Hoard

Hoard

My garage. It was the grossest space in this old house, and that was a hard trophy to win. 

All cabinets were seafoam green, with work surfaces of grimy retro linoleum peeling up in every countertop corner. 

There was dust crusted onto everything, not dry and loose–crusted, 40 years thick. Not “flutter the feather duster over it  in my maid costume” dust, but “powerwash it, scrub with bristley brushes, ruin your jeans, ruin your hair; find out what you’re made of” dust. That kind. 

My dryer vented into the garage, regularly keeping the air steamy, and I imagine…remoistening new dust layers day after day after month after year after decade. Dust, moistened dust, dried dust, new layer dust, moisten, crust over…

I don’t know the exact nuances of making a 40-year thick crusting of dust. I only know the state of my garage when  I moved in. I only know how much scrubbing and scraping it took. 

The rickety garage door, also seafoam green, was not well insulated, was not properly sealed at the bottom. It was freezing in there unless the dryer was steaming it up, or the tiny hazardous gas heater was on. Flames shot out of it several inches high, more than once I saw dry leaves meet their demise to that fiery little beast. 

This is probably dangerous, I would think as I rubbed my cold, bony fingers together in front of flames. When did my knuckles get so wrinkly? I can pinch the skin of a cold knuckle and it will stay pinched…then slooowly, lazily melt back into place. 

The weather-stripping on the bottom of the garage door was flapping off and severely gapping in many spots. They say to build your house on a hill, to sit there majestic and wise. People can lean back and look up to admire it. A shining example on display, make it glass even. What’s there to hide?

My house was built at the bottom of a hill. My driveway serves as a slide for rainwater, nothing to slow its flow toward the busted weather-stripping. 

Muddy rainwater never flooded the garage the 4 years I’ve owned the house, but it would seep in and settle…dry slowly, leaving behind only the dirt residue. Charm…adds a bit of charm, an optimist might say. Dirt is character? Yes. Sometimes. 

I walk into the garage. I feel the weight of this project grip me, pull me under water. 

I need this crusty garage to be usable space. Dear God…where do I start…I look around for a welcoming place. I don’t find one. 

November is too cold. I was born in Wisconsin, lived there til I was 4. No, Arkansas November isn’t as bad as Wisconsin. Think positive, brain, and stop singing “November Rain” by Guns N Roses. 

So I pull everything out of it and onto the driveway. Every cabinet, every rusty paint can, every gritty ziploc bag filled with every jingle of unorganized nail and bolt and crazy unknown bits of metal. Keep these? I should keep all these, right…? I will need these old nails one day…

I try not to think of the old man who lived here before me. He and his wife were the only owners, from 1972 when the house was built until 2012 when I bought it. 

I know he was 86 when he passed. I found his obituary. His daughter gave me the keys to the house at the closing; the keychain has some small, clear plastic prism hanging from a short, beaded metal chain with a cylinder clasp. I don’t know what you call it. You place the last bead of the chain into the opening on the cylinder and press. I should keep this keychain in his honor. 

I shiver. November chill? Or thoughts of which room did he die in? Was it in here? A hospital? What’s with all the plant hooks on the ceilings? Why did one have a thin leather dog collar hanging on it? What is this blackish-brown smear on the textured paint of the wall right next to the basement toilet…? 

I enlist help to clean the garage–to power wash, to scrub, to paint. My nephew and my three oldest daughters spend hours on it with me. I buy wafer board and have it cut to size for new countertops. My dad screws them onto the old wobbly cabinets for me. 

And I don’t care how the paint job looks, anything will be an improvement. I do not care, just get it covered. We use the leftover paint that I already have.  

I have my girls slop espresso-bean colored paint on every cabinet and countertop. The cabinets are sitting on visqueen in my driveway. The paint glues the plastic to the bottom of the cabinets. I have to hold the visqueen down with my old cheerleading Asics and lift to peel the cabinets free. Obviously, I never got rid of these Asics from twenty years ago because obviously I am going to be working on my toe-touches and herkies some day soon. Any day now. 

My nephew and I paint all walls gray–two dark gray and one light gray. Maybe it looks artistically chosen. Ah, my accent wall…yes. And here we have one set of 2×4 shelves nailed together shoddily, we chose to paint these a bright Caribbean blue. It’s beautiful…it was meticulously planned and designed. It was…what we had. 

