I started writing the bubblegum story so I would have something to write since I’m stalled on the fiction. I meant it just to be a blog post, but it ended up being four posts. After all is said and done I don’t really care for it because I feel like I had to wrap it up when there was so much more to say. I found it really difficult to try to tell that story out of context, so it ran long, but it could have gone longer. The ending was abrupt, I know, but what came next is a different story and there was also so much that came before, and during.
A life is a busy messy thing. I never thought much about writing anything about me because who am I and who would care? Then I remembered that I write this for myself, so it doesn’t matter. So many memories have come back to me during this exercise. I’ve even busted out old journals because I’m terrible with chronology. I didn’t journal consistently, but often during momentous or transitional times, so it will still be helpful.
I’m not sure how or what I will post here, exactly. Probably just all of it and as I go. It is weird to be so open in such a public way, but I still feel somewhat safe and isolated here, which is why I like writing here, mostly in secret. I thought about some of the things I would share and had a talk with my husband about it this morning. I told him that I wanted to write honestly and not censor myself but there would be some things he might not want to read. He agreed that if there was something I didn’t think he would particularly enjoy, that he would take my advice and skip it.
Later today he told me he just unsubscribed and that if there was something I wanted him to see, to share it with him in another way. Part of me is sad that he felt like he needed to walk away from the whole thing, but the bigger part of me appreciates his willingness to step away. He’s the best.
For anyone reading this who may care, I will indicate memoir type posts in the titles of future blogs, to separate them from my other ramblings.
For those of you that have reached out to encourage me in this endeavor, all my thanks. I really do appreciate it.
While I was able to find some solace in my apartment friendships, I hadn’t given up on school. Not quite yet. I spent an awful lot of time there. If they would just give me a chance, if they would just get to know me, they would like me. Right? So, I hatched a plan.
Bulk foods were all the rage at the time. Grocery stores had whole walls of bins filled with all manner of things. Just like they do now, with dried fruit, nuts, and the like, but on a much grander scale and with a whole lot more candy and even stations to refill two-liter soda bottles. I decided that this was my way in. I was going to buy a whole bunch of gumballs in bulk and bring them to school. Yes. This was the ticket. I got one of those little produce bags, opened the bin and proceeded to procure not one but TWO big scoops of bulk gumballs.
The next day, I realized that while gumballs were a great strategy, gumballs AND a hot outfit was an even better one. I knew just where to look. I boldly went to my sister’s room since she wasn’t home and went shopping through her closet. I found many things that would have been great if they were even close to my size. I was probably a size 6 around that time and she was a petite 0 or something close to it. I found a pair of Guess jeans that were kind of stretchy. Yes. These would do.
I went back to my room and wrestled them onto my body. It took a lot of strength and patience, but I got them on. I can’t even remember what shirt I wore, probably something a little big to hide the amount of flesh trying to escape over the waistband. All I could think at the time was that I had the Guess triangle on my ass and as far as I was concerned that was my passport to popularity. I was sucking in my gut, which was actually just all my internal organs, admiring myself in my sister’s full-length mirror when I realized what time it was. I needed to get to the bus stop, STAT.
I grabbed my book bag and headed to the door. I had just finished locking it when I realized that I forgot the fucking gum. I scrambled to unlock the door, moving as quickly as I could back to my room for the gum and then back out. I relocked the door and started down the stairs. I realized that I was having trouble bending my knees because the jeans were so tight. I held the rail, extending my straight right leg to the lower step, then once planted, pivoting my hips, and rotating my left leg down. This was taking too long. I discovered that I could hold both rails and then lower myself from step to step in an assisted hop. This was made more difficult because I was holding the knotted produce bag full of gum in one hand, not having had time to put it in my book bag, which was aggressively flopping against my body with every step descended. Once I got to the bottom of the stairs, I saw that the bus was pulling up to the stop. It wasn’t super far, just across the parking lot, but I was going to have to make a run for it.
