have to start somewhere.

Only now, my ass is kicking me. Yeah. You read that right. Are you ready? I’ve given more than enough intro, and now I’m just stalling. Let’s go…

~

My latest health issue started about three weeks ago. Or at least, I think it did. (I’ll explain that part shortly.) I went to the bathroom. I had to, you know………………fuck, I’m so embarrassed. Fuck it. Fuck it. Let’s do this. I had to shit, right? Everyone has to shit. No big deal.

Except, there was blood.

It was only a tiny amount, though. And it was bright red. It’s not the first time that’s happened, so I’ve read about it. It’s a hemorrhoid. Simple, whatever. I pissed the fucker off, and it bled a little. Little bastard. Case dismissed.

Except, it got worse.

Over the course of a week, the tiny bit of blood grew into a small amount of blood, which then grew into a semi-scary amount of blood. Only semi-scary, though. At this point, I knew I should see a doctor. I was semi-scared, for fucks sake. But who the fuck wants to go to their doctor and say, “Yo doc, there’s blood coming out of my asshole! What’s good, homeslice?”

Yeah, not me. So I ignored it and told myself that it would go away. The thing is, you remember that bit I said earlier? That “I think it” started three weeks ago? Yeah. That bit right there. For much longer than that, I’ve been having…problems…going…to the bathroom. It’s either one or the other: I can’t go, and it hurts like a bitch…or it’s like a motherfucking faucet. Either way, I’ve been having severe abdominal cramps. Mhm. So it has occurred to me that whatever this is…could very well have started much longer than three weeks ago. Fuck, I hope not.

Anyway. I fucking ignored it. Because that’s what I do. I stick my head in the sand and pretend the bad shit isn’t happening. And I carry on smiling and laughing and cracking smartass remarks in very poor taste. Because that’s what I do. Deny, deny, deny. And carry on not taking care of myself, dumping shitty (haha that’s punny) food in my body, wallowing in bed and wasting my life away.

And now I’m paying for it. Even if it’s nothing, I’m suffering at the moment, and most likely because of my abuse of my body.

So the next week, you’ll never guess what happened! You’ll never guess! You guessed it, didn’t you? Yeah. Shit got worse. (Heh. I did it again. SHIT got worse. Get it?) It got to the point where I’d have an urge to shit. My body’s telling me I gotta go, and it makes my abdomen rumble and cramp, and it’s urgent. It feels urgent. I go to the bathroom, and what comes pouring out? Shit?

Blood.

Just. Blood. Copious amounts of blood. And it’s not as brightly colored anymore. It’s still relatively bright, but I tell myself…”just give it a bit more time. This is nothing. It will go away. You’ve just really really pissed Hank off.” (That’s the name of my friend’s asshole, but I’m stealing it.) I pissed Hank off, nothing more. No fucking way will I go to the doctor about this. I’ll fucking bleed to death first.

So the first week, I ignored it as best I could. The second week, I became terrified. The amount of blood filling up the bowl scared me. And it wasn’t bright anymore. I was barely shitting at all. For the most part, when I went to the toilet, it was Only Blood. The third week (this one), I had to start lining my underwear. Yeah. That fucking bad.

Yesterday, I went to the bathroom three times with that problem. Oh. And coupled with the blood loss, I’ve been experiencing significant dizziness, drastically increased fatigue, some disorientation, etc. Very woozy, all the time, and I have little to no appetite.

I called the doctor.

I had made a promise to call the doctor yesterday, and not only did I have to keep it, but I had finally gotten scared enough to seek treatment. The doctor got me in right away. The nurse said she’d call me back..she called me back within five minutes and asked if I could be there in fifteen. I texted my boss and left.

I told the doctor everything. He asked some questions pertaining to pain (location and severity), color of the blood, shitting schedule, etc. After I’d answered all of his questions, he said,

“You need a colonoscopy.”

I cried a little. Just a couple tears, and I practically whispered, “What about other tests first, like a stool sample?” (I’ve been researching…) And he calmly, quietly repeated,

“You need a colonoscopy.”

He sent me across the street to the hospital, to test for anemia. I bypassed admissions, no check in, no paperwork, and went straight to the lab where I was seen ahead of everyone and immediately. I don’t mind saying I cried all the way out of the hospital and all the way home. The urgency did more to scare me than anything else.

I got the results of the blood work today. In a bit of good news, I was told I haven’t gone anemic. Whew.

I have a colonoscopy Tuesday morning. I have to be there at 5 AM. And because of the prep that has to be done beforehand (drinking a tanker truck of vile liquid and subsequently shitting your brains out for hours on end), I’ll have to take both Monday and Tuesday off work.

I’m scared. Yesterday, I was really fucking scared. I shed a lot of tears. And then I got immense encouragement, which I am endlessly grateful for.

