Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Dog Died Today

Desperate for comfort, I wear my favorite sweats, sit next to the outdoor fire pit, drink a beer and smoke a stale cigarette. Her cremation is probably complete: by now, she’s just ashes in some box marked #423: Shepherd Mix. I think of her fur singeing. Fur I brushed, petted, washed, vacuumed, cursed…but mostly kissed for the past 16 years. How many kisses did I plant on top of her head over the course of her lifetime? A million? I do mental math in an effort to distract my mind and conclude that yes, I kissed her head a million times.

“Are you okay?” my husband asks from the back door. I automatically smile and issue a humorous response; humor I don’t feel, but humor has always been my best defense. He shuts the door behind him and I continue to watch the flames in the fire pit dance.

But the truth is, I am not okay. In fact, I passed 'O' and 'K' so long ago, I cornered 'Z' and am speeding my way through the alphabet for a second time. No, I am so not okay knowing that my dog is dead. My dog of 16 years is dead. And I am not okay.

I am NOT okay knowing that I will never kiss her head, never scratch the spot on the base of her tail that makes her dance, never see her tail wag. I am NOT okay that she’ll never be at my feet in the morning when I wake up, never nudge me and bow her head for a hug, never bark at me in the middle of the night to let her out and then refuse to go because it’s raining. And I am so NOT okay that she spent the last fucking years of her life deaf and blind; stubbornly refusing to give up her will to live because she refused to leave me. But mostly, I am not okay knowing that she is just a bunch of ashes in some fucking veterinarian’s darkened back room, shelved and numbered, without me, as if she never existed. Oh no. I am sooo NOT okay with that.

Because she did exist. And she wasn’t just some dog. She was my dog. And I loved her.

Now, I just want to crawl out of my skin to escape this painful grief and return after life fast forwards to when I can speak her name without bursting into tears. I pray to God that wherever she is, because the hope that I might see her again is all I’ve got left to stop me from going insane, that she can see in Technicolor. In fact, it must be Technicolor where she is because when she left, she took all the happy reds, sunny yellows and joyous oranges in my world with her, leaving behind only shades of grey.

I guess there’s really nothing more to say other than, ‘Good-bye, my friend. I hope I served you half as well as you served me over the years. You were a good dog, and I shall miss you terribly.’

Casey AKA Pooh Bear. November 7th, 1994 - October 26th 2010.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Facebook Deactivation

Dear Facebook Friends,

There comes a time when one must admit she has an addiction that is interfering with her life. No, I’m not talking about beer! Why would you think that? Besides, it’s not like I don’t know I’m an alcoholic, but I fear that if I admit to it, I’ll have to stop drinking. No, I’m talking about a waaaaay more insidious drug.

Facebook.

For a long time, I was able to keep my facebook use at a recreational level. I grabbed a cup of tea in the morning, logged onto my account, typed my Deep Thought of the Day on the status line, and generally saw what the hell everyone else was up to. Then at night, I logged on to read the abusive comments left on my page that day. But about a month ago, my facebook use started to spiral out of control. No longer was I using in the morning and at night, but during midday as well. 10am, 12noon, 2 pm! And I really don’t know why! There’s never a red flag flying over my message icon and, because people have FUCKING LIVES, there’s never anything new in the Newsfeed section.

About two weeks ago, for one reason or another, my habit became a full blown addiction. I started to check facebook incessantly. INCESSANTLY. And incessantly checking facebook isn’t hard to do considering I spend all day, everyday, writing on a computer! Swear to God, I’m like Tiger Woods and Facebook is a pair of nearby boobs. How can I resist?

Unfortunately, along with my out of control use, came a bevy of mixed emotions. I started to get really depressed when I saw no red flags flying above my message icon, and then really pissed off when people didn’t comment on my status within three seconds. Because, of course, by then, I had already checked for comments two times. Then I started to get downright resentful whenever a good status was met with little fanfare. Take the other day, for example. I only received three thumbs up for my observation on the female hormone oxytocin and dammit! THAT status deserved more appreciation.

Two weeks ago, starting on a Thursday, I spent three days on Facebook. THREE FUCKING DAYS! During the weekend, I didn’t go anywhere and I didn’t speak to anyone, because I was on Facebook. Well, I did play poker one night and I went to a bar the next, and I did speak some, but the point is that when I was not doing any of that, I was on Facebook. In fact, the only thing I accomplished that weekend was putting together a photo album entitled ‘All the Shit I Didn’t do this Week’ BECAUSE I was on Facebook! And while the photo album was certainly brilliant and fascinating, I’m not entirely convinced that was the best use of my time.

Last week, I became an all out junkie when I added a new drug into the mix. That’s right! An iPhone! Which I totally regret buying but I can’t give back for 2 years unless I cough up a $275 cancellation fee! Now, not only do I incessantly check my iPhone for texts and messages that never come, leaving me an emotional wreck, BUT, guess what is on the iPhone? That’s right! A Facebook icon! I've got Facebook Mobile! Christ! It’s like someone permanently hooked me up to a morphine IV and left me in charge of administering my own dosage! What!? I can get facebook ALL THE TIME, ANY TIME! In a car, in a bar, at a fair, here and there, I can now get facebook ANYWHERE! Even worse, the iPhone rings whenever someone leaves a comment, and being the facebook crackwhore that I am, I’m forced to immediately pull over and check it. And then I get really pissed off when I discover that the comment isn’t even for me, but was left under someone else’s status that I had previously commented on.

Do you know why there was such a time lag in between my last two stories? Because I was on Facebook, that’s why! Not that you would know that’s where I was since, like any good addict, I make sure to hide my problem by going OFFLINE! So nobody can see what a fucking loser I am! There’s no food in the house, I’m surrounded by beer bottles, I’ve got four half written stories on hold AND, I’m not making this up, the dog I didn’t even realize was missing just barked at me from the other side of the gate to let her in! I don’t know how she got out and I have no idea how long she was gone for! Because I was on Facebook! SERIOUSLY! That just happened!

My addiction has gotten to the point where I can’t even walk by my desktop computer without stopping and clicking! Take last night, for example, when I finally, at last, hit

ABSOLUTE ROCK BOTTOM.

I was sitting on my back patio, HP laptop computer in my lap, logged onto Facebook. All evening, every two seconds, I kept logging onto the infernal site to check for a message I wanted to receive but which never came and to read a message that I didn’t want to receive but which came anyway. At one point, I placed my HP laptop on the patio table, walked into the kitchen to get a beer, and then I actually stopped in front of the Mac desktop computer on my desk and fucking LOGGED ONTO FACEBOOK!

In short, I’m deactivating my Facebook account. I’d like to say that I’m capable of leaving my account activated and strong enough to just not LOG IN, but I’m waaay too far gone. That’s like leaving a beer in my fridge and telling me not to drink it. Ain’t ever gonna happen.

So here’s my recovery plan. I’m going to wait 24 hours to allow time for people to actually read this message, so when they see that my account is deactivated, they won’t think I’m dead. Plus, that should allow plenty of time for you all to bid me farewell and tell me how much you’re going to miss me. Then, on Sunday night, maybe Monday morning, I shall permanently log off.

I shall then pick up the pieces of my broken heart and move on. I shall bury myself in some other mindless occupation until I’ve learned to adjust to a world without Facebook. I figure that should take a week, maybe two, no more than three. Because four weeks would be out of the question.

Unless, of course, I finish writing my next story before then. If that’s the case, I’ll reactivate the account, post http://thelifeofcynthia.blogspot.com/ on my status bar, and then immediately deactivate the account.

Wish me luck that I come out clean on the other side.

Oh, and if someone could start taking up a collection so I can kick my iPhone habit as well, I’d appreciate it.

Your Facebook Friend,

Cynthia

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Ultimate Breakdown

My husband asked me to never speak of the breakdown again. After all, he is a proud and private man. In response, I patted his shoulder and promised that I would never speak of it to anyone. And then, as soon as he left the room, I immediately flipped open my laptop, resurrected my long ago abandoned blog, wrote down all the details and am now posting them for everyone to read. Indeed, I vowed to never speak of the breakdown. Which is why I was forced to write about it instead.

But beyond the obvious satisfaction that comes from exposing a person’s most vulnerable secrets, there is a greater purpose for conveying this sorry Breakdown tale. You see, although I know when the breakdown occurred, I still don’t understand why it occurred. Surely, there must have been some sort of catalyst! But what? After all, leading up to the breakdown that occurred during the final 60 minutes of our 19 hour straight drive from Ohio to Texas, I had been sitting next to my husband the ENTIRE time. That’s right. For eighteen hours straight I sat next to the man! Certainly, I would have known if anything happened that rose to such a level as to induce a breakdown! But, swear on my life, nothing happened during the trip that does not regularly happen whenever my husband and are together.

So do me a favor. Grab yourself a beer, wine if you must, and pull up a chair. Perhaps if I tell you the tale, you can help me see if there was a single reason to account for:

The Ultimate Breakdown

Prelude to The Breakdown.

In late June, I drove my two sons and two decrepit canines from Texas to my parent’s house on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Concerned his family would end up in Alaska, my husband hoped to set me in the right direction by driving with me to the state of Ohio. The first day, we drove from Texas to St. Louis, and by ‘we’ I mean my husband since I was damn near comatose after I accidentally fed the dog’s Xanax to myself that morning instead of to the dog. The second day, we traveled across Kentucky Avenue, Indiana and Illinois to Ohio, whereupon arrival, my husband screeched, “I can’t take anymore!” before he sprinted from the driver’s seat to the nearest airport. In retrospect, my husband’s reaction should have been an indicator of what was to come. Let's face it, some people just aren’t suited for travel.

I stayed that night at my mother-in-law’s house, and took off for Cape Cod the next morning, making several unannounced, overnight pit stops to drink beer with anyone who would open their door along the way. Two months of hard living on the beaches of Cape Cod later, I packed up my two sons and two decrepit canines and began the long, return trek down Connecticut’s I-95. (See blog entry Highway From Hell for further details) Concerned his sons would end up in the Florida Keys, my husband insisted I pick him up at New Jersey’s Newark airport so he could drive with his family back to Texas. We drove across the maddeningly unending state of Pennsylvania and stayed the night in Ohio. And now it’s today. The day my husband and I will drive 19 straight hours in a pick up truck from Akron, Ohio to Allen, Texas.

6:00 AM, Ohio

I open the back door, step onto the deck, inhale deeply and let out a dreamy sigh.
Indeed, I’m as much in love as I ever was. Just look at me. I’m all goosepimply! Yes, I still get butterflies in my stomach whenever I see my OUTRAGEOUSLY HOT red, Ford Lariat 150 pickup truck with extended cab, heated AND air conditioned leather seats, XM radio, and appropriately sized cup holders. It’s true. Even after all this time, I still find the only thing hotter than my truck is me behind the wheel.

Backlit by the glow of the rising morning sun, I take a moment to drink in the truck’s beauty from grille to tailgate. My eyes travel lovingly over the bold curve of the front hood, the shiny red doors on the cab, the custom fitted, black canvas Tonneau truck bed cover that securely snaps into place to keep my shit from flying out. And then, of course, there is the beautiful tailgate to which something very bad is about to happen!

“HOLD IT!” I point at my husband. “Stop! Right! There!” In one hand, my husband holds his traveling suitcase: In the other, he holds the handle to the truck’s tailgate. “Do NOT open that tailgate.”

“Why not?” he asks.

Why NOT?! I shake my head. Why not, he asks. He can ask that question for he has the luxury of not knowing what I know. You see, he wasn’t there that last day on Cape Cod when I packed clothes, golf clubs, books, electronics, sporting equipment and two months worth of careless purchases into the bed of the truck. He can’t begin to comprehend how many hours it took me to shuffle, twist, slide, unload, repack, jam, push and finally SHOVE everything in sideways just to make it fit. And he doesn’t know that the exorbitantly over priced picture I promised not to buy is resting on top of it all. In short, what lies in the bed of that truck is nothing short of a compacted powder keg of belongings, waiting to EXPLODE like a giant, uncoiled spring at the tiniest of breeches. No doubt, just one careless unlatch of the tailgate, just one pop of a snap on the bed cover, will immediately unleash a torrent of pressure powerful enough to blast all my personal belongings straight into the outer stratosphere.