Off I went, starting with a little side to side trot, like when you make a Barbie doll run. This wasn’t working. I needed to lengthen my stride and make this look a little more natural. It was hard to breathe because my digestive system was basically pushed up into my chest cavity. I swung my right leg hard out in front of me. The fabric of the jeans protested by bringing my left supporting leg along for the ride. I fell hard on my ass and the jeans exploded under the butt cheeks. The flimsy produce bag containing the gum stood zero chance of survival when I used it to break my fall. The colorful balls went rolling off in every direction. It all seemed to be happening in slow motion.
The bus was still idling at the stop, waiting for me. I stood up, not looking directly at it, waving it away while I limped backwards toward the apartment, still unable to bend my knees. I did not go to the ‘city’ school that day and declined to ever do so in the future. My humiliation was utter and complete.
I told my mom I wanted to drop out, but she refused to allow it. Instead, plans were made to go back to my dad and the ‘country’ school. I hated this idea because of the spider trailer and lack of friends waiting for me there, but I felt like I had learned a little about clothes since my last shopping trip and since this was mid-year, I finagled another trip to JcPenney’s for a whole new back to school outfit. A showstopper. If I couldn’t win over the city kids with gum, I could wow the country ones with how much I had grown and changed. I purchased a lime green 2-piece pantsuit, made of some silky fabric with flowy pants and a structured jacket style top with big ass shoulder pads.
I walked into school with my head held high, I looked fine. I knew it. Then I saw this guy Chris who I knew. He stopped, looked at me, and busted out laughing. After that, I just wore baggy jeans, T-shirts and some old army jacket I found somewhere. I was grunge before it was a thing. I gave up on making friends and just bided my time. I didn’t try at school, just lived for the weekends in the city when I could see my apartment friends, smoke cigarettes and be cool, if only in this little piece of my life.
Things changed a bit around 8th grade. The apartment complex my mom was living in was crawling with kids my age and we were able to spend a summer together and bond. We spent just about every waking hour at the pool or running around near the pool, barefoot on hot blacktop, not a care in the world. I found a best friend, a girl I will call Andi here. Her life was completely different than mine, she was a girly-girl with big hair, frosty lip gloss, black eyeliner, and Poison posters on her wall. Her mom loved me more than my own and I spent a lot of time crawling in and out of Andi’s bedroom window.
I’d like to say that there was this caterpillar to butterfly transformation, but that was not the case. I wasn’t stinky anymore, well, not exactly. I discovered body splashes and sprays and used them generously, to a level of offense. I tried to do my hair and I could get it to look halfway decent before I left the house, but within a half hour it just looked stringy and greasy again. I got pretty good at eye makeup, but I still had these monster glasses with hideous frames and lenses so thick that they made my eyes look half the size they were. My teeth were still crooked, and I was deeply self-conscious about this, almost more than anything else.
It was a miraculous time, until school started. I realized that despite all my fragrances and makeup (which I shoplifted in massive quantities), I still had no decent clothing. Even though I was with my mom, and she was getting money from my dad, somehow it still fell to him to take me and my brother ‘back to school’ shopping. This man had no money, but he did have a JCPenney’s credit card, so he would take us there, and we would have a budget of approximately $50.00 to buy what we needed for the school year. So, I would end up with a new pair of shoes, usually some Keds knock offs, to replace last years which were filthy and smelly. Then, a mishmash of things that I thought looked stylish or trendy. Often, these things would not go together at all, or some major component would be missing, like pants. I would have all these random ass tops and no bottoms. Or some ridiculous statement jacket that I would never actually end up wearing. My dad was just there to pay for it. He didn’t know to tell me I was being an idiot. I would realize my error when I would get back to mom’s and try to make my first day of school outfit.
Meanwhile, my sister had a closet full of Guess jeans in all different colors, Polo shirts, shoes (including high heels) and accessories. Her outfits were put together from head to toe. Seems as though my mom was able to take her on shopping trips. She was the beautiful daughter after all.
I hated her and she hated me. She thought I was gross, and I thought she was a whore. We were both right, at the time.