~

Here’s where I’m at now:

It could be lots of things. I could have a tear. I could have irritable bowel disease. I could have Crohn’s (don’t think so on that one). I could have angry polyps or some shit (ha). I could have colon cancer. (I watched one of the most important people in the world to me slowly die of colon cancer. He was diagnosed at 44 and passed away at 46. It wrecked me, and I’ve lived in terror of it ever since.)

Simple or complex, odds are very good that it’s something treatable. In which case, I get it treated, I heed the wake-up call and take better care of myself, and I go on about my life – more mindful than before.

And if it’s terminal, which my mind can’t help but wonder, then that will be alright, too. I’ll sell my house, quit my job, try to raise some funds, and I’ll travel and adventure until I drop dead with a smile on my face.

I can wallow in bed, feeling sorry for myself, or I can live. I choose life, regardless of the test results.

As for today, I’m going to my storage unit after work to pick up my camera. I said I’d do that today. It will be good for me. It will give me more reasons to get out of the house. Go find something beautiful and interesting, photograph it. Get back to what I used to do: finding something beautiful each and every day.

And hopefully some time next week, I’ll find out exactly what’s going on and what the next step is.

~

If there’s something you’re scared of, something you don’t want to face, especially if it’s something that presents a danger to your mind or body, it’s worth the risk to say something.

The doctor is not going to laugh at you.

Real friends will not laugh at you.

You will be encouraged. You will receive help. You will feel better. And you will know that shame and embarrassment are merely other forms of fear.

You’re worth it. There’s too much left to do. Your story doesn’t end here.

There are mountains to climb, oceans to swim, photographs to take, trains to ride, planes to jump out of, people to embrace, stories to hear, stories to tell, raucous belly laughs at vulgar jokes, souls to touch, music to dance to.

Confide in someone, be encouraged and seek help. Go to the ass doctor. Go to the gynecologist. Go to whatever doctor grabs your nuts and makes you cough. Get a finger stuck up your ass. Have satan’s claws shoved up your ladybits. Seek. Help. Now.

Your story doesn’t end here.

Now let’s dance.

What are you so afraid of?

Have you ever considered what bears and grocery stores have in common? I have. It’s fear. Bears and grocery stores have fear in common.

Some people are afraid of bears. I’m not. I have a healthy respect for them, and I know proper procedures to prevent bear encounters and protocol should I ever encounter one anyway (though I’m sure all of that knowledge would elude me at such a time). But I do not fear them. Not exactly. I mean, I was wary enough to avoid cooking when I stayed in Shoshone National Forest, or in GNP or Yellowstone, places like that. I was afraid to cook, but that was mostly because I was afraid of myself – of not being cautious enough or missing spots during cleaning. I was afraid I’d fuck it up. I didn’t actually go to sleep in fear. I happily climbed into my tent and into my sleeping bag, falling asleep nearly instantly after long days of hiking.

I’m not afraid of bears.

Some people are afraid of grocery stores. I’m gonna go ahead and assume you’ve figured out how I know. I am afraid of grocery stores. But I believe it’s less about being in public (which is a whole separate issue for me) and more about whom I may encounter there. I don’t live in a huge metropolitan area, which makes the chances rather high for running into people whom I’d rather not run into. Even so, it’s happened a disproportionate amount of times. Sometimes I’ve been so shaken up that I’ve left the store without making my purchases. I believe there was only once that I had a buggy full of groceries, and I left in a panic. But I’ve seen people I’d rather not with high frequency. My anxiety and fear ratcheted up to the point where I’d drive to the grocery (after allowing myself to run out of pretty much everything), then sit in the car in the parking lot for several minutes to an hour before finally driving away without ever getting out of the car.

I’m afraid of grocery stores.

This fear has caused me to spend more money than I can really afford (considering other shit I desperately need to take care of) and damage my health with fast food. There’s no risk I’ll run into anyone when I just go through a drive-thru and go home. But it’s not a healthy way to live, not for mind or body.

I went to the grocery store today. It sounds so simple, it’s nothing more than an inconvenience. Rightfully so. It’s pretty irrational to be petrified of grocery shopping. But I am. I have been. I went today, and I didn’t make a quick run, either. I started in produce and made my way around the store, selecting my purchases. I’ll need to go again tomorrow, as I didn’t take a list today (it was more about pushing through my fear and getting started with the basics). I got nearly everything I need. But I need a few more things. Perhaps I’ll make crawfish étouffée tomorrow.

I had a big day for me, really. I got up early (on a Saturday – what the fuck is the world coming to (I like to sleep until 3 PM or Sunday)), got dressed (that’s important to do before going out in public, or so I’ve been told), grabbed a bottle of water and hit the park. My foot still hasn’t healed (what the fuck, man), but I walked a trail anyway. Along a lake. It was so fucking humid, but it was lovely. It was lovely. The birds and the flowers and the water and the occasional breeze. Left there and went to a café (sort of), got a fruity iced tea thingy and a croissant. Then I went straight to the grocery store. I only sat in the car for about fifteen minutes (trust me, that’s good for me). When I got home, I didn’t stop. There has been zero bed or moping or bed moping today. Mowed the yard, fixed the new gravel that’s on the driveway, babied some suffering plants, and now I’m doing laundry. I need a shower so badly, but I wanna make sure most of the sweating is behind me before I do!

