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We went down to the edge of the water,
You were afraid to go in.
You said there might be sharks out there in the ocean,
And I said I’m only going for a swim

-“No Mermaid”

Sinead Lohan

I awoke Monday morning with something gnawing in my guts. Assuming it wasn’t a tapeworm or other types of parasitic organisms, I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes as I tried to ascertain why, exactly, I was panicking.

Oh right.

It’s Monday.

And while I don’t particularly care for Monday’s one way or another, I remembered it was D-Day. The day in which I would tour the apartment complex I had once lived, many lifetimes ago. Sweetly nestled into the banks of the Fox River, surrounded by trees and flowers, the park within walking distance, I knew that if I was going to move out – to create a sanctuary for myself – it would be to this complex. Having lived in the area since I was five, I knew which apartments were good and which were not. These, it turns out, were the best in the area. A quick 3 minute jump across the river from my house, I knew that this was to be my next step.

However, I was still scared shitless.

Never having lived alone before; knowing that I’d be able to make rent as well as keep up on things like “the phone bill,” well, no one said I was born with great common sense. See also my old phone:

no mermaid

(Enlarged to show the AWESOME)

Visibly shaking like an overgrown Chihuahua, I waited for my appointment at 1:30 to tour the property and see how small this unit truly was (answer: not too shabby). I chattered on like I do when I’m nervous to the lady who was showing me the property, explaining that I was going through a divorce and moving out. I fist-bumped myself when I realized I’d only cried once. It was like some kind of record for me.

Back in the manager’s office, I began the arduous task of filling out a mountain of paperwork. It was then that I realized how lazy I’d gotten – I was so accustomed to TYPING that trying to write by hand with my awesome fireworks blister on my index finger on my right hand made my penmanship look as though I’d filled out the application with my toes.

I was all, “Damn, I’m good at filling out shit. Lookit ME knowing the answers and stuff! I should win an award of AWESOMENESS for my right answers! I bet they’ll give me the apartment just for my awesome answers!”

Until I got to That Page.

The one that asks you about your employment history.

I slumped in my chair.

While I do have my own company and a sparkly shiny name for it, I’ve always operated at a total loss – it’s hard to show paystubs when you’re a freelancer who occasionally gets paid by PayPal.

Before that, I was a stay-at-home parent.

I asked the kind lady with sweet eyes what I should do.

“Hmmmm,” she said, thinking. “Can you get a letter from someone saying they’ll vouch for you and pay your rent if you’re short?”

“Yep,” I said, figuring that I’d be able to ask one or two people to help me out by signing a silly piece of paper. If I came up short on rent, I’d rather take out a Craig’s List “fifty dollars a hand-i-job” listing to make up for any amounts I’d be missing* than ask these people for the money. I’m stubborn and my pride often gets me in trouble – which is why I so rarely ask for help. While I *know* what can happen; the scary shit out there, I am no mermaid. I’ve lived a fearful life a long-ass time, and figured that taking this plunge; this path, would help with other stuff along the way. You know, “if” “then” equations?

I digress.

The two people who I asked to sign a stupid piece of paper – not a cosigner, I should add – didn’t quite feel comfortable doing it. They each had their reasons, most of which boiled down to, “we don’t trust that you’ll make your rent.”

Ouch.

Ouch.

OUCH.

Now, I understand the reasoning and that I can be classified as a risk, but I took their (in)actions to heart – maybe I really wasn’t ready for this. Maybe this was a BAD idea. Maybe I’d not be able to make it on my own. Fear took over and I began the process of doubting everything from my ability to wipe my ass to whether or not I’d forget to pay the electric bill.

Monday was an ugly day.

Tuesday morning, I awoke, dropped off some more stuff at the apartment rental office and headed out to therapy. I’d given it my level best, and if this wasn’t the path I was to take, well, I’d find another way somehow. It was entirely up to me, a both terrifying and awesome feeling.

I explained how I was feeling to my therapist, who promptly asked, “why are you basing your self-worth on those people?”

“I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t,” I replied.

But it reminded me of the girl I used to be – the girl who took risks, said, “fuck it, why not?” and didn’t give a shit about whether or not someone approved of her actions. That’s the girl I was. That’s the girl I will be. That’s the girl I am. I may be scared shitless, but I am still that girl.

