Did I ever write about getting married? Because yes, that happened.
To prime us, and sentence R to a (hopefully) thought-provoking night of sans-Dani-ness, my friend Vanessa rented us a bed and breakfast. For the Prima Nova or whatever. ‘The night before.’ I don’t know if it’s actually called the prima nova. We called it that, to trick ourselves into feeling part of a fine tradition. Renee should have been there too, but she had to work nightshift at her bar, so no go. Her energy and weirdness would have made the night 110% perfect, but oh well. She shone the next day, despite arriving late to my mom’s hotel with her red dress half-destroyed by the dry cleaners. Hurray for safety pins…more on this later.
Vanessa and I walked into this place and it was fabulous! I immediately started running around, looking in the bedroom(s), out the windows, at the private patio covered in springtime flowers. I wished aloud how I lived there; loving the quiet street which was chock-a-block full of quaint houses like this one. I screamed that I needed more friends because obviously I needed a veritable troupe of bridesmaids to take full advantage of this place. Instead, me and Vanny tried to independently spread out and soak up full advantage of the charming, private suite. We lolled about, gossiped, and guzzled vegan chocolate and fruit wine. DECADENT WHOREZ. At ten or so we went to sleep in the same bed, gossiping and giggling vaguely. The housekeeper in me was like, I bet whoever has to clean up this place will love that we only messed up one bed. That bed was so big I felt like a polar bear on my own ice floe.
MORNING CAME. Not that I could sleep from about 1 am on.
I got up at 5am and had a shower (washing my hair with baking soda; I haven’t used shampoo in a while and wasn’t about to start, even to look fancy). I then wrapped myself in a towel and poured myself a nice big breakfast glass of fruit wine. I sat down at my laptop to begin re-assembling the perfect wedding mixtape (electronically).
The music had assumed some new importance overnight: no longer satisfied with my half-hearted medley of favourite songs (I had dragged-and-dropped whatever I needed to make up 5 hours or so of tunes on my iPod), I became obsessed. I needed perfect segues, perfect heart-hitters. Believe it or not, this project absorbed most of my pre-wedding energies. I did not spend the morning-of fretting over my complexion or trying to lose that last stubborn 15 pounds or even wondering what life had in store for me with my new husband; instead I was pondering “Should ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’ go before or after Nina Simone singing ‘You Are My Sunshine’??! And when ought Daft Punk kick in? Fuck. This is hard.”
Vanessa finally roused herself at 7 or 8 am. “Finally!” I told her, while she stood sleepily in the bedroom doorway, watching me limply clicking at my iTunes folder. “I’m getting married today! I need you awake, to pump me up!”
“I’m going to shower first so we can ho you up properly,” she said graciously, “then I will make breakfast.” And let it be known that at no time did Vanny ever make me feel demanding or bitchy, not even hinting it. Although I have to admit I had a case of nerves that morning. I wasn’t even existential. I was just working with a timeframe I had no experience with. We had to get our hair done at 11. I had to get married at 2. Everything else was up in the air.
After a breakfast of steamed veggies, that somehow destroyed the entire kitchen, Vanny I and turned on wefunkradio so that the soothing cadences of Professor Groove and DJ Static could narrate our transformation from bed hos to wedding hos.
My wedding dress was short, as originally I thought we would be riding bikes to the ceremony. I made my own veil. A ‘birdcage veil.’ It sat jauntily over one eye. If it had been black lace and not white, and if I smoked long skinny cigarettes, I would have looked like a gun moll. This veil was the one thing I did that made me look and feel like a bride. I wore purple pumps and a purple shrug. I did my own make-up. Vanessa wore blood red and pumps the colour of fresh-minted pennies. At ten am my brother came to pick us up and take us to the salon (where a tattoo’d lip-biting woman braided my hair and teased Vanny’s into a scarlet wave.) THEN he did a tremendously grand big brother thing: he slipped $100 into my hand and said Will this cover it, Sis? Yes!
