After descending thirty floors beneath the surface, they approached the smooth, plain white wall – everything a muted but austere white, impersonal and utilitarian. A hidden panel slid open with a flick of his hand.
The coolness of his palm pressed into her back as he ushered her to a bank of monitors that stretched further than she could see. Without a word, he released her restraints and gestured toward the first one.
Gently, hesitantly, she pressed her right palm flat to the screen, and slowly the smooth black surface revealed its intent.
The thirteen year old girl stood tall and proud. It seemed a foreign thing to her, standing like that. A combat staff, taller than the girl, leaned upon her shoulder as she wrapped her hands and wrists in layers of thin, white fabric.
Taking the staff in hand, she assumed a perfect combat stance. Her feet, wrapped in the same material as her hands, planted firmly on the planks.
A boy, three years her senior, approached her from behind. She knew who it was by his footfall. She didn’t turn, instead holding her position. He was studying her stance, her breathing, gauging the levels of her strength and confidence, her nervousness.
Coming round to face her, their eyes met as he began his assessment, “Well done; you’ve surpassed my expectations, and in such a short time at that.”
She tried not to focus on the nearness of him, the way his bright blue eyes pierced into her. She remained silent, expressionless and alert, her gaze unwavering.
Arching his left brow, he smirked, “Alright, tough stuff. But are you ready for them?” He nodded toward the wings, and a trio of stout boys padded out in v-formation, staffs at the ready. They looked experienced and displayed natural, unstudied assurance.
She rocked slowly, measuring her breaths and waited for their approach.
The woman released her hand from the monitor and looked down at her feet, whispering, “It was you, wasn’t it? Henry. You’re Henry.”
“Why did you quit?,” he quietly implored. “You were good, a natural. You took all three of those boys, made it look easy. Why didn’t you come back?”
She slowly looked up and into his eyes, hers welling with tears, “I couldn’t. I didn’t believe in myself. I may have been a good fighter, but you were a family. I was an outsider. I could fight, but I couldn’t do the rest of it.”
“You mean you wouldn’t,” he softly accused. “Not for me. Not for you. Not for anyone.” He ushered her to the next monitor, took her wrist and placed her palm upon it.
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.
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 wasfrawg 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.)
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.
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?
Can I come in today? Is that okay?
Okay. Today. What time again?
That’s today, right?
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.
I’ve recently been playing little Q & A games with a fellow blogger. They’re fun and hilarious and enlightening. Sometimes they’re silly. Sometimes they’re serious. You should totally try it with a friend, relative or someone you’re supertotally digging.
But sometimes seemingly innocuous questions accidentally invoke deeper responses. The following question posed to me had such an effect:
What is your least favorite song?
I didn’t even have to think about it. I immediately replied,
“Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa.
He never asked why I chose that response. But someone else here knows the story and said I should share it sometime. I said “NOFUCKINGWAY AM I FUCKINGEVER DOING THAT. I’LL DIE A THOUSAND DEATHS BEFORE I’D EVEN CONSIDER IT.”
So here I am sharing that little piece of my history. Are you ready? It’s fucking nasty and terrible and traumatic and eyeburning misery. But apparently quite fucking hilarious from an outsider’s perspective. (Thanks a lot for laughing. You know who you are!) Let’s start with…
The Reason Why You Should Always Fucking Knock
So it’s like, what? 1989? 1990? That sounds about right, because given where we were living at the time, I had to be around nine or ten years old. Which puts my older brother at fourteen or fifteen.
The point is that this was the year of my doom. My life was ruined for fuckingever. Or at least for the rest of the week. Same difference. It has been twenty-fucking-five years, and I still cannot forget it. All because of a careless door opening and all the tits in the world descending upon my heretofore innocent little eyeballs.
I have no idea what I wanted. I really don’t. Hell, I may have even been being a nosy little sister. The music was blaring from my brother’s room. I figured he’s in there by himself, doing something he’s not supposed to be doing. Like those things he used to roll on my elementary school D.A.R.E. pamphlets, then admonish me not to tell mom. Or just listening to all that naughty music with the curse words that mom hated. Words like motherfucker and dick and pussy. I didn’t know what all that meant, except it was supposed to be bad bad bad and you’re going straight to hell if you even hear those words. And I’d heard a lot from my brother, so I knew I was doomed to burn in the fiery abyss for all of eternity and beyond. Of course I don’t hear, think or dare say words like that anymore. So maybe there’s some motherfucking hope for me yet.
I walk down the little hallway.
I turn the knob.
I open the door.
What had been seen would never been unseen. And I just knew I was going to frolic with Satan forever after this. No one could ever enter the pearly gates after witnessing…
The Tits That Sealed My Fate
My brother was in there, alright. But he wasn’t alone. There were tits all over the room. Wall to wall tits. I was drowning in tits. All I could see were tits. They were big and heavy looking. Thousands of them. Taunting me and my ruination. And the music of choice?
“Push It” by Salt-N-Peppa. Burned into my brain. Foreverandeverandfuckingeveramen.
The girl was curvy. Long, straight blonde hair. And completely topless. Totally naked on top.
She immediately covered herself, and I ran away crying. Seriously. Crying. Straight to the couch I went, curling up into a ball and sobbing. I didn’t really understand much at this point, but I knew it was bad bad bad. And it would definitely end in hell. My brother was going to hell. His friend was going to hell. And my eyeballs were most definitely going to hell.
But if I thought my torment was over, I was wrong. Woefully wrong. It had only just begun. What came next haunts me far more than the Bouncing Boobs of Babylon.
The Punishment to End All Punishments
My brother immediately followed me into the living room, followed shortly there after by Booby Betty. Thankfully she had put her top back on, at least one small act of mercy in my impending waterboarding musical torture.
He’d brought his little silver boombox and two cassette tapes. He pulled up a chair from the dining table, and the girl sat next to him, on the coffee table. They sat so close to me that I could smell their sin oozing through their pores. Fucking bastards.