I know this because this morning, at ass-early o’clock, I got a phone call from the apartment complex.

I have an apartment.

I can do this. I know I can.

If, for no other reason than I love being able to prove motherfuckers WRONG.

no-mermaid

I may be living on the river, but I am no mermaid.

Not when I have my army of Pranksters behind me.

*Lies**

**PROBABLY

 

Last night, long after my eldest and youngest were snuggled up in their wee beds, I laid on the couch, snuggled so firmly in my blankets that I looked (and felt) like a marshmallow peep – and not even one of those kicky-shaped ones – trying to figure out if watching a documentary about female serial killers was the best viewing option while dealing with the dreaded “D Word.”

Before I could get too far into my decision-making, I heard the gentle pitter-patter of what I presumed were tiny boy feet shuffling down the stairs.

“Alex?” I called into the hallway, entirely unsure if the noise I was hearing was the cats barreling through the hallway like they’d just taken a particularity awesome dump.

patter, patter, patter

“Hi Mama,” he said sheepishly, his big eyes, so similar to my own keenly watching me, knowing he was out of bed too late and that I may (but probably not) reprimand him.

“Hi Baby,” I replied, opening my arms wide so he could jump into them and snuggle with me a moment. “Whatchu need, Little One?” I asked gently, moving the hair out of his eyes and scratching his head lightly with my fingers, which he loves.

“Mama,” he looked at me, his eyes so soulful, as if he could see what was behind my own eyes and liked what he saw. “Mama, I’m hungry. I didn’t want to tell you before because (mumbles) but I’m hungry.”

I laughed a little, which came out as a chocked representation of a laugh – the kid is always coming up with weird requests, trying to stall bedtime as long as he could. Sleep, even as a fetus, has always been elusive for Alex, and as a fellow insomniac, I understand all-too-well.

“Whatchu hungry for, Baby?” I asked.

“Mama,” he said, scurrying around the kitchen looking for it, “I smell pizza.”

“I don’t know about that, Baby – we don’t have any pizza,” I explained, “but maybe we could make some tomorrow.”

“How about I give you some crackers to go back to bed with – I know how it is to be hungry,” I suggested.

He thought about it a moment, his small face squinching into a mask of uncertainty – the same look I get when I’m asked what I want from Starbucks – eventually replying, “Yeah, like in a baggie?” His face lit up like a Christmas tree.

“Sure, Baby, I can do that,” I said, pulling out the box of Saltines and handing him exactly five while he scampered off to find me a baggie to put them in. For some reason, Ziploc baggies are like kid-crack in my house.

“Why’d you give me five?” he asked, always looking the gift horse in the mouth.

“Because YOU’RE five,” I told him.

“So when I’m six, I’ll get six?” He asked.

“Yeppers!” I replied.

“How many do YOU get, Mama?” he asked.

“Well, I don’t usually eat Saltines, Baby, but if I did, I’d get 32,” I replied.

“You’d waste them ALL,” he said, eyes widening. “Because you don’t like them. How about you give ME 32, instead, so we don’t waste them?” My con-man, at his finest.

“Next time I get 32 Saltines, Baby, I’ll give them all to you,” I assured him. Because I would. Those things taste like sawdust and pregnancy.

I followed my middle child and his baggie of crackers up the stairs, where I tucked him in. “You gonna come check on me, Mama?” he asks, as he does every night.

“Yep, of course, Baby,” I assured him. “I always do.”

“How about in 30?” he asked, specifying no frame of time in particular – could be days, hours, minutes or seconds.

“Okay, Lovie, in 30,” I said, a smile – the first of the day – playing on the corners of my lips.

I went back downstairs, my children tucked neatly in their beds again and resumed my internal debate – to watch women serial killer documentaries or pick something blander – I couldn’t decide, which turned out to be a good thing, because the next thing I heard was:

patter, patter, patter

Alex, again.

“Whatchu doing, Baby?” I asked.

He sat down next to me in my blanket cocoon, where I once again wrapped my arms around him. “Mama?” he said. “I’m sorry you’re so sad.”

Tears welled up in my already-raw eye sockets (pro tip: do not use paper towels as Kleenex while hysterical. Leaves you looking like you have had a particularly bad chemical peel), as I tried to figure out what to say.