Nick (nephew) brought his music, and I bumped that shit. I made up my own lyrics and would not be dissuaded. I forget the band name; it was a bunch of letters, like SKBRTKB…you should get their album. I especially enjoyed their song that goes–“My girl’s gonna sit in the mud! My girl’s gonna sit in the mud!” 

Now, Nick who could barely breathe during his explanation, he wanted me to believe they said–“My girl’s got a city to run!” But shhh, shh…shush, Nick. Don’t ruin my moment. I dropped it low and sang along. Me in my old Asics, dropping my ass into piles of dust around the garage–“My girl’s gonna sit in the mud!”

I still got it. Maybe I can do a toe-touch in these jeggings? Hang on. Kick this leg up, then kick that leg up. Okay, they wouldn’t bust. Hop a little…eh…it’s too slanted out here. Otherwise, I’d kill it. 

I leave all the cabinets and crap on my driveway overnight. You don’t really have to be in a hurry to move stuff until you get a notice from the city. Shockingly, no one stole any of it over the two nights it sat out there. 

It was November 2014, and I didn’t sleep a lot most nights since the end of September, when Demetrius left. Might as well get up super early and buy garage floor paint. I got a midnight blue, and some paint flecks to sprinkle on top like Christmas cookies–a variety of grays. 

Nothing like good honest work to occupy a mind in the middle of a divorce, to tire an already tired body and soul. The high-gloss topcoat is moodier than I am. It only wants certain temperatures. But…I don’t have time to wait til Spring. And I suppose this is why it dried cloudy. Good enough. Better than it was. The clouds add some depth, an unexplored galaxy of paint specks. What new adventures are in store for the garage’s next 40 years…

I order a $2700 new garage door. It is so ridiculously out of place on this house. I don’t give a crap. To my credit, I have great credit. If I say I will pay you, you will be paid. I don’t care if my choices make no sense to someone.

A jewel in a pig’s snout: my lovely new well-insulated garage door, I will pay it off before the accrued interest ever hits. There are worse choices to be made in life. I’ve made plenty of them before, and now I’ll leave those worse ones for someone else. 

I put everything back into the garage very neatly. I had a lot of extra furniture, a big tv, all our bikes, bookshelves and books and books and books, sports equipment, lawn mower and crap, paint and hardware. 

Demetrius messages me some days later that he’s going to bring over the last of my boxes. What’s even left of mine there? A truckload. What’s in the boxes, I can’t even imagine or care. He piles them into my newly cleaned, freshly painted, just organized garage. 

Holiday decorations, photo albums, candles, picture frames, the weird platters and dishes, electrical chargers and cords that go to…who knows what… 

Piles and piles of crap. And my irrational attachment to them. NO! I’m going to use that one day! Won’t I? Does this have a good sentimental value to me? 

I can’t do this yet. I can’t look through it.  I just leave it all in there. I know I will hang on to things I need to get rid of. Unopened boxes of memory in my garage, in my heart. I thought I cleaned this place…

______________________

“Emily?? What’s wrong? What is it?” Keith approaches me in my garage. It is March 2015. We just met February 16. 

“This shit is breaking me. I don’t know what to keep, what to burn, what to sell, what to do with any of it.” It is too early in our relationship for a breakdown, but I am who I am, and I feel what I feel. 

He wraps his arms around me, pinning my arms to my sides with an upward, lifting force. I sink onto him. 

“I had to do this, too. It’s hard to go through everything, but you will be glad when it’s all done.” He rubs my back. We don’t hide from each other. 

“I don’t want you to see me like this, but I can’t go through all this stuff and not cry. I know I won’t be able to.” Phony is not my forte, maybe at times in my past, it was. But not now. 

“Well…do you want to be alone while you go through it all? I can go somewhere.” He releases his hold and backs away some to see my face. 

“No. I don’t want do this alone. I need help deciding what I should keep. But I will need you to be understanding, too. I will explain exactly what’s going on in my head or heart, and I will need you to understand and not be upset.” I look at him. My eyes say–I don’t want to go through it alone. And also…I don’t want to go through it alone. 

“Okay. I can do that.” Keith takes me back into his hug. 