I kept a promise today. Promises are sacred to me. You don’t fuck with a promise unless you didn’t have a choice (and you pretty much always have a choice, so you better have a fucking good reason). I promised to work on myself today, push past the fear and do it. And I did. And I felt (feel) fantastic and optimistic afterward. I know optimism is a feeling like any other – it comes and goes with the days and moods. But for now, I’m enjoying it. And when it begins to fade again, I’ll have to push past the fear again. Today was one day. This is one weekend. I need to make it two. And keep going.

Because if I don’t – I’ll get to Oregon or Washington and nothing will have changed. I will go to work as I do here. I will drive straight home as I do here. And I will cry and mope and wish for adventure. And I will hold myself back. If I can’t push through it here, what makes me think I will there? I don’t want to move to the PNW just to continue the lifestyle I have now. What’s the fucking point of that? If I’m to live, I need to start living.

shawshank-redemption-movie-quote-dying-living-death-busy-quote

What else am I afraid of?

I’m not afraid of spiders – not majorly so. I have a massive fear of venomous ones. But little jumping spiders? They’re fucking adorable. The wolf spider I found in my garden made me scream like a little girl and literally run away. That was pretty funny. But I didn’t kill it. I let it be…and used gloves when I got back to it.

I was afraid of pubs. I pushed through it, and I’m okay there now. Not exactly comfortable, but okay.

I’m afraid of my nosebleeds. What do they mean? Dunno. But that’s the kind of thing I’m afraid of.

I’m afraid of my neighbors. Not in any dangerous sense, but in the sense that they’re there. Watching me. Judging me. Talking about me. Hell, I should just say I’m afraid of people and have done.

I’m afraid of attachment. I crave it, and yet I fear it. Because allowing yourself to be completely vulnerable exposes your soft underbelly. And some people like to stab those, repeatedly.

I’m afraid of the government, and all of its agents, because of the power we’ve given over to it.

I’m afraid of the threat of tornadoes. Always was, irrationally so. But now that one has hit my house, the fear is greater.

I’m afraid of heights, but not to a crippling extent. Not enough to hinder me from walking cliff trails in the mountains.

I’m afraid I’ll die alone. Nothing I can really do about it aside from keeping myself open to possibilities and otherwise keep on keepin’ on.

I’m afraid of missing out. Of never discovering meaning or purpose. Perhaps there isn’t one. And if there isn’t, then I’m afraid I’ll never be content with that answer. Again. Just gotta keep on keepin’ on, and keep myself open to new ideas and possibilities.

I’m afraid of suffering. I’m afraid of cancer and heart disease. Too much of it in my family, and it scares me. I need to live more healthfully and mindfully.

I’m afraid of my bad memory and what it may mean for my old age, should I make it there. Yet another thing I need to work on improving.

I’m afraid of touching crickets. When I’d go fishing, I could never bait my own hook. I could never get a fish off of a hook, either. I couldn’t touch the cricket. I’d try and try and try, then squeal and back away. Yes. I’m such a girl in some ways. In more ways than I let on here sometimes, I think. And you know what I mean. Soft. Emotional. Sensitive. Gentle. Nervous. Bashful. Afraid to touch bugs, but don’t want to see them dead. Those aren’t purely feminine traits, but fucks sake why am I trying to explain this. Anyway. Yeah. I’m more of a “girl” than I let on.

Hm. I think that’s enough for now. I’m actually in a calm, gentle, smiley mood. So don’t let all this fear talk fool you. I’m looking inward and taking inventory as I am wont to do. Today I don’t find it depressing. Today it’s like cleaning out the cobwebs and taking stock.

Now to see what tomorrow holds.

Some Words I Like

I don’t know what to write about today. I could talk about work, but I don’t feel like it. I could talk about house progress, but I don’t feel like it. I could talk about job progress, but I don’t feel like it. I’m in a “I CANNOT WRIIIIIIITE” mood, but I committed to writing today. So here I am.

And since I can’t word, I’ll let others word for me. I’m gonna share some quotes that are special to me, and hopefully you’ll enjoy them as well.

Piss off. ~ Ezekiel

One of my personal favorites.

Become who you are. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

I love this sentiment. Love it.

Nourish yourself with grand and austere ideas of beauty that feed the soul…seek solitude. ~ Eugène Delacroix

No problem here, though sometimes I fear the ideas are too grand and austere!