“I’m not sad with you, Baby,” I assured him. “Sometimes grown-ups get sad because stuff happens that they don’t expect.”

His eyes, wise beyond his years, nodded.

“But you make me so very happy, J,” I finished. “You’ve made my life so much better.”

He smiled at that thought.

“The second you were born,” I told him, “You made my life better. I was so happy – I’d wanted another little baby so badly and there you were.”

“I peed on the doctor, right?” he asked, giggling.

“You sure did,” I said proudly.

“I was in a bad place when I got pregnant with you,” I went on.

“Like a deep pit?” he asked, always one to make a superhero connection.

“Yeah, Baby, like a deep pit. But it wasn’t a real pit; it was in my head,” I said, hoping to dissuade the notion that I’d been trapped in a well or down at Old Man Crusty-Balls farm – whatever the Scooby Doo shit was.

“Wait – how was it in your head?” he said as I realized I’d just gone above-level on the poor guy.

I had a lot of really hard things happen for a long time and I was very, very sad,” I said, trying to explain as best I could.

Once more, I wrapped my arms around my squirmy son, and kissed his head, trying not to let the tears show.

“I’m sorry you were sad, Mama,” he said, clucking sympathetically.

“It’s okay, Baby, I wanted YOU to know how happy YOU make me,” I told him.

in-his-eyes

“I love you, Mama,” Alex said, holding me close. “You make ME happy.”

And with those three words, I knew that while everyone many people in my life may think I’m a fuck-up or a failure, in his eyes, I will always be Mama – and HIS Mama, she is no failure.

Until about age 16, but we’re not going there yet.

Friday’s have historically been the day of the week I looked forward to the very most.

First, it was because we could get drunk off our ass and crawl out of bed to get some McDonald’s (hangover food) at whatever o’clock, our hair all mussed from the party the night before. Then it was because it was the day that signaled Dave would be home for two! whopping! days! and I’d be able to pee alone again. Later still, it signified a date with my daughter to dinner and then Target.

Now, Friday simply signifies the end of the week.

And with my weeks ranging from fucking awful to moderately awful, I’m usually ready for bed by 8PM (which, coincidentally is the same time of day I like to call “The Ugly Cry Time.”) Nights are harder for me than days, and while I’m told this “crying” is supposed to be “helpful,” which is a statement, I think, made by people who write Soap Operas. Because crying usually nets me this: a migraine and puffy eyes. Not exactly the glamorous, slow-tears-falling-from-the-eyes couple with dramatic sighs I’ve seen in movies. This makes me wonder if movies ALWAYS tell the truth, like I’d thought they did.

(next you’ll tell me that everything you read on the Internet is not, in fact, the truth, which I know it is. I mean LOOK AT THOSE WACKY CATS! They’re TOTALLY not photoshopped).

photo-shopped-cats

Alas, I digress.

Dawn had insisted that I go with her to check out the Lucky Boys Confusion – an old school Chicago-based band – to “get me out of the house.” Which, in theory, awesome. In reality, I was all, “oh fuck me, college bars and that shit. I fucking hate that bullshit.” But I put on my brave pants and decided that I could do it – I mean, I used to LOVE bars and I love music, so really, it’s a total win….right?

Except, that by the time this particular Friday rolled around, I was ready to do one thing: go sleep off the week.

A little after 8PM, Dawn picked me up and we headed out to Elmhurst, the suburb of Chicago in which I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in nursing. As I was a commuter student – had a squalling baby Ben at home – I didn’t ever get into the nightlife around Elmhurst. “In fact,” I said to Dawn on the way in, “I bet there IS no nightlife – this is fucking ELMHURST.”

She laughed.

We drove past such places as “the train station where I’d spent hours waiting on Metra to pick my sorry ass up,” and “the place with Shitty Chinese we sometimes went to between classes.” I was about to point out “the garbage can in which – this one time – I’d thrown away a granola bar wrapper,” when she suddenly turned and pulled into a parking structure I’d never before seen, a wise move on her part because really, I’d imagine that more stories about, “that’s the spot I once parked my car,” may have made her homicidal. She’d already stopped talking to me once I suggested we start an internet petition to change the name of my alma mater from “Elmhurst College” to “Prestigious Elmhurst University,” because “it sounded fancier.”

old-people-in-bar

(I stared at that sign every day for three years! THREE YEARS!)

