Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Evenly Spaced

The pattern said I should mark the positions for seven buttonholes. It said I should space them evenly. That was all the pattern said.
I am hugely devoted to Gundrun Johnston. I am addicted to her patterns, partially because her designs are super cute, partially because no one writes a pattern better than she does.

That being said, when Gundrun Johnston wrote the evenly space seven buttonholes line, she triggered something in my brain. I don't think she could have possibly anticipated how one little sentence could make me so crazy. But it did.

Last night, I picked up something like 20,000 stitches around the front and neckband of my sweater. I'm making Shalder, from The Shetland Trader, Book 1 (without the pockets, because I think I would not use them and because I think they would only exist to make me look rounder at the middle than I am, or to make my torso look like a frowny face, depending on the angle).

The pattern said I should have a 32" circular needle, a U.S. size 7. This posed a few problems because I keep buying size 7s, but the second I shell out the money for them, they hit some kind of Hawking black hole in my room or my knitting bag or in that cute little fake luggage box thing I bought at Hobby Lobby that has all the other circular needles inside it. I should have at least three or four size 7s. When I started knitting I found only one, and it was a 16" (okay, maybe it was a 20-something-inch circular) and not a 32", which means the cable was shorter than it needed to be. But I shrugged off the difference, because I've made sweaters on that length before, and it all works out just fine.

I was proud of my picked-up stitches, even if they were crammed on my tiny cable so tightly, I could not move them around at all without dropping a few off the needle. No matter--I had picked up some good lookin' stitches. I was proud! So proud that I walked around the house and showed my family.

"Paul," I said. "Look at these stitches. Just look at them. I picked these up. See that nice, even line? And there are no gaps! These are the best stitches ever!" And Paul stared at them, stared at me, and said something or other about how I'd done a good job.

"Mom," I said. "I have to show you this, because you're a fellow knitter. You know what this means." I displayed my stitches. And then I may have volunteered to pick up stitches for her all the time. I blame wool fumes.

I had all 7 billion stitches picked up! This was great! And then I noticed the "evenly spaced buttonholes" sentence.

Really? Really? Had I actually missed that?

Of course I had.

I grabbed waste yarn. I moved one section of stitches onto the waste yarn, pinned the sweater with blocking pins, and stared. Then I measured. Then I stared.

I begged Twitter for help. Then I tried to do math. Then I begged for more help. And then I searched for help on the internet, because the internet knows everything.

Then I stared.

I did math in inches. Then I did math in centimeters. It didn't help.

I have to get this right, I thought. Because if I don't, people will know.

I envisioned myself standing at some kind of knitting mixer, holding a martini glass with yarn inside just like at a yarn "tasting" I went to when I first started knitting. Then I envisioned Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot, coming up to talk to me. Then Imaginary Stephanie went over to Franklin Habit (also imaginary), leaned over, and whispered, "That girl's buttonholes aren't even. One space is giant, and the other spaces are tiny! What is that about?*"

I should probably tell you that, in my head, all the cool people of the Knitting World hang out together all the time, even though some of them live in different states or even different countries (Twitter feeds this illusion). Also, the Cool People of Knitting in my nightmare scenario were in some kind of Knitting Mafia, and I was there as some kind of dumb kid who was about to be embedded in the concrete supports for some kind of bridge.

Believe it or not, I have never watched a crime movie, nor do I know anything about the real mafia at all, or any other sort of organized crime family, except that in part of Italy, the mob stopped collecting garbage for a while, and it was gross.

Imaginary Franklin Habit looked at Imaginary Me in my Imaginary Completed Sweater with its Unevenly Spaced Buttonholes. Then he made a face.

Yes. In my scenario, Imaginary Franklin Habit made a face like the girl Willoughby ended up marrying in Sense and Sensibility, the movie version with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, when they're all in London and Marianne says, "Will you not shake hands with me?" And Willoughby shoots her down. Then he goes over and tells his new girlfriend some excuse, and she looks over at Marianne and makes a FACE. It's a "Look at the trashy country girl" face. Imaginary Franklin Habit was MEAN, which is not actually true at all, because I met him once, and he was REALLY NICE. He was knitting lace--a baby blanket, I think--and he'd designed the pattern. Seriously--he's super nice! No way would Real Franklin Habit make that face. NO WAY.

In my deranged, buttonhole-spacing mind, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and Franklin Habit had become Evil. Which is especially crazy of me, because I'm pretty sure Stephanie has been through all this before with knitting, including the mini-meltdown. In fact, I'm sure she has.

But I had become convinced. The next time I go to one of her readings, I thought, Stephanie will pull out a tape measure, one she carries for this purpose and this purpose alone, and then she will measure my buttonhole spacing. It will be like a Knitting Exam, and I will fail, right there in front of all the knitters and spinners.

I ate another Reese's Mini. Clearly, Reese's Minis are some kind of drug that contributed to my meltdown.

Suddenly, I thought of Elizabeth Zimmerman. What would EZ do?

Just as quickly, Imaginary Elizabeth Zimmerman was in my head with Imaginary Franklin and Imaginary Stephanie, and she was raising an eyebrow, and she was taking a deep breath to start a knitting lecture.

Wait. I thought. Elizabeth Zimmerman is no longer with us--so how is she there making fun of my sweater? But then Imaginary Elizabeth Zimmerman became transparent, so I wasn't being lectured to by Imaginary Elizabeth Zimmerman, but by Imaginary Elizabeth Zimmerman's Ghost (you know, like Hamlet's father).

Meanwhile, Twitter was busy telling me that my scenario was covered in crazy sauce, and no way was Elizabeth Zimmerman's Ghost about to drop by my house just to mock me. Also, Twitter said, no way was Stephanie going to measure the spaces between my buttonholes.

