Remember All Those Nights We Cried?

One of my oldest friends died last night.

She died and I am angry.

I want to kick the dog. I want to scream at the baby. I want to pull out my hair and punch holes in the walls. I want to ram my car into something, anything. I want to choke the birds who are singing and tell the Universe to fuck off because how dare it be a sunny and beautiful day today. How dare the world keep spinning now that two little boys are to grow up without a mother. I have this untapped chasm of rage that I didn’t know I could possibly feel.

I’ve never felt so angry in my entire life.

My oldest friend died last night.

She was 26.

Could Have Been.

I have my father’s eyes, which I passed down to both of my sons.

Since I was a small child, I’ve always been known as Daddy’s Little Girl. All of the best parts of who I am are directly decended from him. My tastes in music, my (terrible) sense of humor, my ability to let most things roll off my back, those are all his traits. My brother had my mother, I had my father.

We went to see him again today up in the ICU, where I was afforded a seat directly in front of the station which his vitals blipped intermittently. They were perfect. He remains in the ICU, flanked by (much) older patients, suffering from far worse fates. The guy next to him with VRE on a vent? Not so good. The lady on the other side, catatonic and covered with decubitus ulcers? Probably not in such good shape. He is there only because the rest of the hospital is full.

One can only remain in crisis mode for 5 or 6 days before they break down. As I slowly start to go about my day, with the crisis winking merrily in my rearview mirror, I am overtaken by the horrible thoughts of what could have happened.

The thrombus that was causing the intermittent angina pectoris, waving jauntily from his great vessel could have dislodged itself, and burrowed somewhere far graver. It easily could have killed him. It didn’t, but it could have.

I try take greater comfort in knowing that for now, for right now, he is sitting in the dimly lit ICU, likely eating the candy bar I bought him, and flipping casually through my copy of The Atlantic (and likely NOT the Tiffany’s catalogue I brought him, to pick stuff out that he could buy for me). The monitors from adjacent rooms are probably occasionally alarming, while the fresh snow accumulates outside his window.

To others, those monitors probably evoke the ominous terror of yet another thing going wrong with someone they desperately love and want to be well again, while to me, they echo endlessly “could have been him, could have been him.”

Who Do You Think You Are?

Maybe I’m the only person on the planet who will occasionally wonder how other people view me (no, my days are not filled with wondering what people think of me. Most of the time, I could care less. This is why I publicly blog: I don’t much care what people think of me), but somehow I doubt it. I always find it strange when someone has a perception of me varies wildly from who I actually am. Sometimes, it makes me want to correct the misconception, yet other times it tickles me pink to let them think what they want. Life is absolutely filled with more humor that way.

When I got pregnant with my first son, I had a role in my family: The Fuck-Up. Disregarding all of the surrounding circumstances (my mother’s relapse and subsequent torture of me), the blame for all of my actions fell squarely on my shoulders, at least as far as my family was concerned. Although many of my actions were not *ahem* the most mature, my family gave me far less credit than I deserved, especially considering that I was 20 years old.

When my pregnancy was announced, my parents were shockingly supportive of me, well, at least until I found out (much later, of course) that they had asked my brother (who is 10 years my senior) and his future wife if they would adopt my child in the event that I “freaked out.” They had such a low opinion of me that they honestly believed that I wouldn’t assume responsibility for my child (note: I am amazed that the keyboard has not ignited with the fury of a thousand suns as I type this).

As my family (save for me, of course. I get a special CHARGE when I get to confront people who have pissed me off.) is so non-confrontational that one might assume that each member is far meeker than they really are, I rarely heard about what a Fuck-Up I was considered to be. Aside from snide comments here and there about responsibility, everyone was pretty mum.

When I met, and subsequently married The Daver, was the point in which I realized just how poor my family’s opinion of me truly was. You would have thought, by their reactions, that Dave had rescued me literally from the streets, where I was selling crack and dancing badly for spare change (Dance Monkey, DANCE) and somehow turned my life around for me. You would never have guessed that I was at the top of my nursing school class, TA’ing for Organic/BioChem AND tutoring for A & P, while working as a waitress 20 hours a week BEFORE Dave walked into my life.

My brother, who I have a long and sorted history with, decided that if Dave (whom he adored/s) liked me, then I couldn’t be all THAT bad. My parents finally accepted that I had become a more mature and responsible person, although their time line was off by a factor of about a year and a half. In their minds, I only began to turn my life around once I had met my husband.

I do, of course, appreciate that my family loves my husband as one of their own (honestly, if we were to divorce, I have a feeling that holidays would have to be split up into Dave-time and Becky-time, or more likely, just Dave-time. I’d have to find myself a new family to celebrate the holidays), but I just wish that they could see that as wonderful as Dave is, he did nothing to change who I am and what I will do with my life.