We roamed through the parking lot, looking for spaces as douchebags in cars with those fart-tip mufflers whipped around us. Carefully, we noted that the parking lot instructed that it was only to be used for “parking,” which ruined my plans of humping other cars.

Finally, we settled on a spot. As we emerged from the car, we saw this, which delighted me. I’m always a fan of people who also love i(can’t)Phones.

I-love-my-Iphone-old-people-bar

Just. *sniffs* beautiful.

Made even better by noting there was, in fact, a child seat in the car as well. Way to keep things classy, people.

We ambled around to the bar, both of us bemoaning that stupid parking lot sign – I mean, what if we wanted to do something like “have a dance party” in the parking lot? DON’T YOU BE TAKING AWAY MY DANCIN’ SHOES, MR. PARKING LOT PERSON.

The moment we walked in, I got carded, which made me feel marginally better since the place was teaming with people who appeared to be twelve. I instantly regretted that I hadn’t pushed Dawn to go play bingo with me at some church somewhere. I mean, I know you can play bingo online at places such as Galabingo.com (it’s fancy because it has pound signs rather than dollar signs) or whatever, but I wanted to sit with old people and scream “YOU’RE A FUCKING LYING HO, SLUT! FUCK YOU!” whenever anyone else feebly yelled “BINGO.”

We made a beeline for the loo, because we’re old and old people have to pee. It was there that I became confused:

stuck-in-the-middle-with-you

So…lemmie get this straight:

Bathrooms to the left.

Jokers to the right.

BUT WHERE WAS I?

(answer: stuck in the middle with you)

In the bathroom, I used the singularly best app I own to ensure that the toddlers in there, who were all “OMG DID YOU SEE HOW MY NAILS ARE CHIPPED?” and “OMG THIS WATER IS SOOOOOOO HOT,” would have something to talk about.

The iFart app. Which rips the very best ass ever. Like I could BE so lucky to make that noise emanate from my own buttocks. Dawn, who was next to me, began to giggle, which really IS the only response to fart-bombing a bathroom. I made sure to make some groaning noises as I fired off “The Fartinator,” and “Rambowels,” one after the other, just for added effect.

The toddlers who were whining about their nails, mercifully stopped talking and left us old people to discuss adult diapers (I REALLY want to be sponsored by an adult diaper company, Pranksters). I happened to notice that the flock of toddlers hadn’t gone too far – they were standing at the empty downstairs bar obviously waiting to see who (or what) emerged from the bathroom. Dawn pointed at me, and I just shrugged at them, yelling, “welcome to your future, ladies,” as I climbed the stairs in search of a drinky-poo.

Finally, we wrangled our way to the bar where we gave the stink eye t0 a couple of people who were all “Imma sit here,” while I was all, “THAT SEAT HAS MY NAME ON IT, FUCKER!”

We sat down and began to people-watch. We noted a few key people who were part of the Chicago music scene, which made me happy in the pants, because we Chicagoans take ALL things related to Chicago VERY seriously. After I’d slurped down half my beer, I realized that behind me, there was what appeared to be a drag queen trying to knock me off my seat. Her? back was turned and she was all, wearing a leather jacket and all the fuck over this dude. I was baffled – he was just a dude. I also couldn’t see him very well because of the ginormous woman? who was practically rubbing her? vagina on his leg.

Then she moved slightly. And I saw it was the singer from AM Taxi – another Chicago band.

So I says on The Twitter:

groupies scare me

Because I was very, very afraid that VD would spread my way.

My girl Alexis saved the day, though:

twitter-old-people-bar

She then sent me several packets of ciprofloxacin so that I, too, would be safe from the wily groupie VD. I’m going to track down the dude from AM Taxi to give him a few tabs, just because I like to look out for my people. And not with my vagina.

Dawn and I sat there for quite awhile, people-watching and bemoaning our oldness, while trying to figure out why people were running all willy-nilly around the Olympics with fire and shit. DON’T THEY KNOW THAT FIRE IS BAD? I do. You should see my finger.

About midnight, after the two of us had been yawning into our drinks for long enough, we left. The bar had become claustrophobically full of douchebags who I, naturally, photobombed.

old-douchebag-at-bar

Gee, I wonder if he’s single.

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