The Cube Test

Have y’all ever heard of The Cube Test? It’s going around the Internet again right now – all over Facebook, Buzzfeed, you name it. I’d never heard of it before (no big shock for me to not have heard of something). Some are calling it a Japanese psychology game. Others claim it has origins in ancient Greek or even Sufi psychology. I don’t really know, and I haven’t researched it. But I thought it was nifty. I love this kind of shit.

You’re presented with a series of questions that are meant to make you create a mental picture. You have to keep each of your answers in mind as you go along, because you’ll need those answers in the end. They’re supposed to reveal things about your psyche, about the kind of person you are. I found some of it accurate, and some of it wildly inaccurate. Regardless, I found it interesting.

Since I can’t find the video I watched (and the others are lame as hell), I’m gonna type the questions out. Try not to jump ahead if you’re playing along.

~

The Prompts

Imagine you are in a desert.

 

You come upon a cube.

 

How big is the cube?

 

What color is the cube?

 

How far is it away from you?

 

Somewhere nearby, imagine a ladder.

 

Where is the ladder located in relation to the cube?

 

What material is the ladder made of?

 

Picture a horse near the cube and the ladder.

 

What is the horse doing?

 

Is the horse wearing anything (such as reins or a saddle)?

 

Look around. Do you see any flowers?

 

If so, how many?

 

Where are the flowers in relation to the cube?

 

Now imagine there is a storm.

 

How do you feel about the storm?

 

How close is it to the cube, ladder, horse and flowers?

 

~

 

The Meaning (and my answers/reflections)

The size of the cube is a reflection of your ego. – I pictured the cube measuring in height roughly from my feet to mid-calf. Accurate enough, I suppose. I have some ego, of course, depending on what we’re talking about. But for the most part, I struggle with my sense of worth.

The color of the cube reflects how open you are. The lighter the color, the more open you are. – I pictured a clear, glass cube. Which is interesting. I’m pretty damn open here and somewhat in person, but I can also be extremely guarded. It usually depends on my surroundings.

The distance between the ladder and the cube shows how close you are with your friends. If the ladder is leaning against the cube, it shows that you and your friends trust and support each other. – My ladder was standing straight up in the air, several feet off to the right. Yeah. Probably because I don’t have any friends (in person, I mean). And I keep myself very. Very. Distant. Even being open, I am highly attachment averse.

The strength of the ladder’s material is meant to show the level of trust you have. – I pictured a ladder made of raw, untreated wood. I am a thousand percent trusting in a one-on-one relationship. Strangers? Coworkers? Acquaintances? You’re probably getting ready to throw acid on my face and shout my deepest, darkest secrets from the highest tower and the most popular social media platform.

The horse is meant to show how controlling or inhibited you are. If your horse is tied up, has reins or a saddle, it means you are controlling in your relationships. And the wilder the horse, the more uninhibited you are as a person. – I pictured a slick black horse, huge and powerful. He was standing there, stamping one of his front legs, snuffling impatiently, and completely unencumbered: no reins, no saddle, nothing. I am not very controlling in relationships…not very controlling at all, really. And as for inhibitions? It depends. I’m highly inhibited in some ways, but not at all in others. I will laugh my ass off, loud and unguarded. But if you want to talk to me about sex or bodily functions, I’m going to blush and stammer and look away. Unless of course if we’re in a relationship, then look out. You’re going to die of sex overdose.

The flowers reflect the kids you want in your life. The more flowers, the more kids you want. – Uhm. No. Wildly inaccurate. I fucking love flowers, dudes. I pictured hundreds of flowers. Ha! Yeah. Hundreds of wildflowers of all different colors. So at least the kids I no longer want are multicultural.

The closer the flowers are to the cube, the heavier kids are on your mind. – I pictured the flowers in a huge ring, encircling the scene in the middle of the desert. Oh. And the horse was eating some of the flowers now. Seriously. I’m pretty much past the kids thing. There was a time when I was overwhelmed with desire for kids. I’ve tucked that away in a deep, dark corner. I’m child-free and always will be.

The storm represents your fears and emotions. Far away and mild means you are calm in nature. Close and threatening means you are stressed and fearful, now and in life. – I pictured a storm far off in the distance. I could see the entire storm from start to finish, stretching across a portion of sky. I could see the lightening and the rain shadow, but I was in awe and completely unafraid. On my good days, this is exactly how I am. I’m completely chill and desirous of adventure and new experiences. On my bad days, I feel like I am the storm. But for the most part, at my heart, I’m zen as fuck.

~

Did any of y’all do it? Do you wanna share whether or not you found the answers interesting or accurate?

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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.

Much Ado About Everything (AKA Damned if You Do(n’t))

I…

…don’t know what to write.

I have yet to read a book this year. I keep trying, but nothing holds my focus or interest. I keep trying to read blogs. Articles. Even the rare thought-provoking Facebook post. I can’t. Fucking. Do it. Same with writing. I can’t think of anything to write about. Part of me wants to write. (The part of me that’s here writing this.) The other part of me couldn’t care less. (The part of me that cannot come up with anything to talk about right now.) It’s maddening. On slow days at work – I shit you not – so many times I’m just staring at the monitor or wall. Just fucking staring. I want to read. I want to write. It’s like I can’t.

Is it the medication?

Maybe.

Possibly.

Probably.

Speaking of (psychiatric) drugs, I’m only on Lexapro and Seroquel now. I’ve been through three anti-psychotics so far…Geodon and two others I’ve already forgotten. All three fucked me up in a major way. I’m not having major negative (discernible) side-effects from Seroquel, but…but I feel even more numb than I did before I was on it. I smile and laugh and crack the occasional snarky remark. But, for the most part, it doesn’t reach beyond the surface.

pills
At one point, I was on at least 12 scrips at once (that I can recall) and felt worse than I ever have. Against doctors’ orders, I’m down to five plus an OTC antacid. And I still think I can do without Seroquel.
I am still taking the sleepytime drug (Clonidine), but I’ve ceased the anti-anxiety drugs (Vistaril and Klonopin). First, I was just too fucking tired and sleepy all the time. I’m already tired all the time – I certainly didn’t need drugs that exacerbate that. Second, and most importantly, at least one of them was causing panic attacks. I’m the girl that has maybe three or four full-blown panic attacks a year. Maybe. The rest of them are milder anxiety attacks. Like can’t get out of the car to go into the grocery store. While I was taking the anti-anxiety drugs (at 50 mg Vistaril 3x daily and 1 mg Klonopin 3x daily), I began having them daily. Daily. Sometimes more than once per day. If I was at work, I had to scurry off to the bathroom to hide in a stall until it passed. If I was at home, I exercised less control but would eventually tuck myself in the closet. The closeness and darkness helped soothe and calm me down.

I knew something was fucked. And it had to be the drugs, because nothing else had changed. Granted, I’m going through some life changes right now – and they aren’t minor. But I’ve been easing my way into those for several months now. There was no brand new catalyst aside from the steady increase in anti-anxiety drugs and doses.

All that to say, I’ve ceased those – though the psychiatrist doesn’t know. When I tried to share my observations, she insisted I was better off with the meds than without – to the point where she brought up hospitalization again, as though holding that over my head if I didn’t take the pills. So I lie and tell her I’m still on everything except the ones where I have pictorial evidence of bad side-effects (like the big, burny rashes). I even asked her at one point if she wanted pics of vomit. (While I am a smartass, I don’t often use it with willfully mean intent. But she was basically accusing me of lying to her and being treatment resistant – hence my offer.) So now I really am lying to her, and I fucking hate it. It pains me so to admit it, because I hate lying. I hate liars. I used to say liars and thieves, but really they’re the same thing. A lie is theft of truth. So to tell a lie is to become both a liar and a thief. Next time I see her, I’m going to tell her. Just flat out tell her, and by then I will be able to tell her that I’ve been off of them long enough to know for damn sure they were doing more harm than good. Hell, they were doing no good and only harm.