First, he speaks to me in a soothing tone. But I’m still sobbing and refuse to roll over and face him. I kept my hands over my eyes, covering my face and my shame.
Then he starts shaking me and gets loud.
Steph! Look at me!
I’m not fucking kidding!
Turn over damnit and look at me!
I finally reduced my sobs to shaking sniveling snotty sniffles. I rolled over, and first he tells me I’d better not tell mom. And then he tells me how bad I was for not knocking. That this is all my fault, because I should have knocked. She wouldn’t even have been naked if I had knocked.
And then he tells me I need to be punished.
The girl looks uncomfortable, shifting on the table.
He pops the first cassette into the boom box.
And the lyrics of “Push It” blare out at full volume. Straight into my little skull. He played the song all the way through, singing along with it. Laughing. Yanking my hands away from my ears. Pushing me down when I tried to get up to leave.
When that was over, he wasn’t finished. I thought it was done, but no. The next hour of my life was complete and abject misery.
Never Sit on Your Sister and Punish Her with Music
He needed to make sure I was good and punished. And would never ever ever again forget to knock on the door.
He popped the next cassette in. One of 2 Live Crew’s.
He pushed play.
I tried to get up, to get away. I was sobbing my whole guts out.
Not so fast.
He got up and sat on the edge of the couch and held me down.
The girl started protesting on my behalf.
She was visibly uncomfortable and told him to stop.
He shut her up and told her I deserved it.
That fucker sat there and held me down through the entire album.
Then he finished it up by playing “Push It” once more.
By the end of it all, my ten-year-old little self was a devastated shambles. I felt guilt, shame, confusion, fear, sadness, all of it. I completely internalized the whole situation. I wish I could forget that day. It doesn’t haunt me like other things do. But damnit, that was a bad fucking day!
But lessons were certainly learned, my dear Peopleaneous.
The Moral of the Story is:
Always Fucking Knock. Or Ye Shall be Tormented ForFuckingEver by the Ghosts of a Thousand Tits. ~Buddha
Never Punish Thy Young Sister with Pornographic Music. ~Ghandi
Never Ever Ever Use Words like Motherfucker and Dick and Pussy. Or Ye Shall Surely Perish. ~Confucius
And when Someone asks You to Please Please Stop that Song, because You Just Don’t Understand, Please Entertain her Seemingly Silly Whim. For You will Only Truly Understand if You, too, have been Waterboarded Musically Tortured. ~Churchill
I am in the process of preparing my house to put on the market. This is finally the year that I put myself first, no matter how difficult that is for me – because it is completely out of character. And this is going to involve some major changes and upheaval. I always put others first, even (usually) to my own detriment, almost without exception. I have been this way my entire life.
This change wasn’t some lameass resolution for me. I don’t do resolutions, at least not in the way most do. Life changes and extensive shifts in perspective don’t suddenly and miraculously happen simply because the clock ticked over to a new year. Time as we know it is a man made construct anyway, but I’m seriously digressing here.
The point of bringing this up was to mention I’m working on getting my house ready to sell. And this means days and weeks of meticulous sifting through thirty-five years of accumulated stuff. Some of that stuff is meaningful; some of that stuff is being donated; some of that stuff is being sold; some of that stuff is outright garbage and has been hauled straight to the bin and to the side of the road where people pick it up (you know what they say – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure), but some of that stuff is meaningful to me in some way or other and cannot simply be tossed out. Like the box of letters from my paternal mamaw. She was my penpal for a good two decades. Or my diplomas and commendations. Or my report cards and IEPs from elementary school, and the notes from teachers and little awards I received. Or the stacks of photos and photo albums. There have been lots of laughs, lots of tears, some raging and ripping up photos of that man who ruined my childhood and so much of my life and my outlook and behaviors, some quiet reminiscing, some shock; you get the idea.
One thing I came across was surprising to me. I didn’t even know I had it. A simple piece of paper brought on a flood of memories. Unpleasant ones at that. I was in 11th grade, I think, which puts me somewhere between 16 and 17. I was depressed and miserable and hated high school with all that I had. Not long after this period, I experienced some of the best years of my life until the bottom fell out of that, too. But for now, I was fucking miserable. I experienced suicidal ideation. I never cut myself, but I’ve always had this problem with picking and digging and tearing at my skin. So I’d wear long sleeves almost exclusively, in order to hide my arms.
I had changed schools that year, which is what seriously ramped up my depression and self-loathing. Those last two years of high school did a lot of damage to me, but the others did as well. Before I changed schools, I never had what you would call friends. There was simply a group of outcasts who would gather together during lunch. Some of them hung out together after school, but mostly we just clung to each other on the sidelines of life. It was our own little depressed group of grunge kids on this life raft we created to weather the storm of cheerleaders and jocks and geniuses and rich kids and bullies. It raged around us, splashing us with its venom and vitriol. The bullying had gotten so bad that I perfected this death to you glare and assumed anyone and I do mean anyone who looked at me meant me harm. I struggle with that still. And so we gathered together in this little corner at lunch. Playing hacky sack. Sneaking to the bathroom to smoke a roach. Talking about The Doors and Pink Floyd and Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Wearing the tie-dye Grateful Dead shirt I bought at a yard sale. Long sleeved of course. And that silly “Elvis is Dead. Deal with it.” t-shirt I wore all the fucking time. Mostly because it was black. And I was in a black wearing, flannel over-shirt phase. Close friends and confidantes we were not. But we needed each other. Or at least, I needed them.
So when I changed schools, I lost that. I no longer had a shield or raft to cling to against the raging tide of bullies. Especially the preps. They were the worst. Those were the ones that made my life hell all through high school. And now I had no protection. I had no wall of outcasts surrounding me to buffer me from the storm of bullying and back-stabbing. Which leads to the piece of paper I found last night.
