Parking Lot People

I like to leave the office for my lunch break. I used to have a bad tendency to simply never take a lunch, in jobs past. Now, I make it a point to. I’m not getting paid for that hour, and damnit, I need to be kind to myself. Take the hour. Ingest some fresh air. Get off my ass. De-stress myself as much as possible.

Thing is, my office is in a weird little spot. There are no parks nearby, and it’s not close enough to downtown to go for a stroll. We’re right on a highway, so it’s pretty much either: have lunch at your desk (and continue working, because you won’t be left alone), take your lunch break in your vehicle in the parking lot (weird and awkward), take your lunch to the picnic table out back (and not be left alone), go out to eat (and go broke), or take your lunch to some other random parking lot.

The last option on that list is the one most people in this vicinity seem to gravitate to. I spend nearly every one of my lunch breaks sitting in my vehicle, parked in the parking lot of a local grocery store. And anywhere from five to two dozen other folks are doing the same thing.

All parked in the grocery store parking lot. Eating lunch. Alone. But together. Some listening to music. Some chatting on their phones. Some texting. Some playing games. Some smoking. Some napping. Some exiting their vehicles and sitting on the asphalt, just to be that much closer to fresh air and sunshine.

We exchange occasional nods of acknowledgement when we accidentally make eye contact with fellow Parking Lot People.

Other than that, it’s a solo thing. For many. It’s weird and sad and uplifting all at the same time.

And I dunno why, but I just wanted to mention these Parking Lot People, of whom I’m one.

That is all.

 

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Sal

She came over last night. Texted first.

Hey you gonna be home 2night?

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

Holler when you get settled we can have a nightcap

Sounds good.

~

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

I’d ignored her Thanksgiving text.

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

I’m out back

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

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

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

Sal, would you like to sit down?

Naw. I’m use ta standin’, but thanks.

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

And chats.

And chats.

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, Sal. Thank you. Really.

~

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

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

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

Gingers and Math Professors and Bhagavad Gita, Oh My.

Y’all. Something is up with Oregon. I mean aside from triple-decker man buns, obsessions with microbrews and whiskey, and wannabe hipster bro-boys. I’m talking about the ridiculously high ratio of gingers to the rest of the population. At least, I mean that’s at least a thing in the dating pool. Not that I’m complaining; some of these gingers are smokin’ fuckin’ hot. (Uhm. Maybe most of them. Which is weird, because as an aesthetic, I was never interested in gingers. I mean, I’ve always been a fan of ginger flavor – ginger beer, ginger snaps. But ginger boys? Too…pale. Oregon is changing my mind.)

If you stacked all of my dates up on a weirdass live human bar chart, the tallest bar would be gingers, by far. (This is not intentional.) At one point, I may or may not have been casually dating three gingers at once. One of them was pretty simple, but funny and wild as hell. Another of them was a super country libertarian boy (yeah, I passed pretty hard and fast on that one). The third was fucking brilliant – this weird dichotomy of former military and current anarcho-philosopher turned psychotherapist with a fucking PhD. Oh…was he yummy. Lemme tell ya… Too bad he was emotionally inaccessible and a bit of a sociopath.

Last night, I had a date with yet another ginger. A math professor. Yep. Another weilder of a PhD. (No, stop picturing a 65 year old in a tweed blazer with elbow patches. Fuck, I just planted that image, didn’t I? Stop picturing it!) Shy and awkward over text. Funny, witty, and deep in person. In between covertly checking him out (holy shit – since when do nerdy geek boys lift??) and getting coached on how to play pool, I was alternately laughing my ass off and diving off into deep conversations about math, the universe, string theory, self, other, the Bhagavad Gita, and Eastern Philosophy. With wild fucking abandon. Yeah, that’s the kind of thing that rocks my socks.

We did a bar crawl – my first ever, I think – and drank. A lot. Well, my a lot is just a little compared to seasoned drinkers. I don’t drink often. So, the two jumbo-sized ciders and the sangria had me in orbit. (Oregon makes sangria with wine AND tequila, y’all, at least at rooftop bars in college towns. My name is Stephanie, and I approve this message. (That fucker also came in an oversized, don’t think you can call that a pint glass anymore, pint glass.)) I wasn’t wasted – those three drinks were spread over about three hours – but boy, I got spirited and (only slightly) wobbly.