It dawned on me, as I prepared my home for hosting Thanksgiving this year, that if asked, my family would probably mention that they were “having dinner at Becky’s house” and something to the effect of “she’s really turned her life around, hasn’t she?” Like I was some sort of street urchin in a Lifetime Original Movie who had some sappy predictable plot line: unmarried, younger girl gives birth to a child out of wedlock, heads down the “wrong path” until she meets “the man of her dreams,” and she miraculously changes her path, learns to cook and clean, and becomes a responsible upstanding citizen with an immaculate home. Who can, and does, crochet platitudes to hang on the wall.

While I can never discount Dave’s role in my life, the Lifetime Original Movie would be completely wrong (and not just the part about crocheting platitudes), but because I never, ever open up to my family about this sort of thing (in my family, despite the mental illness, we almost never talk about our feelings, because that would be too corny), it’s what they think of me. It’s incredibly doubtful that I’ll ever change their misconceptions of me, try as I may or may not to show them my true colors (I see your TRUUUUUUEE COOOOOLLLLLORS, and that’s why I LOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVE you.). I’ll chalk trying to explain who I really am to my family as yet another exercise in futility, because, honestly, it’s probably going to be easier to train my cats to unload the dishwasher or teach the coffeemaker to speak Ebonics than it would be to change their opinion of me.

It just sucks that they have to be so off-base with their perceptions, I mean, why can’t I be mistaken for a Fighter Pilot rather than a Fuck-Up (more accurately now: The Becky Formerly Known As Fuck-Up)?

I know that I’m not alone here. I just can’t be.

What do people think about YOU that is completely inaccurate?

Sometimes A Cigar Is Just That

It’s amazing how easily you can trick yourself into believing that there is more under the surface than actually exists, especially if you want it badly enough. Turn any conversational snippet around and around in your head like a cube, examine it, pull it apart, piece it back together and eventually it may start to mean exactly what you want it to mean. Ignore the obvious signs and focus on what lies below and you can fool yourself into a relationship. Sometimes the delusion is far better than the cold hard facts.

It’s been ages since I’ve done this, thankfully, as I have never ever enjoyed playing the games that people play. But I am admitting here and now to you, Darling Internet, that I’ve been there.

I thought that we had something, really I did, because I’d thought that underneath it all, he got me. Really GOT me. My friends didn’t understand what I saw in him, mainly because they are incredibly smart (and good looking to boot!) and they saw what I refused to: he just wasn’t that in to me. Or he was, but only when it was convienent for him. Our friendship was like a festering scab that you cannot stop picking at, no matter how many times your mother reminds you that you should just leave the damn thing alone already.

It lasted for far longer than I’d like to admit, and it took a drunken night of bad sex coupled with his sudden interest in a sort-of friend of mine to bring me to my senses.
He was either an idiot or an asshole, and either way, I didn’t need filth like that in my life.

It’s funny when I think back upon it all, I cannot believe that I was ever so naive and even worse, that I didn’t believe that I was worth more than that. Now, after meeting Dave, I would never even THINK to pick apart his words, if he’s running late, it’s because he’s late, not because he’s really doing something far more sinister or interesting. If he tells me that he likes my shirt, I thank him and move on. It’s a simple statement, nothing more and nothing less.

On the infamous first Non-Date that was actually a date that changed the rest of our lives, we got into a conversation about my next rotation, which was located far closer to his apartment than my home. Sweetly (and stupidly, I reminded him later, after he gave me keys to his house that night. What if I’d been A Crazy and started showing up at his house unannounced? What if I broke in and stole everything he owned, like dirty socks and black jeans? WHAT IF I MOVED IN?), he offered to let me stay at his house on the nights before these early morning clinicals.

Upon realization as to what he had just offered, which sounded awfully presumptious (reader, keep in mind we had not so much as held hands at this juncture), he immediately turned 54 shades of red and stammered, “heh, heh, heh, I guess this means I should get a new futon mattress, heh, heh, heh. BECAUSE MY FUTON IS MY COUCH NOT MY BED, heh, heh, heh.”

My heart warmed about 14 degrees when I realized that this was exactly what I’d been looking for: someone who was honest with me AND HIMSELF about what he wanted. It sounds so simple, when I say this now, but I assure you that this meant more to me than if he’d told me right then and there that his greatest ambition in life was to be a father and husband (which I later found out to be the truth. He’s a rare one, My Daver. He also would give me a pedicure if I could handle anyone touching my feet. He DOES have a brother…..ladies….!).