If I stayed here, something inside me would be lost forever – something I couldn’t afford to lose. It was like a vague dream, a burning, unfulfilled desire. The kind of dream people have only when they’re seventeen. ~ Haruki Murakami

“The answer is dreams. Dreaming on and on. Entering the world of dreams and never coming out. Living in dreams for the rest of time. ~ Haruki Murakami

It’s no secret I love Murakami. I know a lot of people think he’s overrated. To be fair, I had no fucking idea he was some famous author. Someone had Kafka on the Shore on a reading list, and I was transported when I read it. His words, his worlds, were enticing, maddening, emotional, real, surreal, transcendent. And the pursuit of his words and his ideas kept me going in dark times. I haven’t read all of his works yet – I was reading them back to back, but I had to stop because I am not in a hurry to not have any of his b0oks to look forward to.

Those two quotes above are probably self-explanatory as to why they’re meaningful to me. Dreaming and the pursuit of those dreams is what I’m clinging to right now. I cannot stop dreaming. I cannot stop pursuing those dreams. It is vital that I do not.

The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed. ~ Ernest Hemingway

Isn’t that the fucking truth? What a beautiful sentiment, and I like to think that this is part of why I’m wounded. I just hope I don’t end up destroyed…but in the end, that’s up to me, isn’t it?

Hemingway is another that is either loved or hated, and I have no shame in saying I love his work.

Quit assuming others have it better, or you have it worse. Everyone suffers tremendously in life. It’s rude to belittle someone’s suffering, thinking yours is greater. Don’t judge someone’s suffering as better or worse. A dark life can be lived brightly, because pain gave great perspective and wisdom. An average and easy life can be its own kind of tragedy, suffering a mundane deadness. A great life can spoil under great fortune. It’s hard having nothing. It’s hard having everything. It’s hard. Suffering is very personal and cannot be measured by someone from the outside. Everyone suffers in different ways. Life is not a suffering contest; the contest is for compassion. ~ Bryant McGill

I used to be a lot better at this perspective. In fact, I used to remind others about this – that you never know what others are going through, no matter what it looks like on the outside. As I’ve grown older and more storm-tossed, I’ve grown more bitter. I know this, but I’m more concerned about it now as it’s been brought to my attention by others. “Don’t get so jaded you can no longer see the light, Stephanie.” “Don’t get so self-righteous in your struggles that you forget others struggle, too.” Important reminders, and I definitely need to work harder on seeing the good in people again. I readily admit I see more bad than good, and it’s dangerous for the psyche.

Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. ~ Anne Lamott

Whew. That. Right. There. Is so fucking important. I’m incredibly guilty of passing up on experiences and opportunities because of self-doubt, self-loathing, fear, etc. I already live in regret of things I passed up for those reasons, and yet I continue to do so even now. I’m not gonna lay on my deathbed upset that someone saw my fat rolls. No. I’ll be upset that I didn’t jump in the ocean because this is my life, and I want to jump in the ocean…but I didn’t because fear. We must stop allowing fear dominion over our lives.

And finally, yet again, because I must remind myself of this on the daily:

Rollins

~

GO

A Glimmer of Hope

That’s all you need. Just a glimmer. A hint of a glimmer, even. That’s all. It doesn’t take much. All you’re looking for is one tiny hint of a glimmer…

To survive.

Life isn’t easy. Heh. What a fucking understatement. Life is a pain in the ass, that’s what. Especially when you’re an emotional brooder. I am one seriously angsty, existentially pained person. And I’m not the only one. You ponder the same things, don’t you?

Why am I here?
What’s the fucking point?
What is my purpose?
Why fucking bother?
Who am I?
What does it all mean?
What is my place?
Do I have one?
Am I even real?
What does it even mean to be real?

I don’t have answers to any of those questions. Sometimes I wish I could stop seeking them. But I also don’t wish to cease the quest. Because questing is part of the answer of “Who am I?” I’m a woman on a quest. A tiny speck in the Cosmos on my own personal quest for meaning and purpose. And when it isn’t breaking me down and crushing my lungs, it’s thrilling, exciting. The search, the quest…when I stop asking questions; when I stop searching for meaning and purpose and truth and beauty; then I cease to exist.

I just wish…that I could stop turning suicidal when I cannot find satisfactory answers to the questions that haunt me. Drive me. Push me. Tear at me. Claw at me.

I feel incomplete. And since I know not how to become complete, I devolve into a mass of emotional futility. I begin feeling that I wish I could simply cease to exist. For if there is no purpose for me, for my existence, then it should be extinguished.

But I know. I know that is the depression talking. The downswing of bipolar. What-the-fuck-ever it is. I know that’s what’s doing the talking in those dark hours of my soul.

And that’s what’s talking to you. When you feel like you can’t go another step. Take another breath. Eke out another heartbeat. That’s what’s talking: your depression.

Maybe the people in your life who were supposed to build you up and love you failed in their responsibilities to you. Maybe they taught you that you’re worthless. Useless. A no-account failure.

Maybe you made mistakes in your past, and you’ve never forgiven yourself for them. Even as everyone else around you has forgotten or moved on. Or perhaps their punishments far outweigh your crimes.