I had an AP English class, which I would have loved (because English. Yay. My favorite subject for years.). Except there were about a dozen cheerleaders in that one class. They chose it on purpose because the teacher was the mother of one of them. I had no idea, or I would have scheduled a different class or requested a change. Such as it was, I was stuck in a very special hell of torment and glares and snickers and cruel jokes at my expense. Me, the poor girl in hand-me-downs, thrift store clothes, high-water pants and shoes held together with duct tape I’d taken a black Sharpie to on the black parts and White-Out on the white parts so the tape wouldn’t stand out so much.
At some point during the year, we had an assignment. We were instructed to write an original poem and then select one from our textbook that went along with the same theme. Then we had to buy white t-shirts and somehow paint our original poem on the front and the textbook poem on the back, then wear them to school on the day they were due and recite our poems from memory. This terrified me. I didn’t learn how to be able to do public speaking until college in my twenties. I can do it now, but I was terrified back then. Like vomiting over it a couple of times leading up to it the week it was due.
I couldn’t persuade my father to buy a new white t-shirt for me. “I don’t have the money for some fucking school poem bullshit. Use one of my old undershirts.” No, of course he didn’t have the money. He’d spent it on the twice weekly sacks of pot and pain meds from his 19 year old dealer. The shirt he gave me had the inevitable pinhole burns in it and huge deeply yellowed pit stains. I stole change off of his dresser to buy this glittery green puff paint to get the poems on the shirt. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. But I knew I would be humiliated, and I was. But this time, it was mostly in my head.
It was time. The teacher called my name. My stomach flipped and then flopped, and I felt dizzy and off-balance as I left my back-corner desk and walked to the front of the classroom. Voice shaking, I began:
You think that you are better than me
From your clothes, to your style and your hair
You think that you are better than me
But I have ceased to care
You smile and pretend that you are my friend
But I am not here for your pity
You smile and pretend that you are my friend
But I will have nothing to do with your sympathy
In your eyes, I am nobody because I don’t measure up to your standards
But I am not the one who tries to be something I am not
So before you judge me again, take a look at yourself
And face the reality that you are no better than me
And as time marches on
And your shine is all gone
For all of your glitter, you have nothing to show
Now you are nobody, and I am somebody
And you will never be better than me
To their credit, after the snickering subsided, the room got dead quiet. Not even the usual whispers and note-passing that happens during things like this. And the looks on their faces were a mixture of confusion, disgust, surprise, shame. This quiet, wallflower, grungy, nerdy weakling was speaking words of condemnation. To them. This was directed at them, and they knew it.
And then I read the poem I had selected from the textbook, and their shame and confusion turned to shock and fear. I could see it in their eyes, because I had finally worked up the nerve to make eye contact. And so I began:
by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good morning,” and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich-yes, richer than a king-
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
I somehow got through to some of them. But not in a way that made them nicer to me, more in a way to make them lean away, look away and leave me completely and utterly alone. Which was a relief and respite from the bullying, at least in that class. I think they were afraid of me. Nervous. Fine. Yes. Great. This I can use. And so my death to you glares increased. I rarely spoke, but I could shoot daggers. And I did. And I relished them shifting in their seats and looking away. I felt guilty for a lot of this later, in some ways still do. But at the time, I finally felt relief and used my anger as my new wall of protection, my new life raft.
I read the paper. I re-folded it and sat there in this reverent silence. Then I opened it and read it again, finally re-folding it and tucking it away among the things I’ve decided to keep. At least for now. As a reminder of what I was, and what I’m working so hard to leave behind. The anger, the fear, the skittishness, the guilt, the distrust, the anxiety, the self-loathing, etc.
Here’s to my year of change. It will happen slowly and then all at once. And I can’t fucking wait.
I did it. I went through with the therapy session on Thursday. Reckon it’s past time to update you. But you should know, going in, this is going to be a bitch of a post. Avoid it if you need to.
Have some Portishead for your listening pleasure. This is what I’m listening to while I force myself to get this out.
Pre-Game Panic Attack
The appointment was for 1:00 PM on Thursday, so I was at work all morning leading up to it. You’d think that would be a nice distraction, but it wasn’t. Queen Bitch has impeccable timing and went on her worst rampage yet this past week. (I’ll save work for a separate post to try to keep this semi-coherent.) So I don’t know how much of my pre-appointment nausea and vomiting was from therapy anticipation and fear and how much of it was the extreme stress Queen Bitch had me under.
By the time I got myself to the counseling center, I was a bundle of nerves. I smiled at the receptionist and filled out my paperwork. Thankfully, I was alone in the waiting room. I had so much pent up anxiety, I felt I could literally bounce off of the walls…and not in a fun way. Imagine severe chest pain, heart racing, rapid breathing, roiling stomach, my leg bouncing up and down ninety to nothin’, mouth chewing on a hoodie cord, eyes scanning the room for every minute detail, hands twisting and squeezing each other. That was me, pre-therapy Thursday. It took everything I had to stop myself from bolting.
Off to an Anticlimactic Start
The counselor finally fetched me from the waiting room at around 1:05. (Yeah. That pissed me off.) Let’s call her Diane. Tall, blonde, forty-something Diane. At least she’s older than me, I thought. They nearly placed me with someone who graduated this past May. I cringed. Maybe it seems superficial, but it’s far less about age and more about experience.
Anyway. Friendly enough, on the surface. She smiled and shook my hand, led me to her office. While the waiting room makes the building look new(ish), Diane’s office was poorly appointed. Seriously, her chairs and couch had tears in the upholstery. I kind of approved, because I don’t want to be therapized by someone with a mahogany desk and all leather furniture. She said I could sit anywhere – I just took the chair facing her desk. I asked permission to place my wallet and keys on her desk, then shoved my fists in my hoodie pockets and willed myself to not bounce my leg and look around the room like a crazy person.
