The carpool lane in my high school consisted primarily of hand-me-down’s from parents, which makes sense – you want to give your old car to your kid so:
a) you can get a new one.
2) teenagers are terrible on cars.
The difference between my high school and others is that meant my best of friends drove things like the last model Lexus sports cars and the BMW 8 series that had phones built into it. Yep. Car phones. Back before we had cell phones glued to our ears, we had car phones and landlines, remember those, kids? Phones are the things you use to call people and have a conversation that doesn’t have to occur in abbreviated form.
It didn’t bother me – STC is a fairly affluent area and I’ve grown up here, so it’s not like it was a particular culture shock. Because my parents didn’t (rightly) trust me to own a car without somehow banging it up like I did the day after I got my license, I didn’t own a car of my own. Instead, because I lived in the center of town, it was fairly easy to glom rides off my friends so that we could drive co-centric circles around the school, smoking cigarettes and wondering if we should bother going to class or head downtown and make mischief.
When I graduated high school, the elaborate parties my friends had were intense. You know that horrifying Sweet Sixteen (and Pregnant? I can’t keep that stuff straight) show on MTV where kids are all, I WANT JUSTIN BEAVER AT MY PARTY DADDY AND A PONY AND A DIAMOND TIARA. It was like that, except there were ice sculptures and a hell of a lot less snot-nosed asshole kids – STC may be more affluent, but the people here are genuinely kind.
Rather than a pony on roller-skates or John C. Mayer crooning about my body being a wonderland to my throngs of teen friends, I had a backyard BBQ with some friends that lasted well into the wee hours of the night. Lots of debauchery and drinking occurred, but I wore jeans and a t-shirt and my Daddy didn’t drive into the backyard with a new Mercedes.
Which is good because I may have murdered him.
For my graduation gift, rather than a yacht named “Becky Rules,” which I spent an inordinate time scribbling on things that were not my own, I got a car. A used car. It was a car that had been used by my brother’s wife’s mother for many years. It may have been born before I was.
And while my high school boyfriend drove a Beemer – the kind you have to special order – that often contained gold bricks and wads of twenties stashed in the doors, I was pretty happy with my old Dodge Shadow. It may have been the color of baby poop (a guess – I’m colorblind), the doors may not have closed all the way, and shit, the oil was always leaking all over the damn place, but it was mine. All mine.
My boyfriend’s car was snazzier than mine and probably had more money in it than I’ll ever have, hands motherfucking DOWN, but my car was my own, which is why I loved it. Probably the ugliest car you ever saw, but I could, at the very least, jam my Tool tapes (yes tapes, not 8-tracks) into the boombox and sing along to Opiate – one of my favorite albums EVER, and go to all the places whenever I wanted to.
Driving has always been my best therapy. Full tank of gas and a half a pack of smokes? It’s time to get the Band Back Together, motherfuckers. I spent hours stupidly driving the thing (I say stupid because it tried to kill me) around town and back, exploring roads that I’d never been down before, and when I’d return home, it was like all my problems had vanished.
While my compatriots in the carpool had leather seats and built-in CD players, mine had chalk drawings on the ceiling and incense burning from the cup holder (the thing was unable to properly store tasty beverages).
On the driver’s side door, just above the window, I’d written this in neon green chalk:
“This is not an exit.”
And it never was.
What was your first car, Pranksters?
Really wish THIS had been my first car.
You think you’re so damn clever, don’t you, all using the word “heart” and “choke” in one fell swoop? Must be nice to have that sort of je ne se qua about you, while we mere mortals stand on the ground with boring names like, Becky, or Aunt Becky, or “fuck face.” Congrats, Artichokes, for outdoing those of us NOT named Max Power.
I have a problem with you, Artichokes, and I’m not willing to stand for it for very much longer – it’s time to wrangle the huddled masses and revolt against you, Artichokes, for being one sneaky-ass motherfucker. Sure, you Artichokes, you THISTLES, think it’s okay to be all look at me, I’m so damn pretty, I feel pretty, while the rest of us stand there, twiddling our thumbs, trying to hide our ridiculous hair, BUT I – we – WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS ANY LONGER.