But what about publife?

Once I took myself off of the anti-anxieties, I was strangely able to appreciate my anxiety. I’d gone weeks with severe daily panic attacks. So now that things had calmed back down to being too nervous to go into the grocery store, rather than pulling my hair and rage-screaming, I was less concerned.

So much so that I was finally able to push myself far outside my comfort zone and go to a pub – not once, but three times. And one of them was alone! I even took myself to the movies and to a concert – solo!

But here’s the thing…the Saturday and Sunday immediately subsequent to two of those pubnights?

In bed. Crying. Sleeping. Contemplating. Crying. Sleeping.

You get the idea.

It’s important to me that I share this here, because for anyone else going through what I’m going through, I don’t want to give the impression that this depressed introvert was “healed” after a few nights of bravery. I wasn’t. I’m not. Though I am proud of myself for pushing outside my comfort zone and even doing something I’d never done before, I also realize that wellness is an ongoing process. That goes for mental and physical health and wellness.

Last time, I only talked about the good shit. But it’s important to show the other side. What happened after the Happy Hour High.

The extreme highs of forced extroversion (that was honestly quite fun and liberating – errr aside from pubnight #3 which was an epic fucking disaster), followed by quiet solitude…well, let’s say that combination resulted in major emotional backlash for me. So. On this journey of mental wellness, I have to eventually discover a way to at least minimize the extroversion hangover caused by going from being ON to being alone and exhausted.

I haven’t been back out since the failed third Happy Hellish Hour, and I’ve had a negative urge to. Until Friday. I could have done Happy Hour after work. But..I kinda didn’t wanna. Because while I now know that I can do it, I also found it far more fun when I was with people than when I went alone. Frankly, it’s depressing. It was awesome in a lot of ways, and I was so fucking proud of myself. But. It’s also me. Sitting alone. At a bar. Alone. On a Friday night. Out. In public. Did I mention alone? Yeah. So while I kinda wanted to go, I didn’t. 

Then again, maybe that’s the drugs, too. Fucked if I know. What I do know is that my slowass pace doesn’t mean I’ve stopped progressing.

I’m trending upward. That’s right. Slowly but surely, I’m trending upward. Speaking of which…

Inching along the Oregonton Trail

OregonTrail

I continue to make progress (albeit slow) toward getting myself up to Oregon or Washington.

The yard is landscaped just along the front of the house. Azaleas, some fast growing lantanas, and some gorgeous annuals in window boxes. The house looks adorable. Fucking adorable. It went from ghetto to adorable in a flash. It’s amazing the effect flowers have on a house’s appeal.

As far as the house goes, there are still some hurdles before it can be put on the market. The driveway has to be re-graveled. The laundry room floor has to be painted (the previous owner painted it, and it looks ridiculous). The kitchen floor needs some tiles replaced. Other than that, it’s down to scrubbing and little things like window blinds and light bulbs here and there.

Strongly considering figuring out how to do it For Sale by Owner. It’s the legal shit that concerns me, not the showing. My boss is flexible, so I could show it on evenings, weekends and the occasional midday during the week. I’ve learned that hiring a realtor will take all of the little equity I’ve got in the house. I can’t afford to lose that, so I have to find another way. Enter FSBO.

I’ll do my research and give it a go. 

On the job front, I’ve stopped applying for now. I’ve had several interviews, but I have a solid lead thanks to a VIP at work. When he found out about my plans, he asked for my resume and sent it to another VIP in Vancouver, Washington. He tells me it’s solid and to bide my time while I sell my house. So I’m gonna let that simmer for a while and pour all my focus into the sale. 

~

This post took three days to write. That’s how bad my “block” is. I know this is an abrupt conclusion, but I don’t really know what else to say.

Until next time, y’all are the best. I’m not neglecting you on purpose.  This “block” is maddening! Hope everyone is well and happy!

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.

Parks & Recreaction ft. Stephanie and the Spiky Caterpillar of Doom (AKA Parks and Masturdation: Buddha and Books)

So. About that four-day weekend. I kinda went crazy, y’all. I did a lot of masturdation. And you know something? I’m a damn good date.

Mkay. Let’s see. (I’m putting dates on these, because this was actually the weekend before last. And I did more shit this past weekend!)

Thursday, April 14: Sassy and Pensive

I’ve already told you about the sassy new haircut I got last Thursday. That was on the 14th. So last last Thursday. And then later, I went to the bookstore, too! And bought books!


Friday, April 15: Date with Deadpool

I’ve also already told you about the Deadpool masturdate  last last Friday, so let’s move right along.

The end credits had such cute (and vulgar) graphics. This was one of the only clear snaps I could get.

Saturday, April 16: Please sir, may I have some more…books?

I found myself lying in bed. All. Fucking. Day. Around 7 P.M., I had had enough. I was angry and disappointed with myself. So I got up, took a shower, and went to the bookstore. I didn’t know what else to do or where else to go, but I knew I needed to get my pathetic ass out of the bed and move. Also. It’s always fun checking out the cute geeks in the sci-fi/fantasy/comics section. Sometimes they’re so deliciously yummy, I want to kidnap them (don’t worry; they’re adults) and do things to them. So uhm. I bought more books. Quelle surprise!

Added three more to the TBR stack!

Looking forward to reading this when time allows. Speaking of time, that’s a “pocket watch” on a chain. I wear it around my neck to remind me that time our time on this earth is finite; it is precious and I must Carpe the fucking Diem. “There’s only lifetime. GO!”

Yes, I spent too much money. This is rare for me. But when I do decide to spend on myself, it usually happens in a splurgy burst. But I at least had coupons for books! So I didn’t do so bad at the bookstore.

I also justified it by using “spending money” I had set aside for the trip that wasn’t. I wanted to treat myself after some personal shit went down. And y’all, I ain’t even done. I’m tired of being in the backseat of my life (unless, of course, someone is back there with me) (even then, maybe I want to drive for a while, damnit).

No, I didn’t buy this. But seriously? Trigger Warning? Sex Inside? There’s sex ON THE COVER. But “trigger warning”? Good fucking grief. Overuse of “trigger” shit drives me nuts. And sex? This is Cosmo, people. It’s gonna be like, “10 things to make your husband less likely to fall asleep after cumming in 3 seconds flat.” or “5 tips on how to bedazzle your vajazzle.”

Anyway. Let’s get to the park, shall we?

Sunday, April 17: Parks & Masturdation, or One if by Land, Buddha if by Trees

This dude has been driving me batshit about getting the fuck outside. I make excuses. He tells me to piss off. I make more excuses. He says so the fuck what. I say, but I hate it here. I want to be in the Pacific Northwest! He says, but you’re not in the fucking Northwest. Get out and live now. I say my foot is broken; he says piss off and go hobble.

So you know what? I fucking hobbled my ass to the park last last Sunday. And unfortunately, I have to admit that the smug fucker was right. I couldn’t do much walking. My foot is legit still broken (had new x-rays and it’s finally and slowly healing, though – NO SURGERY! NO PINS!)

Anyhoodles. Park. I got my ass up. At oh…1 in the afternoon or some shit. But I did good. I went straight to the shower then straight to the park (with an intermission for getting dressed – it’s not that kinda park).