“But there’s no room in the cab,” he protests. “And I don’t want to drive with the suitcase on the passenger’s side floor again. My legs are killing me from yesterday.” He makes a good point. Unfortunately, when I packed up the bed and the cab of the truck to the fullest before I left Cape Cod, I forgot to account for my husband, and therefore, forgot to remind him not to bring any sort of personal effects with him to the airport. Needless to say, with his suitcase taking up all the floor space in front of the passenger’s seat, his legs got pretty cramped during the times when I took the wheel during our trek across Pennsylvania.

“Just give it to me,” I roll my eyes at Mr. Negative Nelly. “There’s plenty of room in the cab!” I limp over to my husband. Unfortunately, I recently suffered a sport’s injury which tore the shit out of my hamstring. Which was why I pretended to be asleep while my husband took an awfully long time to load up the cab this morning. My husband hands me his suitcase, I limp over to the rear right door and open it.

Sweet Jesus!! Just look at this place! It’s packed! The back bench seat is piled high with blankets, pillows, bags of chips, my traveling case, Xbox, books, DS systems, Madlibs and on top of it all, two sleepy boys with their heads crammed against the ceiling. The floor of the back seat offers little hope as well. There is an ancient, deaf and blind German Shepard mix who is groggy from all the Xanax pills she has taken to calm her traveling nerves, and next to her, is a just-as-ancient, beyond obese, neurotic black lab who is groggy from all the Valium medication she has taken to stop her from climbing on my head because she fears abandonment. Interspersed among the canines, is a cooler, movies, magazines, a few sex toys and an assortment of sundries. Clearly, there is no room here for a suitcase. I open the front passenger door. On the floor is my ‘Profanity Provides Relief!’ pink pocketbook and my laptop. I open the driver’s side door. On the floor is a brake and a gas pedal. Oh look! Here’s room! I jam the suitcase in between the driver and passenger seat until it rests on the center console.

“Okay! I found a place for your suitcase! Let’s go!” I pleasantly call to my husband as I hop into the driver’s seat. “I’ll drive first!”

A moment later, the passenger door clicks shut and I assume my husband is in the truck.
After all, I can’t see him over the suitcase.

“See that?” I brag. “I told you there was plenty of room!”

I put the truck in reverse and back out of the driveway. Then I hit the breaks. Damn this suitcase! It keeps getting in the way of my elbow.

“Listen, do you mind putting this on the passenger’s side floor?” I push the suitcase on to his lap.
Two minutes, one resentful glare and his feet on top of the suitcase later, my husband pulls out the Atlas, since I was too cheap to pay the extra bucks for Ford to install a GPS.

“Okay, by my calculations, it should take 19 hours to get home. Providing, of course, that we don’t stop every five minutes,” he advises.

“Sounds good!” I chime as I make a left hand turn five minutes later.

“Where are you going?” he asks.

“To get gas,” I reply. Five minutes later, I make a right hand turn.

Now where are you going!?”

“I‘ve got to use the bathroom,” I reply as I hop out of the car and run into Burger King. Five minutes later, I make another right.

Now where the hell are you going?”

“I need a Diet Coke!” I swing into the McDonalds that is located right next door to the Burger King, pull up to the drive thru and order my drink.

“Would you like anything else with that?“ the intercom voice inquires.

“Uhhhh….” I internally debate. Normally, I’m a healthy eater. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I ate something from McDonalds. After all, the starch infused, oil laden, animal byproducts that McDonalds tries to pass off for food is disgusting! It never ceases to amaze me how people can argue that McDonald’s food is addictive. Food is not addictive. Now crack cocaine! THAT shit is addictive! But unfortunately, I’m hungry.

“I guess I’ll try one of those McMuffin thingys,” I say. Five minutes later, I pull through the Burger King that is located on the other side of the McDonalds.

“Next time, try asking others if they would like something,” my husband snaps after I hand him his coffee.

Seventeen quick stops later, I complete the two mile drive to the highway and merge into traffic.
“Damn. How can there be all these stations and no good music,” I remark as I continually and incessantly flip through the channels. I thought I had put a whole bunch of CDs in the truck before I left Cape Cod, but I can’t find them.

“Hey!” my husband smiles during the split second that I am not turning the radio dial. “I like this song!”

“Really?” I ask right before I turn the dial in search of a good song. Then, I turn off the air conditioner my husband just turned on. I hate to be cold. I much prefer to keep the truck’s internal temperature at a steady 98 degrees.

“Why is it so damned hot in here?” my husband asks a minute later. Sweat is pouring down his face.

“Sorry. I guess I accidentally turned on your seat warmer,” I apologize.

***
So as you can see, the first two miles of the trip went well. No red flags here to indicate that a breakdown was forth coming. And certainly, if you had been able to strap yourself to the roof of the truck and film the subsequent 12 hours, you would filmed that the trip continued on in pretty much the same manner.

***
12 Hours later. 6:00 PM. State of Kentucky.


“Pull over at the next gas station,” I say to my husband.

“What for?” he asks.

“I need to buy cigarettes,” I reply.

“Why?” he asks. I explain that ever since the State of New Jersey determined the most
effective way to pay for the state’s collective and ongoing governmental overspending was to fleece the cigarette tax shit out of elderly retirees on fixed incomes and poor minorities from the inner city, my educated, rich smoker friend from New Jersey was forced to look over the state line for cheaper cigarettes. And since we’re driving through Kentucky, a state with a very low cigarette tax rate, who better to pick my friend up some cigarettes and mail them to her than me?

“Uh…fine,” my husband sighs with resignation as he pulls off the highway. “Just hurry up. We’re never going to make it to Texas if we keep pulling over every five minutes.”

“No problem. This will be quick,” I assure and run into the gas station.

A hundred stops that occurred at five minute intervals later, I finally locate 10 cartons of Marlboro Ultras. And that’s when a problem arose. Where the hell am I going to put 10 fucking cartons of cigarettes!? It took me forever to find a place for each carton, but I did! I stacked three cartons on top of the suitcase, put one on top of the middle console and laid three cartons lengthwise across the front dashboard. Then I directed both the kids to prop up a carton between their respective head rest and the back window. As for the final carton, I simply turned one of the dogs into a drug mule with a twelve inch incision and a staple gun.

“Okay, let’s go,” I direct my husband when I am at long last finally through. My husband pulls onto the highway. “Man this ride is taking forever! Can’t you speed up? You’re driving so slow!” I gripe.

My husband glares at me. Jesus. What’s his problem. I’m just stating a fact. He IS a slow driver. Still, he probably doesn’t need to hear me complain.

“Speed up! And why is it so cold in here?!” I turn off the air conditioner. “Good Lord, my leg hurts. It really doesn’t pay to be an athlete, you know,” I rub the back of my hamstring, which fortunately, isn’t too far away since my feet are on top of the cigarettes on top of the suitcase, and therefore, my knees are folded under my chin. “I’m hungry. Are you hungry?” I shuffle through the dozens of McDonalds bags I’ve accumulated over the past twelve hours in desperate search of a French fry. “Good God, what’s the point of having XM radio if there is no good music?” I turn the dial in the middle of my husband’s favorite song. He husband continues to glare at me.

Suddenly, my husband swerves the truck hard, sending the far left cigarette carton on the dashboard sliding his way! Apparently, because his eyes were squarely on me instead of on the road where they should have been, we almost got sideswiped by a maniac weaving in and out of traffic at 100 miles per hour.

“Holy shit!” my husband exclaims.

“You really ought to drive more carefully, you know,” I observe.

“No, not that. The sticker!” my husband snaps impatiently as he pushes the cigarette carton that slid in front of the registration sticker out of the way.

“Look at the sticker!” my husband points to the orange registration sticker on the outside, bottom left hand corner of the windshield. “The car registration is expired!” I look over at the sticker and observe a backwards number 7. Apparently, the registration expired in July. That sucks. How the hell could that have happened?

“Well, that’s not good,” I reply as I turn off the air conditioner he just turned on.

“No, it’s not good!” my husband agrees. “Didn’t you remember to pay the registration renewal before you left in June?!” he asks, rather accusatorily. I stare at him for a moment.

You know, my husband NEVER listens to me. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve asked him to pick up milk from the store on his way home from work, only to discover him empty handed in my kitchen when he walks though the door. ‘Where’s the milk?’ I ask. ‘What milk? You never asked me to pick up milk!’ he says. When these memory losses began at first, I figured he was just trying to gaslight me, because that is something I would do. Then I began to think he was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Of course, I dismissed Alzheimer’s when it became apparent that my husband could easily recall the time, date, where I was standing and what I was wearing whenever I made false promises to have sex: He just couldn’t remember anything else I said! Of course, we women remember everything.

“No, I didn’t pay the registration!“ I bark. “You said you were going to pay the bill! Don’t you remember? June 27? I was sitting at the desk, paying bills. You walked by, you were wearing a blue shirt, and I held up the registration renewal form and asked, ‘Do you want me to pay this?’ And YOU said, and I quote, “No. Don’t bother. I’ll take care of the registration after I fly back from Ohio!”

“Hmm,” my husband shakes his head, confused. “I don’t remember any of that.”

Well, of course he doesn’t remember! I made the whole thing up! And if my husband ever bothered to listen to me, he would know that conversation never took place! On the other hand, I can clearly remember not paying the bill.

“Well, check the glove compartment. Maybe I paid the registration and tossed the sticker in the document folder,” my husband suggests as he turns on the air conditioner. “Last thing we need is to get pulled over for driving an unregistered vehicle.”

Though I doubt I’ll find it, I open up the glove compartment. A thick stack of CDs spill out into my lap. Oh, that’s where I put them! I immediately shut the glove compartment.

“Well? Is the registration sticker in there!?” my husband urgently asks.

“No,” I reply simply as I flip through the music.

“Are you sure?” he asks, worriedly. Well, of course I’m sure the non existent registration sticker is not in the document folder in the glove compartment! After all, I removed the document folder along with the thick Ford Maintenance Book before I left Cape Cod to make room for the CDs!

“I’m sure,” I reply confidently.

“Dammit! Where else could it be?!” my husband worries. Best guess? On top of the refrigerator in my parent’s garage. Along with the document folder. “Shit. I hope we don’t get pulled over. Driving an unregistered vehicle is not a good thing,” he continues to worry.

A moment of silence ensues before I look over at my husband.

“I suppose this is as good a time as any to tell you that we’re driving without insurance papers as well.”

“WHAT?!”

“On the other hand, we’ve got ABBA!” I say happily as I pop in the CD and turn off the air conditioner that my husband just turned on.

***

Once again, no red flags here! Certainly nothing to suggest that a breakdown was in the making. But six hours later, 18 hours after we left Ohio and with only one more hour to go, my husband’s behavior suddenly changed. One second he was calm, and the next thing I knew, he started screaming at me for no good reason! Of course, I knew that I was not to blame for his new found, clearly misplaced anger since my behavior hadn’t changed one iota during the entire drive. Obviously, there was a breakdown happening! A breakdown, no doubt, brought on by going absolutely, 100%, bat shit STIR CRAZY. He really shouldn’t feel ashamed about it. I mean, it is perfectly natural for the weak minded to go absolutely, 100% bat shit STIR CRAZY after driving for 18 hours. Not that I would know since I am of a strong and sound mind. But for reasons that had nothing to do with me, i.e. he went stir crazy, my husband finally reached a breaking point. And from that moment on, things just went from bad to worse until my husband reached The Ultimate Breakdown.

12:00 Midnight. On a Lone, Dark, Desolate Texas Highway…
With Just One Hour Left to Go


Is it me or is it hot in here? Why does the truck not seem to be moving? I hate Dancing Queen. Are there any more French fries? With dipping sauce? My leg hurts. Did someone fart or was that the dog? Is that Las Vegas up ahead? And why are the white lines on the highway undulating? Well, who the hell knows. At this point, all I know is that:
I must get the fuck out of this passenger's seat and get the fuck out of this truck. Right fucking NOW!!!!!!!
I can't take it anymore! Between floating dog hair, no room, fighting children who incessantly ask if we’re there yet, no songs on XM, the repeated play of ABBA, fluctuating temperatures, my husband’s incredibly SLOW driving, and miles and miles of flat, God forsaken Texan highway that leads to FUCKING NOWHERE…And these four walls of the truck! They’re moving! They’re closing in on me! They are going to EAT ME! Oh My God! I can’t breathe! I CAN’T BREATHE!!! For God’s sake, somebody shoot me!

Ten minutes later.