I began relaxing a bit at this point, because Diane spent the first few minutes filling out paperwork. A differently formatted document with the exact same information I’d already filled out at reception. Full name? Address? Social Security Number? Bust size? (Kidding, she didn’t ask for my social.) (Got you again. Look, it’s a good sign that I’m at least trying to joke, right?) Then she went over their policies and her personal qualifications. Twenty years as a counselor with this same group. Good sign, right?
I’ve been doing this for a long time, okay? And I’ve worked with every age group, but I no longer work with children. I did for many years, but I had to give that up. I work with people like you now. And don’t worry. You’re perfectly normal. You’re definitely not crazy, right? You’re not crazy. You’re just sad. You’re here because you’re sad.
I hope it doesn’t offend you when I use words like “normal” and “crazy”…
And just like fucking that, she’d formed her opinion and diagnosis of me. I walk through the motherfucking door, am able to show up and shake her hand and be calm and civil. And I’m just sad. Nothing more, nothing less. So glad this process was so fucking easy.
Then she grabs her little legal pad and starts in with her own standard list of questions, the answers to which she notes on her pad:
Have you received counseling or psychiatric treatment before? No.
Do you work? Yes, full-time. What do you do? I sit at a computer all day. Oh, do you like it? Yes, it’s so much fun.
*chuckles* Relationship status? Well, it’s like this… Children? No.
Parents? Married/divorced? Living? Location? Uhm. Uh. Well. Uhm. See. Well. *breathes* They divorced when I was little. They’re both still alive, last I heard. Uhm. Uhm. I think. Maybe. I think. Maybe. My mom is maybe in town again. My father lives in _____. I see. And what sort of relationship do you have with them? I don’t. *fidgets*
Siblings? One brother and one sister.
Do you want me to give you more details? I’m not sure how detailed you want my responses.
She then went into this long spiel explaining the two different ways of approaching counseling: starting from the past and working forward or starting in the present and working backward. She said that people usually had a preference, but she doesn’t. She just looked at me, and I just looked back.
All this time, Diane has been looking down at her phone. Look at me, ask a question, look at phone, note my response on the pad, look at phone, look at me, ask a question, look at phone, note my response….forget what she asked me and ask me again. Yeah.
I finally broke the awkward pause with something like:
Well, I’m not in any danger. I mean, if you want me to start by talking about my childhood, I’ll do that. If you’d rather hear about what’s going on right now, I can do that, too. I don’t know what I need or what’s best, really.
On Unprofessionalism and Suicidal Ideation
It was at this point, this crossroads of sorts, where she finally asked me what had led me to be there that day. She had her checklist and wanted to go by rote, and I wanted to know what we were doing and why. So she asked me. What led you here?
I’ve been depressed for years. And while I managed it best I could for a long time, it’s spiraled out of control over the last couple of years. And now…and now…my thoughts have gotten so dark that they scare me.
“Tell me what you mean by ‘dark thoughts.'”
Suicide. I think about suicide every day. And. But. Well. You see, it’s not so much that I want to kill myself. It’s that I don’t wish to be alive anymore. I don’t want to feel this way, but I can’t seem to make it stop.
“I’d call that danger.”
“You just told me that you aren’t in any danger. And now you’re telling me you think about suicide every day. Ongoing suicidal ideation is serious danger. Do you really think about it every day? Do you have a plan?
Well, I mean I think stuff. Bad stuff. You know. But I don’t have a plan. Like a specific plan. You know, written down. I don’t have a plan. No. And I would never do it. I would never act on it.
“Then tell me what you think about. Specifically. Tell me exactly what goes through your mind in your so-called dark thoughts. What do your suicidal thoughts look like?”
Well. I mean. Okay. Okay. There’s a gun. In the closet. And. Well. I think about the gun. And I think about…you know… (I’m crying now, talking softly. twisting my hands so much they’re throbbing in pain.)…I think about how it would affect other people. And I don’t want to make it hard on someone who finds me and has to clean up after me. So….so I wouldn’t do it in the house. I’d go outside. To the backyard. And…and I’d do it there. So I wouldn’t make a mess of the house or damage it or make it hard to sell after I’m dead. You know? That’s not really a plan is it? I guess that’s a plan.
But I wouldn’t do it. I’d miss or something and end up disfigured and living in a convalescent home.
She wrote “gun” and “plan” and something else on her pad. “You have a gun in the house?”
“What else do you think? Are there other ideas?”
Well. This one. This one’s really bad, and I don’t…I don’t think I should tell you. It’s horrible. (tears are streaming down my face) But. Well. I imagine. You know. I imagine getting in my car. Getting onto the interstate late at night. Driving dangerously fast. Turning my headlights off. Closing my eyes.
But I would never do it. I swear I would never do that, because it would hurt someone else. It just pops into my mind completely unbidden.
“What else? Is there more?”
My arthritis medicine. I get it in three-month quantities. I’ve thought about taking them. All of them. At once. But I know that’s useless. I would just end up with my stomach pumped.
“Stephanie, your name is Stephanie right? Those are plans. Specific plans. And you are in serious danger.”
Somewhere in the middle of all of that, she interrupted me. She had been looking at her cell phone off and on the whole time, and at some point – while having me detail my thoughts on suicide – she interrupted me. Told me to hang on, and then texted her son.
I told her again that these are things I think about, but I’m not choosing to think about it. And I fight so hard not to entertain those thoughts or allow them to linger. But they rise up, unbidden, and I can’t always will them into silence.
On Reasons to Live and Hospitalization
“Everyone has to have a reason to live,” Diane pronounces. “You’ve demonstrated you’re strong and have a will to live. You made the appointment. You drove yourself here today. You kept the appointment. All of this was done of your own free will. Tell me what you live for. Tell me the positive things that you cling to in order to keep going and keep those thoughts at bay.”