My sister had gotten off the back & forth roller coaster a while back and stayed a permanent fixture at mom’s. She had a ton of friends and older boyfriends who had cars and smoked cigarettes and were cool. She would invite them over and they would make fun of me, sometimes pinning me down to laugh while I screamed and cried. Meanwhile, my mom was off doing God knows what, or passed out nursing a hangover, or sometimes very much present and offering a mild rebuff to my sister’s pals, telling them to be gentler or some such bullshit. She was the ‘cool’ mom and defending me wasn’t the cool thing to do.
I got some revenge. I would steal her clothes and hide them for my later use. Others, ones that would never fit me, I would bury in hole somewhere or set on fire. She had a bulletin board in her room with a bunch of pictures of her and her friends and I went ahead and poked holes in all their eyeballs with a push pin. I realize now that this may seem a little unhinged, but it was totally appropriate at the time, and I have no regrets.
Our one and only physical altercation surrounded clothing theft, but she was the offender this time. I had gotten a really cute pair of sandals and before I had a chance to wear them, she asked if her friend Tracy could borrow them. I agreed, because I still wanted to be accepted by these people even though I hated them. Time passed and my shoes were not returned. I made a fuss because I needed them for whatever epic nightmare of an outfit I was working on and so Tracy gave them back and they were essentially ruined. I was so pissed off I threw the shoes down the hall at my sister’s head. She turned and came at me, but I overpowered her and sat on her until she calmed down. Just a little karmic retribution.
After the divorce, things really went downhill. My mom moved to the city to essentially be a successful single woman; children be damned. She was feeling herself. She had custody and my dad was supposed to get us every other weekend. He paid her almost every cent her made in child support and she used it to buy clothes and a car and a nice one-bedroom apartment for herself. I think I was aware even then that this woman had no intention of taking care of us, given that we were sleeping on grass mats in the living room. Even still, she went through the motions, and I switched schools for the first of many times.
I can’t remember the names of all the schools I went to or for what years because we would sometimes bounce back and forth between the same schools several times. We started at the ‘city’ school with my mom, but then she would give up on that charade and punt us back to our dad. Since he wasn’t a piece of shit, he would take us back in, but still pay her child support because she threatened to take my dad to court if he didn’t. He never was big on confrontation, so he just let her walk all over him. My sister went through this with us for the first few years, but ultimately settled in the city with mom.
I showed back up at the ‘country’ school and was kind of excited because at least I knew these kids. We had been together for years and even though things had gotten rocky, on some level I assumed that at least a few of them would be excited to have me back. That was not the case. This is not to say that they were mean, just ambivalent and I think that hurt worse. If they were mean, I could at least retaliate.
I was withdrawn, but settled back in. Then my mom would feel compelled to get us back for whatever reason. Often it was because she had a new boyfriend and a bigger apartment and having the children was performative. I would show up again at another school in the middle of the year, still with my same glasses and crooked teeth. Same stringy hair. Same cheap clothes. I stopped trying to make friends or even pass classes after a while. No one cared or noticed, so why bother?
To make matters worse, my dad’s hoarding had grown out of control, and I was a slob. We lived in a trailer in the woods and over time, the woods started to encroach. The elements were degrading the trailer day by day and no action was taken to change this. The house filled up with stuff (garbage) and you wouldn’t know there was rot in the floor until it was too late. There was no AC and it was always damp, so everything either had active mildew or smelled of it. There were roaches, spiders and sometimes rodents, and they liked the piles that had built up. So much so, that it became scary to try to clean anything, even when inspired to do so.
Dad never made us address our clutter, because he never addressed his and ultimately, I ran out of room in my bedroom. I also had a recurring nightmare, that even today seems real, where things would stare in at me from the woods through my bedroom window, which was situated in the wall that my bed was pressed against. That meant that these were face to face encounters and I would run screaming out to the living room. I also often dreamt that my grandmother’s corpse was reanimating under my bed, even though she was totally alive in the house across the yard.
I started sleeping on the couch in the living room. My brother slept on the opposite couch. The counter we used to eat at was overcome with junk. The formal living room, you know, the one with the furniture that was just for show, was completely full of stuff, as was the dining room. Dad had birds, one of which lived on a perch at the end of my sleeping couch. The corners of the trailer filled up with dust, seed hulls and bird shit. He would occasionally bust out the shop vac to clean it, but not often enough. After a while I think we just stopped seeing it. It was an insurmountable problem, and we were just kids.