What the hell is wrong with people?! I mean, what does a girl have to do to become a victim of a drive by shooting these days? I tried everything! I leaned out the window and frantically waved a Confederate flag while holding up a ‘REINSTATE SLAVERY!’ sign at countless black motorists! I put on a pair of antlers and slapped a bulls-eye on my forehead when that overweight, toothless guy chugging a can of Budweiser passed by in his jalopy of a pick up truck with a shot gun rack! And if the oversized, gigantic, glow in the dark “I AM PROUD TO BE A MUSLIM!“ Bumper Sticker that I plastered dead center on the truck’s tailgate doesn’t get a girl shot on a lone Texas highway, then frankly, I don’t know what the hell does. All I know is I HAVE TO GET OUT OF THIS FUCKING TRUCK!

“Do you mind if I drive the final hour?” I ask my husband. Calmly. We switch places.

“Remember, we need to pull off at the next exit for gas,” my husband reminds me just before I FLOOR THE GAS PEDAL and ROCKET down the highway like a BAT OUT OF HELL, passing by no fewer than 17 exits with gas stations in under five minutes!

“SLOW DOWN!” my husband hollers.

“Sorry,” I mutter as I stare unblinking through the windshield with blood shot eyes. I grip the wheel tight with both hands.

“You need to get off at the next exit! We are seriously low on gas!” my husband starts screaming at me for no good reason! I mean, what’s the good in it? I’m not listening to him! And I am not about to stop until I reach Allen, Texas! I will never stop!! Ever! EVER!!! Oh look! McDonalds! I haven’t had anything from McDonalds in nearly an hour!

I fly off the exit and onto the access road.

“Uh…I didn’t see a gas station sign,” my husband says, confused.

“That’s because there wasn’t one,“ I reply evenly as I bank a hard right into the McDonalds parking lot. I ask neither my husband nor my at-long-last asleep children if they want anything.

“Can I have three Supersized Big Macs with extra dipping sauce, please,” I serenely place the order for myself.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. Did you say ‘sauce'?’” the intercom voice asks.

“Yes,” I placidly confirm.

“Uhhh, Big Macs don’t come with dipping sauce, ma’am. Did you mean…”

“JUST GIVE ME THE FUCKING SAUCE!!!!” I screech. “Oh. And an apple pie.”

“Are you okay?” my husband asks warily.

“Yes,” I reply. And then, in one huge bite, I shove everything into my mouth. Wrappers and all. “I feel better now.” But that was a lie. After all, the high I got from the Big Macs wore off a minute later, and I was back to feeling a bit boxed in.

I drive forward through the McDonalds parking lot until I reach the access road. But unfortunately, instead of making a left onto the access road to drive back to the exit I just got off, I accidentally make a right. For several minutes, I drive along on the access road that parallels the highway that leads in the direction toward home. Then I realize my mistake and begin to do a three point turn on the relatively narrow access road in my huge red truck. Twenty rapid points of turning later, I’ve turned the truck almost a quarter way around.

“What the hell are you doing?” my husband demands when I reach the twenty ninth point.

“What the hell does it look like I’m doing?“ I snap back as I take point thirty in reverse. Over the brim. And into a ditch. “I‘m turning around!”

“You don’t need to turn around!” my husband barks at me after he pushes the truck out of the ditch and hops back into the passenger’s seat. “We’re on the highway access road! There will be another ramp to get back on the highway up ahead!” My husband glances worriedly at the gas gauge. “Besides, we really need to get to a gas station.” Hmm. This sounds like a recipe for getting lost to me.

“But how do you know there will be a gas station ahead?” I quiz my husband.

“There are always gas stations along the access road,” he says.

“Yeah, but we don’t want to lose time by driving away from the highway and off into the middle of nowhere in search of a gas station,” I say.

“We’re not going to drive away from the highway!“ he insists. “The access road runs parallel to the highway!”

“But once we get gas, we’ll then have to turn around and drive all the way back to the exit we just got off of and that’s going to cost us time!”

OR,” my husband counters. “We can get back on the highway by taking any one of the number of ACCESS RAMPS up ahead that connect the HIGHWAY ACCESS ROAD to the HIGHWAY!”

Grudgingly, I follow the plan, although it makes no sense. If you ask me, we should just turn around, drive back to the exit we just got off, get back on the highway and get off at the next exit. Still, I continue along the access road, leaving behind the exit that I know for a FACT leads back to the highway.

“Are you sure there’s a gas station ahead?” I ask when the streetlights appear to grow dim.

“Yes, I’m sure. Keep driving.”

“Are you sure we’re not driving away from the highway?” I ask when I am certain that the recent curve in the road has sent us traveling perpendicularly away from the highway and off into the middle of nowhere.

“Yes, I’m sure! Keep driving!”

“Are you sure this access road leads back to the highway?”

“Yes!! Keep driving!”

An hour later, somewhere in the distance, I distinctly hear the strumming of a banjo.

“Are you sure…?”

“YES! KEEP GOING!”

At long last, I see a sign. It says: APPALACHIA. Oh, for cryin’ out loud! I knew I shouldn’t have listened to my husband!

“What are you doing!?” my husband cries out.

“Turning around!” I can’t believe that my husband just cost us all this extra time! “I’m going back to the exit we got off!” In a flash, I spin the truck around and slam the pedal to the metal.

“For God’s sake! Slow Down!” my husband screams as he grabs onto the Oh-Jesus handle above the passenger’s seat. Behind me, I hear the sound of two children, two dogs and everything else not nailed down in the back collectively THUMP on the left side interior door. But I guess that was only to expected since I just took that corner on two wheels at a million fucking miles per hour.

“SLOW DOWN!” my husband screams even louder. “You’re going to wrap us around a tree!”

“GOOD! Maybe I’ll get ejected right through the windshield!” I explode maniacally. I’m like a thirsty sailor adrift at sea who finally drinks the salt water and is driven mad! “LOOK! UP AHEAD! Is that a boat!?” Hallucinating, I drive straight for a telephone poll.

“TURN!’” my husband shrieks. The will to survive being what it is, I turn the wheel at the last second.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” I yell at my husband as I continue to race down the road.

“WHAT!?”

“Would it have killed you to ask for directions!?”

“To where?! We're not lost!” my husband throws up his hands. “We are on the access road! Why the hell did you turn around?”

“Because I didn’t want to get lost! I told you we should have gotten a GPS!” I bark. “You just cost us an extra HOUR!”

“We don’t need a GPS system! We’re not lost!” my husband hollers. Typical male, can’t admit when he’s lost. “Besides, you were the one who refused to get the God damned GPS system anyway!”

“That’s because Ford wanted a fucking arm and leg for it and you don’t make enough money for us to afford luxuries such as GPSes!”

“Well, maybe if you got off your ass and found a JOB, we could afford things like GPSes!” my husband counters.

Wha…wha…wha…?" I cover my injured heart with one hand as I stammer since my husband’s insensitive accusation has left me at a loss of words. But only for a second.

“I can’t BELIEVE you just went there!“ I burst. “You know that I have no skills and am unemployable! And you knew that when you married me! So stop blaming me for your poor marital decision and learn to take responsibility for your actions!” By this time, I am screaming so loudly, the interior of the truck is vibrating from the reverberation.

“Are we almost there?” my older son asks sleepily from the back seat. Oh, now isn’t THAT just perfect. My husband woke up our son! I adjust the interior rear view mirror until I spot my exhausted boy. Poor guy. Surely, such a long trip hasn’t been easy for him. My son and I lock eyes in the mirror.

“No, we’re not almost there!” I explode. “We’ve NEVER going to get there! We’re going to drive and drive and drive until we all DIE! Now stop asking!”

“Oh, calm down!" my husband snaps. “And we didn’t lose an hour. We were only on the access road for five minutes! And if you had just stayed on the access road instead of turning around, we'd have gas and be on the highway by now!”

“I saw a sign for APPALACHIA,” I seethe.

“It was a street sign!” Yeah, whatever.

“Jesus, Cynthia, SLOW DOWN!”

BUMP! Ba-Boom! BUMP! Ba-boom!! The truck bounces high in the air with each deep pot hole I fly over! In the rear view mirror, I spy all the contents in the back seat being tossed in the air like a salad. Books! Games! Dogs! Trash! My older son! Desperate to slow me down, my husband tries to appeal for the safety of the only thing I truly care about.

“You’re going to damage the truck!” His plea works and I slow down to half the reckless speed. I continue driving, but I can’t shake this feeling that something is missing.

I look at the rearview mirror. Hmm. Something is missing.

“Where’s your brother?” I meet my older son’s eyes in the mirror.

“I dunno,” my older son shrugs. Of course, my first thought was ‘OH MY GOD! DID HE FALL OUT?!’ but that feeling was immediately replaced with ‘Ah fuck it. I can always have another kid.’ All I know is, I’m not stopping!

Some minutes later, I hear a mumble. I look above me. Then below me. Then to either side. Where the hell is that sound coming from? Then suddenly! My younger son SPRINGS up from seemingly nowhere and lands on the center console, gasping for air. He is covered in dog hair.

“Where the hell have you been?!” I shout at him, disgusted. “I was worried!”

“I don’t know. One minute,” my confused son pants, “I was sleeping and then the next thing I know, I was lying underneath the dogs!“ Apparently, ever since my son fell out of his seat when I coiled that turn on two wheels, he has been struggling to free himself from under 100 pounds of Xanax and Valium induced canine dead weight. Fortunately, the recent jaunt over the potholes coughed him out from under the dogs and onto the console. Immediately, my heretofore comatose canines come to and start barking.

WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!

“Dammit! You woke up the dogs!” I admonish my son. “And why weren’t you wearing your seat belt? DOoO YoOou KnoOOOw howww unSAAAfe that issss?!” My shaky words reverberate from the new series of pot holes I just discovered.

WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!

“I WAS wearinggggg my seat BE.e.E.e.LT!” my younger son insists.

“SHUT UP!” my husband yells over the loud barking and otherwise complete cacophonic mayhem. “PULL THE DAMN TRUCK OVER!”

It was just then that I realize the truck is driving funny. What happened!? It feels like I’m driving a three legged dog! I pull onto the poorly lit brim of the so-called access road and park the truck. My husband shoves my younger son out of the way, flips open the console and grabs the spare set of keys with the pin flashlight attached. He clicks on the flashlight and jumps out of the car.

“Dammit!” he hollers. “The tire is flat!” You have got to be kidding me! I hop out of the truck and stomp over to the back right tire. My husband shines the flashlight on the tire. Damn! He’s right! The tire is as flat as my chest!

“Well, how the hell did that happen?” I wonder. My husband doesn’t reply. He just glares at me, flaring his nostrils. Typical male, can't handle when asked a question he doesn’t know the answer to. My husband angrily walks to the rear passenger door and wails it open.

“MOVE!” he barks at my still gasping son. I hear my husband flip up the seat. Then I hear the rustling of four thousand empty fast food bags. Then, through the rear windshield, I see the interior light come on. Then I watch a dog stagger out of the truck and disappear into the tall grass that separates the access road from the highway. Then, I turn my attention back to the truck and watch my husband’s arms flail all over the interior. Good Lord! What the hell is he looking for?!

“If you’re looking for the flashlight, there is one in the console!” I impatiently sing out as I move to the back of the truck. Emotionally spent and feeling loads better now that I’m out of the truck, I plop my butt down on the back bumper and pick at my nails to pass the time.

Two seconds later, my husband blinds me with the flashlight that he’s been holding in his hand this entire time.

“I’m not looking for the flashlight!” he barks in my face. “I was looking for the jack! But it’s missing! Where the hell is it?”

“Well, don’t look at me!” I cry defensively. “I didn’t even know we owned a jack! Where was it?”

“Under the back seat!” he insists. Good grief. If it’s happened once, it’s happened a million times. My husband picks up an item, puts it down somewhere else, forgets he moved it and then can’t figure out why the item is not in its original location.

“You probably just moved it and don’t remember,” I sigh, exasperated.

“I did not move the jack,” He of the Faulty Memory insists. “The jack has been where it’s always been since we bought the truck! In the compartment underneath the back seat! Are you sure you haven’t seen it!?”
What the hell is my husband talking about?!

“Wait a second! There’s not a jack in that compartment: There has never been a jack in that compartment!” I assert impatiently. “In fact, the only thing that HAS ever been in that compartment is a black bag!”

My husband grits his teeth and sits down hard on the bumper next to me. Typical male, hates when his wife is right. My husband inhales deeply and turns his head to face mine.

“Cynthia. The jack is IN the black bag,” he seethes as calmly as possible.

“Oh,” I reply. “Well, then yes. I have seen it.”

“Oh, shit, please don’t tell me you left it at your parent’s house!” he asserts the outrageous assumption.

“No, I didn’t leave it at my parents house!” I snap defensively. “It’s in the truck!”