We walked it off, then looked at the stars. Man, there’s so much less light pollution in that little town than where I live. It was glorious. We listened to Irish folk music and Ravi Shankar and had the deepest conversation I’ve had in ages, punctuated with sass and smartassery, crude jokes, and ribald laughter.

It was incredible.

That charming, brilliant, Irish bastard.

And it’s almost a 100% certainty that I’ll never see him again.

Why? Because out of this abundance of gingers, only one of them has been interested in more than a single date (see simple but wild boy – and he’s not in it to win it, either). And it seems the smarter and more philosophically inclined they are – ginger or not, but especially the gingers – the less likely they are to be interested in anything even remotely serious.

Unfortunately, what dating is teaching me is that my interests border on the fucking unattainable. If the guy isn’t a deep thinker, I’m not interested. If the guy can’t banter, I’m not interested. If we can’t talk until 4 in the morning (yep, last night was a late one) about anything and everything, with no filter, I’m not interested. If we can’t enjoy comfortable silences, I’m not interested. If all conversation is all about him, I’m not interested. If all conversation is all about me, I’m not interested. If conversations are about things or people, I’m not interested. If conversations aren’t about ideas and thoughts and philosophies and weird little eccentricities of self and universe, I’m not interested. If I’m not laughing until I’m doubled over in pain, I’m not interested. If he isn’t a little….wild, rough around the edges, I’m not interested. And every. Single. Motherfucker. That I’ve met that has those qualities – the ones I AM interested in, are “ethically non-monogamous” or “polyamorous” (welcome to fucking Oregon) or strictly interested in an “FWB” or “NSA” situation (yeah, I’m learning a lot of fucking acronyms lately).

And it feels strangely like the longer this carries on, the less interested *I* am in something long-term and serious. Sometimes I think I’m *too* fucking adaptable, because I don’t want to compromise my personal convictions, the ones I have just for me. But at the same time, I don’t want to go back to being a complete and utter hermit, either, afraid of the opposite sex and what they do or don’t want from me.

Dating is nice. But it’s also terrible and unpredictable and scary. And I’m fucking sick of it. And also wish I had one tonight. (Oh wait, I did. But after the stellar night with the Jacked and Ginger Buddha, there’s no way I could meet this other guy. It would have been a soul-sucking exercise in tedium. So I canceled.)

See. If I don’t even know what the fuck I want, how can I expect others to know what they want? I mean. Every time someone does want something serious with me, I’m the one that’s not interested. I “don’t feel a connection,” or something on that laundry list of elusive but critical qualities is missing. I’ve totally ditched boys for lack of banter. And I just ditched one for lack of depth/connection. I don’t wanna talk about tv shows and YouTube political commentators all the damn time. I wanna talk about Plato and Buddhism and Experiencers/Enlightenment. Fuck those fucking gingers for dangling that fucking carrot and running off because they wanna be deep…with a shallow girl.

Fuck those fuckers for making me think it’s possible, because there’s no way in fuck I can settle now. I know what’s out there. I’ve known it for a long time, and I’m just getting it reinforced now and then. (Don’t get me wrong, most of the people I’ve been on dates with are horrible. I have some horror stories to share with you people! But sometimes…the veil is parted, and I get a glimpse of what could be. And I know…fucking. I know, I’m not digging too deep or searching for something imfuckingpossible.) So fuck those guys…and thank those guys.

Fucking gingers.

If I Were Bipolar

If I were bipolar, I bet I’d be a rapid cycler.

If I were bipolar, I bet I’d exit a two-month depression and launch right into an extended mixed episode.

If I were bipolar, I bet I’d make some dangerous decisions that would, ya know, put me in danger.

If I were bipolar, I bet I’d justify said dangerous decisions with shit like, “this is just what it looks like to live after stifling yourself for the better part of thirty-seven years.”

If I were bipolar, I bet I’d recover from heartbreak by meeting up with a never-ending string of dudes who give less than a shit about me.

If I were bipolar, I bet I’d only find pleasure in the kind of job that makes me pull my hair out.

If I were bipolar, I bet I’d leave that job on some random Tuesday night, meet up with some stranger, and stay up until 4 AM.

If I were bipolar, I bet I’d return to work the next day and alternate between bouncing off the walls and wanting to shoot myself in the face.

It’s a good thing I’m not bipolar.

The Horse is (Not) Alright

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

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

The horse is alright.

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

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

The horse is alright.

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

Nothing.

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

The horse is not alright.

I can’t find him.
Has he given up?

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

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

The horse is not alright.