I looked at her, my cheeks tear-stained and my eyes clouded, and I said…
I got nothin’
I don’t have family. I don’t have friends. I hate my job. I don’t want to get out of bed in the mornings. I feel sad when I wake that I made it through another night. I got nothin, Diane.
Well. I recently started blogging. And the people I’ve met there, online, are amazing and have offered so much support.
And. And. (crying and practically whispering) I have this…this vague hope that just won’t die. This vague hope that maybe, just maybe there’s a brighter future for me. A happy ending.
She scribbles “internet” on her little Stephanie page and says, “I’m talking about real life here.”
Church? No. Social club? Like a book club? No. Bars? No. Professional memberships? No. Work friends? No. Family contact or support? No. Really? Nothing? Nothing.
She spent the rest of the time between trying to convince me to be hospitalized (she lacks the authority to have me admitted without my consent) and defining “thoughts,” “feelings” and “behaviors” to me. Like I’m a fucking child and don’t know the fucking difference.
Again she told me I’m only sad, and there’s nothing deeply wrong with me. “You’re not crazy; don’t worry.” I tried to tell her there’s a lot more to it. I told her that sometimes I have wild mood swings and get very hyperactive, sometimes happy hyperactive and sometimes angry hyperactive. She said, “Oh, everyone does that. You’re not one of the crazies or you wouldn’t be here today.”
She really wanted me to consent to hospitalization. She said she’d take me in her car, right then and there. She said that no matter how hard people fight their thoughts, that if they’re persistent and ongoing for as long as mine have been, eventually everyone follows through.
Thoughts. Feelings. Behavior. “It is unavoidable. Eventually those thoughts and feelings result in acting out in a behavior. You can’t escape it. It’s ingrained. It is inevitable.”
But I stood my ground. In order to keep her from calling a psychiatrist and having them admit me against my will, I had to agree to some things:
Get rid of the gun. Or lock it up and give someone else the key.
Email her Thursday night telling her I had done so.
Show up for an appointment next Wednesday at noon.
Get a notebook and log my feelings. Like a motherfucking four year old. I can tell her my feelings. I know my feelings. I know my thoughts. And I know my behaviors. Stupid fucking shit.
As yet, I haven’t done any of those things. Though I have made a note in my phone, which I open occasionally and add a time and feeling to.
She also told me that medication is unnecessary. That too many people are medicated, and it usually gives you brain damage. “You don’t need medication, because you aren’t crazy. Crazy people have brain damage. That’s what it is! It’s brain damage! But you don’t need it, because you’re normal.”
But. “Seeing as you’re suicidal, medication may not be a bad idea to get your moods regulated. Then during talk therapy, I’ll teach you TFB through CBT and you’ll get right off that crazy person medicine.”
I told her I have an appointment with a psychiatrist on December 21. She was shocked, saying it takes months to get in with one. But my insurance company found one for me. Apparently she’s only going to diagnose and medicate, though. So I don’t know how I feel about it. I’ll at least keep the appointment, though.
Diane is crap. She laser focused on one thing and refused to hear anything else about me. And her plan is bullshit and so was her motherfucking brain diagram she scribbled to show me that I’m behaving like an animal on instinct rather than a rational human being. But I know I need help, and if being accountable to that nonsense-spewing unprofessional moron helps me even a small amount? Then it’s worth it. For now.
I just rambled a buncha shit, y’all, and probably forgot most of it. But I just couldn’t muster up the strength to write sooner. To those of you whom I’ve worried, please accept my sincerest apologies. I’ve had an absolute week from hell, and I’ve pretty much been in bed since I got off of work yesterday. I’ll do my best to catch up on emails and things soon. I miss reading y’all, too!
I’ll be back on the upswing soon, you’ll see. (I believe that. I have to.) Maybe a music party tomorrow or somethin’, hey?
Thank you all so much for your thoughtful messages and support. As always, you’re the bestest.
Sometime this weekend, I had a little music fest with Andrew. I reminded him of U2’s song, “Bad,” and he reminded me of this Dylan gem:
Dylan has always been a favorite of mine. Even though old fuckers liked to tell me he was before my time, and I was too young to appreciate him properly, I still loved him. And fuck them for being exactly the kind of person Dylan would criticize.
I had the good fortune to see him in concert – alas, I was a teenager, and I’ve forgotten most of the concert. But the memories I do have are irreplaceable. I remember riding shotgun in the boyfriend’s car after work – he had just picked me up. I was…seventeen, I think? We were listening to the radio, and the DJ said Dylan was playing at some little theater in Mississippi. We looked at each other, eyebrows arched, silently questioning. And fuck yeah, we headed straight to the sound shop, bought tickets and drove to Mississippi.
It was a long drive, so we were late and missed the first song or so. And we got lost – had to stop and ask directions from a cop. (Good thing he didn’t search the car. He would have stolen our pot.) It was the first concert I’d been to where they kept all the lights on. It was bright, and we could look around at the rest of the concertgoers. We were definitely the youngsters. Those old fuckers were openly smoking pot, passing it around, dancing and singing, and just feeling good. It was an intimate concert. We were in the balcony cheap seats, but Dylan was right there.
I remember thinking it was sad that Dylan couldn’t sell out a tiny theater like that anymore. But I was also grateful, because it means there was still a ticket available for me. It’s a night I hope I never forget.
I hadn’t heard this particular song in years. And my god, I feel like I’m hearing it for the first time. In some ways, I am, because I was a pre-teen or teen when I first heard it. And while I was far more mature than I should have been in those years, listening to this song now, I can see why it’s having a bigger impact now than it did then. It has shot up the ranks of my Dylan favorites and now rests comfortably at the top. (For now. This is always in flux for me, particularly with Dylan.)