An hour later, freshly coiffed and in weird clothes with time to kill before my brother came back for us, Vanny and I walked across the street to the drug store to buy tampons, the first tampons of my life. I had my period on my wedding day. In the mall bathroom, I discovered I could not actually navigate the white froth of my dress to deal with my electric lady-land, so Vanessa held aside my skirt while I pulled aside my pantyhose and dealt with the business. Friendship!
We went to my mom’s hotel and sat around on the bed. My mom looked pretty. She was not too smiley or touchy-feely, though. As a bipolar person, these emotionally laden days often bring out the worst in her. Although she had been quite excited in the weeks leading up to my wedding day, when she actually arrived in town she was oddly flat and borderline grumpy. Kind of spacy and sullen. It made me nervous, and I did not want to push her by even behaving overly happy. I considered it a victory that she was not outright hostile or angry, the way she has been in the past during momentous family occasions.
“I am starving!” she announced when Vanessa and I were buzzed into her room.
“Well, go friggin get breakfast then!” I teased her. I had already told her this earlier on the telephone, when she’d been asking what she was supposed to do with her morning. There was a restaurant in the lobby and an A&W down the block.
“I can’t go into a restaurant looking like this!” she said, sweeping her hand down over her body, as if she looked like a half-naked tranny stripper and not a dressed-up member of the CWL.
“Yes, you can, just go and eat!” I advised her, and she left, which was good because I needed the bathroom to do my make-up.
One thing I do regret, and maybe this is because I was afraid of my mother going off her egg, was I did not just say I would go get breakfast with her, and go. I actually did not spend a lot of time with my mother on my wedding day at all. In retrospect, I regret this, although from personal experience I know that my mother tends to fuck up joyous occasions with overt talk of Jesus’ plan for us and whether we are living according to it, or some other verbal shenanigans. Or she’ll just start crying and getting angry or crazy-talking, pushed into the red on her emotional speedometer. Yes, I am making excuses somewhat.
Vanessa and I did our make-up and then Vanessa went off to find sushi, looking like a bad-ass belle. Renee arrived and buzzed to be let in. She had driven into town with her boyfriend B to my house, and then R had driven her to the hotel while he and B went to set up our little hall nearby, on Granville Island.
Renee walked in looking like a million bucks, with some ice-cold cans of 5-Alive and her bleached blonde hair brushed like a cape over her shoulders. She was grinning maniacally. “You’re getting married!” she said. It was a day for indulging in the obvious. I love my cousin! We hugged and carried on and then she made me us a bridely brunch. Vodka and juice in a hotel glass tumbled with us. She did her make-up and rebrushed her crazy blonde hair and then discovered her poppy-red dress, in its deceiving plastic sleeve, was actually all busted and torn in one area. “Those shady-ass drycleaners, tried to rush me out the door,” she fumed, but I pulled out the sewing kit (that bridal sites had advised me to carry. I can’t even sew) and the day was saved.
Vanessa came back. My mom came back. It was 1pm. I was getting married. I actually did not feel or look as pretty as I have felt on other occasions. Whatever. We went down to the lobby and hopped in a taxi.
It was neat being obviously part of a wedding party. People clapped and yelled good wishes. I felt embarrassed being the bride. I didn’t actually feel particularly bride-y. I actually thought people would turn to each other once I was past and dissemble me: If it was me was getting married, I certainly would have…
(lost weight? worn a fancier dress? worn a veil that didn’t look like a 1920s gangster woman? Taken a limo? NOT worn 5″ purple spikes?)
The taxi driver was delighted to see us, as we all piled in, with our miscellaneous odours of perfume and sweat and vodka and breakfast bagels.
“A wedding!” he said.
We drove down the hill to Granville Island while the taxi driver explained that in his culture a ‘small’ wedding was 500 people or so. He was amazed that 30 people were attending mine.