Maybe you’re all alone. Or you think you are. But guess what? If you’re here, reading this right now, you aren’t alone. Not entirely.

Listen, I’m no therapist. I certainly don’t have the answers. I’m a mess my damn self. Anyone who’s been around here a while knows that to be true. I’m a work in progress, and I always will be.

But there’s something I do know for sure: if you don’t grasp those tiny glimmers of hope, then you’re in big trouble. No one can grasp them for you. You have to reach out and grasp them on your own.

But we can show you. We can show each other. We can point each other toward the glimmers. Toward the “light.” Toward survival. Toward life.

I don’t have much. Disregarding all the first-world bullshit, I don’t have much in the way of what I think makes a complete life. But you know what? I have to recognize that part of that is my misconception of what makes a complete life. There is no one right way to live your life.

I feel alone. Completely and utterly alone. And you know what? That’s fucked up. Because I have you awesome people here. All I have to do is show the fuck up, and people come and say hi and talk to me and to each other. That’s it. No one can force me to be here. I have to do that part myself. But people point me toward this glimmer. One amazing friend in particular hassles me to show up and write. Hassle hassle hassle. And you know something? When I do, I feel better. Every. Fucking. Time. And I feel less alone.

I still go to bed alone. I still don’t get hugs and affection. I still don’t have someone to sit beside me and play video games with, or read and dissect the same literature with, or tickle each other until we nearly piss our pants.

But I’m not completely alone. And to say so would be a slap in the face to you wonderful people here. This is something I have to remind myself of daily.

I feel worthless. Pointless. Useless. I really do. It hurts, and I’m crying even typing this all out. But then I get reminded sometimes that I do have worth, even if I don’t think I do or I don’t think it’s enough. Because sometimes someone shows up here and says my words touched them. Or they understand how I feel and are glad to know they aren’t alone. And I know that feeling well. I’ve visited some of you and read your words, and I think to myself…I wish this person wasn’t going through that but fucking hell it makes me feel such a sense of relief to know I’m not alone in this. It’s not just me. I’m not some fucked up anomaly.

Maybe you feel trapped and hopeless, like you’re stuck in your current situation with no way out. Or you don’t even know what you want or how to get there. I’ve been there. I know that feeling, too.

I feel like this is all very rambly, but I’m pretty much freewriting right now. Because I had a conversation today, with one of the most important people in the world to me. And he said he was tired. Tired of life. Tired of it all. Just. Fucking. Tired. And didn’t feel there was any reason to go on anymore. And I said, you have to dig deep and discover what those things are that make you want to keep trudging forward. He said he doesn’t want to trudge. I wish I could do it for him. I wish I could do it for all of you. But all I can do is share my experiences and try to give you a glimmer of hope. And I hope with all my soul that you reach for it.

Each and every day, I tell myself: find one thing. Just one thing. And let that one thing be your one reason to get out of bed today. To keep on keeping on. Everyone can find one thing. Just. One. Thing. I got that from this beautiful post that I used to read every single day. Now I read it once or twice a month or as needed to remind myself. Please. Please read it. It’s important for those of you who struggle with me. Or if you know someone who does, maybe this will help them as it helped me. Hell it saved me. I found it because I was googling suicide. I think I googled something like, “give me one good fucking reason I shouldn’t kill myself right now.” And that showed up. And I’m still here.

Let me tell you the sorts of things I cling to, some “big” and some “small.” I put those in quotes, because anything that keeps you going is a Big Fucking Deal.

The things I “trudge on” for:

  • You. Yes, you. The one reading this right now. The community here on WordPress.
  • My friends. I actually have friends now, thanks to this space. And you mean the world to me.
  • The smell of freshly cut grass. Oh I love that smell.
  • All sorts of smells: rain, ocean, sweat, flowers, pot, clean skin, mountain air, pine…
  • The feel of rain on my face.
  • Mountain breezes and cold glacial air.
  • The crunch of autumn leaves underfoot.
  • Thick, dank forest air and the clean sweat from humidity.
  • Laughter, pure and uninhibited.
  • A purring feline nestled against me.
  • Books and words and thoughts and challenged perspectives.
  • Popsicles on 105 degree August days.
  • The new Deftones album I’ve yet to listen to.
  • I want to thru-hike the PCT.
  • I want to jump out of an airplane.
  • I want to sit on the steps of Montmatre.
  • I want to walk the cobblestone streets of Prague.
  • I want to kayak Class IV and V rapids.
  • I want to fix up an old sailboat myself, learn to sail and take that bitch for an epic excursion.

There are so many reasons, y’all. And all you need is one. One reason. One little reason for each day. Maybe it’s the same reason over and over. Maybe it’s something small. Maybe it’s something grand. But all you need is one. And I know good and damn well everyone has at least one.