Something finally clicked. Of course they were right. In fact, I thought, in Stephanie's books, she talks about how she can never find tape measures! So if she tried to measure my sweater, she wouldn't be able to...theoretically. Also, Franklin is NICE. And so is Stephanie! And even if Elizabeth Zimmerman happened to drop by...it seems like she was nice too! So she wouldn't be mean, would she?


I relaxed enough to place the buttonholes. And yes, my cell phone camera makes funny pink-yellow spots in the middle of pictures. It's very flattering.


Who knows if they are even or not. I certainly don't.


But I'll be measuring the buttonhole spacing before I go to another one of Real Stephanie's readings, just in case.


*It is worth mentioning that Stephanie says the word "about" in a fantastic way, and I love listening to her say it. This was why I majored in English, and why I got an A in History of the English Language when we all listened to different people speaking English, then wrote down what they were saying phonetically. Because I am a Word Nerd.

Monday, March 28, 2011

35 Steps to a Lazy Weekend

1. Leave work. Note that train is stopped on tracks. Realize that this is related to train accident you heard about earlier, in which semi filled with five hour energy drink had not fully crossed tracks when struck by train. Recall that semi is now in three pieces, not counting the spilled energy drink. Curse under breath.

2. Sit in traffic jam for thirty minutes, until police (also stuck in traffic jam) manage to navigate through town and to intersection. Wait for police to direct traffic. Cross energy drink-free tracks.

3. Drive home.

4. Arrive home from work. Change from work clothes into jeans and Magic Hoodie.

5. Realize that Reese's Minis are still gone.

6. Drive back to Wabash in order to go to Walmart. Pretend that you are doing this to buy cat food, when really, it is all about the Reese's Minis.

7. Buy Reese's Minis. Normal Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are not an acceptable substitution.

8. Drive back home.

9. Arrive home ten minutes after Fringe has begun. Curse under breath.

10. Begin knitting yoke of sweater. Start lace chart.

11. Discover that lace chart is not worked over only right side rows, but also over wrong side rows. Eat Reese's Minis.

12. Start watching Criminal Minds, because Prentiss is now somewhere in Europe if not somewhere even further away, and everyone thinks she's dead when she really isn't, which is tragic, and way more tragic than it was when J.J. left, because they could call J.J., and they so can't call Prentiss, because they just buried her, even if the coffin is actually empty. Cry a little.

13. Realize that random bouts of tears might be related to lack of sleep over work week. Go to bed early.

14. Wake up. Stare at clock. Shrug.

15. Wake up again. Eat lunch.

16. Start working on yoke of sweater. Proceed through large portion of lace chart.

17. Cook dinner.

18. Eat dinner.

19. Go back to working on sweater.

20. Stare at lace chart. Watch as chart blurs and swirls over page.

21. Develop migraine.

22. Go to bed early.

23. Wake up. Squint at clock.

24. Crawl out of bed. Start working on lace chart.

25. Finish lace chart. Count stitches. Discover that sweater has approximately 20 stitches more than what sweater should have.

26. Eat a few more Reese's Minis.

28. Rip back six rows of sweater. Put stitches back on needles.

29. Rip back four more rows of sweater. Put stitches back on needles.

30. Knit lace chart. This time, actually follow chart.

31. Finish lace chart, discover sweater has 3 stitches less than what sweater should have.

32. Shrug. Pretend sweater is size smaller than sweater is.

33. Work short rows across back.

34. Place sweater on waste yarn. Eat more Reese's Minis. Try on sweater.

35. Rejoice that sweater is both cute and correct size. Go to sleep.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Numbers, Bugs, Toad Girl, and GQ

I've had enough of vomiting, really I have. But it seems as if fate thinks differently about the whole Laura throwing up thing, and that's sad. For me, at least.

And no, before you dart away in terror, this is not a blog post about the different ways I have thrown up, but that could actually be pretty funny, even if it is disgusting.

No.

My story is about a bug.

Not good enough? Okay.

My story is about two very, very attractive guys.

Mostly it is about numbers.

I cannot remember them. Give me a list of dates, I will remember the month and maybe the day, but never the year. That's because I can only remember about two or three numbers at a time. My short term memory and numbers don't mix. It got so bad that in college, when I had to know dates for history courses, I would use a basic cipher to make dates into a sequence of letters, which I could remember. No problem.

That's how I passed Western Civ when I accidentally took it from the wrong professor, the lady who could speak while she was inhaling, sneezing, and yawning. Seriously, take a minute and try saying something while taking a breath. It's almost impossible. Our bodies can't make noises that way. You'd have to be some kind of alien to speak while breathing in--

Oh.

That makes all kinds of sense.

The number thing is usually no big deal. I write things down a lot, that's all. I can survive. But Saturday, I was going to the movies. To a matinee, with a friend from work.

Ugh.

I suck as a human being.

The two of us had made our plan, I'd scribbled a number on a post-it note, and I'd gone back to the Children's Room, where I'd transferred the number from the post-it to my cell phone event planner.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

The problem: The post-it said 2:35 p.m. I programmed in 3:25 p.m.

WHY couldn't it have been the other way around? I can wait for an hour--I have knitting!

I discovered my error as I hopped into my car. I'd been planning to arrive a bit early for the movie...but that plan had already failed. Stupid.I texted my friend to warn her of my error. I prayed she would notice my text, and I barrelled down the road, breaking several traffic laws so shockingly, even I was impressed.

When I finally pulled into the parking lot, I was beginning to worry that the movie theater people wouldn't be able to even sell me a ticket for the showing I had mostly missed. But I didn't care. I was getting into the movie if I had to beg, plead, or buy a ticket for a later showing that would have cost me double the price of a matinee ticket. I had screwed up, bad, and I needed to FIX IT.

I was, needless to say, sprinting across the parking lot. When I got the the sidewalk, I noticed people, so I slowed to a walk and tried to act dignified while still sort-of rushing.

