Garden Snakes, Rock Bands, and Joggers…Oh my

It was a wedding with no direction, a wedding that was so disorganized most of the guests had no idea where it was even being held. In the middle of a park surrounded by a train, joggers, a duck pond, and a rock show, I found a church.

Carvell and I had been invited to his friend Reed’s wedding. Reed, the groom, was a special type of person. The very definition of ADHD and the long-term drummer for a rock band, now he was adding husband to that list. Carvell had lived and traveled with Reed for a couple of years. This wedding was a chance for Trey to see his Raleigh crew, a crew that he missed very much.

We arrived at the unmarked venue and I was mesmerized by what I saw. People of every walk of life: musicians, a hippie wearing a “snake skin” suit, drug addicts, country club folk, and a tattooed minister dressed as Colonel Sanders of fried chicken fame were in attendance. Everyone took a seat and a young man pulled out a guitar and started playing quietly. The groom’s father let the garden snake he had caught loose and it slithered toward the pond. The pastor, Rev Hank, begin to speak of love and acceptance. He asked us to take a minute and think of those who were not afforded the right to marry. Immediately, I knew that my dad back home in Paducah had flinched and I thought, “Dad is dying on the inside.”

This pastor and service was very different from what I was used to. Growing up church had been Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday nights without fail. The pastor had looked a certain way and that way matched the congregation. They were a matched set. The church services almost always followed the same routine. We would sing hymns, pray, sing another hymn, and then the service would start. After the service ended, normally with an alter call, we would go out to eat and I would never think of the service again. Church was something I did, not something I felt.

Pastor Hank spoke of dignity and understanding. He asked those of us who had gathered for the wedding to wrap the couple with love and to keep them surrounded by our community of protection. He said that as friends and family it was our jobs to love them. I had been attending church for 30 years and this seemed like such a novel idea. Could it really be that simple? Just love each other. My life had been spent worrying about what sin I had just committed. Was that the sin that would doom me to hell? I think I am a good person; I try to do right by people and not be hurtful, but it just never seems good enough. On that warm day I discovered a church.

As Reverend Hank pulled out the ring box he said something that I missed and Carvell said, “Pay attention Heather.” It was difficult to pay attention because there was a great deal going on that day. Geese were quacking like mad. Joggers were running past the wedding and stopping for a second to watch the festivities. A band playing a Rock the Vote show could be heard in the distance. I was focused on where the garden snake was and had managed to miss my own engagement. It would have been very romantic, I’m sure, had I been paying attention. After the ceremony we walked up to Reverend Hank and he handed us the ring box. Inside was my engagement ring. I hit Trey and yelled, “Get out.”

We left the wedding and attended the reception at the bride and groom’s home. We ate cake and celebrated the couple. We laughed and discussed politics, religion, and music: no topic seemed taboo. This was a revival of spirits. All walks of life were joined together, their oddities were on display, and no one was ashamed. I could not help but to be shocked that this type of community existed. This community is what I wanted, a place that I could openly be different, where I was labeled neither a sinner nor a saint. I was just Heather, a woman that questioned her place in the world and in her family. Among this church the fact that I was socially liberal meant nothing. In this church our oddities were embraced, not hidden and secret.

That night I looked at my new ring 1,000 times from 100 different angles. I was in love and I was going to be married to someone I found infuriating, impossible, and interesting. While I was thrilled with my engagement what I found that long weekend was equally as important, a group of people who were as interesting as the stories Trey had told me. I had expected to feel apart from everyone but they had embraced me both figuratively and literally. Church isn’t always found in a building with four walls and a roof. Church is when two or more like minded people worship together. That weekend they bestowed love and grace on not just the bridal couple but a new couple as well.

A Conversation with Saidee

The other morning I was wrestling my five year old, Saidee, trying to get her dressed for school, and she decided that it was time to have a little lesson on inclusion. Now, I will admit that I was in no mood for this conversation because we were, as always, running late for school. I really needed her to put on her damn socks, but I stopped and listened and we talked. This is the breakdown of that conversation.