I tipped big, This was my day for tipping big and spreading the love. I was in a half-fog that obscured my inherent frugality. It also seemed like a bad omen to be a stingy 15% person on one’s wedding day. I wanted to look back and know the day had been generous of heart in all respects. Tips for maids, for taxis, for hairdressers. This is my opinion, that the love must be spread and for most “the love” = $.
R and his best man and a bunch of others were already at the venue. I had Vanessa usher my mom into the room, both to make sure she got to the right place and to demonstrate formally that the bridal party’s asses were on site. Renee and I, holding coats and bags and spare shoes, Frogger’d through the venue stealthily, on the lookout, until we found the side door into the kitchen, which was the room behind the glassed-in hall we’d specifically rented. Because bridal secrecy for some reason must be maintained. This would be our bridal parlour.
Vanessa rapped on the door, spy style, and we let her in. She had the box of bouquets we each would hold. I was pleased at how professional, how pretty, how wedding-y they looked. Orchids, roses, peonies. This was one funny thing about getting married: R and I had planned everything, yet until I arrived at 20 minutes to, I was not convinced that anything would fall into place. It was like deja vu, or the dream of a dream, to have Vanessa tell me that the seats were filling up, to hear (through the flimsy wall) the accordion player we’d hired (playing Eastern European folk…). To see the flowers.
I put my eye up to a crack between a partition in the wall that could be slid open if we decide to start serving hot dogs or something. I saw the blurry movements of a few guests, and heard the blabber-mutter of assembled people. I did not recognize anyone. Then I saw the officiant arrive and sign the guest book. “HI DOUG,” I whispered, and he jumped, looked around, spotted me, and made a shoo’ing gesture.
In the kitchen Renee had found a bottle of caperberries in the fridge. I pretended to swill back the bottle, making lusty appreciative sounds, while Vanessa took a photo. Then we crept out a side door to find a bathroom to fix our make-up and admire ourselves. At this time we bumped into my godmother and aunty as they tapped into the building on their dressed-up heels. They ran over to us and hugged and giggled. I started shaking. I had proof, real proof, that people had abided by our invitation and would be showing up.
To be honest, I would have eloped. In retrospect, I would have eloped. I felt a lot of my emotion came from being nervous. At the idea I had to be “a bride”, give people a show. By that I mean make it worth their while to come from out of town, in many cases, just because 2 people decided to commit to each other. So, for part of my wedding day I never really knew what was genuine emotion and what was just stage fright.
The accordion player, a great folk musician, had been cued to play ‘La Vie En Rose” when it was time for the ceremony to start. This was a moment. Me and my two friends were clustered by the kitchen door, waiting for this. I’d send Renee in first. She’d stride by the Coke machine, holding her roses and setting the pace. Then Vanessa. Then me. I was nervous. Oh, weddings were bullshit. Why didn’t we just have a nice little JP ceremony, like Joe deMaggio and old Monroe. Oh yeah, you can’t do that in Vancouver. Well, our friends D & J walked through a drive-thru in Las Vegas and that was just as legally binding. Oh, this is nonsense…
It didn’t help that both Renee and Vanessa did not know what La Vie En Rose sounded like, and relied on my word for it, when at last I was shaking and nervous and emotional. This was the moment. God.
La Vie En Rose! God, I am such an old woman. Why did I pick that song. I pushed Renee into the foyer, and hissed “WALK SLOW.” No galloping, thanks. Then I started getting the lip tremble. Vanessa looked at me for a brief moment of hold-your-shit sympathy, then it was her turn to strut away.
My friends were beautiful. Life was beautiful. I was marrying R!
The Coke machine hummed in sympathy, under the summer-day strains of the accordion. I tottered out of the kitchen, held my bouquet at belly-hiding level, and tip-toed into the room.