I grabbed my book, Buddha in a Teacup (which is bullshit so far – more later), and did a little wandering. Not much, mind you. My foot wouldn’t let me forget it’s broken. I went first through the greenhouse. It was always my favorite part of the park, though they’ve let it go to shit.

Lemme share some lovelies from that day:

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One of the few pretties in the greenhouse.
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Went down here to read first. Until hornets ran me off.
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Somebody wanted to fuck with Buddha. How dare.

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Hornets drove me to this spot. Much lovelier anyway, once I got away from the noisy geese-feeding hordes.
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Met this little fella, too. Don’t worry. I didn’t let that venomous fucker touch me. But we chatted for a while. He’s converting to Buddhism and came to warn me that this book would likely be shite.

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More lovelies.

That was park day numberus oneicus.

Monday, April 18: Parks & Masturdation, or Making Friends and Influencing People, or A Writing Assignment

Because some little shit couldn’t be satisfied, I went to the park two days in a row. (He also says go listen to High Pass Filter right now!) And I mentioned it to someone else…all like I know I should, but I don’t wanna and he was all but you must go! And you must write something while there! No reading! Must write! These demanding asshats, I’m telling you. I did go, and I did write. But I can’t share the writing yet, as it’s to be part of a collaborative something.

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Lemme share a gratuitous amount of flower piccies, and then I’ll tell you about someone I met. It was one of those moments in life when you just know. You just fucking know. You’re exactly where you’re meant to be.

But first. Flower porn. GASP! New word! FLORN!

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Ahhhh isn’t spring glorious? I fucking love flowers. Can you tell? No? Lemme show you some more.

KIDDING. Just kidding.

Lemme tell you about Anthony now. I had been watching him, you see, crafting the beginnings of a short story based on him. He had no idea, of course. I just saw him and was inspired. I caught a glimpse of him from my table. He was down fishing off this little covered pier thingy. It showed up in the picture up there with my notepad.

I actually snuck an excellent shot of him re-baiting his hook. It was the perfect shot of him in his element, but I won’t even show my face on the blog. Not my place to show his.

Anyway, the more I wrote, the more I felt compelled to meet the real man. Not the one I was making up.

This. What I’m about to tell you about is well and truly outside of even the remotest of my comfort zones. But I felt compelled, in the truest sense. I had to meet this man.

So, for what seemed ages, I gathered my courage.
And then I gathered my things.
And then I walked down that pier.
And then, heart pounding, I spoke,

Hi! Mind if I keep you company for a bit?

It’s a public pier in a public park, but he was alone. Serene. And compared to the weekend chaos at that peer, with all the kids and geese, I figured he was probably enjoying his solitude. His communion with nature.

But he turned to me and grinned, telling me “Sure!”

So I put my things down, and he said he’d seen me writing. Asked if I was in school. Hehe. I said no; I was just writing a story. So he told me about his granddaughter. She writes children’s books, but is having fits getting published.

We chatted for a while. He asked questions about me; I answered. He told me about himself. Turns out we work for the same company. He had been retired, but grew bored after a long relationship busted up and went back to work. In his sixties now, he expressed that sometimes he grows weary of having been in the same place all his life.

Only so many times you can see the same ole thing and not wonder what else is out there that you’re missin’ out on. Ain’t much time left, and I’m past retirement age. Got a brother in Minnesota, though. Sure do love it up there. Why not, right? But it’s a scary thing, so I don’t know if I have it in me.

Why not, indeed.

So I shared a bit of my story with him, and my desire to move to the Pacific Northwest. He asked why there, and I told him how I’d been in love with Oregon ever since watching The Goonies as a kid. And then once I visited the region, I fell even harder and knew a life change was in order.

He told me I’m young and should go for it.

So I pointed at the “pocket” watch on the chain around my neck. Held it up for him to see.

Do you know what this is?

He shook his head, “Naw. Reckon you gon’ tell me, though.”

I popped it open and showed him the watch. “And do you know why I wear it?,” I asked. He just looked at me, expectantly waiting.

I wear it to remind me that life is short. I wear it to remind me that our time on this earth is finite. I wear it to remind me that there’s no time like the present time. I wear it to remind me that there’s never a right time. There’s only right now. I wear it to remind me that as long as I continue ticking along with it, it’s not too late. So I’m moving to Oregon. And you’re moving to Minnesota. And we’re going to make it count.

He smiled a winsome smile, tilted his head and cast his line back into the water.

You know somethin’, young lady? I’m gon’ call my brother tonight. See what we can see.

He looked hopeful now, wistful. I smiled and gathered my things.

Then I shook his grimy bait hand, told him it was a pleasure to meet him and to have good luck with his fishing.

And hey, Anthony? Make it count. Let’s make it count.

He grinned back at me and said, “Never too late.”

~

This post brought to you by:

Serendipity.

Synchronicity.

~

Tomàs, for encouraging me to write even when, especially when, I doubt my ability to write anything worth anything at all. For making me feel worthy, writing aside.

~

Stupidityhole for relentlessly pushing me to get the fuck out of bed and the fuck out of the house. Many. Many. Many times now. I am eternally grateful.

~

Dedicated to Anthony and everyone else who thinks it’s too fucking late. Grab life. Pluck it when it’s ripe; carpe the fucking diem.

~

Coming SoonMasturdating at Happy Hour last Friday, complete with photos of old men flexing in their tighty-whities. Perhaps a recap of tomorrow night’s concert – yes, another masturdate, and then my group Happy Hour this coming Friday night!  Oh. Oh yes. And allergic reactions and moronic recruiters and the relocation conundrum. Stay tuned! You know me. I’ll fill you in in a month or so. (Winky Face, bitches.)

MANGRY. That’s Mad + Angry. And Now I’m Mangry for having to Explain MANGRY.

I was going to write a post.

I was going to tell you all about the awesome four day weekend I had this weekend just past.

I was going to tell you about bookstores and masturdating and parks and recreation and old fucks and Buddha by the rhododendron and fishing and fiction.

But no.

No.

I can’t do that right now.

Because fuck me, that’s why.

I let the doc put me on geodon. It’s an antipsychotic. Hear me out. I had it on good authority that it could, in fact, help with the mixed episodes I’ve been experiencing a lot lately.

Problem is…turns out I’m allergic to the shit. Severely.

I’ve been throwing up for 2-3 days straight, no chaser. Seriously. I chased it with anti-vomityourgutsup juice, and I vomited the anti-vomityourgutsup juice out.

Big ass rash spreading across the back of my neck.

Bubbles on my arm (blister).

Dizziness and worsening headache.

Confusion. Randomly stopping myself mid-thought or even mid-sentence.

Itching.

Massive edema.

Fucking. (Yeah right. No such luck.)

Torn up guts.

Itching. Did I mention this COOKIEMONSTERFORSAKEN ITCHING?! MOTHERFUCK, I ITCH.I’d pay somebody to scratch my itch, but I think that’s called solicitation.

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Anyway. The one thing it geodon DIDN’T fuck with, clearly, is my ragingly filthy mind. So there’s that. And also my cookiediction. Me want cookies. Now. (Also. May I borrow someone’s kids so I can “not” teach them this lesson by what is obviously The Real Cookie Monster, please stand up?)

The one thing I DIDN’T get as a side effect was the heart-racing arrhythmia. It’s a damn good thing, because if that box had gotten ticked, he was going to have to admit me. My heart was not only NOT racing, it was lower than he’s ever recorded it. 42. I think? OH MY GOD, MY HEART IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?! I KNEW IT!

Anyturtles. My GP said I met every single other criterion for the Rare and Severe reactions. Yay me!

A man once told me I was rare. Now I know what he meant. RARE AND SEVERE AND FUCKED UP.

I kid.