“Then why didn’t you tell me where it was when you saw me looking for it?!”

“Because I thought you were looking for the flashlight!” I exclaim.

“AHHHHH!” my husband lets out in frustration. “Whatever. Just…where’s the bag?”

Sitting side by side on the bumper, faces turned toward one another, my husband and I lock eyes. Then, every so slowly, I shift my eyes to the right.

“It’s in the BED OF THE TRUCK?!” my husband correctly hollers out the jeopardy answer. I confirm the question with a succinct singular nod. “Why the hell would you put it there?!”

“Well, who could have foreseen we would get a flat tire?” I reason. My husband’s face turns a shade of deep crimson.

“At least tell me that I can access the bag from the tailgate,” my husband prays. Futilely. It is right behind the cab, dead center in the middle. Under the bed cover.

“Are you sure!?” my husband inquires desperately. The last thing he wants to do is unsnap the impossible to snap back on Tonneau canvas bed cover and rifle through our belongings on a dark, so-called, access road.

“Yes, I’m sure!” I reply impatiently. Unlike him, I always remember where I put things.

My husband reluctantly stand up and walks to where the bed cover meets the cab. I stand up and watch him from the back bumper of the truck.

“Are you sure that you’re sure?” my husband asks.

“Yes, I’m sure.”

My husband reaches toward the bed cover, wraps two fingers around the snap, pulls with all his might and then...
ka-ka-ka-BOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!! Holy Shit! What an explosion! Instinctively, I cover my head. Then there is silence. I open one eye. Is it safe? Immediately, my eye is drawn to the bed of the truck. It is completely empty. Well, except for the black bag that is leaning on the interior tailgate right where I left it. As for the rest of my worldly possessions, I slowly turn a suspecting eye toward the sky just in time to watch them all disappear into the outer stratosphere.

“INCOMING!” I shriek a minutes later as I take cover. BAM! CRASH! SHATTER! THWOMP! BOING!!!! Just the same as they blasted off, all my possessions fell back to Earth! Except they didn’t return in quite so orderly a fashion.

Out of the sky, something lands in my husband’s hands.

“HEY!” he yells. “When the hell did you buy this picture!?”

Thirty two minutes, one changed tire and a piss poor repacking job later, I climb into the passenger’s seat since my husband stripped me of all further driving privileges. He turns the key in the ignition.

“Let’s just get the hell out of here,” my husband says, more to himself than to me. I couldn’t agree more.

“You said it,” I agree. “But first, you need to go find the dog.”

My husband frantically turns in his seat and searches the back. “Where the hell is the dog?!”

“She jumped out and took off into the grass,” I hitch my thumb toward the huge dark field of three foot tall grass.

What?!“ my husband shrieks. “When did that happen?!”

“When you were searching for the jack!” Duh!

“Jesus Christ! Why didn’t you go after her?!”

“I couldn‘t!” I protest. “You know I have a sport’s injury!”

“You PULLED your hamstring because you got DRUNK and then tried to do a FUCKING SPLIT!” my husband bursts. “Even though you’ve NEVER been able to do a SPLIT in your entire LIFE!”

“Oh, sure! Blame the Victim!”

“Victim?! Of what?! GROSS STUPIDITY?”

“Of optimism,” I snap. “Besides, the dog is blind! She can’t have gotten far.”

Ten minutes later, my husband scoops up the dog from the middle lane of the distant highway and froggers his way back through several 18 wheelers. With 50 pound pooch in arms, I watch as he struggles to climb over a split rail fence, navigate a deep gulley, and cross through two miles of tick infested grass. Good Lord. Could he be any slower?

Dog tossed safely into the back, we silently reenter the highway. I say silently because my husband is no longer talking to me. Don’t ask me why. Who the hell knows. I settle back in the seat. I just need to be patient. After all, there is less than an hour to go.

WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!

Just a short 60 minutes.

“Are we almost there?”

Yup, a mere 3600 seconds. Which is a really big number! Good Lord! Can’t my husband drive any faster?!

“What are you doing?” my husband finally snaps at me, breaking the silence.

For Pete's sake. What the hell does it look like I’m doing? It’s the same thing I keep doing over and over! At 30 second intervals, I dramatically drape myself over the middle console, stare at the speedometer, sit back up and impatiently shift all over the passenger seat as I issue ever increasing, voluminous sighs of discontent. Obviously, since my husband and I are no longer speaking, I am using nonverbal clues to communicate that he is driving TOO FUCKING SLOW! For God’s sake, if he was driving any slower, we’d be going backwards! Just look! Look out the window! That little old lady with blue hair taking us on the inside at 5 fucking MPH just flipped us off!

“Can’t you speed up?!” I cry. “You’re driving like a girl!”

“Well, Cynthia,” my husband’s voice has a distinct edge. “Maybe if I wasn’t driving an unfuckingregistered truck without fucking insurance papers while trafficking a million fucking cartons of cigarettes over state lines, I would have to fucking drive like a girl!“

Flabbergasted, I stare at my husband with mouth agape. What the hell kind of piss poor excuse is that?!

WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!

“Are we there yet?”

“For Christ‘s sake, grow a set of balls and SPEED UP!” I yell.

“Fine! You want me to drive fast?!?! Then I’ll drive fast!” my husband puts the pedal to the metal and launches us down the empty highway. “Are you happy now?!”

No, I’m not happy! My head just snapped against the head rest from the G Force! Good Lord! The man has gone insane! He’s having a breakdown! We’re going too fast! Holy shit! My husband is out of control! Why the hell he is doing driving so fast?! He’s crazy! He needs to be stopped! Oh Dear God, Help!

And then! Just at that very moment, God sent help.

WHOOOP! WHOOOP! WHOOOP!

In the form of a Texas State Trooper.

“What the FUCK?!” my husband screams as he pounds his fist against the wheel! “You’ve got to be fucking KIDDING ME!” But judging by how close the trooper is tailing us, I don’t think so.

Thirty eight warnings and a whole lot a fast talking and badge flashing later, my husband ever so slowly pulls onto the highway. For a minute, we drive in silence. I try to find just the right thing to say.

“Fact is,” I finally come up with something. “You really shouldn’t have been driving that fast. Speed kills, you know.”

I look over at my husband. His entire body is shaking as he fluctuates between racking sobs and insane laughter. Now that I look back on it, I wonder if that was when the breakdown occurred. But, no. I don’t think so. I don’t think the ultimate breakdown occurred until five minutes later.

When we ran out of gas.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Perfect Hairstyle

Over the course of her lifetime, the average American woman will spend seven months of her life grooming her hair. That’s right. Seven months. Unless, she is Medusa. Then she will spend seven months of her life feeding rodents to her hair. But then again, Medusa was Greek. The point is, women spend a fucking boatload of time on their hair. Of course, the time a woman spends on her hair is secondary to the amount she will spend to color, cut, crimp, curl, condition, shampoo, blow dry, highlight, perm, straighten, extend, flat iron, and style it before she pulls it back into a ponytail. And why do we women spend so much time and treasure on our hair? Because God decreed it so. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote that a woman’s hair is her ‘crowning glory.’ And though Paul didn’t say state so explicitly, the implication was that women should keep their crowns looking spiffy. After all, nobody likes a tarnished crown.

Yes, whether she be a 4 or 74, a woman’s hair is her crown of glory. Above all other attributes, a woman’s hair is what defines her as an individual; as a woman. Indeed, Glory, Self Worth, Femininity, Social Acceptance and Beauty are all tangled up in every woman’s follicles. So important is a woman’s hair to her, that she actually quantifies the worth of her day based upon the outcome of her hairdo that morning. (Well, you see, I would have valued the past 24 hours I spent here on Earth, but I was having a bad hair day.)

Unfortunately, most women are not born with perfectly, polished crowns. Often, a woman finds that her crown lacks for color, shape or shine; or worse, all three. Consequently, she will spend her entire life spit and polishing her crown, for as long and as often as it takes, until she achieves that which is every woman’s deepest desire: The Perfect Hairstyle. After all, as any woman worth her salt knows, if she can achieve The Perfect Hairstyle, then she can RULE THE UNIVERSE!

Naturally, the promise of such unlimited power is not without its drawbacks. After all, the closer a woman comes to achieving her egocentric desire, the less able she is to see other’s perspectives. Indeed, even the most sensitive, the most decent women among us will ultimately disregard her fellow man and sink to the depths of moral depravity when the promise of The Perfect Hairstyle is held out to her.

Don’t believe me?

Well then grab yourself a beer, wine if you must, pull up a chair and sit on back. Let me tell you a story about my mother and me; two otherwise, decent, moral individuals who went to Nordstroms one day only to discover, they would go to any length to achieve:

The Perfect Hairstyle.

These are troubled times, my friends. Troubled times. We’ve got good men who can’t find work, a broken down health care system, soaring deficits, a pest problem in the Middle East and not enough cans of RAID. We’ve got polar bears living on ice blocks in Texas, female Canadian hockey players drinking imported beer, killer whales lawyering up with real sharks, and consistently bad television programming. Well, except for Archer on FX. All in all, it’s almost enough to detract an American woman away from her priorities.

But not these American women!

“Do you like the hairdresser you go to down here in Texas?” my visiting-from-Cape Cod mother asks as I pull my OUTRAGEOUSLY HOT, red Fork pick up truck into Nordstrom's parking lot. “Because I’m not happy with my hair. I think I’d like to try someone new.” I shrug non committally. My new Texas hairdresser seems nice enough, though she’s yet to cut my hair. I’ve only recently made an appointment.

“I thought you liked the woman who does your hair on Cape Cod,” I reply as I seamlessly back up into a spot with the assistance of my truck’s sophisticated rear view guidance system.

“I do. She’s very nice,” my mother replies diplomatically in her Scottish accent. “But she keeps giving me little old lady haircuts.”

I look over at my dear, sweet, 74 year old mother. I don’t have the heart to tell her that she is, in fact, a little old lady. Instead, I convey the message with my eyes.

“Yes, I know I’m a little old lady,” my mother retorts, “But I would like a hairstyle that doesn’t accentuate the point.” After I ram the bumper of the car behind me, I place the truck into park and turn to face my mother.

“Well, exactly what kind of hairstyle are you looking for?” I ask.

Hmm. Well, I don’t know, exactly,” my mother admits before she takes twenty minutes to passionately describe EXACTLY what she is looking for in a hairstyle. After all, all woman have a vision of their Perfect Hairstyle. “Something that is easy to care for. A bob, perhaps. But one that falls just right; not too choppy or too long on the sides. And a wonderful color! Not white. Or little old lady grey. But a rich, ashen shade of grey! But I don’t want too dramatic a change. And I don’t want anything that makes me look too old or too young. Something age appropriate, yet modern. Something….” My mother pauses, finally catching herself. Ever concise and private in both thought and speech, my mother’s outburst was unusual; an obvious testament to her passion on the subject. She pays me a sheepish glance, clearly embarrassed. She takes a moment to collect her thoughts, and I know the next sentence she delivers will be clarifying and poignant.


“I guess,” she sighs wearily, before she says it all, “What I really want is a hairstyle somewhere between the hair of my youth and little old lady hair.”

“Yeah, whatever,” I dismiss my mother. “Can you just make sure I parked in between the lines?” I’ve only owned the Ford truck for a year so I haven’t had enough time to perfect my parking skills. My mother dutifully hops out into the freak, wind whipping snowstorm that never occurs in Texas.

Okay, so maybe I’m not in the most charitable of moods. Can you blame me? To begin with, I don’t like to shop so I’m not happy to be at a mall, especially when I must go to a high end, mall anchor, department store that I can’t afford to shop in. Like Nordstroms. Unfortunately, right before Christmas two months ago, after I conducted an exhaustive search, I ended up spending a small fortune at Nordstroms on my youngest son’s #1, MUST HAVE, present from Santa. Pajamas. What can I tell you, my younger son is weird. Of course, because my son has the waistline of an anorexic runway model, the pajamas didn’t fit. So I waited as long as possible, 60 days to be exact, before I came to do that which I hate doing most of all. Making a RETURN. I hate returning things! The lines, the time consumption, the endless questions, having to produce things like receipts and credit cards: it’s enough to drive an incredibly impatient woman mad! Needless to say, my recent ‘perfect hair’ conversation with my mother did nothing but add fuel to an already smoldering fire.