Did I mention it was spring-like on Saturday? The week had been warm enough that I'd discovered a mosquito. The bugs had emerged, and I hated it.

On my walk into the theater, I noticed a Beetle-and-or-Fly-Creature dangerously close to my face. I swatted it out of the way and kept walking.

And there was my problem.

Because while I was coping with BaoFC, it's counterpart, Stink-Bug-Thing, was soaring through the air. And I sucked it straight into my lungs.

The noise that followed was something between a gag and a retch, kind of like a dry-heave, only with more spit. It was something like throwing up, mixed with coughing, but with no actual vomit involved. It was a gross noise, and after I'd made it, SBT was still in my mouth so I was forced to spit, which didn't work out because I really can't spit very well, it usually ends with spit on my shirt, shoes, or chin. Spit for me is like drool for most people, because I was trained from a young age that girls do not spit, and that no one ever should, because it is vulgar, gross, and unhygienic, spreading all kinds of illnesses like that 1918 flu epidemic that ravaged the world during WWI, killing more people than the war. And yes, I remembered that date with letters.

I spat out the bug, missing my feet, but the noise and the spitting had attracted the attention of two people I'd passed seconds before. Two people that I now discovered were guys. Guys my age. Men, really. And these men were cover-model gorgeous. They were so good-looking, I was instantly convinced that the two of them had to be from some other state, a Pretty People state, where the good-looking live and are discovered on the street by various talent scouts, photographed, cast on CW television shows, and released back into the wild so they can procreate, thus creating more gorgeous people who can then exemplify all that is beautiful in the world.

These two guys were GQ-Cover-Handsome, and standing next to them, I looked even more like Toad Girl than normal, especially with the fly catching I'd just done, and with all the tongue-involvement of getting the fly out of my mouth.

Needless to say, the guys were looking right at me.

Guys don't look at me. I am sort of invisible. I like it that way. I may not have a fancy cloak or anything, but I have PRACTICED my invisibility. It is my art.

"That's graceful," Guy One said. Guy Two just stood there.

"It was a fly," I stammered. "It flew into my mouth. I had to get rid of it...I'm so sorry!"

Rather than endure another second of the conversation, I fled into the movie theater, begged the manager for a ticket, and rushed in to meet my friend. This was when I realized that, with all the spitting and coughing, I had maybe killed SBT, or at least it had released its stink-bug stink, because my mouth tasted awful in a serious way.

And that is why there is no way I will ever be late to meet a friend again. Ever.

Note: Toad Girl is a super-hero name I gave myself just now. It is because I love cool, dark places, I burn in sunlight, have dry, speckled skin, suck bugs into my mouth, and I have what my eye doctor once called, "Prominent Eyes," which was just a nice way of saying my eyes are huge and stick out from my head like some kind of amphibian, although when I swallow, my eyes do not go back into my skull like a toad's, so maybe it is not the best super-hero name out there.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Don't Ask

There are some things you just can't come back from.

Take for example, speech class, in which I bravely stood up to give my extemporaneous speech only to panic and flee. I ran back to my seat after barely half a minute, with some random sputterings, and the only reason why I didn't fail my speech assignment was that I had some good eye contact in that first few seconds, which not many of the other students attempted. Or maybe it was just that my terror was so visible, I could not be punished. Or maybe it was that I love Nick Drake and my professor was thrilled that one of his students even knew who Nick Drake was (yeah, in hindsight, it was probably the Nick Drake thing).

From then on, whenever I gave a speech, I remembered the cold, naked eye of the video camera recording my every flaw. I still remember. I will never be able to give another speech without thinking about it, and about the tape, which I watched later, a cruel reflection of myself, grinning like an idiot with wild, terror-filled eyes.

Some things just get stuck in your brain. They're like a kind of mental tattoo. You know you've made a mistake, and you can try to get rid of it, but no matter what, there's always a mark left behind.

I think there are some questions people just shouldn't ask. In fact, in a book I just finished, my point was proved for me! The forty-something protagonist was pregnant, but she wasn't saying a word. Her friends waited and waited and waited, becoming rather obviously angry with her about the silence, but still she stayed quiet. But her friends never asked her if she was pregnant, even though they knew. Why? Because that's not a question you ask.

Just say the forty-something protagonist had enjoyed her amazing Australian cuisine a little too much. Just say she'd gained weight the way I do--in her belly region--and just say she WAS NOT PREGNANT. Now imagine what would have happened if her friends HAD asked her...she could kiss what was left of her self esteem goodbye.

Speaking of self esteem...

When my gallbladder stole away my love of food, I dropped three pants sizes. But that wasn't the only thing getting rid of my gallbladder did. I just feel better now. I'm less run down, I'm able to sleep at night (sometimes), and I've stopped getting carsick! Oh--and I can eat food from EVERY food group--not just bread!

All of those things have combined to make me feel a little better about being Laura. I wouldn't go so far as to say I feel like signing up for America's Next Top Model, but I feel like I CAN look good, which is more than I could say at this time last year.

One evening, I was working at the library.

A woman had brought in her three year-old granddaughter. They sat at a computer, and I helped them find games to play. Then they played, read books, and did all the other bookish things kids do when they come to the library. When the grandmother was about to leave, she brought up some books to check out. I started scanning and stamping, as I do, and after a while she thanked me.

But before I darted off to meet Paul for dinner, the woman smiled at me.

"I just have to ask," she said. "Boy or girl? When are you due?"

It was like an atomic bomb.

First the explosion, as the words dropped from her mouth...

Then the wave of destruction...

Finally, the devastating radiation, infecting everything, leaving me a walking ghost, my hair falling out, my skin changing to paper and flaking away, until all that was left of me was ash, ash and the shame of being the not-pregnant-but-still-pregnant-looking girl.