Mostly.

Except I don’t kid. You kid. Keep the kids over there. Because I’m MANGRY.

Because.

Because.

On top of forvomigen, the nausea med he gave me that doesn’t work, he also gave steroids. Lots and lots of steroids that I have to take for six fucking days.

He asked if I had any issue taking short-term steroids to stop my allergic responses and wipe out the rash. I said no, except Hulk. He was mildly puzzled, then laughed when I said YOU know….then I made rage face and said Hulk Angry! Only some of that actually happened. I’ll let you work it out.

So I’m on steroids for a week. And I’m sweating and angry and itching and sore. AND NOT FOR ANY OF THE FUN REASONS.

And I can’t make my brainhole focus on the things I WANTED to write about.

Fucking fuckstick douchecanoe handledick. Oooo handledick. New one. That works a myriad of ways, that one.

Anyway. I’m gonna fuck off outta here.

Just wanted to say Hi.

Just wanted to say I’m Pissed Off.

Just wanted to say I Miss You.

Just wanted to say Bye Fuckers, Because ME MANGRY.

Oh. And for what it’s worth? Either I was on one of my upswings already, or geodon was actually helping me. Because starting the drug coincided with the start of a major uptick in my moods and mindset. So. Let’s hope it wasn’t the geodon. Because now I’m pissed that I can’t take it anymore. WAAAAAAH. Look at me. Crying like a bitch. MANGRY.

P.S. If that mangry music isn’t your thing, mute it and watch. Because Sully Erna is in Fine Fucking Form here. Shirtless. Shoeless. Perfect jeans. Yum. You know what? I’ll take my steroids with a side of Sully. (Unfortunately, that’s the only good part of the video. The rest of it is wrestling or boxing or nascar or some other lame shit where grownass boys beat each other up for money.) (Hey, don’t start in on me! I told you I’m mangry! It’s in the title! FUCKING STEROIDS. GRAWR.) (But now I’m sleepy and itchy and mangry and hungry and sweaty and ARRGGGHHHHHHH I SAID GOOD DAY!)

P.S. Numberonius Twovicus. How about a preview of last weekend, hm?

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A Major Life Event: Gettin’ My Hair Did (or “Hairanormal Activity: Stephanie is Possessed by a Wild Hair”)

Priority #1: I mentioned getting my eyebrows “did” the other day. This was before even deciding to get my hair did. And dude says that reminds him of a Missy Elliott song. (Dudes, how did I not listen to more Missy Elliott? I loved her.) He thought that’s where I got it from..maybe it was. But I have no idea. So anyway, here’s the very filthy song as an intro. Enjoy, fellow pervs. (Also, thanks dude. This song is nasty, and I love it.)

So. With that fun little nasty outta the way, let’s get to it.

~

I have an issue with haircuts. Heh. I have an issue with lots of things. First cleavage, and now haircuts. What the fuck? “Is she Pentecostal?,” you quietly whisper among yourselves. No, she isn’t Pentecostal.

I was sitting in the chicky’s chair, wondering why I’ve always been so afraid of changing my hair – that goes twofold. I’m scared to cut my hair short, and I’m scared to dye it. And that goes for “normal” short cuts and “normal” colors, not just scene styles or funky, attention-grabbing stuff.

And, as I was encouraging her to “choppa choppa choppa!,” it hit me.

Butch McFuckingGee. That bitch.

Somewhere around the time of the Titacular Ruination of Stephanie, my mother decided to allow Butch McGee to cut our hair (our being mine and my sister’s).

You see, Butch McGee was our immediate neighbor and, budding hairdresser that she was, offered up free haircuts. My brokeass mother was unable to turn down a free service, so she offered us up as sacrifices to The Ruthless Butch McGee.

The roiling river of acid finally hardened into a steely lump in my gut as I trudged forth toward The Eye of Sauron my doom. Butch McGee lured me into her lair with promises of loveliness and free-ness that would help the mother figure. Her lair reeked of fried things, turnip greens, dirty laundry and chitlins. The air laden with grease, the sticky particles struggled to find purchase as everything was already coated. Don’t dare touch a surface. You’d become one with the abode. Stuck forever to watch the family suck crawfish heads and watch reruns of All in the Family.

Her husband, a local tater chip distributor, was completely vegged out on a sticky recliner, watching “wraslin'” and chugging the cheapest beer on Earth. Her son (whom I had a semi-crush on until my brother tarnished his image in my little eyes) asked me if I’d ever had frog legs before. “They taste like chicken,” he swore. I took a little nibble and to his upturned, expectant brows said, “I guess so.” He smiled like he’d won a prize, then said he forgot that was a rabbit foot and not a frog leg. Then he blushed and went away, only to come back later to tell me deddy sed them was frawg laygs. They’d already eaten all the rabbit.

So I suppose that means I’ve tried frog legs. Sort of. Maybe.

Butch McGee set me down on a sticky stool. My thighs stuck to the vinyl top of the damn thing. I kept looking at her hair. It was this helmet-like thing. Or was it a mushroom? I couldn’t be sure. All I knew was it looked like my crush had two dads. And Butch McGee was definitely the manlier of the two. She was grumpy and brusque, abrasive and pushy.

Butch held me down on that stool, one hand gripping my shoulder with the force of Andre the Giant, the other hand snipping away at my now frizzy and grease-laden hair. Even my little eight/nine year old brain knew this was a bad sign: one hand forcing me down and only one hand snipping? Seriously, this could only end in tears. And it did.

I was so upset, my usual M.O. of hiding my emotions dissolved into a puddle of tears when she showed me my reflection in the mirror. Tears. Tears. I choked out a timid little “thank you Ms. Butch,” and practically ran the twenty feet home.

Bad. It was bad, y’all.

The pudgy little tomboy-looking thing was no more. No, no. In her place stood Stephen. That’s right. Stephen. Now I was a pudgy little boy with a soft voice and an extra-feminine shyness. (Shut up. This is my blog, and y’all already know I ain’t PC. So suck it. You know. The dick that I don’t have.) (But for a while, everyone sure thought I did.) (Except, WHAT THE FUCK, PEOPLE. No one should have been thinking about my privates at that age. Fucked up. This world is fucked.)

Helmet.

I had officially gone from long, curly hair to short, bushy helmet-head. Much like Butch McGee’s do. Oh yeah. Fucking bitchwhorecracklicker.

Shortly after the Haircut of Doom, the mother unit took us to a little local park. We walked over. I mean, seriously. It was right. fucking. there.

I always felt out of sorts at events like this.

What am I supposed to do, here?

Play with other kids?

But I was taught not to talk to strangers.

Plus. I hadn’t forgotten that little girl that shunned me not too terribly long ago. So I knew better than randomly trying to make friends.

I just kinda walked around, looking every bit the Charlie Brown (except I had at least three more strands of hair than him). Kinda mopey, kicking dirt, hands in pockets, face fearful and shy.

I finally stood in line at a slide. Just as it was my turn, this little girl darted in front of me and started climbing the ladder. The thing’s mother appeared and admonished, “Hey Spawn, that little boy was here first!” So Spawn backed off, and I started crying. Silently, of course. Spawner held Spawn back and insisted I go ahead. So I reluctantly climbed that ladder, in obedience to Spawner, slid down the slide…and went and sat down until the mother unit was ready to leave.

And this was a mild version of what happened from there on out until my hair finally grew back out. God, the bullying was intense at school.

Anyway. This is less about that and more about the why of my haircutaphobia.

So. There.

~

Fast forward to sometime last year. Hell, it’s probably been closer to two years now. Yeah. My hair was down to my waist – all one length – and nearly to the point where it would be getting caught in my jeans again. And I knew I needed to do something about it. Or at least I had an urge to. I was tired of being afraid of short hair.