I forgot that everyone stands up for the bride. God, what drama. What can I do? My shoes are actually too big. The tissue is NOT helping them stay on. Dainty-step, dainty-step. Look at Rod, look at Rod. Is he having the cliched “OMG here is my wife she is so beautifurrr” moment? I doubt it. I am ridiculous. Amazingly, I find myself making eye contact with my mother – my brothers – my two best maids – and oh my god I am giving them each a wink and a nod. Like a 1970s movie pimp.
Gratefully, I reach the front of the room, and grab R’s hand, and the officiant says all the things, and we repeat all the things, and we sign the book that will go into the provincial archives. I inadvertently catch my younger brother’s eye when the officiant says something about a spaceship, or a cosmic wheel or something. What!? I inadvertently catch A’s eye (R’s best man) when the officiant goes on and on about love. I want A to approve of me, but either he is just chronically depressed right now, or to him this is all a big farce. He is sort of staring into the distance. Whatever. Anyhow.
I look at R many, many times, and I can’t believe it, while at the same time I totally believe it. He is squeezing my hands like a boy on his first date in a movie theater. I squeeze him harder, like: control the hands! We are married. We are wearing heavy rings that look as if they were forged by leprechauns. They match, and are stamped inside with a bird emblem. R is my husband! This quiet, smart guy who when I first met I thought: It can never work. He is thinner than I will ever be. Who asked if I believed in ghosts, which I cannot picture the R I know giving a shit about. He doesn’t care about ghosts. What was he really wondering?
The man who walked me home from the coffee shop, pushing his bicycle for 5 kilometres. I didn’t have a bike yet, and I don’t drive. This good, trustworthy, smart man.
What a world, what a world.
Then we all go to the reception. One of the two main dishes contains lima beans, because that is how we roll.
Our dump house is up for sale. (We rent a suite in it).
We suspected this would happen. The first sign was the landlord actually started cleaning up the yard. Our yard was a junk heap for all the years we’ve lived here. The landlord doesn’t live here (he lives a few blocks away in a burnt-brown version of our house), yet he views it as his personal “storage” area. In the last couple of months he methodically started toting away the old gutters, the plastic playground equipment, the old lawn chairs (that would shatter if body weight was applied), the rusting washing machines, the fridges that smelled like coffins if you opened them.
The lawn even got mowed now that it wasn’t piled high with bric-a-brac.
“Thank you!” I yelled happily one day, waving, as he was getting ready to drive away with a load of garbage. He saluted, looking a little confused. My naivete embarrasses me now. He wasn’t toting trash because he gave a shit!
When he evicted the upstairs tenants to do “renovations” the first real stirrings of alarm moved down my spine.
“We’re going to have to move!” I fretted, picturing the ass-pain of house hunting, packing, renting a damn truck, explaining to a new landlord that we must keep our 6 bicycles indoors with us, etc.
“The real sign that something’s up is if he cleans out his garage,” R said, as we pondered worse case scenarios as to why suddenly our yard was being tidied and groomed.
The garage was an amazing spectacle, packed to the rafters with junk. Not full in an orderly-yet-messy way. It’s tightly packed chaos reminded me of the rooms seen on shows about hoarders, or serial killers.
And sure enough a few weeks later he was cleaning out his garage!
While I wanted to believe the landlord was just having a twinge of aesthetic responsibility part of me suspected the truth.
When we came back from Portland our house had been painted. For years it had been a weird flesh tone: I thought of it as “dirty dildo pink.”
Now it was a fresh Barney purple.
Despite the ugly colour, the tidiness trumped it. It was mentally refreshing to arrive home from work each day and walk into a clean yard. Messes really weigh on me and make me feel kind of crazy. A long time ago I gave the landlord a 1-800-Got-Junk? coupon when I paid the rent, hoping he’d take the hint. Nope.
When the sign went up in the front of the house, I was unsurprised but disappointed. The landlord didn’t have the class to even mention it to us (he doesn’t speak any English, but his daughter is our go-between. It would have been nice to find out directly, instead of “Oh, there’s a For Sale sign up.” Particularly as the go-between daughter is the real estate agent…).