He is going to keep me off the show Hoarders when my kids move out. He is better at explaining what needs to go. I trust him. I don’t always listen, but he is right. 

I watch episodes of that show Hoarders, and yeah, these people are extreme cases, but their words don’t always sound crazy to me. Most people who watch are probably like–whoa, they’re insane!

But I have to admit that…their logic often makes sense to me. And when people go through so much emotional trauma in their lives, I can understand that they might revolt in these sad, severe ways. 

We watched an episode recently of this old guy living in his yard instead of his house. He had piles of clothes; he slept on a pile of blankets with a tarp covering him. He was a tough veteran, and I could see myself getting along fine with him over a cup of coffee…in some place other than his home. 

Prideful, stubborn, unconventional, thrifty, resourceful, unconcerned with pleasing society, lovers of personal freedom. I do relate to some personality traits of some of these people on SOME levels. I’m not saying these feelings are all GOOD; I’m just saying I can empathize. 

Bugs, rodents, unworking plumbing, no livable spaces, room upon room of no walking room …now I can’t get on board with any of THAT

My dad always said to us–the order of your bedroom is a reflection of the order of your mind. I think about that a lot, especially when I am holding something, looking at it, deciding if I should get rid of it. 

Keith rallies for me to let go of things. He’s right. Will I ever watch these VHS movies? I mean seriously. 

Keith arrived in my life during a transition period. I guess I could’ve pretended that I had been healed for months, but that’s not how I am. 

A wound doesn’t heal completely when you keep ripping it open together. And that’s exactly what Demetrius and I did September through January, kept it all ripped open. 

Ripped open through his cheating, through my obsessing, through the separation, through the sleepless nights, through the move, through him pushing me away, through me pushing him away, through him clinging o me…trying to keep hold of some part of me, through me clinging to him…trying to keep hold of some part of him. 

Hard to heal with that much overlap of big life events; it takes a lot of honesty. 

February wasn’t long after all of this. I had been slowly facing the truth, but that doesn’t mean Keith entered my life when I was healed. 

I wasn’t entirely healed, but I wasn’t a broken half-person, desperately looking for someone to fill a void either. I was a complete person in my relationship with God, but still a very hurt person. 

I needed a strong man, who has a kind and understanding heart. Someone I could be completely honest with. 

Someone who could help me understand what to hold onto in my life, and what to let go. 

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Balance

Balance

So I saw a friend’s Facebook status yesterday about how she had a seat on an airplane next to a baby and a toddler. And she referred to this as her personal hell.

We talked a little, and she mentioned that she feels anxious around kids. And she also mentioned that she has been told by parents that she “doesn’t understand” things because she doesn’t have kids. 

So I took all that in, and I truly feel that I understand every feeling she said she has regarding kids. That is, I understand as best as I can…as a stay-at-home mom who rarely flies anywhere, who only leaves the house weekly to teach six 45-min fitness classes, who mostly only has to interact with her own kids. 

But I think I “get” both sides. I do. 

As a parent of 5 daughters, I cannot tell you how much anxiety I have felt and do feel when I know I am going to have to be in an unavoidable situation when my babies and/or toddlers might do and say…only God knows what.

GOOD MOODS

Clara is 2yrs and 8months. I don’t accept that “terrible twos” is some unavoidable certain misery.  Kids understand way more than we give them credit for. And Clara and I figure it out together. 

At her young age, she understands the difference in using rude words and polite words. She knows how I expect her to talk to me AND TO ANYONE. She understands this 100%…I promise you.

Not every child grasps that, and I understand not every kid will understand that at the same time. But I hold her to a high standard of obedience and polite behavior because she DOES KNOW. At my house, she will behave, or she will not get what she wants from me.

We talk a lot about expectations when she is in a good mood. Not when she’s hungry, not when she’s tired…those aren’t the role-playing moments, those are the “let’s use what we learned moments.”

Sometimes the lesson works in the naughty moment…not always. 

PRIVATE BATTLES

Does she ever throw a toy at my head and scream, “I hate my nice words!!!!!”

Yes. 

And I scoop her up, put her butt in bed, and we can talk after your nap, Clara. Thank you. 