I’d cut it up to my shoulder blades a few times over the years. But the ex loved the long hair, and I loved it, too. So that was as short as I was willing to go. But I started getting anxious for a change.

So a couple years ago, I got this cool, funky cut. Kinda reminded me of Mikasa‘s awesome hair. Except it was just past my shoulders at the longest layer. But it was semi-choppy and cool. And totally different. I asked the chick to give me long, funky layers. And man. That’s all I told her, and she gave me my favorite haircut ever…to that point.

It was cool and funky, and I loved it. Well. Fast-forward about six months, and I knew I needed to get it updated. Bring all the layers back up. But I couldn’t find the chick who had done it. She had gotten fired from the place I found her. So I called the number she gave me…and I was told she no longer lived there. And I haven’t been able to find her since. I have her first name and her profession, and that’s not good enough. I’ve called so many hair salons, and they all tell me she’s not there.

This past Thursday, I had a wild hair (hardy har har) and made an appointment with a new chick. (Oh. Forgot to tell you, I let a dude from the first chick’s original place cut it…and he ruined it. Fucker. So that’s why I went two years without messing with it again.) Anyway. New chick. I’m going all anxious crazy person on the phone with her.

I had this haircut a couple years ago.

It was awesome.

Best haircut ever.

Then the chick disappeared or got fired or died or something.

Then Ricardo cut it, and he ruined my life forever.

And now I’m calling you. I mean, no pressure you know?

Can you give me something fun and funky and choppy and shaggy and cool?

Yeah, but can you give me something that works straight or with curls? Cuz my hair is naturally very curly!

Can you tell I’m nervous?

I’m nervous.

Can I come in today? Is that okay?

Okay. Today. What time again?

That’s today, right?

At 4:00?

Is that with you or someone else?

So today at 4:00?

And and we can talk about it when I get there? Before any cutting commences?

Yes, much laughter was had while I was rambling and anxious and kind of freaking out on her. I was talking fast but friendly…but very clearly oh so anxious. She finally said, “Just come on in at 4:00, sugar, and we’ll work it out.”

So I’m sitting in the chair, after she shampooed the shit out of it. (There wasn’t actually any shit in it. Unless it’s like fly shit. I bet tiny little microscopic bugs shit all over us.) (Fucking. Ew. Fucking. Ew. Thanks a lot.) I showed her some piccies.

She told me which ones would not work, because my hair would look like a curly mullet on days I decide not to straighten it. So those were an obvious no go. I showed her one, and said look…this is what I want not to look like: the fat chick that tried choppy cool layers. She laughed her ass off and said, “oh honey, you’re not gonna look anything like that. Relax.”  Then it was my turn to laugh.

So she got to chopping, and then told me that she didn’t want to go any further until she dried it and let me see it. Once she dried it? I was like duuuuuude, CHOPPA CHOPPA CHOPPA! More layers! More movement! More choppies! More chunkies! More shaggies!

She laughed and said I was fun. And they tried to get me to go out to a pub with them. I know I should have taken them up on it, but I didn’t…I didn’t. Maybe next time. I also went ahead and told her to put her house on the market, because she has to follow me to Oregon.

Best. Haircut. Of my Life, dudes! I freakin’ love it.

I’d show you if it weren’t for stupid internymity. That’s Internet anonymity. It’s cool as fuck, and I love it. I even have little bangies, and it’s juuuuuuuuuuuust long enough for the tiniest ponytail on Earth. And I actually think I could let her go choppier next time!

~

So I have a badass new haircut that I debut at work tomorrow. I’ve been off for a few days because of plans that went awry. But I kept some of the time off and accomplished so many personal achievements that I’m glad plans went awry. I don’t believe everything happens for a reason. But I do know that I seized the opportunity, took the bull by the horns, made the best of it…ran out of cliches. You get the idea. And the haircut was just the start of it.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll tell you about masturdation (yes that’s a D, not a B) and parks and recreation and making friends and influencing people. Perhaps, perhaps. Soon.

But for now, just the haircut. Because I need to go shower and shave and have a late dinner and get my ass to Mars bed.

I’m going for my orthopedic consult tomorrow. They want to put rods/pins in my left foot. But I’m going to hold my ground and request we try a hard cast and crutches before going for the surgery. Either way, this needs to be sorted before the move.

Fuck, I’m hungry. I’m going to eat and shave and all that fun stuff.

Peace, Love and House Special Fried Rice.

Another Day, Another Panic Attack (Beware Rantphanie)

Here goes. This one should be fun.

These Panic Attacks are increasing in regularity. I thought…I thought they were Anxiety Attacks. And I think that’s all they used to be. But something is wrong, because I know the difference well. And I’m having full-on panic attacks now. Is it a med? I’ve reduced how many I’m on. It is circumstantial? That’s no doubt a contributing factor. Is it something age-triggered? Perhaps. I rule nothing out at this point. Nothing except the fucking anti-psychotics the bitch keeps trying to push.

They’re getting worse. Picture me lying dead still in bed until it explodes. And then I experience everything I described before plus a lot of hair pulling, gnashing of teeth, rage screaming. Lately these “episodes” have landed me in the closet. It’s like a safe, cozy spot of dark. It’s a small closet, and the walls are close. I drag my pretty paisley lap blanket in, along with a pillow and my phone (just in case).

I curl up into the corner, zip my hoodie all the way up, pull the hood down as low as it will go, cover myself in the soft, indulgent blanket. Then I close my eyes, lean my head into the corner, and pet the blanket.

lg_clean20out20your20closet
Only darker and far less clutter.

I’ve been asked by more than one person why I do this.

What’s wrong with you?

Why didn’t you reach out to me?

Why didn’t you think to ask for help before you vomited the contents of your broken soul into the wastebasket?

What did I do to deserve you feeling suicidal?

Am I not enough for you?

Why are you doing this to me?

Are you doing this for attention?

Why don’t you just fucking stop it?

Just be happy, for fucks sake.

You were fine five fucking minutes ago!

You must just not trust me. That’s what this is about. Admit it. So how can I trust you?

Let’s just get this said for the record: This isn’t about you, you raging fucking narcissist.

If you could get your head out of your ass for five fucking seconds, you’d understand that something this severe isn’t simply snapped out of. And it’s been part of my life for years. So fuck off trying to make this about you. Not everything is about you. Do you get that? No. Because you’re blinded by the dark interior of your ASSHOLE.

If you think I wouldn’t snap out of it if I could, you’re a fucking idiot to boot. No, you’re right. You know what? You’re right. I LOVE feeling a panic attack coming on, trying to brace myself and ride it out AT WORK, only to have to make a calm but anxious dash to the bathroom so I can shake and sweat and silently rage until I vomit. Yes. Yes. I love it so much. I want to fuck it six ways to Sunday.

If you think I use this as some twisted form of manipulation, then you know absolutely nothing about me at all. And seriously, manipulating you into piling on the guilt? Oh yes, yes, please sir. I’ll have another HEAPING FUCKING HELPING OF GUILT, YOU PRICKWHISTLE.

If  you think I’m doing this for attention, you should know…attention is the last thing I want right in the middle of a panic attack. I’d love to have someone around. To just be present. Maybe even sit in the closet with me. Quietly. Maybe be there to hold my hand when I finally calm down enough to make eye contact. Maybe someone to tell me to stop apologizing for all the tears and snot.

Yeah, that would be nice.

That would be  bliss.

Your guilt trips? You know what they do? They make them worse. So take them and shove them back up your crusty pisshole.