Find it. Ask yourself what you live for. What your simple and grand joys and visions are. Find them. And then reach out. Reach out for those glimmers of hope. And once you’ve found them and reached for them, pursue them. I will never kayak Class V rapids, until I learn how to control my kayak in Class II and III rapids and overcome my fear of great depths in water. I will never accomplish that sitting on my ass or crying in bed all weekend.

Life is a bitch sometimes. It’s just a point of fact. It would be so easy to pull a trigger and end it all. So. Fucking. Easy. But you’re still here reading, because you’re looking for a reason not to.

Know this: the only thing that 100 percent CANNOT be changed or undone is death. Everything is in your power to change or improve upon. Except your death. You cannot change that. You cannot undo it. You cannot try again. You cannot start over. And you will never get that first kiss. You will never climb that mountain. You will never see that open air opera in Rome. You will never land your dream job. You will never learn how to bake that cake. You will never have that cottage near the forest. If you pull the trigger.

Depression is strong and deceptive. You have to fight it. Fight for your life. The glimmers of hope aren’t going to track you down and save you. You have to extend your hand. Reach for them. Then tomorrow, you can get up and take one step forward. And another step the day after.

And before you know it, you’re no longer surviving.

You’re living.

99 Bottles: An Introvert Peeks Outside Her Shell (A Whole Fucking Lot)

What up, homeslices. See how hip I am? I still say “what up” and am so gangsta I didn’t even use a question mark. Yeah, bitch.

bitch
I really just needed an excuse for Jesse Pinkman. And the word “bitch.” So here, bitches. Look how yummy he is like this. And the mood of the image. He’s subdued but intent and commanding as he precisely utters that one perfect word: Bitch. And now you know what time it is.

So. Y’all already know I’ve been pushing myself lately. More than usual, I mean. You know I had the April thing get canceled and I carpéd the fuck out of those diems (I just indecently Latined all over your faces. You’re welcome.). With the haircut. Masturdating with Deadpool. At the bookstore. At the park. At the park again. I even willfully introduced myself to a stranger! And the little turtle peeking out of the shell didn’t get her little neck cleavered! Do wonders never cease?

No.

They do not.

For the tale I am about to tell is a tale of public Stephanie in public at public places with public people doing public things.

In public.

Did I mention I did more things in public. Because I did.

I publicked my ass off. (That’s the correct way to past-tense verbify public. I know. I’m an expert on these matters.)

Ass Publicking Chapata One (That sounds so fucking wrong. So I’m leaving it.)

Rewind to Friday, April 22. That’s, what? Two Fridays ago? This dude suggested Happy Hour to me months ago, as a great way to loosen up, kick back and just enjoy life a bit. But I was adamant in my refusal. No. Fucking. Way. Was this ever going to happen. And then this dude pushed me to go “network” at Happy Hour for weeks. Relentlessly for weeks. WEEKS, I tell you! So I finally relented, but it was no easy task.

There’s a cool (and very popular) Irish pub within walking distance of my house. I’d been once before when the greatest history professor to ever walk the earth took all his Historiography grad students out for a couple of rounds on him. But that’s the only time I’d ever been.

Other than that, I was always on the outside looking in. I drive past the joint on a regular basis – in fact, I did so daily for several years.

But I was always outside.
Looking in.
At the people looking out.
At the people unwilling or unable or uncool enough.
To come in.

But this would be the day that I’d make the transition. I was fucking determined. But I was not going alone, damnit. That’s just pathetic. Single fat chick sitting alone at the bar during Happy Hour on Friday night? No.

Fuck
That
Noise

So what’s a girl to do?

Round up a posse of course.

I was having a slow work day, so I wandered around the building herding geeks. Y’all know those little decorator crabs? The ones that wander around, plucking pretty debris from the seashore and affixing it to their shells? So that they may adorn themselves in their very surroundings and be hidden and protected?

Decospidercrab.jpg

That was me.

Unwilling to remove my shell, I wandered the building plucking rogue geeks and affixing them to my shell. They followed me around like Mother Fucking Goose. I was the Pied Fucking Piper of Geeks, trying to lead them down the path of rowdy drunken carousing.

Dudes.

At one point, I had about seven geeks straggling behind me. I’d formed my own posse. And we were going pubbing.

If.

Fucking if.

If we could get The Sloth to go.

SLOTH
Does that bastard look like he’s going anywhere but to sleep?

See, these boys are a unit. And I was going to be the ultimate Dungeon Master, corralling them all for drinks and vulgarity and laughs.

Well, The Sloth would only agree to go if we could get Pookie to go.

So commenced The Hunt for Red October Pookie.

We couldn’t find him. I texted him silly pictures of The Sloth and Buttermilk doing slothy semi-gay things on warehouse equipment.

“LOLOLHAHAHA” came the mature and measured response.

Posse in tow, we rounded corner after corner until we had Pookie in our sights.

Naw man. It’s not pay week.

I told him I’d buy the first round.
He blushed.
I said, “I’m not being weird, you little fucker. Bring your damn girlfriend.”
He blushed again.