“It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” was released on Dylan’s 1965 Bringing It All Back Home. This is Dylan at his finest: the social justice poet, filled with anger and righteous indignation. He’s frustrated and pessimistic. The song is a bleak condemnation of the society he was living in (and his society will sound awfully fucking familiar to us): rampant consumerism, crooked politics, never-ending beating of the war drums, etc.
Look how he breaks it down (I started to bold some of my favorite lines, but quickly realized I was about put the whole fucking thing in boldface):
Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying.
Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fools gold mouthpiece
The hollow horn plays wasted words
Proved to warn
That he not busy being born
Is busy dying.
Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
That you’d just be
One more person crying.
So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to you ear
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing.
As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all
Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their marks
Made everything from toy guns that sparks
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much
Is really sacred.
While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the President of the United States
Sometimes must have
To stand naked.
An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it.
Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you.
You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand without nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks
They really found you.
A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy
Insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to.
Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to.
For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despite their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something
They invest in.
While some on principles baptized
To strict party platforms ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God Bless him.
While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in.
But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him.
Old lady judges, watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony.
While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Must get lonely.
My eyes collide head-on with stuffed graveyards
False gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough
What else can you show me ?
And if my thought-dreams could been seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only.
If you dig the song half as much as I do, it should rocket to your favorites. Enjoy.
So I believe Part 1 left off with mere Attempted Squirrelicide. Today, dear readers. Oh, today we get right into the thick of it. Attempted is for weenies. We’re talkin’ full-on Squirrelicide now. Don’t even bother hiring a detective, because I’m about to confess.
Squirrelicide in the First Degree
I was sixteen or seventeen when I went on my first hunting foray. (I may as well go ahead and tell you it was also my only hunting foray. Consider that a preview on how things went.) I didn’t care about hunting, but being out in the woods early on a weekend morning sounded lovely. So, even though I thought camouflage was stupid (still do – suck it), I donned someone’s spare camo and tagged along with my boyfriend. He wanted to go squirrel hunting, and he wanted me to go with him.
Sure, let’s do this thing.
We get out into the woods, and he’s being all manly protector and shit. I’m walking along the well-trodden path when Mr. Boy Scout practically unhinges his arm to stop me in my tracks.
Snake. There was a snake. Not a venomous snake, mind you, which he himself acknowledged. No matter, his girlfriend’s life dignity was at stake.
So he murdered the snake.
And I cried.
That was sign number one that we should have turned back.
About halfway through our trek, we come across a deer stand. He told me what it was and who it belonged to. I pointed to the knee-high mound of food and asked what it was. “That’s deer feed,” he said, “to lure the deer.” I’m sure you can guess my reply: “Are you fucking serious? That hillbilly dickwad motherfucker LURES them here?” I even quoted My Cousin Vinny. The part about the happy little deer putting it’s little deer lips to the cool water to drink, and:
Oh yeah. Then he explained the stench I was smelling came from the deer musk/urine sprayed all around the place to lure them and mask the scent of humans.
I was livid. And though he was highly amused,
That was sign number two that we should have turned back.
But we didn’t turn back. The rest of the trek was pleasant enough. Enjoying the cool autumn weather. The trees. The chirping of the birds. Learning to recognize animal tracks and hiding spots. It was a pretty cool morning, aside from the murder and mayhem.
We finally settled into a thick copse of trees, squatted down with our weapons and listened. Watched. Observed. Felt. So far, so good. I was cool with all of that, and was pretty good at spotting shit, too.
I had done some target practice a week or so prior – but it didn’t take much. I was actually really fucking good at it. I remember he was strangely proud of that – at least he wasn’t one of those weirdos who get jealous about that sort of thing.
So yeah, when I finally spotted a squirrel I deemed close enough, I didn’t even say anything – I just went for it. I was using this little .22, and I think I was too far away. (At least that’s what I was told in attempts to comfort me afterward.) After I shot, the squirrel fell from the limb he was on.
And we never found him.
We searched for hours, because I was insistent and at least mildly hysterical. But we never found him. I cried. Nay, I fucking sobbed. He was beside himself, first laughing and then desperate to calm me down. He swore the shot would have spread, and the squirrel was probably fine or we would have gone straight to him. But I was inconsolable; all that could be done was to leave and let me put it behind me.
But I never really did. Put it behind me, I mean. Though I was done crying by the time we emerged from the woods, I’ve never forgotten that day. And I’ve never believed that squirrel came out unscathed. He either died that day or ended up in hospice care.
I never forgave myself, and I never went hunting again.
The Three Stooges: A Shot at Redemption Ends in Triple Squirrelicide
That next summer – same boyfriend – he brought three baby squirrels home. The tree they were living in had been cut down, and the mother abandoned them. So he brought them to me. By now, he knew damn well what a bleeding heart I was. I was ecstatic! But I also had no idea how to take care of tiny baby squirrels.
I thought I did the right thing. I really did. I took them to a veterinarian. (I mean, I also used the Internet. What, Alta Vista at the time? Dogpile? But there wasn’t much information available.) The veterinarian sold me some kitten milk and an eye-dropper feeder (and a bottle for when they got bigger) and told me to keep them warm. Feed them every two to three hours, he said, and keep them warm with a rice sock heated in the microwave.
I was so careful with those little things. I had them tucked into a small box, with a fluffy towel and the rice sock. I always held it against tender spots of my skin first to make sure I wouldn’t burn the Three Stooges. That’s what I named them: Larry, Curly and Moe. And I fed them carefully and regularly.
Larry died first. First and fast. Almost right away, really. God, I was a wreck. I opened up the little box in the middle of the night, for a nighttime feeding and to re-warm the sock. And he was curled up there, lifeless. I was heartbroken. The boyfriend took care of burying him for me. I insisted Larry be buried.
Moe was next. He lasted a couple of weeks before giving up. He stopped eating, I think. I do remember calling the vet on his account. And he told me that all I could do was keep them warm and feed them regularly. Oh yeah, and I was also wiping them with a warm damp cloth to help them pass waste.