According to BC Tenancy law, we (the renters) “go” with the house. Like you know, the way the fence does, or the garage and fixtures. We don’t automatically have to leave. But if the new owners want our suite for family use we have to move. We’ll have two month’s notice.
We have little love for our suite. There is no room to entertain even a few guests for dinner, our neighbors are tremendously irritating, the way they scream deafly at each other and do the laundry 5 times a day (which makes the wall shake). The house is a cheap “new Vancouver special” that one sees all over the place: box-like structures in inevitably lurid hues, identical to one another, grace-less, cheaply held together with paint and Spackle.
But we consider it a suitable base until we both finish school. Why not? The plus side is, we’re already here! We have nothing to prove right now, and it will be some years before we can afford a “real” place. Plus, we have been questioning about the smarts of trying to upgrade in expensive Vancouver. We will always be renters here. Attempting to upgrade on these terms seems presumptuous and foolish.
So, our pending forced-move comes at an annoying time. We can only afford another similar place, and these particular places (while plentiful, and tending to be ‘affordable,’ price-wise) come with a lot of downfalls: intended to be temporary, with a roatating door of tenants. Indifferent landlords (the suites are mere mortgage helpers). The homes are literally impermanent: our current home is only ten years old, and already seems to be biodegrading due to its cheapness. It is crumbling on the outside, and there are no more plumb lines at the house settles. The bathtub is detaching from the wall. Everything tilts slightly. We are prone to yearly invasions of ants. There are cracks in the walls. We face gloomy north. No maintenance takes place. Things are cracking, dripping, creaking, shuddering, chipping. We are responsible and respectful tenants, but some things are outside of our scope.
This is the Vancouver residential experience for a lot of people…as it is a city that encourages restlessness and no roots due to ‘make a buck’ mentality.
Not our house (the door is on the opposite side, plus it’s not purple). Same idea though.
Broke my wrist.
Ice skating, a class field trip. The teacher, the field-trip-parent, my classmates: We didn’t know I had broken anything at the time, because I made a big show of acting OK.
I docilely stood up, red-faced and hot and smiling the foolish don’t-hit-me smile of adolescent rejects. (My brain screaming: I don’t know how to ice skate! I hate this field trip! I hate stepping from the rubberized concrete to the edge of ice, where my ignorance will betray me, make me fall down! And that border is grey like a rotten tooth).
Nearby classmates laughed. Even the nerds using the safety bars laughed. Mrs. Cole, a field-trip mother (red hair, a scolding voice, a nose like a penis) asked if I was OK. I protested that I was OK. Insisted. (Leave me alone, naggy old penis-nose!) She believed me. Everyone lost interest and skated away, shhk shhk shhk.
I teetered to the bathroom on my dumb skates, ankles folding half-way over as I tried to hurry. My arm was aching. I sat on a toilet in a stall, hating the world. Pain throbbed. Eventually I vomited.
I was aware for the first time in my sheltered life that things could happen to me. To my body. Pain could happen. It could make me puke.
I was soft: a chicken nugget-eater, a crayon-drawer, a reader, a weeper. Insults made me writhe in shame; it did wonders for me to wobble out of the bathroom and sit in the lobby of the rec-centre, waiting for the field trip to be over and cradling my (unknown-to-me) broken wrist in my hand. Patiently, idiotically waiting while lumps of self-pity burned like coals in my wrist and behind my eyes.
No one could tell I had a broken bone just by looking at me, by seeing me hold my limp arm, smiling like a useless martyr.
Despite the stories we’d been told in Religion class (8:30-9:15 each morning. Glossy, illustrated Bibles. A workbook we filled in. It was a Catholic school) suffering brought no exaltation, no glory, no automatic knowing on the part of other people.