You see, I am damn near perfect. Incredibly good looking, sexy, demure, altruistic, sweet, sincere: I epitomize every fucking feminine attribute that exists in the English language. Indeed, God smiled on the day he created me. And as His perfect creation, just moments before He delivered me upon this Earth, He placed upon my head the most blessed, glorious, perfect crown of glory He could conjure! Unfortunately, once I arrived on the planet, He soon became worried. He realized that if left unfettered by a single imperfection, I could quite possibly, nay, undoubtedly, take over the world! Naturally, in lieu of his past experience with Beelzebub, God wasn’t about to let that happen. And so, in his infinite wisdom, God delivered me upon this Earth with a single cross to bear: To forever suffer an unending series of HORRIFIC HAIRCUTS. Indeed, my crown of a glory is a painfully, prickly one; its thorns sharpened every 6-8 weeks by an incompetent hairstylist wielding a pair of scissors and a tube of color. Just God’s little way of keeping me humble.

To be sure, I’m not talking about your average woman’s typical hairstyle dissatisfaction. My complaints are nothing so mundane as, ‘My ends are layered just a little too much’ or ‘My hair color is just a shade off.’ No, when it comes to my hair, I’m talking about flat out butcheries and full blown color disasters. Indeed, not since Jeffrey Dahmer took out an apartment lease in Milwaukee have more abominations been committed upon the human head than the one’s committed upon mine over the years, especially ever since I traded in my long, sexy tresses for a short and flirty hairstyle a few years back. Since then, my experiences at hair salons has been nothing short of traumatic. For certainly, in all of Hairstyle History, there has never been a woman who has endured more unfortunate hair encounters than me. In the interest of time, I won’t go into details. I think my experiences can adequately be summed up in an all-too-true Top Ten List.

“Things I Wish a Hairstylist Didn’t Say To Me After My Hair Session Ended.”

10. “Teehee. Teehee. Uh, oh! I think we may have cut it just a little too short! Teehee. Teehee.”

9. “Damn. I just knew that color wasn’t going to come out right!”

8. “But you said you wanted to grow your hair long! That’s why I cut it short!”

7. “No, it’s not purple! It’s eggplant!”

6. “Are you sure you told me you wanted to grow your hair long, because I could have sworn you said to cut it short. Sorry. My bad. I guess I just wasn’t paying attention.”

5. “I just knew when you left here yesterday, you’d be back today. The difference in color between you roots and the rest of your hair is really noticeable.”

4. “Well, the reason I keep taking so much off at the back is because I want to give your hair the appearance of length. But for some reason, it’s not working.”

3. “Shit! I knew I shouldn’t have let Sandy do your highlights! She’s a trainee and between you and me, she’s not very good.”

2. “I’m sorry. Truth is, I’m much better at cutting long hair than short hair. Have you ever thought of growing it out?”

But before I get to Number One, I must give honorable mention to the following: “Oh dear. I guess your hair looks more like Scott Hamilton than Dorothy Hamill,” and “It’s not my fault your hair keeps sticking out! You’ll just have to learn to train your hair to stay down,” and, just last week, “So we’re agreed to Dark Brown, level 4? Yes, level 4! Are you sure you want me to color it at a level 4? Absolutely! Okay, then I will do that; level 4 it is! Uhhh…are you sure this is a level 4? No, it’s a level 9. While I was in the back room mixing the color, I decided you didn’t really want a level 4.”

But, the number one, hands down, winning statement of all time?

1. “Are you sure you don’t like the haircut? Because maybe the problem is not your hair. Maybe the problem is your face.”

So why do I continue to subject myself to such follicle humiliation? Because as a woman, it‘s coded within my DNA to keep trying. Kind of like when a domestic dog instinctively protects itself from predators that are no longer a viable threat by rolling in shit to mask its smell.

Now, as to be expected, I’m much too jaded and resentful to listen to someone who still has a dream of finding her perfect hairstyle. Even if that someone is me own tried and true, sweet mother who I love more than anyone in the world.

“Am I in between the lines?” I roll down my window just enough to call out to my mother. Brrrr. It’s cold!

“Not even close!” My mother’s voice swirls on the whistling wind back to me.

“Good enough,“ I roll up the window, grab the bag that contains my return and hop out.

Together, but with me taking the lead because I’m younger and quicker, my mother and I hunch over and brave the stormy, sub arctic Texan elements until we reach the entrance to Nordstroms. As is typical of most Department store entries, there is a revolving door in the center, flanked by two push/pull doors on either side. I briskly walk up to one of the push/pull doors, place my hand on the handle and Push.
SPLAT! I slam up against the glass door since it didn’t budge an inch because it weighs like a fucking thousand pounds! Jesus Christ! What is with Department store doors?! You would think with the economy being what it is, someone would design a more consumer friendly entrance. After I peel myself off the door and take a step back, I place both my hands on the handle and push with all the strength that my powerful, not to mention abnormally broad, shoulders will allow. 1-2-3 PUSHHHH! That’s it! Breathe! Just a little bit more! Finally! The door opens far enough to allow me to pass.

For those of you who are just joining in on my life, my mother, because she is 74 and ancient, has developed osteoporosis and her bones are now filled with air. Consequently, ever since she was stupid enough to come down with such a predictable condition, I live in constant fear that my eternally sunny, optimistic, nothing at all like me, Pollyanna of a mother, will fall down, break her bones and die. Which would suck since I don’t have a thing in my closet to wear for the funeral.

Unfortunately, after I passed through the door, it seems that my mother assumed I would hold the door open for her. This was a critical lapse of judgment on her part, for I did no such thing. Therefore, when I let go of the incredibly heavy door, it swung back and catapulted my bird boned mother clear off her feet, sending her soaring through the air. Fortunately, a very kind man allowed my mother to use his body as a net. At least, I think that’s what happened. I didn’t actually see the sequence of events since I was admiring a pair of shoes in Nordtrom’s shoe department at that point, but how else you can explain why my mother is lying on her back on top of a supine 6 foot 5’ black guy?

“God dammit Mom!” I holler after I use all my strength to inch the door just far enough to allow me to eke back through to outside. “You’ve got to be more careful!” I yank her off the man who was knocked unconscious when his head hit the cement. “You’re going to fall and break your bones!”

“I’m sorry, Dear,” my mother tries to make amends for causing me such distress.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake,” I grudgingly accept her apology. “Let’s just use the revolving door.” We step over the man and walk to the revolving door. “This time, you go first,” I direct, since it is obvious she cannot be trusted to follow behind.

My mother enters the first compartment and pushes the bar to set the revolving door in motion. I enter the compartment directly behind her. Needless to say, I soon became frustrated by my mother’s failure to progress through the revolving door at lightening speed. C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, HURRY UP! As a result, I lend weight to the situation by extending my arms, grabbing onto the bar in front of me, digging in my heels and blasting off.

THWOMP!!!

Sweet Jesus! Apparently, at the same moment I picked up my revolving door pace, my mother was in the midst of exiting the revolving door into the shoe section of Nordstroms! And because she is so damn old and wasn’t quick enough to exit in a timely fashion, the velocity of the spinning door swept her off her feet and slammed her in between the glass door and the door frame!

SLAM! I immediately follow suit and splat like a bug on a windshield against the glass partition since my mother’s crushed body brought the revolving door to a sudden, rude halt. Still, I can clearly see the look of reproach in my mother’s bugged out eyes. This wasn’t difficult to see, after all, considering our faces were only inches apart from one another, the partition of glass being the only divider between us.

I take a few steps back to release her from the crushing pressure.

“What the hell is wrong with you!?” I explode as I steady my mother and guide her into Nordstrom's shoe department. “You could have broken a bone! How many times do I have to remind you to be more careful!”

“I’m sorry to be such a burden, Dear,” my mother tries to apologize. “But don’t you fret. Even with you to look out for me, chances are I won’t be around much longer.” Hmm.

We make our way to the center of the store to where a pianist is putting endless years of classical training to good use by playing a spectacular musak version of “Feels Like Teen Spirit” on a Grand Piano. My mother and I make a right toward the children’s department. We walk up to the sales counter and take our place behind a woman who pleasantly chitchats with the cashier as her items are totaled up and bagged. Damn. I hate long lines! Well, at least I have my mother to talk with to pass the time.

“I think I’ll just take a look around,” my thrifty Scottish mother suddenly abandons me at the register for a nearby sales rack. Clearly, my fare weather mother doesn't like to stand on Department Store check out lines either. I impatiently turn my attention back to the counter.

“Don’t you just love this?!” the young salesgirl gushes the moronic question as she folds up a little green sweater with a fire truck embroidered on its front. What the hell does the salesgirl think? The patron is purchasing something she despises?!

“I do! I just LOVE it!” the woman moronically exclaims back just before she goes into a whole, long dissertation about exactly why she loves the sweater. Good grief. If there is one thing I hate about Southerners is their time consuming civility. Sure, we Northerners may be rude as hell, but what we lack for in service, we make up for with expedience. For God’s sake! Who the fuck cares about the stupid sweater!? Just bag the shit, pay for the shit, don’t talk about the shit and fucking MOVE ON! I impatiently check my watch. Jesus! I’ve been standing on this line for a full ten fucking seconds! Still, I don’t wish to be rude, so rather than voice my opinion, I make my just-move-it-along feelings known by shifting back and forth on my feet while issuing over exaggerated, exasperated sighs, and repeatedly rolling my eyes as I pause to check my watch every nanosecond.

Five seconds later, I step up to the counter. Finally! I place the Nordstrom’s bag on the floor and lean over to pull out the pajamas.

“Excuse me,” a pleasant, gentile voice says somewhere off to my right.

“Yes?” I hear the salesgirl inquire. Immediately, I snap my head up to see who the hell is interrupting my return process. To my right, bellied up to the side of the counter, stands a petite, impeccably dressed woman in her late fifties, maybe early sixties. Despite her advancing years, she is remarkably pretty; exquisitely applied make up lights up her bright blue eyes and accentuates her chiseled features. But what is most striking about the woman is her hair. It is nothing short of perfect! Perfect, I tell you! The precisely cut wedge at the back seamlessly blends with longer sides that fall forward to frame the woman’s youthful face in a perfect bob. Rich and full, not even a single strand falls out of place when she moves. And the color! I have never seen such a beautiful shade of ashen grey! Perfectly distributed from roots to tips, I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t the color she was born with. Between the cut and color, her hair succeeded in being both chic and youthful, but entirely age appropriate. Indeed, this woman’s hair managed to accomplish what many women of advancing years dream of: It bridged the gap between the hair of youth and little old lady hair! Damn! It’s the perfect hairstyle for my mother!

“Would you happen to have these in a smaller size?” the thin, perfectly coiffed woman pleasantly inquires as she holds up a pile of black material, probably a pair of pants, in one hand. Immediately, I don’t like her. What with all her perfection, it is clear that she is one of those high falootin,’ high end, high society Texan dilatants who has no compunction about holding up return lines just to brag about being a skinny bitch. Talk about an insecure woman!

“Yes! The smaller sizes are on that rack over there,” the salesgirl points towards an area housing no fewer than three dozen clothing racks. The woman looks over towards the sea of clothes racks.

“I’m terribly sorry, but could you be more specific?”

Oh, for Pete’s sake! The salesgirl could not have been clearer with her directions! Couldn’t the dilatant just suck it up and go on a wild goose chase like a normal person?

“Yes, the third rack to the right,” the salesgirl directs.

“Thank you so much,” the woman says before she slowly turns around and begins to walk toward the rack. Well, not walk exactly. More like, painfully hobble along on a cane. Well, hell the how was I supposed to know she had a cane?! With each step, the woman’s left hip awkwardly thrusts out, and she is forced to take a moment to steady herself on the cane. For a split second, I wonder if I should feel badly about my harsh judgment, but I ultimately decide against it. I mean, really, how bad off can she be? Not bad enough to prevent her from impeccably grooming herself! Hell, for all I know, she just had plastic surgery and was suffering from some fleeting, minor complication. Still, her hair is lovely. In fact, I should point the woman out to my mother!

“Did you see that woman who just walked by?” my mother suddenly preempts my thought. Clearly, my mother has seen the woman’s hair for herself.

“Yes!” I enthuse, turning to face her. I know exactly where she is going with this. “That haircut would look prefect on you!”

“That’s what I was thinking!” my mother beams excitedly. “Isn’t it lovely? That’s exactly the style I‘ve been looking for! And did you see the color?” my mom sighs dreamily. “It’s to die for! Don’t you think it’s to die for?” I nod my head in agreement.

“Yes!” I agree. “It’s to die for!”

My mother and I continue to extol the wonderful virtues of the haircut to one another like excited schoolgirls who share a mutual crush. We watch as the woman disappears into the dressing room.