“Momma, Valentine’s Day is Cupid’s birthday.”

“No, Honey, it isn’t. Please put on your socks.”

“Yes it is, Momma.”

“No Saidee, it is not.”

“YES, IT IS!”

“Fine Saidee, yes it is. Where is the other sock?”

“Momma, Cupid shoots arrows at people’s hearts.

“Yes, he does. Please put on your sock.”

“Sometimes he shoots at their butts too.”

I laugh at the mental picture and smile at her. “I bet he does hit their butts sometimes.”

“Momma, sometimes two girls fall in love.”

“Yes, that is true. Please put on your shoes.”

“And sometimes two boys fall in love.”

“Yes, they do. Where is your jacket?”

“Sometimes a boy may look like a boy on the outside but feel like a girl on the inside. So he may wear a dress.”

I stop and look at my kid with a great deal of awe. “Saidee, you are very smart. Now, where is your backpack?”

“I don’t know. It’s okay to be different, isn’t it Momma?”

“Yes baby, it is okay.”

“Some people are black and some are like Cezar.”

“Yes, Saidee people can love different kinds of people and not everyone has to look like us.”

“Can I watch TV?”

“No! We have to go!”

She made it to school just in time and I was my customary 20 minutes late to work. I feel damn proud to be the mother of the kids I have.

 

The Oversized Bag Leaning Against Her Left Leg

Her hair was long and limp; there was not much life in the fine hair that sat on her shoulders, but it was clean and smelled of expensive shampoo. She sat in the restaurant with her oversize bag leaning against her left leg. The weight of the bag was a gnawing reminder that she had a decision to make. She absently ran her thumb against the hang nail on her left ring finger.

“Mrs., would you like me to refill your water?”

The waiter who was dressed in head to toe black had been nothing but kind to her. Male waiters are always kind to fat women alone in restaurants. They know that there are two ways to play the waiter game. The first is to be flirty and hope that the tip is in direct relationship to the amount of flirting that is done. The other is the sympathy route, be kind and attentive, and hope that karma intercedes when the tip is left. The waiter knew that flirting wasn’t going to work with this patron; she was much too distant to pay him much mind.

“Your soup, Mrs.”

He placed the bowl of soup down in front of her. The light brown broth steamed up in long delicate curls. The heavy woman with the limp hair slightly bent down and touched the bag still leaning against her left leg. She nodded her thanks at the young man and lifted the spoon to her mouth. The broth was silky and salty. With subtle sips she moved the soup into her mouth. Never slurping, because “a lady never makes a sound as she eats,” her grandmother had always said. The warm liquid calmed her nerves and every so often she leaned just to the left to touch the bag still propped gently against her leg.

After the soup was finished, she gently laid the spoon across the top of the bowl and moved it to the side of the table for the waiter to pick up on his next trip through the restaurant. Her goal in life has been to blend into the background, be affable and amiable, and never leave people with much of an impression at all. She dressed in a way that called no attention to herself. Solid colors that leaned towards neutrals: browns, tans, beiges, the occasional moss green. “Never in a shiny fabric, always a matte,” she had been told. Her grandmother had always told her that she was much too large, and that her demeanor would be the only thing that would ever attain her any regard. Grandmother never understood that while she gave these lessons on being delicate and niceties, the soundtrack from Evita played in the plus-sized women’s head. As Grandmother chided her for slurping her soup she fantasized about masturbation and regeneration. Dressed in a beige top and navy dress pants she waited for the rest of her meal at the restaurant. She waited for the waiter dressed in head to toe black to reappear.

“Your sushi, Mrs.”

Again with a nod she wordlessly said, “thank you,” and filled up the tiny reservoir on her plate with soy sauce. The weight of her bag still gently pressed against her left leg. With nimble fingers she maneuvered the chop sticks and picked up the seaweed wrapped rice, salmon, and cream cheese. Gently she dipped each section into the sauce, never once did she leave even a dribble on the table cloth. The plus-sized women smiled a wry smile and leaned to touch the bag pressed against her left leg.