Do I ever give in? Do we ever negotiate? Does she ever flat out “win” our battles of will? Yes. And yes. And yes. 

But I am pretty firm and pretty stubborn, in a calm and quiet way. 

Sometimes, Clara and I make deals. She wants a red Popsicle; I ask her to eat a banana (or some turkey) first and then she can have one. 

She likes to watch the same shows over and over and over…and over. Sometimes I just let her. And sometimes I make her try something new. Negotiate.

Theory and practice…and utter exhaustion–hers and/or mine.

There are times I let go of my rules completely. I have let her climb into my bed in the middle of the night, and I just hold her. Even though I’ve asked her to please stay in her own bed and to go back to sleep on her own. It’s just…

I don’t pressure her to potty-train. I don’t and I won’t. She will let me know. I don’t believe she will be in diapers in kindergarten. 

I let her have a pacifier, and I don’t care…like even a little bit. I don’t care. If a stranger asks her/me–“Uh! When is she going to stop using that pacifier?!”

I just say–“Maybe never? Is that hard on you? Does it affect your life?” And eye contact is my favorite. People usually forget what else they want to say.

MORE PRIVATE BATTLES

It is a battle of wills, and I’ve found that the best approach is very calm, but very firm and very persistent. 

Watch any episode of Super Nanny to see it in action. I don’t think the parent should yell or spank hard. The key is control. Showing self control by example. 

You can’t do this every time, but I have had to do it at least once with every daughter–stay at it until you break them. Like a wild horse. 

“Your behavior is unacceptable; sit in that chair until I tell you that you can get up.”

And then–ignore. Go about your day happily. Talk to her siblings, talk aloud about everything you are doing, calmly and happily. 


If the child gets up, you say–sit down. If she doesn’t or if she screams no…you go get her and put her back down. That’s yes.

Repeat 1000 times. 

That’s it. Until the child apologizes or changes her attitude. That’s it. We can do this all day. You will not break Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller. 

It’s amazing what level of shrill scream and kicking that I have and can ignore. The rest of us can all play cards or watch a movie…and the “chair kid” is welcome to join us as soon as her attitude changes…or not. Her choice.

PUBLIC BATTLES

So when a child or baby is throwing a fit in public, it’s the parents’ fault 97% of the time. Usually some basic need (nap, meal, etc) has been ignored…sometimes it’s beyond the parent’s control. And sometimes the parent is shopping and ignoring.

But if every need is met, and the kid is just testing his limits. Let him know the limits, especially in public. People say–pick your battles. A public battle is a yes, every time. 

How the fit is handled is 100% within the parent’s control. I can understand a warning, maybe even a few…but after that, it’s “remove the child from public” time. 

I remember clearly a day in the store when Audrey was about 3 years old. She taught me a very important lesson, and I’ve used it since that day. 

I was in a hurry, grabbing this, grabbing that, and Audrey was sitting in the big part of the cart. Every time I stopped the cart to look for or grab something, she would stand up and act goofy. I don’t remember exactly what she was doing or saying, but it was funny and entertaining to everyone else in the store…except me, her mom in a hurry. 

I chuckled it off the first few times, and then I said–“Audrey, I want you to stay seated.” And I held the “I’m serious” eye contact for a few seconds. Audrey is hilarious, and sometimes she’s so funny that nothing penetrates her thick layer of natural comedy, nothing can extinguish her mischievous eye twinkle, and you have no idea what she will say or do next. 

So I stop the cart again, and sure enough…Audrey stands up and does a goofy dance or whatever she had been doing. I get her attention with a swat on the rear, “Audrey. Sit. Down.” Not a hard swat, I barely make pat-contact. It’s the act, not the force. An attention-getter. 

Audrey was mortified. When the other person on the aisle left, she asked me incredulously, “Why did you spank me?”

“Audrey…because you didn’t obey me.” Disobedience isn’t cute. 

“Well, that embarrassed me. And it hurt my feelings.” I can’t remember my oldest two daughters ever telling me they were embarrassed.

“Well…it embarrassed me that my daughter didn’t obey. Then people will think–oh she lets her kids do whatever they want.”

“You don’t have to spank me. Then everyone knows I’m in trouble.” She was truly hurt, sulking in the cart with her little arms folded. 

“What do you think I should do?” Kids have really, really good ideas. Ask them sometimes. 