But it wasn’t enough. Moe didn’t make it. But I knew for certain Curly was solid. He made it several weeks. And he even got big enough to ride around in my breast pocket.
It just wasn’t to be. And I was absolutely shattered when I came home from work one day, and the boyfriend told me Curly had died. I know now that I should have sought the advice of another vet. But at the time, I trusted that particular one. He took care of the boyfriend’s dog, so he was like their family vet. But I know now that poor Curly was most certainly malnourished. He wasn’t large, not even fully juvenile. He was still a baby. But he had certainly graduated beyond the basic nutrition found in kitten milk.
I was devastated. And when the boyfriend found yet more baby squirrels some time later, he had the presence of mind to call me first. And I asked him to please not bring them home. I couldn’t go through it again.
So uhm. Yeah. That one wasn’t funny. My bad. But it did result in yet more squirrel funerals. It strikes me that I have a disproportionate amount of squirrel funerals in my life, as compared to…ahem…normal people.
And I can add Serial Squirrel Murderer and Stooge Slaughterer to my rap sheet. Oh hell, I got a rap sheet? Holla!
Additional Squirrellaneous Encounters
Far more recently (that shit happened when I was a teenager, remember?), I tried befriending my squirrels. The ones that live here. In my trees. And I love watching them play and roughhouse with each other. So I tried to befriend them.
Last year (that was last year wasn’t it?), I visited The Peanut Depot while I was checking out Birmingham, Alabama.
Seriously, if y’all are ever in Birmingham, you need to hit up the Peanut Depot. (And what the fuck is the matter with you if you’re grown and American and haven’t been to Birmingham? That’s an important city, and you need to go. You been told.)
Aaaanywho, I bought an assload of peanuts. The guy behind the counter flirted with me. I know, because I don’t get flirted with, and homeboy didn’t even try to hide it. But he also wanted to know just what the hell I was gonna do with all those peanuts. I bought a 2 lb. burlap sack of each kind (regular, salted and Cajun). And, he was right. What the fuck was I thinking?
Once I got home and realized the error of my ways – I mean what on earth was I gonna do with sixteen zillion peanuts? I tried to share them at work, but who wants peanuts? Though, I did keep a small nutsack of my own in my drawer. (Hehehe, this woman told me about her nutsack at work. I totally should have called mine that. If you haven’t made her acquaintance, you should. She’s delightful.)
So, I hatched a plot to befriend my squirrels. First I laid peanuts around the trees in the front, like little Easter eggs. It didn’t take long for them to find ’em. I’d peer out my window at them, watching one chow down and the other stuff his furry little cheeks and haul ass up the tree. Probably plotting to use them as soggy, nutty projectiles. No matter.
After a few days of this, I began sprinkling them in the yard. And then leading a path to the porch. I spied the two regulars munching on the porch a couple times. But this didn’t last. Oh no.
Because those fucking bastard assholes tore up my yard!
I told those motherfuckers I had enough peanuts to last a lifetime of winters. But nooooooooo, they had to dig! And you wanna know how I found out? Hmm? I couldn’t see the holes because of the copious amounts of pinestraw. But I was out there one day, feeding the sons of bitches and twisted my ankle in a squirrelhole!
So, like the Soup Nazi, I shouted (seriously, I shouted) NO PEANUTS FOR YOU! (I’m sure my neighbors find me positively delightful.) Then I called them bastards. No good dirty rotten scoundrels. I shook my fists at them up in the trees. They didn’t dare mock me, not til I went inside. But never again would I spoil those little bastards. Now they’ll have to be content with munching on acorns and my roof. Assholes.
I’ve had lovely encounters with the mountain squirrels of Washington, Montana, Wyoming…they liked to climb on me and check my pockets. You know what? That does it! Fuck these local squirrels. I’m moving! I know, I know…it’s only a matter of time before even the mountain squirrels turn on me.
It’s time for me to bust out the water hose and tear some ass up.
Oh my gosh, this is how it all began. Mr. Smith’s struggles were real. I see it all so clearly now. I’ll fight them in your honor, Mr. Smith! I’ll take no prisoners!
Wannabe Intro to My Squirrelstory (Like History, but Better)
As I sit at work today, pretending to be a productive employee while scratching my head in hopes of breaking loose a thought or three worthy of a post, I find myself pondering squirrels. And it strikes me that I just may have a particularly curious connection with squirrels in my life – at least compared to the average person. I mean, just how many squirrelly encounters have you had, dear Peoplleaneous? And I don’t mean that time your Uncle Bubba made you lick one for good luck. (Don’t worry, that totally didn’t happen to me. And if it happened to you, you’re a disgusting freak and can’t be my friend anymore.)
Y’all don’t believe me, do you? I’m telling you, homeslices. I have a weird history with squirrels. And I’m gonna tell you about it. As soon as I can figure out how to end this wannabe intro. Fuck it, consider this wannabe intro over.
That Time My Brother tried to Resurrect a Squirrel in the Bathtub (Holyfuck, that heading just spoiled the plot. Who comes up with this shit?!)
I think this one is less of a memory and more of something that has been implanted through countless retellings, because I believe I was like two when this happened. But since it’s the earliest “memory” of squirrels in my life, it must be told and it must come first.
My brother is a few years older than me, and depending on who tells the story, he was somewhere between five and eight. But given my age at the time, he had to have been at least seven. (“Why didn’t you just say seven to begin with and have done?,” is your logical query. To which I shriek, “I thought you knew me!,” and dissolve into a heap of tears.)