Second point I’d like to make is that I’m trying. I’m fighting. I am intellectually well aware that my psychological responses are off.

I’m well and truly aware that it is an understatement to say it’s abnormal to get home from work, check the mail, find a notice that I’m receiving my last issue of “Backpacker,” so you’d better renew your subscription now so you don’t miss out!, get inside, put my things down, and have a complete and utter meltdown.

Do I even need Backpacker anymore?

They’re gonna put rods and pins in my feet. Can I hike like that?

I can’t afford the 20 fucking dollars a year for a stupid fucking magazine.

You have bills to pay that are more important than articles on shit you can’t even do without breaking your bones, fatass.

Look at all this waste you accumulate.

Final notice for Backpacker! Final notice for The Sun! Final notice for Mother Jones!

Final fucking notice for you, motherfucker! FINAL FUCKING NOTICE FOR ME!

Why do I bother?

I wouldn’t even need to live vicariously through Backpacker, if I could at least start getting some fucking interviews in PNW. But noooooo. I have a piece of shit, cracked out recruiter who can barely remember my name and not enough endorsements on my LinkedIn.

LinkedIn. Facebook. Ladders. Glassdoor. Indeed.

OVERFUCKINGWHELMED DOT COM

And I still write shit cover letters.

JUST. FUCKING. DIE. ALREADY.

Where. Where. WHERE’S MY BLANKET!

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

It happens. Sometimes I can later identify a trigger; sometimes there’s no logical one to be found. Does that help, huh? Does that help you see? No, it doesn’t, because you still think I’m exaggerating. And if only I got a fucking hobby, I could quit all the meds cold turkey and be right as rain. Lemme just take one of the Oracle’s cookies while I’m at it. Bend some fucking spoons.

I don’t even give a shit if it does help you. I give a shit if it helps someone see. If it helps someone identify and better communicate with his or her suffering partner, family member or friend. I hope it helps shed light for those like me on just how intense this shit is. Look at it. Right there in black and white. And see how much it hurts not only ourselves, but our loved ones if we’re lucky enough to have any. Don’t push them away, not the ones who are genuine. There are way too many pricks out there to fill in the gaps. Cling to the keepers.

This kinda shit needs love. Patience. Endurance. Faith. Unconditional togetherness. Unity.

I am always open with my emotional and psychological struggles. If I begin a relationship, I make it plain that I am highly emotional, an empath and struggle with psychological abnormalities. I find people incredibly dismissive of it until they see it “in action,” so to speak. And then they flip and inevitably make it about themselves. Can we please, please stop this vicious cycle?

There’s more I wanted to say.

But I’m sleepy now.

And I have to pee.

For those of you suffering with me – fist bump. “Hang in there” and all that trite shit. Seriously. You aren’t alone. Even when you feel more alone than anyone else in the whole godforsaken world.

For those of you struggling to understand us – fist bump. Please don’t give up on those you love. And if you don’t really love them? Let them down easily. Gently. We break easily.

Goodnight

 

P.S. As a full disclaimer: This rant wasn’t directed at any one person. If you see yourself in it, I suggest taking a good hard look at yourself and working on some of your own struggles.

Peace out, homeslices and homeslicettes.

Not even editing. Just gonna let this bitch fly.

Rantphanie Out.

 

Stephellany Update: The Good, the Bad, the Terrible, the Fucking Lame, and the Motherfucking Awesome (A Post of Random Catching-Up Pigshit)

Good Evening dearest Peopleaneous. Let me start with the most important point to be made in this post: Pigshit. Yes, that’s right. Pigshit. I’ve recently replaced “bullshit” with “pigshit.” I find it good and pleasing and shall henceforth deem bullshit pigshit. Until I replace it with doveshit (isn’t that like the ultimate dichotomy? OH MY GOSH THAT WOULD BE A PEACE OF SHIT! GET IT? GET IT?) or dungbeetleballs. Ooooo. DungBeetleBalls! New word! New word!

Okay dudes. This post is going to be the epitome of “stephellaneous,” a veritable smorgasbord (damn it’s been too long since I used that word) of random updates. I know I have been MIA for 14 years, 3 months, 2 days, 11 hours and 28 seconds. And I also know I have 18 billion comments to reply to. I haven’t forgotten y’all or this space. It’s just. Well. Let’s take this Stephanie Style, shall we? (No, that’s not a new sexual position. Although…aaaaand she’s off!)

TOP UNKNOWN NUMBER OF REASONS THAT I’VE BEEN MISSING IN ACTION. OR MISSING IN INACTION. OR SOMETHING. I’LL LEAVE THAT TO YOU,PEOPLEANEOUS. FUCKIN’ HELL, WHAT IS MY PROBLEM WITH HEADINGS. BETTER YET, WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM WITH HEADERS? LONG HEADINGS ARE MY JAM, MAN. OR MEN, WOMEN AND KAITLYN. SHUT UP, YOU KNOW I’M NOT PC. SO KISS IT. PEACE OUT, HEADER.

Where-the-fuck--Have-you-been-meme-13097

Number 1: Ha. You think I’m gonna use a normal numbering system. That’s cute. Anyway. As I mentioned in some weird, typo-laden pone-post, I can no longer post from work. They’ve done some security update that renders WP’s security certificate obsolete. Whatever hardcore security they have does not apply to my laptop. But I do my writing at work, when I’m slow (which is often). By the time I get home after work and tutoring, I don’t have much time to write after food, chores, packing, applications, conversing, etc. Wait, ohmygosh, those were spoiler alerts. Fuck me, man. (Seriously.) So. Number 1 could be condensed as such: Because my work computers suck dungbeetleballs.

Numéro deux: Doesn’t the Bible say something about there not being another flood of biblical magnitude? That book lied. I got lucky, not even gonna pretend I didn’t. Most of the houses in my neighborhood flooded. Well, at least half. The water came within roughly an inch of coming into the house. But it didn’t, since my house is far enough off of the ground. The car flooded up well over the seats. But mold and stinkies pale in comparison to the people who were stranded for days. It pales in comparison to the lives lost. It pales in comparison to the hundreds of people now displaced and homeless. So. Yeah that’s kinda put a damper on trying to blog.

Idadi ya Tatu: My health is being a fucking dick. (As an aside, why is it okay for us to use “dick” as a curseword, but we balk at using “pussy” as such? At least I do. Whatever.) Seriously. Y’all know I broke my left foot last summer, and the cause of the pain (the two breaks) weren’t discovered until the MRI in January. I was only supposed to wear the frankenboot for three weeks. But that bitch still hurt like a motherfucker, so I kept wearing it. And wearing it. And wearing it. And then my right foot started hurting. I mean, big time. I did some digging, and it turns out I wore it far too long. Apparently, it’s common to sustain injuries on the opposite side if one wears frankenboot for too long. (I also think the damn thing was too big for me to begin with.) I can’t prove my right foot is broken yet. But I seem my rheumatologist Friday. Something tells me he’s going to order another MRI as the right foot is now bruised and swollen and incredibly painful. This in addition to daily headaches returning in spite of following some awesome advice (thanks Ms. Fever!). And my tiny little finger/toe bones hurting. And the massive chest pain that started as soon as my Lamictal was updosed. I see that bitch on April 2. I’m going to request that I be incremented down and then off of EVERYTHING except the drug that helps me sleep. And then I’m going to start the long hunt for someone who knows what they’re doing. (Trust me, this is the right move. She most recently tried to prescribe an anti-psychotic that was only just approved in fucking October. Also. PSYCHOSIS. WHAT? And she also diagnosed me as in the throes of a full-blown panic attack………….because my leg was bouncing and I was restless. Yeah. Can we say Quack Attack?) Enough of that bullshit. Next!