“Just whisper to me and say I am embarrassing you.” Brilliant. 

And to this day, her brilliant 3-year-old brain idea has worked with 100% success (with my daughters 2.5 years and older). All I have ever had to do in public, is motion for them to come over to me, and lean in–

“I want you to stop behaving this way. You are embarrassing me. This is your private warning. Do you want me to embarrass you?” And they know they have a choice. You can see wheels turn, smell smoke. 

Kids have pride too. And they are brilliant. I have found that their punishment ideas are especially appropriate.

MORE PUBLIC BATTLES

I remember one time Margaret was maybe 18-20 months old. I was pregnant with Hazel. And who knows what went wrong but she started throwing a fit in public. 

Threw herself of the filthy mall floor, kicking and screaming. What to do?? I didn’t have our “timeout chair” with me! Plus…all these people were around to watch all this. 

A bribe?? Promise her chocolate? Um…heck no. A reward for this insane behavior? NO. But it crossed my mind, sure. 

I picked her up and put her on the mall bench, and I sat on the other end of the bench. Here? Now? This battle? Yes. 

It was an eternity before she stopped. Probably 5-7 minutes. She flipped herself over to her belly and attempted to flee at least  7 times. Nope. Even pregnant I could catch her, snag her back up, sit her back down. And wait. 

It’s tiring. But it’s worth it. 

CURIOUS BREED 

Kids are a curious breed…
Not exactly like a pet (well trained or poorly trained). But a lot like a pet.

Not exactly like an adult–they have no filter or need for social pleasantries. But in many ways, they are like adults.

For good or bad, I’ve always kept a good portion of my dialogue to kids as “adult words” (not cuss words, I mean not baby talk). A respectful conversation between equals.

…and a good portion of my interaction with kids involve “adult expectations.” Kids usually  understand way more than adults give them credit for, more than adults give them access to.

And within reason regarding their ages, they will behave and perform to whatever standard you hold them to. That’s the damn truth.

They have basic needs that require regular attendance… that’s the big one that parents try to stretch to limits. A toddler should not be expected to shop for 3-4 hours during his lunch and nap time; it’s going to be bad for all involved. 

That sounds a lot like humans of all ages. It is. 

Things Moms Carry

Things Moms Carry

“Nooooo!!! I yant CHEETOS!!” They aren’t Cheetos, but there are no battles of logic with a 20-month-old. They are the grossest bag of generic weirdo-brand bacon cheddar hot fries that I’ve ever seen. 

“Let’s get…these chips…” I try quiet horse-whisper-bribery, which angers her further. 

“Nooooooo!” She squeezes the bag so hard with passionate angry-love, I do think the cellophane seal might pop. 

“Okay okay…release!” I finangle the bag from her grip. Her moist hands streak across the bag producing the syncopated stuttering of poorly strung bow. 

So we carry Tito’s acid-burp bacon chem-fries around the store. I say “we,” but I mean *I* carry them and I carry…Clara because she insisted on walking instead of riding in a cart but then got tired…and Clara’s giant baby doll because she couldn’t possibly leave her in the van…

Oh annnd…the other 7 items I collect while Keith waits with our cart on 8 deli employees to take 20-min to slice him 1-lb of roast beef…alternately speaking to each other about their break times, avoiding direct eye contact with customers, occasionally asking him if someone helped him, and forgetting what thickness he wanted. Holding up pieces of meat…this? Like this? How’s this slice? …and this one?

My bra is too tight, it is about 7:45pm, I am thinking–why did we wait so long before having supper? I am thinking–the minivan ride home is going to be horrendous with the defiant mood Clara is in. I am thinking–how am I going to sneak these laxative Cheetos out of her sight? I am thinking–what if we have to buy them and she eats them…and then digests them and then…!? I was thinking–Calgon!

I am thinking–

“You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.” (On the Waterfront) <back of hand to forehead in dramatic pose> 

Then as I feel my bicep slowly sinking into the abyss of defeat, I feel Clara’s arms wrap around my head…she kisses my cheek a couple of times without me asking, “Love you…Mommy.”

Strength returns to my arm, to my heart. A life of purpose. 

Worth it. It’s all worth it.