Anywhoodles. We’re living at my mamaw’s house, right? (She had this weird, awesome floor that you could pluck these little wooden tile thingies from. Pluck. Pluck. Slide back in like a funky puzzle piece. Pluck. Pluck. Man, I loved playing with that floor.) Well. Apparently B (Ima call him “B” for brother, aight?) had a soft spot for animals back then. (I say back then, because he sure as fuck doesn’t now. But don’t worry about it. This is a happy story.) So mamaw catches him waddling into the house, in nothing but his He-Man underwear. In his arms, he’s got this squirrel. His arms are wrapped around it, and it’s dangling down the length of B’s little body. It’s stiff and crispy – it had been burnt to a crisp when a transformer blew – and B’s sobbing and waddling into the house with the squirrel’s tail dragging between his legs.
Mamaw, naturally, freaks right the fuck out. “B! What the hell are you doing?! PUT THAT SQUIRREL BACK OUTSIDE!” B chokes out through the snotty sobs, “But Yamaw…*sniffle choke*…I have to give him a bath!” (This is why B was in his underwear. He had stripped down outside after formulating his plan to bathe the squirrel back to life.) B was dead serious, too. He really thought he could soak the squirrel in the tub and make everything right again. “Yamaw, yamaw, he needs a bath and everything will be okay!”
It took much pleading and coaxing to convince B to let mamaw pry the squirrel from him. (Who knows what she did with it – that’s never been included in the telling…) It took ages to calm him down and dry his tears; mamaw said it was the most pitiful thing she’d ever seen.
And no, B didn’t become a taxidermist. Or a faith healer.
Smile though Your Heart is Aching
The next memory I have is the infamous Squirrel Funeral. And no, it wasn’t even for the aforementioned crispy critter. As memory serves (mine and others’), this was a couple of years later, but it also took place at mamaw’s.
This time, my aunt found a dead squirrel in the yard. (What’s the deal with all the dead squirrels at mamaw’s? Kinda creepy, really.) And she decided that we needed to have funerary services to see the squirrel off into the afterlife. She was super serious, yo, solemn and dramatic as ever.
She and her father fashioned a coffin out of a cigar box, and we – me and my siblings – were ordered to prepare remarks and dress for the occasion. My aunt would deliver the eulogy.
We all gathered in the alley behind mamaw’s house. Just us kids. We dug a hole and set the squirrel’s box beside the dirt mound. We fashioned a cross of twigs and berries (shut up, pervert) and planted it in the ground at the end of the hole. Then we stood in a circle, holding hands. My aunt said a prayer and delivered the eulogy. I know we named the squirrel; and I swear it was something like Edward. (Y’all are right – something about me and “Ed-” names.) Each of us kids took turns saying our parting words to Edward and delivering him unto the earth. Y’all, this was some super solemn shit. And while I don’t remember things that were said, I do remember making shit up – about what a good squirrel Edward had been. How he was a good friend and playmate. Pretty sure we even made up a wife and kids that he was leaving behind. Some pretty creative and morbid shit.
With all of that finished up, we lowered his tiny King Edward cigar coffin (holyfuck, THAT’S why we named him Edward!) into the leaf-strewn ground and buried him. As soon as the dirt mound had filled the hole, the others went about their business. And I don’t remember many specifics, but I do remember lingering behind by myself. Crying. I cried for Edward the squirrel. And, in what was perhaps one of the earliest instances, I remember contemplating life and death and the finite-ness of our corporeal existence.
Depressing, no? Don’t worry, it’s not all like that. (It totally kind of is, though.)
Know Thyself, and Know Thy Enemy, or Devil, Thy Name is Squirrel
Another tale from mamaw’s house (years later, same mamaw, different house). In this neighborhood, the squirrels were vicious. A warring faction emerged, overthrowing the peaceful nut hoarders and challenging the humans for dominion. At least, that’s how Mr. Smith saw things.
Mr. Smith was a neighbor of mamaw’s, and while his wife was perfectly sane, Mr. Smith was in the throes of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and who knows what else. And for some reason, perfectly docile Mr. Smith one day became the archenemy of the neighborhood squirrels: specifically the ones who dared trespass into his beloved tree.
Mr. Smith adamantly argued that the squirrels started it. That they stood atop the branches of his trees and taunted him with their racket and turned acorns into weapons, hurling the tiny projectiles at lightening speed toward his shiny pate. This was the squirrel of Mr. Smith’s waking nightmares:
Naturally, Mr. Smith launched a series of counterattacks. His two weapons of choice? The waterhose (affixed with a jet spray nozzle and the force of a firehose) and a wheelbarrow of bricks. Mr. Smith could (and did) spend countless hours outside, launching brick after brick into his beloved tree and spraying them with the waterhose of doom. And this otherwise godfearing man, hurled vicious swearwords up to those “NO GOOD BASTARD MOTHERFUCKERS! I’LL KILL YOU! GET OUTTA MY TREE!”
And while his poor wife was forever lamenting this new side of Mr. Smith, some of us who witnessed it were delighted. I was old enough to be aware that I was witnessing the cognitive decline of a human being. So while I was torn between sorrow and amusement, I’m ashamed to admit that Mr. Smith’s War on Squirrels has provided many hours of laughter in my life.
But I swear, y’all. Perhaps the years have colored my memories a bit too much. But I swear sometimes those squirrels really did mock him with their loud squirrel gibberish and the occasional rain of acorns pelting the poor bastard. (And, by the way, I was Team Squirrel all the fucking way. I know. I’m a terrible person.)
Sometimes Mr. Smith would finish gathering all of his bricks back into the wheelbarrow and start toward the house when one of those little fuckers would let fly a squirrelfanity, causing Mr. Smith to slam on the brakes, wheel around and launch another brick.
He never did catch one. For all his effort, his aims never found purchase. And one day, well. One day he just stopped coming outside.
I said this was a happier tale. Damn y’all, what’d you go and make me cry for?
I have more squirrel tales to tell, so I’m going to end this here, as Part 1. I have at least three more mini-tales to go, but this is already quite lengthy so I’m breaking it into two parts. I’ll have the rest ready for you tomorrow!