Our space was reduced to a path from the front door to the kitchen and the kitchen to the living/sleeping room. We weren’t allowed to go into the fridge or make food, so we only went to the kitchen for tap water. We had our cereal in the morning, lunch at school then whatever dad made for dinner, usually hot dogs or corned beef hash and instant potatoes, eating off plates on our laps on the couch. I can’t remember what we did for lunch on the weekends with dad. We were almost always outside unless we were at our grandma’s house. I think she fed us on those days.
There was a single bathroom, located adjacent to my dad’s room which we weren’t allowed to enter except to get to the bathroom. The shower was disgusting, coated so heavily with soap scum and mildew that it would never be clean. The shower liner stiff and brittle from age. By the time I left that house, both the tub and the shower were literally falling through the floor but were still in use daily.
We never had friends over, for what I thought were obvious reasons, but I learned later that my brother had and was denied. I hated the way we lived, but I was used to it. It helped that I didn’t really have any friends to ask over anyway.
Sometimes there are events in one’s life that stay clear in your memory long after other seemingly more meaningful incidents and even people, are lost to time. This is the story of one such event, well the beginning of it at least. It needed back story for context and so ran longer than expected, for that reason, I’ll post it in parts.
My mother had three children. My sister, who was an infant when my parents met and married, then me and finally my little brother. I don’t think she ever actually liked my dad, but he cared for her and was willing to marry her almost sight unseen with another married man’s baby in tow. I believe that she had a different relationship with my sister, because she was NOT my dad’s. She was better somehow. Not tainted by all his lack of ambition and inadequacy. My brother, when he finally came along, was the only boy, the baby of the family and she adored him. He was extremely adorable, so I can’t blame her, but that left me in a weird spot.
I was the middle child, I was precocious, I misbehaved. I was always very curious and liked to test limits, so I was often in trouble for doing things I wasn’t supposed to because I wanted to make up my own mind whether they were a good idea or not, regardless of what my parents had to say about it. I imagine that this was quite frustrating, especially for my mother who had this beautiful older daughter who was always so well behaved. I think she decided early on that I wasn’t worth the trouble because I had too much of my father in me.
My mom tried when we were younger, dressing my sister and I in matching outfits, but after a while she gave up and just let me wear whatever dirty clothes I felt like. I was a tomboy; I liked to climb trees and was always skinning my knees and eating dirt and ending up with pinworms or lice. I was fine with this arrangement, except for the parasites of course, but once I got to elementary school these choices ultimately bore rotten fruit. Kindergarten through around third grade was fine, we were all a little too young to be terribly judgmental and I was fun to be around. Always down to clown.
By fourth grade the gulf between me and the other girls was starting to widen, and it was becoming less socially acceptable for the boys to hang out with girls, so I became more isolated. My parents split around this time as well. I acted out by being an asshole. If these kids were going to be mean to me, I was going to be a whole lot meaner. I was a prolific writer during this time, mostly crafting super shitty stories about my classmates and how much I hated them. Some of these even got turned in. I know this because my mom had a folder of my old stories and some of these had grades on them. I can’t imagine what the assignments were. I do recall my teachers coming down on me about some bullshit and in response I wrote everything really, really, small for a while. I wasn’t doing anything technically wrong. I still got in trouble for it, so I stole all the scratch and sniff stickers from her supply cart. Ha. That’ll show you.
I decided to write a little anecdote from my younger days to post here. It started innocently enough, but it has grown out of control. I still want to share some of what I wrote but I feel like I’m not done and I don’t want to post anything before I’ve fleshed some things out.
I was going through some old pics to use along with the story and they brought back more memories which is why I think I just kept going and going. It certainly can’t be a single entry at this point, which is fun, but also challenging because I’m not sure where to start or stop individual entries.