“Too bad I didn’t bring a camera,” I bemoan our inability to clandestinely snap a picture of the woman’s hairstyle to show my hairdresser. “Hey! How about your cell phone!?” My mother raises a questioning eyebrow. “It has a camera on it!”

“It does?! Are you sure?” my mother asks doubtfully.

“Of course I’m sure!” I reply impatiently. “All cell phones have built in cameras nowadays! Geez, Mom, you have got to get caught up with technological times.”

“Huh.,” my mother pulls out her cell phone and stares at it in awe. “That’s amazing, isn‘t it? Imagine! A phone that takes pictures! Technology really is wonderful!” My mother holds out the phone to me.

I look down at the phone and then back up at her.

“What are you handing me that for?” I ask.

“So you can take the woman’s picture!”

“How the hell am I supposed to do that!? I don’t know anything about fucking cell phones!” Geesh! I don’t even own a cell phone! Who the hell can figure the damn things out?

The woman with perfect hair limps out from the dressing room and begins to rifle through a clothes rack. Skinny bitch is probably looking for an even smaller size.

“She looks like she just stepped out of a salon,” my mother says admiringly. “She must spend a fortune on her hair.” My poor Mother. Her perfect hairstyle is so close, yet so far away.

“Hey! Why don’t you ask her where she gets her hair done?” I suggest, brilliantly.

“Oh, I couldn’t possibly ask her that,” my impossibly polite mother replies.

“Why not?! It’s not like you’re asking for her Grandmother’s prized Apple Pie recipe. I’m sure she’d be happy to tell you where she gets her hair done.”

“I don’t want to bother her,” my mother hedges as she casts a sympathetic glance towards the limping woman. “She looks like she’s got enough on her plate.” My ever sensitive mother is reluctant to risk adding any additional burden upon the obviously, already burdened woman. Ever sensitive myself, I completely understand.

“Oh, for Pete's sake. Who the fuck cares?! It’s not like you are ever going to see her again!” I snap. “Just go over and get the name of the salon and her hairstylist! We’ll make an appointment as soon as we get home!” I can tell by her expression that my mother is wavering: Risk being impolite or risk losing the perfect haircut.

“No,” my mother shakes her head. “I just can’t.”

Hmm. Clearly, I’ll have to persuade my I-don’t-want-to-be-a-burden mother using a different tactic.

“You know, you’ll be doing her a favor,“ I seduce. “Think about it. Wouldn’t it make your day if a stranger asked for the name of your hairdresser?” I can see my mother is waffling. “After all, imitation is the greatest form of flattery.” My mother is definitely on the fence. “Really! It’ll make her feel good about herself!” And that does it. After all, my mother is all about making people feel good about themselves.

“Do you really think so?” she asks. I nod.

“Absolutely! You’ll make her day! Now go! GO!” I shoo my mother along like she is a nervous kid whose name has just been called to take the stage at a recital. My mother reluctantly shuffles towards the dressing room. Good grief. Why do old people revert back to behaving like children? You would think when a person is as near to death as my mother, she would stop worrying about what other people think! Thankfully, however, I am here to act the part of parent. My mother will thank me later for my encouragement.

“Sorry about that,” I return my attention to the salesgirl who has the nerve to roll her eyes impatiently at me. Along with the seventeen other people who stand behind me on the line I just backed up. “I need to return this,” I place the pajamas on the counter.

“Is there something wrong with them?” the girl asks. I bite my tongue from wagging, “No! Of course there’s nothing wrong! The pants are just perfect! Perfect length, perfect fit, perfect color. The reason I am returning them is because I enjoy answering fucking stupid questions and I just knew you’d be just the one to ask them!” But I don’t have time to waste on this line anymore than I have already, so I settle for a brief, “They don’t fit.”

As the salesgirl painstakingly folds the pajama bottoms, I glance over toward my mother, who is now speaking to the woman with the perfect coif. I watch as the woman draws her hand up to her hair. Hey now! Good for my Mom! She did it!

“Do you have the receipt?” the salesgirl asks.

“Yes,” I reply impatiently. What does she think? I’m one of those annoying, wait until the last minute to pull out a check book, types? Of course, I have my receipt at the ready! I unzip my purse’s left pocket. Nope, not here. I unzip the right pocket. Nope. Not in here either. I open up the center pocket and extract a month’s worth of old receipts. I flip through the stack, but no luck. Morally certain I had placed the receipt in the stack before I left the house, I then take my time to carefully review each and every one of the 50 or so receipts. Hmm. That’s odd. Did I put it in my wallet? I open my wallet and repeatedly push and pull all the credit cards in and out of their respective sleeves. Then I remove all the contents from the wallet and shake it upside down before I ultimately dump the entire contents of my purse onto the counter. Let’s see. Car keys, bobby pins, tampons, but no receipt. Oh wait! I remember! I dip my hand into my front left pocket and pull out the receipt.

“Here it is,” I hand the girl the receipt. She takes a few seconds to type the receipt’s number into the register. God! This whole process is taking FOREVER! “Listen, I don’t mean to be rude,” I say rudely. “But I’m in a rush. Do you think you can move this process along any quicker?” After all, I don’t have time for this! I’ve got nowhere to go after this and I’m in a rush to get there.

“Do you have your credit card?” the salesgirl asks.

“Of course,” I reply impatiently before I repeat the same exact search sequence for my credit card as I did for my receipt. “Here it is,” I hand over the card after I finally locate it in my front pocket. As the salesgirl runs the credit back onto my card, I look around the store for my mother. Surely, during the incredibly long time it has taken the salesgirl to finish my transaction, my mother had long gotten the name of the woman’s hairdresser and has resumed browsing the sales racks.

But my mother is not browsing the sales racks. Oh, Dear Lord. You have got to be kidding me. My mother is still talking to the woman! Looking very intent, I see my mother nod every now and again in response to whatever the woman is droning on about. Leave it to my infuriatingly kind mother to get caught up in idle small talk. In fact, knowing my mom, she hasn’t even gotten around to asking the woman for the name of her hairdresser yet! Clearly, I must put an end to the times-a-wastin’ dilly dally, chitchat. After my return transaction is over, I walk over to the pair of women.

“Hi!” I interrupt as pleasantly as possible. The woman and my mother look over at me. “I’m the daughter of the woman who thinks your hair is simply to die for!” I use flattery by way of introduction, for the singular purpose of setting the conversation back on course. Naturally, I expect the woman to be charmed by my flattery. Instead, she and my mother exchange very awkward looks.

“Go ahead,” the soft spoken woman, who looks surprisingly frail now that I’m close up, encourages my mother. “You can tell her.”

“Cynthia, this woman has cancer,” my mother announces as she stares at me meaningfully. Oooooh. I get it. My mother got roped into listening to this woman’s medical conditions and now she can’t extract herself from the conversation. See? That’s what happens when you are afflicted with politeness. But that’s okay. Fortunately, I am here to help.

“Oh! That’s too bad,” I dutifully tsk tsk sympathetically towards the woman. “I’m sooo sorry to hear that.“ But I wasn’t. After all, I don’t know this woman from Adam, so how much can I possibly be expected to care? Why must old people impact others with their medical conditions anyway? Selfish, really, since such negative news can only serve to bring healthy people down. After I allow an appropriate moment of contemplative deference to pass, I get back to the business of moving the conversation along. “You really look wonderful, though! As soon as you walked passed, my mother and I immediately noticed your hair!” I smile broadly. “It really stands out in the crowd!”

The woman reaches a tentative hand to her bangs and blushes. I smile smugly at my mother. See? I told you she’d feel good. Just look at how happy I’ve made her! I turn back to the surprisingly modest woman.

“If you don’t mind me asking, wherever did you have it done?”

The woman looks about nervously. Oh, please. Don’t tell me she’s one of those dilatant, hold out types. I shrug at my mother. My mother pierces me with her eyes. Clearly, my mother is trying to convey a message to me, but what could it possibly be?

Turns out, the message my mother was trying to convey was “Cynthia, you really are just too fucking stupid to live.” Of course, I didn’t pick up the message right away. In fact, it wasn’t until after my mother was finally forced to say, “Cynthia, she is wearing a wig,” that I got it.

For several moments, I stare at my mother without expression. Internally, however, my mind is as busy as a mathematical factory, desperately trying to compute the meaning of what I had just been told. But no matter how often I rearrange and recompute the factors, I kept arriving at one, unalterable conclusion: that I, Cynthia, the world’s biggest fucking asshole, had just asked a cancer patient wearing a wig where she gets her hair done.

“This woman was just telling me that today is the first time she is wearing her wig in public!” my mother smiles encouragingly at the woman.

“Yes..” the painfully embarrassed woman stammers as she draws a terribly, self conscious hand to the nape of her neck. “I was hoping it wouldn’t stand out…I wasn’t sure if it looked real…” The woman’s vulnerability is palpable and raw. Needless to say, I felt incredibly awkward, like I had just walked in on this woman naked. I can’t help but cast a resentful glare at my mother for getting me into this whole mess in the first place.

“Well, it looks fantastic! No one would ever suspect you were wearing a wig,” I casually reassure the woman, as if asking wig wearing, chemo patients where they got their hair done happens all the time.

“Oh…well, thank you,” the woman says doubtfully, but appreciatively. She affords me a tentative smile. See that? In the end, I salvaged a potentially disastrous encounter and ultimately made the woman feel good about herself! That is, until I opened up my big fucking mouth to add, “Believe me, your hair is simply to die for!” Yeah, that statement kind of ruined the whole feel good atmosphere.

OhmyGod, I did not just say that! I stare at my mother. OhmyGod, you did not just say that! She stares back. Fortunately, my mother comes to my rescue and covers up my faux pas with yet another one.

“Indeed,” my mother places a kindly hand on the woman’s arm. “I would be thrilled to have hair as lovely as yours!” The woman takes a stab at another tentative smile. “Although I’d just as soon take a different road than you to achieve it.” The woman’s smile falters.

Yup. Time to go. Our work is done here.

Moments later, my mother and I walk side by side past the Grand Piano in silence, trying to absorb what just happened.

“Well, that was awkward,” I break the silence by stating the painfully obvious.

“Indeed,” my mother affords me a reproachful glare. Like this is all my fault!

“Of all the rotten luck, huh?” I say. My mother nods with vigorous agreement.

“It’s such a shame, isn’t it?” she gushes sincerely. “I feel awful! Just awful!”

“I know! Here you finally found the perfect haircut and it’s a wig!” I sympathize. Without the name of a hairstylist, my poor mother will forever be denied her perfect hairstyle.

My mother comes to a sudden stop and turns to face me.

“What?” I ask, confused.

“Sometimes I wonder how the daughter to whom I gave birth managed to get switched with you in the hospital.” I raise an inquiring eyebrow. “Because I don’t think you weren’t birthed. I think you were hatched.” She pivots on her heel and continues to walk.

Well, that’s a fine howdayado! Denied! By me very own mother!

Now don’t ask me why, because I don’t know, but at that moment, I glanced over my shoulder back to the dressing room. I see the perfectly put together woman hand a little boy, who looks suitably miserable to be out shopping with his grandmother, a smaller pant size. Hmm. Maybe I should have realized the woman was not out shopping for herself. After all, we were in the children’s department. The boy storms back into the dressing room and the woman slowly follows suit. But before she disappears from view, she momentarily pauses to take stock of her hair in front of a nearby mirror. For a split second, she smiles. And then she is gone.

You know, cancer is the cruelest of thieves. Bad enough that it should break and enter into a woman’s life and rob her of everything before it steals her final breath, but to strip her of her crown of glory? Well, that is nothing short of a full blown act of aggression. I can't help but smile, as I always do whenever I witness the indomitable, female spirit in action. For as frail, embattled, cancer riddled, chemo racked, and crippled as the woman may be, she instinctively refuses to allow that which defines her as a woman, as an individual, to be taken away so wantonly. Indeed, upon her head, this woman wears a defiant, middle finger; flipping off the cancer that dares to deny her a crown of glory.

I turn around, quickly rush to catch up with my mother and fall into step along side her. Armed with the knowledge that no woman worth her salt will ever be denied her crown of glory, I smile knowingly.

“Soooo,” I smugly begin.

“Doe?” my mother clarifies, confused.

“Not ‘Doe!’” I snap. Did I ever mention that my mother is deaf in one ear? “I said, ‘So.’ But I said it smugly, like, ‘Soooo,’” I draw out the word as I repeatedly raise my eyebrows up and down.