Having finished her meal and gently lifted the linen napkin from her lap, using the corner to dab at her mouth rather meekly. She thought about her grandmother and all the lessons she had been taught. Be demure, be soft, blend in, never be invasive. Her mind wondered to the bag pressing against the left leg clad in navy dress pants. Inside the bag are the normal things you find in a woman’s purse: a wallet given to her for Christmas, spare change, lipstick, ink pens, a necklace that seemed too gaudy to wear, receipts, and an envelope containing a check made out to Francis Callister for $13,612. During the entire meal the affable woman had been thinking about the check made out in her mother’s name. The $13,612 was the remaining estate of a daughter that had been cast out for a presumed sin. That daughter had never lived in the affable demure way the grandmother had insisted, but now the grandmother was in an upscale retirement center with a mind not near as sharp as it had been even the week before.

“Your check, Mrs.,” the waiter dressed in head to toe black said with a smile.

The fat woman with dainty eating habits smiled back, and a soft “Thank you” was released from her mouth. The waiter walked away and the woman reached inside her purse and withdrew a $20 bill to pay for her lunch. She slipped the money inside the leather tablet and placed the envelope underneath. With the waiter’s pen she left a message on the envelope in beautiful cursive handwriting.

“Please accept this check and live a life more grand than I was ever given a chance to. Take the check to Wilchester & Associates, they will help you cash it. If they have any questions tell them that Evita sent you. Love, Evita.”

And with that she grabbed her bag and began humming Don’t Cry for Me Argentina as she pushed through the doors of the restaurant and entered into the world a freer person.

 

I wrote this using a prompt from the book 642 Things to Write About. The prompt was “She was a fat woman whose eating habits were dainty. There was a check for $13,612 in her purse, not made out to her, but, you know. She was good at figuring these things out. Start with her hair.

Meet-cute or Crazy Stalker: You decide

I am not a big fan of the winter Olympics; like a lot of people the only thing I ever worried about was the elaborately dressed ice skaters. Their short glitter-covered skirts billow around them while they make turn after turn. The obviously homosexual announcers calling out every flaw, “Oh, looks like she did not stick that landing, her toe slightly tilted to the left.” This is the only part of the Olympics that interested me at all; the cattiness is just too much to pass up. This particular evening I sat on my living room floor folding laundry while watching the skaters. A little girl from America won the gold and the entire nation became fascinated with her almost immediately. I on the other hand quickly yelled, “Holy shit! That girl has bulimia teeth and no one seems to care!” Her teeth were tiny and gray and very creepy to me. How can you spend thousands of dollars on ice skating lessons, hundreds on costumes, and not think, “Maybe I should get my teeth looked at”? I finished the laundry and went to bed, visions of bulimia dancing in my head.

The next morning proceeded as normal. I went to work, clocked in, and turned on my radio. I like words, and most mornings I spent my time listening to talk radio. The first show to come on was always Frank and John in the Morning. I had spent a lot of time listening to the two hosts banter and argue and it was even that show I was listening to when the planes crashed into the World Trade Centers. They were part of my routine, my daily life, but that day the show was a little different as John was out sick and Frank’s son was co-hosting. They talked about the normal things, and then the conversation turned to the book store that they owned, Books on Broadway it was called, and I thought “I need to check that out.” He said something about not being small in stature and I chuckled a little.  The next round of conversation was the Olympics, and that’s when I heard, “I haven’t seen teeth like that since I saw that girl in a corner and a bent up spoon.”

I froze.

The guy on the radio just called out the ice skater with “bulimia teeth” for having heroin teeth. It seemed obvious that I must stalk him and make him mine. I started to develop a plan of putting myself in the path of the book store guy who was not so small in stature. The plan was not well organized: I was going to the bookstore. If I was bold I would speak; if I wasn’t then it was a trip to a bookstore. The way I saw it I was a winner either way. I lived under the belief that one could never have enough books. I kept them on bookshelves, in the closet, piled on the desk and nightstand, and even in the bed with me. So I thought, what was the harm in visiting a bookstore and picking up just one more book?