Open up your damn mouth, kid! That’s what I learned.
So, now I’m a writer…
Admittedly I find ‘putting on the polish’ hard. Be it with looks (Did I comb my hair today, or am I just remembering yesterday? or, I will simply bite my nails to even them out. Etc.) or stories.
In this case, stories. I’ve been on a bout of not generating anything new, but slapping into a state of readiness the things in my ‘completed’ file-folder, and chucking them out there. Like a doctor slapping a baby’s ass to get it to be perky so they can register it’s vitals. Or maybe like a fluffer. “Look alive, there, boyo. Look pro. We’re on the clock!”
I find it really boring and confusing, submitting things. I submit to the places I admire. Maybe they are too high for me. Maybe I have to start smaller. I already feel small, as a writer. Aiming small would be like…why bother?
Of course the letters of rejection I get are no help. No insight, no mercy. They might as well say: Hey, don’t you have a job that involves doing dishes? Yeah, go do that. No one here wants you. Intellectual people are writing intellectual stories and we are all well-entertained in our sphere. We don’t need you. Jerk. Get an MFA, at least. Chase that carrot.
(I always think ‘mofo’ when I hear ‘MFA’. Perverse.)
Sure. Perspective is a must. Nobody else needs my stories as much as I need to get my stories out there.
But every time I get a rejection note I feel like someone is telling me to get back into the kitchen. Go back to the real world. Put on a hairnet, don’t talk. You are presumptuous, and annoying more than anything.
Dear Writer: We appreciate the opportunity to read your work, but unfortunately this submission was not a right fit. We wish you the best of luck placing your work elsewhere. Also, you suck and we hate you. We laugh at your efforts because everything else we read today was amazing. Have fun in the dustbin of literary history. Sincerely, The Editors of -
Due to a few sudden vacancies at work (a few firings, and in the case of one employee, just mysteriously vanishing – we suspect disgust, and not foul play) some juggling of staff has taken place. Now I have a permanent job in the shelter kitchen. I am no longer a front desk nanny. I mean, clerk. Now, I am a ‘dietary aide’. That means I do dishes, chop salads, and look on quietly while the Cook half-assedly deep-fries veal cutlets and curly-fries in luke-warm oil. I prep the stewed prunes and scrub the industrial-sized coffee pot. I wash a million dishes, filling and emptying the heavy Hobart until my shoulders ache with the promise of new muscles. I sweat off two pounds every shift, but balance the weight out with endless nibbles of toast, cookies, bananas, pretzels, and prunes. God help me, I like the stewed prunes, which come packed in jugs of canola oil.
I don’t mind the kitchen, though. I have worked there on a casual basis off-and-on for a couple of years. The plus is it is a straightforward job. Task, task, task, task. There’s no freeballin’ it, like at the front desk, where an average shift involves fielding phone calls, chasing whores out of rooms lest we incur a bawdy house charge, calling 911 for misc. falls, fights, or garbage can fires; sitting in the office while people wander in to talk, get laundry soap, or ask if you have change for the candy machine. Or can you just buy them candy?
In the kitchen there’s no prolonged interaction with residents, period…Sometimes I miss them, but at least there’s no pretending I can provide more than I am able to give.
After all, Hill House is just a glorified SRO. We are not a rehab facility, there’s no medical care, there’s no caseworkers, unless a resident already has one off-site. Three hots and a cot. That’s us! Some of the more independent or private residents either acquiesce to this, or accept it for what it is. They live their lives, are polite and keep to themselves. Most have them have known places a good deal worse; they take the shabbiness of Hill with a grain of salt. Other residents are quite needy. Often it is because they are too sick or crazy to live on their own (they need meals provided) but they are too poor to live anywhere good. In my opinion, some of the residents need a nursing home, not a glorified SRO. But there are not enough nursing homes. Or what can I call them that is more three-dimensional? Nursing homes sounds so weak. How about ‘dimensional care homes’? (Ugh. I worry that people with my mindset fuel bureaucracies. ‘Dimensional Care Homes’ sounds hopelessly bureaucratic.) But this is the kicker: many people in need of assisted care are NOT ready to die. They are not even always that old. But they have mobility or mental issues that they need help with. Once they have help changing their diaper, or shaving, or figuring out their money, they are as functional as any other schlub).