By the power invested by the internet in me, I DENOUNCE YOU. I THUMB MY NOSE AT YOU ARTICHOKES. I don’t care HOW pretty you are, you can’t outrun Teh Internets! Especially MOMMY BLOGGERS with SO MUCH TIME ON OUR HANDS.
Sure, you may have fucking FRACTALS on your side (well played, you), but I have, well, *shuffles feet* I HAVE, uh *stares out the window* I HAVE ARMS. YOU DON’T HAVE ARMS ARTICHOKES. SO FUCKING THERE.
You think you’re so damn coy, don’t you, Artichokes, fucking making your way into my spinach dip, being all, HAI LOOKIT ME, I TASTE LIKE SATAN’S BUNG, while I’m all, YOU CAN’T BEAT ME, until you wind up in my mouth and I’m stuck wondering if I can create enough of a distraction to spit you out without spraying the rest of the table with my spittle. You think you’ve won, but you haven’t!
I HAVE ARMS, ARTICHOKES.
AND YOU DON’T.
Lookit me all RAISING my ARMS and shit! Doesn’t THAT make you feel bad, Artichokes? Because it SHOULD. It really SHOULD.
So what if you have a “heart?” That’s just a worthless organ anyway – I mean, the Grinch lived without one and he was JUST fine, pumping his blood HIMSELF rather than relying on a useless ass heart. So what if your heart is pretty and shit? I HAVE ARMS. SO THERE.
useless fucking vegetable.
You don’t impress me, Artichokes. I don’t look at you and get all inspired like, I WANNA BE A FRACTAL or something, at least, most of the time, although I have to admit, being a fractal is the epitome of awesome.
WAIT A MINUTE.
I see you just SNUCK in there, Artichokes, like you do to all the damn things I love in this world. How did you manage that? Huh? How did you manage to worm your way into my life like this? What did I do to deserve ARTICHOKES in ANYTHING I’d put into my mouth EVER?
You’re officially ON NOTICE, Artichokes. This? This means WAR.
DOWN WITH ARTICHOKES!
DOWN WITH ARTICHOKES!
DOWN WITH ARTICHOKES!
DOWN WITH ARTICHOKES!
I need a nap. And a picket sign. And a couple of diet Cokes. Possibly a robot of some sort – I won’t be picky.
And then? You’re going DOWN Artichokes!
Once I finish playing this. DON’T YOU JUDGE ME ARTICHOKES, THIS IS DAMN FUN:
Love and Smootchies!
P.S. You can’t win, Artichokes. You’re a fucking THISTLE. SO THERE.
P.P.S. Wrote about my Goodwill Shopping Experience.
When my friend Stef passed away several years ago – cause of death: cirrhosis of the liver (PSA: DON’T DRINK, KIDS) – leaving behind her two young sons and a funeral so full that it was standing room only, I remember being completely rooted the spot, my grief making the decision “do I have to pee?” as challenging as “Can you repeat the Fibonacci sequence in under 10 seconds?” I couldn’t make a decision to save myself and I could barely function for weeks (if you can call what I do “functioning.” Her death was so sudden, so unexpected, a gigantic piece missing, I could hardly handle brushing my teeth without bursting into tears.
I’d like to say that it’s different now, that I don’t still think of her and tear up, but it’d be a lie: she’s gone and she’s not coming back. So why can’t I delete a phone number she’ll never again answer? I suppose my best guess would be that it’s too final, too real, and it closes a door that can never be reopened. If I deleted the number, I could put it back, but then I’d be the creepy chick putting my dead friend’s phone number in my phone.
I’ve been thinking about her death a lot lately, since the book in which I was a contributor was published. In it, I told the story of Stef in words I could barely choke out; words that weren’t enough because there will never be enough words to capture who she was.
After she died, someone said to me (Dr. Phil? Maury? Oprah? Jerry Springer?) that we don’t lose people in one fell swoop; we lose them over a long period of time, and pop-psych as it is, it’s true.
Maybe it’s a whiff of their deodorant caught on someone walking by in the store. Maybe it’s the way their hair is adorably mussed each morning before a shower. Maybe it’s that one restaurant you went to and laughed for hours over the absurdity of life. Maybe it’s a smile seen in the crowd, so similar, or a turn of phrase you both once used, an inside joke that kept you chortling for hours.