The next day was cold and blustery; I wrapped a colorful scarf around my neck, summoned my courage, and pushed open the bookstore door. The bell above the door jingled as I stepped into the room full of books. The books filled the tall green shelves. They were broken down into different genres, all demanding to be read. The man from the radio sat on a comfortable looking couch with his legs crossed, a brightly colored shoe propped on his knee reading a book by Chuck Palanuik.

“Are you Trey?” I asked.

He replied, “Yeah.”

“You’re funny,” I asserted as casually as possible.

“Huh,” He replied.

I shopped around the store and tried to start a conversation with him. But he appeared to be unable to speak more than one word at a time. I bought a handful of books and thought, “Better luck next time.” I went back to the store and missed him the following week. I went back, yet again, the next week, and bought more books. If this continued, my children would surely starve to death. So upon my next return to the store I broke down and spilled my guts.

“Yeah, have you not picked up that I’ve been flirting with you?”

He looked slightly baffled, “Huh? You have?”

“Yeah, I have. Do you eat?” I asked.

“Do I look like I eat?” he quipped.

It took months for us to actually eat a meal together as our early relationship revolved around heavy breathing, fingers, mouths, and arguing. He is difficult and vastly entertaining. Our relationship evolved from late nights and coitus into late nights watching That Metal Show. “Mother Fucker has no idea what he is talking about,” he yells at the television. Now we cackle at Duck Dynasty and try to mimic their speech patterns. He and I once spent an entire winter covered up with afghans and drinking hot chocolate while watching Top 20 countdown shows. It is on record as the best winter of my life and the year we decided that the voice of God is Johnny Cash. Our fights always happen in the garage and we yell hateful things to each other. A short time later we mumble our apologizes and then laugh at the insults we hurled. No one can make me angrier faster and no one can make me laugh harder. He is loud, rude, and full of opinions, but he is also deeply kind and compassionate. It’s just a part that he doesn’t like to talk about. I ask him to tell me stories of his past and his friends; I listen intently and laugh at the same parts every single time. He is Carvell. He is Trey. He is Daddy. He makes me laugh, He makes me cry. He is my mate.

I am forever grateful to “bulimia teeth” and the winter Olympics.

Panic Attack: A day of mind numbing crazy

I am in the midst of a panic attack.

My chest hurts and I can feel the blood moving in my veins. My thoughts are loops and I am unrightfully angry and aggressive. The juices in my stomach slosh around like the churning water of a child’s amusement park boat ride. I feel vindictive and hurtful, but not to the outside world; I want to turn it inward.

“You’re not fast enough, Heather.”

“You can’t get it all done, Heather.”

“You aren’t good enough, Heather.”

Now, I’m angry at myself for my mental temper tantrum and I try to focus on the abundance of good in my life. Never am I lacking for clothes, food, water, or love. The shelter over my head is strong and sturdy: rain and wind are never issues. But now I am disappointed in myself for trying to make myself feel better for concentrating on what feels like an overabundance.

When did this start happening to me? What was the catalyst that brought on my hatred and doubt? I am scratching at my forehead and wringing my hands with anxiety, reminding myself that this attack will pass but acknowledging that now I will live in anticipation of the next bout.

“When are you going to write that paper, Heather?”

“Selena needs to see the doctor this weekend, Heather.”

“A Valentines box needs to be done, Heather.”

I want to hide in the bathroom and scratch my arms with the jagged edges of my fingernails, leaving a trail of white lines that sizzle and spark as they turn red. Adults don’t think like this. Adults aren’t destructive to themselves. They don’t crave just a little pain to make themselves feel better. Adults don’t crave a little aggression taken out on their body.

I am less than an adult when in the middle of a panic attack.

My ears are hot.

My skin itches and burns.

I feel exposed.

I repeat: here, now, loved, whole, healed, and enough silently to myself.

Tomorrow I will feel better.