"I'm...not pregnant," I replied somehow, my mouth finding words my brain had forgotten.

She looked at me, but I couldn't see her anymore. She left.

I stayed.

"Please find me a hole," I said to one of our student assistants. "I need to crawl into a hole, so I can stay there and never see another person again."

The student made a sympathetic noise.

"I am mortified," I continued. "I am just...mortified. There is no other word for it."

I started to leave so I could meet Paul for dinner.

All day I had been planning on custard from Culver's. The flavor of the day was REALLY good, and I had been at work, starving, all day. Or at least, I'd thought I was starving. Apparently, though, I have a great pillow of fat I can use to feed myself during the long winter months. I'm like a bear that way. I can curl up in bed and sleep, living off stored fat, until the sun returns and I can grumble, stand, scratch my claws against the odd tree, and catch salmon right out of the river.

"You do not look pregnant," the children's librarian said. "You just lost 30 pounds! How could you look pregnant?"

Because I must have been a whale-shark before, or elephantine in some fashion, I wanted to reply. But my mouth wasn't working yet. It just kept saying the word "mortified" again and again.

"Besides," she continued. "I'm sure she was just confused. She thought you were someone else."

She was referring to another library worker, who works upstairs and who is, in fact, pregnant.

But all that meant to me was that I looked more pregnant than an actual pregnant woman.

I met Paul. I had the garden salad.

As I gnawed on my leaves and carrot pieces, I recounted my tale of woe.

"That woman is stupid," Paul said. "That is the one question YOU NEVER ASK."

"I know, right?!" I said. "It's a bad question! Yes might mean you're pregnant, but answering no just means you're acknowledging that you're fat in front of everyone!"

Paul could tell I was in distress. I texted Jennifer. If anyone could save me from this black hole of misery, it was Jennifer. She has skills.

"You have to be an idiot to ask that question," Paul continued. "You wait for people to tell YOU. Even if they are currently in labor, you wait until THEY TELL YOU. It doesn't matter how sure you are."

"I think you should wait until the woman in question is giving birth on the rug in front of you, and even then you should be nice about it," I said. "You shouldn't just say, "Oh my goodness, you're pregnant! You're giving birth!" You should say, "Gee, you appear to be in some kind of medical distress. What could be the problem?" And then you wait for the woman to tell you, or for the baby to be born all the way, and then you ask kindly, "Oh! You were pregnant? What a surprise!'"

Paul was nodding. "If you're right," he said. "Then everything might be okay. But if you're wrong, the damage is irreparable."

"I know," I replied. I felt pretty irreparable. I chewed the end of a pea pod. It tasted like pea pod and despair.

On the way back to work, I called my mother. "Mom," I said. "A woman in the library thought I was pregnant. And I'm not pregnant. Unless God sent some kind of angel I missed, but even then, I'm probably going to Hell because I ignored Gabriel."

"She had you confused," Mom replied. "Someone told her the girl at the library was having a baby, and she thought that meant you."

"But it isn't me," I said. Although I do look more pregnant than my co-worker does. "It isn't me at all."

"She shouldn't have asked," Mom continued.

"I'm never eating custard again," I replied.

Meanwhile, Jennifer had sent me a text. I forget exactly what it said, but it was something along the lines of, "Is that person stupid?" Or maybe "Was that woman blind?" But it did make me feel better. Jennifer has skills.

I told Twitter what happened. "I know you can't see me, Twitter," I said. "But a woman at the library thought I was pregnant. Do I look pregnant, Twitter?" I needed Twitter to tell me the truth, so that I could decide whether or not I should spend my whole food budget for the year on a YMCA membership.

"What? That's laughably ridiculous. Who said that?" Bailey asked. I told her.

"There isn't a thing about you that looks pregnant. And, you know, that's like the one thing you're never supposed to ASK," Bailey continued. "It's is THE widely-accepted social rule! Don't ask women if they are pregnant. Wait for them to tell you. That's the rule."

And she is, of course, right. Because if you don't wait, THIS HAPPENS: I obsess, I decide the whole thing is funny, I laugh excessively, and I still think, "You look PREGNANT FAT LAURA because that lady at the library said you did" every time I get dressed or look at myself or put on pants. And the whole blasted thing reminds me of this. But those words are in my head now, and there is nothing I can do to get them out. They're just sitting there, hovering over my right ear, in the temporal lobe region, waiting to work their dark magic over me whenever I least expect it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Laura's Run-In With the Cops

Coming home from Crafty Book Club, I was tired. More than tired--it was nearing 10:30 p.m. and I'd been up since 5:00 that morning, when the cat had decided that a second can of cat food was worth more than her life, yowling outside my bedroom door for twenty minutes until I got up and banished her to the basement where she couldn't torture me anymore.

I followed the long straight line of the road, squinting at the too-bright lights of the car behind me. I was so close to home, so close! And I had a bag of Reese's Minis in the top drawer of my nightstand, where I hid them so Paul wouldn't eat them while I was at work. And I wanted to eat them. Also, there might have been food at home. Or maybe not. Probably not, because I didn't cook anything, but it would have been nice to find tasty food, I thought.

I rounded the curve in the road. The curve marked the location of a house Mom and I are sure smells like mold. We say this every time we drive by it. And since we have to drive by it every day to get to anywhere we want to go, we say it a lot. It's a kind of psychic automatic-speech triggered by seeing the house. It's built into a hill, right at river-level, so when the river floods, we think it must get in the house. It has to be like living in a basement all the time. And if it's anything like our basement...let's just say living there would be one long asthma attack.

And that was when the lights behind me changed color.

Crap. I thought. Crappity-crap-crap. That was my exact thought.

I pulled over. I put the car in park. I kept both hands on the wheel.

