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I met Caroline in junior high when she was assigned to sit next to me in Art Class, my least favorite class of the day because I was about as artsy as a tree-frog on meth. I thought this was fantastic as she was far artsier than I, and I thought the skill might pass through the air via osmosis, and if not, maybe I could copy off her or something. Cheating was wrong and stuff, but so was making me try and pretend to be an artist when I clearly only made paintings that resembled cat pee on plasterboard.

She and I hit it off pretty well and I remember when we were assigned to make and record a commercial for a product we designed (El Famous Hott Burrito) she was the person who helped me get cleaned off when a bucket of water was dumped on me for the commercial. The burrito was hot, you see. Hence the WATER to cool me down. We were obviously budding marketing geniuses.

I ran into her again in high school when we had study hall together and we used to sit in the back row and gossip while everyone else actually studied. A couple of months later, we started riding to school together and we’d hold contests like: Who can smoke the most cigarettes on the way to school? And how can we avoid getting detention for being late AGAIN?

Of course I was thrilled when we had our first period government class together our senior year in high school. I remember that I had a particularly rough morning and Caroline gave me the advice to get up earlier, eat some grapefruit and relax while listening to my Grateful Dead albums. Always the hippie, Caroline was.

She decided that I needed some more Vitamin C in the morning. And it helped: not being much of a morning person, I found they were more tolerable this way. This became my new tradition.

After graduation, we lost touch, as usually happens when people go opposite directions. She was staying around to work and I was headed to Loyola in Chicago.

In the winter of 1999, I got a frantic phone call from my friend Stef. She was in complete hysterics, sobbing to the point of being incoherent. Once she calmed down, she told me the news:

Caroline had been killed earlier in the week.

She’d been in the shower at her mom’s place when her stepfather tried to force the door open, presumably to force himself on her. When she put up a fight, he went into the kitchen and grabbed a knife. He came back and broke the door down.

The coroner stopped counting the stab wounds at 100.

She was 19 years old.

My friend Caroline was laid to rest in a closed casket ceremony.

She’s gone now, and I still can’t believe it.

Every time I hear “China Cat Sunflower” or “Ramble On Rose” or smell the fresh scent of citrus, though, I can feel her around me and I smile. Because she would have wanted me to.

A couple of months ago after a particularly awesome boning session, The Daver and I were laying in bed talking. For the life of me I can’t remember how the comment got brought up because you’d think it would really be kind of important, but it the implications were that Dave disclosed that there were actually ugly vaginas. And that he’d seen them before. I’d never thought of a vagina as ugly before and was immediately on edge.

Scared now, I retorted with, “You mean like the porn roast beef puss?” which was genuinely what I’d thought he meant.

“Nope,” said The Daver. “I hate to break it to you Becky, but some vaginas are just kind of ugly.”

A phobia was born.

Let’s be clear here, Internet. I am not the type of person that likes to get up close and personal with a hand mirror and my crotch. I figured that vaginas, like penises, were all a little different looking, and all a little FUNNY looking, but ugly? Hm, well, if Daver was saying so, it was probably true because even to save his own lily white ass, the man cannot lie.

Well, of course my next thought was if SOME vaginas were funny looking, did that mean that MINE was? I started gnawing on my thumb nail nervously as I remembered how large my newborn son’s head was and how small a vagina is. I quietly processed this in the dark, my eyes as wide as saucers until I quietly piped up with,

“Is having sex with me like throwing a hot dog down a hallway?”

I may have to call in an impartial third party because The Daver couldn’t stop laughing long enough to answer me.

That’s fine.

The next time he brings it up, I’ll tell him that I think penises look like the Alien from Aliens.

I had the worst possible experience this past Sunday when I attempted to show my son that his father is a worthwhile human being by going to Sonny Acres to pick out pumpkins together. What should have been a reasonably (you’re lying through your teeth, Becky, you were dreading this from the moment it was planned) fun time quickly turned into a nightmare.

The Ex, being pissed that I didn’t want to carve pumpkins that day, decided that NO ONE needed pumpkins so we had to leave. Sonny Acres isn’t exactly my thing anyway, so I didn’t protest too much. Besides, I figured Dave and I were taking Ben this Saturday with his future wife, Rose. We’d get some pumpkins then.

Now, to those who know me well, I do whatever I possibly can to get as much stuff as I can when I go out with Nat. Childish, perhaps, but it makes my ickle heart sing as I consider it payback for years of being so goddamn cheap.

So we go to catch lunch together at Olive Garden, per Ben’s request. Lunch quickly becomes a Jerry Springer episode when Nat calls me “the most selfish person in the world,” berates me for being unstable and screams that I’m “ruining my son’s life.”All this, right in front of our son.

Because THAT isn’t gonna fuck up a kid or something. He doesn’t care though, because it’s more important to Nat to be right and to cut me down than it is to take into account the eyeballs of his son watching his every move.

Although the food has just arrived, I made a tactical call. I stood up, kissed Ben goodbye and turned to leave. Nat pulls on my arms to get me to stay and I begin to cry. I quickly said goodbye to my son and walk out of the restaurant sobbing like a little bitch.

After bawling in front of the restaurant like a crazy person I decide that since Ben is upset and I am his mother, I need to go back inside and comfort him. When I went back inside and found Ben hysterical I informed Nat that I was taking my son home, where he belonged.

We paid the bill and EVERYONE IN THE ENTIRE PLACE IS STARING AT US which makes me feel like an even bigger freak than I know I am. Awesome.

I strapped Ben into my car, safely out of earshot and gave Nat a piece of my mind, while he stood there, silently reproachful and apologetic. The anger drained out of him and into me and I drove away angry and sad.

I haven’t spoken to him since.

Tonight my dad called to me from the porch show me the freak show. My porch is the proud recipient of two brand new pumpkins.

Fucking weirdo.

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