Of course, as the story goes, I never DID sleep on the futon (bow-chicka-wow-wow), and I have never, ever, taken his honesty for granted (although, occasionally I do wish that he could be a little LESS honest. Like when he told me, oh, I don’t know, several weeks before our wedding that I wasn’t the hottest chick he’d dated. Um, ouch. Snap, Daver, Snap.)

Or is this just me?

The Elephants Are Kindly But They’re Dumb

I can’t handle visiting the zoo.

This may shock anyone whose been to my house and visited my own personal menagerie first hand, because it is completely obvious that my affection for animals often times rivals the affections I feel for people. Don’t believe me? I currently have living under my roof three cats, a dog, a leopard gecko, a rex rabbit, and a hedgehog. The number is only so low because we have recently taken a hiatus from fostering other animals for a local shelter in order to lessen the burden momentarily. Well, and Joey the Mean Hamster died shortly before Alex was born (no one was sad).

Before your mental picture of me turns into a person who happily has a revolving collection of fluffy kitten sweatshirts and drives a car with bumper stickers that read: The More People I Meet, The More I Love My Cat/Dog/Hedgehog/Rabbit, let me swear on all that is holy that aside from the ridiculous sweatshirt that my mother bought me several years ago that had a cat laying atop a pile of books and had the caption: “Books, Cats, Life is Good” (which was promptly donated to the Salvation Army, where I’m sure that it got a nice home with an old dotty woman who has doilies and knicknacks and a scrapbook devoted to her cats.), I haven’t worn a puffy kitten sweatshirt since the third grade (shut up. I also wore a banana clip AND french rolled my jeans. SO DID YOU!)

Needless to say (aside from my awesomely-awesome run-on sentence), I adore animals, and always have. The only reason that we don’t currently own a donkey or a goat is because we live in the city (well, and my husband might have me committed, even AFTER I assured him that the goat would function as a lawnmower), and it’s illegal here.

Maybe it’s the bleeding-heart part of me that cannot stand to see the animals confined to such small cages being pelted by rocks and hard candies by ignorant children, and knowing that this is the best it’s going to get for these poor creatures. It could be because it looks so damn boring sitting around their pens day in and day out no breaks except for eating and sleeping and crapping.

But I imagine that it’s something else entirely.

When I was about four or five, my family took a trip down to St. Louis to visit my aunt who teaches at the university down in that area. As part of the touristy stuff that we did (which did NOT include a trip to East St. Louis, I’m sad to say), we took an outing to the St. Louis Zoo. They have an amazing monkey house (no, literally here), and it was there where the adults began to jabber-jaw with each other, leaving me to sit down and drink a juice box in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows and wonder why on earth adults were so damn boring.

After a minute or two, I realized that although most of the primates were ignoring the slack-jawed pointing tourists, a small one, likely a child, had discovered me. She made her way over to me and sat down on the other side of the glass and began to gesture to me. I tried to give her a tug off the old juice box, but the glass blocked my way.

It was then when she (I am arbitrarily using “she” as my pronoun. I have no idea what the gender of my newfound friend was, and I was too young to do a penis check) and I began to play together. She’d stand up and jump up and down and when I did the same through the glass, she would clap her hands in delight. Because I was a child, I have no way of knowing how long she and I played together as it felt like forever, pantomiming each others’ movements, running back and forth along the glass. I already had it all planned out in my head, her name was Smurfette JUST LIKE MINE and she would come home and live with me, and sleep in my bed.

The adults watched in amazement, finally remembering that there was a child in their presence until they eventually had to pull me away from my new friend (as I was a late in life baby in our already teeny (even extended) family, there were never any other children for me to play with. Ever.). My dreams of having an ape for a sister were abruptly halted as the adults informed me that no matter what, I would not be able to take her with me. We tried to hug goodbye from either side of the glass, and she looked just as sad as I felt.

To say that I was devestated would be a grave disservice to my feelings, as I can never recall being quite so heartbroken again in my life. I wept on and off for the next couple of weeks, missing my new friend and saddened that she and I would never get to play together again, because she was in there and I was out here.

The zoo hasn’t been the same since, no matter what light I try to spin it in: the animals are happy and fed. They have no predators here, so they’re safe. The zoo is propigating the furthering of their species, who might have died out otherwise. I just can’t fool myself about it.

Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye.

To this day, I’m not quite sure what I did. I’m certain it must have been something completely unforgivable, but I would hope that if this were the case, I’d at least be aware of whatever sin I’d committed. Hell, maybe it’s so incredibly stupid that I’m better off not knowing, because knowing would inflame my already heightened sense of rage (Hi! I’m Becky, and I’m a Rage-A-Holic!)

(Hi, Becky!).

Let me back up for a moment.