That's what they tell you in C.O.P.S., you know. Keep both hands on the wheel, so the police don't think you're going for a gun and tase you. Or so the police don't think you're going for a gun and shoot you. It could happen at any time, just like that guy who got tased at the John Kerry rally thing at his college. Not that we have a whole lot of police brutality cases out in the wastes of Indiana, but you never know. My cop could be a trigger-happy newbie. Anything's possible. I envisioned myself writhing like an injured snake on the pavement, post-tasing, and knew I had better keep my hands on the wheel, just in case. You can't be too careful. They have video cameras in their cruisers now, you know.

I had only been pulled over once before, by a state policeman who clearly wasn't from the area, because he thought I was speeding in a 30mph zone when I was driving in a 40mph zone. But I paid the ticket anyway, because I was too traumatized by the whole experience to care. I cried for two full hours, because someone had accused me of doing something wrong, and I couldn't stand it. I was crying the whole time the policeman was talking to me, so much so that I could barely hear what he was saying. In fact, he could have said "Purple asteroid refrigerator squeasel!" And I would not have noticed anything out of the ordinary. That was how traumatized I was.

You'd think when the policeman saw my horrible devastation, he would have given me a warning. I'd never been pulled over before! Clearly, if I was crying so hard, gulping for air like a fish, I'd learned my lesson. Seriously. I drive 30 from the sign that says 40 all the way to the sign that says 55 now, on BOTH sides of the road. If the State Police People don't know the road is 40 on one side and 30 on the other, that's fine. But I'd rather be safe than sorry. Other drivers hate me, but they can't write me a ticket.

Back to me, in the car, at the side of the road, Wednesday night, waiting.

In my small experience with being pulled over, I have noticed that it takes police officers a very long time to get out of their cars. I think they do it on purpose, to make people nervous or to make scared young women burst into hysterical tears. The plan is for the driver to go over the past few minutes in their minds, so they can figure out what they did wrong and feel the burn of guilt inside them, or the overwhelming wave of hysteria. Then, when the police officer comes over to the window, the guilt will show on the driver's face, and the policeman will know he's got them. Or the person will cry in great, gulping sobs for as long as it takes for the policeman to write a ticket and drive away. Either one.

While I waited, I considered the past few minutes of my life, to see where I'd gone wrong.

I had not been speeding.

It was late. Late enough that the two families of deer I know about were active. During the evenings, I can always count on seeing them near the river. So I only go 45, just in case. I already brutalized one car in a deer-encounter. I don't want to lose a NICE car. Also, deer are pretty and should be protected. Because it's BAMBI.

I hadn't been talking on my cell phone.

I hadn't been texting. That's DANGEROUS.

I had my new registration sticker. Paul stuck it on for me, because it came when I was sick and I couldn't risk not having it on the second it came in the mail. I was obsessing and being what I could only imagine was very annoying, so he took the sticker outside and slapped it on my license plate. Then, when I felt better, I checked to make sure it was okay. It was.

I was wearing my seat belt. That's a law in Indiana, too.

So...that about covered it. I wasn't doing anything wrong. Plus--I have car insurance! It's the law too! So I was in the clear.

And that was why I wasn't crying when the policeman came over to talk to me. I was sure he would just say, "You have a light burnt out. Get that replaced as soon as possible!" And I would say, "Sure thing, officer!" Then I would do my idiot-grin that I get when I'm super-nervous about something.

But that isn't what he said.

"Hello," the officer said. He seemed kind of...nice. He was actually smiling. "Can I see your license and registration please?"

My license was in my purse. My purse was in the backseat. If I reached for it, I could end up a statistic, I thought.

"It's in the backseat," I said. "Is it okay if I reach back and get it?"

The officer gave me a quizzical look. "Yeah, go ahead. Where are you coming from so late?"

"I'm on my way home from the Wabash library," I said. "I work there."

"They had you working this late?" He asked.

"Not usually," I smiled. "We had a program. It was Crafty Book Club tonight. We made necklaces." I debated showing him my new necklace, but decided that might be oversharing, because he clearly believed me. I did not need to offer the necklace as proof, no matter how much I wanted to. I wasn't in court, after all...

I gave him the license and my new registration card with the empty spot where the sticker used to be before Paul pulled it off and stuck it to my license. He went back to his car.

Do you know they have all kinds of computers in their cars now? They're really cool. I saw it on the news. They can use them to look you up, right there while you sit in your car. That way, they know all your info. It's nifty. I kind of want a computer like that in my car, although I would have no use for it. It's the novelty, you know?

After a while, he came back. I had spent the time staring at the moving lights from his cruiser in my rear view mirror. They were the new kind of lights. I think they are LEDs. They are brighter than the old ones, and pretty, kind of. Hypnotic, even.

"We're checking people out for Operation Pull-Over," the officer said. "The reason I pulled you over is that you went onto the center line back there." He gestured toward the curve in the road.

Laura, Driving Hazard Extraordinaire.

That's what you can call me from now on.

"Really?" I asked. "I'll bet it's my brakes. I have an appointment to get them fixed."

"It's no big deal," he told me. "We have to pull over someone every hour."

I was likely the only person he'd seen in the last hour, since we were in the middle of nowhere, Indiana after 10:00 on a weeknight. I began to wonder if my wheel had even touched the center line, or if I was just alone on the road, with no one else for miles.

"But," he said, giving me a big smile. "You're CLEARLYnot drunk."

He handed me back my license, my registration, and a little printed-out warning from his car's tiny printer, leaving me wondering if I just have some kind of a sober face. The face of a teetotaler.