Yesterday some good things happened. A resident brought me roses. Obviosuly picked from a garden, based on the multiple punctures I sustained when I took the half-dozen flowers from his hand. “For being nice to us,” he said, which is at once a great compliment and a shitty indictment of the world. I have a co-worker who hates me. She told me I was a “show-off”, the way I talk to the residents and horse around and know them by their names. She said it was attention-seeking behaviour and she really took the wind out of my sails with her cruddy attitude. She was looking on when I got these roses; she rolled her eyes at me. o things weren’t helped later, when another resident brought me a popsicle from the Mini-Mart. “Jim,” who is as misanthropic as they come. Plus he finds it hard to walk. It probably took him an hour to walk two blocks and back. Sure, he was just buying cigarettes, but he remembered our conversation about the simple pleasures of .75 cent popsicles on a hot summer day. Unfortunately I was on lunch and he gave the popsicle to the co-worker who dislikes me. She only mentioned when she was going off shift that ‘there was something my boyfriend left for me in the office.’ So I went in to discover a very soft popsicle that she had left on the desk, undermining old Jim’s sincere efforts, just to be a bitch. Truth: Not all the crazies are on the streets. They walk among us. I had to pretend to Jim, when he asked, that I had received the popsicle and that it had been so refreshing.
Something about hookers I see every day. Their fingers get wonky. Why? Chapped and spatulate at the tips, with dirty broken nails they paint nailpolish over. No amount of washing seems like it would clean them. It is the ground-in dirt of outdoor laborers. Which is what they are, winter and summer. They work hard, put up with bad bosses. Need a union, in my opinion.
The shelter offers up hot dinner every night. The fridge is kept stocked for other meals: eggs, milk, margarine, apples, soup. Sugar, sugar, sugar. We go through bags of Roger’s White Sugar every week because the women use it on cereal, coffee, even already-sweet things like cakes, donuts, the seconds donated by the bakery that makes “cafe sweets” like banana bread, cookies and muffins for places like Blendz, Waves, Starbucks. Even free they are hard to handle, the sickening flavour of them that even a woman on the nod, in need of sweetness will stick in her mouth and then reject with an “Oh, Christ,” spitting it into the garbage bin or directly onto the floor. I think you have to spend the asking price of $3 for them to taste good. People who drink or are on drugs appreciate the analgesic and bolstering effect of plain sugar.
Girls have to go to the front office to ask for a sharp knife or can opener, which they sign out and bring back promptly or else someone comes looking. “Go track down the can opener,” someone will say once ten minutes pass. And this is enough to warrant a room check. However, as a housekeeper, I remove plenty of common kitchen property from the rooms, anyway: sticky bowls, cups, mugs, saucers, even cookware (pots and pans, cookie sheets) sticky with ugly impersonations of rice krispie squares or chocolate cake, and hot chocolate packets stirred into a smashed bag of Planter’s Peanuts from 7-Eleven because someone wanted brownies at 2 am.
And the Bic pens kept by the phone were vanishing too fast. Support workers got tired of walking over to the dollarstore on their lunch-breaks to buy more. The pens, we housekeepers can testify, are swiped and broken in two and used as crackpipes. We find them all blistered and black. As a matter of course we use sugar tongs to pick them up and put them in the sharps disposal boxes that the kind people from Coastal Health pick up at the same time they drop off boxes of condoms and fresh needles. Not that the crackpipes are sharp, only gross, and thus seem to deserve the same measure of caution employed for open needles, a caution native to women who just want to see the girls do OK and stop fucking up and maybe eat a little bit, women who want to get to the end of their shift and go home to their families or their midnight pot of noodles eaten in front of the television or their matching dogs that are small enough to unobtrusively violate their building’s ‘no pets’ agreement, so they can refresh themselves to come back again tomorrow. Women who love life like everybody else, presumably the same thing the women want who are smoking rock as yellow and shiny as broken teeth.