“Soooo…what?” my mother looks at me like I’m retarded before she looks straight ahead and quickens her pace.

“Soooo…what’s the name of the store?” I solicit, rather than ask, after I catch up to her. For a moment, my mother continues to walk, as if she didn’t hear me. Finally, her face breaks into a smile.

“Mimi’s Wig Boutique. Corner of Coit and Campbell,” she replies.

“I knew it,” I nod with self satisfaction.

“Well, dear,” my mother explains as we approach the revolving door to exit. “I couldn’t very well have asked to borrow the wig for a half an hour, now could I? Why, that would have been nothing short of crass.”

After a significant amount of time, my mother and I emerge from the revolving door into the harsh elements. We step over the still unconscious man who lies supine in front of the store, hurry back to the truck and hop in. As women, as sisters, as friends, we drive off into the world once again, forever in pursuit of divine crowns of glory.

Even though we both are clearly going to hell.

Friday, February 12, 2010

To Make A Memory

Oh Look! Up Ahead! My friend Alexis is walking on the Twin Creeks Walking Trail towards me! Isn’t that a coincidence? She had just been on my mind! You see, moments before I left the house to go for a walk on this gloriously warm, Texan winter afternoon, I checked my email and there was a message from her:

“Do you want to go for a walk today?”

Well, now, isn’t that nice! It is the first time since I’ve met Alexis that she has asked me to go DO something with her; a sure sign that our relationship has progressed beyond acquaintance to bonafide friendship! No doubt, it has taken a while for this unconventional, beer swigging, sailor mouthed Jersey girl to make friends in Texas, but at long last, I have written proof that I have successfully done so!

It’s amazing how something so simple as an invitation to go for a walk can restore balance to one’s life, isn’t it? But it has! Alexis’s invitation has suddenly made me feel something I haven’t truly felt since I moved to Texas: a sense of belonging. After all, a person never really feels at home in a new environment until she has made some friends to get in trouble with.

Terrifically excited to be extended the hand of friendship, I immediately open my address book and locate Alexis’s number. Of course, I’d love to go for a walk! Any excuse to get away from my children. But before I place the call, I take a few minutes to get ready. I pull on my walking shoes, zip up my pink hoodie, grab a healthy bottle of water from the fridge, pour in a packet of Propel’s twelve cancer causing agents for flavor and then return to the phone. Of course, due to the toll years of drinking has taken on my short term memory, by the time I returned to the phone, I forgot why the phone book was opened. Consequently, after I curse out my children for leaving the address book out again, I slide on my sunglasses, plug my IPOD headphones into my head, tune in as Paul Rodgers from Bad Company sings about how much he feels like making love to me, and promptly walk out the door. Ten minutes later, as I veer off a side street to pick up the Twin Creeks hiking trail, it finally dawns on me that the reason why I am receiving no replies to my idle chit chat is because Alexis is not walking next to me. Which is a shame, really. I had so been looking forward to our walk this afternoon: It seemed like the perfect opportunity to start creating some memories. After all, isn’t that what friendship is all about? Making memories together? But how can Alexis and I possibly begin to create memories together if we are not, in fact, together?

Well, sit down in a comfortable chair and grab yourself a beer. Let me tell you exactly what it takes: To Make A Memory.

When I moved to Texas last spring, I had no desire to make new friends. I had left behind anyone I ever cared to know up North and was not the least bit interested in meeting people I didn’t care to know down South. Instead, I spent all my time on my back patio, drinking beer and churning out a damn near prolific volume of nonsensical, yet no less meaningful, tales of my exploits. Soon enough, summer arrived, which I happily spent up North, visiting friends and drinking all their beer, until it was time to drive back to Texas. September found me depressed and lonely, as the permanency of my location became acutely clear. Still, I did what I always do when I wish to avoid reality: I cracked a beer, pulled up a chair on my back patio and began to write again.

Until one day, in late September, I had an epiphany! Two significant, near simultaneous events occurred that caused me to suddenly and unequivocally conclude that I need friends! The first event that happened was I ran out of things to write about. After all, I spent all my time behind a computer so nothing ever happened to me. Second, and much more significant, I ran out of beer. Sure, I could have driven to the store and bought more, but my husband is a Government Employee! How long could he continue to finance my beer supply before a foreclosure sign appeared on the front lawn?! It was time for me accept that I couldn’t go it alone anymore. Clearly, I needed friends. Preferably, with stocked refrigerators.

Moments later, I took a long, hard look at myself in the bathroom mirror. My God. Just look at me. How selfish I’d become! I mean, what right did I have to keep myself all to myself? After all, what joy can a prized jewel bring to others if it is kept under constant lock and key? And so, I put on my cowboy hat and boots, grab the lasso from the bedroom, and walk out my front door, out into the world, to rustle me up a posse.

I purposefully stride down my front walkway until I reach the sidewalk. Then I stop. Do I turn left or do I turn right? I mean, where exactly does an unconventional, beer swigging, sailor mouthed, Jersey girl go to meet friends in the conventional, sober, verbally puritanical South? Church?! Puh-leeze. And because I have a strict policy against volunteerism, that rules out all school and community venues. I can’t make friends at work since my natural born tendency to freeload precludes employment, and I certainly don’t want friends better looking than me, so there goes the gym. Defeated, I return to the house, climb over several piles of dirty laundry, pour Diet Coke into a paper cup since every last glass in the house is dirty and piled high in the kitchen sink, shove several months worth of unsorted paper work off the couch onto the floor and plop down. With no beer and nothing to write, there was simply nothing to do around here. I need some friends, but where to find them?

Then I remembered! Last week, as I peered through the dining room blinds to spy on my neighbors, I watched a woman who I hadn’t met, but who I recognized as a neighbor, drop something off in my mailbox. Stealthily, I watch from my strategic position behind the blinds until my neighbor returns to her house and shuts the front door behind her. Then I bolt out my door to the mailbox! What is it?!


Oh. How pathetic. It’s an invitation begging for me to go out with her. Naturally, I dismiss the invitation for it’s sheer desperation. But that was before I ran out of beer! I lean off the sofa and desperately sift through the pile of paperwork. Where the hell is that invitation? Oh! Here it is!

“Dear Neighbor. Please join everyone at Julio’s for a ‘Get To Know Your Neighbor’ dinner!” And what’s this? The dinner is tonight?!

A few hours later, properly showered and shaved, I knock on the front door of my neighbor, Julio. A half hour past that I show up at Julio’s Restaurant where the woman not-named-Julio and a dozen others are gathered in the bar area, waiting for the table to be called.

“Hello! I’m Cynthia. How ya doin'?” I smile my bestest smile as I elbow my way through the women to the bar. Now back in the heyday of my twenties, I never had to wait long for a bartender to serve me. No matter how large the crowd, it seemed that all I had to do was belly up and before I knew it, I was handed a drink; more often than not, free of charge. But I’m not twenty anymore. I’m forty and ‘heyday’ has taken on a whole new meaning.

“Hey!” I eventually holler at the bartender after I watch him serve every possible patron in the establishment, including the 75 year old, drunken letch next to me. “Any day now!”

“Would you like something to drink?” the bartender finally acknowledges me after I collapse on the bar from the exhaustive wait.

“Whatyagot’ntap?” I mumble, since I collapsed face down.

“Bud Light, Miller Light, Coors Light, Sam Adams Winter Fest and Stella Artois,” he replies. Wait. Stella? Did he say STELLA? ON TAP?! Oh, I dasn’t. The last time I drank Stella on tap, I fell out of a car. It was during the winter of ‘07, about 2AM. After consuming an outrageous volume of delicious Stella on tap for the very first time at a local bar, a good friend from my old neighborhood and her husband discovered me babbling to myself in a corner and saw fit to drive me home. A bit embarrassed, and despite my slurred speech and bobbing head, I did my best to pretend I was not intoxicated. That was right before I lost all motor function as I stepped out of the car onto my driveway.

“Oh My God! Frank!” I hear the echo of my friend Lisa exclaim to her husband. “She fell out of the car!”

“So?”

“So get out the car and HELP HER!”

“Why should I get out the car?! It’s cold! YOU help her!” For several minutes, I lay immobile under the front tires of the car, listening to the domestic dispute intensify, praying their frenzy would not result in an angry, reverse peel out. Fortunately, Frank eventually hauled my ass out from underneath the car, dragged me to my front door, and in true Animal House fashion, rang the bell and took off running. Ahhh. You just don’t find friends like that every day. Therefore, I knew if I wanted to make a good impression this evening, I shouldn’t order a Stella.

“Absofuckinglutely! Give me a Stella!” I beam happily at the bartender. Let’s face it. When have I ever given a shit about making a good impression?

“Would you like the 12 ounce or the 22 ounce?” the bartender inquires.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I bat my forty year old eyes, hoping I still have what it takes to score a free drink. “The 22 ounce! Unless, of course, you have something larger,” I add seductively.

After I pay the $32 bill for a yard of beer, I join the group of impeccably dressed women. I am happy to see that apart from my black leggings and pink CAPE COD sweatshirt, I am dressed just like everybody else. See that? I blend right in. Well, except for the three foot tall glass of beer in my hand. That kind of stands out. Especially since I am the only woman in the group holding one.

Attending a ‘Meet Your New Neighbor’s’ soiree is like entering an intensive round of speed dating, whereby a group of singles looking to make a match are paired up and allotted five minutes to ask each other questions to determine whether they should ever speak to each other again. In traditional round robin speed dating, at the end of five minutes, the Event Host rings a bell, all ‘dates’ come to a halt and the participants move on to a new ‘date.’ Participants are then asked to indicate on a match card who they are interested in seeing again. Of course, in this case, the participants are newly transplanted women out looking to make new friends, and there is no Event Host to ring a bell. Not that it mattered. I never made it past thirty seconds before my ‘date’ called off the interview. Not that there was an actual bell, mind you. But I could hear the bell toll anyway.

“So, where are you from?”

“Fucking Jersey.” DING!

“I’m not sure I like our new Pediatrician. Have you found a good Pediatrician?”

“Good God, no. Hell, I haven’t even bothered to find a bad one!” DING!

“So what does your husband do?” Always a sticky question, my husband doesn’t like me to broadcast his occupation, I order another yard of beer to buy time to think.

“He’s a floral arranger,” I finally answer after I take a foot long swig. DING!

“I’m a Republican. What are you?”

“Totally turned off by people who define themselves by political party.” DING!

“So, I didn’t know what to do when the toilet started to overflow! My husband wasn’t home to help, he was out of town, he’s always out of town, he said it would be different when we moved here, we could make a fresh start, I won’t go into details. But he’s never home, he’s gone at least two days a month, can you imagine how hard it is to raise children with a husband who travels so much? My mother said I should never have married him, but she’s just bitter that we moved from Lubbock to Dallas; it’s like a four hour drive, you know! Can you image being that far away from family? So I just broke down when I saw the toilet overflowing! The kids were hysterical, I was bawling, what was I to do?! I packed up my family and drove through the night back to Lubbock. And can you believe it? My husband blames me for the water damage! So, what do you think? Do you think I’m to blame?”

“Wow,” I comment before I ask the only question I would ask all night. “Lubbock, Texas is an actual place??” DING!!!

“Do you run?”

“Only when the cops are chasing me.” DING!

“Have you found a good butcher?”

“Of course I have! What are you, fucking blind? Just look at my hair!” DING!

“So tell me about yourself!”

“Well, I am a forty year old Irish housewife who has failed to live up to her potential, has no appreciable skill set to reenter the work force and is so desperate for human interaction that I chose to come here rather than check my fucking email all night in the hopes that The GAP will inform me of its latest sale. My body is shot, my face is fucking collapsing, and half the time, the only thing that prevents me from committing a familial homicide/suicide is this here beer in my hand! Cheers!” DING!!

Until finally, I met a woman I could relate to.

“I miss my old neighborhood,” the woman confesses. “The women there were just so crazy! Once a month, a group of us would get together for Wine Tasting Night! One night, we went through 9 bottles!”

“Oh my God! I know exactly what you mean! One night, a group of us went through 9 bottles too!” Finally, a kindred spirit!

“Really?! There were 43 women in my group! How many women were there in yours?”

“Uh...let’s see. That night? Five.” DING!!!

Needless to say, 15 feet of beer and nine minutes later, I had blown through the entire pool of potential friends. Relatively certain that my name would not be checked off on anybody’s match sheet, I quickly toss back the remaining two feet of Stella in my glass and leave.