A bit angry – posting it for one reason: the line, “What the fuck is wrong with me?!”

Nommer Vier:Uhm. What’s next? Ah. Job hunting for the Greater Seattle Area. I started out on my own, but I felt incredibly overwhelmed (anxiety for the win!). So I reached out to multiple recruiters up there. The first one was an utter quack. Fo’ real yo. So I moved on. The next one to contact me was super eager, so I’ve been working with her. She’s covering the southern part of the Greater Seattle Area and has now put me in touch with another recruiter to cover the northern part. We were going to have a team of three, but she thinks we’ll be good. So far, we have about a dozen applications outstanding. All are still open and haven’t hit their deadlines yet. So between the three of us, hopefully I’ll at least start landing interviews soon. Been tweaking my resume, cover letters and prepping for interview questions in the meantime. Also. That woman has me applying to stuff at twice the salary range I thought I could land. She told me I was way underselling myself. So yay. But that’s yet another reason I’ve been busy and MIA.

Номер пять:I’ve had to put off listing the house. First, I’m having trouble with some repairs that need to be done. The ex was supposed to do them (as his name is still on the deed, even though I pay all bills). But he’s stalling. Big time. But with all the flooding, even the most basic repairmen are price gouging. I’m doing what I can on my own, but there are things I’m just not able to do. Also. Speaking of the flood yet again, the houses in my neighborhood that did flood still have all of the detritus of their lives lining the roads: furniture, walls, carpet, did I mention walls?, keepsakes, etc. So it would not behoove me to shove a for-sale sign in the front yard until the city takes care of the debris. But once it does, at least I’ll have the advantage of saying this house didn’t flood.

Numero kuusi: (That one sounds so sexual. Is it just me? It’s just me. My bad.) Met an online friend that I’ve known for a decade. He says six years. Whatever. It was our first time meeting up in person, so that was pretty fucking awesome. I’ve never done anything like that, so I can’t say enough how superfuckingawesome it was. (I know you’re reading this. So. I’ll just say: Hi!) Also, he’s gonna do a guest post for me soon. Kickass writer, so y’all will dig it. Trust.

Rhif Saith: I’ve been playing around with fiction, which doesn’t really come easily to me. I’ve been told it’s because I haven’t freed myself to do it. My self-perception hinders my progress. Or clouds my view of what I’m capable of or what I’ve already done. But I’ve been playing around. Even wrote something for a friend the other day at his prompting. Perhaps I’ll throw it up here after some tweaking. We shall see.

Númer Átta: I have a trip in April that I’ve been planning, slowly but surely. Mid-April, I’m heading up to Seattle for a visit. No interviews yet, just gonna have a look around. And a lot of you know the main reason I’m going for a visit. So that’s been overwhelming for me and has taken my head out of the blogging game for a bit. I already have tickets and hotel room booked. Got a little carry-on travel bag – that’s gonna be a serious challenge for a woman. Fuck worrying about stereotypes; it’s fucking true. How am I gonna pack three pairs of shoes, more clothes than I’ll wear in six days, a book or four, my 18,000 meds, ahhhhhh. Yeah, that’s gonna be a huge challenge. But I want that bitch to be a carry-on. Fuck paying to check a bag. Plus wheels get broken and shit. Fuck that noise.

Nummer neun: Perhaps the most important of all, I’ve been trying to figure out who the fuck I am. What makes me tick. What I want. Where I’m headed. How I matter. What my purpose is. Why I’m here. What my future looks like. City life is NOT what I want. I hope to live as cheaply as possible and bank mad savings so I can live a peripatetic life in the forests, woods, beaches, cultures of the world, and a cozy little shack to return to now and then to recharge my batteries. But the shit I wanna do takes money. The experiences I wanna have takes money. Fucking money. I fucking hate money. I hate the constructs of this false existence. I don’t want to exist. I want to live. I want reality. The real reality. And the bitch of it is, the fact that I see things for what they are is a huge source of my anxiety and depression. Cool how that works, huh?

paripatetic
This applies to my soul, my dreams, my desires, my all. Give me a peripatetic lifestyle and a soul-lover to share it with, and I’ll be content.
Số Mười: I’ve been in another depressive phase, basically since I wrote that post about having a major panic attack and spiraling downward. So I have zero faith in the current med cocktail I’m on. I’m not saying I’m averse to trying something else. But this shit is not working. Not kidding. I’m damn near back to where I was before I started this mental health journey. I wish I had the blinders on that so many others seem to. In the meantime, I’ll just keep trudging along. Treading water is surely better than drowning in it, yes? Most days that’s what I tell myself.
Disclaimer: I don’t have time to edit this right now. Forgive egregious errors. Meds kicked in, and I’m out. Also, the douchenozzle that is WordPress is fucking with my spacing between words and lines. Looks fine in my editor. Fucked to hell and back on the actual site. Fuck it. I’m out! Night my friends!

Imprisoned: A Short Story

The exterior of the house was battered and damaged from the countless storms it somehow continued to withstand. Its color resembled that of an overripe peach, covered in bruises with spots gone to rot.

But inside the house? Oh what wonders there were to behold! Intricately detailed tapestries adorned the rich mahogany walls. The wood floors were polished to a reflective sheen. Elaborate chandeliers hung daintily from the vaulted ceilings. Centuries of wisdom lined the custom bookshelves. The Persian rugs were of the finest quality, and the sheer, silken wisps of curtains fluttered wistfully when one passed them by.

The resident of the weathered but stout little house suffered from no small dose of madness. Pacing the interior, day by day, year after year, she knew the layout and felt safe there. Safe, but lonely. Safe, but distraught. Safe, but afraid. Safe, but morbidly disturbed.

When necessity demanded it, she would venture forth from the walls of her home, her prison. Warily, shakily, relying on her cane to guide her steps.

She could feel their glares. She could feel them watching her every move. She could feel their judgment. But she couldn’t actually see them.

She was blind, you see. Blind to the world. Blind to her surroundings. Blind to herself. She trusted no one. It’s not that she wouldn’t. She couldn’t. She was incapable of trust. She refused to rely upon anyone but herself, so convinced she was that no one else would care for her.

People were kind to her, helping her fetch things from shelves or warning her of dangers she had yet to discover. She was blind to this, too, and could not trust their motives.

But the townsfolk were confused.

You see, though she stooped as she walked, she didn’t appear frail. In fact, she looked quite strong and stout. Like her house that appeared ready to collapse but stood strong against the battering winds that would cause most to crumble. And though she was blind, her eyes were clear as the trout pools the local men fished in the spring. Bright and clear and beautiful. There was no question of her fragility, however, but one could not see it with one’s eyes. One could not observe it outwardly, aside from the way she blanched at the slightest touch or stumbled backward when one moved in too close.

Try as they might, they could never break through her invisible barriers. They were friendly enough. Friendly as she’d allow them to be. But they kept their distance, respecting her apparent need for solitude.

But they didn’t know.

No one knew.

About the prisoner she kept locked away.

~

Returning home from one such outing, the blind woman wiped her muddy boots all over the Persian rug lining the floor of the foyer. She was blind to this as well, fully incapable of seeing the richly appointed home in which she dwelt. She wasn’t careful with it. She wasn’t respectful of it. If only she could see, perhaps then she would wipe her feet before entering. If only she could see, perhaps then she would keep things in better order. Such as it was, she tossed her groceries carelessly into beautifully etched glass cabinets. Once, in a fit of madness, she threw a bottle of sweet cream, shattering both a cabinet door and the bottle. She cried as her blood mingled with the sweet cream but never bothered to remove the shard of glass from her foot.