I’m going to keep working on it, but it’s been fun to feel so inspired to write, I figured I’d share that here. I’m excited to post stuff when it’s ready, but it also makes me nervous since some of it is quite personal. I mean, I’ve posted personal stuff here before, but it’s a safe place because only a couple of my readers know me in real life. I trust them, so I know I can say whatever, but I always feel a little shy about posting anything personally identifiable here.
I’ve written some less than flattering, sometimes unkind things about people I care about here because I was venting, but I would be mortified if some (not all) of them actually read these.
The good news is that this blog is a needle in the internet haystack and it is highly unlikely that any of these people would ever run across this stuff. At least I hope so.
I wrote two things yesterday. They were unrelated, on different topics and completely out of context; scenes from stories that don’t quite exist. I’m not sure if I feel inclined to go back to either of them to see if they will grow or just write more random things. Maybe if I generate enough scraps they will start to connect into an actual cohesive story.
I suppose I shouldn’t feel discouraged. If writing was so easy everyone would do it. I just want to make sure I am continuing to challenge myself, but not losing the joy of the thing. If I’m not having any fun then there’s no point. But enough about that.
I saw my Amazing Trainer Ralph this morning for the first time in over 2 weeks. He insisted on giving me a big, long hug even though he knew I was about to poop my pants. He missed me. He did admit to having Covid, which I did not expect. He caught it from one of his vaccinated clients, which he did not expect. He was in rough shape for while; hospitalized with double pneumonia. He suspects that it got such a foothold because he was running himself too ragged. He’s all better now though, and it was great to see him.
My workout was not super long because we spent the first third of it just catching up. From there it was a lot of chest presses and incline rows. I know he wanted me to keep going on my own past the end of the session but I said I had a conference call I had to get to. Technically this was true, I did have a call. It wasn’t until 11, but he didn’t need to know that.
I have a massage in about an hour. I selected good ol’ Swedish from the menu this time. I know I need deep tissue, but I just want to relax and so I shall.
I got some good advice from my friends this weekend about writing. I will just ‘keep writing’, as difficult as that is some days. I will go down some different paths instead of doggedly trying to make that one idea work. I’ve had some weird dreams lately that I remember pieces of upon waking. I may use some of those as the starting point for a story. Or not. Maybe I’ll have 17 drafts of nonsense by the end of the week. Apparently that’s ok. I’m really not sure how this is going to go but I don’t want to give up on it. Not yet.
I did not write this weekend. I was very busy on Saturday so I was determined to do a whole lot of nothing on Sunday. I did cook lunch for everyone, so I wasn’t a complete lump, but outside of that I mostly ate and watched TV.
I’ve been watching old TV series on Netflix that had rabid fan bases while they were on that I have not seen. I recently finished Supernatural which took FOREVER because there were 15 seasons. I’m on Dawson’s Creek now. I can’t recall how many seasons there are but I can tell you that Dawson is a turd. It’s fun seeing all these seasoned actors in their early days, before they got good at it. It’s laughable and highly entertaining. It’s also interesting to note all of the things that they do that they could not get away with these days. The sure did like to make jokes about being gay or “transexual”. Oh, and the fashion! Terrible. The music is pretty bad too, which is notable given that there was decent music to choose from during this time period. Instead they went with way too many cringey white-girl angst ballads. Lots of pseudo yodeling going on in those.
I suppose that’s about all. I’m feeling relatively decent today. It is Monday, and that’s usually a hopeful day for me. The start of the week always feels like opportunity.
I just left my office to embark on a hunt through the house looking for my phone. I couldn’t find it, so I used the Find Phone function on my Fitbit, which comes in super handy. I followed the signal back through the house, to my office, where my phone was. My brain finally caught up and I realized that I had been scrolling through Facebook on my phone when I decided that I needed to turn my Spotify on, so I put my phone down to go look for my phone.
It’s a miracle that I just don’t wander around running into walls.
I did not work on my fiction story yesterday. I’m debating scrapping the second version and starting over again. I think I want to go back to first person, but change course entirely.
I feel like I am supposed to enjoy the writing or at least feel proud of what I am producing. I am having little snatches of inspiration here and there, but the rest of it just sucks. Maybe I am clinging too hard to what I think the story is supposed to be about. I think to myself that I just need to write and see where the story goes which sounds ok in theory but implausible in practice.