I met Jenna when I transferred colleges in 2002. We were both on track for the nursing program, which meant that we were working for one year to fill the gaps in our credits before we began our clinical training. As fate would have it, we were in a couple of classes together, and fueled by a mutual love of nicotine and Diet Coke, we became fast friends.

She was exactly the sort to become one of my friends: she was both stunningly beautiful and cracked my ass up, like all of my female friends (You’re all welcome for the compliment. I know, I know I’m too kind. I’ll be checking my mail for extravagent Christmas gifts starting later this week, guys. In case you’re planning ahead, which I suggest that you do.). We had loads of fun together.

She wasn’t accepted into The Program with me, so she transferred to another college farther away, right around the same time that I started dating The Daver. We kept in touch, but between my insane rotations, my quickly growing son, and my new relationship, we grew increasingly distant.

(I admit to The Internet at large, when I began to date The Daver, I became more neglectful of each of my friends. While I am aware that just about everyone does this with a New Relationship, I am still sorry for succumbing to it. It’s not cool and it’s not fair.)

Whew. With that white elephant stuffed rightfully back into the closet, I shall try to get back to the point.

When I got engaged, I asked my best friend Ashley to be my Maid of Honor for several very good reasons: she’s as OCD as I am, she knew/knows more about weddings than I do, and she was around more often than Jenna was. She pretty much ran my wedding for me because I asked her to (damn you Dave, for not letting me get married by Elvis in Vegas, dance down the aisle to “That’s The Way, Uh-Huh, Uh-Huh, I Like It,” and insisting that our first dance NOT be “YMCA!” You’re NEVER going to live this down.) and she did a damn fine job, just as I knew that she would. If I can’t have good taste, I’m smart enough to know people that do.

Before I’d met The Daver, before I had a serious boyfriend OR the prospect of one on the horizon, Jenna and I had agreed to be each other’s maid of honor, something that I vaguely remembered when I asked her to be my bridesmaid. Honestly, between her clinical schedule AND living really far away from me, I was sure that she’d have been thrilled to have dodged that bullet. *I* would have been.

She was decidedly Not Happy, and the prospect of being a bridesmaid NOT a maid of honor miffed her until I offered that she AND Ashley share the burden together. Duel maid of honor to match the two best men on Dave’s side. Sweetness, I thought, this is going just swimmingly.

We all went as a big fucking happy family to get measured for our dresses together, as we were having them custom made, and drama was avoided. Everyone got along, which is saying something because there were eight of us that day. Dress designs were hashed out, swatches chosen, and pick up dates were established. Plans were afoot for a bridal shower, and life just kept on trucking.

A couple of weeks passed when I realized that Jenna was not returning my phone calls. Being as irritating as I can be when I cannot get ahold of someone (very, very annoying. Trust me), I continued calling. When I got no response, I started emailing. To all of her email addresses. I had Ashley email her.

Nada.

Becoming increasingly concerned for her well-being, as she was not the sort to drop off the face of the planet, I increased my efforts ten-fold. Twenty-fold. Finally, as a last resort, I had a mutual friend email her. She received an immediate response.

Fuck.

It was then when I realized that she was infuriated with something that I’d done and I was getting The Silent Treatment. Which is potentially the most horrid thing that you can do to me. Yell at me, berate me, pee in my mail box (please don’t pee in my mail box): fine, I can handle that. WHATEVER you do, don’t ignore me. I cannot take it.

Giving it one last shot, I sent one more email, and called one more time, explaining that I wasn’t going to be calling her anymore and apologizing for whatever it was that I’d done.

I’ve not heard from her since.

Now, I’m fairly certain that she had her panties in a wad (oh, the search terms. OH, the search terms!) over being asked to be a bridesmaid NOT a maid of honor, although this decision was months away from the dress fitting, and I’d heard nothing more about it since then. But I can never be sure, and maybe that’s why this bothers me to this day, nearly three years later.

I have a terrible time saying goodbye to just about anything, really. For being a fairly unemotional person, I’m incredibly sentimental. It’s one thing when a friendship grows apart due to the natural progression of things, but it’s something completely different when you are simply dropped without so much as a whisper.

Moreover, I just miss having her in my life. So few people really get me, and she happened to be one of those people who did. I frequently consider reaching out to her again, sending her a letter saying, shit I don’t know, whatever it is that you say to someone who goes from being one of your best friends to dropping out of your wedding. I’m sorry? I miss you? I am sorry and I do miss her, that’s for sure.

But has too much time passed? If this friendship could be salvaged, should it be? My anger has absolutely fizzled out, so it’s not as though I still have an axe to grind with her: she had her reasons for doing what she did, and mayhap they are good ones and mayhap they are not, but it’s ancient history now (aside from me still whining to Dave about not taking me to Vegas. That may never end.).

So Dear Internet, what would YOU do if you were in my shoes?