…I didn’t buy them, and deep down I know she appreciates it. 

Grip

Grip

I hold a tight grip around what I think should happen. The kind of grip that has to be ripped off, where you have to hammer each finger repeatedly and pry and attempt to uncurl them. 

I don’t want this. 

I don’t want my oldest three daughters living their summer days a block away from my house with their stepmom while their dad works. 

Should I seat myself gingerly on a settee, spread my skirt folds around me properly and smile silently? Sit up straight with grace and poise and fan myself every so gently as I wave to my daughters  through my window?

But…I’m their mom. Should I pull out photos of myself with a weird mushroom haircut and toasted almond lipstick, pregnant at 21? A tent t-shirt, a layer of net maternity panties, a layer of cotton panel maternity jeans…with stylish boot cut openings barely skimming the top of my shoes because I never did find long length…is that what we all need to see to remember I’m the mom?

Should I highlight the “right of first refusal” clause and text it to Norman? I might have done that. And he says–that doesn’t apply anymore; they’re old enough that they don’t need a babysitter. 

Should I cry about it to my own mom? I might have. Should I create an analogy where Norman is at his house, I’m working 40 hours, and the girls are sitting at my house with their stepdad? I might have done that too. 

Should I think about our summer days of years past…dying their hair with punky colors, watching them play softball, giving each other manicures, taking them to swim, signing them up for the summer reading program, taking them to my gym where I ran the kids’ summer fitness program, teaching them how to crochet, helping them set up an eBay business to sell their outgrown clothes, tie-dying tank tops and tshirts, watching them learn to swim like champions with Tideriders, driving them to church camp…

Should I throw my phone at the bed and leave the room? Should I call my lawyer? Should I argue and debate and push my side of things down his throat? Should I say that she doesn’t have a right to play house with my daughters?

Maybe I did do all that.

Should I pray?

Should I feel my grip relax in a calm, peaceful way that no hammer could produce? Should I see his side? Should I let go?

I’m not saying I’m some shy, agreeable fairy by nature. I’m not. I’m not. I’m not full of gracious wisdom on my own. 

People don’t tell you this part of a divorce. And you don’t know it until you live it. And if you haven’t lived it, God love you, but you cannot relate. You literally cannot empathize. You can imagine as a friend or you can scoff as a non-friend, but that’s it. 

Sitting on the back deck with your two youngest daughters, close enough to hear your oldest three squealing and laughing in a yard just over the hump in the road. 

Maybe I should’ve just been a perfect person then? And not gotten two divorces…

Oh yeah, let me just get right on that. 

I wanted to be right. You know? I wanted things to go my way. I wanted to keep my grip locked tight, tight, tight. But I thought, and I prayed. And I texted back that we can do what he wants. I’m not saying I didn’t fight first, but…

It’s not always about being right. 

It’s about doing right.









Tell my Father

Tell my Father

I hold our sleeping daughter in the dim auditorium. I gently trace her perfect little face with a fingertip–over the curve of her forehead, off the tip of her tiny nose. Touch her quivery lips. Lift her up to kiss her soft cheeks. Breathe in her sweet scent. 

It’s been a long week. 

I miss you. I think about you in the field, in the rain, firing your howitzers. Drilling from 4am til 9 or 10pm…then up again. I don’t really know what you do there. Do they have tents and beds? I miss you and I miss you. 

And as I listen to the slow powerful harmony of the junior high Concert Men choir, and feel every word of this song, I can’t hold it together. I just can’t. And I don’t even try to…

Tell My Father

Tell my father that his son
Didn’t run, or surrender
That I bore his name with pride
As I tried to remember

You are judged by what you do
While passing through
As I rest ‘neath fields of green
Let him lean on my shoulder

Tell him how I spent my youth
So the truth could grow older
Tell my father when you can
I was a man

(Verse) (Repeat)

Tell him we will meet again
Where the angels learn to fly
Tell him we will meet as men
For with honor did I die

Tell him how I wore the Blue
Proud and true through the fire
Tell my father so he’ll know
I love him so

(Chorus)

Tell him how we wore the blue
Proud and true like he taught us
Tell my father not to cry
Then say goodbye

Lock it

Lock it

I need everyone to leave the room. Mom needs to be alone with her jeans. We have some issues to discuss. Go wait in the car. This isn’t going to be pretty. But…it’s happening. It’s going down. 