What Happens the Moment You Are Freshly Pressed: A Word Press Dream

Word Press has a feature called Freshly Pressed. It is where they pick some of the best blogs of the day and post them on a separate page. I want to be “Freshly Pressed” more than I want just about anything, because I require a great deal of validation. After I post a blog I start texting friends and family for feedback. “What did you think?” “Did you laugh?” “What was your favorite sentence?” I bother them with questions until I feel the proper amount of acceptance. It is at that point I start watching my stats and shares in a mildly obsessive manner. I have an illness of questionable self-worth.

The following is what I believe happens once this blogging honor is bestowed upon you.

One.  You are immediately asked to co-host the Today show. I would of course be a smash hit and people would call my time as co-host a breakthrough in journalism as I would be the first plus-sized announcer on the Today show. My notoriety would become even greater when I would refuse to report a story on Lindsey Lohan because “that bitch is crazy and this isn’t news.” I would be fined $100,000 for the outburst but the fine would be paid by a TV producer who offers me my own talk show on AMC.

Two.  Someone comes to your home to wash and fold your laundry. My new laundry friend and I would become best friends. Together we would tackle the 1,000 socks that sit at the bottom of the laundry basket that seem to have no match. While my laundry buddy and I fold we will discover that we have almost everything in common and we will create a laundry room system so organized that it will eliminate any back log of slacks and underwear that I have. Also, my laundry buddy is Adele and she loves my throw pillows. We discuss the beauty of my couch pillows for hours and she tells me she understands how important they are to me. After the laundry is finished she smokes and says bollocks. I ask if she is an Elvis Costello fan.

Three. Lena Dunham the creator of Girls would publically apologize to me for stealing my gimmick. The world can only have so many awkward girls with massive self-esteem issues and tattoos. She gets to live in NYC, have a television show, and publishing deal, so I want to take cardigans and questionable self-worth back.  After her apology we agree that if we work together there can be world enough for the two of us. She says that I have unique perspective and asks if I would like to be a consultant for her show. I tell her that I would love that but will need to put a stop to my co-host of the Today show duties. The Today show is of course devastated.

Four. Somehow Word Press makes me photograph well. I have no idea how they do it. I just accept it as a Freshly Pressed perk.

Five. (Spoiler Alert) Author Gillian Flynn calls me so we can discuss a plan for Nick. She tells me that she understands that I have unfinished business with the characters in her book.  She agrees to write a second book that gives me closure and takes care of that crazy bitch Amy once and for all. The publisher of Gone Girl also agrees to give a copy of the book to everyone who likes my blog just in case they haven’t read it yet.

Six. Word Press sends a representative to my Dad’s house and convinces him that it would be fine for me to tattoo the lower halves of both of my arms. Of course Dad is at first reluctant, but the Word Press rep makes such a good case that Dad agrees my arms would look better covered in tattoos. The tattoos are done and immediately I am able to sleep a night’s worth of uninterrupted sleep, because in the “Freshly Pressed” world anxiety, sleep, and tattoos are interconnected.

Seven. The Chinese and Thai restaurants in town start delivering like self-respecting restaurants should.

Eight. Old Navy starts carrying XXLT shirts in their stores.

And to think all of this happens the minute you are chosen to be Freshly Pressed, who knew? I need to spend more time thinking about what I am writing and less on who is reading it, but I think we all know that I am not that self-aware…yet. For a few real ideas about being “Freshly Pressed” check out this link listed below.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/freshly-pressed-fiction/

My Bullshit Poem

I may have written a poem or an oddly worded story. I don’t know which it is.

A Queenryche fantasy of Chinese food
consumed on an old mattress.
The sheets a part of a charity case; the pattern
could be seen on Little House on the Prairie

You’ll draw while I read
on a couch propped up by The Tommyknockers.
The only book of appropriate thickness.

On the mattress we sleep
our legs intertwined like the dusty
cables of the television.

The baby sleeps in shoes so her toes are not cold.
In footed pajamas and a pair of off brand tennis shoes
she roams the front room.

The mice gnaw at the wood inside the walls,
a scrapping sound that projects
a much larger animal.

The roaches that travel between houses,
crawl over the dinner dishes, dragging
filth behind them.

The couple on the mattress pays no mind.