I have a date with my BFF/writing coach tomorrow, so between bites of delicious food I will seek her wisdom. I don’t want to abandon this, especially so early on, but maybe I just don’t have what it takes to write good fiction. I feel like I used to when I was younger, but that may be a manufactured memory. Maybe I drank all those brain cells to death.
What I do not want to do is make writing feel like a chore. I enjoy my little blogs. They are no great works of art but they scratch my writing itch, so maybe that’s enough.
I am in such a foul mood. I hope writing this will help me out of it.
I woke this morning with gratitude. I was thankful for the breath in my lungs, the sun on my face. All the good stuff. Thursdays I wake up without an alarm, which is always lovely. It was around 8:30 when I arose to get started with my day.
I was brushing my teeth when I got a text message from my Aunt. Great.
My Aunt is prone to passive aggressive guilt trip behavior and this text was a fine example. She is in town helping my mom with some home renovation and redecoration. She tells me that mom is going to get all new furniture so the old stuff, including pictures, will be available if I “want to come by or call and talk to your mom.” Fuck you. FUUUUCK YOU. And also, no one wants any of that ugly ass furniture, full of 20 years of dust and skin particles and god knows what else. It is garbage and insulting that she would even insinuate that it would be some kind of gift to me.
This bitch does this shit every time she is in town. She acts like I am this piece of shit daughter who never calls her poor, dear mother. I have told her that she knows nothing of my relationship with my mom and that she needs to mind her business, but she persists.
The funny thing is that I’ve been actively communicating with my mom after deciding that I can be kind to her even if she is basically evil. To that end, I’ve been messaging regularly to check in. The last message I sent, back on the 10th of the month, has not been responded to. I don’t care about this, but I told my Aunt about it to shut her up. Since my last message I’ve been to Texas and back, worked every day, threw a party, had two (or three) dinner engagements outside of the house, exercised, cooked and generally ran my very busy life. My mom was basically napping the whole time, so should the burden really be on me to reach back out? Really?
My mom hates talking on the phone, as do I. So telling me to call is her message, not my mom’s. Come by? Really? In the middle of a home renovation? To an immunocompromised person in the middle of a pandemic? Shut the fuck up and get back in your lane bitch.
I despise passive aggression. Say what you wanna say to me or keep it to yourself.
So of course my foul mood bled over into my morning with the rest of my family. My husband needed to drop his car off for service and needed a ride back. Usually no worries but since I was so full of rage I was shooting mental hate daggers at his face the whole time I was waiting for him because in my mind’s eye I saw him having a casual, time-wasting conversation with the mechanic while I’m sitting in the car in my pajamas trying not to shit my pants.
I got home and tried to run to the bathroom so I wouldn’t actually shit my pants but of course had to explain to my dad where we had been and why. I told him what I knew, which was nothing. We dropped the car off for service. The end.
When I got done pooping and headed back across the house, I got a second round of questions about the car which I still didn’t have answers for. I said to my dad, “I do not know why the car was dropped off. I just picked him up.” to which he replies, “well, is there something wrong with his car?” OMG. I DON’T KNOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWW. So I told my dad I’d go get Emmitt. I told Em that he needed to tell dad what was going on because he was going to be relentless until he got answers and really you can’t even be mad about it because he’s angling to pay for the whole thing.
Emmitt can tell I’m aggravated so he says he will take care of it. He suggests I go in through the garage door so I can go straight to the office an bypass any further interaction with dad. I tell him I need coffee. He says he’ll get it.
I go to the office and try to start working, but the computer is being all slow and weird and it’s making me more aware by the moment that I still don’t have coffee and it’s all I want in the world, so I restart the stupid computer and head out to get my own coffee.
Emmitt is being held hostage by my dad’s obscenely loud conversation. I can tell he started to make coffee but got sidetracked so I just got it myself, slamming shit around and muttering the whole time.
And then I started writing this. I’ve probably fucked Emmitt’s mood all up with my terrible attitude so I’ve got that to look forward to.
I do feel a little better. Now I’m off to do damage control.