I thought a lot about grief and grieving this weekend.
It’s taken me awhile to began owning up to the idea that I’d soon be moving from my home, and as such, I’d need to find those small inconsequential items; the things I’d never considered needing yet again.
That would be why I found myself stuck in place at Goodwill, looking at silverware organizers, while people desperate for a bargain I! might! steal! from! them! pushed their carts into the back of my ankles trying (nearly successfully!) to mow me down.
I nearly cried, not out of pain or the indignity that someone would actually consider that I’d want a Precious Moments knock-off, standing there and holding someone’s old silverware container, examining scuff marks and wondering – for a good long while – if this was something I should purchase new or not. It was then that it hit me what I’d be losing.
Sometimes, a cheap silverware container is more than that. Sometimes, it’s a reminder of the doors we close and the doors that are closed for us – some shut for good, others left ajar. (go ahead make the joke, I’ll wait here)
That’s when a door isn’t a door.
(when it’s ajar)
I’ll wait while you groan and roll your eyes wildly at my awesome joke.
Done? Good. On to more of my pithy (and low-calorie!) tripe.
I’m sure I’m not the first or last person to burst into tears in Goodwill, which helps a little with the embarrassment of crying in public (being an ugly crier means that public crying makes passers-by look at my wrists for the restraint marks – as if I’ve escaped from the local mental hospital, if there were such a facility close by. Plenty of Pantera’s but no psych facilities. We yuppies need our deliciously overpriced sandwiches on ARTISAN motherfucking BREAD more than we need proper mental health care, but alas, once again, I digress), because if I want to wail on and on like a psychopath about Justin Beaver having a girlfriend, I’d prefer to do so in the privacy of my own home.
HE’S JUST SO DREAMY.
It was there in that dusty store, being jostled from all sides by bargain hunters looking for that perfect tchotchke (or used candle, as the case may be), that I felt the pieces of my old life gradually begin slipping away. I’m not mired in grief muck the way I was after Stef passed. Her death was sudden phone call interrupting an otherwise cold, beautiful February morning in Chicago, whereas I’d watched the slow disintegration of our union once we’d decided to separate over a year and a half ago. I was reminded, standing there holding someone’s grimy old fork holder of grief, of grieving, and of loss.
However right for both parties a situation like divorce is doesn’t make it easier.
I know (some of) the challenges that starting over will bring. The losses I won’t feel until I’m out of the house; an interloper in a life formerly known as mine, someone starting over again. There will be times I’ll have to talk myself through a single moment at a time, reminding myself that it will, in fact, be okay – maybe not this moment or the next, maybe not this year or the next, but someday, I’ll wake up and realize that it is okay.
Because it is. Or, I should properly say, it will be.
There’s not a doubt in my pea-brain that will take a long time to process the complicated emotions (turns out I have an emotion beyond: “I’m hungry.”) associated with the dissolution of a union, I know this. There will be reminders of the good times and the bad that hurt anywhere from:
<->being punched in the armpit<->prick<->wasp sting<->arm tattoo<->natural childbirth and back again, while raging confusion will wind from:
how can orange be a color and a flavor?<->what kind of cell phone plan should I buy?<->who the hell reads tea leaves anyway?<->how can I survive the next three minutes?<->is this REALLY my life?
There will be tears and triumphs in this new life of mine, of this I can be certain. There will be the things that blindside me and leave me gasping for breaths while other things, things I’ve feared, will be as smooth as a baby’s dimply ass. Such is the nature of grief
Such is the nature of life.
Howdy Pranksters! How was your long weekend? Do you do shit for Labor Day? I want to be the person who’s all, I DID AWESOME SHIT, but really, it was a nice simple weekend with friends, antics and a healthy dose of debauchery.
Do please forgive these occasional things inside the posts – I’m simply trying something out (also kinda coveting those shoes)(I DON’T NEED MORE SHOES, BAD AB, BAD!), which I’ll explain sometime when we’re all very, VERY bored.
(Um. I have a new addiction. It’s right there)