Every door in the house remained locked, only opened when she had immediate need of whatever lay inside. Otherwise, she forgot the other rooms even existed.

One door, however, she could never forget. Never far from her mind, she tried to keep it locked. But somehow, somehow, the door would swing wide now and again of no force she could ascertain. The draft which escaped from that door sent sinister shivers into her core, covering her flesh in goosebumps. She would shake and weep and curl into a ball on the floor, rocking and sobbing, overcome with such a feeling of destruction and great loss, of grief and sorrow, of stabbing pain and hopelessness. Once the draft finally settled, she would gather herself and close and lock the door. After testing the door to ensure it wouldn’t open again, she would return to her cold and stoic demeanor, denying that the room even existed.

~

Beyond the door, a narrow staircase led down. Down into the basement of the weathered but stout little house. The subterranean room was spacious, its footprint perhaps larger than the house that stood upon it. Covering it. Hiding it. Both protecting and imprisoning it.

This room was cold and dingy, stripped bare of all beauty and joy. An odd assortment of things lay randomly scattered upon shelves thick with dust. A stuffed purple bunny. A small porcelain turtle seated on a leaf. A dusty stack of children’s books. A stack of letters penned in the most beautiful script, all opened and bearing signs of multiple readings. A framed photograph of a smiling elderly woman, a small white puppy perched upon her lap. A strange taxidermic frog holding a guitar. Mostly neglected, these were the only things that gave any semblance of happiness to the otherwise stark room.

Intermingled with these innocuous but seemingly happy little things were other, darker things. A tattered shirt with a bloodstain on the shoulder. A photograph of a child seated on the laps of an unknown couple. A doll with finger-shaped bruises on its neck. A paddle with holes drilled in it, wrapped in layer after layer of thick, black electrical tape. A bowl of pickles. A small black and white television, playing a video on loop. A video of a man bathing his daughter; she played with her little ducky as he told her to be quiet. A tiny pile of broken toys.

In the exact center of the room, there knelt a little girl. She was filthy, covered in a thick layer of dirt and grime. Her hair was long and matted, wildly unkempt. What remained of her clothes was a tattered, disheveled mess of thin, holey fabric. If one looked closely enough, one perhaps could discern that it used to be a little white dress, homemade and scattered with tiny red hearts. Her knees were bloodied and scabbed, her dirt-caked hands tipped with sharp, shattered nails, fingertips callused and devoid of fingerprints.

She’s starving, subsisting on rotten scraps tossed down by the blind woman. The woman doesn’t properly care for her. The woman hates her. The woman hides her and wishes her away, but the little girl refuses to be ignored.

She feeds on rot and poison and nightmares. Her bones protrude through her skin in places, and she is in pain. Constant, relentless, malicious pain. Her heart glows through her chest, and though it is covered in scars, still it beats. And still she perseveres. Still there is an aura around her, a dim halo of flickering hope.

Looking closer, one would see that the little prisoner is digging. Scratching. Clawing at the ground. Fretting away at the earth to get at what lies beneath the thick crust. She wasn’t sure what she would find. But she felt, intrinsically, that it was important. Deeply important. And if she didn’t uncover it, she would finally wither away.

The scratching leaves the woman awake at night. She yells and scolds the little girl, hurling vituperative verbal assaults down into the dark. Piling on the abuse and neglect. Intentionally hurting the little girl in hopes that she will cease her digging and lie quietly in the dark.

But the tiny prisoner is tenacious, relentless, ceaselessly worrying away at her work. Year after year. Day after day. Hour after hour. Until the day she finally rocks back on her heels with a gasp, her broken little fingers clasped over her mouth.

~

The woman bolted upright in bed, heart hammering against her ribs. So dazed and shocked was she that she tumbled to the floor as she attempted to don her slippers. Righting herself, she grabbed her cane and cautiously, apprehensively made her way to the basement door. To the forbidden door. To the cell door.

She stood just outside, one palm pressed flat to the door. Where there had been a steely cold before, there was now a thrumming warmth emanating from the beveled door. It was slight at first and would only have been noticeable to the woman. But slowly, steadily, the warmth creeping into her through her palm flickered and grew, warming her icy cold veneer and penetrating into her frozen heart.

She never thought this day would come. She stood upright for the first time in years, but dared not open the door.

Not yet.

~

Scraping, clawing, digging for years, the little girl had finally reached down far enough to uncover what she hadn’t known she was looking for. It looked smooth, but jagged. Broken. She spat onto it and rubbed at it with her thumb. It was blue, a rich cobalt blue, with a nice shine once polished. But she could tell this was only a small part of a greater whole.

Weeks of relentless, punishing scraping ensued, after which the little girl stood and began splashing preserved water rations upon the floor. Pulling her tattered dress over her head, she knelt upon what was left of her knees and scrubbed the entire floor until it shone.

Once satisfied, she returned to the center of the room and spun slowly round and round. The tentative smile that had been cautiously building over the last few days finally spread into a full grin, until an innocent giggle escaped her lips. A giggle full of joy and hope and dreams. A giggle of release from bondage and demons. A giggle of freedom. A giggle of glorious realization.

Her eyes fell upon the precious pearl in the exact center of the floor. She scrubbed this extra carefully, until its iridescence shone to reveal its glorious perfection.

Slowly she backed away until she stood upon the first step, so that she could take in the fullness of it.

Clapping her hands and bouncing on the balls of her feet, the childlike joy radiated from her in glowing waves that rippled out from the center of her precious being.

~

When the woman heard the gentle yet insistent knocking on the door, she clutched her hand to her heart and nearly fainted. Though she’d kept the little girl prisoner for all these years, she had intentionally avoided direct contact with the wounded creature. She was too dirty, too scarred, too unclean. It was better to ignore such things, leave them to die. Yet the little girl had persisted. And now she wanted to be acknowledged. She wanted to meet the woman on the other side of the door.

In spite of herself, the woman extended a shaking hand to turn the knob, opening the door.

And there she was.

The scrawny, bruised, damaged little girl stood naked before her. Fully exposed in all of her pain. But something radiated from her. Warmth? Yes, but that’s not quite it. Hope? Definitely, but there’s something else here. Something…something more profound. Love? Selflessness? Healing? It’s…wait. It’s right there, just waiting to be uncovered.

“Life!,” cried the woman. “Forgiveness!,” the woman exclaimed. “Beauty! Beauty! I can see! Oh! Oh! I can see! I am whole!

“Not yet,” whispered the wisp of a girl.

The woman wept unabashedly and clasped the little girl’s extended hand. Following her down the stairs, she stopped on the last step. The little girl looked up at the woman for approval. The tears spilling down her cheeks, down her neck, between her breasts, testified to her regained sight.

She looked around, taking in the magnificence of the floor. There were shards of different colored pottery and glass, broken to bits and scattered everywhere.

But.

They had all been salvaged and put back together, forming an entirely new pattern. Oh the shards were terribly broken. But they had been carefully, lovingly, meticulously crafted into a mosaic so beautiful that it pierced the soul. A mosaic far more beautiful than the sum of its parts. The woman wept and wept as she allowed the little girl to guide her to the center of the mosaic.

The little girl pointed at the iridescent pearl.

The woman fell to her knees and released a cry. A cry so great, it rocked the walls and windows of the house.

The little girl knelt beside her and took her hands, placing both sets of hands upon the beautiful orb, pulsing with light and warmth. The power of the two of them together, working as one, fused together to generate a heat so great that they merged into one being.

A new, more beautiful being. The broken bits coalescing into something more beautiful and more powerful than they ever could have been alone.

NEBULA