Well, I’d HAVE to bring my girlfriend.

I stared at him.

He blushed harder.

I stared at him.

He looked down at his book.

I stared at him.

I just really can’t. I’m broke! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!

“Pookie,” I glared into him with rage in my eyes and condescension dripping from my voice, “you’re dead to me. Now The Sloth won’t go. And then Buttermilk will back out. And then no one is going to go.”

What about Thundercat and Lebowski?

“I asked THEM before I asked YOU. But Thundercat is home alone with his spawn tonight, and Lebowski has to go to some viewing for a dead uncle he never met. You’re dead to me, you understand?”

As I walked away, he was laughing, blushing and apologizing.

I flipped him off without looking back.

So, as anticipated, everyone backed out. I nearly had The Sloth convinced, until he remembered he had other plans. Looking up at me from the filthy warehouse floor, looking every bit like he’d just disappointed the potty-mouthed version of Mother Teresa or gotten caught sniffing his finger after scratching his ass, all wide eyed and hesitant, he tells me…

Aw fuck, I wouldn’t have been able to go even if Pookie went. I promised Dangerhole I’d drink with him tonight.

“That’s a thing? Are you fucking kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me right now, Sloth?”

Noooooooooo. It’s his drinking weekend, and last time I wasn’t there to keep him calm, he broke someone’s face and went to jail. That cost us a month of drinking money, man. I’m sorry, but I promised.

I called them all lousy motherfuckers, told them to enjoy their weekends jerking off in their mothers’ basements and stalked off. This whole mission lasted about two hours.

I had a decision to make, and fast.

To Happy Hour alone? Or to Home?

And then I remembered: you don’t have a home. You have a dwelling. A domicile. A house. Is that where you want to go? You want to go cry in bed? That’s preferable to going out just because you don’t have the support of a group of semi-friend stoner geekboys from work? You barely fucking know them anyway.

Decision made, I clocked out early and determined to open the place. It opens at 4:00, and I knew I simply Would Not Go if there was already a crowd before I got there. So if I was gonna tackle this, I was gonna do it on my own terms.

Fuck the Geek Squad.

The fears we don't face become our limits
I’m done being limited by my fears.

Everything happened in slow motion:

I pulled into the parking lot.

I braked to a stop.

I put the car in park.

I looked at the guy unloading liquor from the back of a pickup.

I looked at him look at me.

I killed the ignition.

I palmed my keys and wallet.

I pushed my shades atop my head.

I opened the door.

I stepped out.

I closed the door.

I walked to the front (because I wasn’t a regular and didn’t realize there was a back entrance).

I opened the door.

Pub Life

I observed the old men at the bar.

I chose a stool near the register.

I sat on it.

I put my things down.

I made eye contact with the regulars observing me, the stranger.

I smiled back at the bartender.

Do y’all have cider?

Stella, please.

Thank you.

I opened my very first bar tab.

It’s Stephanie.

Haha no, I’m not new in town. I’m just new. To going outside.

Cue laughter.

A big exhale.

My first sip.

And I was in.

Pub Life

Listening to the old men, who trickled in one at a time, talk about golf and wives and exes and crooked dicks and business trips gone wrong.

Right about the time I agreed to try Irish Champagne (apparently just some sort of Irish beer mixed with cider), Wes plopped down beside me.

Irish Champagne
Irish Champagne

Soft. Blonde. Blubbering. Gay. Twenty-something. College student. Clearly a regular. At some point, he simultaneously cracked open a Miller Lite and a lame joke. I laughed politely.

Then he showed me the picture he had up on his phone, “That’s my granddad.”

Is he flexing?

“Haha yeah.”

“Why is he in his tighty whities?

“Haha Haha………Haha. I don’t really know. I took a picture of the picture, and I think he must have been posing for grandma back then.”

The bartender, a chick, chimed in, “So that’s where you get it from.”

Haha no way, he was definitely posing for grandma, not some guy.

Laughter.

Much much laughter.

“That’s not what I meant,” she said, “although…but I meant the flexing in your underwear.”

He laughed and agreed that must be the case.

Wait. Wait. You flex in your underwear? And people…people know this about you?

“Hahahahayeah, wanna see another one??”

And from that point forward, I called him Flexy Wes and finally just Flex.

At some point in the midst of all this, I took a phone call. Laughing my ass off, I went to one of the tables by the window for the call. And I saw it. I became aware of what I was doing.

I was one of the ones on the inside.
I was looking out.
At the ones looking in.
I was looking out.
At the ones unwilling or unable or afraid.
To come inside.
I wasn’t one of them anymore.

By the time Flex left, I was about four or five ciders in and was feeling righteously buzzed. Also, the Friday night crowd was fast filling up the place, and I felt it was time to make my exit.

Fucking proud of myself, too.

I sat in my car for quite a while, waiting out the buzz. It was worth it. Totally worth it.