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

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

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

The horse is alright.

It’s All About the Hustle

I’ve been hustling. And I do mean hustling hard. I’ve got two side hustles going on, on top of the full-time job (which I’m actively seeking to replace with a different full-time job elsewhere – never satisfied anymore, it seems).

One is the tutoring gig, which is frankly more trouble than it’s worth at this point because of an extended commute and a low cut of the pay. But I’m committed to seeing the school year through. They’ve got another month in these parts.

Second hustle is a writing thing I’ve been doing. Fluffy SEO padding shit to trick google. (They probably think I don’t know what’s up, but it’s fairly obvious it’s all bogus to do some hardcore SEO driving. You know, bolding keywords here and there. Burying a “moneylink” in a sea of non-competing, vaguely related links. Appending exactly three license-free stock photos and one embedded YouTube video. Yeah. Fun stuff.) But you know what? I’ve decided that I don’t care. I’m not screwing over any people with the BS articles and blog posts. I’m helping to trick a search engine that tricks people anyway. And while it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, at $15 a post…I can’t afford to linger too long on my reservations. I figure…keep this up a couple of months, and I’ll be back to salient. Quite frankly, that outweighs ethics at this point (to a reasonable extent, anyway).

What does bug me is that the hustle further stymies my own words, because damnit I’m churning out four to eight of those suckers a day on top of my day job. But I don’t know how long the little gig will last, so I’m gonna milk it for all it’s worth.

I think…I just needed to vent that. And say that, no…I’m not trying to disappear. Again. Doesn’t mean I won’t. But it’s not my intent.

One day at a time.

One day at a time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some hustling to do.

Warnings

Warn me
before you listen to hip hop,
Country one said.

Warn me
before you curse,
Christian one said.

Warn me
before you befriend me,
Aloof one said.

Warn me
before you laugh,
Stoic one said.

Warn me
before you believe,
Atheist one said.

Warn me
before you love me,
Jewish one said.

Warn me
before you trust me,
Brown one said.

Warn me
before you cry,
White one said.

Warn me
before you become,
They said.

Warn me
before you exist,
They said.

Warning you
that I’m done,
I said.

Noose

There it dangles, the tiny skeleton,
dancing on its tiny noose, haunting me.

It hangs from your rear view mirror,
reflecting the past into the present.

Skeletons are meant to remain hidden
under layers of skin and despair and false hopes.

But you drag them out,
grinning, heckling, getting off on reactions.

Getting off on pain,
you brag about your conquests of physical and psychological and sexual

abuse.

There it dangles, the tiny skeleton
dancing on its tiny noose, haunting me.

Bobbing in front of the mirror,
dragging the horrors of the past, screaming back into the forefront of my mind.

You are the noose,
wrapped around my neck.

Can you see the scars? They linger still,
finger-shaped bruises in a pretty purple painting on my ghost-white neck.

You are the noose,
wrapped around my heart, my mind, my soul,

my past.

You are the noose from which I dangle,
kicking, jerking, clawing at the frayed edges.

I’ll cut this fucker down, one of these days;
I’ll cut you down.

And then I’ll take those frayed bits and fashion the noose anew,
giving it a new home around your splotchy, bloated, corpse-like neck,

fathermine.

~

P.S. A big fat thank you to everyone who offered up ideas and made banners for me. I’m saving all of them and may rotate them out from time to time. Y’all rock my socks. All the damn time.

A Request and a PSA

Two quick things before I run away from work and drive downtown for Flogging Molly. I’m pumped, aside from a niggling fear that mystery pain will get worse and force an early exit from the show. Fingers crossed.

  1. Request: Does anyone know how and feel like making a new blog banner for me? The one I have now and have had for ages was made for me by The Aussie. It was to be temporary while he worked on something special. But he must have died and taken the banner with him, because that was months (well over a year) ago. I’d love to have something new, but I have no idea how to go about it myself.
  2. PSA: Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day! Get out there, grab some free comic books and don’t forget to buy something to support your local geekhaven!

Happy Friday. Or something.

Désolée (an un-poem)

I’m sorry, but…
I’m giving up on you.

Waiting for your call, your text, your email.
No more.

When you finally come to your senses,
I won’t be there, waiting as I always do.

Ardently, perpetually, relentlessly waiting.
No.

Je ne renoncerai plus à moi.
Je m’abandonne à nous.
Je renonce à toi.

Désolée.
Je suis très désolée.