Close the door. Lock it. Don’t knock. 

So you think you’re big, huh? Well…okay. Let’s see how big you think you are. I wanna know. 

Come at me, bitch. Let’s do this. 

I’m going to slam you into the floor. Step on you. Pull you and stretch you to your limits. 

You’re going to be screaming Uncle. You will beg for mercy. 

Nope. Sorry. Not ready to play nice. 

I’ll probably throw your ass up against a wall at least once. You will smack hard and land in a defeated pile on the floor. 

Oh thank God. She’s done with me!

No. Wait…is she just getting a drink? Oh no, she’s headed back toward me. Round two?!

Noooooooo!!!!

That’s right. You just THOUGHT I gave up. Nope. I didn’t. 

I’ll grab you by one leg and lasso you around my above my head a few times and smash your ass onto the floor again. 

We’re just getting started here. I’m not even tired. Having a blast.

I’ll fight you standing on one leg. Maybe that’ll be a fun change up. I’ll kick at you and shake the hell out of you. 

Crap! I fell down! Oh okay. Point for you. Nice one. Bet you’re proud of that move. Think that’s funny that I fell over and landed on my ass, huh? 

Now you got me mad. 

Who’s big now, huh? It ain’t you. From across the room, your ass might look big enough to hang with me. I mean truly it did.  But nah. Once I got a hold of you–nah. Nah, you ain’t big.

What’s yer problem? Why are you being like this? Huh? Answer me. 

Let’s see what you’re made of. Let’s see how flexible you are here. How much Lycra? Let’s hope, for your sake…let’s hope…that you’re flexible. Because I’m not backing down, and I will bust you at the seams if you can’t give a little.

I will END you. I will slash you up. I will make you into shorts. I will stuff you in a trash bag. Just try me. Don’t mess with me, jeans. Not today. 

Get out of my face. I don’t even want to look at you and your stupid self. I’ll throw you in the other room. 

I got no use for you. I don’t want to see you again. I don’t even care if you exist. Just go exist somewhere away from me. 

I’ll just wear leggings. I don’t even care. I don’t care. I don’t even care. Is that what you want? 

I changed my mind. One more chance. 

I will drag you back into the room. This is your last shot, or I’m done with you. Let’s go. Me and you. 

I will sumo-squat you into submission. I will yank you into obedience by all 12 of your belt loop ears. You are wearing out my last nerve. 

I’m not gonna cry. I know that’s your goal, but you aren’t going to break me. <Sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-sniffle> NO! Hold it together, Eggshells. 

We can take this down a notch if you need me to good-cop you for a while–why you been actin’ so messed up towards me? What’d I ever do to you? 

Don’t give me that crap about my thigh size. You used to fit, and now you’re just being an asshole. If you could just listen for one-

“Mom…” I hear a timid knock. 

“Yeah?!” Don’t come in here. I don’t need witnesses to this battle. 

“Is…everything all right in there? We heard some noises…” Genuine concern. 

“Oh yah! Everything is peaches!” I told you all…to wait…in…the…car. I will be right out.

“Are you…ready to go…?” They’ve all been ready, just waiting on me. 

“Mom?” I hear the knob rattling. 

“No, no don’t come in. Just a sec.” Kick, kick, kick, annnnnd…

We good? You had enough?

I open my door.

“Have you been jumproping, Mom? Why are you all sweaty and winded?”

“No. Not jumping rope. Just uh…gettin’ these bitch jeans on. It was a fight, but…uh they’re on. Let’s go.”

Sure, I might have to fight you some more when I get out of the car. Sure…I might choose not to sit for the remainder of the day. Sure, you might be causing me incessant agony. Sure, you put up a pretty good fight. 

But…

I think we all see who won this war. 

Velcro, Snaps, Ash

Velcro, Snaps, Ash

We were friends.

Was that true?

I think we were friends. 

I remember.

Weren’t we friends?

I was your friend.

Weren’t you m…

I remember spotting you doing pull-ups… 

“Gross. I need gloves. Do you ever shave?” I rub the gross off my hands. 

“Stubble grips my pants in place like Velcro.” Kareequa falls off the bar, shrugs unapologetically. 