It's true. The hardest drink I have is Wendy's sweet tea, and yes, I am addicted. I don't even have coffee, not after the Thanksgiving Incident* and the Raspberry Mocha Incident.** It's just a bad idea. Starting the morning with vomit doesn't land on my list of fun things to do, and ending the day with vomit doesn't seem all that fun either, especially after the gallbladder issues.***

I finished driving home, very careful that my wheels touched no lines at all. And I waited for the deer family to cross the street. And then I arrived at my house and told my story to everyone who would listen, including Twitter, because that's what Twitter is about.

*Grandpa and Grandma brought Poison Coffee which I drank and then threw up seconds later. Still, I must have obtained enough caffeine from the experience to impact my consciousness, because I launched into a full-on Lady Gaga Is Having A Crisis of Identity and Losing her Sense of Self lecture during Thanksgiving Dinner, effectively killing the mood of thankfulness and family togetherness we all felt, if any of us was even feeling that at all.


**I had lunch with Rachael and Audrey, then I felt sleepy because for some reason cold cucumber soup made me sleepy, so I got a medium Raspberry Mocha and drank it down, then, wired, I went to see Jennifer at her elementary school classroom, and then I went to work and started to feel gross. Then I went home early because I thought I was dying, then I threw up the Medium Raspberry Mocha and the cucumber soup, which was not nearly as tasty on the way up as it was on the way down.


***It's possible that those two incidents were actually inspired by my gallbladder problems and that coffee is safe to drink again. But I am sort of afraid to try it again.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Realizations

1. I am still sick.

2. I will be working every night this week, except for tonight and Friday night.

3. I am alone.

4. Dad and a spoiled cat and dog might be in the house too, but none of them are paying any attention to each other.

5. Also, I am sad.

6. Mostly because I don't have an audience.

7. I want cookies. Or cake.

8. I want someone to bake them for me. From scratch.

9. I know that's not going to happen.

10. I can't make cookies or cake, because we are out of butter and oil and we have hardly any eggs. We have, like, one egg.

11. You cannot make brownies without eggs. You also cannot make peanut butter cookies, chocolate cake, or that pull-apart cinnamon bread that Joy the Baker was talking about.

12. I could buy the groceries, but I'd have to wait until Friday night to do the baking and--it's not going to happen.

13. Pouting is not going to change that.

14. No, really. I mean it.

15. Getting into a staring contest with the cat does not make my life less pathetic.

16. Neither does talking to the cat in meows.

17. I should probably go have a popsicle and stop whining. But that means getting up, and you know what?

18. I think we both know that isn't going to happen.

Monkey Bars Are Evil: How to Become Unpopular in Three Easy Steps

It was laundry day. That meant my 90s-cool burgundy stretchy crushed velvet stirrup pants were the only pants I had to wear. They were clean because technically, they were too big for me. That meant they fit in length, but not in width. I had to spend my days pulling them up, knowing that with each leap or bound I made, the straps beneath each foot would pull my pants down.

The stirrup pants weren't the problem. This was the 90s, after all. Stirrup pants were cool.

The problem was that I had to wear the stirrup pants with a shirt that had red-not-burgundy accents. That meant I DIDN'T TECHNICALLY MATCH, which was perhaps the most traumatic thing a fourth-grade Laura could envision. I had, after all, been the only perfectly color-coordinated Hobo in school for our third-grade Halloween party*.

I argued, I begged, I pleaded, but I was stuck with the horrible outfit.

Recess came. We were playing games, running around, and I climbed on the monkey bars and let my legs dangle beneath me. My friend Shannon** decided this was hilarious, but not as funny as it would be if she grabbed my legs and yanked on them, pulling me to the ground.


Naturally, she tried it.

It would have worked, it really would have. But it didn't, because I wasn't about to let go of the monkey bars. My pants, however, were more than happy to let go of me.

Horrified at the sudden breeze, I dropped to the ground and brought my stirrup pants back to their correct position. Shannon was horrified, she kept apologizing again and again. My classmates were laughing, which was horrible, but perhaps worse was that the fifth grade had just started their recess early, so I had flashed all of those students as well.

I went to a distant corner of the playground, where I waited for recess to end.

Later that day, my fashion-faux-pax self went to use the restroom. I sat alone in the stall, contemplating my misery, wishing I could stay there all day, hating my cursed crushed-velvet pants and the horror of being forced to wear them with a shirt that didn't match.

But I wasn't alone in the bathroom.

"Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle!" A voice rang out.

I froze. I could not believe what I was hearing. Someone was singing along with me as I...utilized the facilities. This was BAD. This was NOT COOL. people were not supposed to--

And I--

Maybe--

Would a teacher--

If I just--

"Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle!" Another voice sang along with the first. I now had two people serenading me.

I flushed.

"Baby is all done!" Giggles erupted.

"Yay!" The first girl said. "Now it's time to wash our hands!"

There was no hiding. I slowly walked out of the stall. It was like a scene from one of those prison movies, when the convict is walking to the room with the chair--you know the one--accompanied only by his own certain death.

My brain does this thing in some situations, where it says, "No way is this real. I'll just wait for reality to start back up again!" Then it turns off, and I am left slack-jawed, staring at whatever inhuman creature I've come in contact with, unable to give a retort.

What I wanted to say was, "Good, I'm glad you're practicing. Any time now, you'll be able to go all by yourself too." Or maybe, "Sorry, you're in the wrong bathroom. This one is just for humans." Or even, "You can remember this and laugh in a few years, when you have kids of your own and I'm starting high school."

But my brain doesn't work that way.

What I said instead was this: "........................................."

Only, with my mouth maybe wide open and a look on my face reminiscent of an inebriated goldfish.

There they were, my two abusers, Carrie, a fifth grade girl, and her equally obnoxious friend, whose name I don't remember anymore because she didn't have a sister in my class like Carrie did. Unfortunately for me, they were as loud as they were...mean. Laughing hysterically, they walked out of the restroom and I could hear them recounting, loudly, the story of my depantsing AND their tinkling song. More laughter erupted outside.