Now the staff stock mini-sized library pencils by the phone, pencils that go dull quickly and cannot be sharpened because we had a pencil sharpener once but it ‘went walking’ and no one remembers to buy another one at the dollarstore. The wall above the phone still gets littered with slurs but now women have to press harder to let their dissatisfaction be known: shitty roommates, shitty boyfriends, shitty staff. What they hope happens to them all. “Jill I hope your children get murdered.”
At first, I had no clue what things meant. The things I’d find. The wheres and hows of drug use still puzzle me. I recognize weed, I can appreciate 2 inches of booze in a glass, but it’s like solving a Rubik’s cube trying to first realize what clear plastic piping means, what the shoelaces are for, why cotton swabs are in demand. It means don’t go burning your lips because johns hate crack sores as a rule, they look like herpes; not that it stops them (maybe it even lends a sordid authenticity to a $40 alleyway interlude, in the SUV momentarily free of your children’s yelling, momentarily your own private manly space?) Pop a tired vein. Filter particulate from a spoonful of watery heroin…
For me the most poignant verse in the Bible is John 11:35. I quote it often. It works beautifully to express disbelief, pathos, frustration, amusement.
I get asked a lot of rude questions at work. Work is where I interact with 98% of the people in my life since I have few friends. Perhaps my co-workers help skew my perception of society at large, but let’s just say that most days if I come home discouraged and tired and needin’ a drink it is because of interaction with my able-bodied, (presumably) mentally competent co-workers, and not from being around the alcoholic, drug-addicted, mentally handicapped or certified crazies we care for.
“Now that you’re married, are you going to have a baby?”
This is my most-asked question of the year. Probably it is because of the demographic of many of my co-workers. Older, female, aligned with one religion or another.
“Um,” is my usual response.
“How old are you?” has become one of the most-asked follow-up questions.
(I don’t know when such questions stop being rude.)
“33, fucking old as Jesus,” is my answer for this year anyway. Plus if they can be rude about my absentee baby, I can be rude about their Lord.
“What! You want to have a menopause baby?” This is what one nurse, Mercedes, asked me this morning. Mercedes always talks in a loud yelling voice. But she also does things like offer me steamed Filipino bananas fresh out of the microwave, and she helps me tidy up the office, so she is one of those difficult people who I’d prefer to outright dislike but they don’t make it 100% easy.
I was just silent. Should I have responded to her frankness with my own inappropriate frankness?: “Oh, I’m not worried about menopause yet; at this moment I am experiencing the menstrual equivalent of a rusty chainsaw coursing through my uterus, as usual during this time of every cursed month on Earth since I was 12 and still a fan of Nintendo games and Trixie Beldon.” But Mercedes the nurse and Gerwinder the cook and Margie the druggist and Jada the support worker, et al., with their nagging, innocent, ultimately indifferent queries only bring home to me the fact that I spent the best years of my life making all the wrong decisions; I have made better decisions, found love, come to my senses too late in life. I am not young. I don’t know what I did wrong that was worse than what other women my age did wrong who are functional, upwardly mobile, comfortably “all set.” Did I expect too much, or not enough? I will probably never have a child, and until recently I was not in the position to think this was anything but a good thing.
My favorite variation on the question was asked yesterday:
“Why don’t you have a baby now? Have you ever had an abortion when you were young? Because that is why some women do not have babies now.”
John 11:35, I muttered to myself.
John 11:35 should be a brand of tampons for cynical girls. Women. “For those heavy days.”