Ass Publicking Chapata One, Part Two

I got home. Changed clothes. Plopped down in bed. Updated stupidityhole about my “networking.” Played on my iPad.

And then The Anklebiter texted (about two hours later). She had been updating me off and on throughout the evening, telling me that she would perhaps, maybe, eventually make her way to the pub. But she never did. She kept trying to get me to go to this big party. I refused.

And now she was texting.

“Where are youuuuuuuuuuuu?!???????? Are you in bed???????????????”

I replied, “How did you know?”

“LOLOLOLOL that’s where I’d be! Come back! We’re here! Pleeeeeease! It’s my biiiiiiiiiirthdaaaaaaaaaay!”

So you know what I did?

I went back out. Met up with The Anklebiter and her friends. Wished her a happy birthday. Had more drinks. Listened to the band. Had more laughs.

And had a fanfuckingtastic time.

Booyah. First Happy Hour a rousing success.

Ass Publicking Chapata Two

Chapata Two occurred this past Friday. And it was happening because of me. You see, I had asked a certain group of people to do Happy Hour with me before I ever tried to get the Geek Squad. But most of them had prior engagements and promised they could go out next week. But I couldn’t wait. I had to go that first night – it was a now or never kinda thing.

I no longer wanted to go, though. I knew it would be fun, but I had a raging day-after headache from the Modest Mouse concert I’d gone to the night before. I always have head-splitters on the day after a concert. (And I went to that fucker by myself, was the only one standing in my section, danced and sang and cheered and had a blast. An absolute blast.)

But I took care of my headache, drove home from out of town, gave myself a pep-talk and went to the pub.

And this time was soooo different.

It was me, Anklebiter and Her Little Dog Too, Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong, The Woman Formerly Known as Crankles, UberGeek McHottiepants, and even my supervisor, McFly, for a half hour or so. (Thanks a lot, Anklebiter.)

I drank.

A lot.

And I laughed so hard my stomach and chest hurt.

And then I drank some more.

A lot more.

And then I laughed so hard we became that table. We were outside, under the covered patio part, and we were the obnoxious ones.

And it was one of the most fun nights I’ve had in my adult life. Hands down.

I got there before anyone else – had to open the place to quell my anxiety. Got a cider or two in, and the old men from the first Happy Hour talked to me this time. Called me a snob for drinking cider. And I called them cheap old fucks with their PBR.

When the crew got there, UberGeek McHottiepants made me follow through on my promise to do an Irish Carbomb with him. HOLY. SHIT.

Everyone laughed and asked, “how was it?”

TERRIBLE!

AND AWESOME!

And the antics continued. There’s photographic evidence of me cringing as I slammed the carbomb with Uber. There’s photographic evidence of me sucking on a lime wedge after slamming Patron with Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.

It was hilarious and vulgar and fucking fantastic. Uber and I made some of the dirtiest jokes…but we were at a separate table for a bit, so we had a blast making the others wonder what was so fucking funny.

Once the band started setting up, everyone wanted to leave and go to Anklebiter and Her Little Dog Too’s house. Everyone except Little Miss. She bailed. (And McFly had been long gone, though he did witness the carbomb.)

Ass Publicking Chapata Two, Part Two

I went because I didn’t have a choice. Uber and I couldn’t drive yet, so we rode with The Woman Formerly Known as Crankles over to Anklebiter’s place.

There was talk of Karaoke and mixed drinks.

But we mostly chilled and talked about the concert I’d gone to the night before, concerts, 90s bands, gardening.

We listened to music. They learned how vulgar I was (this group had no idea – well Uber did. And Little Miss did. But the rest had nooooo idea).

I only had one more drink once we got there, because I needed to sober up to drive.

It was nice. Chill. We played with the dogs and had a fuckton of laughs.

And it made me question my judgment of The Anklebiter. She’s not what I thought she was. She’s not what she presents as. Well she kind of is, but not in a malicious way.

Before we left, Anklebiter had us all take a group selfie. One of them has a dog licking my boob. And the other one has Her Little Dog Too’s bare abdomen in it.

Grandma’s eyebrows.

Not low enough for Grandma’s mustache.

Ass Publicking (Future) Chapata Three

And tomorrow night?

Happy Hour at a Mexican restaurant for three dollar margaritas with The Anklebiter and The Woman Formerly Known as Crankles.

I don’t want to go. It’s going to be extremely crowded. But The Woman Formerly Known as is like me in the sense that she’s trying to put herself out there for the first time. I never knew that. But she shared it with me, because I told them it’s what I was doing. They knew, anyway. I’ve rejected everything I’ve ever been invited to – granted, it has never been much. But I’ve never participated.

So. Even though I hadn’t gotten along so well with The Woman Formerly Known As back when I first started working here (she reminded me of my mother – and that’s a bad thing), she’s working on herself just like I am. And she asked me to go, so I’m gonna go.

And you know what?

I already know I’m gonna have fun.