And all of this when my pants and shirt didn't so much exactly match.

Clearly, my only option was to take my own life. But my shoelaces weren't long enough, and anyway, I didn't know how to tie a noose. Also, I wasn't very strong, or very tall, so I doubted I could wrap the end of the noose around anything high enough to actually be able to use it.

The entire school was about to know my shame. I would never be cool now. I would always be Toilet Girl, Underwear Girl, #NoPants Girl, or Clothes-Don't-Match Girl.

My fellow students would line up and yell, "Taking your pants off won't make them match your shirt! Also you are never getting married! Also you won't get into a good college!"

I was mortified. I waited for the fifth graders to be called back to class, and I meandered, late, back to my classroom. I spent the rest of the day not talking to anyone, reading my book and wishing I was old enough for Mom to let me use the washing machine myself.

And I swear that's why I never got asked to prom.


*This was A Very Marxist Halloween, because everyone in my class was ordered to come as Hobos. You couldn't dress like you normally did (unless you were a Hobo normally) and you couldn't come as Spider-man or as a My Little Pony or as Karen from The Baby-sitters Little Sister books. Nope. Just Hobos.


**No, Jen, this is not Unconscious-Bear-Tagging Shannon, this was a different Shannon.

"monkey bars" photograph by David Kessler, © 2005

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Help Laura

I always know I have a fever when I decide I hate my brother for no reason. Surely, there can be no human being on this earth LESS deserving of my loathing than poor Paul, who rescues insects instead of killing them, because it isn't their fault the house is in their natural habitat. Paul never argued with me or hit me when we were kids. Even when I was tormenting him with mud and sticks, he never retaliated. Paul deserves a nice sister, but instead, he got me.

I have bronchitis. This comes with a fever, and fevers, for me, mean thinking that the whole world hates me and is leaving me to die (also that Paul is evil and is plotting to kill me in my hour of need).

Sunday, I went to pick up fun story-hour things from my aunt's house, and I felt sick. Then I went home and felt sicker. Monday I went to work, feeling sick. Then I felt worse. Then I went home and curled up in bed and felt sorry for myself while I waited for my family to care that I was sick. Then I went to sleep.

I spent Tuesday at work, then in bed, lying there grumbling about how no one cared that I was sick in bed, because it just gave them the opportunity they've always wanted: to ignore me. Surely they would have done this all along, but while I am healthy, I follow them around and force them to pay attention to me. But now I am too sick, and my family shows their true colors, ignoring me in my suffering as punishment for how annoying I have been over the years. None of them really love me.

I got sicker and sicker from Sunday to Tuesday. Yesterday, I went to the doctor and he gave me medicine. Then I went home.

Clearly, at this point, my mother had decided she hated me too. I could tell by the way she was looking at me. She was taking me to the doctor and getting my medicine from the pharmacy, all the while thinking, "This is my chance to let Laura know how much we truly hate her. She is the worst thing that ever happened to our family. Now I'm going to buy her tasty food to make her feel better, because I HATE HER."

Meanwhile, I was sitting in the car, waiting for death. Then I took some medicine and waited for death.

Then death came.

See, one of the medicines was supposed to ease my coughing reflex so I would stop coughing up chunks of lung.* The other medicine was an antibiotic, Biaxin, and it was supposed to cure me.

Instead, I was allergic to Biaxin, and started throwing up. Now it is Thursday and I am still throwing up. In addition, one of the glorious-glorious side effects of Biaxin (for me, at least) is the taste of metal. And death. My mouth right now, tastes like I have been sucking down pennies from a garbage-filled gutter littered with corpses. It tastes worse than that time the refrigerator stopped refrigerating and Mom made fish for dinner except the fish had TURNED without her knowledge, and I ate a giant, huge mouthful of rotten fish. WARM rotten fish. Except also with metal.

On the plus side, I no longer have a fever. Sadly, I have other issues. Like throwing up, which also means starvation. I am back to the starvation diet from back when my gallbladder filled with fossilized pineapple gummi bears and died, and I am bound to lose even more weight, because I just bought new pants and new pants mean I will lose weight so they don't fit anymore.

This is because I am poor and cannot afford to buy more new pants when I lose even more weight. All I can afford to do is to allow my new pants to fall down around my ankles just like my old ones did, except slightly more slowly, because the new pants fit a bit better than the old ones.

I had better not lose any more weight.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Because I need one or all of you to do me a favor. I need you to kill me.

Now.

That's right. Get in your car. Get some supplies. Come here, and put me out of my misery, as gently as possible. Sure, you might go to jail, and sure, Indiana has the death penalty, but it will be for a good cause. My suffering will end. That is what you want, isn't it? For my suffering to end?

So don't waste time. Come help Laura. My family won't do it. They just ignore me or laugh. They don't know how serious I am.

I'm counting on you to do the right thing.

*While I never actually coughed up chunks of lung, it was certainly about to happen at any moment.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Gummi Bear Story

Years ago...

Gran was in the hospital.

My cousin Krissy has always been able to read me like an open book. For an introvert like me, (or, as a friend once called me, "an extrovert trapped in an introvert's body") this is a big deal. She could tell I was worried, so she abducted me after dinner. She proclaimed that we were going to see the chocolate fountain at a candy factory that had opened recently.

I had never seen a chocolate fountain before. Moreover, I could not imagine a chocolate fountain that went from the floor to the ceiling with gurgley deliciousness, and I may have imagined the chocolate river from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and pictured myself filling a cup with molten chocolate and drinking it.

I swore that I would never let the Oompa Loompas out of my sight (they're secretly evil and plotting to kill us all, because they are all rhymey and they use poetry to disguise their evil ways. They knew what was going to happen to all those kids. They knew and they let it happen.) Krissy said there were no Oompa Loompas, but I knew the truth. Just because you don't SEE any Oompa Loompas, doesn't mean they don't exist. That just makes them sneaky, like serial killers in iambic pentameter.