“Oh is that it? I thought you were trying to get out of doing your pull-ups by grossing me out…thinking there’s no way she can touch these legs for a full 10. Sucky for you–I can’t be grossed out!” Was there ever a time we weren’t laughing?

“I want to get down to your size.” Kareequa faces the gym mirror and pulls her shirt up, pinching and jabbing at her smooth tan stomach. 

“You look good. I like your shape. Shit, you’re smaller than me now! You don’t want all THIS.” She had probably lost 60-70lbs, lots of hard work training with me and on her own. I pull up my own shirt and start tugging on my love handles. 

“Yeah but look at you from the side. Your stomach is so flat. Mine is huge, and I got this fupa.” She sticks her gut out exaggeratedly and rubs it like a pregnant belly. 

“Fupa? What the hell’s a fupa? I had a tummy tuck after Audrey. That makes it flat in front. So then when I gain, it all goes to the love handles. Cruel.” I flop my love handles out and teeter around like a little teapot. 

“Fat Upper Pubic Area…don’t Google images.” Some guy we don’t know pokes his head in the room we are standing in at the gym; he pivots out quickly. 

And we’re standing there with our flabs hanging out like…what? Come on in. 

______________________

“Make me pretty.” I flop into Kareequa’s salon chair. Always a mess, I’ve never sat in her chair looking even halfway decent. 

“Let me guess…you didn’t wash or brush your hair.” She popped the cape and draped it over me. 

“Can you not choke the living hell out of me with this thing? I look like a Barbie with her head smashed down onto her neck. I’m going to need more breathing room and some of my neck needs to be visible!” I thrash around under my cape. 

“You smashed your Barbie heads down?” I see a look of annoyed admiration in her eyes as Kareequa readjusts the choke snaps.

“Only when that little head-knob thing had broken off. Okay…and maybe I’d smash them down if I felt like Barbie was being a bitch that day. Oh? Who’s pretty now, Ms. No-Neck?!” She laughed, and as she freed my hair from its twisted and bound bun, her smile pursed into irritated determination. Natural curl…tangled like mad. 

We traded out services–I trained her; she did my hair. Neither of us tried to be the easiest client to deal with. But we had fun. And if she ever says I wasn’t one of her favorites, she’s lying. 

“Where’d I put my thinning shears? I need to make this brush out easier…” She didn’t really mind. She is very chill. In fact, I don’t think she ever got mad at me, only ever fake mad. 

I got mad once and stomped out. It was a misunderstanding about our appointment time. And I was having a bad day. I apologized, she shrugged it off, forgave me, and I made a few awkward, apologetic jokes about my temper…then it was forgotten. 

“Ewww!! Have the decency to turn me away from the mirror until I’m pretty again! I look terrible in this lighting without makeup on, and you’re about to frizz my hair into the blond Diana Ross. I want my sunglasses.”

“Dork. Okay. What’re we doing today?”

Who knows what I did that day? Bangs, lowlights, shoulder length, bleached out, ombré, balayage…over the 6-7 years we were friends, she did whatever I wanted and I always loved it. 

I love my hair. I’d rather find a new surgeon than a new hairdresser. And I loved you, loved you. You know I did.


______________________

So how does that work? I come to your house crying. I ask you questions because the details look bad to me. I want to know–is it you? 

And then you fire me as a client. That didn’t make it obvious. 

Ohhhh because I’m crazy. Oh okay. That makes sense then. 

I was crazy. I’ve always been crazy fun. I got crazy sad. And then 6 weeks later when he tells me it IS you, who was crazy that night? Not me. 

I bet you wish I hated you. Sometimes I wish I could. Well, I don’t hate you. I got really hurt. That’s what happened. THAT is what happened. 

If you want to look for reasons to hate me, you can find some. It won’t be hard. I’m no angel. But I didn’t give you any reasons. I really didn’t. 

I know enough about cheating to know…it wasn’t about me at all. Not about anything I did wrong. Not about how I would feel. 

It’s a cancer that takes over, and it’s not even fun. It wasn’t special, and you didn’t win any prize. 

Pour gas over it all, flick a match over your shoulder. Don’t look back. 

It’s okay. And I’m okay. 

Turns out…ash is some of the best fertilizer.