As I drove home in the car that I had absolutely no fucking business operating, it occurred to me. I’m too old for this shit. At my age, trying to make new friends is like returning to the dating scene after 20 years of marriage. Who the hell has the energy to start the courting process over? Frankly, I’m too old, too seasoned, too damn lazy to put in the effort that a new relationship requires. I simply don’t have it in me to nod politely as some dingbat housewife regales me with wonderful stories of children I don’t give a shit about. I’m not interested in listening to someone rehash their war stories, and I sure as hell am not interested in rehashing mine! I’m too old for courtship: that wasteful, length of time people spend getting to know each other by pretending to be a much better people than they actually are before revealing their true, awful natures. Clearly, what I need is an Instamatic Friend: you know, one of those easy models that doesn’t require any upkeep, dispenses beer when I want it to and doesn’t ask a bunch of fucking stupid questions.

I park my car into my driveway, at least I think this is my driveway, step out the door and lose all motor function.

Besides, with age comes wisdom. Today, the qualities I want in a partner are much different then the ones I sought in my younger years. Like if I found myself dating again because my husband suddenly died in a freak car accident and an incompetent police search failed to turn up the wire clippers I used to tamper with the brakes, I wouldn’t ask a future prospect meaningless questions about his values and outlook on life. I would simply ask, “Can you beat me at air hockey?” “Do you cook?” and “How big is your bank account?” Likewise, I’m not looking for a friend with a sympathetic ear and a warm heart! Today, the qualities I look for in a friend are much simpler and they certainly don’t include where she is from, the state of her children’s health or where she buys her pork chops!

“No! Just follow my voice! I’m over here!” I holler back to my husband who, at last, locates me and drags me out from underneath the car I parked in my neighbor’s driveway.

The following morning, while I nursed a significant hangover, I realized that I had a major problem. Obviously, if I was to ever find friends, I needed to take a much more proactive role in the matter. Last night was like being at a job fair! All I achieved was wasting my time interviewing for positions I had no interest in taking. And why the hell should I be the interviewee anyway?! I’m the one who knows the pertinent questions to ask! After all, who knows better than me what qualities I’m looking for in a friend! Clearly, I should be the one conducting the interviews!

An hour later, I trip over all the shit in my garage, haul out my kid’s old lemonade stand, and cover up the hand drawings of lemons with pictures of magazine cut out, beer bottles. Then I drag the remodeled stand around to my front yard and set up shop. Neatly, I stack the large pile of mimeographed applications I had run off earlier next to the box of small pencils I stole from Pirates Cove Miniature Golf Course this summer, and pull up a chair behind my newly created desk. At last! I am prepared to receive applicants.

Oops! I almost forgot! I sprint back to the garage, grab a large mallet, return to the front yard and pound the sign that reads, “Now Hiring for Position of Friend” into my lawn. Then I immediately run into the house, turn off the sprinkler system and return with a towel. Who knew a wooden sign could break through an underground PVC sprinkler pipe? After I dry off the stand and run off another set of applications, I sit down behind the booth. Now I am prepared to receive applicants! As I wait, I review the Application Form:

NOW HIRING FOR THE POSITION OF FRIEND

1. Do you drink beer? YES ___ NO ___. If you checked YES, skip to question #3.

2. Do you at least drink wine? Or hard liquor? YES___ NO ____. If you checked NO, please put your pencil down and leave immediately.

3. Are you now, or have you ever been, a ranking member of a Community Pool Board, the PTA, Cub Scouts, the Catholic Church, or any other organization that would indicate you are not someone with whom I should associate? YES___ NO___. If you checked YES, please put down your pencil and leave immediately.

4. Do you swear? YES___ NO ____. If no, why not? ________________________.
If your answer was anything other than, “Because I once received jail time for perjury,” please put down your pencil and leave immediately. On second thought, don’t. Please proceed to the next question.

5. Do you care if I swear? YES___ NO___.

6. Please read the following and choose the answer that best finishes the following sentence: I always choose to do the right thing…

a. Because God will smote me if I do otherwise.
b. Because I enjoy casting judgmental dispersions on those who do the wrong thing.
c. Because it feels good to do the right thing!
c. Quite by accident, and only when it is to my self serving benefit.

7. Do you think your children are (a) joys to be treasured, or (b) God’s way of punishing you for having late night, drunken sex? If you circled A, please put down your pencil and leave immediately UNLESS you chose ‘A’ because the XANAX you took to help you cope with your children has just taken effect.

#8. Do you keep beer stocked in your fridge? YES____ NO _____.

#9. Is it beer that I like? YES____. NO_____.

#10. Do you have any problem whatsoever with people who stop by your house at any given hour without notice to drink that beer ? YES____NO____. For free? YES____NO___.

Unfortunately, I didn’t receive any applicants. You see, Twin Creeks is a Squidville-like planned community with a very restrictive Homeowner’s Association Covenant. Consequently, just moments after I sat down, a white car bearing the name Twin Creeks Homeowner’s Association pulled up in front of my house and a short, stout man wearing a Mickey Mouse security outfit jumped out, swiftly dismantled my beer stand and slapped me with $2,476 worth of fines for Illegal Signage, Unauthorized Solicitation, Watering the Lawn During a Drought and Covering up Pictures of Lemons with Pictures of Beer Bottles on a Tuesday. Clearly, Deputy Dawg never would have made it past question three.

In the end, I had no choice but to make friends the old fashioned way. Door to door. Needless to say, it wasn’t easy. More than once I looked down the barrel of a shotgun before I was chased off a lawn by a rifle toting, man in a white undershirt who bellowed, “I‘ll kill ya, ya damn Yankee!” Still, after much perseverance, my efforts paid off and I found an open door.

“Who the hell are you!?” a surprised woman sporting a ponytail and a bag of groceries hollers when she discovers me rifling through her refrigerator.

“I’m Cynthia. I’m from New Jersey,” I reply. “Do you have a bottle opener? None of your fucking beer has twist off caps.”

“How did you get in here?!”

“You left your fucking door open,” I explain to Alexis as I crack open the beer with the bottle opener I found in her kitchen drawer. See that? In the end, I finally found a friend who possess the qualities I desire! And I skipped the courtship phase entirely!

Well…maybe that’s not exactly how I met Alexis, but you know what? It’s pretty damn close.

The truth is, it’s easy to meet new people when you move to a new area, but it is a whole different kettle of fish to find a friend; someone with whom you feel comfortable enough to drink, swear and be your awful, self around. This is particularly challenging when you happen to be an unconventional, beer guzzling, sailor mouthed Jersey girl out to make friends in the deep south. Without doubt, the time I have spent over the past several months searching for that comfort level has been laborious, awkward, lonely, oftentimes painful, but unfortunately, necessary. For no matter how much we wish it were otherwise, there are no ready made, Instamatic Friends on the shelf in aisle three. Friendships take time, their bond neither to be rushed nor forced, but woven tight by singular strands of shared mutual experiences: an unexpected gesture of kindness in a time of need, a ride home from the local bar, a late night game of pool, and if you’re really lucky, a lively debate over who is to blame while you await arraignment. It is the memories we create together that bind us together, and creating memories doesn’t happen overnight. In the end, all a 40 year old, recently transplanted woman can do is meet a like mind, or at least a tolerant one, and start the process of making memories all over again.

And what better place to start making memories with my new friend Alexis than on a walk along Twin Creeks Hiking Trail! Well, it would be, if she was here.

Still, as I walk along the path that I have come to know so well, I smile up at the sun, suddenly filled with optimism and energy, as if a heavy load I didn’t even realize I shouldered had just been lifted. It’s amazing how a simple invitation to go for walk can lift one’s spirit! How making a new friend can lift one’s spirits! For where would any of us be without friends to lift out spirits? Pretty fucking down in the dumps, I say! And life is too short to spend it down in the dumps! It’s stinky down there! That is why one must try to make friends, no matter how painful the process may be. After all, friends make our spirits soar. And I have a friend!

All at once, I feel fleet of foot, like the world is my oyster, that my future is bright, that anything is possible! I happily break into a slow jog, uplifted by Michael Buble’s joyously hopeful song, 'I Just Haven’t Met You Yet.’

I Might Have To Wait,
I'll Never Give Up,
I Guess It's Half Timing
And The Other Half's Luck.


I pick up the pace. Hey! I feel wonderful! You know what? I feel like exercising again! Isn’t that something? Maybe I’ll even start my diet tomorrow! After I finish the yummy chocolate cake that’s been on my mind all day! And you know what else I feel like doing? I feel like writing again! And just at that second, an even more amazing thing happened. I felt like me again!

Of course, being me is not always easy. It seems that whenever I am me, the most unlikely, and often unfortunate, events occur. But not today! Today, I belong here in Texas and nothing can take that away from me!

Happily, I bound into the air, land on bended knee and point at a nearby squirrel, inviting him to sing along with the triumphant, crescendo of music and lyrics!

...And I promise you kid, I’ll give so much more than I get!

I point up at a bird in the tree, inviting him to join in as well!

THAN I GET!

Take it away, I point at Mr. Chipmunk!

THAN I GET!

Now You! Angry Texan Wild Boar with sharp tusks!

THAN I GET!!!! (trumpets blast!)
AND SOMEDAY I KNOW THAT IT'LL ALL TURN OUT...

I hope like hell as I run like hell to escape the humungous wild boar charging after me in hot pursuit. Holy shit! What the hell is with the sheer volume of enormously pissed off pigs in this state?!

…AND I’LL WORK TO WORK IT OUT…

Jesus Christ! I’m out of shape! I’m panting! This swine sure is swift!

I THOUGHT I THOUGHT OF EVERY POSSIBILITY

Well, who the fuck could have foreseen a wild boar attack?! I quickly bolt behind a large tree and pretend that I’m invisible. My plan works. The bully boar continues down the trail trolling for a new, hapless victim to chase. Okay, so maybe I’ll never get used to the roving gangs of mad biker pigs that terrorize Texan communities. But still, I belong in Texas! I hold out my arms, fan my hands and kick alternating legs in Rockette fashion as I pick up the second verse and dance down the trail.

Wherever You Are
Whenever It's Right
You’ll Come Out Of Nowhere And Into My Life.


Oh look! Up ahead! It’s my friend, Alexis, walking towards me! To the beat of the music, I pick up my stride, eager to reach my new friend. She is walking at pace as well, her yellow lab, Whatshisname, leading the way. Though I can’t see her eyes behind her large sunglasses, the large smile of recognition that lights up her face lets me know that she sees me. Damn, it’s nice to recognize and be recognized when you’re out and about! Still, I can’t help but feel a little guilty that I forgot to phone her back earlier. Then again, she hadn’t waited around for my call either! See that? We’re two of a kind. But how fortuitous that I should meet Alexis on the walking trail today, after all! At last, we can finally begin the process of creating memories!

“Hey ASSHOLE!” I bark loudly, in a pseudo angry tone, as soon as I am within barking distance. For a split second, Alexis’s smile fades a little: clearly my warm, New Jersey greeting is unexpected. What can I say? NOBODY swears down here in Texas. Oh, well. She’ll get used to it. See that? She already has. In a flash, her smile returns, broader than ever as her ponytail swings back and forth with her every, happy stride.

I then hold out my arms in an exaggerated, ‘What the FUCK?’ motion as I menacingly stare her down and march up to her. Alexis comes to a stop. Playing along, she loses her smile completely.

“Just what the FUCK are you doing here!?” I blast in my most aggressive, best New Jersey, Fuggedaboutit voice. We stand nose to nose, sunglass covered eye to sunglass covered eye. I do my best to keep a straight face as Alexis slowly slides her sunglasses down her nose.

Fifteen minutes later, I veer back off the trail onto my street, walking at a brisk pace. But I don’t stop when I reach my house. Instead, I pass right on by and turn the corner onto Alexis’s street. This time, I can’t keep the smile off my face. I knock on her front door, giddy with anticipation. I just can’t wait until she answers. After a moments pause, I knock on her door again and wait. After all, I’m certain that Alexis is at home. And the reason I know that is because the person I just met on the walking trail was, in fact, not Alexis. Go ahead. Take a minute to think about that.

“Hey Asshole! Get me a beer,” I demand as I follow Alexis to the kitchen after she lets me in. Sure, Alexis and I together may not have created a memory today, but as the voice of the imposter Alexis echoes, “That is not nice! Is that how you greet your friends?!” around in my head, I pull a comfortable stool up to the kitchen center island, happily take a swig of Shiner Bock, sit down, and begin to create a memory for both of us.

“You’re never going to believe what just fucking happened to me today!” I begin.

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