Sadly, I did not get my chance to take down the mass-murdering, child-endangering Oompa Loompas. But the candy factory was basically heaven on earth. Not only did the chocolate fountain go all the way to the ceiling, it was also MILK CHOCOLATE, which is the best kind. The fountain was so high, we couldn't drink the chocolate, but there was a ton of chocolate you could eat, and they gave out free samples.

If the chocolate wasn't enough, I spied bins of brightly colored gummi bears.

I have always loved gummi bears. They are fun AND delicious. What was great (and slightly racist) about these gummi bears was that they were divided by flavor. It was gummi bear segregation. The whole thing was sad, until I realized this was my chance to get rid of the gross citrus flavored gummi bears and go right for the good stuff. That was when I saw the pineapple bin. Pineapple gummi bears are easy to confuse with lemon ones, but there is a big difference. Mainly, lemon is gross and pineapple is delicious. Also, there is no evil and potentially deadly red dye number 40 in them.*


"Pineapple gummi bears are the best ones," I told my cousin. "They taste like summertime. And the gummi bear people undervalue them, because they only ever give you one or two in a gummi bear package. Or maybe they know how wonderful the pineapple ones are, and they're messing with us."

My poor cousin is used to this sort of thing from me. She was eight when I was born, so she knows how my brain works and somehow manages to put up with me. She's basically a saint.

Then I saw a giant Pez dispenser complete with giant Pez, and I became distracted.

Did I mention they roast nuts at that factory? They do. Plus, my cousin is allergic to nuts. Plus she is diabetic. And we were in a candy factory. But Krissy had just switched the shots she took around, and for the first time, she could have candy (in moderation). That meant that the novelty of a chocolate fountain was, to Krissy, the same as to me. And my joy was the same as a small child's, because I have never quite managed to grow up. And I don't care to.

The nuts, though, meant we had only about 15 minutes in the candy store, because if we stayed too long, Krissy might get sick without needing to actually eat any of the nuts.

I bought chocolate. When we went out to the car, I noticed Krissy's giant bag. She'd wanted peach rings. But when she reached into the bag, she didn't pull out peach rings. She pulled out a giant bag of pineapple gummi bears. A pound of them. Triumphantly, she handed me the bag, while my eyes swam with visions of dancing gummi bears, taken directly from the 1980s children's cartoon.

I will spare you my response. Let's just say it involved loads of thank-yous. And maybe a short description of the virtues of the pineapple gummi bear.

Late that evening, back at Gran and Grandpa's house, I curled up in the guest room alone, because Mom had taken Grandpa to the hospital to say goodnight to Gran. I started worrying again, so to distract myself, I turned on the television. There was a That 70's Show marathon, and I started watching it. Then I kept watching, but broke open the bag of pineapple gummi bears.

Never think that your eating habits are the same when you're emotional as they are at any other time. They aren't.

At first, the gummi bears tasted glorious, the way gummi bears are supposed to taste, all fresh and lovely. They were such delicious gummi bears, because they were fresh and new, made right there at the factory, not stale and dry and gross like some gummi bears are. After a while, though, I started to notice the taste of that stuff they put on gummi things to keep them from congealing into a giant block of gummi-ness, and it was not so nice.

I mean, that stuff is bitter, and powdery, and weird. I really thought it was gross. And it was all I could taste. It overwhelmed even the perfect taste of the delicious delicious gummi bears.

I decided this meant I'd had enough bears. I picked up the bag and went to seal it, only to notice that a meager eight or nine bears lined the bottom of the bag. I'd eaten nearly the whole bag of gummi bears in one sitting.

This could not be good.

I waited and waited, certain my evening would end in violent stomach revolt, but it didn't. I felt gross, sure, but I never threw up. The gummi bears, it seemed, loved me almost as much as I loved them.

When I thought of this story over the weekend, I realized something. I just THOUGHT the gummi bears loved me. But I think now I know what their game was all along.

I think, when I ate the gummi bears, my body hit its gummi bear threshold, and there was no way it could accept more. But I kept eating them. I think what happed is that my gummi-filled digestive system overflowed gummi bears into various places. I think my gallbladder filled to capacity with gummi bears. Pineapple ones. I think that then, the undigested bears became fossilized like this lady I read about who should have had a baby but didn't, and they discovered she had a fossilized fetus inside her for years. I think the gummi bears went hard like chunks of glass or plastic, they crystalized inside me, which made them stick inside my gallbladder until they started to irritate it, and that is why I had to have my gallbladder removed.

I also think it must have been hard for the Mayo Clinic to know what to do.

For the record, lots of stuff that doctors pull out of me gets sent to the Mayo Clinic, because apparently, I am a freak. Also, that the Mayo Clinic people know me better than I know myself, because they've seen the worst parts of me, pulled out and dissected and under microscopes.

It must have been complicated, when they found the gummi bears in my gallbladder. They must have stared at the bears for a long time, turning them over under magnification while they tried to figure out how on Earth the bears had gotten into my gallbladder in the first place.

But I think, in the end, the doctors decided it would be better if I stayed in the dark. What good would it have done, they thought, had I known the dangers of gummi bear consumption? I could go on with my life feeling safe and comfortable, eating all manner of candies without fear of biological retribution.

Now I know better. Gummi bears are dangerous. And also, I want a chocolate fountain to go in the entrance of my house. And there will be cups, and you can scoop up chocolate when you visit me.

*At least, I hope not. They haven't made me suffer the way some things do. I don't have food allergies, but I do have "food intolerances," mostly to foods laced with chemicals to increase their shelf lives. I try to buy foods with the smallest ingredient lists possible to avoid migraines, throwing up, and all manner of other unpleasant things.
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